Can you imagine if children across the world were to be taught like these children were taught? Would we be seeing the sectarian violence in Iraq and Syria that we’re seeing now? Would the racial problems in the United States be what they are? Would Islamophobia in the Western world exist in the way that we see it?
You know, our definition of an educated person in the West means that they should be able to tell us something about Sir Isaac Newton, about Mozart, about Napoleon. But we would be very hard-pressed to find many of even the most learned people in the West who know about the equivalent in the Muslim world. This is despite the fact that the very words “algebra” and “algorithm” come from Arabic; that some of the most iconic pieces of architecture in the world, such as the Taj Mahal, come from Muslim cultures; and that the “Canon of Medicine”, by Ibn Sina, was the standard textbook of medicine in Europe for hundreds of years.
We need to implement a global vision in our educational curriculum right from the youngest ages, so that children grow up understanding the world in which we live, the people that are part of our community.
At the entrance of the United Nations there is inscribed a Persian poem by Sa’di-yi Shirazi, a 13th-century Muslim poet, who writes, (Persian)
“The children of Adam are like the limbs of one another
For they were all created from a single soul.
When the winds of time afflict one limb with pain,
How can the other limbs remain at peace?
You who feel not the pain of others
How dare you call yourself a child of Adam?
How dare you call yourself a human being?”
That feeling that we are one human family has led to some of the most inspirational stories of courage in our recent past. In the last few months, as a result of terrorist attacks, some extremist elements in the West have turned against Muslims in their midst, who had nothing to do with these terrorist attacks. We have seen women pushed in front of oncoming buses, mosques burned down, and the head of a pig thrown into a children’s school.
But when these incidents started happening and Muslims were scared to go out into their communities, within four hours 150,000 tweets in Australia, with the hashtag “I’ll ride with you”, came out. “I’ll ride with you.” We’re with you. You’re part of our community. You have nothing to worry about.
Just weeks ago, al-Shabab militants attacked a bus on the way to Mandera on the border of Somalia and Kenya. They tried to take the Christians off of the bus to execute them in cold blood, but the Muslims on that bus refused to let their Christian brothers and sisters be massacred. They told the terrorists, “You will not take these Christians. If you want to kill them, you will kill all of us.” Those terrorists were so scared that they ran away.
If we are armed with knowledge about our neighbors, the people that make up our world, we will have the tools to stand up to anybody who hopes to dehumanize others, who hopes to divide us, because in the words of Sa’di-yi Shirazi, we are all the children of Adam, we are all one human family.