Ashura and friendship

Without any doubt, today is a remarkable day for the Nes-congregation, since we are celebrating Ashura together with our neighbors who are Muslims. We do it, because we believe that it is important to do, today.

I often hear people say: “I don’t like religions. They divide people and cause only problems”. I don’t agree with this opinion, because I don’t think what this opinion points out is correct. But before we discuss the contents of this opinion, I have to criticize the attitude of people who say this.

“Religions create problems, so I don’t like religions”: when the people say this, it really means: “Problems exist because of the religions, and my hands are clean”. Those people are indirectly avoiding to take their own responsibility and to confront the problems by themselves.

But the truth is that religions create no problems. It’s people that create problems. As we see in the news, ISIS is a problem, Boko Haram is a problem. But it is the people who are in ISIS or Boko Haram that cause problems, but not the religion of Islam. We have to be well aware of this. Millions of people live in peace in the Islamic world. If Islam is the reason for the problems, it would not be so.

Problems are not only ISIS or Boko Haram. We have problems here in Iceland, too. Certain people are harshly against Islam, as you well know. They are against building a mosque in Reykjavík and therefore against the equal rights in religious life among residents of Iceland.

But it’s not all, sorry to say. Leaders of those people are attacking Muslims as if they were a virus of evils or potential terrorists. They take examples from the most extreme examples among Muslims and make a very rough generalization, so that they can lead our society to a very negative conclusion regarding Muslims in Iceland.

This attitude is totally ignoring the dignity of each individual and the diversity in Islamic society. I would say that this sort of attitude itself is violence. It’s not Muslims in Iceland who create problems for our society, but those anti-Islam agitators are.

We need to keep two things in mind. One thing is that we have to focus our criticism on specific groups of people or movements that are actually carrying responsibility for barbaric actions or ideas. Rough generalization that put those who are to be condemned and innocent people together in the same box is seriously dangerous.

That would make victims of prejudice and discrimination, and in those victims anger and hatred would be born again. This is a bad and sad circulation that we can confirm through out human history.

In the same way, we should not hate those who throw dirty words to Muslims. We should criticize wrong actions and the ideas behind them, but try not to deny their personality until it will be absolutely and truly unavoidable.

Another thing we need to remember is that we have to raise our voice for solidarity and unity as human persons. We have to demonstrate our friendship with all the good people in our society, because that is the best way to protest against rough generalization, judgment based on prejudice and misguiding to hatred.

Now we are celebrating the Ashura feast. This is a peaceful and joyful opportunity. We can taste Noah’s pudding – which I am really looking forward to, we can enjoy the traditional Turkish dance, Sema, and amazing water painting art, Ebru, and most of all the friendship among us.

As I have mentioned before, it is important that we enjoy this time together. And we can prepare for another opportunity for friendship, and then another and another, until the friendship takes over hatred and antipathy in our society.
I wish you all to enjoy yourselves in this celebration.
Thank you very much.

(Pastor for immigrants, This speech was made in the “Ashura”-event at the Nes-church on 15th of November 2014. “Ashura”-event was coooperation between the Nes-church and Horizon that is a cultural association of Muslims of Tukish origin.)