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?
We’re living in an age of such extremes that many of us haven’t realised we’ve become extremists.
It will be another 20 years before we know what’s really happening today, but by then nobody will care; it will all be ancient history. By then we will be engaged in new conflicts, more terrifying than ever before, and our leaders will be telling us once more, “We have learnt the lessons of the past. Standards were different back then. We would never play unethical games like that in this day of age.” And we, the gullible, will believe them.
Is it possible for us to support the needy today without being entertained? The best charity, we believe, is that given in secret. And yet my news feed brims each day with a multitude of activities and events designed to encourage me to give publicly to all kinds of worthy causes — and they are all worthy causes — under the assumption that adequate funds cannot be generated by beneficent giving alone. So we must be invited to bazaars, jumble sales, three course dinners and concerts. We must sponsor our friends for climbing a mountain, riding a bike, jumping out of a plane or flying across the globe for the adventure of a lifetime. Even our children come home from school laden with sponsorship forms. Perhaps it is the only way. Perhaps we must be compelled to give more than we would ordinarily give, because the needs of the needy are simply just too great. Perhaps. One thing is certain: all this entertainment is depriving us of the blessing of charity done in secret.
Today we must protest the misrepresentation of Muslim flags. That white Arabic script on a black background is merely our testimony of faith, cry the wronged. That white circle inscribed with calligraphy is merely the seal of the Prophet, peace be upon him. This is simply the flag of the early Muslims, whimper believers, feeling under attack once more.
But is any of this really true? As I understood it, the first flags used by the Muslim community under the leadership of the Prophet, peace be upon him, were a plain black standard and a plain white banner. The black flag with the shahada on it seems to be based on the green Saudi flag, which is less than a century old.
If we’re honest, in recent times, the black flag with the shahada on it has always been associated with political movements such as Hizb-ut Tahir and Muhajirun. Current reactions to the flag popping up in peaceful communities are hardly surprising then.
There is nothing sinister about words of faith printed on a piece of fabric, but everything has a context and connotations. If the so-called Islamic State had instead chosen $ as its logotype, perhaps we would be having another discussion. But they didn’t and we’re not.
Once more we run headlong into an emotional defence, forgetting to ponder history, ancient and modern, to appreciate the perceptions of others, not just our own.
Every generation sees signs that they’re living in extraordinary times. If only those that come after would ask those that came before. Keep on planting seeds; don’t slash and burn your crops.
Why do those who commit enormities occupy themselves with the trivial faults of others? In their ravaging rampage, spilling the blood of innocents without pause, they have become a parody of righteousness. We must invest more in Mental Health care.
If you bomb people back to the stone age, don’t be surprised if they start acting like cavemen.