I am fascinated by bad experiences.

A speech I delivered as part of my school’s public speaking competition, last year.

One of the best feelings in the world is when you’re proud of what you’ve achieved that day because you managed to pray all your prayers with the consciousness and mindfulness it demands.

It’s hard.

Mindfulness is this “new age” phenomenon that has got people quitting day jobs. I had a French teacher who did just that, every morning he would teach us a little something about mindfulness. Be it learning how to bring our attention back, to just breathe and take it in – you could see the passion he had for it.

Said teacher brought up the Taliban as an orthodox Islamic organisation. I flared up – orthodox? Gosh, if everyone lived how the Taliban dictated in the Prophet’s era then I doubt Islam would still be here. In the Prophet’s “orthodox” era, there was a sense of love that cascaded over the masses. Sure there were people who are the exception to this, but for quite a considerable time Muslims ruled by example. The Taliban rule by fear.

I shook the anger off. I was, and probably still am, someone who has tunnel vision when it comes to my way of life. I don’t think it’s the only right way (I don’t even know, apart from the conviction that Islam is true, that the life I am living is at all towards any right way), for me to then tell my teacher that his glorious enlightenment on mindfulness was not at all different to how we, (the “orthodox”) pray…well let’s just say he refused to take that for what it was.Suddenly I understood what it meant, in practice, to live in this society, where, to the masses, extremist views, Islamist views, military and not-at-all-adhering-to-the-eight-rules-of-jihad views are mistaken for orthodox Islam, what I had thought to be my Islam. Traditional Islam.

But that’s nothing new, right? I guess this is why lots of scholars bang on about “fundamentalism” because, what’s being claimed is that, as David Cameron so thickly stated, it was a matter of ideology. At the root of the problem, Muslims aren’t rejecting their way of life enough. Like Muslims live only “one” way of life – we’re as diverse as a seventh of the world’s population can get…!

My only hope is with the long-term. If Muslims sought to better educate themselves on their religion – and if that sort of education was communal, filled with angry intellectual debates  instead of the random Facebook link to god-knows-where down the rabbit hole of extremism, then no one would say it was a problem of ideology. There’s nothing about Islam in itself that makes a difference, except that perhaps it’s easier for the young people to be influenced towards the politics of oil and money and “rich lands” somewhere near Aladdin and Ali Baba and those seventy virgins (where the hell did they get that one from?).

Even that does not stem from Islam, but from the gap – the void – that we as a whole society have created for young Muslims. With the media’s stories we are bombarded with no sense of belonging,And in the same way #weneeddiversebooks is necessary in order to give minorities a sense of belonging #weneeddiversenews is also important. Without it we get the same trope of “evil terrorist” vs “moderate Muslim” vs “scared public” and “means-justify-end hero leader”. And these cardboard cut-out roles make it so easy for Muslims to be oh so skeptical of Western media, or even make it so easy to slip into these one-dimensional roles.

Thanks for creating that acting role. Thanks also for the false sense of security and all the mansion-owners who buy the oil and do the business and in total Milo Minderbinder fashion make business without any sense of moral consciousness.

That whole angry mess is why bad experiences sound so cool (despite how terrifying they really are). We spend a lot of time planning our lives, our New Year’s Resolutions, birthday resolutions for those who do that, planning what will happen in the future and what we will learn from it and how we will change – as if change can be measured in steps, can be implemented in steps, can be controlled.

But you probably know that life doesn’t work in carefully measured steps. There are big horrible leaps, but mostly there’s just lots of empty “steps”, in which you wait for something Big to happen – and when it does you curse the you who wished for it.

The most wondrous thing about bad experiences is that you won’t know its value and its magnitude until you go through it.

And finally: bad experiences have taught me just how wondrous we humans are. Just how many wisdoms do we hide inside each of our individual little minds?

Thank you.


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