Reflections with Youssef

Dignity and us

Recently I was blessed to take part in what was sure to be a dynamic, spirited and thought provoking conversation in Paris, where we were discussing today’s major challenges for human rights.

Starting with the guiding principles contained in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states in part:
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights… Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”
Eventually the word ‘Dignity’ popped up almost out of the blue. Not that it wasn’t expected but rather it was an epiphany. I think it was an epiphany especially because the word ‘Dignity’ itself captures a very wide spectrum of ways in which folks interpret and live dignity in their daily lives.
Nevertheless, in a world where it seems there is very little that brings us together, dignity is that small thing that regardless of its wide spectrum of interpretations still unites us all, and we can never underestimate the positive impact it has on the World.

Yes, its time to close my eyes for a second and reflect. Jali Mamadou Kouyaté – a 15th Century Malian Scholar- once said ‘[…] for the world is a very old place but the future springs from the past’.
To put things into perspective and in other words, history is not bunk. History is not only there for the sake of making our libraries look cooler or making us look more knowledgeable, similar to Albert Einstein or Nicolas Tesla. Nor it is there for the sake of knowing about a bunch of old events, in fact history is all about understanding where we are right now, where we are heading to and our route to getting there.
Therefore, to understand the tragic plight of the European Identity today, we need to look back at history and understand and recognise the factors that brought us to this state.

Through history we can recognise that as long as the Roma, the Muslim, the Jew, or any brother or sister of all colours or religious beliefs; are considered or viewed as ‘Them’, then the burden falls on these people to ensure they partake in doing the ‘cultural’ and ‘moral’ work necessary to create healthy ‘race’ relations, which happens on an individual level. So the political realities in this process, influenced the discourse and now the implication is that only certain folks can define what it means to be European and the rest must only and simply ‘fit in’.
This playing the Black, Roma, Muslim, Jew, and female, cards -just to name few- to realign the electorate along race, gender and sexual orientation… it is no surprise that we end up dealing with a huge issue of Identity and social exclusion of the younger generation coming from certain backgrounds.
I do believe that this fragmentation of powerless people does include not only a certain group(s), but all of the population. All of us.
Above all, the failure to understand and to recognize this very simple fact that we are all interlinked and share a common ground regardless of our differences, is to pull the rug of validity out from underneath one’s feet every time we ‘fight’ against racism for only one certain group, while neglecting the others.
With all due respect, Muslims have a moral obligation to make their own lives a living statement of the Holy Scriptures as well as the character of our beloved Messenger Muhammad (pbuh). Being a living and walking statement to the fact that the Message was sent as a Mercy to Mankind. Being a living and walking statement by acting with Mercy towards all, no matter what their background is.
Yes towards all Mankind.
..and in fact the Divine discourse is indeed centered in ‘O Mankind’ and not exclusively on ‘O you who believe’, and this is consistent with the verse:

O Mankind

We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).” (49:13)

Throughout history we have many examples that clearly show the principles of Islam which encourage pluralism and diversity, while categorically forbidding any forms of injustice or oppression. Recent examples are the inspiring stories of Bosnian and Albanian Muslims who sheltered Jews and Roma during WWII (continue reading this journey by visiting

My message is very simple.
We can’t fight racism against our brothers and sisters of all colors without also fighting for the rights of our sisters.
We can’t fight anti-Semitism without also fighting racism against the Roma.
We can’t fight racism against the Muslims without also fighting for the most vulnerable, the poor and the weak.
Racism is wrong because of what it does. Definitely not because of whom it targets.

Time to be the change you wish to see in the World // because if there’s a change in you then the world is changing too.
However – no matter how long we discuss – people at the end of the day cannot live on arguments. They eventually might be influenced by them. People do however live on love, care, respect, touch,.., and attention. Thus there’s an action.
Now the question is.
Must we wait on an All-stars team of Super sheikhs/men/leaders -sitting somewhere out there- to mobilise, prioritise and energise the situations and the people? To make the situation better?
Unfortunately if this is what we wish for, then we’ll be soon deluded that nothing is going to happen.
Which is consistent with another verse in the Holy Quran that we hear continuously whenever the topic of ‘change’ is being discussed.

“Indeed, God will not change the condition of a people until they change what is within themselves.”
In other words, a feasible and truthful change in the micro, implies a bigger change in the macro. In fact if the folks take a serious responsibility of change and becoming active in their own life, then this will certainly have an impact on the rest of community, and if there’s change within the community then that’s going to have an impact on the rest of society.
Actually this way, we (as in every single one of us whatever our background) can remake Europe and make it better place!

The road ahead will not be particularly easy.
And in the face of our diversities, we must work together.
Are you prepared? Because at the end of the day we are all different/in the same time all equal.

What about being part of the change by joining the No Hate Speech Movement?
Are you curious to know more about it?
Check this blog or the nohatespeechmovement website out (:

What I am really hopeful for, that a time will come when a person is born and experiences a natural human experience without any discrimination nor racism.
A day where discrimination is a piece in the history museum.
A day where Hate Speech is also a piece inside the history museum.
I am really hopeful for a day where folks will look back at the discourses we had, articles we wrote or even this blog; and be like ‘Woah! What’s the big deal? Why were they so confused pal?’

I really hope this happens.
Very soon.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect FEMYSO’s editorial policy.

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