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Muslim forgiveness jars circle of prejudice

  • 13 November 2017


Large convictions are tested in hard times. When we suffer at the hands of others it is natural to forget tolerance, forbearance, forgiveness, understanding and other values to which we may subscribe, and to lash out, vituperate and demand revenge dressed up as justice.

That is why it is so heartening and chastening to see someone whose beliefs we do not share, beliefs that some even believe dangerous and irrational, appeal to those beliefs when acting with a generosity of which we doubt we would be capable. It calls us beyond the polemic and prejudices that may mark our larger attitudes to reflect on how the people whose beliefs we scorn actually live.

Last week we saw the magnanimity and personal depth of Raeed Darwiche (pictured). While travelling to Rookwood Cemetery in the hearse carrying the body of Jihad, his eight year old son, he pleaded for an end to the vituperation directed at Maha Al-Shennag. The car she was driving had crushed his son and his best friend. Darwiche appealed to his Islamic faith in explaining why he forgave Al-Shennag and invited her to visit and eat with his family when ready. She later asked his forgiveness and promised to accept his invitation.

His response was both extraordinary but also human in the best sense of the word, just as the anger and hatred directed at the driver was human in the lowest common denominator sense. Anger and hatred see their targets as objects, faceless representatives of a class. Forgiveness sees its recipients as subjects, as persons each unique and precious.

Anger, hatred and the desire for revenge are natural responses to terrible loss occasioned by others. For most of us they might take years to work through. Forgiveness and hospitality so promptly offered are extraordinary and breathtaking. Whether offered by a Muslim, a Christian or an atheist, they are rare and challenging.

The personal largeness of heart of Darwiche in the face of the abuse directed at the person responsible for his son's death, and his reference to the Muslim tradition to explain his action, also invited reflection on public discourse about religions and other philosophies of life.

Discussion about philosophies is commonly objectifying. It looks not at the way in which people with different religious views actually think and act, but rather at the moral or rational value of the views as defined by their adherents or critics.


"His generosity of spirit calls us