Religion should never supersede humanity.

Religion should never supersede humanity.

I am not an overtly religious person, but I have my moments. More specifically, I don’t follow any religion in extreme, but rather I follow the teachings of all religion. However, I do believe that religion is personal; within the large umbrella of religious faiths such as Christianity, Catholicism, Islamism, Hinduism, Sikhism or Buddhism etc. For many of us, we were born as Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or Sikhs etc. and we were never given any other choice. We were never taught about other religions, in order to make an informed decision. However, as we grow older and educate ourselves we make religion unique to us, we make it personal, we pull from it what we need and when we need it. Some of us have given up on religion altogether, some of us are following our chosen religion, some of us have moved from one to another, and some of us are still searching for what is right for us. Truth be told, I have sat in many Churches, Mosques, Gurdwara’s, Mundar’s and Temples and I always get the same feeling, irrespective of “whose” place of worship I have entered – a sense of peace. This peace stems from the silence and self-reflection that occurs within that religious space and/or sometimes the unified hymns of people singing. The space given for religious worship is meant for peace, regardless of your religious background, so when you enter – you should feel safe.

Often, we struggle internally with our own beliefs and those that have been enforced on us, from when we are born. Many people, such as some in the LGBTQ community can probably agree. On the one hand they are homosexual, but on the other hand they are unable to come out due to ‘their’ religion, or perhaps they have come out to their family, but are forced to be ‘straight.’

The base of all religions is meant for maintaining peace and harmony within society, thus if your thoughts and beliefs supersede humanity – then that is not the doing of religion. If you turn to your religion as your card to offend, hurt or manipulate – then that is not the doing of religion. If your religion makes you feel angry, depressed and spiteful then you need to re-evaluate, find your place and continue your journey.

In simple terms, if you believe that your religion outweighs humanity, then you are following the wrong religion. Find another.

Religion is meant to find hope when you are feeling hopeless. Religion is meant to provide strength for when you are feeling weak. Religion is meant to provide compassion during times of hatred and cruelty. Religion is meant to provide peace amidst anarchy.

Regardless of which religion you follow – that is what religion is for.

Religion is fluid and personal and will change with time as we grow older and have experiences within the world. Religion does not mean that you believe in a god, it can be many gods, your god may not be a person, or your god may be a living person. For myself, my god comes in many forms such as my parents, my brother and my sister – my family. I also believe god comes in other forms such as doctors, police officers and teachers etc. – those who serve the public. That is not to say my way is the correct way, but your god(s) whomever that maybe, should provide you only peace.

As I was reading about what happened in Orlando, it made me incredibly sad to think that at the very same time when a conflicted man, in the name of his god, murdered people for their chosen way of life – because he was unable to choose his. Yet, at the very same time, those who were being innocently killed were turning to their god for mercy, strength, peace, compassion and hope.

What happened in this man’s life that filled his heart with such hate? And why is that these young innocent lives were taken so viciously and harshly? My heart literally broke, as Mina Justice read her son’s text messages during the shooting “Mommy I love you,” which was one of Eddie Jamoldroy Justice’s last text messages to his mother. He didn’t deserve this and neither did his mother.

Religion is such an interesting concept, one in which we turn to when we are feeling at our most vulnerable. Religion can also corrupt our souls when we don’t stay true our hearts. I question why we use the power of religion to hurt each other and in some cases ourselves? Why we continue to fight over whose religion is the one to be followed? In particularly, when even those who follow the same religion are divided into many sects themselves. Yet, we fail to question that. Moreover, why we continue to follow a religion that does not give us internal peace? There are many who are conflicted with their own religious beliefs, because they have never stopped to question their beliefs. We are so quick to defend our communities and our beliefs, but fail to question them when something goes wrong. We need to start accepting others for who they are, but most importantly we need to start accepting ourselves for who we are – we cannot have peace, if we do not have peace inside ourselves.

As you may have noticed throughout this piece I write ‘your religion,’ I do this because religion is personal and we have no right to push our beliefs on anyone else. When we start to understand, that each of our experiences in life shapes our thoughts and beliefs; only then can we obtain peace. If we continue down a path of division and we move away from understanding each other, then we will have given up on humanity.

Once we give up on humanity, then there is no religion in the world that can save us.

I will always believe that humanity comes before any religion.

#LoveWins – at least in my book. How about yours?

Sunny Mangat

Twitter: mangat_sunny

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Do political campaigns that use fear tactics and divisiveness actually work?

Last week, London UK voted in for the first time ever a Muslim mayor. Sadiq Khan, a practicing Muslim and Labour Party politician. Khan will replace current conservative mayor Boris Johnson, who took office in 2008.

The blatant racism that has been seen throughout this electoral campaigning process and as well as post-Khan victory, raises serious concerns of the Western world politics today.

Similarly, the current USA presidential elections stand no different than what we have seen in the UK, with the antics of Donald Trump – the presumptive republican candidate.

Many of the political candidates of Western countries such as the USA and Great Britain, hold powerful global positions and have great influence on the world of human rights and responsibilities. These politicians who lead with divisive campaigns are destroying the reputation and position of Western world leaders. However, the people of London, UK spoke loud and clear that fear mongering and racism has no place in London, when Sadiq Khan was elected as Mayor of London last week.

The question remains is whether or not there are any profound effects of this type of campaigning on the people? Perhaps not – but there is definitely a level of uncertainty that raises eyebrows around the world. This uncertainty questions the ideals and rights the Western world so proudly presents in the face of the Eastern world. When, political candidates are given a platform to arguably spew hate and division amongst its citizens, one most definitely questions the level of trust and integrity of Western politics. The likes of Donald Trump, who not only are given a platform (albeit it is a democratic right) but he continues to lead in the public poll says something in itself.

Perhaps these Western leaders should take a lesson from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and should refrain from their backwards and divisive tactics simply #Becauseits2016. Today’s world has no place for hate, bigotry and or racism etc.

But I do question – At one point did we as citizens of the Western world allow and condone these blatant electoral campaigns that are based on division and carry racial undertones? And most importantly why do we condone it? We all have spent and repented learning from historical injustices, only to undue the work of our predecessors. I can only assume we have allowed this type of hatred back in – simply out of fear. We as a society have become weak, and it is time we collect ourselves as a global society and fight back against those who attempt to destroy the unity we have spent so long working to create.

Sadiq Khan says it very simply “We all have multiple identities,” he said. “I’m a Londoner, I’m British, I’m English, I’m of Asian origin, of Pakistani heritage, I’m a dad, I’m a husband, I’m a long-suffering Liverpool fan, I’m Labour, I’m Fabian and I’m Muslim.”

I think we need to stop fearing differences, and learn to accept each other for our various identities and learn from each other. We need to stop compartmentalizing people into certain boxes, because we are not all just our religion, or just our gender, or just our color. We are more than that, and it is about time we remember and appreciate those differences.

Sunny Mangat

Twitter: mangat_sunny

See below for some twitter reactions to London’s newly elected Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Tweet 1Tweet 2Tweet 3Tweet 4Tweet 5Tweet 6

We weep but never fear – Paris

Recently the new Canadian Liberal government had announced the plan of resettling 25,000 Syrian refugees. On Saturday, the Prime Minister’s office vowed that despite the attacks on Friday night in Paris, the government still has full intentions in keeping its promise of resettling Syrian refugees. In addition, the Prime Minister’s office reassured Canadians that the refugees coming into Canada will be selected in a safe and responsible method to deal with any potential security threats.

Friday nights attack on Paris has everyone on edge, and this has created a backlash against many of the soon to be Syrian refugees coming into Canada. Many of the concerns regarding the Syrian refugees that have been ‘heightened’ surround issues of security and financials. However, we as a community and citizens of Canada must not fall into the trap of fear mongering nor give into these terrorists. This is our country and we should not dictate our beliefs and morality on the grounds of fear.

In the wise words of Nelson Mandela “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

We must remind of ourselves, what happened in Paris is an everyday situation for these Syrian refugees and many others around the world. Just last week alone, ISIS attacked many parts around the world, including Paris. In Lebanon, Beirut 43 Shia Muslims were killed in an ISIS attack. On Wednesday, a nine year old Persian-speaking Shia girl was beheaded by ISIS militants in Kabul, Afghanistan.

There are many people around the world who have the same fears as the West had on Friday night. The Syrian refugees are trying to survive, and if we close our borders to them we lose humanity, and we lose to ISIS. More specifically, accepting Syrian refugees does not mean increased expectancy of potential terrorists attacks. If we compare France and Germany’s Syrian refugee policies, we will see there is no correlation to Syrian refugees with in-country terrorism. France has a fairly closed door policy to Syrian refugees, with an acceptance of approximately 500 Syrian refugees. On the other hand, Germany has had a very open door policy, with an intake of approximately 200,000 Syrian refugees and has had no attacks. Accepting these refugees is not the issue. This is a political power play by all those in the game, and Canada is not in that game.

I understand that it is difficult to not be in fear, as I had three friends who were in Paris on Friday (all of whom are fine), the Paris attacks were a reminder of 9-11 and hit a little too close to home for many Westerners. I’m currently living in London U.K. and since Friday there has been heightened security. I noticed as I was walking around the busy Waterloo tube station lots of MI5 and police presence, which definitely added to my fear. One cannot help be suspicious of everyone around them, and feel at unease. In fact I was even debating if I wanted to take the tube at all. But then I realized I would be giving into ISIS and there is no way I was willing to live in fear. So I put on my trainers and hustled to the station. Since Friday I also have had a few conversations with different people, regarding the Paris attacks, including a gentleman from Syria (my uber taxi driver) last night. I hesitantly brought up Paris, and he said he was glad I brought it up. As a British citizen from Syria, he said every ounce of him despised ISIS and wished he could do something to “wipe them out.” In addition, he stated that the despicable behavior of ISIS was affecting his life in the U.K. He had come to the U.K. when he was 13 years old, he was an engineer by trade and that being a Muslim presently was not easy. He was afraid that after the attacks in Paris many Muslims will now be ostracized even more so than before. Our conversation carried on to the lack of integration of some minorities in the U.K. Which he argued stemmed partially from the lack of “acceptance.” He gave the Syrian refugees as an example and asked “what can we do?” and “Where should we go?” By the end of the forty minute taxi ride, I thanked him for the conversation and the drive home. As I stepped out of the taxi I turned to him and said “All you can do is keeping talking, don’t seclude yourself. Let the people know that you too are scared. They will come around.”

My point is ISIS makes up an extremely small fraction of the Islamic population; we need to not paint all followers of Islam with the same brush. We need to believe in humanity, and above all else we need to unify as one global community. We need to set aside religious beliefs, and come together as humans of one race. ISIS is not an Islamic religious organization as they claim, they are political terrorist and they do not have the right to dictate our morality.

Sunny Mangat

Twitter @mangat_sunny