Of course it is disappointing that the first thing a person asks me on learning of the path I have walked for the past quarter of a century is my view on terrorism. Of course it is upsetting that a path that brings such peace to so many is forever associated in the minds of others with such unspeakable barbarity. Naturally, it hurts that even sensible people believe such evil to be representative of our normative tradition. But of course I understand: they have two decades of pervasive propaganda to unravel. It is all they have heard for twenty years.
Furthermore, I realise that due to a shared ethnicity, they have had to spend a lifetime being forced to disassociate themselves from the actions of people who have nothing to do with them. Welcome to our world. That is a slander we have all had to face, over and over, even from our most trusted confidants. Even my mentor at work, who had known me intimately for years, associated me with such unspeakable evil upon learning of the path I walk. Those sentiments are so hurtful that it is only natural that we do everything in our power to set ourselves apart from such people.
Still, it is disappointing. Disappointing to discover that people I hold in high esteem still think this way. Disappointing that they seem to be unable to look beyond all they have passively imbibed for years and years. Have they not considered, even momentarily, that the term “Muslim” has just become the last acceptable racial slur, deployed by racists as shorthand for all brown people, whatever their actual beliefs? I understand that we’re living in an age of identity politics and that this discourse is all-pervasive, but really: just pause.
I hold that terrorism is nothing but a tool of imperialism, which serves only to provide states with justification to invade and occupy far-off lands. It is of no benefit to the common man, anywhere in the world. That is not to say I believe terrorists do not exist — of course they do: those misguided fools will always exist, believing their actions to be good and virtuous. But I believe them to be severely misguided, because the only people who benefit from their actions are arms manufacturers and the people at the top of the food chain.
Read Empireland by Sathnam Sangehera to understand how and why these narratives are promulgated to give us our sense of belonging. Listen to the learned of that tradition forever slandered to discover what might have been obscured by an unceasing narrative of contempt and scorn. Look beyond the all-pervasive propaganda that has dominated our lives through every imperialistic misadventure of recent times. Contrary to all you have heard, this is the journey of the soul seeking its full potential.
The questions we need to ask is, “Where are we going?” That’s where that quotation from George Orwell comes in:
“Heavy physical work, the care of home and children, petty quarrels with neighbours, films, football, beer, and above all, gambling filled up the horizon of their minds. To keep them in control was not difficult… All that was required of them was a primitive patriotism which could be appealed to whenever it was necessary to make them accept longer working hours or shorter rations.”George Orwell, Nineteen Eight-Four
We are being called to something higher than all of this, but you have to listen with your heart. You have to be prepared to look beyond all that is apparent.