For a long period of my life, I have not been sufficiently aware of the importance that discrimination on the bases of race, colour or origin has on the life of many people. This is an issue in the West especially regarding the Afro-American population, but generally affects anyone that it is not associated with what is considered the physiognomy of a westerner; but it is also an issue that I have seen in many other countries whether they be in Europe, Asia or Africa, and being acted upon by people of different ethnicities and religions.
If I have decided to write this it is because I have been following more closely the debate around it for some time, for the perception of it is something that has been with me since the four years that I spent in South Africa.
What I want to say, without entering into the dialectical arguments of identity and race, might shock some people, because it will not be the usual, but at the same time it is crucial and the general ignorance of it makes extremely difficult the resolution of the problem.
This is not in any way to discredit the great work that many people are doing to palliate and try to overturn the effects of this malicious illness, but if we are to cure the illness itself, we should go to the root causes of the problem. Treating the symptoms, although very important and might alleviate the pain, will not remove the problem.
We live in a purely materialistic society where all importance and ultimate truth is given to that which can be measured, even things that are generally hard to put a number on them, such as success, kindness or pain, we demand empirical proofs of its existence. The evolution, or devolution, depends on how you look at it, leading to this conception of the world it’s the subject of another article but suffices to say that has a lot to do, for better or worse, with the unfolding of the western culture and civilization.
With the changes and events occurred in the last hundred years that have led to the phenomenon known as globalization, the western culture, and by culture I mean its existential proposition and thinking pattern, not the folkloric manifestations of a culture, have been imposed in almost all the world. There might be a few places where you could still say that they are out of it, but there few, small and far between.
What this means is that in most of today’s world absolute precedence is given to what can be seen and measured, including what refers to the human being itself. This world-view has reduced and relegated to a secondary place, if not completely obliterated, the inner self of man and with that its inner worth.
It is obvious and a fact that people across the world are different, both outwardly and inwardly, and those outward differences have been given place over the inward ones because they can be seen and measured. Wherever there are differences, people create a subjective scale of value in which to place those differences, whether correct or incorrect, it is a natural end process; there are things that we like and things that we don’t. Having given precedence to these outward differences means that people will place them in a subjective value scale and they will behave differently towards them. People behave differently towards what they like or prefer and what they don’t like or prefer, and in turn, this becomes what they consider better or worse.
You might say that many times these outward differences are not the only reasons for this behaviour, that there is an ideology that this person follows that is the context on which he places those differences, and that is true, but it does not change the argument, because that ideology is, in itself, materialistic.
We can see this in the discussion that took place amongst Christian theologian regarding the nature of the soul of the natives in different parts of the world, such as South America or Africa, during the first wave of colonization. Although the nature of their discourse was slightly different, it was the first expression of the separation of body and soul, the result was the same.
The question was if these human beings could be considered to have a soul at all, since they did not believe in the same world-view that they had. One of the responses to this question was that ultimately they did not have one, because they did not believe in what they believed, and until they did, it would not be considered that they had one. This effectively sanctioned their practices. They had turned these human beings into objects and being objects they could use them as such, own them, sell them or buy them.
It took a long time for the west to recognize this grave mistake with horrendous consequences, and by the time they did, it was not only them that did not have a soul, it was all of us.
We did not have a soul, spirit or consciousness because it is not a material thing, it cannot be measured or seen, and hence it became something subjective not to enter the arena of public scientific discourse.
The issue then and now it is not that we do not have a soul or spirit, but that then, the native’s people one did not adjust to the western view of it and today, that it is not useful, it is not utilitarian, it does not fit in the current existential paradigm. The spirit or soul has been subjugated to the absolute subjective, because materially we cannot see it, measure it or determine it. It is not a scientific fact, and I a world where the scientific process is considered the only way to access the truth, it is irrelevant.
The result in what racism and discrimination is concerned, is that we will judge people by their outward differences, because the inward is not considered. This will always turn the debate into the subjective plane, what I, you or him, consider to be worthier will become the measure by which I judge you.
If we are to tackle the obvious problem of racism and discrimination, the first thing we need to do is to give back to humans the reality of their inner self. Not only that, we have to place this as the cornerstone of our society. Only when we acknowledge this reality, that the man has an outward and inward plane, we can begin to discuss the next point. Of course, from the scientific materialist world view which is prevalent, this cannot happen.
On the other hand, and this is the second part of this proposition, we could argue that giving back to humans their inner reality would not solve the problem, because if there are outward differences there are also inward ones, that are seen in their manifestations, which are our thoughts and actions, and that will also lead to a subjective scale of values.
This leave us with the necessity to establish a non-subjective measurement of the outward and the inward, and here is where we must acknowledge that, if we are to give back to human this inner reality, we cannot do it without restoring the Divine Reality as central to our understanding of the world.
Restoring the inward reality of man to our discourse means acknowledging and giving precedence to a reality that cannot be measured or quantified, and once this is acknowledged, what greater reality that cannot be measured or quantified is there other than the reality of the Divine?
This, then, becomes the non-subjective value scale. Because in this proposition, humans have an inner value and worth that cannot be objectively or subjectively measured because you as well as me, we are both witnesses to the same Reality, which in turn, witness us and our actions. Therefore, I am not the one to judge.
I believe this is what Malcolm X, or how he would prefer to be called, Hajj Malik, saw when he wrote this paragraph in his famous letter from Mecca:
“Never have I witnessed such sincere hospitality and overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood as is practised by people of all colors and races here in this Ancient Holy Land, the home of Abraham, Muhammad and all the other Prophets of the Holy Scriptures. For the past week, I have been utterly speechless and spellbound by the graciousness I see displayed all around me by people of all colors”.
In the picture, Shaykh Zuhair al-Maliki and my friend, Momodou Taal.
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