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Posts Tagged ‘Tolerance’

My thoughts on the chaos surrounding “Innocence of Muslims”

September 16th, 2012 No comments
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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve no doubt heard or seen the violence that has erupted in the Middle East over the video entitled “The Innocence of Muslims”.  The video has been branded by some as inflammatory, while others have justified its existence using the tried and true ‘freedom of expression’ argument.  Before I could weigh in, I decided to watch the controversial film.  It was a daunting task, to say the least.

The video is of extremely poor production quality.  It’s crudely dubbed (and then overdubbed).  Ultimately, it’s an absurd piece of film that I have no idea why anyone would waste their time watching.  In fact, but for the violence that has ensued, I’m skeptical that the video would have made even the tiniest blip on Internet.

Now, having said that, I can appreciate how some Muslims would find it offensive.  At the same time, I could also see how this could easily be overdubbed (again) to offend Christians.  If one were to mute the video, the prophet depicted could easily be mistaken for Jesus.  Perhaps then, the original intention of the film was not what it ultimately became.  It’s clear that the video was re-imagined to include opinions better left unsaid.

Ultimately, I believe the film is inflammatory – but it’s important to bear in mind that this is a piece of absurd fiction that is seemingly the ignorant opinion of a small group of people.  Unfortunately, freedom of expression is a valid argument here.  Those of us who think that this expression just plain sucks have the right to counter-expression.  Our opposition to this kind of garbage should never, however, include violence.  Certainly, the producers of this film should be ashamed, but those who have responded with violence should be more ashamed.  One of the points expressed in the film is the misguided notion of the violence inherent in Islam, and as far as I can tell those who have responded with such violence are only giving relevancy to the film and doing a huge disservice to their faith.  Had there not been such violence, this film would have slipped into obscurity and the fires of bigotry directed toward Muslims and the West would not have been inflamed further.

IMO, violence is never an appropriate solution when responding to bigotry and ignorance.

Peace.

M.xo

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Sikhs: The Way of the Disciples

August 8th, 2012 3 comments
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This past Sunday, another mass shooting spree occurred in the States. The target this time was a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Speculation that this attack may have been a case of mistaken identity began to run rampant in the news. Reporters, bloggers and the like suggested that the gunman may have believed that he was attacking a Muslim house of worship. This, they said, was because many Americans thought Sikhs were Muslims. Of course, there is no way of knowing the shooter’s motivations as he was killed by police. As an aside, I find it curious that the media were quick to suggest this attack was meant for Muslims. With no evidence to suggest otherwise, this is clearly another case of media scaremongering.

I’ll admit that my feathers have been ruffled with this latest attack on a religious group. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I have little tolerance for religious intolerance (I know, a bit oxymoronic, right?). I’m also concerned that in the Information Age (you know, an era where information is available at the tips of one’s fingers) that so few people bother to educate themselves about the world around them. While I agree the Internet isn’t always the most reliable source; a little critical thinking can certainly weed out the bad from the good information. But, I digress…

The point of this post (aside from a bit of squawking) is to introduce you to the Way of the Disciples (Sikhs).

Being a Sikh means being a disciple of the Guru. There are ten Gurus in the Sikh sacred story, beginning with Guru Nanak. The succeeding Gurus are all believed to have carried the spiritual light of Nanak and God’s word. Writings about Nanak in Sikh sacred texts, known as Adi Granth, suggest that he was influenced by both a Muslim and Hindu spiritual upbringing.

As with any religion, there is both unity and division within the community; however, there are some core central beliefs at the foundation of the Sikh world meaning. Like other monotheistic belief systems, God is central. Sikhs, however, recognize God (Nam) as the same One worshipped by many different belief systems and known by many different names. God is considered formless, timeless, and beyond human conception. Sikhism does not claim the only path to God, nor does it work toward converting others. Part of the Sikh world view is freedom of religion, which may come from the fact that Sikhism has blended many ideas from different faiths.

Sikhs engage in various ritual and worship. Daily worship entails reading and meditation on the sacred word found in the Adi Granth. Worship at the gurdwara (Sikh temple) centers around the Holy Book (Granth Sahib). Before worship, a ritual bath is performed. Following, offerings before the Holy Book are made. There are no ordained leaders in the gurdwara, thus each Sikh is free to perform the rituals of worship.

Women hold a high degree of respect in the faith. It is believed Guru Nanak once said this about the status of women, “Why denounce her, who even gives birth to kings?” As such, women are given equal status with men in services and ceremonies. Further, Sikhs welcome all faiths and cultures to their house of worship.

Sikhs may be most identifiable by the turbans (dastar) worn by men. This is worn because one of the prohibitions in Sikhism is the cutting of hair. Devout Sikh men may have unshorn hair and beards. They may also be identified by a sword or dagger (kirpan) worn, which is symbolic of a willingness to protect the weak and fight for justice. A metal bracelet (kara) is worn as a constant reminder that one is a servant of God and should conduct oneself befittingly.

There is much more to the Sikh religion than what I have provided. My hope is this brief introduction might encourage you to learn more about this blended belief system. Certainly, there are similarities to other religions; however it’s important to recognize the differences. It is short-sighted (IMO) to lump together all peoples who may look similar, share similar beliefs, or who come from the same part of the world. Ignorance that perpetuates fear, anger, and confusion can lead people to commit horrible acts. It’s time to stop the madness.

Peace.

M. xo

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Religious Tolerance

May 31st, 2012 3 comments
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I felt compelled to write this post because frankly I’m appalled by the declining health of religious tolerance in Canada.  Biases, generalizations, and ignorance are  insidiously penetrating the oft-lauded integrity of Canada as a nation of tolerance and acceptance.  Islamophobia is on the rise across the nation, and this is indeed troubling.  While headlines detailing the intolerance toward Muslims largely originates from down south, make no mistake, it is slowly infiltrating Canadian society – and in my opinion, we need to put a stop to it.  Adopting a misguided view of a particular religious group (and one of the fastest growing religious populations) will threaten the very essence of our Canadian values.

I believe the best solution to intolerance is education.  The fact is that many, many people barely know much about ‘other’ religions.  Most of the information we come by is garnered from sensational media headlines.  If you’re educating yourself about various religions through the media, then you’re doing yourself a huge disservice.  I’m not suggesting that the media doesn’t hold some value in bringing issues to light; however, the media is rarely ever objective.  There’s always an angle, and usually that’s to increase readership/viewership and ultimately revenue.

So, where can one start to learn more about various religions and in particular religious tolerance?  There’s a wonderful site that I’ve been visiting for several years now that provides a wide range of information on almost any religion imaginable.  The Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance tries “… to explain accurately the full diversity of religious beliefs, world views, and systems of morality, ethics, and values.”  There are over 6,000 essays available to read and the site covers religions ranging from Buddhism to Zoroastrianism.  Practically any religion you might have questions about can be found on this site.  In addition, the site tries to present all viewpoints on controversial religious topics.

As a final note, while I am huge proponent of religious tolerance – I also want to stress that this doesn’t mean that I think you should accept other people’s beliefs as valid or that you have to practice a belief different than your own.  It also doesn’t mean that you have to believe your religion is equal to that of another’s (it’s fine if you want to believe that your religion is superior to others).  What religious tolerance means is that you respect the right of other religions to exist and that their practitioners should be free from discrimination.  Oh, and this also includes people who are generally considered NOT religious.  Atheists, agnostics and humanists have the right to religious freedom too – including the option to not participate.
 

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Cure for Love

January 28th, 2012 1 comment
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I had the opportunity to watch a 2008 documentary called, Cure for Love.  It was such an interesting film, hence why I’m posting about it here.  The synopsis reads, “Cure for Love is a full-length documentary about a controversial evangelical movement that purports to convert gay people into heterosexuals. The film brings us inside this unusual Christian subculture and follows the lives of several young people whose homosexuality is at odds with their religious beliefs.”

Of course, I wasn’t surprised that the types of ministries featured in this doc actually existed – and let’s be clear, I am clearly at odds with the mission of these ministries, particularly those such as Exodus.  For me, the most intriguing part of the film was hearing the stories of those who live in tension with their faiths and how they have come to reconcile that dissonance.  These are powerful stories of people seemingly struggling with similar issues, yet each has taken a different path in finding a resolution to their conflict.

As a voyeur into their lives, I found myself at times doubtful that some of the folks featured in the film actually had found a way to make peace with the tension between their faith and their sexuality; however I am mindful that I don’t live their lives and really can’t relate to their struggle – seeing as how I am neither a Christian nor a homosexual.  This film did reinforce, yet again, the powerful influence that religion has over people’s lives (a concept I cannot personally relate too – but one that fascinates me).

If you, like me, are intrigued by the power faith has in the lives of so many people, then this film is worth checking out.  It’s a well-balanced documentary that does shed some light on (IMO) questionable dogma, but even more than that, it is a film that speaks of the power of love.  For some that is the love of their Saviour, Jesus Christ; for others that is the love they find in their same sex partners.

Run time: 59 mins

Source: National Film Board of Canada

 

 

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When did Christmas stop being a Holiday?

December 3rd, 2011 3 comments
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The real war on christmas

It’s that time of year again. No sooner do the first snow flakes fall and the rhetoric around whether it’s appropriate to replace “Happy Holidays” with “Merry Christmas” begins to fly. It’s one of the most divisive issues surrounding this season.

Firstly, there are the annual campaigns via email and social media promoting the “put the Christ back in Christmas” polemic. I’ve always found this particular argument curious. Last time I checked, Christ hadn’t left Christmas. What has changed is that fewer people are celebrating Christmas as a religious holiday — if at all. Christmas is still a Christian derived holy day, and Jesus is still very much a part of that day for those who follow his teachings. For believers, Christ is present and accounted for in the celebration of this holy day.

Following this are the claims that somehow Christmas has been hijacked by other cultures’ religions. The arguments usually follow the reasoning that because we live in a Western society built on the Judeo-Christian tradition that Christmas should take it’s rightful place as the holiday of the land.

XMASWARS1

It’s true that our heritage is that of a Judeo-Christian tradition, but our heritage also includes unequal rights for women and minority groups, child labour, the assimilation of First Nation’s people… need I go on?

Societies evolve, and for us this has included the separation of church and state.  Citizens are free to practice the religion of their choice.  States, however, are required to keep religion out of its affairs (in principle anyway). It’s a bit ironic that so many Westerners have much to say about Eastern nations living under religious rule, yet so little to say about the idea of forcing Christmas on ever person living in this hemisphere.

So, we’ve reverted to calling Christmas a holiday. What’s so wrong with that? It IS a HOLY day for Christians, but it’s also a HOLY time of year for a number of other religious groups. Using the term “Happy Holidays” is merely an inclusive way to wish everyone a joyous season — and really isn’t that what this time of year is all about?  Shouldn’t we be trying to spread joy and our very best to everyone?

Christmas-vs-Holidays-Holidays

It’s interesting that while so many of us have been debating this tiresome rhetoric, that we’ve failed to notice how the sacredness of this holy season has been hijacked by rampant consumerism.  Maybe those are the real issues we should be examining.  Why has a holy day meant to bring families and people together in joyful spirit become a sacred day for big box stores and credit card companies?  Just something worth thinking about…

Happy HOLY-DAYS!

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God is so… what?!?

March 14th, 2011 4 comments
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I struggled with whether to share this video via my blog because frankly I don’t think ignorance like this should be acknowledged; however, this is exactly the kind of cancerous commentary I have been blogging about that is infecting religious and spiritual dialogue.  Make no mistake, tamtampamela is clearly not representative of the majority of Christians.  She’s in the same category as the Pat Robertsons and Jerry Falwells of our society.  In my opinion (and I’m sure many others would agree), these apocalyptic doomsayers have perverted and distorted an ideology that for all intents and purposes was founded on love, compassion and community spirit.  I hardly think that Jesus had this kind of message in mind when he was prophesying  to his disciples.  Further, I find it unfathomable that any G-d, or creator, would destroy and cause the suffering of thousands of innocent souls merely to prove some sort of divine point, despite what might be written into many religious myths/legends.  Clearly, the woman has a pretty skewed vision of God – made all the more dangerous by a self-righteous ideology that has little to do with love, compassion or community spirit.

I realize that attempting any type of dialogue with this breed of religious fundamentalist is pointless, but this kind of fanaticism is exactly what is fueling the poisonous discussions that perpetuate ignorance and misunderstanding among different religious/non-religious adherents.  These discussions often escalate into verbal assaults and in some cases violent attacks on the “other” group.

And one final comment – let’s not start labeling this as a problem with the religion itself.  This kind of hatred isn’t indicative of the religion, but rather of an ignorant human being who clearly has a distorted view of what it actually means to be human.   It certainly ruffles my feathers when I come across this kind of unenlightened discourse, but more than anything it makes me very sad that one person can be so callous toward the plight of fellow human beings in a time of great tragedy.  Using the events in Japan as propaganda for a holy war is just inhumane…

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7UmotTE-VlY

 

Source: YouTube

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