Al-Huda Foundation, USA

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Towards building a better future

Afsheen Anwaar Shamsi


The new Millennium is here.

 We think we have made great progress and achieved much over the course of our history. The computers and other technological advancements have apparently brought us closer and taken us to heights that we could not even imagine just a few decades ago. Yet we have only evolved from the stone age to the post-information age.

 Where once the lust for power and wealth prompted the nations of Europe to colonize the countries of Asia and Africa, today we witness the tragic phenomenon occurring in Kosovo. Half a century has passed yet Palestinians and Israelis, Pakistanis and Indians have not reached any solution to their problems. Not too many years ago, the prejudice of the general population of the United States led them to believe that they were humanly superior to African Americans. Has that really changed much?

 Slavery may have been abolished but racism still lies latent in the hearts of many even today. It is acknowledged that the minds and hearts of many have broadened but to what extent? We are only human and by nature, “The difficult is what takes a little time, and the impossible is what takes a little longer.”  we knowingly or unknowingly harbor and sometimes even nurture feelings of intolerance. Thus when

an incident occurs that fuels these tiny sparks of intolerance, an uncontrollable and passionate fire is unleashed and nations crumble; more significantly though, human lives are destroyed.  Innocent people caught in the conflagration are scarred, mutilated, and killed, becoming victims of these fi res. Leaders and aspiring rulers, in their lust for power, often take advantage of the situation and create winds to blow the fires further consuming entire populations in the process.

 At the root of these problems lie our intolerance, prejudices and biases that under volatile circumstances could very easily turn into hatred. If only we could identify, control, and perhaps even eradicate these feelings, we would put an end to the atrocious cycle of intolerance that has repeated itself in different parts of the world year after year.

 The crucial question to be asked is: where do such notions of intolerance originate? The answer of course is a great deal more complicated than the question would presume. Is it fear of what is not familiar and known to us that causes us to reject and outcast such foreign elements from our everyday existence? Or perhaps Ignorance is the culprit; we often judge that which we do not understand as ridiculous and even bar-baric. Perhaps there is no answer to the question posed above; perhaps our emotions are merely part of our imperfections as human beings that we need to learn to accept and live with.

 So, what does the future hold for us, a world breeding feelings of intolerance and hatred? Perhaps we are incapable of diminishing the prejudices that we have been nurturing since childhood. But there is still hope for the future. If we can shield our children from our prejudices, we might have a solution to our problems; after all, our children are the future of this world.

 Children are born innocent and free but they can be corrupted by the society around them. That society in part being their parents, teachers and friends. We consciously and unconsciously can very easily teach our children of intolerance. Children are far more intelligent than we give them credit for. They don’t need opinions to be voiced; a small look, a tiny gesture, a cold manner will set them on their guard to be wary of the subject of such treatment. After all, “Every little action of the common day makes or unmakes a character.”

 We are therefore, continuously in the process of nurturing, molding and in some cases corrupting and restricting the healthy growth of a child’s mind. We are their ideals and they look to us for guidance. Children will believe our every spoken word and unspoken sentiment without ever questioning our beliefs.

 Our children will be far more privileged than we, as there are far more facilities readily available to them today than there ever were for their parents. We as their parents will indulge them and deny them no gift, be it material or spiritual. Let us then also not deny them the greatest gift of all, the gift of life. We should teach them the value of another human life and make that our greatest gift to them. For all things will come and go but a human life can never be replaced. 

The future will therefore be what we choose to make of it. It can sometimes be hard to move past our own prejudices but if we choose to do so, we can prevent ourselves from passing our prejudices on to our children. Perhaps even teaching them that respecting the beliefs and practices of another is not the equivalent of accepting them as one’s own beliefs and practices.

 This may be difficult but not impossible to achieve, for in the words of 1922 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate winner, Fridtj of Nansen, “The difficult is what takes a little time, and the impossible is what takes a little longer.”