This past week I have been blessed with access to a Surface Pro tablet PC — a brilliant device — and have found great pleasure working with digital oil paint in Microsoft’s free art app, Fresh Paint. Very relaxing and satisfying: no mess, no smell, no dust stuck to the canvas. Oh, and undo for the slip of your brush. Highly recommended.
I don’t like to get emotional about an inanimate object, but sometimes you do just have to express your wonderment at advances in technology. Read on…
Building confidence in our community
For some time I have been contemplating means and methods to build confidence in our community, where issues related to a lack of self-confidence and self-esteem can be seen to be linked to academic under-performance, gang membership, abusive marriages, criminality, extremism and other social ills. Read on…
What we really need is balance. If all the good people withdraw, fearing harm or evil, the voices of negativity and hatred will only be amplified and all the more pervasive. Good people need to make themselves heard, felt and known.
My dear noble friends, my humble servants, my trusty companions: alas, the time has come to part ways.
We have been through thick and thin together, through rainstorm, snow and searing heat, on hillside and lowland, on soft verge and hard road. You have served me well.
Two years ago I might have had cause to fling you in the bin, but I am a fool for comfort and fondness. Though water soaked my socks in a downpour, I could not let you go. Though I felt pavement instead of sole beneath my foot, I shunned all talk of the shoe shop. O, what comfort didst thou provide!
But alas, alas, the time has come to part ways. A new pair awaits me in the hall. But, lo, perhaps we will walk together in the garden yet.
A friend posts conspiratorial claims on the Internet. I am surprised, because he is a student of knowledge who knows all about the importance of verification in our deen. So I ask, “Are any of these claims true?” A friendly exchange follows, for we each have a different take on these matters. Perhaps we just have to agree to disagree.
But, alas, my disputations are not appreciated. Somehow I must be convinced, even if it means sharing an article from a website which is as much devoted to aliens and UFOs as to the political machinations of the State. A faked photograph showing video fakery will surely convince me that the latest conspiracy theory is absolutely watertight and true.
Convincing? No, not really. I’m a dab hand at Photoshop myself and could mockup pretty much the same image in about half an hour by raiding a Google Image Search. True, the photo was just an illustration, chosen to complement an article: but a bad start in the mission to convince.
Now, look, I’m as partial to conspiracy theories as the next man. The Running Man and Enemy of the State are two of my favourite films. I am quite happy to believe that nations whose economies rely on weapons sales and access to oil use underhand techniques to help pave the way for war. Tony Blair, George Bush, WMDs, cough. This doesn’t mean I have to accept every claim I read on Facebook, however, just because it fits with a narrative I wish to believe and hold to.
This is why I will go on challenging spurious, unverified and curious claims whenever and wherever I encounter them. Why? Because we are charged with being a people of truth, and therefore we need to be certain that every piece of information we pass on is true. If there’s doubt, I tell myself, leave it out.
Shouldn’t those six short words be our minimum starting point, every single time?
Is it really deception to keep one’s faith to oneself? I get the impression that some people I know are moderate evangelicals, but they’ve never actually said so. Generally speaking, we’re not a people who goes for show; we like a quiet, private faith. Displays of overt religiosity tend to send people running for cover. So why respond in horror, reeling at the revelations of the rumour mill? If you thought I was a decent human being before this news reached you, can you not find it in your heart to suppose that I may still be one? And if not, does that not suggest there was some wisdom in my keeping my faith to myself? If, every time it becomes known, I must fall out of favour, what choice do I have but to put up the wall of privacy? It is a self-defence mechanism, not a fifth column.
As a people, we suffer from serious amnesia and as a result make these crass statements based on the news of the day.
We forget that 70 million people were killed over six years during World War II, of whom around 60% were civilians. We forget that the twentieth century saw 160 million people killed in war.
We would rather ignore the estimated 40,000 in Afghanistan and 160,000 in Iraq who were killed as a result of two US-led invasions.
Already we have forgotten the horrors of Abu Ghraib, Camp Whitehorse, Qaim and Samarra. If what happened a decade ago can be forgotten so easily, what hope do we have to recall the older crimes and abuses which litter our own history, stretching back over the past century alone?
Muslims, Muslim leaders and religious authorities have consistently condemned violent extremism for years and years.
We can’t place all the blame on the Press for not reporting this: the Guardian, Independent, Times, Daily Mail and BBC have all published articles on condemnation of ISIS by Muslim leaders and imams.
At some point, do we not have to acknowledge that we filter the news we read through our own prejudices and beliefs? If we do not want to hear of a fatwa condemning terrorism, we will not hear. If we do not want to hear of the work of peace keepers and aid workers, we will not hear.
If we only want to see darkness in the world, then that’s what we will find. The world is a mirror.
Our senses, notably our eyes and ears, are gateways to our hearts.
In this interview, recorded just hours before his execution in 1989, serial killer Ted Bundy, speaks of the pervasive influence exposure to extreme, violent pornography had on him:
As can be seen, he is not abdicating responsibility for his actions. He is nevertheless acknowledging the power of an addictive force. It is an incredibly important observation for our times, for what is being said here applies not just to this type of extreme media, but to numerous other influences from the benign to the dangerous.
On the benign end we have shiny gadget syndrome, Technolust and obsessive devotion to a football team. Each become all-consuming because we choose to expose ourselves to images, words and sounds which reach into us.
But as to the dangerous: I have absolutely no doubt about the internal processes that occur in those who expose themselves to the gratuitous violence of warfare. The shock of a solitary photo on Facebook depicting horrific destruction in Gaza, followed by the stream of ever more extreme imagery, gradually, stage by stage, transform the viewer’s heart.
Responses are not uniform. The natural reaction of some will be to avenge for the wronged, to send aid to the oppressed or even to fight on their behalf.
But others, who expose themselves to the actions of other avengers, may be to perpetuate such horrors themselves. If you expose yourself to the actions of the supposed liberators, as they execute their prisoners and meet out punishment on those who oppose them, will a time not come in some, when a line is crossed, somewhere deep within?
This is an extreme example, but we are living in extreme times. We have witnessed once sensible, polite, kind individuals suddenly thrust upon us in the newspapers as terrible supporters of barbarity.
It is crucial that we recall the wisdom of Lower Your Gaze in a time of all-pervasive imagery.
Nobody in 1989, could have imagined the world as it is today, with such extreme imagery on tap. The days of debates about the effect of the video tape, satellite TV and the arcade game are long gone. All of that seems tame now — although it wasn’t of course. We have just lost touch with reality.
It has become apparent to me for a couple of years now that there is a real and urgent need for a fiqh and adab guide to navigating the Internet, particularly for the Internet generation.
I am alarmed by online discourse surrounding the ISIS phenomenon, as well as other issues. I am not sure that the upcoming generation is equipped to negotiate the competing truths presented to them on social media, with all its graphic imagery and persuasive argumentation.
We need to present faith-based guidance to the upcoming generation which addresses the contemporary context — the ever-present news feed on a slab of glass in every pocket, the demands of constant immediacy, unimpaired access to horrific scenes of conflict and brutality, the rise of anonymous influence and typing thumbs the new tongue.
I need to start fleshing these ideas out, somehow, inshallah. We really need a Guiding Helper for today; a Book of Assistance for the age of the internet. Who will help me make it happen?