By Marivir R. Montebon
This article was first published at www.uts.edu
New York – “Racism is rooted on the fact that we don’t know other civilizations. We can easily hate or be afraid of something we really do not know anything about,” said a Master’s program student of an interfaith, intercultural institution here, the Unification Theological Seminary. Famidah Dirampaten is a Filipino student who embraces the Islamic faith and is of Maranao descent in southern Philippines.
During the Tuesday prayer service of the UTS, it was Dirampaten’s turn to deliver a kind of sermon one fine April afternoon. It was something students looked forward to, because we wanted to hear from someone who is a practicing Muslim woman.
Dirampaten mentioned to us to word for the day: taaruf or taarafna which means “knowing” or “knowing one another” in Arabic. “When we get to know each other, the assumptions will begin to fall away,” she explained.
In Islam, Dirampaten said that God or Allah is asking people to know each other and appreciate each one’s humanity. Citing verses in the Quran, the Surah Al-hujurat 49 Ayah 13, Dirampaten said that these are the beautiful verses that deal with diversity.
She emphasized that Allah SWT has called the attention of all to three cardinal truths: 1.) that the origin of all human beings is one and the same; 2.) that inspite of being one in origin, it was natural that we be divided into nations and tribes; and 3.) that the only basis of superiority or excellence among peoples is that of moral elevation which is gained by a consciousness of God.
According to Dirampaten, the cardinal truth of humanity being originated by one source should eliminate racism. “We are a large family, believer or non-believer doesn’t even matter. We are of the same equal footing if we believe that we all came from the same God or same parents,” she explained.
She added that racism could be eliminated by acknowledging each other’s diversity and distinctiveness, as God has created nations and tribes to be able to know “yourselves and one another”.
“I think it is a good learning experience to meet people from other traditions. It is something which allows us to discover ourselves out of it,” she said.
Dirampaten said that Islam teaches that the only basis of superiority or excellence is that of moral excellence which means that “the best among people are those who are most conscious of God, who do not establish themselves as nobler than the other.”
Dirampaten said that she is hopeful that one day, people would live a life of love and justice through constant education and reaching out, as all faiths in the world teach similar values of pluralism and tolerance, of love, compassion, and mercy.