Our hearts are with the people of Paris, Mali and countless other places, in the aftermath of the recent and ongoing carnage. ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram are currently the very embodiment of intolerance, yet Islam, for much of its history has been a force for tolerance and pluralism. It still is in many ways and the huge grassroots outcry against terrorism from the global Muslim community is a very hopeful sign, best seen in the ‘Not in My Name’ images and videos currently going viral on the internet.
Any religion or ideology can be usurped by the forces of violence and intolerance. Robespierre and the Terror had its origins in ‘Liberty, equality and fraternity’, Stalin’s terror in Marx’s ideas about social justice, the 30 Years War in rival interpretations of Christianity, current violence against the Burmese Rohingya is fuelled by hate speeches of Buddhist monks!
Love, compassion, tolerance and community are where hope lies. In a globalised World a global community is emerging which is ethnically, religiously, culturally and politically pluralistic, which seeks to embody the politics of hope, of tolerance and of love. No one organisation can represent such a huge and diverse process of historical change, but if I was to try and name one organisation that represented this mega-movement it would probably be the online and global community of Avaaz, tirelessly campaigning for a better future. In communities all over the World millions of grassroots organisations are seeking to improve things locally by applying these values of peace and pluralism, democracy and sustainability. The huge global rise and acceptance of inter-racial and same sex marriage is another manifestation of growing trend toward tolerance and pluralism.
The terrorists of ISIS have managed to unite the widest possible number of people against themselves. The UN Security Council unanimously condemned them, as did the Muslim Council of Britain and just about every other organisation one can think of. The hacker collective Anonymous has declared war on them, as has everyone from the USA to Iran, the Kurdish Pershmerga to Bashar al-Assad and Russia, the EU and USA are all dropping bombs on their strongholds in Iraq and Syria. I doubt if bombs will be very effective. This is a battle of hearts and minds. However if we all, the vast majority of humanity, can grasp the moment and recognise our collective solidarity, then and only then, will we build a better future. Let us all stand up together, for peace, for pluralism and for an inclusive and sustainable prosperity for everyone.