Creating a Common Life Together
Three steps to take toward interfaith cooperation
on college campuses and in the broader world.
see also Pluralism: The World's Best Hope and The Religiously Plural Campus
and Average Mohamed Takes on Radical Islam
Creating a Common Life Together
Three Steps to Take
A Jihad for Compassion
Assalamu Alaikum (Peace be with You)
The greatest challenge to terrorism is that people of many faiths and no faith create a common life together -- taking care of each other, trusting each other, learning from each other, accepting our differences, and negotiating conflicts through dialogue not guns. If names be needed, we can speak of this common life as a culture of compassion. If we want to fight terrorism, we best start building it.
The tools of our fight are lighter than guns. They are humor, shared meals, storytelling, wise public policy, kindness, freedom from greed, simplicity, humility, social justice, prayer, and a love of life. They are our weapons in this, our better jihad.
The word jihad means struggle. Not armed struggle, just struggle. As we respond to terrorism, seeking to build these communities with our weapons of kindness, creativity, and justice; our efforts are a kind of jihad, albeit tinged with pleasure and joy. We are engaged in a friendship jihad or, perhaps better, a compassion jihad.
Our nonviolence, our freedom from hatred, scares the hell out of terrorists; and perhaps this is good news. It is possible that, by our example, hell may indeed be scared out of them, so that they can respond to the better dream hidden in their hearts and ours as well.
But we really can’t count on them responding this way; and it doesn’t matter, ultimately. We must live from the dream no matter what. The dream is almost irresistible. After all the desire for a culture of compassion is a gift of the universe planted within the depths of each and every heart. Islam means surrender and we do indeed surrender to this dream of peace. We embody it in our lives as best we can, in thought and word and deed.
Truth be told, we are all trying to be good muslims, regardless of our faith perspective. We are trying to be Jewish muslims and Christian muslims, Buddhist muslims or Spiritual-but-not-Religious muslims. Happily, in our surrender there is a touch of paradise on earth, more pleasurable than anger can ever understand. We say assalamu alaikum (peace be with you) and we mean it. It rolls off the lips like honey, that is: like a Fat Soul Manifesto:
What is a Fat Soul? Just what it sounds like. Fat Souls are wide souls, expansive souls—souls too big to fit into the slim-cut “Us” and “Them” categories. Fat Soul is a philosophy of life, a kind of wide-angle lens through which to see life, community, and the Big Wide World.
You can fight souls like this with guns, but they are really never defeated because their dream of inclusive community resurfaces every time it seems to be eliminated. Prophet Muhammad tasted the dream. Jesus did, too. And Moses. Peace be upon all of them and everyone else, along with the animals and the earth. Assalamu Alaikun: that's our jihad. Start fighting.