As Islamic History Month comes to a close, I have been reflecting a lot on the current state of the world and the mass death, pain and suffering we are witnessing on a global scale, especially in the Middle East. Throughout history, colonialism, nationalism, patriotism, ethno-centrism, racism, classism, war, territorial disputes, politics and belief/value systems have been the cause for different groups of people to become polarized.
When we live within our own “bubbles” of influence and only listen to voices of those who look and sound like us, it’s frighteningly easy to become cut off from those who are different than we are. When there is no ability to see a middle ground or common interests, or the humanity of others, the dangers of violence and civil unrest become more prevalent.
The alarming rise of hate incidents indicative of racism, Islamophobia, antisemitism and other forms of discrimination around the world and here in Canada is just one of the many nefarious byproducts of this polarization. The multicultural fabric, security and peace of Canada and many other countries is at risk as a result of allowing hatred to sow the seeds of division amongst communities who otherwise live harmoniously with each other.
There are three things that we can implement to ensure that we are bridging divides between diverse communities with intersecting racial, ethnic, religious and secular identities in challenging times of polarization:
1. Resist the dehumanization and “othering” of people that are different than us
2. Understand the role that the media plays in “othering” and think critically about the news/media sources you are consuming
3. Listen to and honour the lived experiences of those who are different from you
These tips, along with regulating our own emotions and addressing our biases, can go a long way in seeing our common humanity. At the end of the day, each human being wants the same things including love, belonging, safety, shelter, food, family, relationships, connection, freedom, employment, opportunities, self-determination, etc.
We all live on the same planet. Our well-being and safety are interconnected. We are all interdependent on one another and only through this realization can we make realistic and equitable progress towards peaceful co-existence. This will require personal growth for all of us in order to be able to see beyond our own individual interests, focus on commonalities, and work cooperatively towards building healthier and safer communities.
For more guidance on intercultural dialogue, please visit UNESCO’s e-Platform for Intercultural Dialogue which has various helpful resources on the topic of building peaceful and inclusive societies: https://www.unesco.org/interculturaldialogue/en/publications.
Thamina is a Senior EDI Consultant.