I was wanting to write a post in my series on tolerance and progress about how everyone should strive for peace and great achievements rather than killing, hatred, war, intolerance, corruption and crime. Then I read this quote in a book by UK anti-terrorist police officer, Harry Keeble. (The full passage is below). The same applies to people of every race and religion, nationality, rich or poor. Everyone knows that necessity is the mother of invention and that many of the greatest advances of mankind have been made by science during war. It is also a truism that often the warnings of great scientists about the use of technology for bad ends have been ignored by those in power.
I've just come back from a visit to Kosovo, in former Yugoslavia, next to Albania. There were great disparities obvious between rich and poor, old and modern, those who wanted to live their lives in peace and those who wanted to promote hatred, intolerance and a return to conflict. As with eight visits to the Balkans over eleven years, I've been struck by the disparities, by the fact people with a much worse lot than the relative luxury of people at home get on with their lives, providing for their families, and complain a lot less than many people in the UK, how most want to live their lives in the way that they want – traditionally or as modern Europeans, usually combining the best of both, but that many want to turn the clock back and start what they portray as nationalist, ethnic or religious conflict again. I've written that visiting the Balkans cured me of any residual youthful nationalism. When I see and listen to the talk of past battles and new battles to come I want to shout that people should concentrate on making the World a better place rather than division. And at home, while remembering I am well off compared with many others, I see the majority who contribute to the community and our society and the minority, who have it cushy compared with people who are really in poverty and in a bad situation, elsewhere in Europe let alone in Africa or Asia, who always want something for nothing and to blame their problems on someone else. That way eventually leads to the conflict and trouble for all. The wisdom of an elderly Asian couple said it more eloquently than I could.
In Kosovo I was visiting a friend, Sean McHale, working with the EU Rule of Law Mission, EULEX. EULEX are responsible for the legal system in the country after the UN, since Kosovo declared itself independent. I met many talented, principled, hardworking members of the EULEX mission, plus UN and OSCE staff, who want to help the people of Kosovo improve themselves. I also saw hostility to the mission from those who think the internationals are preventing local people run their own country, and heard of many obstacles to people doing just that from corruption, organised crime and misplaced nationalism. Then I also heard others say the US and EU were not helping enough. I saw lots of help from the EU and US and people striving to live their lives. Yet again the simple wisdom – a devout Muslim hip hop artist talked to Sean and I about tolerance, respect and understanding – is worth following.
An elderly Muslim man living in a South London estate:
"Things are in such mess now. .. It could be so simple, it really could.
Until all Muslims are able to show that they're concerned for the welfare of all our fellow human beings and I mean all, then we're not being faithful, that is why we have to stand proudly on the frontline against extremism.
He [the elderly Muslim man] shook his head sadly. 'There's too much talk about "defending the honour of the Prophet."
Then leaning forward he smiled and said, 'Now what would you think of Muslims if we all pulled together and did everything in our power to end hunger in the world? Now that would be something!'
'If we ended hunger instead of worrying what other people thought about the Prophet then we'd be heroes!' … 'Suppose then we decided to end war? To make sure that good medicine was made available to every nation on earth'.
Special Branch anti-terrorism officer Sgt. Harry Keeble recounts a conversation with an elderly Muslim couple, local residents helping a police surveillance team on a large South London council estate.
Quote from Terror Cops: Fighting Terrorism on Britain's Streets by Harry Keeble and Kris Hollington. (Pocket Books / Simon & Schuster, London, 2010), p. 189 – 90).