By Jamal Rahman, New Age Islam
1 June 2021
By Getting To Know And Bond With Those Who Are Different From Us Is Really Important
1. Knowing the other is the best way to overcome any tendency to demonize or dehumanize other people.
2. Connecting with one another on a human level creates the space for us to co-operate on issues that are dear to both of us: projects of social justice, earth care and other interests.
Why is it important to come to know the ‘other,’ someone who is different from us—be it in terms of ethnicity, religion, political orientation, or other affiliations?
First of all, we know from experience and our study of history that knowing the ‘other’ is the best way to overcome any tendency to demonize or dehumanize other people.
Second, if we do this work of heart-to-heart connection with the ‘other,’ then no matter what differences exist—whether in religion, politics or culture—they will no longer loom as a threat.
Third, once we connect with one another on a human level, it creates the space and the capacity for us to collaboratively focus and co-operate on issues that are dear to both of us: projects of social justice, earth care and other interests.
It is generally the case that people who have very negative views of another religion or community do not personally know even one practitioner from that religion or community. On the other hand, a positive view of another religion often comes hand in hand with personally knowing at least one or more persons from that religion or community. So, this work of establishing connections at an interpersonal level is critical: it takes conscious effort to create personal bonds between people of different religious or community backgrounds.
In this regard, I would like to quote this saying of the 13th century sage Jalaluddin Rumi, who exclaimed, “O God! You have created this ‘I’, and ‘us’ to play a game of adoration with Yourself.”
We should play this game more often! By engaging in this delightful game, by getting to know and bond with others who are outside our “tribe,” we fulfil God’s purpose for creating diversity among human beings.
Based in the USA, Jamal Rahman is a popular speaker and author on Islam, Sufi spirituality, and interfaith relations. Along with his Interfaith Amigos, he has been featured in The New York Times, CBS News, BBC, and various NPR programs. Jamal is co-founder and Muslim Sufi Imam at Interfaith Community Sanctuary and adjunct faculty at Seattle University. He travels nationally and internationally, presenting at retreats and workshops. Jamal’s passion lies in interfaith community building and activism.
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