The struggle

The other night, my heart sank, heavy blues descending, thoughts keeping me awake into the early hours. I only had myself to blame, I told myself, having exposed myself to an ugly clamour: far right nationalists and far right Muslims, spewing horrendous sentiments online.

Admittedly, some of them are mere bots, programmed to incite. Others of them paid provocateurs, serving foreign political ambitions, manipulating opinion wherever they go. Others are sock-puppets, deployed by intelligence agencies to entrap and surveil. Still others, mere trolls, posting inflammatory views for their own amusement, or to quell inner disquiet, or to serve some other interest, unknown and undisclosed.

Of course I have no way of knowing which is which, and how many of those who profess their extreme views are true to themselves and how many merely serving other agendas. Of the numerous far right Muslim accounts with mythical warriors set as profile pictures — which delight in throwing people off tall buildings, killing heretics and reviving ancient barbarity — how many of them are real is unknown. Indeed, now I even start to doubt the most famous and well-known of them: is that austere, uncompromising, unshakeable Muslim demagogue a true zealot, or is he in fact a straw-puppet, serving another master altogether? Once more, none can say.

Still, the raging depravity encountered online reached into my heart the other night and tore at my faith, keeping me from sleep. Far right nationalism repulses me, but barely disturbs, demanding nothing of me, no engagement. But far right Muslims: here I stumble, for they come brandishing texts, tradition and faith. What if they are right, I ask myself, and their faith is the truest, closest to the source? What if their way is the way loved by the Creator, and they will return well favoured, and I a loser? For surely, their way repulses me.

I came upon this path seeking the Oneness of God. I came searching for goodness and light. In my innate nature I am a pacifist at heart. No wonder I often feel like I am wearing an ill-fitting suit. Of course, pacifism must wait for utopia; in this world, the one who shuns action must be judged for refusing to stand up to tyrants running wild, destroying everything in their path. To be a pacifist in the face of an oppressor rampaging all over, victimising the poor and vulnerable, is no moral stance at all. Perhaps it is pure cowardice. So it is true: pacifism has no place in the world as we find it; it is only an ideal for an ideal world.

So fight those who fight you, yes, but do not transgress the limits, for God does not love those who transgress. Yes, I can believe in this. But this is not what we seekers are called to believe in; on top of this, layers and layers of accretions, impossible for the compassionate soul to embrace. Killing, killing, everywhere, attack and victimisation. The dogmatic faith of far right Muslims promotes all of this, insistent on its authenticity, and unremitting on the errant ways of all others.

What disturbs me so — and this comes in waves, crashing on me suddenly after calm — is the fear that this harsh and bitter faith is what is required of me. This is what keeps me awake: fear that I will be amongst the losers, rejected. The heart aches, and all I can do is pray for guidance and forgiveness, desperate to believe and be accepted.

Serve God, and join not any partners with Him; and to parents do good, and to relatives, orphans, the needy, the near neighbour, the neighbour farther away, the companion at your side, the traveler, and those whom your right hands possess. Indeed, God does not like those who are self-deluding and boastful. — Quran 4:36

In the end I hold fast to sentiments like these, and pray that it will be enough for me. This, my perpetual struggle, seeking the One. Trying hard to find the middle way.

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