How easy it is for people to exist in moral confusion. Moral confusion often exists not so much because of incorrect thinking, but because we do not see what is right in front of us, presenting itself before our eyes; the human ability to distract itself so that it does not see the most obvious of points, the most clear of signs, and the most apparent of messages.
Our entire age of consumption and commercialization, which is structured upon some trenchant, immoral truth that stares us in the face constantly. But especially for people who have an incentive to exist distracted – as if in a stupor; as if in some form of hypnosis, so that they can conveniently ignore what their soul, their heart, and their intellect would tell them they should not ignore – in order for the systems that created our modern world to continue on their course of exploiting human beings, these same systems have injected modern thinking with some platitudes, nearly ideological slogans, that people repeat all the time but rarely ponder. Yet there is so much right before us that stares us in the face, that could lead us to examine some basic precepts, like where darkness lies and where the light is.
Among those ideological tropes, part of this jargon is to tell the privileged, the comfortable, those to whom systems of power have a vested interest in keeping docile, apathetic and unlively; to sell them on some basic myth. The myth is, “I am basically a good person. Why is there any moral problem to my existence? I do not hurt anyone. I do not bother anyone. All I do is live my life, so I am basically a good person. And if I am basically a good person, why do I need to submit to a higher power that sets prescriptions, boundaries, and rules for me? If I am self-sufficient in decency, then what possible value does the Supreme Being add to me?” Let us call this: “The Myth of the Decent Person.” In law, we have “The Myth of the Reasonable Person.” In law, in order to think of legal standards, in order to think of when people should be liable for something, when people should be held accountable for something, we repeat a myth, and that myth is known as the myth of the reasonable person.
We imagine what reasonable people would know, how reasonable people would act. If the behavior of a person that is party to a lawsuit does not match the construction of the reasonable person, then we say that there has been a breach of duty, or there has been some type of violation in law. Of course, we know that it is nearly impossible to define a reasonable person, but nevertheless, we need to think in terms of a construction, a myth that there is this reasonable person that stands as a standard against which we evaluate wrong from right.
Imagine if we have a similar construction, but this construction is not one of reasonableness, but is one of moral adequacy. So I might believe I am basically a good human being, and as such, I do not see a fundamental problem with my existence or to my existence. But then imagine the construction, the hypothesis, the parable in the same way that God, throughout the Qur'an, gives us a parable of a person who owns crops and farms, and is ungrateful to God until God destroys these crops, then this person is regretful and sorrowful for being ungrateful. The Qur'an is full of these parables.
Imagine a different type of parable, a parable in which the presumed decent human being is eventually brought to life. After death, we imagine this decent human being is brought back to life, and when this person is brought back to life, there is a small litmus test. That person who said, "I am basically a decent human being," is told that after being brought back to life, "We will not bother you. We will let you enjoy your reincarnation in whichever way you want on one condition -- that we confront you with the testimony of the miserable person. Not the reasonable person, but the miserable person. What is that? Well, you maintain throughout your life that you are basically a decent person, that you are a good person, and we are willing to believe you on one condition, that those who were inflicted with intense suffering during your lifetime get to confront you and assess your decency from the perspective of their misery. And if they and you, after this confrontation, come to the conclusion that you were a decent person, you get past go, you are fine. But if you are unable to answer their questions and meet their challenges, then you are in big trouble.”
“Okay, let us take on this challenge. I lived my life in the firm belief that I am basically a decent person.”
Ok. Just off the headlines, there was a massive earthquake in Afghanistan that, by official counts, killed over a thousand, and likely many more. There is a very serious famine in Afghanistan. The United States, because of the sanctions that it has against Afghanistan, is seriously hampering aid work and as a result, thousands of children are starving to death. So we pick a prototype of the miserable person, and we ask that miserable person who is suffering in the aftermath of the earthquake, in the aftermath of US sanctions, in the aftermath of the famine, "Do you see this decent person who has been reincarnated? What did you want from them?" If they say, "I did not want anything, and I did not expect anything," you are free and clear. But if they say, "From my perspective, in the depth of my misery, I expected them to say a word of truth to their government. I expected them to pay a dollar to feed us. I expected them to do well in school so they could be influential and affect change in the United Nations."
If they say any of these things, then your myth of decency is busted. Take the miserable from Somalia. Right now, there is a raging famine in Somalia, thousands of people are starving to death. Because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there is a severe food shortage that will hit the most vulnerable in the world. But if we are decent people, we will not stop there and we will finish the story. We will complete the story, and the completion of the story is that many African countries, including Sudan, including Somalia, could have been the bread basket of the world. These countries could have fed the entire world, but we, the United States and other colonial powers, played a direct role in destabilizing Somalia. Why did we do that? Because we did not want Islamists in power, because we would rather have them dead than be Islamist. As a result of our direct intervention, Somalia has been plagued by civil wars for decades, civil wars that we are directly involved in.
As a result, when there is a famine, there is no effective Somali government to help. Additionally, the rest of the world is not helping. So you are reincarnated as a decent person, and we bring the miserable from Somalia and they will say, "Hello, decent person," and you will reply, "Hello, miserable person,” and then the miserable person will get to testify as to whether or not they expected anything from you.
"I died of starvation. I saw my children die of starvation. I saw the neighbors die of starvation, and I saw the children of the neighbors die of starvation. In my lifetime, I saw violence, rape, and murder. Did I expect anything of you? Well, imagine the situation. Maybe I expected a $5 donation to feed me for the month. Maybe I expected that you would bother saying something to your government about what they are doing to me and my family. Maybe I expected that instead of dedicating your life to having fun, being popular on social media, or to getting more views and more likes, that you instead say something about my suffering, that you even acknowledge my life and death, that you even indicate that I mattered to you in any way."
The most fantastic myth. You see, those who make products, who need to sell products, need a consumer who is hypnotized by the myth of decency. I cannot sell you what I need to sell you if you have a strong moral conscience. In order for me to sell you what I need to sell you, I need you to be oblivious. I need you to want to spend money to buy my product and not think about Somalia, Afghanistan, India, the Uyghurs, or the Rohingyas. I need you to be stupid, and I need you to be arrogant about your stupidity. You are thoroughly indecent because you are thoroughly selfish, but I need you to go around arrogantly believing in your decency. So when it comes time to spend money to buy my product, you will do so without a second thought. That is the logic of capitalism and the logic of the market. We cannot afford consumers with a conscience. We want consumers who are hypnotized by the belief in their own decency.
Let me just give you a minor example. Just a news item that caught my attention, that is Deborah Lipstadt, the US envoy to combat antisemitism, who is being sent by the State Department to visit Saudi Arabia and Israel ahead of Biden's planned visit to the region. What the US envoy on antisemitism visiting Saudi Arabia at this time says is volumes. By sending a US envoy on antisemitism, you are saying that whatever the problem is with Israel, it is not about Palestinians, who have been and continue being colonized. It is not about democracy in the region. It is not about all the political prisoners that are rotting in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Emirates. It is not about the grave human suffering in Yemen. It is not about the Palestinians and their rights. It is about protecting the rights of Jews.
The problem between Muslims, Arabs and Israel is a problem between Muslims, Arabs and Jews. Not Zionism, not apartheid, but Jews. I submit to you that this is a highly racist act. Why is it a highly racist act? Let me give you an example. From 1906 to 1908, there was a raging debate about whether the death penalty in France is humanitarian, is decent. The remarkable thing is that the raging debate about the death penalty, which focused on whether you can execute a French man convicted of murdering a child, was going on at the same time that France as a colonial power executed thousands upon thousands of natives all around the world, and no one even thought to say a thing.
If you read the French debates about the death penalty, they were all phrased in terms of the rights of human beings; but by human beings, what they meant is the French white men, not the North Africans, not the Muslims, not the Indians, not any other group, but the Christian white man. So France could have an intense debate about whether the death penalty is humanitarian at the same time that France was colonizing and murdering millions around the world.
Nothing has changed since. The US sends an envoy on antisemitism to Saudi Arabia. At the same time, just last month, Israel murdered 50 in Palestinians, and no one even noticed. At the same time, Israel continues to colonize and implement an apartheid regime against Palestinians and our lawmakers do not care. At the same time, Egypt has one of the worst Nazi regimes the country has seen ever in its history. At the same time, Saudi prisons are full of prisoners, and the government itself is full of human rights abusers. And what do we want from the Saudis? Not to respect their own people, not to honor human beings, only to respect and honor Israelis.
We know that the UAE has an abysmal human rights record. The prisons of the UAE are full of suffering, but all we want from the UAE is to buy our products, to spend money on our commercial products, and talk of tolerance when it comes to those who count. Tolerate the Christian, tolerate the Buddhist, tolerate the Hindu, but tolerate your fellow Muslim? We do not care, they do not count. All we want from you is your purchasing power and that you are good to our Israeli friends.
So when we send the US envoy on antisemitism to a deeply fascist state like Saudi Arabia, like Egypt, like the United Arab Emirates, it is a deeply racist act, because what we are saying is the only people who matter are Jews in Israel. As to all the Muslims that they massacre and obliterate, they do not matter.
We again come to the myth of the decent person. So when you are reincarnated, we bring the miserable person who perished in a Saudi prison, the miserable person who perished in an Emirati prison, the miserable child who perished when an American made missile fell upon their head in Yemen, the miserable Egyptian who died as a political prisoner in Egypt.
They see you and they say, "Hello, decent person,” and you reply, "Hello, miserable person." The same question, "You miserable person, in your eyes, was I a decent person?" and they say, "You are American. You are born with numerous privileges. You watched me suffer and die, and I did not matter when I yelled at you. You did not even bother to send a single tweet about me. You did not even bother raising a little voice about my life with your government. You did not even bother talking about me in your mosque. I existed as a zero and died as a zero to you. And you are telling me you are a decent person? Well, I, the miserable person, do not see you as a decent person. I see you as a highly selfish, narcissistic, sorry excuse for a human being." Ponder that. May God forgive our sins.
I think that the standard for decency for us, Muslims in particular, has now become ever more unattainable because not only do we exist in selfishness and do very little to help the miserable, but there is a grave crime being committed in our lifetime and the vast majority of Muslims are complicit, whether directly or indirectly. This crime, this true historical crime, is what is happening to Mecca and Medina, where our Prophet lived and died, may peace and blessings be upon him. Of course, immediately stories emerged that that company that has pro-Modi, Hindu investors – that Islamophobic company that Saudi Arabia contracted to manage to handle applications from Muslims in the West – has already descended into utter fiasco.
Stealing people's money, people paying $20,000 and then being told no payment was made. People thinking that they will buy X package only to discover that the real price is double. We see this in an entire article about the fiasco – mismanagement and absolute corruption that this Hindu Islamophobic company is committing against Muslims from the West who want to go to Hajj.
But more fundamentally, imagine our Prophet coming to life. Imagine our Prophet being reincarnated in his beloved Mecca. What is he going to see in his beloved Mecca? He is going to see sprawling malls with the latest fashions and labels from Paris, Italy and New York. He is going to see Starbucks everywhere. He is going to see McDonald's and Burger King. He is going to see sprawling luxury hotels. If you have money and you can afford to stay in a luxury hotel, you are but a few feet from the Haram. If you do not have money, then you have to walk great distances to even reach the Haram. The Prophet, who used to go hungry for days and feed on a date, the Prophet who said Mecca is a place where materialism is out and Satan is out, would come today to see Mecca as the embodiment of Satan.
Read an article: “Mecca, the commodification of a city.” Mecca has become a Las Vegas where the wealthy, the filthy rich get to stay in the most luxurious places, stand in their window and look at the Kaaba from high above, spend hundreds of dollars on lunch and dinner, go shopping for the latest models of everything in the fanciest stores. This is Mecca of Muhammad? This is Muhammad's Mecca?
During the COVID crisis, Saudi Arabia destroyed what was left of historical Mecca to implement an insane expansion project designed to do one thing: To turn Mecca into a commercial investment, not a sanctuary. Not a sanctuary for the spirit, not a sanctuary from Satan. What is the point of the stoning of Satan that they do? When Satan is everywhere in Mecca, there is no point. We have reached the point in our history where if you believe that you are a decent person, instead of giving the $20,000 to the Afghans, the Yemenis, the Somalis, the Palestinians, the Uyghurs Muslims, or the Rohingyas, you put it in the pocket of these corrupt Saudis who run Mecca.
Imagine the miserable testifying against you when you are reincarnated – because if you put this money in the pockets of the corrupt Saudis and the Islamophobic allies in India, there is not an iota of decency in you. From this podium, I am now comfortable in saying your Hajj is a sin. Your Umrah is a sin. A sin. When you support tyrants, when you back corrupt, wealthy exploiters, when you aid a racial project, when you stand hand in hand with the tyrants of the world, you are one of them. No, Hajj or Umrah can save you. We do not worship a stupid God. We do not worship an immoral God. We do not worship an indecent God.