Innocent Pursuits of the Truth
There are things I know that I know that I feel like I can’t say for various reasons, but I read this quote by Al-Kindi (‘Muslim’ Philosopher), and its a nice rebuttal to my internal struggle.
“We ought not to be embarrassed of appreciating the truth and of obtaining it wherever it comes from, even if it comes from races distant and nations different from us. Nothing should be dearer to the seeker of truth than the truth itself, and there is no deterioration of the truth, nor belittling either of one who speaks it or conveys it.”
— Al Kindi
I also have a quote to describe why I put quotation marks around Muslim Philosopher.
Muslim philosophers both profess Islam and engage in a style of philosophy situated within the structure of the Arabic language and Islam, though not necessarily concerned with religious issues.
I don’t know everything there is to know about this “Middle East” but what I know is that most of the world has a very distorted view of the region and of the people. To many, the people in this part of the world are all the same. To some, Muslim and Arab are synonyms. Most people don’t know that there are at least thirteen different dialects of Arabic, and that being an Arab is not a nationality or a religion, but just refers to the speakers of the language (like Francophone is to French).
Part of this mental exploration is the result of watching the entire three hour Lex Fridman podcast episode with Omar Suleiman. Normally, I am the type of person that will put on a podcast and clean or organize or do other things. For this one I sat and watched. I was enamored once again by the devotion of the followers of Islam. In one part of the interview, Omar reflected on the time he spent at the airport during the Muslim Travel Ban that was put into place by the Trump Administration. I began to cry when he mentioned that during prayer call, the protest chants became “You pray, we stay!” It was good to know that non-Muslim Americans wanted to protect the devotees.
On the other hand, there is a part of me fears that I sound patronizing when I say such things. I run the risk of having or sounding like I have a savior-complex. I hear a voice in my head that tells me I have no place in this discussion. The truth is, my heart holds a very special place for that part of the world. Perhaps my fear of sounding condescending or dumb is because I was an American girl from the perspective of my classmates when I lived abroad. While I have mostly fond memories of my interactions with just about everyone I came into contact with, there was a stereotype that preceded me. Americans are idiots from the perspective of the rest of the world. In some cases, its a not a difficult argument to make. We are relatively arrogant, self-centered, and entitled compared to other parts of the world. To be fair, we are also a young country that became a Super Power very early on, so how’s that not going to go to your head? We are also isolated by enormous bodies of water that allow us to remain blissfully ignorant to whats going on in other parts of the world.
I don’t consider it my job to defend Arabs or Muslims, just as I never felt the need to defend the United States and Dub-ya (Bush Jr). But since I left that sweet little country on the Persian Gulf, I’ve always wanted to share that with others, especially Americans. I’ve wanted to expose people to what I learned about the region. How I never even heard of the Crusades before I studied in Kuwait. How gentle and loving the people were to me. How I never felt like I was in danger. I didn’t go there as an adult to interact with adults over business deals or a shared interest in cuisine. I went as a child and met children. We learned together and grew together.
It could’ve been anywhere, but it was Kuwait. It was in 2004, in the midst of the invasion of Iraq. And yet, I didn’t see any conflict, I didn’t see hate. Every single day I got a hug and a kiss on both cheeks from several classmates. From the very beginning, they embraced me and the innocence of our shared childhood led the way with wonder. There was no room for hate with magic in the air. There is something so pure about traveling and assimilating in a new country at a young age. We didn’t have any real understanding of the geopolitical drama, or at least I didn’t. So it feels like a special gift I can give to the world that was given to me, which was understanding. Despite the stereotype of American I was given the benefit of the doubt.
As a collective, we often discuss the work of philosophers from Greece and Europe and many people will reiterate the same names and quotes over and over again. It is for the benefit of us all to consider this branch of the philosophy tree and to take ourselves beyond the perspective of the standardized curriculum of university 101. I also have to thank the instructors at DecafQuest for introducing me to entirely new perspectives in this realm of thought.
Originally written in Collective Journaling at The Stoa