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I Am the Others and the Others Are Me

Al-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, March 25

The symbols humans create tend to express what man sees in himself and sees in others. The lion is an example of courage, heroism, and self-respect. The dog became a symbol of fulfilment or humiliation, and the beast represented treachery. However, if we go back to nature, we will quickly discover that all of these symbols are manmade. The animal does not know anything about these characteristics. The lion does not know a thing about courage or heroism. He eats carcasses, kills the other lion’s cubs without mercy and fears larger predators just like any other animal. It seems, therefore, that psychological projection is an integral part of human nature, especially when we lack full information or context. People try to understand the world and their own role in it in subjective ways. In the past fifty years, in our Islamic world, we were raised to believe that the global conflict between nations and peoples is nothing but a series of age-old differences revolving around religion. Many of us are convinced that we are at war with the West. The reason, we are told, is that the West is conspiring against our religion, the West intends to sabotage our faith, the West wants to corrupt our women. This thinking, just like the traits we give animals, is extremely flawed. To be sure, many preachers want to see human competition revolve around religion, reflecting their own worldview. These preachers hope that Islam will prevail, and therefore frame whatever the West does in terms of wars as a Western attempt to spread Christianity. So long as this preacher views the world through the lens of religion, the actions of others suddenly becomes a religious war. But when we read history in a scientific way we will find that past wars broke out not on religious grounds, but for other reasons: financial, political, or social, among others. Everything is in the eye of the beholder and, as the old saying goes, when all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail. One can never achieve success in his own struggles if he projects onto others his own securities and misgivings with the world. – Abdallah Bin Bakhit