Monday, November 06, 2006

Public Discussion International Day of Tolerance

SASOD held a discussion on Thursday 16 November, 2006 at Oasis Too,

Philip's rendition of the song Hero "So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you'll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you "
closed off an evening of brief but interesting discussions around tolerance and acceptance.

The discussion started a bit late, as things usually do in Guyana. The evening light was beautiful through the Oasis Too windows, and a warm atmosphere was created before we started. Scheherazade Ishoof was our first speaker and she approached tolerance looking at Voltaire and Muhammad Marmaduke William Pickthal , one of the translators of the Quran. A quotation from voltaire " "
This little globe, which is but a point, rolls through space, as do many other globes; we are lost in the immensity of the universe. Man, only five feet high, is assuredly only a small thing in creation. One of these imperceptible beings says to another one of his neighbors, in Arabia or South Africa: 'Listen to me, because God of all these worlds has enlightened me: there are nine hundred million little ants like us on the earth, but my ant-hole is the only one dear to God; all the other are cast off by Him for eternity; mine alone will be happy, and all the others will be eternally damned."

They would then interrupt me, and ask which fool blabbed all this nonsense. I would be obliged to answer, "You, yourselves." I would then endeavor to calm them, which would be very difficult."

Tolerance was explored as a religious virtue, often misinterpreted by religious fundamentalists who needed to exploit power. Examples were given of the times when Muslims demonstrated tolerance and acceptance, and points were raised to show expressions of tolerance in the Quran. Omar Bissoon argued that tolerance was not acceptable, since it meant to endure that which was abhorrence, and that in divided societies, tolerance alone could not bring peace. He cited various discussions on tolerance in which people indicated that they 'hated' tolerance, and preferred respect and acceptance. Projects based on tolerance would be doomed since the basis was not valid, and the promotion of acceptance was necessary for differences- different religion, political views, sexuality, race, gender. He stressed the need for understanding and empathy , and the desire to know of other people to empathise with them. The quote from Oscar Wilde"
“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”
concluded his presentation.
Omar's full presentation could be downloaded here
Philomena Pilgrim from GPlus asked for no discrimination for people living with HIV AIDS, since HIV has no face, and it crosses race, class, gender. She stated the problems of discrimination. Karen Hall talked about facing discrimination as a person with a disability, and about overcoming that to find alliances and to rise through that. The questions and discussion afterwards were to seek clarification on perceptions of Islam as violent, of recognising the difference between tolerance and acceptance..
Thanks to Keimo who sang Stand Up to enhance the message of the evening.. and encouraged us to ask Phillip to do his song which made us feel like Heroes for continuing to stand up to discrimination.

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