A few years ago, we'd just come back to Cairo from the beach. My mother had no idea we were coming that day so there wasn't enough or the type of food the kids would want to eat and we were all hungry, so I ordered a take away. But when that took a long time to deliver, and since we don't live far, I decided to walk up the main road and pick it up myself and that's when I realised that I'd ordered lots because of the large number of bags full I was given. You never realise the quantity when they deliver though - some came in pottery containers as well so the load was unexpectedly so heavy, I had to stop a few times on the way back and put it down to rest my arms a bit before I went on again. As I stopped on one of those times, there was a poor man sitting on the bare ground by the side of the road with a young child crying on his lap. In front of him was his trade, a smallish woven basket with an equally small amount of watercress which he then forms into bunches and sells to passers by for little money with an even smaller profit that can not possibly support him and his child let alone if he has a bigger family elsewhere.
The food I was carrying was just made and the smell seeped out of the bags everywhere, so the child turned round and looked then cried again, this time saying he was hungry. At which point dad pushed his hand and turned the little boys's head so that he doesn't look at me or my many bags. I had lots, there was no chance we'd finish all this food so I took a bag, not even knowing which of the food I bought was inside, and just left it on the ground next to the man. The boy then sat up and eagerly turned to look, but his dad turned his face away again; " Take your food and go home ya hanem [lady]". "It's not for you", I said "It's for your child". "We don't eat your kind of food, I do not want him to get used to that kind of food, take it and go home" ... I didn't take it back of course. Instead, I said to him that he should "accept God's gift" and put some money in the bag, then left. Dad did not look impressed but said nothing.
As the kids gorged on all the goodies I brought, I couldn't eat myself once I was back home, thinking of that man and his son. Thinking that if I hadn't 'bestowed' that bag upon them, they would've both ended up perhaps eating bare bread and some of the watercress they sell, just a little, if lucky, and thinking how dignified that poor dad was! But now when I think about this incident, and I have come across many similar, I feel the father's over reaction was not just dignity, but resentment too - and do you blame him? I can also imagine how such people try to calm the hunger in their children when women like myself laden with much more than they need pass by their hungry stomachs, and how 'Rabna ma'ana' or 'God is with us' is whispered as you walk past. Of course, we Muslims all believe that to be true, hence, yes, say it when in whatever emotional need whether one is affluent or not. For the poor, God is the only hope for it is God who will reward them and their empty everything at the end if they are patient and are accepting. So they say it much more often until they are convinced with the notion, but are they really accepting? Things. religious or otherwise have different meanings for different people, and so, I have heard that expression many times before, and still do when I walk around the poorer areas of Cairo, it definitely has a different meaning to when I say it, for example. I hear such expressions now much more than before, and you need to reply with same or you'd be viewed with suspicion ... and that's how religion gets manipulated to suit as it becomes mixed with every other word those without utter. This incident above was just an example, but things, and their definition do get twisted because of all the repetition and all the passing from one mouth to another too. Then it gets taken out of context or slotted into new ones - valid sentences then get joined how they like to make distorted mental essays that carry a totally different meaning to what each original sentence meant and intended in the first place. Then, as those essays get written as well as spoken, their authors, who by now have found prosperity through selling 'their' religion, get to believe their own making themselves before trying to convince or even force others to do the same. And as the numbers of those without swell, minds change with it. There is plenty of that now to suit the listener as well as the speaker's 'reason' since both are not knowledgeable enough to verify and never were - and in such an environment, anything goes!
With such repetition of what he knows not much of, this poor man was able to convince himself that heaven was waiting, that it is the reward and the salvation. Most probably his parents convinced him of same as he's now in turn trying to convince his child. But will the child accept that 'reason' as father and his father did before him? This child must be a young adult now and the majority do turn out Ok, but some don't. Still poor, uneducated except maybe for read and write, if that - what has become of this one? I have no idea, but I wonder how many of those rebel and do not accept the heaven scenario then become prey to those others with a mission? Or those who may have been in that same predicament themselves but made it to better fortunes through carrying rogue arms and rogue deeds to go with it, who then 'succeed' and became masters of their own groups and are now luring others to their way of achieving 'fortune', through force! The excuse is the same as the salvation that came from their fathers; or the promised 'heaven'. Only God is also 'fair', and carrying arms was the only way for them to see that 'fairness' brought their way, to fight the unfair, to the death, wherever they are - those 'unfair' may well include those who 'bestowed' things on them when they were younger - and religion, though in reality, they do not know much about except the bits they heard when young and keep hearing their own version now amongst themselves. It then becomes their valid reason, then their 'politics' ... and those who do not subscribe, become game ... now there are the 'them' and the 'us' ... and there is now a new notion of 'Victory' over the 'enemy'!
Of course, many of those who take that route are not from terribly poor backgrounds but come from even educated [schooling wise] and relatively affluent backgrounds too. But then, a grudge of some sort will always be a common factor as better circumstances do not guarantee real knowledge of what talk they now advocate; that it is God who wants them to fight whatever unfairness in the aggressive manner they do. When what God really says is "Not to transgress" but as in any holy book allows only for self defence when attacked, and isn't unfairness an attack? ... and when it is 'unfairness' that you are in a state of self defence against, then anybody who is perceived to be 'unfair' is game. That is 'reason' that leads to uprisings and is also one that leads to terror, and it is all because of 'poverty' and the resulting ignorance fermenting then spilling over.
The oppressed do have a right to better lives whether those more affluent like it or not, but you just hope true talent does not just get thrown away in revenge. One is also sad because of the loss of the innocent lives of all those who needlessly perish in terror attacks by those who turn that way wherever they happen, including this recent incident in Algeria. I therefore sincerely wish the families of such victims the patience to cope with their loss or injury to loved ones, and hope such incidents will not happen again.
But fighting terrorism with force alone will never work because it's like trying to put a lid on a pot full of boiling water over heat and expecting it to stay. But it will never stay and will keep on spilling and spilling until that heat is removed and until it cools down, and why fighting terror needs to concentrate on removing the heat that fuels fundamentalism, be it angry and violent or not, of the fertile grounds that breeds those who do not accept despair then do anything including turning to violence and ending up committing such crimes. This fertile ground is 'poverty' and the resulting ignorance. The world should join hands to fight those already caught and do terror, yes, but at the same time it is right to also always strive to restore dignity to those suffering from the indignity of poverty before they too surrender to the lure of same. To really realise that it is poverty, together with ignorance that allows for the twisting of some people's minds then the causing of all such ills - and not religion, for that's just a carrier that then suits the purpose when personalised, as there is no other substitute. Hence, fighting the resulting terror just through military means will never eradicate radicalisation or the resulting ills alone but will just give more 'reason' to place on that carrier that then invites more and more young boys whose dads now promise them heaven to keep them placid, to enrol when they are older - and the vicious circle just widens and gets bigger ... till it becomes a fight or fights with winners and losers - and once victorious, as per yet another manipulated definition of victory, there is no sharing with the 'enemy', who is most likely to be their own but do not share their 'reason', before anyone and everyone else become game too!
The world will never be a perfect place, but we should 'all' try 'together' to make it better. For more compassion to help those needy of us to put food on their children's table, with dignity. If only to stop the recruitment of those young minds susceptible to persuasion , and of more fairness, and justice ... to strive to truly eradicate global poverty, the mother of all ills - and by education too, religious for those now in need of correcting, or otherwise. For that, maybe it's time for serial winners not to take all, but to build a global effort of those who can to share some more of their good fortunes to help others who don't live with dignity, thus give a bit more hope to all those now without, and rid the world of poverty's ills for real.
[PM's][statement] on [Algeria]
Cameron on eradicating [extreme][poverty]
Bill Gates puts wealth to eradicate [polio]
Morsi opposes [intervention] in [Mali]
Malian artists launch peace [song]
DC video on anti hunger [campaign]
DC flies to Algeria for talks on [terror]
[Cameron] [in] [Algeria]
A song for [Mali]
PM's Africa visit [No 10]And [Co-Chairs] [UN] [poverty] [meeting]to [set] [new][goals]
[Leaders] must be [held] to [account]
PM welcomes [UN][treaty]]