2 November 2015: 2 TED Talks: Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf on Compassion; Alaa Murabit Role of Women in Islam; led by Heidrun

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Firstly: Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf combines the teachings of the Qur’an, the stories of Rumi, and the examples of Muhammad and Jesus, to demonstrate that only one obstacle stands between each of us and absolute compassion — ourselves. See https://www.ted.com/talks/imam_feisal_abdul_rauf

Each of the 114 chapters of the Quran starts with “In the name of God, the all compassionate, the all merciful,” but this is not the common perception of Islam. God’s primary attribute is compassion. Rauf’s view is that all people need to put aside their ego, their ‘I’. ‘There is no room in this house for two ‘I’s’. This is the teaching of the Sufi tradition of Islam – of which Jesus was the greatest prophet. Rauf gave support to the Charter of Compassion. We all need to ‘lower and control’ our ego. Compassion is a common aspiration across all religions.

[In my view it’s not the role of god to be merciful/compassionate towards humankind – after all we done nothing to require mercy; we have to learn to be compassionate towards each other, to break down barriers of fear of people not like us.]

Secondly: Strong faith is a core part of Alaa Murabit’s identity — but when she moved from Canada to Libya as a young woman, she was surprised how the tenets of Islam were used to severely limit women’s rights, independence and ability to lead. She wondered: Was this really religious doctrine? See  https://www.ted.com/talks/alaa_murabit_what_my_religion_really_says_about_women#

Religion has been misused to the detriment of humanity; need to reclaim religion to progress peace and conflict resolution. When she moved back to Libya as a 15yr old she was confronted with ‘haram’ religiously prohibited and ‘aib’ culturally inappropriate not experienced at home in Canada. Murabit has used reason, argument and the examples of women leaders found in the Quran. Women have to be present (‘at the table’) if their points of view are to be heard and equal rights upheld. Traditionally religion is controlled by men, who then give it their outlook and agendas. Women need to assert their place at the table so as to change the messages, provide an alternative narrative. Alaa founded a group “the Voice of Libyan Women” which has made some slow progress in post-Arab Spring Libya. Also need to be strong to stand up to insults, ridicule and threats from the entrenched powers feeling they are under threat themselves.

Ian Harris

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