Malik, one of the three young Muslims, says: “On the Day of Judgment, perhaps the Prophet will ask: ‘Where were you when the name of the Prophet was defiled?’ I don’t want to have to reply: ‘Oh, envoy of Allah, I am one of those who looked the other way.”
You know Malik believes what he says. And you know there’s probably nothing anyone can do to change his belief. And that is Malik’s problem, and ours. To somehow overcome our different beliefs and learn to live together,
Perhaps it is within the realm of possibility that Western nations cease to buy Saudi Arabian oil, and if so, that Malik and his like would suddenly find themselves without the Saudi Arabian funded pseudo independence they now enjoy. Then they would be obliged to accept, or at least peacefully share living space with others of widely differing beliefs.
Isn’t that the sort of thing we’ve been doing since the arrival of the Europeans among the Americans (not Indians) who were already here in 1492, or at least trying to do, just trying to get alone with one another? Well not so much in the beginning did we do this. Our history is replete with our failures in this regard.
Much like the Salafists today, much as Malik and his friends living in a Christian land, Germany, would make Germans followers of Muhammad, Columbus and his sailors, and the priests who accompanied them, and later many others, many of the first settlers of the West, would make Christians of all whom they encountered.
We’re getting better at living together, at living with those holding different beliefs. That’s progress. That still makes us an “exceptional nation.” Perhaps that’s the highest form of liberal democracy there is, or could be, when there are no belief based separations or “red lines” among us.
More and more as the differences come to the surface, which of course they continue to do, we don’t kill one another but we debate our differences, or at least we know we should. And in our debates we defend one’s right to say that the Muhammad cartoons are wrong, and no less do we defend our right to have them published in our news media.
Malik doesn’t yet understand this. Will he ever? Or will he forever go on believing that if he “looks the other way” when the name of the Prophet is defiled, that the Prophet on the Day of Judgement will look right at him and judge him accordingly?
How has religion taken on this importance in one individual’s life? Or in the case of Islam how has one man, Muhammad, not even a God, become much like an all seeing and all knowing God not just for Malik but for billions on the earth?
The answer has to be because it’s just not enough for the billions that life is no more, or no less than the earth’s changing seasons and the sky’s abundance of stars. For those billions it’s not enough that life does allow us a few moments of happiness, of joy even.
If living doesn’t give us much more, doesn’t hold a promise of eternal life, then living itself for too many, perhaps for most of the earth’s 7 billion people, is not tolerable.