You don’t know what you don’t know.

As I write this the United States is ramping up its threats to Syria for Bashar al-Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons.

Did his government do it? I don’t know.

Did the rebels do it? I don’t know.

Somebody did it. There is no doubt of that.

For those of you who have been here a while you’ll know that Steve and I have a strong affection for Syria, having spent an enlightening, surprising, challenging couple of weeks there in November 2010, about five months before the conflict began.

I know that two weeks in the scheme of things is nothing, but sitting in the safety of our lounge room, half a world away, watching kilometres of Syrian refugees stream across the border into Turkey makes us extremely sad.

The sight of gorgeous young Syrian kids in the aftermath of the chemical attack? Words just don’t cut it you know?

I’ve just finished reading this.

Destiny Disrupted book cover

One book does not an expert make, but what this one book has done is make me realise just how much you don’t know what you don’t know.

While we in the west are well schooled on our shared European histories (albeit from a European perspective), lo and behold, there’s been ‘another’ history of the world happening concurrently.

Who’d have thunk? Why were we never taught anything about it? Why are my kids not being taught anything about it?

What I’m talking about is the history of the Middle World, the area that spans from the eastern shores of the Mediterranean to the western edges of China.

The history of the Islamic world.

Rich, colourful, inspiring, surprising, violent, incomprehensible, poetic, artistic, religious, civilised, complicated, philosophical, battered, triumphant, scientific, peaceful, exploited, exotic…

Today, a quarter of humanity is Muslim. 1.6 billion people globally.

If ever there was a time to start to understand the Islamic world a little better, it is now.

Steve has always said to me and the kids when someone is getting under our skin … “People are what they are because of what they’ve been through. If someone is a bit damaged or a bit this or a bit that, more often than not there’s a reason.” And more often than not he’s right.

The west has a long history of colonialism and of inveigling its way into places it shouldn’t inveigle.

The bitter pill that the west has to swallow, is that by doing that, it’s left a legacy of anger and resentment.

If you’ve got a spare 14 minutes can I encourage you to watch this. It’s one speaker in an Oxford University Union debate from July this year, arguing the case that Islam is a peaceful religion.

His name is Mehdi Hasan. He’s an Oxford graduate, the political editor of The Huffington Post and a presenter on Al Jazeera’s English News Channel.

I made encouraged our 16 year old Darce to sit down and watch it last night.

He too, was impressed by Hasan’s logic and eloquence. He’s giving the link to his history teacher today. Off his own bat.

Hassan: “Gallup carried out a poll of 50,000 Mulims in 35 countries. 93% of Muslims rejected 9/11 and suicide attacks and of the 7% who didn’t, they all – when polled and focus grouped – sighted political reasons for their support for violence, not religious reasons.”

Where am I going with this?

Reading one book? Watching one video? Can that change anything?

Well if you read it and you watch it …

And if you tell someone else … ??

It might just make a few of us at least take a more universal view of the world rather than an “us and them, or theirs and ours” view as Mehdi Hassan describes.

It might challenge our assumptions, it might remove some of the fear of what we don’t know, it might remind us that there are always two sides to every argument.

Syria, the Holy Lands, the fringe of the Mediterranean where two civilisations rub up against each other, has been the stage where conflict after conflict has played out over the centuries.

The cast might have changed. The motives might have changed. Yet another chapter of history is being written. Does it involve the west? Should it?

I can’t help but ponder how America might have felt if an unrelated foreign entity had decided to involve themselves in the American Civil War.

These are such big questions but are they ours to answer?

Please … continue to seek dialogue … and in amongst the bigness of it all, please look after your little ones, because they will be writing the next chapter.

May it be a peaceful one.

Thanks Christine Gilbert at Almost Fearless for introducing me to these links.

If this struck a chord I’d be grateful if you’d share it on your networks. M x

 

 

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    16 Comments

    1. Simon Ramsey
      Posted 10 September 2013 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      Well said Marg’ <3

      • Marg
        Posted 10 September 2013 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

        Thanks Simon. x

    2. Posted 10 September 2013 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

      Totally brilliant and yes I will watch and read, and then get my family to do the same!! We can each one of us make a difference!

      xxx
      lisa

      • Marg
        Posted 10 September 2013 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

        Too right we can Lisa! Grazie mille. xx

    3. Posted 10 September 2013 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

      Although I grew up in North America, I’m so thankful that I grew up surrounded by people from different cultures and countries, my own family included. I’ve learned so much through traveling, one of the biggest is how isolationist America is. There’s a pervasive Us Against the World attitude and it is reflected in the political decisions being made. There are amazing people in the US who are working their tails off to change this wonky thinking, but it’s an uphill battle. Thank you for these links. I look forward to learning more as I continue to study and listen and learn.

      • Marg
        Posted 10 September 2013 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

        I’m not setting out to point fingers at anyone in particular Krista. The U.S. is just at the centre of things at this moment in time. Just after the Crusades swept through from the west, the Mongol hordes descended from the east. It’s like layer upon layer upon layer of turmoil. I just think it’s important to step into someone else’s shoes and consider how you would feel. I’m interested to hear your thoughts though because the sort of attitudes you speak of only serve to build that sense of fear. That’s not what we need now. That’s what I found so powerful about Mehdi Hasan’s speech. Hope you enjoy the links x

        • Posted 10 September 2013 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

          Oh, no worries, I didn’t think you were pointing fingers. 🙂 It’s just such a gutting situation and without a well-rounded understanding of history and cultures, it’s so difficult to make good decisions. I wouldn’t want to be in Obama’s shoes for anything. To have so much power and so much responsibility would create so much pressure. I worked closely with a lot of politicians in the States and maybe that’s why this situation is so upsetting for me. I know the mindsets, the wonky religious extremism, the intense America First beliefs that lend themselves to war, war, and more war. I know there are voices of reason and wisdom, I just hope they’re heard above all the hoopla.

          • Marg
            Posted 10 September 2013 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

            Maybe we could send a copy of books like this to all newly elected candidates. Make it compulsory reading 😉

    4. Posted 11 September 2013 at 12:44 am | Permalink

      Thank you for giving me a book to read on this topic. I have befriended some people who live in and around Baghdad and we they try to discuss some of these topics I find it hard to relate. It is true about history (Western History) everything is written by the winners and cataloged away. This is one of the things that scares other members of our society about the internet. We can write our own history and catalog our own quests and walks and lives. It will be much richer and much more influencial on future generations. I hope those generations will seek a much more peaceful path. Can’t wait to read about your adventure in the Med. Sounds fun!

      • Marg
        Posted 11 September 2013 at 7:29 am | Permalink

        Megan. Welcome! I’d be very surprised if Ansary’s book didn’t help you find a little bit of common ground with your friends. At the very least it’s a gesture, you know? It’s helped me put everything in context. Well not everything, but a lot of it. Hope you enjoy the blog. x

    5. Posted 11 September 2013 at 6:50 am | Permalink

      Thanks to Christine, I learned about this book and your blog. I’ve put a hold request at my local library. Looking forward to reading this! Thank YOU!

      There is a post going around Facebook now that asks: If all religions teach peace, then why can’t all religions achieve peace? When folks point to Islam as a violent religion, I think of the Christian Inquisitions, the witch trials, the convert or die tactics the Mayans/Aztecs (?) faced, the long war in Ireland pitting Catholics against Protestants……

      I worked with a very nice Muslim lady and went to her mosque after 9/11 as a show of support (though the separated sexes seating did irk me:)

      Anyway, in my ‘old’ age, I’ve become an atheist. Understanding, Science, Knowledge and Compassion are my gods.

      • Marg
        Posted 11 September 2013 at 7:39 am | Permalink

        Hi Trishia. Welcome to you too. The divided sexes issue is one that Ansary muses about in the final part of his book. He has concerns with it too – in the context of moving forward as a more universal society – how do you blend two opposing views into a single realm? That’s paraphrased but you get the idea.
        The more we talk, the more we try to understand, the more we respect others’ points of view, the more the barriers break down. That’s my simplisitic view of it 🙂

    6. Posted 11 September 2013 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

      Watched the video with the hubby this evening and shared it on Facebook. Very informative, reasonable and in parts, quite funny:)

      • Marg
        Posted 11 September 2013 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

        Yep. All of that. Glad you got something out of it Trishia and passed it on. Thanks so much.

    7. Tracey
      Posted 5 November 2013 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

      Well done Marg – a wonderful humanitarian offering.
      Thanks so much. Would love to borrow the book sometime. 🙂
      Love TC

      • Marg
        Posted 5 November 2013 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

        Whenever you like Tracey. It’s here. Way overdue for a catchup x

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