Faith and Bridge-Building are NOT Antithetical!23 Jan 2021
As a young Muslim growing up in the West, I have been no stranger to an identity crisis (or two). Some of us may experience said situations fleetingly, at rare moments in our lives, but these occur far more frequently for many of us. We often struggle to find a balance between authentically practising our religion and building meaningful relationships with those outside of our faith around us.
For me, faith largely took a back seat in my formative years. It can seem at times that secularism is presented as the only rational, intelligent way to live. In the media, through the education system, and even, in some cases, our communities. However, I was never content with repressing this side of my identity. But though I had belief, I lacked an understanding of my faith. And I had put off the process of delving into such things, picking apart my thoughts (which I believe is an important part in increasing understanding of oneself) because it didn’t seem like the common thing to do. But when I started this journey, inspired by others around me, it was the best thing I did for my development.
I think it is challenging to help others when there is confusion over our own identity. I believe that we have to make a genuine effort to learn and understand ourselves – though this is a lifelong journey – before we can truly know how we can benefit others. Personally, it was when I started to develop a deeper understanding of the role of my faith in the context of those around me that I learned that faith and bridge building are not antithetical but in fact, exist in harmony. This made me feel that I was able to be an effective part of this process. Because, for a Muslim to be motivated to build good relationships with our neighbours, our brothers and sisters in humanity, we need only take a look into our rich traditions and history. Islam is truly rife with examples of the importance of social cohesion.
This journey through my faith led me to apply for the Student Leadership Programme*. The experiences I had on the programme were truly invaluable. To participate in an environment where people from different backgrounds gathered together to discuss their perspectives on peacebuilding (and all this constitutes including difficult conversations around the barriers to achieving peace) was an unparalleled experience. Indeed, it is often when we are outside of our comfort zones when we learn the most – first and foremost about ourselves. The SLP reminded me that although we may come from different places, and learn and process differently, there is so much we have in common. So much shared human experience. To understand this – to really appreciate the human in humanity – we must interact with one another. These conversations do break down barriers and create understanding. We can easily neglect this if we think it is better to mind our own business and believe that someone else will have these discussions on our behalf. However, to be a voice in a room full of people brought together for the purpose of understanding one another, even just a little bit better, is to experience humanity.
Following the experiences, I had on the SLP, I felt more confident in voicing my opinions, knowing that I could have productive, meaningful conversations. I have really enjoyed working with young people and being in environments where people are comfortable to bounce ideas off each other without judgement. I think this is an integral step in bridge building, and I hope to be more involved in similar initiatives in the future.
*Student Leadership Programme “Bridge Builders” is an online student leadership programme for 16-19 year olds, it will take participants through a journey of finding our common ground, learning to disagree better respectfully and working towards our common good. There will be workshops on leadership, interfaith, islamophobia, antisemitism, peacebuilding, global conflict, Northern Ireland, the Balkan, Israel-Palestine, conflict resolution, non-violent communication and student activism.
The deadline for applications is 31st January
Solutions Not Sides is an organisation which focuses on creating humanising encounters and safe spaces to talk about the Israeli – Palestinian conflicts, without feeding Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, as they are both forms of hate speech and discrimination. The organisation does so by bringing Palestinian and Israeli voices into the same room to discuss the conflict, the realities of violence, the power dynamics, personal experiences, and use these discussions to see how peace can be reached.
** Disclaimer: The views, information, or opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the individuals and organisations involved and do not necessarily represent those of Urban Muslimz and its employees.