Saturday, August 23, 2008

Fists Raised, But Not In Anger

Tommie Smith, center, and John Carlos, right, extend their gloved fists skyward during the playing of the "Star-Spangled Banner" after Smith received the gold and Carlos the bronze for the 200-meter run in the 1968 Olympics.

In Mudpie's mind, one of the most indelible images that inspired him as a young student was that of the two black Americans who put up their black gloved fists during the playing of their nation's national anthem, after they have won the race for that very same nation. A little reading subsequently led him to realise the full extent of the courage of these men, how they sacrificed their Olympic gold medals for a cause - to have their nation treat them fairly at home as they deserve to be treated, regardless of their race.
Racism is a loaded accusation thrown about, even in Singapore. However, it is just one genus of the larger species of bigotry. Just as many Malays in Singapore, or Muslims in the world, are quick to yell out "racism!", we are ourselves often as guilty of the same when we accuse others "kafir!" or "Jew!" or "homo!". The problem about bigotry is that it judges people by their label, and not by who they are.
God the Exalted tells us in the Qur'an - O ye who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.
Mudpie was inspired by this incident to be aware of the dignity that is endowed by God the Exalted to all humans, and incidentally one of the 5 things the sharee'ah is meant to preserve honour.
To not judge people by their label, that is to preserve their honour.
And honour is in he who honours others.

Read the article in the New York Times.

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