Education As the Remedy to Violence and Hatred

 Education As the Remedy to Violence and HatredAs violence spreads this week across Islamic nations in response to a video produced by a gang of right-winged hate mongers depicting the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) as a perverted creep, I see a deeper lesson and more proof of the importance of education.

It’s a Big World out there.  We are sharing our real estate with 7 billion fellow travelers.   Because of Earth’s size and round shape, our ancestors didn’t always know the extent of our species’ presence everywhere. Over time they crafted their cultural beliefs (including religions) around their local needs and difference was born.

The human story is one long struggle with difference.   And yet it is clear that we are purposely designed to be different.  Difference is where the action is, where grow and advancement lies.

I have always considered universities to be the modern day equivalent of the ancient Silk Road, a 4000+ mile trade route through Asia and the Mediterranean world where enterprising people from different nations met and mingled in peace for the common goal of trading goods desired by the folks back home. It was along this route that great innovations were created by the alchemy of joining different cultural perspectives to solve problems in a neutral place away from home turf.  The Silk Road was like one long block party.  Mixing it up with others who have different views and perspectives for a common cause has brought out the best in human beings.  Mathematics.  Medicine.  Engineering.  Architecture.  The wheel.  Fabrics.  Music.  Art.  New cultures.

America has been one long experiment in this concept of tolerance.  One of its anchoring beliefs is the freedom of speech and expression.  It is the only nation on earth dedicated not just to freedom, but to “the pursuit of happiness”.  We believe that ‘sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me”.  Our children are trained as toddlers in preschool to “pay attention to your own self”.  In other words, live and let live.  Everyone has the right to their own opinion.  And though we are dedicated to this as a nation, enforced by our laws, it’s still very very hard to execute.

Education is the bridge to peace.  It is designed to awaken our awareness of other experiences and perspectives.  The more we understand about other people’s lives and beliefs, the more we can see the commonness of the human experience.  The more tolerant we become.  The more peace we generate.  The more innovation we create.  The faster humans evolve.

It would be a service to humanity if college admissions officers would amp up their outreach to young scholars in Islamic nations.  Citizens of the planet have much to learn from each other.  Living together, connecting through common ventures, is one of the most successful ways to foster tolerance.

Did those filmmakers have the right to make that scurrilous video?  In America, yes.  There is no law against meanness and stupidity. Did they make the video to stir up rage and hatred?  Probably.  They are ignorant idiots and there are no shortage of them here.  But it’s a free country and that is their own pursuit of happiness.  The only way to fight this kind of ignorance is to turn our attention away from it, to pay attention to our own selves.

To my Muslim friends worldwide, I urge restraint.  Don’t get used here.  Don’t watch the video.  Don’t take the bait.  Look away.  Focus on the love around you so this venal crap dies on the vine.  The filmmakers want to make money, so the best thing we can do is not reward them. The Prophet (peace be upon him) is a great spiritual leader who does not need our defense.   Let’s work hard to hold on to tolerance and to the peace that, Inshallah, is our mutual destiny.

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