Yesterday I attended a workshop with Dr. Senem on Emotional Intelligence and she shared with us the view that when looking at a situation, we are all correct in our perception, and we are all incorrect, because we can never fully perceive all angles.
I was so moved by this high level of ethical consideration. If we extend this to the way we give meaning to the choices of different people we meet, could we then say there are no good or bad people, just individuals living according to their values?
If our values are shared, then I probably think you are an amazing, inspiring person that I want to engage with. If our values clash, however, why do we jump to the they are a horrible human being with no dignity judgement?
If we look at our prophet peace be upon him, he not only engaged with, but continued to pray for and see hope in even the most brutal of warlords. Yes they battled when the other side attempted to impose their values upon the prophet and his believers who chose to live by different principles, but he never put labels that implied their inferiority.
What we do when we think of others as bad parents or bad teachers or horrible human beings is in effect an act of superiority that sets barriers which disintegrate community structures.
Exclusion and oppression begin in the simple mindset where one individual does not trust the other because they are suspicious of their values or morals.
Instead of suspicion, we can work towards understanding the decisions of those around us through deconstructing the notion of a universal, ideal goodness.
We have different paths, but we are all equal in our pursuit. And only God can judge. If we want strong communities, we have to believe and accept that we are all pure, and we are all evil. We are both and no one act legitimates the demonisation of any group or individual.
Empathy allows us to understand without agreement or judgement.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t racist, sexist, criminal acts. I am suggesting that Islamically, God has directed us to work against the hurtful deed, but always include, respect and accept the sinner, the human who is you and me.