We are all one!

My column last week spoke to the issue of racism in the United States of America. This topic being in the news for some weeks due to the riots in Charlottesville. The solutions to such issues are evident but it takes human resolve to make them happen. I listened to an interview on BBC radio with a former avowed racist in the United States. He was a fanatical racist for a good part of his life until his child came along.

One day in the supermarket, the very young child used the “n” word in public to his embarrassment and shame. The reality hit home for him and he immediately started the transformation from being racist to accepting of all races of people. For him, it took some years to complete that transformation.

An imbibed pattern, culture and thinking is hard to get rid of. Human beings will hold on to their habits, good or bad, for as long as they can. Racism and intolerance manifest themselves in some people like it is in their DNA. Passed from generation to generation with no meaningful and concerted effort to rid its’ scourge from society. The world’s democracies pass it off as “freedom of expression”. So the racists hide under the blanket of such liberties given to them.

The Abrahamic faiths speak to humankind being created from a single male and a single female. These teachings help to foster among human beings inextricable ties and bonds. It binds every human being regardless of colour to a single family tree at the very beginning. The scriptures of the Muslims even spell it out more clearly, “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another.”

Sadly, some amongst the Abrahamic faiths have sought to put a colour to the original male and female. Entering such into theological teachings further creates divisions and mindsets. If we all accept that every human being is a creation, then we move a step closer to understanding the wisdom behind the creation and the presence on earth of multiple races, languages, shapes, sizes and several other distinctive traits found in humankind.

For us to better understand each other, there is a need for interaction. I can’t understand you if I don’t speak to you. If we go through life sticking to our own then we are likely to end up knowing only our own. If our points of view of someone or some people are shaped only by what others say, then we may never know the truth unless we engage that someone or some people.

I have lived in Barbados as part of a minority faith and minority ethnic community. My mindset however is everything else than a minority faith or minority ethnic community. Why? Because I was not raised to think that way. I was raised to see myself as very much part and parcel of this Barbadian society embracing all that it has, accepting what is good for me and rejecting what I felt was not good for me. Not every person thinks the same way. Each human being will see life on their own terms.  Those terms however must not be such that they infringe on the rights of others.

I sat recently with two Anglican priests to discuss the subject of pilgrimage in the Abrahamic faiths and how spiritual journeys impacts on human beings. It was a very interesting discussion and one in which I hope we can have a public forum on. This is the season of pilgrimage for Muslims. I have written on this subject for the past two years as the season comes around. Millions will converge on the holy city of Mecca this week for the annual pilgrimage called Hajj. People of all colours, races, social standings and nationalities, gathering in one place for one purpose. It is a practical solution to those who look at life through a tunnel vision.

As I researched last week’s column and quoted Malcolm X on racism in the US, I was reminded by another writer, Mauri’ Saalakhan, a Metro-Washington, DC-based human rights advocate of Malcolm X’s other quotes from his life-changing pilgrimage to Mecca in 1964. These excerpts are found in Malcolm’s letter sent from the Hajj.

“Never have I witnessed such sincere hospitality and overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood as is practiced by people of all colours 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 colours.

There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colours, from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and non-white.

America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem. Throughout my travels in the Muslim world, I have met, talked to, and even eaten with people who in America would have been considered white – but the white attitude was removed from their minds by the religion of Islam. I have never before seen sincere and true brotherhood practiced by all colours together, irrespective of their colour.

You may be shocked by these words coming from me. But on this pilgrimage, what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to rearrange much of my thought-patterns previously held, and to toss aside some of my previous conclusions.

During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass, and slept on the same rug – while praying to the same God – with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin was the whitest of white. And in the words and in the deeds of the white Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among the black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan and Ghana.

We were truly all the same (brothers) – because their belief in one God had removed the white from their minds, the white from their behaviour, and the white from their attitude. With racism plaguing America like an incurable cancer, the so-called “Christian” white American heart should be more receptive to a proven solution to such a destructive problem. Perhaps it could be in time to save America from imminent disaster – the same destruction brought upon Germany by racism that eventually destroyed the Germans themselves.

Each hour here in the holy land enables me to have greater spiritual insights into what is happening in America between black and white. The American Negro never can be blamed for his racial animosities – he is only reacting to four hundred years of the conscious racism of the American whites. But as racism leads America up the suicide path, I do believe, from the experiences that I have had with them, that the whites of the younger generation, in the colleges and universities, will see the handwriting on the wall and many of them will turn to the spiritual path of truth – the only way left to America to ward off the disaster that racism inevitably must lead to.”


El-Hajj, Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X)

Source: (Suleiman Bulbulia is a Justice of the Peace, secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association and Muslim Chaplain at the Cave Hill Campus, UWI. Email: suleimanbulbulia@hotmail.com)

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