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What’s Your Cause?

January 10, 2013
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I was recently taken to account for not using my blogging presence to address human rights violations and killings of Muslims around the world. It touched a nerve. (And my nerves, mind you, aren’t hung on a clothesline for the world to mess with.)

What my friend was saying was: “As a Muslim, you cannot stay silent about injustice. You have to stop evil however you can.” What I was hearing was: “You’re insensitive and all you care about is yourself. The fact that you don’t write about these human rights violations means that you don’t care about them. You’re really, really lame. What are you going to do now, go and write about how this makes you feel?” Why, that is exactly what I am going to do!

In my response to my friend and thinking further about the situation, I found myself remembering a time when I was working on my LinkedIn profile, and came across the following section:

Screen shot 2013-01-10 at 4.27.25 PM

Bloody hell, I thought. I care about all of these. And I’m supposed to just choose a few? 

There are also some problems of classification here. (In case you were wondering, these are the kinds of questions information studies scholars like to think about.) Don’t all of these things, on some level, have to do with human rights? Shouldn’t it be possible to care about two of these together: for example, education for children? Isn’t there a significant overlap between poverty alleviation and economic empowerment? Does caring about animal welfare mean that I sleep like a baby when a tragedy strikes and thousands are stranded without food or water? What do you mean by “other”? If someone is compelled to choose that option, shouldn’t they have to explain their choice, explain what quirky cause they have that is none of the above?

Anyway. I digress.

The point is, Allah has made us varied creatures with different sets of strengths: we’re not all meant to be scholars or warriors or doctors or labourers. In a similar fashion, the causes that we care about must be those that are most suited to our contexts and temperaments. Each person has a strength to write about and dedicate themselves to a certain cause.

Because I never keep things simple and brief, imma go on personal on this. I am, by nature, a deep, dark, brooding person. Positivity, laughter, and happiness are muscles I have had to work out to no end to be the who I am today. If I dealt with the stress of human rights violations and gendered violence the way some people do, I would shrivel up and die inside. I would not be a a reliable friend, a loving daughter and sister, or a contributing member to society. I would be paralyzed by grief, overwhelmed by all that is terrible about the world.

Thus, my cause takes on a different form. Generally, I am a pretty neutral and mellow person.  I’d be the last person to get into a religious or political debate. However, I am very passionate about disseminating and structuring content in a fair, engaging and creative way. I mean, look at me. I’ve worked at a TV station, interned at various publishing houses, and have even done brief stints in teaching, including computer literacy training. I now edit a webzine on Islam and gender, volunteer at an organization that is working on creating early warning systems for genocide prevention, review books that I feel deserve attention, and am professionally looking towards the field of user experience. By doing these things, I am being true to what I am best at: making content available, helping facilitating conversations that need to be taking place, and creating systems that help address humanitarian issues.  I am about things. I am very meta. Because that, I believe, is how I am made. 

I also believe in respecting and upholding tawhid. That is why it did not make sense for me to be asked why I don’t write about injustices against Muslims. The question came from the assumption that one cause must be chosen at the expense of others. In actuality, in terms of Truth, we may not have to make that choice, as long as we recognize and respect both our individual and collective strengths. 

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. January 11, 2013 12:24 am

    We all contribute in the our unique capacity. I think as Muslims, we should keep this in mind, however, we all do it differently. Honestly, if I blogged about every horrible thing that happens to Muslims, I’d never write a happy post again..or about anything BUT that. Good post.

    • January 13, 2013 2:32 pm

      Exactly…there are entire blogs and reputable websites that are just like that: with no “happy” posts, ever. I understand the necessity of having that perspective, but I can’t go on and on about it.

  2. Leah permalink
    January 11, 2013 10:39 pm

    huh if I got a dollar every time I heard somebody tell me as a Jew: you have to, I would have been a rich woman already! I think that we are not Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhists etc to start with we are human beings with different interests, sensitivities and triggers, and if you are not blogging about horrible things that are happening with Muslims around the world, does not mean you are not saddened, you just process information differently.
    I have recently had this conversation with one of my friends that even though I may practice or show things differently, I am still feeling them as strongly as I did 5 years ago, the way I express them has changed.

    • January 13, 2013 2:34 pm

      Interesting, people are rarely comfortable and upfront enough with me to say “As a Muslim woman, you must…” which is why this was a different experience for me. So if I had a dollar for every time someone said that, I’d have what–like $3.24? Haha.
      You put it really well, by saying that I am saddened, but I process things differently.

  3. January 11, 2013 11:20 pm

    Congrads, Mabrook ! Nice to see a good piece of work. may Allah reward you.

  4. Bill Ellis permalink
    January 17, 2013 9:38 pm

    Sometimes Sarah it is fun to wait until the comments come in and to then add a reply.

    So ….. my initial reaction on first reading this post was to say three things to you: First, your friend obviously has some issues of her own that really have nothing to do with you. Second, in The Four Agreements, shaman Miguel Ruiz writes “Don’t take anything personally” i.e. as I just suggested, it is usually all about the other person and not about you at all. So my last thought was to wonder why, of the responses you could have chosen, you chose to really be so unkind to yourself and dump all over Sarah? But I have an inner tyrant in my body too, so I do know how easy it is to do that. But I also know that the sooner we stop doing things like that to ourselves the better our lives will be.

    Put, perhaps a better and certainly more important way, you don’t have to justify to any of us how you choose to share your gifts with the world. So may I express the hope that the next time something like this happens to you, you simply say, “I appreciate your comments. Thank You” and then spend your time on happier and more useful things to do.

    With love. Bill.

  5. June 18, 2013 12:58 pm

    I see I’ve somehow missed many of your posts, so am slowly catching back up, though a bit late 🙂 It seems rather narrow and selfish of someone to assume that you, and by extension everyone?, should be focusing on one issue instead of doing the things that you do (and do so well). Just because you are Muslim does that mean you have no choice or options? That you, for some reason, must talk about certain issues? Without what you do – “making content available, helping facilitating conversations that need to be taking place, and creating systems that help address humanitarian issues” as you said, people might not even know about some of those injustices because the story didn’t get out. Some people may not even be engaged enough to understand the issues. And so on. What you do is intimately tied with every other conversation out there!

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