This is How I View Coexistence

As religious individuals; staunch believers of our faith, there is only one religion, one God, one belief and one holy book among the mirage of religions that exist.

I often think about rhetorics of acceptance, if they are feasible, how pretentious they have come to sound and I can only conclude that these narratives are contorted; people are only willing to coexist with others that practice different religions because they do not want to see death or persecution. As religious individuals; staunch believers of our faith, there is only one religion, one God, one belief and one holy book among the mirage of religions that exist. The gospels we hear of tolerance are fictions that have failed to materialize into truth.

History tells us that religion is very relative, in which many civilisations surrounded, so, the debate of one’s religion being superior to the other is not new. In this tolerance narrative, we have constructed terms — Islamophobia, Christian-phobia, anti-Semitism, etc — for the hate or fear others feel about a certain religion. When we read about the realities of religious conflicts, from Hitler’s anti-Semitic views to Israel’s clash with Palestine, the uprising of terrorists and proxy conflicts that occur within institutions of religion. We have to realize that discourses on these events happen with each side being biased.

“You couldn’t do this and you couldn’t do that, but life went on.” (Anne Frank, 1947)

The Jews speak of Hitler with loathe. Even after seventy-four years of his death, he is Satan, a demon, a knife in their backs. And most times, we read about his victims and how they led tumultuous lives, as a result of his influence.

"Our lives were not without anxiety since our relatives in Germany were suffering under Hitler’s anti-Jewish laws. After the pogroms in 1938, my two uncles (my mother’s brothers) fled Germany, finding safe refuge in North America. My elderly grandmother came to live with us. She was seventy-three years old at the time. After May 1940 the good times were few and far between: first there was the war, then the capitulation and then the arrival of the Germans, which is when the trouble started for the Jews. Our freedom was severely restricted by a series of anti-Jewish decrees... You couldn’t do this and you couldn’t do that, but life went on." (Anne Frank, 1947).

However, in viewing both sides of this coin, in which the majority do not see the need to, no one cares to find out about Hitler’s hate and why it was deep. He found the Jews to be pompous and unruly opportunists so much so that he compared them to an endemic that continued to harm the German race. He said:

"…if a comrade of ours opens a Jewish newspaper in the morning and does not find himself vilified there, then he has spent yesterday to no account. Those who effectively combat this mortal enemy of our people, who is at the same time the enemy of all Aryan peoples and all culture, can only expect to arouse opposition on the part of this race and become the object of its slanderous attacks" (Hitler, 1925/1939).

But the Bible tells us that Jews persecuted Christians. For some obvious reason, Jews found Christians to be blasphemous as Peter explained in the book of Acts:

"Now in those days, there occurred great persecution against the Church at Jerusalem. And they were all dispersed throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the Apostles. Then Saul was laying waste to the Church by entering throughout the houses, and dragging away men and women, and committing them to prison." (Acts 8:1&3).

The pogroms and persecution of Jewish race, during the second world war, can be described as a replay of the Jewish-Christian conflicts that occurred in the first century AD. Although Hitler’s hate appeared to have a racial tone attached to it, and just as we ask ourselves questions on why white people see themselves as the superior race, we also have to wonder about why coexistence becomes a difficult task to pull off.

When we talk about Israeli and Palestinian conflicts we fail to realise that both parties do not want to coexist because they believe that they are the original inhabitants of the territory. The Jews claim that the land was pre-destined to them by God. Muslims claim that they were the original settlers of the land. Both parties have failed to see that this issue goes beyond throwing bombs to ascertain what is theirs.

The common Christian is conversant with the narrative of Abraham and the travails of the stubborn Israelites; how they occupied Canaan — the promised land — and went through long years of slavery in Egypt and Babylon. The books of Moses (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy), Joshua, Daniel and Deborah (Judges) give us concrete evidence of Israelite occupation in Canaan. But the Qur’an has also established facts about Palestinians, not only as owners of the area but like history, it has established facts about these individuals as its first inhabitants.

"O my people, enter the Holy Land which Allah has assigned to you and do not turn back [from fighting in Allah 's cause] and [thus] become losers." (Qur’an 5:21).

There are very concrete similarities between Islam and Christianity. Among the numerous similarities, the occupation of this promised land happened in both accounts. In this case, both parties try to justify why they should fully occupy the area with the words inscribed in their holy books, but when two sides have similar narratives, who then would be victorious?

We forget that our indigenous gods were thrown out; their monuments destroyed, because they were regarded as barbaric by our favourite Christians…

We regard terrorism as a threat to life and religious freedom. To many, terrorism equates to Islam. We speak of Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram and their Jihads and continuously condemn all Muslims with baseless generalizations but forget about the crusades that Christians fought in, the drive to spread Christianity and its tenets. We continuously ignore the militant movements of Catholicism in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. We also leave behind the fact that many pastors feed their congregation with a superior description of Christianity against the other denominations and religions. We forget that our indigenous gods were thrown out; their monuments destroyed because they were regarded as barbaric by our favourite Christians; the people who found comfort in these gods are now forced to see them in a different light. Or we simply leave our homes every day to tell people that they will find God in our church.

Its disposition only comes as a fallacy, as a mask that we wear to cloud judgement.

But there is an arrogant sense of belonging that makes us believe that among the numerous religions and Gods that exist, ours is right and the only true path to heaven. And although we talk about coexistence as a major pillar of human development, our religion, God and whichever individual links us to this God will always be the first. There are over five thousand religions on earth and we believe ours is right even though messages of tolerance have become wildfires. And of course, sentiments will always remain lopsided to the fact that our beliefs are paramount. Its disposition only comes as a fallacy, like a mask that we wear to cloud judgement.

Sources

Aldoph Hitler (1939). Mein Kampf. (J. Murphy, Trans.). Germany: Franz Eher Nachfolger (Original work published 1925).

Anne Frank (1947). Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. In Otto Frank and Mirjam Pressler (Eds), The Definitive Edition. New York: Anchor books.