Islamic scholar: Difference is a blessing

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37 Responses to “Islamic scholar: Difference is a blessing”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I say replace “tolerate” with “embrace”.
    Difference is awesome, it’s what makes life interesting.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I think it would be helpful to say ” Maggie is right” but with limitations

    Maybe difference is a blessing when you are traveling somewhere new on vacation or hunting for something different on your spice rack.

    I don’t think it is as fun when “difference” is taking over your land and slying turning it into something you are not (+ where you are not welcome).

    At that point I would say difference becomes experienced more like a curse.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-12969641
    http://en.wikipedia.org

    /wiki/German_occupation_of_France_during_World_War_II

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’m reminded of an interview with a Nobel Peace prize winner a day or two before Hands-Across-America (remember that?). He was asked what he thought of it. He told the interviewer he hated it. If everyone got along, the world would be a boring place. He’d rather see people hitting each other than holding hands.

    In a sense, he was saying the same thing: embrace diversity for making the world interesting. The good, the bad, the ugly. A world without differences is a pathetic place.

  4. hassenpfeffer says:

    Good Gawd. I try to clarify my particular POV in a posting *on celebrating our differences* and get ripped apart. I think the “happy mutants” need to add some Prozac to their paleolithic diets.

  5. Aunt Babe says:

    He sounds like a Unitarian Universalist.

    http://www.uua.org/visitors/6798.shtml

    There are seven principles which Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:

    * The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
    * Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
    * Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
    * A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
    * The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations
    and in society at large;
    * The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
    * Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

    We’re not just the butt of Garrison Keillor jokes.
    My congregation has Christians, Jews, Buddhists, atheists, humanists, and a few wiccans
    and pagans thrown in for good measure. We all get along just fine, and when we don’t it’s
    usually not about religion but about something sillly like the church newsletter.
    We don’t just embrace, we bear hug our differences.

    • emmdeeaych says:

      And the unwritten eighth – coffee hour.

    • Metlin says:

      Not that I am mocking the Unitarian Universalist churches, but do you *really* need an organization to tell you all that? I mean, those values closely mirror the ones I was raised on – and I’d like to believe that those are values that every human being in the civilized world abides by, differences notwithstanding.

      • Anonymous says:

        Not that I am mocking the Unitarian Universalist churches, but do you *really* need an organization to tell you all that?

        The UU church does not exist to tell you what to believe. It exists so that you can share and celebrate those things with other people.

        The seven principles were voted on by elected representatives of the individual UU congregations worldwide, not handed down from some moldy holy book by pederasts. The principles are open to modification should the church membership so decide.

        The main reason for the existence of the principles is oppression by religiously bigoted judges and courts in the USA, who have occasionally insisted that the church cannot qualify for the constitutional protections afforded other religions unless it enforces strict dogmas on its membership. Although the UU church has always refused outright to create a binding dogma, the principles were established – as a voluntary statement of the values of the church, not a requirement for membership – to provide a touchstone for those people incapable of understanding non-authoritarian relationships. Those people can pretend that the principles represent a dogma.

        I mean, those values closely mirror the ones I was raised on – and I’d like to believe that those are values that every human being in the civilized world abides by, differences notwithstanding.

        Sadly, this is very far from the truth. Unless you make the logic uselessly circular, by defining “civilized” as holding these values.

        I myself have a great deal of difficulty with the first principle Aunt Babe listed. It seems to me that some people are just vermin. But no UU Church would turn me away for believing or saying this.

  6. Donald Petersen says:

    Yeah, that’s what saddens me about the fact that tolerance is so difficult to achieve. It’s a very low bar, indeed, to expect other people to just refrain from killing you, hounding you out of town, or even actively trying to keep you from getting a job.

    A worthy goal would be the Christian ideal of loving one’s enemies, not just “tolerating” those who are different but aren’t even actually enemies. But that’s too much to hope for, since apparently even tolerance fails in so many places.

  7. Yamara says:

    Embracing difference must begin with tolerance. It certainly doesn’t come from intolerance.

    Tolerance is an early step in diffusing ignorance, but is not an end in itself.

    Dr. Mahallati’s sentiment is excellent, but to say “I will tolerate you for the time being” could extend for a lifetime. This opens the opportunity for the descendants to learn the blessing of the embrace.

  8. Anonymous says:

    He’s right about the “tolerance” bit, but most people, when they say “tolerance”, actually mean “respectful acceptance” or “relaxed attitude towards difference” or similar nuances, not so much the “tolerate begrudgingly” he has in mind.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      As a gay person, I generally rate ‘tolerance’ to mean, “I won’t try to put you in prison, but don’t you dare mention your perversion to me.”

  9. Brad S. says:

    Thank you for sharing that quote, Maggie! I’m passing it along.

  10. hassenpfeffer says:

    Thanks for this, Maggie. I’m an atheist and don’t believe in “blessings” as such, but a lot of people could learn a lot by listing to Dr. Mahallati.

    • seyo says:

      Sorry but that’s ridiculous. Atheists can accept blessings without abdication of their atheism. Do atheists “believe” in gifts? That’s what a blessing is, it’s a gift. I’m an atheist, and when one of my friends or family members has a baby, I consider that a blessing. I consider it a blessing that I still have a 90 year old grandmother to love. It’s a blessing that we have compassion and the ability to think rationally. Get over yourself.

      • David A says:

        But then they wouldn’t be right. Blessing, or even your “Gift” on the other hand implies that it was “given” by some sentient being.

        Rather than it just being a beneficial coincidence.

        • seyo says:

          Doesn’t matter. It’s still a gift, even if it wasn’t given by a sentient being with a big white beard who floats in the sky. We give events meaning, we are the sentient beings, remember?

    • Metlin says:

      Indeed. And of course, brings to mind a rather nice quote about religion:

      Religion is like a penis. It’s fine to have one and it’s fine to be proud of it. But please don’t whip it out in public and start waving it around. And PLEASE don’t try to shove it down children’s throats.

      So, celebrate your penis and celebrate the penises of others (if you are into that sort of thing). But for the love of penises, please don’t wave yours around. ‘Cause at the end of the day, it always boils down to penis envy.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I think that different belief systems are part of the grand design. Doesn’t matter what god you believe in, If god wanted to create mindless followers he would have. But we all have a choice and its ours and ours alone to choose. We should not make others suffer for there god given right to choose.

    • HereticGestalt says:

      I think the problem that religious people tend to have with these sorts of pluralistic religious ideas is that they interpret them as saying that your choice of religious belief doesn’t matter. This is absolutely untrue, and shows a marked inability to understand the issue from a religious person’s point of view. Which god you worship, or how you worship God, is a deeply important choice for those to whom it is relevant, and crystallizes one’s relation to culture, family, and personal philosophy.

      The message that needs to be sent, and the one Dr. Mahallati is talking about, is not that differences don’t exist or don’t matter, because we’re [sic] all worshiping God; it is that it’s possible for one to feel a relation of necessity to one’s choice of religious faith, but still recognize other religions as having equally necessary and mutually valid relations to their constituents. Not only that, but that the existence of other forms of worship and theology is vitally advantageous, insofar as it deepens each religion’s self-understanding through comparison/contrast and the realization of deeper patterns.

      The problem is that this doesn’t really jibe with Enlightenment sensibilities, so democratic humanist discourse tends not to portray it that way. We’re all rational and autonomous agents, and religions are just syndromes of discourse and behavior, right? It’s unfortunate that so few people are able to step outside their worldview enough to achieve real communication about values.

      • Anonymous says:

        …they interpret them as saying that your choice of religious belief doesn’t matter.

        An’ it hurt no other, your choice of religious belief should matter deeply only to you. It’s not within other people’s responsibilities to make your choices for you.

        • HereticGestalt says:

          That would be true…if you weren’t trying to convince religious people to be pluralistic and stop killing each other and talking shit. If you want to persuade someone of something, you appeal to their values – this is rhetorical situation, not just an argumentative one.

  12. Oskar says:

    This, right here, would work far better as a unicorn chaser than a thousand videos of kittens. That’s what humanity’s about, right there, Dr. Mahallati!

    (that said, kitten videos are awesome too.)

  13. Tdawwg says:

    One might say that difference is both a blessing and a challenge: were it not a challenge, history would read differently, and its qualities re: being a blessing would not need to be stated.

    He got the “tolerance” part right, though: ugh!

  14. Anonymous says:

    He’s got my vote whenever he wants to run for anything. Short, to the point and absolutely right.

  15. emmdeeaych says:

    Differences should absolutely be celebrated, not least because it’s what we have in common that’s so infuriating.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Wrong. Tolerance is a basis of a democracy. It means, “I don’t agree with you, possibly I don’t even like you, and I don’t have to.” No one must “embrace” a politics or religion or behaviour with which they do not agree and cannot condone, nor should they. Disliking and disputing things you don’t agree with is your right.

    You must, however, defend– to the death, as the saying goes– another’s right to say and do things with which you don’t agree and don’t like. That’s tolerance.

  17. cellocgw says:

    He’s way off base. It’s one thing to embrace the difference, say, in culinary styles from Europe, VietNam, and Mexico, and quite another to embrace the “difference” in a culture/religion which practices ritual clitoridectomy.

    And, as South Park once said, (paraphrasing) ‘… tolerance means you are willing to live with it. There’s no rule that you have to like it.’
    So I tolerate friends’ desire to attend church, and I tolerate brussels sprouts with dinner.

    • EH says:

      It’s one thing to embrace the difference, say, in culinary styles from Europe, VietNam, and Mexico, and quite another to embrace the “difference” in a culture/religion which practices ritual clitoridectomy.

      Why bring Jews into this? Oh wait, that’s penises.

    • IWood says:

      Right on. I’m not really seeing Pastor Terry Jones as a blessing just now.

  18. Jonathan Badger says:

    The problem is that religions are theories of how the world works. Either Allah/Jehovah/FSM created the world and rules it according to their holy book or doesn’t. So religious people who promote “diversity” across religions either:

    1) don’t really believe in their religion — not a bad thing, imho, but they should be more open in their disbelief.

    2) are just using it as dishonest propaganda, much as how both the US and USSR claimed they were both for peace and mutual understanding while trying to undermine each other.

    • Anonymous says:

      My I offer a third alternative?

      3) Their religion mandates tolerance.

      Let me give an example. I was raised so religiously conservative, we technically don’t even count as Protestant. We consider Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox, etc as liberal offshoots. A lot of the teaching of our church could be summed up as “What would Jesus do?” By all accounts he was a pretty nice guy and very tolerant, so we try to do the same.

      In all these years, I can never remember any talk, from the pulpit or amongst members, demeaning any race, anyone’s sexual orientation, politics, career, or financial situation. It’s essentially taboo.

  19. jefurii says:

    Tolerance. Is that a positive notion? Not really. ‘For the time being, I will tolerate you?’ I’m against that concept. It means difference is a threat.

    1) don’t really believe in their religion — not a bad thing, imho, but they should be more open in their disbelief.

    2) are just using it as dishonest propaganda, much as how both the US and USSR claimed they were both for peace and mutual understanding while trying to undermine each other.

    I have to say I disagree with Dr. Mahallati and with Jonathan Badger. I don’t think “tolerance” means “difference is a threat” and I don’t think it means pretending that differences don’t exist. I also don’t think that tolerance necesarily means that people don’t really believe their own religion, or are using it as propaganda.

    In my understanding, tolerance is the frank recognition that, while we should embrace difference whenever we can, sometimes people actually do have serious differences of belief and we need to deal with that in a practical and non-violent way so that we can live alongside each other.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Tolerance is when you don’t agree, but acknowledge that the difference doesn’t matter. I.e., “I can tolerate the fact that my boyfriend like kimchee.” It’s choosing not to make a big deal out of superficialities or ephemera. I think it is a somewhat enlightened worldview, but not as enlightened as celebrating irrelevant differences, to be sure.

    “Tolerance” is bogus, though, when it comes to non-functional practices [often ascribed to guidelines receieved from invisible sky superheros] that are explicitly harmful, cf. cellocgw’s example above of female circumcision mutilation, or racism, or child abuse, or etc. Any failure to respect sentience or self-awareness is bad.

    These are not differences we should tolerate, much less celebrate or condone.

  21. Nadreck says:

    But tolerance is all you can enforce through legal means and most people, especially social conservatives, can’t even manage that.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for this beautiful explanation of “difference.”

    I have always been troubled with the word ‘tolerance’ as I tolerate mosquitoes in summer, mud in spring, the opossum living under my deck in winter and the leaf pile-up in fall. I have a certain power over these things – much that I shouldn’t have over other people if I considered merely ‘tolerating’ them.

    Thanks also for this site. Fresh, intelligent dialog is always appreciated.

    Gwen

  23. Avram / Moderator says:

    Keep in mind that the word “tolerance” (or “toleration”) has several meanings, especially in the context of European religious history. When the Anglican church adopted the position of “toleration”, it meant that it allowed people of some non-Anglican Christian sects to practice their religion, but still considered them second-class citizens who were ineligible for political office.

    Thomas Paine wrote about this in The Rights of Man. When you “tolerate” another person, that implies that you’re in a position of superiority over them. It implies that you have authority over them, but have magnanimously chosen not to exercise that authority.

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