The stereotype of a mean, terrorist-type of Islam is broadly accepted as conventional Western wisdom. The Western mind has pretty much accepted that Islam is out to annihilate Western culture, and even the people in its pursuit to convert the world to a completely Muslim existence.
Whether the Western paradigm is accurate or not, it seems as though it is being informed by the extremist, fundamentalist segment of Islam which is an image all too dominant in that religion and culture. However, a number of personal experiences have broken that paradigm for me.
A few decades ago, I had a boss who was a Muslim (Ismaili). This was my first experience of a relationship with a Muslim, being raised in a small Manitoba town where Islam was non-existent. At that time (early 1980’s), I had no prejudices toward Muslims and my boss seemed pretty normal to me. His observances of Ramadan were more of a curiosity to me than anything. After 9-11, I was working in the Bay Area near San Jose,CA, and I had the opportunity to be doing a project for a Syrian dentist, whose mother and father-in-law happened to be visiting. His father-in-law was the recently retired Syrian ambassador to London and when I was finished the project for the dentist, I was invited for a Syrian meal with the family. It was a most interesting evening where I asked the Ambassador a number of fairly challenging questions about Islam and was given some astoundingly moderate and inclusive answers…..including the statement that Muslims viewed Jews and Christians as valid “cousins” in an Abrahamic tradition of a “one true God”. I felt remarkably more “familiar” than strange with these folks, and left wondering what’s up with the stereotype Muslims who are supposedly wanting to kill all the infidels.
I am sure that a great deal of hostility does exist from both directions for many reasons, both good and bad. But the big question of this blog post is whether or not the extremism of Islam can be changed…..and what will it take to do that. Part of the answer may be remarkably simple. A popular violent uprising? Of course not. In fact, it could through things rather simple, things that touch the souls who are seeking a peace and satisfaction of the soul.
This week, a music video came to my attention. It is a fun catchy tune, called “Happy” by Pharell Williams from the UK. While an enjoyable little tune, it’s pretty shallow, yet its shallowness has no influence on its effectiveness and may even contribute to its effectiveness. Its essence is joy. This tune has has had 1/4 billion (yes that is billion!) views on YouTube and now they have produced an Islamic version which as already had a couple of million views since it was recently posted a couple of weeks ago. It portrays a happy and joyful Islam….which is surely the goal of every human being!
Here is the video. It offers a lot of hope for the future of Islam! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVDIXqILqSM In it are portrayed Muslims who are the opposites of their sterotypes who are much like ordinary people like you and I and people whom I would happy to have as neighbours. Extremists have banned this video yet I expect there is no keeping it down and will inform a Muslim population that happiness can be theirs!