15 Jan
  • By ICC
  • Cause in Virtual

What does it mean to be human?

January 2014

Recently I read an article by an extremist cleric in Iran criticising the UN charter for human rights. To me his analysis failed on many levels but the most fundamental level it failed on was that he did not understand what it is to be a human. The cleric wanted to substitute the UN human rights charter with his brand of ignorance about true nature of humanity.

Plato said there is no greater evil than ignorance. The cleric comments on human rights fell into this type of evil mentioned by Plato. Ignorance of the unity of creation and how each life is connected to another is the root of the evil which is based on the cleric’s own interpretation of religious laws. His interpretations lead one away from selfless behaviour and push those who follow his interpretations towards his brand of extremist views which is based on selfish, egoistic, and controlling ideology. An ideology that is full of fundamentalism and empty of compassion and tolerance.

Faced with this ideology one cannot remain silent. One cannot show tolerance towards intolerant behaviour because those who hold extremist views see that as an opportunity. They see tolerance as a void which they can fill with their own intolerant rhetoric. To be human is to move away from animal based behaviour. To become a true human being one needs to control his animal natures and move from being a human-animal towards becoming a human being.

A true human being sees everything through the lens of love and selfless compassion but in order to be able to achieve this one needs to live in free environment where free thinking and speech is allowed. So living in a free society is a responsibility and those who are lucky enough to live in such society must firstly protect it at all costs and then help others in the world to free themselves from those who want to control their minds and behaviour through extremist doctrine and superstitions.

The best way to achieve is this is to stand up against intolerant extremist views especially those who preach such views based on flawed interpretation of religious doctrine. To be human is to care, and to show empathy and compassion. 800 years ago Saadie who was a great Sufi poet said the following lines of poetry. Today these lines of poetry grace the headquarters of UN court of human rights.

Human beings are members of a whole,

in creation of one essence and soul.

If one member is afflicted with pain,

other members uneasy will remain.

If you have no sympathy for human pain,

the name of human being you cannot retain.