Book Nook

Published: Sunday August 17, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Tuesday August 19, 2014 MYT 12:16:18 PM

A world gone mad

Demonstrators in Washington, DC protest against ISIS. - AFP

Demonstrators in Washington, DC protest against ISIS. - AFP

How do we tell our kids that their surrounding is not as safe as they think it is?

How chaotic is our world?

Amidst a host of problems such as political instability and economic disorder, comes a crescendo of other worries including religious insurgences and the outbreak of a deadly disease. Many of these, if not all, trace their roots to top individuals holding a seat in politics – past or present.

Individuals that are uninformed and have no inkling as to what is truly going on, suffer. Our friends died while flying; our loved ones committed suicide because of their inability to provide for their families, not to mention the distant, armless strangers slaughtered because of their religious preference.

While we bustle endlessly at work, one can’t help but wonder what we ought to do as parents.

How do we tell our kids that the world they live in is not as safe as they think it is? Children are innocent. Their neighbourhood is their world.

In Sydney – where most neighbourhoods are safe to a large extent – it is highly inconceivable for young children to be told of, for instance, the ISIS issues. And that the airplane transporting the guy who used to work in the nearby shopping mall was shot down by pro-Russian separatists. Slightly older kids may chance upon news and pictures of little children killed brutally.

There simply is no escaping social media. If they don’t come and ask you, the sensible ones are probably dealing with the images secretly in their own way. But if they do come ask you, you are in trouble just as I am. I have lost my usual eloquence, for I too, am lost.

Among all the problems facing the world and affecting me as an individual, religious conflicts top the list. Like you, most likely, I simply cannot comprehend how a man can kill another all in the name of religion. Is religion really the bug that stirs or has it been abused by people who kill for grand historical and geopolitical issues of human history as well as diplomatic mishaps?

As I attempt to understand it through Wiki and a myriad of other sites, I remain as confused as ever. Hence, I turn to books.

It is only in books that I can find, not a conundrum of, but a continual presentation of one single problem that has mutated and been misinterpreted through time.

It is only in books do I get less distraction as I listen to one single voice to help me wade out of the confusion as opposed to the deafening pandemonium one gets from the Internet. And the one voice that I found soothing right from the introduction is the voice of Graham E. Fuller and his book, A World Without Islam.

The title itself is controversial. How can one dispute Islam and write a book about a world without it. However, you just have to turn to the first page to understand that it is not Fuller’s intention to accuse Islam for being at the centre of the many news headlines: suicide attacks, car bombings, military occupations, political injustice, fatwas, jihads, guerilla warfare, threatening videos.

Without Islam, Fuller’s voice calmly tells as he takes us back through history, the world would still be left with major forces that drive today’s conflicts.

The Middle Eastern region would still remain complex and conflicted with the dominant ethnic groups – Arabs, Persians, Turks, Kurds, Jews, even Berbers and Pashtuns – dominating politics. Throw in many people of diverse ethnic backgrounds, the land naturally will become incendiary.

And the Europeans would still have fought for the Holy Land and Christian inhabitants in the region would still have resisted, like the Muslims did.

Later, even without Islam, the Christians would still have regarded their European counterparts as interlopers and fought against colonisation just as the Muslims did, and the powerful, almighty West would still have redrawn borders in accordance to their political preferences and gains – oil.

Without Islam, the conflicts between Israel and Palestine would have existed as the Jews would still have sought a homeland outside Europe after being persecuted by Christians for more than a millennium.

Hence, the problem in Gaza is at heart a national, ethnic, and territorial conflict, not religious. Shouldn’t the Muslim brothers in Palestine fight for their own land?

As for ISIS, the most pressing and depressing problem quickly gaining concern in recent weeks, Fuller provides historical background that illuminates the differences and conflicts between these two Islamic groups, and how these differences shape Muslims’ identity and politics in the Middle Eastern region.

The expansion of ISIS’ hostility towards the West has as much to do with geopolitics as it does history.

As a religion, Islam is a scapegoat conveniently used as a ready answer for many conflicts surrounding the world.

What I am seeking, I have found from Fuller’s book and through his voice, I am depressed by all those trajectories.

What can we say to our kids? Too much yet so little. Hence, I hope for them to live yet another day in their own conceived paradise.

> Abby Wong has always had a fascination for the Middle East, a region, sadly, that is generally seen as violent and its violence, virulent.

Tags / Keywords: Book Nook, columnist

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