The roots of Eid run deeper than our differences

15b1f4eaff254630bd251b7695729e68_18The end of August capped the most lethal month for the city of Chicago in almost 20 years. The dry statistics tell but one part of the tale: So far, more than 500 people were shot and killed.

The numbers do not remotely convey the full impact of the lives lost, futures snuffed out and communities shattered by the worst chronic urban crisis in the United States.

In cities across the country, decades of disinvestment, de-industrialisation, and cutbacks to social services have left an entire generation of African American youth with few options for decent employment.

Meanwhile, a morbid string of high-profile police shootings drives a wedge between the police and the very communities they have committed to protect, creating an atmosphere of distrust worsened by a pervasive feeling that the police are unaccountable for their actions.

These cycles of violence are the wages of deprivation. They are the terminal signs of a social order ripping apart at the seams under the crushing weight of systemic racism, as minority communities are targeted by unfair social policies and deepening inequality as ever more wealth is redistributed upwards to the very rich.

This is neither a humane way to organise society, nor a recipe for social stability. And if nothing changes, then we face an inevitable future of escalating hostility and quickening disintegration.

We have lost touch with the basic ethical commitment to equality and inclusion that is at the foundation of any genuine community, but such an idea is not as unimaginable as many might think.

The egalitarian ethics of Eid

In fact, today, the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha, is a striking example of this idea in action. Literally “festival of the sacrifice” in Arabic, the holiday commemorates the prophet Abraham’s unyielding devotion to his faith in his willingness to sacrifice his own son, and God’s intervention in which He instructed the prophet to offer an animal instead.

Every year on Eid, the Muslim community celebrates the spirit of unconditional generosity at the heart of the Abrahamic religious traditions by distributing provisions and fresh food to neighbours and the poorest in the community simply because they are human beings, regardless of who they are or where they are from.

The core values of self-sacrifice and generosity unconstrained by the cold logic of the balance sheet: Such is the absolute ethic of care that animates the spirit of Eid.



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