Love is a Traveller…For Sale Online Now!

It gives me great pleasure to announce that my first collection of poems is now available to buy online here!

LOVE IS TRAVELLER  FC Jan 28  copy

According to the publisher, Daniel ‘Abdal-Hayy Moore at Ecstatic Exchange:

“With Medina Whiteman’s lively, metamorphosing voice, we have here finely detailed poetic stances on whatever attracts her and her pen, and her heart is here, and its centripetal ripples edge out to our own world and wash over it as if with our own sensibilities — and it is a welcoming thing, a sweet and healing thing to know these enlightened trails.”

And from a review by Michael Sugich, author of Signs on the Horizons:

“Love is a Traveller and We are Its Path” is an astonishing, accomplished, heartbreakingly beautiful work. Ms. Whiteman writes as a girl, a woman, a mother, and a wide-eyed, reflective observer of her world — as seeker, believer and sage. For her God is truly in the details. Each observation, whether earthy or supernal, is internalized and suffused with a piercing awareness of meaning, and a deep, abiding faith that shines through a world full of mundane and transcendent particulars.”

Ain’t Lateefa Spiker‘s cover art lovely? Here‘s the link to buy a copy yourself and see if you agree with them. Pass on the news, and happy reading!

 

 

 

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Muslimah at a Public Pool

This is where your invisibility stands out at its starkest. Where teenagers snog in bikinis with recently-inked tattoos in styles that will go out before the summer does, fitness fanatics show off their moves, and even middle-aged couples smooch over the cooler with flesh rolling out of optimistic swimwear, there you are, nervously twitching a sarong over your shoulders because you feel exposed in a one-piece.

The justifications are clear: it’s a heat wave, neither your house nor your car has A/C and driving three kids including a baby who cries every minute of every hot car journey makes it impossible to get any further than the campsite a few minutes’ walk away. Your sanity thus stretched, getting into cold water is not just necessary, it is un-do-without-able. And with this many buttocks on display, modesty is surely relative.

But then there are those who know you are Muslim, and there are questions in their faces and at the edges of their comments. Ah, you must be one of those ‘liberal’ Muslims. You’re a free thinker – you don’t stand for all those poxy old-fashioned chauvinistic rules. You’re one of us!

A shudder goes through me at this thought, at the assumptions carried so blithely through so many minds. To paraphrase Ali G, ‘Is it cos I is white?’ There are priviledges that white Muslims have that most of us aren’t even aware of. I can’t imagine some of my Moroccan friends daring to go to a public swimming pool when their parents would hit the roof if they did. But there’s this creepy camaraderie that you get with white non-Muslims when you aren’t hijab’ed to the eyeballs. It’s as if they are saying, ‘You’re OK. They haven’t got you completely. You’ve still got one foot in our territory.’

It makes me laugh to think how infuriating it is to have to scroll down the list of countries on one of those countless petition websites to find United Kingdom (or United States, for that matter). What are we doing down there, after Afghanistan, Barbados, Togo and all those random islands in the South Pacific no-one has even heard of? Shouldn’t they just put us at the top, so we don’t have to spend all those nano-seconds scrolling down, reminding ourselves that the rest of the world exists? Good grief, our thumbs get tired!

Tangent over. This is a just a late-night snapshot of my two-cultured brain, on the one hand glad that I can pop to the shops without covering my head and worrying that Muslims will think less of me (I live in a very open-minded community), and yet cringing when I do cover my head and people stop me to ask questions, or corner me into describing where my faith lies on the liberal-conservative spectrum. If I’m hijab-less because I’m pressured into not wearing it, does that really mean I am free?

What strikes me as being on of Islam’s greatest strengths is that when it really comes down to it, no-one can judge anyone else on their faith at all. ‘Allahu ‘Alim’; only Allah knows. And how are the people of Paradise described in Qur’an, over and over? ‘Alladhina amanu wa ‘amilu salihat’: those who believe and do good works. It doesn’t even qualify them as Muslims, or having a religion at all. Is that not the most progressive, out-there kind of religion there is?

You wouldn’t believe it if you read the news (and I am boycotting it: I don’t want to feed horror stories into my baby’s mouth though my milk). But the news has never been an accurate reflection of the way the world is, only pinpricks of horror in the vast fabric of normality that are gathered together to make us see nothing but a fistful of blood. It’s isn’t reality at all, only shock waves filtered through journalists’ lenses, managed by editors whose salaries are paid by advertisers who want readers to be kept agog by more and more horror. We have to keep reminding ourselves to lift our heads from our newsfeeds and stay present: no website will represent reality to you better than your own eyes.

And in the same way I have to remind myself that onlookers don’t know what’s going on beneath the surface of me, veiled or otherwise, and I don’t know what going on under theirs, either. Good people still carry prejudices unawares: people with prejudices can still be good people. My ideas of what they ought to think are still only my ideas, and may well be wrong anyway. God guide us. Amin.

To Dream, To Float, To Glorify

  This week I submitted a translation I have been working on for 5 months, of an Ibn ‘Arabi book on the 99 Names of God that had previously been translated into Spanish (I was translating it into English). It’s been a labour of love but also a “gift-laden carpet”* in many extraordinary ways.

This uy again.

This guy again.

  The most transformative part of the work, of course, was just going over the meanings of the 99 Names over and over again, discovering new nuances. It is astonishing how few of them are negative, in our understanding of the word (Al-Muntaqim – the Avenger – and Al-Darr – the Bringer of Harm – are the only two that spring to mind; al-Mumit, the Bringer of Death, doesn’t really count, as death can be the most beautiful release, depending on how much you want it).

  On the other hand, there are dozens of Names that relate to generosity, kindness, gentleness and forgiveness: Al-Rahman (The All-Compassionate), Al-Rahim (The All-Merciful), Al-Ghafar, Al-Ghafur, Al-Ghaffar (variations on the Most Forgiving), At-Tawwab (He who turns towards the one turning towards Him), Al-Sattar (He who conceals faults), Al-Karim (The Generous), Al-Jawad (He Who gives before being asked), Al-Halim (The Mild), Al-Wasi’ (The All-Embracing, as in the Qur’anic verse “His mercy embraces all things”), al-Wali (The Protecting Friend), Al-Wadud (The Loving), Al-Wahhab (in contrast to the religious conservatives who have taken on this name, it means The Giving)…

  I shouldn’t be so surprised, but the impression that one often gets of Islam is that it encourages fear of God, fear of hell, fear of a patriarchal system that is supposed to order every aspect of our lives. But the reality, when you pull those appearances apart, is quite the opposite. It’s enough to melt a heart frozen stiff with fear.

  Even though I’ve been Muslim all my life, or perhaps precisely because of that, I have so often found it easy to slip into assumptions about what a Muslim life is like. There always needs to be a balance between the intellectual, the ethical, the practical and the aesthetic. What often happens is that one or more of these is neglected; our faith limps along cock-eyed, developing achy joints as a result of its poor coordination.

  And then we innocently go to the nearest, quickest reference points to seek out an uplifting hadith, quote, du’a or bit of history: Sheikh Google, his wife Binti YouTube and their hyperactive son, Ibn Facebook. Apart from those things that are posted by friends, whose intentions we know well enough to trust, we emerge from these virtual encounters riddled with gunshot wounds inflicted by different doctrinal angles, and shell-shocked at the bigoted, insulting, or downright stupid ideas (not to mention actions) of some Muslims.

  I think it was because of my need for something that really went deep that this book landed on my table. Ibn A. seems to have a knack for explaining even the most intricate existential problems (such as the existence of evil – he says that transgressions, being brought into existence by God, ask forgiveness from Him on behalf of the place where they are carried out – that is, in the person doing them). Some of these issues have dogged me for years; no-one else has put them straight for me satisfactorily. My intellectual side can be dragged out of the closet and de-mothballed at last, to rejoin my daily wardrobe of selves.

Medieval manuscript of Ibn Arabi's works - which numbered about 200

Medieval manuscript of Ibn Arabi’s works – which numbered about 200

  One of the things that has hooked me most is his etymology. Sufism has a long tradition of finding correlations between words with the same letters in a different order – hence the link between ‘to do, act’ (عمل) and ‘to know’ (علم), i.e. don’t act without knowledge; or words whose graphics are the same when the vowels are not written – such as عالم, which can mean ‘knower’ (‘alim) or ‘cosmos’ (‘alam); or words whose letters themselves (each one of which has not only a numerical value associated with it but also meanings of their own, such as ʿayn, which means the letter ع, eye, spring or source) provide them with other shades of meaning: so, you could say, عدم, meaning ‘non-existence’, is differentiated from ادم, Adam, by the ‘ayn that is his eye (and thus his all-important witnessing) and the Source that brought him into being.

    Everything in existence is, by Sufi logic, a sign of Allāh – including, of course, ourselves – so nothing is coincidental. All things and beings, events and non-events, are alive with meaning. Because Arabic evolved as a language for the purpose of receiving divine revelation, all of these little correlations are clues left for the careful observer to trip over, their faces lighting up with glee at what a gem was left lying around for anyone to find.

  One of these correlations dawned on me the other night, late, when my brain had slipped out of analytical, left-brain mode and into that dream-like, perceptive state usually populated (in my brain, at this hour) by complete gibberish.

  It was this: the verb سبح, which in form I means ‘to swim, to float’ and hence ‘to transcend’, and which in form II is translated as ‘to glorify, exalt, extol’ (as in the expression ‘سبحان الله’, translated as ‘Transcendent is Allāh’ or ‘Exalted is Allāh’), combines these two nuances for a very good reason.

  When we utter (or feel) the phrase ‘subḥān’Allāh’ – on seeing something extraordinary or astonishing, or realising something that inspires awe in us, or simply when recognising the incredible beauty, harmony, or logic of something – not only do we extol Allāh, but we transcend the mundane hamster-wheel of negativity that we wade through in our daily lives ourselves.

  So, while these clever little connections leap out at the word nerd and light them up like a Christmas tree, in fact everything has the ability to have that effect if we only paid enough attention to it – or, perhaps, the right kind of attention.

lenticular clouds, orgiva

  Which leads me to another little light-bulb that blinked on this week: that in order to become a friend of God (the term used in Arabic to mean a saint), perhaps what’s needed is to treat everything as a friend – loved ones, strangers, all creatures, nature, water, time, space… – because it all exists in and because of Divine Reality. It’s easy to make a big show of religion, to wear pious-looking gear and be kind to the poor and needy, and then snap at a child because they their need for breakfast does not coincide with my desire to get up and make it. What do you mean that’s not universal?

  Several of the Companions mentioned that they never saw anything but that they saw Allah in, behind, or with it. And a famous Sufi training story tells how a fish went swimming through the ocean, asking everyone where the water was. I might only taste a drop of it of this ocean, but it leaves me realising how thirsty I am for it.

*An aphorism of the Shadhili Sufi master Ibn ‘Ata’illah al-Iskandari reads: “States of need are like gift-laden carpets”. See also my previous post Song for the Crocodiles.

And the Prize for the Narrowest Mind Goes To…

That great genius for inter-religious tolerance, Richard Dawkins, has finally come out and tweeted it: “All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.”

 

Apart from the obvious steps that will surely ensue, the official banning of Islam in all European nations for being counter to human development, the jetting of all outlaw Muslims to the moon (while the far right complains that it was their tax money that built them the interstellar asylum centre), and the honouring of this day in history as Democracy Day, I have a few points I’d like to make to Signeur Dawkins.

 

Firstly, how much would he expect to have achieved if his nation was the colonised, rather than the colonising? (Repeat argument ad infinitum regarding various Muslim countries and various, in some cases nearly incessant, occupations).

 

Secondly, what kind of achievements was he hoping we’d make? The invention of the atom bomb? For all the ‘achievements’ of the non-Muslim world (and that is about as laughably reductive a label as ‘the Muslim world’ is), it has succeeded in destroying more of our natural resources in 100 years than in the entire history of humankind, with no sign of that rate slowing. Nice work.

 

Alfred Nobel, chilling.

Alfred Nobel, chilling.

Thirdly, what does a Nobel Prize actually constitute? Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 and celebrated it by instigating drone strikes on Pakistan. Yasser Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres won it in 1994 for their efforts in establishing peace in the Middle East; not sure we saw much of that. Nelson Mandela had to share his in 1993 with the then South African president Frederik W. de Klerk, who sure as hell didn’t have to suffer as much for ending apartheid as Mandela did (and who only seemed to allow it because it was interfering with the country’s economy). How much are Nobel prizes genuine reflections of truly marvellous work, rather than simply reflections of what people want to see?

 

Come to think of it, the number of women who have received Nobel Prizes are markedly low, too. Could it be that – don’t take this the wrong way – they aren’t up to much either? Did womankind peak in the Middle Ages, as well?

 

I am frankly astonished that anyone widely considered to be intelligent could judge people’s ‘achievements’ in such grotesquely blunt terms as how many prizes they win. The logical next step is to judge them for how many letters after their names they have, how much money they earn, how many followers on Twitter they have. Could it be that this is the criteria by why Richard Dawkin’s own achievements are judged?

 

He might as well ask how many Far Eastern countries they have chemically defoliated/nuked, how many massively polluting conglomerate companies they run, how many politicians kowtow to their industries, how many diseases they cure whilst a dozen super-resistant ones emerge, how many useless theories they come up with, how many tons of plastic junk they have to ship to other countries to bury each year, how obese their population is, or how mentally ill they are. If any of these things are a measure of a given society’s value, then the West wins first prize for Unflinching Devotion to the Cause of Humanity’s Destruction.

 

Regardless of the fact that Muslims are not immune to the odd Nobel (or indeed any of the bozo-like behaviour cited above), I am deeply suspicious of any argument that seems to judge the worth of a people’s existence by the sort of thing one might put on a CV to impress a future employer. If that is all you have achieved, you have really achieved very little.

 

The 'achievement' involved in this family crest was apparently subduing a badger with nothing more than a couple of ostrich feathers.

The ‘achievement’ involved in this family crest was apparently subduing a small zoo with nothing more than a couple of ostrich feathers.

You might have written bestsellers, but do you friends trust you? You might have a PhD but do your children hate you? You might have millions of fans but are you incapable of having a loving relationship? You might earn a ton of money, but is it all sitting in high-interest accounts or shares in unethical mining or arms companies, while the people around you are eating tinned dog food? You might have earned the praise and admiration of your peers, but does the old lady at the Post Office secretly call you ‘that pompous, rude git who swans about like he owns the place and couldn’t tell a joke if it bit him in the arse’?

 

Achievement has about as much to do with what looks good on paper as beauty has to do with plastic surgery. What have Muslims contributed in the last 500 years or so? Many millions of tiny acts of kindness that no newspaper would bother printing and no organisation would bother stumping up the cash for an awards ceremony to celebrate.

 

Dealing with your own self – though most Muslims certainly don’t spend a whole lot of time doing that – is a far more difficult task than going to university, getting a job, and rising up the career ladder, gathering accolades on the way. You can employ all sorts of underhanded methods in the latter, but in the former, only ruthless self-accounting and discipline will work – and that doesn’t get you any certificate.

 

Humility, disinterested acts of kindness, generosity, service to others, being the kind of everyday hero that doesn’t demand a medal – these acts are elevated in Islam to the rank of achievement, far more than winning a battle or having your critics pat you on the back for that paper you just published.

The higher you climb in this world, the further you have to fall. In contrast, practising non-attachment to the world whilst caring for it is surely the greatest challenge humanity faces.

 

Living on a floating island of human debris certainly keeps all the undesirables away, though I can't say it's got a stable real estate value

Living on a floating island of human debris certainly keeps all the undesirables away, though I can’t say it’s got a stable real estate value

Dawkin’s statement rings so loudly with hubris that surely it is only a matter of time before everyone but the far right (who will have to build a high-security settlement on one of those floating islands of plastic in the Atlantic, in order to be free from all these underachieving Muslims and that horribly contagious plague, Shariah law) begins to see through the flimsy smokescreen that worldly success presents.

 

Now wouldn’t that be an achievement?

Sieving Metaphors out of Concrete: the Battle between One and All

I’m still bothered about this Shafelia Ahmed killing. After 4 hours sleep I’m already buzzing. There is something huge that needs to be said about it, so if you don’t mind me burbling on, here goes.

There is a fundamental imbalance at work in belief communities – whether they be religious or political – all around the world. It’s a tug-of-war that goes back perhaps to our earliest experiences of human society, a tug-of-war between the well-being and growth of the group (which individuals are dependent on for their own safety), and the well-being and integrity of the individual (each one of whom makes up the whole).

I could rummage around for hours looking for ‘expert’ quotes on this matter but I don’t think there’s any need – we can see it all around us, all the time. A society clique has its own interests at heart, so people instinctively take on its ‘dos and don’ts’ and most of them will not cross the line for fear of being cast out of the gang.

This is totally primordial. We might not remember it but there was a time when wild animals threatened our live and there was safety in numbers. But the bigger the group is, the more difficult it is to maintain any kind of homogeneity; greater differences of space and time give rise to variances in culture and language. Our climates and landscapes offer us different challenges.

When there is a hierarchical power structure, or just a lot of people with enough will or need to maintain the group intact, repressive tactics begin to emerge. Dissent, whether it be in the form of a teenage schoolgirl wanting to have a boyfriend or a group of social activists campaigning for change, is suppressed – sometimes violently.

This is when the balance between group and individual has been thrown out of whack, and it’s given us Communism, Fascism, repressive Muslim regimes, and vigilante acts like ‘honour killings’. The sacredness of life is subjugated to the survival of the group.

There have always been, in the history of every tribe, pioneers who sense the need for movement, be it through a change in physical conditions (a spring dries up, so they have to move), or disagreements with elders, or simply the overpopulation of a group and the need for fresh space. So a smaller group splinters off and finds a new way – but this doesn’t necessarily mean they cut their ties with their old group, or that they suddenly give up their language and customs.

Humanity is in constant flux. Historical linguistics shows a fascinating story of Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, a place where few written languages have long histories and so the movement of people and the interfaces between cultures are tracked by words that have been borrowed and grammatically absorbed by one or other of the 2,000 languages indigenous to Africa. Few languages are used ideologically; you don’t lose your language when you move upcountry – it evolves.

But when this idea of movement and flux is applied to religion and politics, infuriatingly often we find that a shell of customs, ideas and dogmas handed down from one generation to another becomes encrusted over people and they cannot think creatively enough to see when conditions have changed and so modes de vie also must.

The spirit of Islam is finding the ‘Middle Path’ (not unlike Buddhism); the Prophet Muhammad (s.) always advocated looking for a intermediate path between two extremes. The extremes in his day were a diseased kind of tribalism and religious zeal. Today there is a different disease, composed of fashion, market forces, hype, spin and consumerist herd thinking; today’s religious zeal can now be seen in extreme adherence to one’s patria, religion, racist ideology, political party, football team…the tribes are proliferating all the time.

In the first extreme, behind a smokescreen of development and progress there is deep, grave injustice. Children and young mothers forced to work in mines so people in consumerist societies can buy new technology. Children sold to sweatshops to sew sequins onto dresses. Indigenous peoples displaced from their homelands so the natural resources in them can be pillaged. All of this happens so that certain priviledged individuals can have the freedom to buy whatever they want (or are encouraged to want), whenever they want. This is neo-liberal capitalism. This is extreme individualism.

On the other hand, there is the weight of tradition, sometimes (or often) woven and warped into a heavy helmet of you-must-think-this and you-must-do-that, otherwise you will be harming or disrespecting your group in some way. The alternative, for these people, is a dangerous individualism; the threat of losing their identity as a member of that group is so great that they consent to horrific abuses taking place in the name of Nazism, Communism, tribal culture or a repressive Islamic state. In a way, both extremes are nothing more than herd mentality.

The founding principle of Islam, of balance and harmony over chaos, is absolutely dependent on Muslims being confident and creative in the way they apply it. The detritus of the past does not have to be carried forward on our backs. It is stupid to live according to conditions that no longer exist. Would we wear winter clothes in summer?

The individualism we are accustomed to now is isolating; with no need to look after their neighbours or even their own families, people become emotionally detached and capable of doing extraordinary acts of cold-blooded cruelty, or simply neglect. It is unhealthy for the individual to ignore the whole that surrounds him, just as it is unhealthy for a society to ignore the needs and rights of the individuals that make up its whole.

The extremities facing us in today’s world, here and now, might have resonances that go back to a Biblical era – that’s where religion becomes a fountain of wisdom, a body of past experiences that can be observed and learned from – but without the independent thinking that knows how to sieve the metaphor from the concrete, the lesson from the teaching material, it is worse than having no guidance at all.

The balance between all our extremes can be regained, but it will happen one conscience at a time.

The Insanity of Blame

The life sentences of Farzana and Iftikar Ahmed for the murder of their daughter Shafilea, reported today on the BBC, because her ‘westernised ways’ (i.e. resistance to a forced marriage in Pakistan) were bringing shame on their family, has revealed to me once again how very insane the Muslim world can be sometimes.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-19068490

I say ‘Muslim’ rather than ‘Islamic’, because – and I’m sorry if it sounds obvious – just because a person is Muslim doesn’t make them a torch-bearer for the religion of their forefathers. The very first thing that the Prophet Muhammad (s.) did as a lawmaker was to forbid the killing of baby girls, which was a common practice at the time. How much difference is there between burying your baby daughter alive in the sand, and suffocating her to death with a plastic bag – in front of your four other children?

The prevailing attitude in Arabian society at the advent of Islam was what is known in Islamic history as the Jahiliya, generally translated as the Time of Ignorance. But there are always great subtleties in a root-system language such as Arabic; the word Jahiliyah has nuances of recklessness, foolishess, impetuousity and barbarism. It refers to a state of intense internecine warfare that would see 20,000 people slaughtered over the course of decades because someone from one tribe had killed a goat belonging to someone from another tribe.

Introducing values like compassion and mercy, forgiving rather than exacting blood money, even kissing one’s own children were not taken to kindly by many 8th century Meccans. A Bedouin man once saw Muhammad kiss one of his children fondly and seemed appalled by it. When Muhammad asked him what was the matter, he relied “I have ten children and I have never kissed any one of them”. Muhammad replied, “He who does not show mercy is not shown mercy.”

So the buttons that are pressed by a so-called ‘honour killing’ like that of Shafilea Ahmed reach deep into a Muslim’s conscience. “The best of you is he who is kindest to his family” is another of Muhammad’s most well-loved sayings. These events, like all acts of barbarity or terror, remind us that habit maketh not the man – or in our case, hijab and beard maketh not the pious Muslim. As Hayley Meachin of the British Association of Social Workers told The Huffington Post UK: “Shafilea Ahmed was killed because her parents were bullies and murderers.

But we are by no means the only people to count among their numbers vile, mentally unsound, vicious people. This Jahiliyah mentality is not only a subordination of the individual to the integrity of their tribe, but also at a very elemental level a brutal game of tit-for-tat. You make me suffer (because you aren’t living up to my expectations and people are thinking badly of me), therefore I will make you suffer too.

As my parents pointed out while we were watching the news footage, Marvin Gaye was shot dead by his Baptist minister father for supposedly promoting immorality, and the creator of the Bembo font (typography geeks will get it) struck his son-in-law over the head with a metal bar and was executed for his crime. The victims of the Columbine school shoot-out, or any of the American Psycho-type killings we’ve seen in recent years, were not even targeted for their supposed immorality, but just for being in the way of a video game played out with real-live ammunition.

In a subtler way, we all do a bit of this Jahiliyah business. In his incredibly insightful book Non-Violent Communication, Marshall Rosenberg describes emotional emancipation – i.e. being freed from the idea that other people are the cause of your feelings. This works both ways: if someone does something you perceive to be hurtful, you blame them (thus shackling you to a victim mentality). If someone does something you perceive to be pleasing, you warm to them (thus becoming dependent on their talent for feeding your insecurities).

In the former case, what tends to happen – even among highly intelligent, otherwise sane people – is that they act out their suffering on the one they believe to have caused it. You made me suffer, so I’ll make you suffer back. You kill my goat, so I’ll kill yours. It might seem that you are now even, but in fact you create a cycle of resentment and vindictiveness that may never end. Whole families can be embittered by this blaming-hurting dynamic.

As a parent, you can see this happening with small children very clearly. He stole my toy, so I bashed him over the head. Does this playground game ever end there? The Jahiliyah is alive and well, buried in the subconscious attitudes of every single flippin’ human being on the planet. The desire to get our own back is so intense that it can even cause a parent to kill their own child – then lie to police and press for nine years and play the innocent victims.

Do I even need to say it? This isn’t Islam; it’s insanity. And nobody is immune until they investigate the roots of their suffering instead of casting the first stone. As a wise Sufi teacher once told a man who came to him complaining about his wife, “Your wife’s not the problem: you’re the problem.”

For everyone’s sake, we need to be the change, not the problem.

The Hate Crowd

Hit in the stomach by a visual feed of hate comments – directed at others, but so what? It still hits like a bad virus, bilious in its fury, toxic in its loathing – I am shaken up by the decision that some people take: to hate someone.

It almost seems like it could be anyone. The desire to hate is there; the hatred is already frothing at the cauldron of the hater’s belly, waiting for a bypasser to scald.

And there is always a ‘reason’ to scald them. They look wrong. They aren’t part of the comforting pattern of looks and backgrounds that make the hater’s world feel less frightening and bad. They must think something awful about the rest of humanity; she’s a woman in a headscarf, so therefore – by extension, a looong extension made up of broken lines and dodgy converter plugs – she must hate gays, consent to be beaten by her husband, and be in favour of hangings/nuclear enrichment/totalitarian Islamic rule for the entire ‘civilised’ universe.

What I want to ask these insane, poison-lensed haters, is this: what do you get out of hating? Think about it completely selfishly for a minute. How are you happier, or better off in any way, by carrying around this cauldron of foaming toxic waste inside you? Do you believe that you are harming the person you hate? Do you believe that you are superior to him, and therefore he deserves to be hated? Does that feeling compensate for the vileness you are carrying around inside yourself? Does it veil it so that you continue to believe, unaware,  that your hatred is his fault for being so bloody evil?

I really do not understand what makes hatred seem like a sensible, appealing lifestyle choice.  Does it make you look cool in front of your friends? Do they also carry around the same crucible of nastiness inside them? Are you just keeping up appearances?

The sheer ridiculousness of hating someone because, apparently, they hate you makes me even more likely to tear my hair out in a fit of frustration at the stupidity and self-destructiveness of humankind. It’s like there are millions of bigots, all looking into mirrors and saying: “You disgusting great &*£%! You think you’re so great, telling everyone else they’re wrong! Look how vile you are! Your beliefs are idiotic!! You think you’re better than everyone else!!! Why don’t you just shut the hell up??!!!”

The really horrible part of it is that I hate these people myself. I read racist, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, anti-whoever comments and it makes me so angry I could throw my computer out of the window (incidentally a good way of avoiding reading them again in the future).

Hatred is poison, and it only poisons the one who chooses to carry it. The bigots are all the same, the Muslim extremists, the Muslim-haters. All of them have overlooked those beautiful, freeing lines in Quran: “Lakum dinakum wa liya din”: To you your beliefs, and to me mine; and “La ikraha fi din”: There is no compulsion in religion.

You want to lighten your heart’s load? Do it, in whatever way makes sense to you. Don’t listen to finger-waggers, or brow-beaters, or soapbox megamouths competing to tell you what to think – whether in the Guardian’s comment section or the madrasa. Nobody has the right to throw you off the scent your own intuition will pick up, given the space and the freedom to do so.

Everyone believes in something, even it is the twisted notion that they believe in nothing, or that belief itself is wrong. “To you your beliefs, and to me mine”. No ifs or buts. Let’s leave the trolls to their stinking dens and walk out into the open space of equanimity.

The Hate Crowd

Hit in the stomach by a visual feed of hate comments – directed at others, but so what? It still hits like a bad virus, bilious in its fury, toxic in its loathing – I am shaken up by the decision that some people take: to hate someone.

It almost seems like it could be anyone. The desire to hate is there; the hatred is already frothing at the cauldron of the hater’s belly, waiting for a bypasser to scald.

And there is always a ‘reason’ to scald them. They look wrong. They aren’t part of the comforting pattern of looks and backgrounds that make the hater’s world feel less frightening and bad. They must think something awful about the rest of humanity; she’s a woman in a headscarf, so therefore – by extension, a looong extension made up of broken lines and dodgy converter plugs – she must hate gays, consent to be beaten by her husband, and be in favour of hangings/nuclear enrichment/totalitarian Islamic rule for the entire ‘civilised’ universe.

What I want to ask these insane, poison-lensed haters, is this: what do you get out of hating? Think about it completely selfishly for a minute. How are you happier, or better off in any way, by carrying around this cauldron of foaming toxic waste inside you? Do you believe that you are harming the person you hate? Do you believe that you are superior to him, and therefore he deserves to be hated? Does that feeling compensate for the vileness you are carrying around inside yourself? Does it veil it so that you continue to believe, unaware,  that your hatred is his fault for being so bloody evil?

I really do not understand what makes hatred seem like a sensible, appealing lifestyle choice.  Does it make you look cool in front of your friends? Do they also carry around the same crucible of nastiness inside them? Are you just keeping up appearances?

The sheer ridiculousness of hating someone because, apparently, they hate you makes me even more likely to tear my hair out in a fit of frustration at the stupidity and self-destructiveness of humankind. It’s like there are millions of bigots, all looking into mirrors and saying: “You disgusting great &*£%! You think you’re so great, telling everyone else they’re wrong! Look how vile you are! Your beliefs are idiotic!! You think you’re better than everyone else!!! Why don’t you just shut the hell up??!!!”

The really horrible part of it is that I hate these people myself. I read racist, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, anti-whoever comments and it makes me so angry I could throw my computer out of the window (incidentally a good way of avoiding reading them again in the future).

Hatred is poison, and it only poisons the one who chooses to carry it. The bigots are all the same, the Muslim extremists, the Muslim-haters. All of them have overlooked those beautiful, freeing lines in Quran: “Lakum dinakum wa liya din”: To you your beliefs, and to me mine; and “La ikraha fi din”: There is no compulsion in religion.

You want to lighten your heart’s load? Do it, in whatever way makes sense to you. Don’t listen to finger-waggers, or brow-beaters, or soapbox megamouths competing to tell you what to think – whether in the Guardian’s comment section or the madrasa. Nobody has the right to throw you off the scent your own intuition will pick up, given the space and the freedom to do so.

Everyone believes in something, even it is the twisted notion that they believe in nothing, or that belief itself is wrong. “To you your beliefs, and to me mine”. No ifs or buts. Let’s leave the trolls to their stinking dens and walk out into the open space of equanimity.

The Hate Crowd

Hit in the stomach by a visual feed of hate comments – directed at others, but so what? It still hits like a bad virus, bilious in its fury, toxic in its loathing – I am shaken up by the decision that some people take: to hate someone.

It almost seems like it could be anyone. The desire to hate is there; the hatred is already frothing at the cauldron of the hater’s belly, waiting for a bypasser to scald.

And there is always a ‘reason’ to scald them. They look wrong. They aren’t part of the comforting pattern of looks and backgrounds that make the hater’s world feel less frightening and bad. They must think something awful about the rest of humanity; she’s a woman in a headscarf, so therefore – by extension, a looong extension made up of broken lines and dodgy converter plugs – she must hate gays, consent to be beaten by her husband, and be in favour of hangings/nuclear enrichment/totalitarian Islamic rule for the entire ‘civilised’ universe.

What I want to ask these insane, poison-lensed haters, is this: what do you get out of hating? Think about it completely selfishly for a minute. How are you happier, or better off in any way, by carrying around this cauldron of foaming toxic waste inside you? Do you believe that you are harming the person you hate? Do you believe that you are superior to him, and therefore he deserves to be hated? Does that feeling compensate for the vileness you are carrying around inside yourself? Does it veil it so that you continue to believe, unaware,  that your hatred is his fault for being so bloody evil?

I really do not understand what makes hatred seem like a sensible, appealing lifestyle choice.  Does it make you look cool in front of your friends? Do they also carry around the same crucible of nastiness inside them? Are you just keeping up appearances?

The sheer ridiculousness of hating someone because, apparently, they hate you makes me even more likely to tear my hair out in a fit of frustration at the stupidity and self-destructiveness of humankind. It’s like there are millions of bigots, all looking into mirrors and saying: “You disgusting great &*£%! You think you’re so great, telling everyone else they’re wrong! Look how vile you are! Your beliefs are idiotic!! You think you’re better than everyone else!!! Why don’t you just shut the hell up??!!!”

The really horrible part of it is that I hate these people myself. I read racist, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, anti-whoever comments and it makes me so angry I could throw my computer out of the window (incidentally a good way of avoiding reading them again in the future).

Hatred is poison, and it only poisons the one who chooses to carry it. The bigots are all the same, the Muslim extremists, the Muslim-haters. All of them have overlooked those beautiful, freeing lines in Quran: “Lakum dinakum wa liya din”: To you your beliefs, and to me mine; and “La ikraha fi din”: There is no compulsion in religion.

You want to lighten your heart’s load? Do it, in whatever way makes sense to you. Don’t listen to finger-waggers, or brow-beaters, or soapbox megamouths competing to tell you what to think – whether in the Guardian’s comment section or the madrasa. Nobody has the right to throw you off the scent your own intuition will pick up, given the space and the freedom to do so.

Everyone believes in something, even it is the twisted notion that they believe in nothing, or that belief itself is wrong. “To you your beliefs, and to me mine”. No ifs or buts. Let’s leave the trolls to their stinking dens and walk out into the open space of equanimity.