Identity and the Problem of the Middle East


The problems of the Middle East are expressions of conflict of identities.  In general, identities of individuals in all societies of the Middle East are based on (and stop at) a reference related to a specific religious beliefs.  This system of identification, which regards the specific reference as the highest or the ultimate - carries the seeds of conflicts with other systems of identification, which equally claim their refrence to be the highest and the ultimate.

In objective terms, let's consider the set of all people, or the general set of humanity {H}.  The set {H} contains within its domain all subsets in which people can be grouped; hence it contains particular sets {Rx} related to specific categories of Races or Religions, . There are as many subsets {Rx} as there are specific religions and races.  

An observer with a clear intellect is capable of distinguishing between the categories of the general and the specfic. The set of all people {H} is the general, and any of the subsets {Rx} represents the specific element within it.

From an objective perspective (a perspective based on purely intellectual consideration), it is an utter mistake in the way of thinking, which dominates all societies of the Middle East - to regrad the specific as a replacement for the general.  This is not just a theoretical view.  In terms of the principle of Cause and Effect, thinking is a cause, created within the mental domain of the mind, and which will produce effects in the physical world.  

A cause emerging from a mind which ignores or lacks the capacity to discern between the categories of the general and specific, is a cause based on ignorance, and ignorance definitely leads to the effect of disasters.  

Ignorance leading to disasters

The dominating view in Nazi Germany or that of Imperial Japan during the II W W - was an obvious expression of failure of the mind of their ruling authorities to distinguish between the position (and hence the capacity) of the specific (being the particuar race) and the general (the set of humanity), mistakenly regarding own race in the position of superiority.

When one makes such a mistake on an individual level - society responds with mechanisms leading to correction of incorrect proportion of positions.  The same principle applies on a collective level of nations.  When a ceratin side, being an individual or a group of individuals, becomes obsessed with a mistaken thinking (mistaken thinking about the proportions of the general and the specific), then - sooner or later - the effect of the diviation of such an intellect will reflect on behaviour and consequently on the ensuing practical results, becoming in this way in conflict with the way reality exists.

The effect of a mistaken perspective, or the effect of a conflicting way of thinking, cannot lead to proper insight when put to application in reality.  This was the observation of a 13 century Mahyana Buddhist reformer, Nichiren, as he was clarifying the cause of sufferings as originating not from the external environment of the individual but from inner illusion about the identity of the self:

    "If you confuse the general with the specific even in the slightest, you will never be able to attain     

      [Enlightenment], and will wander in sufferings". (*)  

Confusion in beliefs about own identity simply means conflict with reality of the true proportion between self and others, between the specific and the general, between race (or religion) and humanity.  When a specific group disregards its own origin, Humanity, which is shared with other groups, then this specific group leads its individuals to act based on this confused proportion of own identity.  This will trigger or attract a mirrorring group, aslo of confused proportion of own identity. Reality becomes a display of  clashes of confused powers.

What comes first: Humanity or Religion?

In a globalised world, the question of "What comes first, Humanity or Religion?" has an important meaning for all societies.  It is a question, which answer is dividing the world.

In essence, self identity is based on beliefs and convictions. Depending on the capacity and depth of reference (which is taken as a refrence of belonging) - the individual expresses way of thinking, behaviour and actions relevant to that general reference of belonging. An exaggerated sense of belonging to a specific category, will reflect itself in reality in form of conflict, as philosopher Daisaku Ikeda observes:

     "When people are excessively attached to a narrow sense of identity,

      cultural differences can become a source of friction or even conflict"  (**)

This observation suggests that if the nature of the accepted reference for self-identity is narrowminded or exclusive, then problems will inevitably arise.  But it also means that if the accepted reference for self identity features a wider capacity (or the quality that offers flexibility) for a shared existence, and carries the potential for a parrallel co-existence and prosperity of all sides, then this would be the most stable and consistent reference of individual's and social's identity.



(*)  The Essential of Attaining Buddhahood, The Writing of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 746, Published by The Soka Gakkai, 1999

(**)  Interview with Daisaku Ikeda, Ezmin magazine