Compassion Despite Disagreement

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Maybe it’s me but when I check my social media or tune into the TV I feel there’s a lot of arguing going on, am I right? Notice how I used the word ‘arguing’ rather than disagreeing, disagreeing is fine, we should disagree on things for the right reasons but arguing is ultimately futile.

What causes us to clash on so many issues? The possibilities are endless but often it boils down to certain things being close to our hearts. Our sense of belonging can make us defensive when it feels like we are being called out. Whether it be our nationality, our religious beliefs or political ideology, it’s easy to let these things influence where we stand on major social events.

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Graham’s Hierarchy of disagreement

Right now, it’s the month of Ramadan where Muslims fast from dawn to dusk and exert themselves in spiritual devotion. Ramadan and all Islamic months begin and end with the sighting of the new moon. This usually means that there is a difference of a day or so to the start of Ramadan across the globe due to time zones.

However, even within the U.K and other countries, Ramadan and Eid happen on different days, it’s almost a given that there will be a days difference each year now. Because some Muslims choose to follow Saudi Arabia’s moon sighting and other Muslims differ preferring various alternative scenarios such as local moon sightings or nearer Muslim countries this difference of start dates continues each year and is the source of many a debate.

This difference is partly down to a sincere effort to establish the correct start dates and partly down to sadly more political and cultural divisions. Sincerity is a condition of the heart and while someone may sincerely want to observe the correct dates for Ramadan it is equally possible that they just want to believe themselves better than their peers. A good measure of sincerity is how people choose to speak about this difference, do they try to be objective or is their language filled with emotional rhetoric aimed at the ‘others’ who fasted a day before or after them?

When there is a great deal of confusion, our lack of compassion can worsen the situation. A good example of this is the upcoming EU referendum vote on the 23rd June in the UK. I can’t think of a more polarising issue in recent times. Public figures from the entire political spectrum are split on whether to remain a part of the EU or to leave. So much so that you find current PM David Cameron seemingly on the same platform as outgoing Green Party leader Natalie Bennet and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. On the other side Labour MP Dennis Skinner is seemingly on the side of Conservative MP Boris Johnson and UKIP leader Nigel Farage. Except these people are not on the same side, their reasons for advocating ‘leave’ or ‘remain’ are vastly different.

Likewise, the public are backing ‘leave’ or ‘remain’ for very different reasons. There is the Conservative/UKIP narrative for a ‘Brexit’ and there is the socialist narrative for a leave vote known as ‘Lexit’. I don’t intend to write about the pros and cons of ‘leave’ or ‘remain’ although I do suggest seeking out unbiased and objective information on each campaign, trust me, it is out there.

What I want to address is the negative attitude from each camp, I bear no grudges against either side but I’m saddened and disappointed at the exchange of political low blows and total lack of a sensible and balanced debate. For example certain sections of the vote leave camp are pushing Islamophobic and anti refugee vitriol while sections of the vote remain camp have reduced themselves to simply labelling their opponents as ‘racist’. In the absence of compassion we are left with the blinkered and biased views of both sides of the divide which must be very off putting for the still undecided.

So how would compassion solve this problem? Well, a compassionate outlook would be that for the most part both ‘leave’ and ‘remain’ voters have the best intentions. The information on both sides is flawed making it very difficult to choose and the end result of it all is uncertain. We don’t really know for sure what will happen after the 23rd June but most of us want to do the right thing , we’re very passionate about it actually but we do need to stop calling each other out. It’s not a good look and it will disillusion those around us and we don’t want to irritate them to the point they simply abstain from voting.

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When seeking the truth in a certain issue, pay close attention to the choice of words used, be on the lookout for derogatory terms that attempt to smear the opposition or words used in anger. When you come across such usage of words, dismiss those arguments. I’m not saying a little emotional rhetoric here and there constitutes lies or propaganda, a little bit of emotion can be healthy, it helps to raise spirit and bring home a vital message. But that being said, facts should always come first so seek out facts, look for writing and speech that is neutral and focused on discerning the truth, not simply backing up an opinion by any means necessary.

Most importantly, be compassionate despite disagreement, don’t harass people for not sharing your views and opinions. Believe in your heart that they are sincere and make sure to let them know that your disagreement is not a personal one. To quote the great Muslim scholar Imam Shafi “I never once argued with anyone hoping to win the debate; rather I always wished that the truth would come from his side.” Let us keep our hearts open to the truth and to our fellow truthseekers.

Images taken from Pixabay, Flickr Creative Commons & Wikimedia Commons

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