Thursday, January 15, 2015

K-Pop Hugs and Kisses

It is not that difficult to cause a stir in the community. Just find something sensitive in the community and just start violating. Before you know it, things get viral almost overnight (thanks to smartphones and social media) along with the reactionary voices that usually accompany them.

The Recent K-Pop Incident

What happened recently in Malaysia with the K-Pop concert was indeed appalling. At first, I didn't even know about the issue. I was in Singapore and my days were busy with my talk and sightseeing with my dad.

It was my wife who texted me on Whatsapp and brought my attention to the issue. This was her text: "I felt like crying, seeing well-covered Muslim women giving up their dignity to strange men. To make matters worse, these images are getting viral."

I watched the video and couldn't finish it because it was too hurtful. I wished I didn't watch the video to be honest. It flooded my timeline and curiosity got the better of me. After watching the video, I got really emotional and there were moments when I thought I was going to cry.

Sadness. Disappointment. Anger. A brewing of negative energy was building up inside of me and my fingers were itching to write something on the internet. But I managed to distance myself from the keyboard, because words laced with emotions might not be the words that I intended to deliver out into the world.

I allowed myself the time to digest and cool off. When one is calm, one can think better. Though I have to say that it is not easy to calm down, especially when something like this happened. In the Muslim community, traditionally or even in our modern times, we take the honour of women (Muslim or not) very seriously and we should take their honour very seriously.

In my head I was imagining those women to be my hypothetical daughters, my sisters, my nieces, my mother, or my wife. If I was their hypothetical father, brother, uncle, son, or husband, I would be devastated. Imagining it alone is already devastating. I wonder what it feels like if it really was the case.

Emotions & Ego: Our Greatest Enemy

As with any sensitive issue, our human emotions are our greatest enemy. When our sensitivity is violated, there is an urge to react immediately to it and that immediate reaction is usually driven by our emotions.

In that moment, the goal might not be to suggest or to move towards a long-term solution. The goal, in the heat of the moment, might be just to make ourselves feel better. When we get angry, yelling at people make us feel better. But does it solve the problem? Or, does it make the problem worse?

When there is a problem, however sensitive it might be to our emotions, we shouldn't dwell on the problem or make the problem worse. We should try to detach ourselves from the problem and not make it about us. We should try to think of what would be best for the community at large (not just the Muslim community).

We should focus more on the solution and focus less on our ego. We should not be looking for making ourselves feel better, but we should be looking for making the situation better.

It is easy and intriguing to lash out and to vent our thoughts and feelings in the wake of a sensitive issue, and lay back on our couches relaxing after we got a huge lump of frustration out of our chest. But the current situation is not about the self, and we should not make it about the self. We should not be thinking that people are offending us and attacking us personally, even if it feels like it.

The world is much bigger than our individual selves. We should step away from our ego and look at the bigger picture and aspiring towards a much more long-term relief for the community at large - not a short-term relief for our little selves.

The ideal is to figuratively see God in all situations and if we can't do that, then at least know that He sees us. That is the foundation of Ihsan (excellence). Ihsan is not about seeing us (our ego) in all situations, but it is about seeing God.

Even in a situation where it is personally offensive to us, we should try our level best to reflect our relationship with God and we should never ever left God out of the equation because the equation will never be complete without God. But it can be complete without our ego.

For example, during the saddest moment of Prophet Muhammad's (peace be upon him) life, when the people of Taif chased him out of their town with stones and the Prophet was bleeding to his sandals, the Prophet made a monumental du'a to Allah.

In that du'a, though he was physically and emotionally hurt, it was evident that he didn't put his ego before Allah because in that du'a, with everything that had happened, he said, "If you (O Allah) are not displeased with me, then I am content."

All he saw was Allah, as if his ego didn't exist.

Now What?

Having said all that, we are left with an important question: how should we deal with the recent K-Pop incident and where do we go from here?

We can do so many things. But just because we can do something, doesn't mean we should do it.

The main question to keep in mind is which option is the best option in the long run? We are seeking for a long-term solution that is best for all. Our decision won't just have an effect right here and now but might have an effect in the future. On top of that, our decision won't just affect ourselves and the people involved but it will affect the community at large.

There are a few questions that we should consider when coming up with a solution:

1. Is it really a solution, or just a way to make ourselves feel better and a way to pat our ego?

2. Is it in line with the principles of the Quran and the Sunna?

3. Is it just, wise, merciful, and good for all members of the community (Muslims and otherwise)?

4. Does it have any negative effects in the long run?

5. Does it harm any specific individuals?

6. How will it improve the understanding of the community (Muslims and otherwise) about Islam?

7. How will it improve the relationship between the individuals involved and Allah?

8. Will it bring people closer to Islam or away from it?

There are many things to consider. The point of these questions is to bring our attention towards the complexity of any issue. More often than not, it is not a black-and-white issue where you can just find an answer in an answer scheme somewhere. Life is not like a standardized exam.

A human being alone is complicated enough, but when we have many human beings in one place, you can imagine how much more complicated the situation can get. We should start looking at the community as a network of diverse groups and individuals, living together in a specific time and place, whose knowledge and understanding about themselves and the world are constantly evolving with the tides of time.

With that in mind, we shouldn't approach any issue like it will only affect us and no one else. We should care about how our actions will affect others. We should hold to the universal principle of wanting for others what we want for ourselves.

With that in mind, we shouldn't hold dear to old ways of dealing with new problems. We should hold true to the everliving Islamic principles but we should analyze each situation in its uniqueness and apply those principles accordingly. What worked before might not work now.

With that in mind, we shouldn't seek to fulfill our ego but we should seek to please Allah in all that we do. Harsh words won't solve anything, other than making ourselves feel better. Deal with people lovingly and compassionately, applying the wisdom of the Prophet in all our deeds.

Only then will we see sustainable change in the right direction.

I do not agree with what had happened on stage during that K-Pop concert. But that doesn't mean that I agree with all the negativity that resulted afterwards. Don't put out fire with more fire. Otherwise we will burn down the ship, along with everyone on board.