Sunday, August 28, 2011

Courage, Bullying and Ramadan

The Old Father's Moon

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Eid Mubarak! The holy month of Ramadan is closing and the Muslim world is celebrating Eid ul Fitr, a massive celebration of family and festivities. People all over the world have been buying new clothes and even new furniture, preparing huge meals and readying gifts for family and neighbors. They will spend anywhere from one to five days visiting family, hosting feasts and distributing gifts to celebrate the end of the holy month of fasting. I get the feeling it's kind of like Christmas as far as a party season is concerned.

Over this last month I have been collecting and sharing stories about the different kinds of people in the world who are Muslim. I have read about the Muslim people of Senegal, Indonesia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Syria, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Detroit, Los Angeles and many many others. I have read about their food customs (and eaten a number of delicious date concoctions - check out My Halal Kitchen's Dates and Cream), their daily life during Ramadan and their special religious ceremonies during the month. As I read, I kept in mind the charge I set myself at the beginning of the month, to be mindful of God-in-People. A query I asked "Do I speak to and answer “that of God” in everyone?"

One of the things I came to realize as I read these stories is that we as a species can be quite awful to each other. We are very bad at realizing and respecting that of God in each other. I learned a lot of stories about people being oppressed, persecuted and outright killed because of their cultural affiliation. I read about the Uiygar people who's lands were invaded by the Han Chinese in the early 20th century and have been oppressed religious and ethnic minorities ever since. Recent years have seen resistance violence in their Central Asian capitol which has resulted in harsh bans on practicing their Muslim faith. I read about the Kurdish people who, after World War I, had their ancestral lands split between Turkey, Syria and Iraq. Their cultural identity has been actively suppressed by the Turkish government and the government of Saddam Hussain in Iraq. Their language has been outlawed, political organizing harshly crushed and even entire male populations of villages killed. I read about the Mughal invasion of northern India, where the new Muslim rulers felt justified in destroying Hindu religious sites because they were heathen, and modern laws and attitudes in Europe and America that make being a Muslim difficult and dangerous. Of course, stories of oppressors and oppressed are not limited to the Muslim world, but it was a theme that came up again and again.

The pastor at my Quaker meeting gave a sermon about bullpuckey, as he called it, the other week. He was specifically talking about bullpucky about Jesus and how Quakers stand in a unique place to see through, and speak up against bullpucky because of our belief in silent worship, personal connection with the divine and speaking truth to power. In worship, I thought a lot about a faith and values based anti-bullying program I heard about recently where the main focus is on helping bystanders to bullying find the courage to speak up. The thing that connects the bullpucky my pastor was talking about and the bullpucky of bullying is power, and writ large the bullpucky of those in power leads to the kind of oppression I see in my study of Muslim cultures. Whether oppressing or being oppressed, misuse of power, cultural bullying and disrespect of human life and dignity is a big pile of bullpucky.

What can we do about this cultural bullying, this disrespect for humanity? Paul Coughlin, the founder of the anti-bullying program The Protectors, says that the most powerful player in the theater of bullying is the bystander. Bullies do what they do because no one stands up to them, no one points out their disrespectful behavior, no one has the courage to say "stop!". A study quoted by Paul Coughlin's group says that 58% of bullying incidents end within just a few seconds of a bystander speaking up for the victim. Whether his numbers are true or not, and whether this study can be scaled up to culture wide bullying, I don't know. I do know, however, that we must do everything we can to shed light on oppression, bullying and bullpucky everywhere.

The Father's Moon energies ask us to think about how we can be mature adults as we interact with our community to make it a better place. How can we keep our community safe, how can we encourage community members to be better people? How can our own resources and gifts be used for the greater good? There are so many things going wrong with our communities that it is easy to get overwhelmed. It is easy to ignore the bullpucky, easy to let the bullies set the agenda. Courage is required to be a good father, and courage is required to use the Father's moon energies to speak up for those who need a champion. I'm not saying I'm any good at any of this, but I'm saying I feel a new call to be mindful of it.

The 10th Anniversary of 9/11 is coming up in the next week and I worry that with heightened emotions there will be extra bullpucky about Muslims, about war and about our cultural bullying. I wonder what I can do to be a courageous bystander.

What did you learn about Islam and Muslim people this Ramadan? I'd love to hear your stories or thoughts. Have you ever found the courage to stand up against bullying, oppression or other forms of bullpucky? What's your favorite recipe using dates? Eid Mubarak!

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This post is not for the Full Father's moon and it is not for the New Nesting Moon, it is for the old Father's Moon. Here are links to other Ramadan posts, which is the main theme of this post. Use the tag for "Father's Moon" to see other New and Full Father's Moon posts from years past.

Ramadan 2010: Ramadan and End of Ramadan

Ramadan 2011: Blessed Ramadan and Ramadan Postings 2011

Photos by Carmen Alonso Suarez, DMahendra, DVIDSHUB and zz77. Please check out their photos on Flickr.

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