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The value of empathy

Reader comment on item: The Clash to End All Clashes?

Submitted by Mohammed Aaser (United States), Feb 8, 2006 at 03:57

In the last few weeks I have realized that there is a large disconnect between two populations of the world - Western Society and Islamic Society - one characterized by a lack of understanding and an abundance of generalizations.

I was born and brought up in the US, where I am an American as well as a Muslim. With this in mind, I look at this issue with two perspectives, my own religion as well as my American background.

What I have noticed is that the vast majority of Muslims who have strong beliefs are also "moderate". It depends on how you describe this term, but all in all, your average next door neighbor, who is part and parcel of their community. Furthermore, they do not enforce their beliefs on anyone, nor do they react violently to offensive media. What I would really like to see in the future is a level of understanding for each of these sides. A world where people can really look at another group of human beings as individuals with real feelings and concerns, similar to our own. I honestly believe if you get to know your local "Muslim" that they will convince you otherwise of any sort of misconception you may have of them. Moreover, I feel that the media has been grossly misleading at portraying the "normal" Muslim. Nearly every Muslim I know in the US is a moderate - one who believes in their faith but is also actively involved in their community, and does not agree with any sort of extremism or degradation of any group.

As far as the cartoon is considered, I felt that it was very disrespectful to me. This is because I felt it was an attack not on extremist Muslims, but rather on the normal Muslim next door who now has to make up for an image that has been extrapolated onto them. I would hope that Muslims as well as non-Muslims would understand each other well enough to not have these sorts of complications arise in the future. As many people may imagine that Muslims went to demonstration, I can assure you that the majority of Muslims did so as I am doing, trying to gain an understanding, so future occurrences like these can be mitigated. Moreover, I do not believe violence will solve this issue either.

If I could only advise one thing, is that please try to make dialogue with your local Muslim community to really understand how they operate and function. I am sure that they too, will also be very interested in learning about your values and viewpoints too! But truly, they too have human feelings just as you and I do, and will respond humanely to your concerns.

If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to email me at aaser@sbr1.com.


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