Tuesday, December 06, 2005

More on the story of Khaled

I read the story of Khaled Berry again, which I wrote about the other day. How he was attracted to the extremists as people, not because of their faith, how he played football with them. How he came to hope and believe that life was very short and that the real life was after death. And how there is only one truth, and you cannot argue with the Koran, because it is the truth and it is what God said.

How little by little, the romance of sacrifice, mixed with the seemingly-glorious chance of a much better Afterlife, and the heady approval of your peers draws you in. Add in the sense of victimisation, the idea that this is a noble cause, that you are in some ways helping the suffering of your brothers, the sheer drama and certainity and excitement of it all and ...I can see how a young man or woman, frustrated, idealistic, could be captivated.

Suddenly you are a soldier, you are a spy, you are an agent of change for Allah. You are a potential hero, a martyr. Take all your adolescent pain and rage and hate and make it into one glorious painless flash that will fly you straight to the Paradise gardens of all joys. Happiness forever. Even, fame.

And if you waver, there are the horror-videos, the disappointment in the voice of the man coaching you. Look at the suffering of your brothers and sisters in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, how can you not want to avenge this, stop this? God has chosen you as His instrument.

And you are caught. Hooked. In.

We don't make it easy for young Muslims either. What do you do when the people you played football and cricket with at school grow up, and their social life consists of drinking and pulling? All our ways of relaxing seem to revolve around the pub, the place where Muslims can't go.

Khaled says the only way he got away from these terrible, toxic beliefs is through talking to other people. Finding out that truth is nuanced, there is room for many ideas, you can think for yourself and find your own truth and so can others. Then you are free. Free to ask questions, instead of swallowing poisonous certainities.

Transparency. Letting go of revenge. Letting others live in peace, he says.

I agree with him. I would like to meet him. I have tried to put myself into the mind of the man who tried to kill me for the last half an hour and Khaled has helped me to understand a little of it.

The next question is, how can we offer Khaleds in our country a different well-spring to drink from than these sickening waters of hate?

It is the small things that strike me - as well as the obvious issues with a US foreign policy apparently based on 9/11 revenge that is seen to fan the flames.

If there were better, more educated immams in the mosques. If there were better leaders, full stop. If it was all right to challenge and debate theological questions, instead of this ignorance. And I mean Christian ignorance as well as Islamic. Most people know almost nothing about what people who believe in God, actually believe in. And they don't want to know.

Fundementalism, whether Christian or Muslim is by its definition closed-minded, and often bullying and hate-filled, often extremely dangerous because it tells its followers not to think and gives them moral justification for not doing so. You are right and everyone else is wrong.

But mostly, it's the human alientation. It struck me that Khaled joined the extremists because they were, in the first instance, kind to him. They played football, they were decent, they took care of people around him, they were high-minded and idealistic. Or so it seemed, and I can see it in my mind, now, how it all began.

For some reason, the image that keeps coming into my mind, is what might save the next Germaine Lindsey, the next Mohammed Sidique Khan is if he had continued to play football and cricket with his friends from school and if more people had been kind and neighbourly to him and he had felt more of a part of things.

Be decent, be neighbourly, take an interest in others, it sounds almost hopelessly naive and old fashioned doesn't it?

But I can see the hurt in the face of the brown-skinned youth with his rucksack on the tube, I can see the unease of the girl in the hijab when I glance away, when I move away, when I look at them with fear. I wonder what days and days of this do to you? Then, years later, the friendly voice promising balm for the wounded angry soul, the terrible videos, the toxic, unquestionable theology...

It makes me shudder. I keep coming back to the things that I noticed and held onto from the very beginning of this diary. The belief I hold that humans are fundementally co-operative and decent, that in death and darkness they talk and they draw together, that dialogue and simple kindness are enough to break through the fear and anger, eventually. That revenge is pointless. That we are the same and hurting each other hurts ourselves. In the end, we can unite and save ourselves. Now, more than ever, I still say this is true. But we have to make it so. It starts with each person's voice and heart.

The questions you allow yourself and others to ask, how much you listen, how much you want to empathise.

It starts, and it ends, with compassion. Or the terrible lack of it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not so much to do with kindness as the idea of revealed truth. All the answers are in this book. All of your doubts are removed. All of your problems are caused by not following the path perfectly and by *them*. The ones who don't follow the way.

Incidently, the whole "Christian Fundamentalists are just as bad" thing is quite simply not true. I know that the constraints of being modern and equalitarian make it seem necassary to condemn people from Western culture in order to say non-positive things about other cultures....

December 06, 2005 8:50 am  
Blogger Rachel said...

I do think Christian fundementalists - and here I refer to the kind who bomb abortion clinics, who ban books and DVDs, who say gays will burn in hell, who abhor contraception, who are so damnably certain of their moral superiority - are shockingly misguided and hateful. I am not having a go at Christianity - I was brought up in a vicarage, I studied theology - but it is the blind unquestioning acceptance of any dogma that is dreadful, because of the consequences it brings.

Fervent Christians are one thing; but when you write about
'the idea of revealed truth. All the answers are in this book. All of your doubts are removed. All of your problems are caused by not following the path perfectly and by *them*. The ones who don't follow the way.' - how is that so very different from those who cleave to a very limited version of the Koran as the absolute revealed word of God?

The theology may be less deadly, or appear so, but that all lies in the interpretation and the actions thereafter. There have been many Christians over the years who have considered it their God-given duty to slaughter the infidels, whether the infidels are Jewish or atheist or communist or Muslim. And if you are any kind of Christian, you should be able to admit that. Jesus himself lost patience with the teachings of the established 'Church' of the day, the Pharisees and Saducees on many occasions. He hung out with the underclass, sought to understand and forgive the outcast. He asked questions. It is surely ok for his followers to do so too.

If you have a faith, why is not strong enough to allow you to question it and allow others to do so? Otherwise you run the risk becoming one of the pitiless narcissists whom I wrote about, you allow evil in. Where is the compassion? Where is the love? Sacrificed for the 'moral certainity' of beleiving you are right and everyone else is wrong. From there, a short step to becoming God's instrument as you hate and you kill.

'I know that the constraints of being modern and equalitarian make it seem necassary to condemn people from Western culture in order to say non-positive things about other cultures....'

Not true. You think I try to understand my almost death to be 'modern'? You think I advocate hope and compassion, and question hatefilled dogmas to be 'equilitarian'?

Can you not think of any other reason why I should seek to understand hate, to look for hope, to know where to condemn and to forgive? Why do you think I struggle with these moral and theological questions? To be...fashionable?

If you have a God, anon, or anyone who is religious who is reading this, then for God's sake act in the name and image of your God. Whether he is Allah the Merciful, the Compassionate, or the Christian God who sacrificed himself for love, or the Jewish God who loved and held Israel as a father loves a child -

- can your faith not cope with a few questions, some testing?

By the way I know nothing about you 'anon', and it would help if you left a name, an identity I can engage with.I don't know if you are a ( fundementalist) Christian or not, why not be brave and tell me?

December 06, 2005 9:28 am  
Blogger Fiona said...

This really helped me try understand the mind of Germaine Lindsey too. I already knew why I wasn't angry at him when I knew so many lads that I went to college with, who spoke of the same things, said the same words a Khaled. Reading Khaled's story has helped me understand more so about what might have inspired Germain Lindsey but also the young men in Bradford and West Yorkshire. If people worried less about being PC, which tends to cause more problems that not, but worried more about understanding and listening, espcially to stories like Khaled's, then there would be fewer problems.

December 06, 2005 10:10 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Rachel,

In this post I think that you're really coming to terms with the mindset you were up against that day on the train ...and starting to understand it, look at the big picture and see how things can change in the future. It can't be easy trying to relate to the feelings of a man who tried to kill you. But you do it because it will help you to define exactly how you feel about it and then you can put it to one side and get some proper sleep.

I have followed this blog since it was on the BBC website and although I've never commented before I just wanted to say that you're doing so well from then till now. I'm really glad that you're starting to get to the stage of "letting go" and "living with" it. The way that you write is a great way of releasing the feelings and I think that if I was in your situation, writing would help me a lot aswell.

Best of luck to you and well done for being so strong and for properly addressing how you feel.


December 06, 2005 11:10 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Rachel,

The feeling I'm getting from your posts, is that you are struggling to come to terms with your "Christian" background, that is, your childhood conditioning. Perhaps I'm wrong, but thats the vibe that's coming across to me.

The way I see it is, if we are reared by people who have a fixed idea of how life should be lived, then we are going to have a hard time trying to find our own unique way in life, and finding our OWN way in life isn't such a bad thing. If anything, it is a good and creative thing. There is nothing worse than being forced to live out the dreams and ideals of your parents dreams. That is my idea of living in Hell! Its not living at all, but merely existing or surviving. Surviving and Living are two very different things.

I've already said (posted on your website) that so-called Christianity is just another ideal. Its an ideology that effectively negates normal human development, as ALL ideology does.... "Do as I preach, not as I do!"

Live and let live, is my philosophy!

Yours sincerely,

LM (Atheist)

December 06, 2005 10:03 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's always the same, make people feel like there's not much to live for and they're more vulnerable to any solution offered to them. And they'll be prepared to make bigger sacrifices for them.

March 03, 2008 12:58 pm  

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