Dr. Sohail’s Relentless Search for Peace
Dr. Sehdev Kumar
Dr. Khalid Sohail’s book, From Holy War to Global Peace, is a collection of deeply-felt reflections on suicide bombers, guerrilla warriors and peacemakers.
As a young man growing up in Pakistan in 1960s, Dr. Sohail tells us, that he could have easily turned into a suicide bomber. Such was the messianic appeal of the religious and nationalistic hate-mongers that any impressionable youth could be so suckered into frenzy and destruction.
Fortunately for Dr. Sohail, and for all of us who seek and yearn for humane solutions to the social inequities and injustices, that he saw a different light and chose a different path – a path of peace and persuasion.
In this engaging book, the author – a well-known psychotherapist in Toronto — traces the psycho-social dynamics of fanatic religious forces that operate on the young and the gullible in Pakistan, Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan and elsewhere, and how they wreak destruction on one and all. How can they, Dr. Sohail asks again and again with heart-rending poignancy, unleash such devastation in the name of a God that is supposed to be merciful and forgiving?
How has such a God been created and by whom, he wonders.
Dr. Sohail’s commitment is to life and to its celebration in all its rich fecundity; honoured as ‘Humanist of the Year’ in Toronto in 2006, as a poet and a healer, he is ardently drawn to serve one and all. He rejoices in the messages of the Sufis and their celebration of oneness of all beings. He is touched by the grandeur of the songs of Kabir and the wisdom of Krishnamurti. Whosoever sings of the wonders of life, is his friend and a fellow-traveller. Anyone who impedes the flow of life, whatever their religious or ideological pretensions, is not for him.
Suicide bombers have been centre-stage for some time now among several Muslim countries. Their origin, however, can be traced back at least to the young Kamikaze warriors in Japan in 1940; they were not driven by religion but by fanatic nationalism, in which the emperor himself was divine. Such nationalistic fervour was to inspire the Tamil Tiger suicide bombers. Here, in this book, Dr. Sohail traces the history of encounter between fundamentalist Islam and secular forces in Egypt, and how they were often manipulated and exploited by America as part of its cold war strategy. The political and religious developments in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt, Palestine and Pakistan are very much intertwined with ‘God-less’ Soviet Union and the Christian fundamentalists of USA.
This is how Dr. Sohail explores briefly the various guerrilla movements under the leadership of Mao in China, Ho-Chi Minh in Vietnam, Che Guevara in South America, Nelson Mandala in South Africa.
What were such charismatic leaders driven by? By the hatred of the enemy or by the love for the oppressed? Dr. Sohail is sympathetic to their concerns, but still he wonders if good ends can justify violent means?
From these revolutionaries, Dr. Sohail moves on to comment on the peacemakers: Mandala proves to be peacemaker in a ‘Rainbow Nation’ with his right-hand man Archbishop Tutu; Gandhi struggles peacefully for India’s independence and no less for the transformation of his own society, so riven by social and religious inequities, and then to be assassinated by a zealous Hindu; Abdul Ghaffar Khan in Pakistan – known as ‘Frontier Gandhi’ – is steadfast to the end in his secular, humanistic vision.
Working as a psychotherapist in post-911 Toronto, with endless incidences of Muslim fanaticism on one hand and Islamophobia on the other, Dr. Sohail’s commitment to secular humanism played itself out by the creation of ‘Peace Clinics’ in many cities where all prejudice and hatred – of many stripes and by many different bearers – could be addressed peacefully and humanely. It is no mean undertaking, for peace cannot be created, whether at home, or amongst communities and nations, unless we are all committed to peace, whether we are in the White House, or in a pulpit in a church or in a mosque, or in a classroom.
Dr. Sohail’s goals are worthy; his persuasions are courteous and peaceful; his commitments strike one as unwavering.
It is not without significance that ‘From Holy War to Global Peace’ should be published in 2014, on the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the most gruesome war in the human history, fought between the most ‘civilized’ and scientifically advanced nations of the world.
Well, ‘civilization’ is a good idea but it needs to be continually nurtured by good people who love life more than their religion or their ideology, and who celebrate creation, wherever and whatever the Creator may be.
Many centuries ago, in 411 BC, a Greek play, Lysistrata, addressed this ongoing struggle between the glories of life and the hideous heroism of war. The women in the play go on a sex strike against their warring men; no physical intimacies so long the men continued to indulge in the war. The protest proved to be successful; it seemed, at least in the play, that men had the sense, however briefly, to choose to make love than war.
I doubt very much if Dr. Sohail uses any such strategies to propagate peace in his Peace Clinics. However, he does use the word ‘psyche’ throughout the book. Psyche is a Greek word and a goddess; she encompasses everything: mind, consciousness, the unconscious, spirit, soul. And she finds her full blossoming when touched by Cupid, the god of love.
I wonder if 72 houries that some of the suicide bombers are promised in afterlife could dissuade them from mayhem and destruction if they were to present themselves to these innocent young men here on earth.
You see, one must Give Peace a Chance!
Dr. Sehdev Kumar is Professor Emeritus at the University of Waterloo. Bioethicist, and historian and philosopher of science, he lectures on Science-Religion Dialogue at the University of Toronto. Author of several books, including The Vision of Kabir, his forthcoming book is, 7000 Million Degrees of Freedom.