Islamophobia and Art

This is the speech I delivered at the 25th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on March 17, 2014 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland

In the words of the great British nobleman Bertrand Russell: "Most of the greatest evils that man inflicted upon man have come through people feeling quite certain about something which, in fact, was false". Islamophobia is, in all actuality, religiophobia, and its validation feeds off on ignorance and isolation. Art is the indelibly effective medium by which to combat it. Art is a universal language, a mighty bridge that transcends religiosity. It is embraced and appreciated not by adherents, devotees, believers, or converts of any certain sort, but by members of the religion that is Love. Artists of all cultures, nationalities, and religions are, at their most irreducible, kindred spirits, and have more in common internationally than intrareligiously. Art is non-divisive, all inclusive, and universally accessible. It is the primal and sacred heart of the mind, the DNA-deep instinct to express the human soul and to appreciate and delight in the expressions of others. It is the innate Divine Creative Power with which humanity is endowed. I was born and raised in Lebanon, a country dictated by war and sectarian violence. Despite atrocities committed at the height of the civil war and the current attempts to ignite religious strife, my experience is that violence and Islamophobia do not overwhelm and dominate the lives of the Lebanese people. As an Artist and a Humanist interacting with people of different faiths and ethnicities while performing, recording, and touring in Lebanon and supporting the Syrian and Palestinian refugees, I witnessed firsthand hope, faith, compassion, empathy, tolerance and understanding. It is a testimony to the human conscience and a prevailing force to subvert fear in all its unconscious forms. These shadows of the human soul can only be illuminated by the very force that is its antithesis: Love. Though I am not of the Muslim faith, it is strikingly clear that the very essence of Islam is Peace. There is something to be said for the observant whose religion calls for halting all activity, no matter its seeming importance, in order to pray. There is altruistic value in a religion that fasts an entire month out of the year as a reminder of the suffering of those who are hungry. Islamophobia is an illusion born of ignorance, a twisted ideology of its own, the political and theological tools of Islamaphobes - both non-Muslims and Muslims alike - to mar the true image and essence of the reverent mindfulness that is Islam. But the very nature of an illusion is the brittleness of its unreality, the weak supports that clumsily balance its inherently defective logic. Hatred has a peculiar sleepiness to it, a confused belligerence. They are as sleepwalkers, as much a horde of the undead as their equally extreme and misguided fundamentalist counterparts. Each are terrorists of the heart! And as seen painted in blood, sweat, and tears on the separation wall of Palestine, art is the ultimate weapon in love's arsenal. Art awakens the heart, and an awakened heart will awaken the mind. It is a weapon that sheds no blood and wreaks no hate. It is the enlightenment of King Solomon; it is two cracking pillars painted on concrete walls that will manifest their crumbling with the trumpet call of love. There is a stark increase in individual awareness among all people, particularly the youth, to independently seek the truth by seeing past the bombardment of propaganda which we are constantly fed by the media. There is a New Order that is emerging, what is referred to in the I-Ching: Book of Changes as the "thunder from beneath". It is an unstoppable, primal rumbling at our soul's well bottoms, an irrepressible force of a new era, outer and inner, a tidal wave of truth as peace that begins within each one of us and expands past our rigid individuality and transmutes everything around us into its purest beginnings, returning us to the beginning of All. Religious intolerance is devoid of love. Let us all return to a state of spiritual innocence so unconscious of itself that it transcends concepts and is experienced only as the ultimate; the spiritual root of all religion, the all-inclusive: Love. How, then, do we begin this journey back to the Source? How do we regain the lost sense of tribalism that has allowed us to recede into the brutal trap of bigotry? If the lessons of history have not sufficed to warn us of the dangers of exclusionary dogmatism, what, then, can shake us from this aggregated nightmare and open our eyes wide? The paradoxical irony is that unity begins with the individual. We must each look past our often mislead minds, to fearlessly assess the recesses of our own deepest self: the heart. For though the mind can make mistakes, the heart is never mistaken; the heart knows no judgement. So may this be a call to arms: we must fight!

I would like to end by sharing the lyrics to my song titled "Humanity Wake Up And Fight": When you're beaten to death And your hope is raped In the absence of defense More attacks more raids When mercy is far away A plea for help is not near And justice fades away You live in constant fear When you are left without a choice To have a say or raise a voice Stand for your right, shout out loud Humanity wake up and fight When violence sets the rules Hatred starts to breed With torture and abuse You fall into defeat When you're sentenced to pain Suffering never ends Faith seems in vain 'Cause you don't have a chance When you are left without a choice To have a say or raise a voice Stand for your right, shout out loud Humanity wake up and fight Come, here is my hand No no you're not alone Your agony will end 'Cause not all hearts are made of stone When you are left without a choice To have a say or raise a voice Stand for your right, shout out loud Humanity wake up and fight When you are left without a choice Have a say, raise your voice Stand for your right, shout out loud Humanity wake up and fight Humanity wake up and fight Humanity wake up and fight! Copyright © Lydia Canaan 2017