Live and Let Live: 9/11? by Dr. Emdad Khan


These days as we hear the news in social media, print media, TVs and Radios, we all get scared about the violence, hatred and intolerance all over the world. When we were kids going to school in 1960s, we learned “Live and Let live”; to enjoy the pleasure and opportunities which life offers and to allow others to do the same.

We also learned the great concept, “Tolerance and Acceptance”. Tolerance is the idea that while we may dislike or are uneasy with something different than ours, we cannot stop, outlaw or otherwise cause it to disappear. As long as no one is forcing us to accept or otherwise put that style into our own lives, we have no reason to stop it from happening in the lives of other people, we learn to accept it as reality in life.

In 1960s, we were growing up in a small town, Chandpur, in Bangladesh. We lived for another 20 years, during 1980s and 1990s, in Manchester in England and Bahrain in the Middle East. Now, for the last 20 years since 1996, we have been living in Ottawa, Canada.

In 1960s, we were in high school, we had friends who were Muslims, Hindus and Christians, and we used to eat and drink together. We attended Hindu and Christian festivals and in turn our Hindu and Christian friends would come to Muslim Eid and other festivals as special guests.

We remember only one exception, when we were kids, we used to sell our own cow milk to the nearby house of our Hindu class friend. One day in the morning, we were getting late to go to school, so we rushed and entered the house of our Hindu friend. His mother screamed, “a Muslim boy entered our house and make it impure, so we will put cow dung to purify it”.

Even during 1965, India and Pakistan war, when we were students of under graduate engineering, we had Hindu friends as class mates and later as colleagues in the Engineering University. We went to a trip together to another city by bus to attend the wedding of our Hindu friend. That was the normal society of tolerance and acceptance and every one followed the principle of live and let live.

In late 1970s and early 1980s, we were in Manchester, England to earn the three letters, Ph.D. We had a nice, multi ethnic environment in the university. We used to have Chinese, Malaysian, African and Arab students as well as native British (English and Scottish) students. Each practised whatever religion they were following without fear or discrimination. In our research lab, we had may be 10 different ethnicities from 10 different countries, all worked on their own, no one ever thought about race or religion. As Muslim students we used to perform Friday Jumah prayer at the Christian chaplaincy of the university. We attended lively but civilized debates between Palestinian and Jewish students Associations about the Palestine conflict in the university students union.

Yes, once we by mistake told one of our Scottish student friend, you are English, he stopped me, “no, and you forgot I am a Scottish”. But all in a civilized and tolerant way. In some cases, young white persons, would call us from behind, “Paki”, meaning we , all South Asians, are from Pakistan, not belong to England.

However, what we see now in 2016 in Europe wide, intolerance and violence, were completely absent. This was unthinkable, the society in general was tolerant and accepting minorities and different ethnicities.

During 1980s and 1990s, we worked as a faculty in the University of Bahrain. Bahrain had native population of only 500,000 and over one million expatriates of over 50 different countries worked for their livelihood in a peaceful and harmonious environment. In our neighbourhood, we used to have African, European and Asians, even the children were happy to meet and learn the other cultures. In grocery, shopping and pleasure parks and beaches, the multi ethnic community were happy, supportive and helpful to each other.

However, in some cases, we used to hear the locals say to us, “Rafiq”, meaning, we poor are here for money. Yes, there were some discrimination by local employers to South Asian workers and we had to do mediations to resolve those disputes. There were some jobs related discrepancies among South Asians and Europeans. Overall, the atmosphere in Bahrain was very peaceful and people lived in harmony, locals and expatriates.

In 1996, we migrated to Canada at the inspiration of our better half for better education of children. Her argument was instead of sending the children for education, we should all migrate to Canada to be with the children and reside in Ottawa as it has two universities. Our four children studied in Ottawa public schools and completed their undergraduate studies in the two universities in Ottawa. We do not recollect, they faced any discriminations based on faith or ethnicity.

We ourselves worked as system engineer in few High Tech companies from 1996 to 2011. We also did not face any discriminations based on faith or ethnicity. In one of High Tech Company one of our co-workers, the son of a Dutch immigrant, told me,” Emdad, don’t worry, Canada is a land of immigrants. You are a new immigrant but I am also a son of an immigrant. We are same”. As real visible minorities, we openly and actively practised faith based rituals. In fact in Nortel – Ericson, the Asians and other minorities outnumbered original Canadians. We used to joke, Nortel is an India and China High Tech company; for two reasons, in Nortel, Asians were majority and also many jobs and works were outsourced to India and China. All employees, if they wanted, were able to practise their faiths freely and openly and also were dressing up the way they liked. Canada has by law religious freedom and also formally practise multiculturalism.

Let us now ask ourselves, the root causes of all these turmoil happening, during 2000s and 2010s, in many former relatively peaceful countries all over the world. If we look back, one important pointer is the so called terrorists attack in New York on September 11, 2001. Every one deplores killing of hundreds of innocent people by terrorists, who have no ethics or faith. According to the sacred book of Islam, the Quran, “Whoever kills a person [unjustly]…it is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind.” (Qur’an, 5:32). The 9/11 plane hijackers were not followers of Islam, did not represent the peaceful religion Islam or the law abiding 1.5 Billon Muslims. How it can be? The everyday, greeting in Islam means let the peace and blessings of God be upon you.

Unfortunately, few leaders in few countries in the western world hurriedly on different pretext of taking revenge and spread of democracy destabilized many countries by forcefully removing dictatorial regimes. In this process, they killed thousands and thousands of innocent civilians in all those countries. These removal of stable but undemocratic dictators in many countries in Asia and Africa resulted in new ethnic and sectarian in fighting in those countries.

Another factor is the rapid spread of social media: Facebook (i.e. jealousy book), Twitter, Youtube, etc. Use and misuse of these medias by some wicked and hateful groups and organizations, helped the spread of hatred and violence.

Another factor is the existence of immigrant ghettos in many European countries; where there are dilapidated housing, schooling, lack of normal social services, massive youth unemployment and racial profiling but no program for integration with identity and dignity. After World War II, to overcome massive labor shortages, the European countries accepted in mass scale, unskilled labors from Africa and Asia to do all the manual works to build roads, factories and industries. The children of these immigrant labors, now in 2nd and 3rd generations, suffer from a lack of identity and see no economic future for them in the host countries their parents and grant parents migrated as labourers. Although, they are born in these prosperous Western countries but they feel they are like living in former apartheid South Africa. Some of these youths, although no justification, become radicalized as they are exploited by certain Eastern and Western misguided intellectuals who enjoin hatred and violence.

Another factor is some Eastern as well as Western intellectuals, write and spread divisive ideas and hateful things on print media, Social media, TVs, books and magazines.

So what are the remedies to these unnecessary hatred, intolerance, violence, suicide bombing, carpet bombing or precision bombing all over the world? We now need in each country a massive education by community organizations, government publicity, School, college and university education system, social media and public broadcast, to accept the world is diverse in ethnicity, faith, no faith, color, creed and culture. By violence or invading other countries or supressing minorities of diverse culture, ethnicity or faith, we will not be able to eliminate them or force them to accept other views.

Each country should strive to create equal job, housing and education opportunities for all segments of population, stop official or unofficial discrimination and racial profiling. As individual, we can also meet and welcome our diverse colleague in work place and diverse families in our neighborhood.

Compared to European and American countries, Canada has successfully adopted and integrated people of different faiths, ethnicities and cultures under the official multiculturalism and freedom of religion by adopting the charter of freedom act. We invite the European, Asian, African and American countries to learn and adopt multiculturalism and charter of freedom or the Charter of Medina of prophet Muhamed to bring back harmony in diverse society.

In conclusion, as individual, community and society, we can also contribute a lot by doing our share of adopting the policy of “Live and let Live” and “Tolerance and Acceptance” and in day to day life wholeheartedly practice diversity in our work place and neighbourhood.

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