Archive for January, 2015

In my ongoing book research, I had to take to the obvious hits first on my list. Albert Ellis was right there, so it should be because REBT satisfies some of my beliefs about approaches to psychotherapy from an Islamic perspective. But here’s the catch, Albert Ellis was a strong atheist, his views on religion were bordering on obnoxious and as much as he would’ve phrased it differently, he does seem to have been extremely narcissistic in his opinions. I call him a conundrum because he said he was inspired by Paul Tillich, a religious existentialist and yet Ellis was biased against religion and then his wiki entry says that he was a ‘lifelong supporter of peace and opponent of militarism’ and yet he was member of Israel America Foundation which sends all its funds to support its various interests in Israel and is strongly religious itself. What do you make of this?’
(source: http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/people/features/14947/)

And yet, later in life, Ellis worked on a book that integrated religious consideration in applying REBT with spiritual clients. I have yet to read that book and wonder if the puzzle deepens. As Ellis was famously/infamously known to claim in his blustery way, ‘All humans are f*ing crazy’ and according to me, not him- this applied more to him as an evidence of that statement rather than anyone/anything else. I wonder, if he ever realized that he was spiraling down in his own semantic worm hole or if he had REBT intervention techniques honed to such a degree that outside of it, any questionable behavior was immune to scrutiny?

I still haven’t put REBT under the microscope for minute dissection but I do look forward to the prospect. I can imagine him in his usual dismissal- with a wave of his hand, ‘you don’t like it, you don’t like it. who gives a S*?’ This attitude seemed to have worked for him for 93 years.

If people like Albert Ellis can pull it off, what is stopping us as Muslim intellectuals who are far more intuitive, considerate, yaqeen-centred and Akhirah-oriented to promote what is ‘Haqq’? And I don’t speak from the camouflage of disguised narcissism because that wouldn’t make me any different from A.E but really from the call of the fitrah, the shahadah of the Oneness of God and Messengership of His prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

The soul calls.


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Why I Am Not Charlie Hebdo

I remember the time I had to participate in a jounalistic event as part of a team assigned for an inter-collegiate fest. The opportunity sent me into glorious ecstasies of attaining literary and journalistic hieghts. That’s before I hit the ground running hard in a bitter sprint to catch up. My friends will laugh at that memory. It was a five day event and the judges would award us on the basis of all of those days’ individual win/loss. Two day loss and a 3 day win would still qualify you as the winner.

The first day we put up that wall-mag, it had a halo over it. It was all clean, good fun with rickety verses and langurous prose. We thought we had done a good job if we do say so ourselves, considering that the only other team competing against us had what I considered a horrific breach of all ethics as their offering. It was full of crude jokes, overload of obscenities and bizzarre attempts at reporting. We walked away smug with the prelude of the winning orchestra playing in our heads. At the end of the day, we stared slack-jawed at the results. They had won. They had won???

This was war.

We figured that the only way to do this was down and dirty. Although, I saw this as reprehensible, it was even more fun! We drew the line at using vulgarities, obscenities or any outright breach of what we upheld but we would take the high road to satire. As smirk-worthy as that sounds, we made a four day win. I think some part of me crystallized the meeting of freedom of speech with satire in that small experiential learning. The other team didn’t have haunted looks on their faces when they left, they loved being the grist for the mill in our columns and found it funny enough to laugh at themselves.

Which brings me to Charlie Hebdo. So many questions and all insufficient answers. My heart goes out to the victims of this traunmatic event, all grisly violence is abhorrent. It leaves in its wake not just the tragedy of the incident itself but the tragedy of the aftermath. I love my facebook feed. Go ahead and cringe. But still, I do. It gives me a long lens-view of a diaspora of opinions and helps me sculpt my own.

If I were a statistic, this is how all our feeds would look like, various scholars denouncing the event, photo tags of tweets and hash tags of ‘JesuisCharlie’ or ‘JesuisAhmed’, those few friends who speak up in their own way-links to selected articles or their own personal updates. A refrain runs through all of them, I’m a Muslim and I dissociate from this act of terror, I denounce it as a Muslim. This is NOT my religion.

This has been the refrain for several of similar incidents over time. There’s nothing blame-worthy in this, in fact it is praise-worthy and much needed but are we suffering from some sort of rhetorical fatigue? Unspoken, unheard, glazed over.

Here’s a quick wiki on Satire : “Satire is a genre of literature, and sometimes graphic and performing arts, in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government or society itself, into improvement.”

I held Satire in high esteem until I realized how hurtful it can be. As a psychologist who is training to recognise how mockery and shaming can damage what could be mended and destroy not only the perpetrator but the victim as well in silent implosion, I would rather use it with clauses and caution.

Are we to define freedom of speech by vulgarities, obscenities and unpalatable inuendos? Freedom of speech is a high ideal and everybody’s right but do we want our children to associate something so noble with something so base? Before we take this as some passive-aggressive stance to side with the Charlie Hebdo attackers, I would rather you see this in the open light of retrospect. It is not only for those who make a mockery of Islam but also Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and all other religions/ ideologies. Mehreen Kasana has a brillaint write-up on this slant of things.

Satire needs to be redefined, revived and responsible. It cannot be a belly-tickle for the haters but it must cut to the quick on issues that address societies problems, it should not direct itself to that inane frollicking of taking up arms against issues that are purposeless and incendiary. If Satire was a matter of stealth attacks in previous centuries on the mores of the society, today it is a public aggrandizement of stealthy motives. France has an affected attitude towards its Muslim Population, on the high notes of liberty, ride the waves of intolerance towards the immigrant population. It’s all very civil. Except smooth can never hide jarring politics.

I condemn and mourn the losses of life in this Charlie Hebdo incident, I would stay away from ‘JesuisCharlie’ because I am not Charlie and would never wish to be. I would never subscribe to satire that is meaningless, hurtful and misdirected. But, I’ve learnt this recently from being introduced to the ‘I’ and ‘Thou’ concept by Martin Buber. It can apply to our situations on psychological, social and political levels. Between ‘I’ and ‘Thou’, there is a sacred space, when we learn to respect this space we can learn to respect each others worlds and that inspires greater purpose and stronger harmony. The sacred space exists and I can only be true to myself and true to you in our mutual separation and connection through this space.

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