First row in el-Azhar; let religion be religion


Last weekend Anna, Raisa, Mubarak and I went to Cairo. I wanted a weekend of culture, party, nice  food and shopping all in the name of my ’16th’ birthday and Anna and Mubarak were happy to join me. Raisa never says no whenever there is fun to be had but her main reason for joining us to Cairo was to catch a plane to Damascus the next day where she wants to do her internship. While Raisa left us after breakfast on Friday to go to the airport, Anna and I and our flaky friend Michau went to Cairo Tower to enjoy a nice view over the city for way too much money. Since it was Friday Mubarak went to the mosque for Jum’a (Friday prayer). After performing his religious obligation we met him at el-Azhar mosque, which is quite an institution in the world of islamic faith and culture. Mubarak, who is a highly excitable Pakistani Jordie with matching accent, was behaving like he had seen his biggest idol in the flesh. Since Anna hadn’t seen el-Azhar mosque yet, which is a beautiful building and an oasis of calm in the otherwise chaotic world of Islamic Cairo, we went in which very much pleased Mubarak . Having Jum’a in El-Azhar is a big thing and he proudly told us to all our endearment that he had been praying in fourth row (from the imam). One of the things I like about Mubarak is that I can ask him as a pious muslim anything about religion. He knows who he is and what his faith means to him and is (therefor) comfortable being with people who might have different believes, so he has female friends and doesn’t mind anyone drinking alcohol in his vicinity as long as he doesn’t have to touch it. There are muslim ‘brothers’ who are giving him grieve because of this. They tell him he is not a good muslim and that he should not befriend women or people who drink. He and our friend Jameela are the most pious and at the same time most open-minded, kind and compassionate people I know. Is that not what religion is about? When and how does faith, which in my opinion should be a personal matter between the person and God, become a controlling and scary matter, an issue to fear? An awful lot of people have a vision of islam as a suppressing faith in which people kill each other by blowing themselves up, were a(n) (perceived) attack on the teachings results in riots and death threats. A believe, in which women have no rights, are not worthy of any respect and are forced to dress in a large, shapeless, all covering piece of cloth. Does it go wrong when faith becomes political? When it’s seen as a mean to cure most-if not all ills? I do believe that (almost) everything  in life is political. From how you deal with your, parents, your partner, your house mates to your interaction with your co-workers, your boss, your friends or the guy or gail at your corner shop and how all these people relate to others. That game is called politics. Politics might be very present in the world of religion, but I believe their should be no room for religion in the world of politics.  I’m not sure about my exact argument against this issue. Perhaps I believe politics should be based on reason and not on spiritual beliefs. Values like compassion and doing good to others form the basis of most if not all religious beliefs but they are human values first and foremost. Besides that I find religion and spirituality a completely private matter. I am probably against religion entering politics because there are too many examples of how horribly wrong that can go (Iran, Afghanistan, (Bush in) Iraq, the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. Perhaps we humans should protect ourselves against ourselves and just keep religion out of the political arena. Pray on your own first row and mind your own business.


About Lemba

Non-conformist Writing Soul and Language Geek from the Lowlands with a South London accent, currently living a nomadic, location- independent lifestyle. While executing the Big Fat Writing Plan I’m invading cyberspace with my views on 'expat living', travel and other lifestyle choices, current affairs and other randomness. Welcome to the Dark Fairy Zone.

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