Muslim Mosque and Religious Intolerance—Where Does it End?

Building a Muslim mosque in New York close to the 9/11 ground zero site has raised some serious issues as well as anger. I can understand the anger some people have over this issue. My feelings are a little mixed and I wonder why anyone would even think that building a Muslim mosque in that area would go over well. That being said, I am also scared at the level of intolerance that this country is showing now.

I will admit that I am no fan of the Muslim religion, but I feel that way about other religions as well. One can argue that the Koran says that Muslims should kill those who do not share their beliefs and so Muslims are dangerous, but the same can be said about the Bible and Christians. I am very familiar with the Bible, but admit I know very little about the Koran. The Bible is one of the most violent books I have ever read. What about all of the atrocities committed by Christians throughout history? Who can forget the crusades of the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries—the religious military campaigns in the Middle East—Christians killing Muslims in an attempt to take the holy land from them. And what about all the poor women and some men accused of witchcraft and killed during the European witch hunts from the 14th to the 18th centuries? What about Christians bombing abortion clinics? Do we abolish Christian churches because of a few radical Christians? Or what about all the reports of Catholic priests molesting children? Do we punish all of that faith because of what a few deviant priests did? Is it okay to kill in the name of religion as long as it’s the RIGHT religion?        

I don’t see anything different with the Muslims that flew planes into the World Trade Center and any other acts committed by radical religious nuts. The 9/11 Muslims don’t speak for all Muslims. So is it right to punish other Muslims for what those few did? Where does it end? I feel there is a certain faction in this country that wants America to be like Iran where only one religion is worshipped—and that would be the Christian faith. These people are truly un-American and seek to destroy the freedoms of being an American and the principals that this country was founded on. They can call President Obama a Nazi, a Socialist, a Muslim, or whatever, but he defended the religious freedom in America by saying that they have a right to build their Muslim mosque. The way I see it, today these people want to drive out Muslims, and tomorrow they will be burning pagans or anyone that doesn’t follow their religious agenda. This scares the hell out of me and I hope this country wakes up and realizes that things could get much worse.

Any thoughts on this?

Kelley Heckart

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Inner Peace

It is undoubtedly easier to feel at peace when there’s nothing going on externally to upset your equilibrium. However, life tends not to be co-operative on that score. How do we hold a sense of peace regardless of the chaos or conflict around us?

For me, one of the critical issues has been acting honourably. If I am comfortable with my own actions, then I am much better able to deal with external issues. Where I feel I have not been as honest, careful, clever of effective as was needed, I lose my internal calm. Looking back over my life, I think I’ve been far too susceptible to the opinions of others when it came to determining whether I have acted well. I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to trust my own judgement on this one. I put a fair amount of effort into trying to be fair, honourable and decent and have been too ready to listen to those who, for whatever reasons of their own, do not see what I do in the same light.

Which leads to the second point – a sense of self ownership, self determination, personal power. It’s very hard to feel peaceful in a situation of powerlessness. If you do not believe in your own ability to deal with setbacks, to manage yourself or your emotions, then that will undermine your capacity for inner peace. I’m still very much at the figuring out stage with this issue, so cannot do more than flag it up.

Self acceptance makes a lot of odds. We all have flaws and failings, but if you cannot make peace with them, that can be a big issue. Things that appear to be failings in some situations can be strengths in others. I’d felt for a long time that my difficulty coping with the anger of others was a failing. I’ve come round to thinking that it isn’t – I’m a fairly gentle creature and it is not difficult to alarm me, especially with shouting or intimations of physical aggression. I would like to be stronger, more independent, better able to stand up for myself but I need to accept who and how I am. Coming to those conclusions has allowed me to make peace with myself.

I find that a sense of achievement adds to my sense of inner peace. If I am working well, creating good things, making my home a pleasant place, etc, then I feel more at peace with myself. I find creativity far more effective on this score than meditation. 

There is also a peace that comes from having survived. Anyone who goes through a testing experience – giving birth, fighting an illness, dealing with practical setbacks, gains some sense of what they are equal to. Surviving times of conflict, chaos and distress, we have the chance to learn that we can indeed survive. That makes it easier not to be afraid of what the future will bring. Sure, there will be hard times, but those can be survived too.

This is a very new line of working for me. I’ve spent much of my life conflicted and uncomfortable with myself. I have a lot to figure out, but I can see ways forward. On this topic, I can do little more than share the beginnings of a journey, but will be back with progress reports when I have them.

What is Peace?

The simplest definition of peace, would be the absence of war. We can think about it in terms of external realities, or inner emotional states (and I’ll explore that in more detail in the coming days).  Does peace mean absolute calm and tranquillity? Is there any difference between peace and stasis? I’m going to argue that for peace to be a useful concept, we need to define it, not as an absence of conflict, or as some kind of inactive, insipid, uninspiring state either. Peace, as an external reality or a state of mind, should be something we can realistically strive for, and then work with.

I don’t think it’s possible for humans to live without conflict. People have different ideas and needs and they won’t always fit neatly together. Contemplating the conflicting needs of fish and otters, birds of prey and endangered songbirds, we can see that nature is not inherently unchallenging either. For peace to be a realistic thing not an abstract ideal, it cannot be defined as the impossible ideal of freedom from conflict.

If we wanted some kind of Time-Machine-esk future where humans sit round being lazy and stupid (I wonder sometimes if the majority do) then we might define peace that way. Freedom from hard choices, from need, pain, distress, and so forth. Nothing to upset us. What kind of life would that be? There would be no scope to grow or prove your strength. There would be little inspiration or motivation to create. I feel very strongly that to flourish and live fulfilled lives, we need challenges. Druidry is all about creativity and living honourably – you can’t do that without choices and challenges. Peace cannot therefore, from a Druid perspective, be about having everything easy and painless.

I have no way of talking about this on a social scale now, and must turn to the personal. From my experience, a sense of peace in a home does not come from everything being smooth and outwardly calm, nor from an absence of conflict. What it depends upon is those involved working honourably and co-operatively to try and find the best solutions for everyone, as an ongoing project. It’s the approach in which people speak gently, and listen to each other with respect. Conflicts arising in such an environment remain challenging, but the distress is kept minimal, and the seeking after resolution is a priority. Consequently it’s also very good as a pragmatic approach to life. This kind of peace gets things done well. 

So I offer this though. Peace is not a thing to achieve as a one off ‘and now we’ve done it.’ Peace is a way of life, an intention that informs action – just as honour and love do. They go together well. Being honourable is not a one off event or achievement, it’s how we live, moment to moment. I think that peace is the same. It’s a life choice – not a desire to live without conflict or difficulty, or the passive acceptance of whatever comes, but an approach. Peace means seeking solutions that work as best as possible for everyone, not the loudest voice forcing their will on others. Living peacefully means avoiding aggression as far as is possible, and not pushing others into it. There is no scope for peace without respect and honour, but where those are present, and are values shared by all, then peace can be created and sustained.

There will always be challenge and conflict. A dedication to peace, is a dedication to finding ways forwards, and through, or around issues. It is a dedication to good solutions and equality, to justice, fairness and honour. It’s a process that is internal and external, and ongoing.

War and Peace

There are a lot of arguments put forward in favour of war. That it is necessary to combat evil. That wars bring huge social and technological advances. That we must fight to preserve our own safety and access to resources. Nations are carved from conflict and shaped by a history of fighting each other. It’s been a defining aspect of human history for a very long time. At a very basic level, most cultures seem to have the notion that war is not just ok, but necessary and in some cases, desirable. The people who make money out of wars do not tend to be the ones who bear the consequences of blood, pain and loss.

If no one was willing to take arms, there would be no wars. I know it sounds both naive and obvious, but this is a critical truth none the less. While there are some people who thrive on war and enjoy violence, the vast majority of people do not. However, violence begets violence, and once conflict starts and reasons for retaliation mount up, more people are drawn in. Part of this stems from a widespread ‘eye for an eye’ mentality, that it is reasonable to respond in kind. We will do unto others as they do unto us. We mistake revenge for justice.

People have the right to protect themselves from aggression. But why do we face that aggression in the first place? What provokes other people into taking arms and acting violently? What makes a person feel that it would be ok to injure or kill another human being? If we want an end to war and conflict, these are the motives we must understand and tackle. Those who take by force will always have an explanation, a justification for their action. Unless the beliefs underpinning such reasoning get challenged, people will carry on using force on each other.

At a Peace One Day ritual, I invited people to consider what they felt it was worth fighting for. What situation justified hurting or killing another person? We mulled this at length, and came out clear that we felt justified in fighting for freedom, and for survival, or to protect loved ones. We also considered that endlessly tricky notion of fighting for peace. But would we also fight for food if there wasn’t enough to go round? Would we fight for the country? Or for our immediate community? Would we fight for justice? And in situations of dire need – which do often provoke violence, what would we do? It’s easy to sit in a comfy chair with a full belly and feel morally confident, but how would any of us fare if we found ourselves in any of the world’s conflict zones? In truth, none of us can know what we would do, until or unless we are actually tested to our limits. However much we may loathe conflict and despair over wars, we shouldn’t be too quick to condemn any ordinary person caught up in them – we do not know that we would do any better.

I invite you to take a moment, and consider what you would fight for, kill for or die for if it seemed needed. What would you support your government over, where war is concerned? If you don’t support your government, how do you deal with that? When is it right and necessary to fight? Some people feel that conflict can never be justified. Where do you stand? We have no hope of achieving peace if we don’t understand what makes us, all of us, inclined to fight each other, or tolerate wars undertaken in our names. If you want to share your ponderings as comments, please do. It’s always good to hear what other people think.