A few weeks ago a colleague who is a Software Engineer was elaborating on a computer programming concept called “erasure”. In this process details/specifics are erased during the compilation of the program and replaced with generic masks such that when the program is executed, the runtime environment has no idea about the specifics that were erased. He explained that such techniques make the program more efficient, powerful, robust and flexible. In light of the senseless killing spree in France last week, we contemplate on how people around the world will view such an act of inhumanity and madness. Some of us are/will be angry, some will be, to a lesser extent, aggrieved by such heinous acts; some will have no reaction at all and there will be some who will regrettably but carefully try to justify such abhorrent acts. With such specifics, it would not be an exaggeration to say that the vast majority of people around the world continue to ‘react’ to such atrocities.
Impact Of Specifics
In the span of a month we have witnessed murders in France in which seven people were killed, including three children, and murders in Afghanistan committed by a US soldier in which seventeen civilians were killed, including nine children. Did everyone around the world care to take note of both crimes? Many Muslims are deeply disturbed by the number of people killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, but sadly they are not as disturbed when people of other faiths are killed. The same can be said for most people around the world. Imagine for a moment if we started to apply the programming concept of “erasure”, erasing all the specifics about the atrocities committed around the world. Suppose we erase specifics such as who the victims were, how they were killed, where they were killed and by whom? What are we left with? Ultimately, human beings killing human beings. When specifics are erased, are we still as upset for the loss of a human soul? Or are we upset only when we know the specifics? Imagine for a moment that there is only one religion in the world and one of the most fundamental tenets of this faith is the belief that God has rights over us and our fellow human beings have rights over us. If we violated the rights of God and seek forgiveness, God can and will forgive us out of His mercy. But if we violated the rights of our fellow humans, God would want us to seek forgiveness from the ones we have transgressed against before He grants us forgiveness. Such a belief lays at the heart of both Judaism and Islam.
Failing Our Children
Whenever Muslims in the West commit or attempt to commit acts of violence, we often hear that they are the victims of radicalization. Though radicalization of our children is of a major concern, the real issue lies in the failure of parents in their task to inculcate some of the most fundamental tenets of their faith, such as the rights others have over us and the need to seek forgiveness from those we have transgressed against. To take an innocent life is the greatest act of transgression one can commit against humanity. With an innocent life taken, how can the culprit seek forgiveness? It is our duty and responsibility as parents, religious, civic leaders to inculcate love for humanity and to honor and respect the dignity of others. Our continuous obsession with our religious identities must not blur our true essence when all labels and specifics are shed.
Human Identity Above All Others
The result of our obsession with religious and national identities is compartmentalization. History has shown that when we start compartmentalizing, we only care about our “own”. It is undeniable that the Holocaust is the darkest chapter in human history. Yet there are many around the world that deny or attempt to undermine the magnitude of the atrocities and horrors of the Holocaust. The world stood silent in the face of millions being exterminated. With deepest respect for those who lost their lives and have been deeply affected by this devastating moment in our history, let us apply the principle of “erasure” and think of the Holocaust for a minute. What are we left with? We are left with millions of human beings who were humiliated, tortured, witnessed the murder of their loved ones before their eyes before they themselves received a similar fate. Is this acceptable? When humanity suffers from “selective outrage syndrome” due to the specifics we attach and compartmentalization we apply, we are in fact tormenting ourselves, we are in fact collectively, the greatest losers of all. One of the few ways to prevent the senseless violence we witnessed in France is to ensure that all of us are doing our part to inculcate and inject love for humanity, both in others and in ourselves. In doing so, we need to demonstrate through collective action that erasing labels and specifics for the sake of promoting a common good indeed makes all of us more efficient, powerful, robust and flexible, erasing those details that serve to hinder our progress towards a better future for our children.
By: Reima Yosif & Shahwiqar Shahin
Further comments on terrorism can be found in the below link: