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Feature - Fear in the Age of Kali

A Whistler writer on travel, tolerance and troubling times

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According to ancient Hindu cosmology, we are living in the Age of Kali. It is a reference to the concept that time is divided into four great epochs. Each age is named, from best to worst; accordingly, each successive age represents a period of increasing moral and social deterioration. The Age of Kali is the lowest level. It is a time of strife, corruption, darkness and disintegration. With war approaching its climax, one doesn’t have to be a Hindu to believe we are in the Age of Kali. Ungodly things appear to be happening all around us.

Last month was the Muslim celebration of Id. The American Embassy in New Delhi notified our school’s administration, ordering increased security. Students weren’t allowed off campus and staff were advised to take caution outside the school gates.

Every morning, around 5 a.m., I wake up to the Muslim call to prayer. I have Muslim students. I have Muslim friends. I have studied Islam at the University of British Columbia. I have travelled in Islamic countries. Today, I’m deeply saddened by the stereotypes attributed to Muslims and their faith. When I was in Canada this past December I was heartbroken at the brutal discrimination against Muslims. I found myself defending Islam on more than one occasion.

I was baptized a Christian, but I believe all living faiths equate each other and are as legitimate as my own. I have Zen monk, Hindu and Christian neighbours. On my way to work, I walk past a Protestant church, a Hindu tea stall and a Tibetan market. I have: Buddhist, Catholic, Protestant, Hindu and Muslim students. Some days I learn more from my students than they do from me. My students are great teachers.

Each culture has influenced me in my heart and my soul. Each experience deepens my ability to connect with people. My relationship with these cultures enhances my courage to write.

Islam is about compassion, charity, science, philosophy and culture.

Terrorism is about violence against civilians to achieve a political goal.

Islam, as a religion, was founded by the Prophet Mohammed in the seventh century. Allah is the Arabic word for God and Mohammed, a man from Mecca, who lived from AD 570 to 632, was his Prophet. Islam means to surrender, and Muslims undertake to surrender to the will of God. The words of God, proclaimed by Mohammed, came directly from God and are written in the holy Koran.

In Islam there is no separation between religion and politics. Human beings have a choice to obey or disobey.

When Mohammed died, he left neither a son or a successor – a caliph. And that resulted in a dispute which split the faith; the Shiites and Sunnis, somewhat like Protestants and Catholics. The Shiites believed leadership should remain with the Prophet’s family. At that time in history the caliph chosen was Ali, Mohammed’s cousin and son-in-law who had married his daughter Fatima. Shiites believed that the earth should be ruled by a leader, the Imam, who acts as an intermediary between the human and the divine.

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