By Bashir Goth -
They call themselves fundamentalists.
A misnomer and ambiguous description, I say. This is because I know the word fundamental means basic. And anything that is basic seems to me to be easily understandable and closer to common sense. Therefore, I would rather call these people devoid of common sense and deprived of human feelings. These people make a habit of covering themselves with clouds of pomposity; they like to hide behind out-of-context religious jargon; they love to reach out for history and holy texts to run away from taking a responsible position on obvious common sense issues.
Evil for them has 70 layers of skin and they have to peel one after the other to reach the worst of the worst evils that deserves to be condemned. For them good also comes in different hues and different degrees of purity. No good is good enough if it is not pregnant with the seed of its own destruction.
No wonder humble people of my ilk remain clueless to understand their logic. There is a huge vault between us. It is a divide between people consumed by religious thinking and who see everything through a religious prism and people of humble common sense who see things as they are. A gulf between what I may call people of common sense and people of text sense.
We, the common sense masses, see and judge things and actions as they happen: and when they happen our common sense makes a simple and immediate reaction. We see the London bombings in which dozens of innocent citizens lost their lives and many more wounded and maimed. We condemn them straight away.
To us common sense people, it doesn't matter where the carnage takes place; in Baghdad, Karachi, Bali, Kabul, Mombassa, New York, Tel Aviv, Gaza, Jenin, Madrid, Beirut, Riyadh, Moscow, Belsan or Grozny. Our best parameter is the pain felt by another fellow human being who is, like us, made of flesh and blood.
We see human body parts pulled out from the wreckage of an exploded structure or from under the mangled metal of a vehicle, train or a bus and we reach for our limbs, touch our children and make sure everyone in the household is safe and present. Our humble common sense tells us, Ã¢Â€ÂœThere but for the grace of God go I", and we cry for those who were not as lucky as we are today.
Look, we the humble common sense people are quick to condemn evil and terrorism. For us, our tears come much faster than our thinking, so when we see a bus, a house, a railway, a restaurant and a shopping mall exploded and we see dead bodies of innocent children, mothers, elderly people and people in their prime killed on their way to work, schools, clubs and universities, our humble common sense tells us to condemn it, so we condemn it unequivocally.
But the case is different with our people of the text. They don't see things as we see them happen. While the eyes of the humble people of common sense are outward looking, those of the people of the text are inward and backward looking. We see what is happening in front of us now, but they see what is behind what is happening. This is why we, the common sense people, are a bit ahead of them in our feeling of pain and our condemnation of evil.
The people of the text don't only see things with their eyes but also perceive them with their unique mindset. Therefore, when a terrorist action takes place they wait for feedback from the text. They say every evil has a root cause and when one understands the root cause, one will understand why evil was committed: hence they never feel obliged to condemn it straight away.
They delve into their texts to find the cause. You see, this makes us, the common sense folks, really mad. For us, evil is just what we see it is, Ã¢Â€ÂœevilÃ¢Â€Â, and good is just Ã¢Â€ÂœgoodÃ¢Â€Â. This is because we see things in simple common sense; our feelings are pure, natural and not tainted by years of canonical readings and our eyes are not blurred by the thick fog of history.
As people of common sense, we view all religions as different roads leading to the same destination. Our brothers, however, see one way only to salvation, their way. Whenever we try to talk to them, we start our statements with "we think, we assume" because we know as erring human beings we cannot be 100 per cent correct. But our brothers always talk in the absolute, in certainty; and when we ask them how they could be so sure, they point their finger to the text.
We give up. Because if we argue they accuse us of being infidels and we know that is a sign for bad things to happen. Even when we pray beside them in GodÃ¢Â€Â™s house, they look down at us with contempt and with an attitude of Ã¢Â€ÂœHow dare you come here you spineless hypocritesÃ¢Â€Â.
Sometimes, we, the people of common sense, try to find what they see in the text because we also can read and grasp the meaning of the textual verses. But, you know, when we read the holy text we feel good and become full of love for our fellow human beings and for every living creature. It makes us cling to life more and more. This is what the text does to us, people of common sense.
But when our brothers, people of the text, read the holy text, they become angry and become full of hatred and they see death as their only deliverance. The difference between our understanding and their understanding of the text is that we understand the meaning of the text as we see it; but our brothers have the magic ability to figure out the hidden meaning, the meaning beyond the actual meaning. You see, they put too much meaning into everything to the point that the word meaning becomes meaningless at the end.
Here I happen to remember a Somali anecdote about a man, who seems to have been like the majority of us, a man of common sense. He heard a cleric say when a man goes to the wilderness to urinate he should not face the east because it will be a disrespect to the sun that rises from the east; he should not also face the west as it will be a disrespect to the sun that sets from the west; he shouldn't face the north because it is the direction of the Ka'aba towards which the faithful prays; he shouldn't also face the south because it will mean turning one's back to the Ka'aba.
Confused and anguished, the poor man lied down on his back and urinated towards the sky. When he was asked why he did that he said, "We are people whose life has been messed up by Ulema 'men of religion'".
Well, it is obvious that the mess is in its full swing in today's world more than anytime before. And all that we ask our brothers, people of the text, is to have a little more of common sense and a little less text sense and surely the world will be a peaceful place to live.