Introduction  |  Part 1 |  Part 2 |  Part 3

As discussed previously, apartheid refers to a system of discriminatory polices which divide a population along racial lines and give superior treatment to one race over another. The objective of these inhumane laws is to maintain the domination of one race. The system of apartheid implemented by Israel in the Palestinian territories is designed to oppress Palestinian Arabs and give preferential treatment to Israeli Jews. We will now explore the different apartheid policies enforced by Israel (Note: Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) refers to East Jerusalem, West Bank and the Gaza Strip which have been under Israeli occupation since 1967)

Citizenship and Immigration

Israel’s institutionalized system of discrimination is rooted on being able to classify population along racial lines. It first legally defines who is Jewish and then extends special privileges to Jews over non-Jews. Israel views itself as the state of the ‘Jewish nation’, not an ‘Israeli nation’. It thus distinguishes between citizenship and nationality [1].

Citizenship is granted to those qualifying its requirements; about 1.3 million Palestinians living in Israel proper have citizenship. Jewish nationals (i.e. anyone falling under the legal definition of a Jew) enjoy special privileges which aren’t accessible to ordinary Israeli citizens [2]. These special privileges will be discussed in this article. Israeli Jews are a group unified by law while Palestinian Arabs are sub-divided into citizens, occupied residents and refugees based on their territory[3].

The 1950 Law of Return extends to Jews all over the world an absolute ‘right of return’. Jews from anywhere with no prior ties to Israel can immigrate to it and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT)  [4]. This law is rooted in the idea that Jews were expelled from this land 2000 years ago and should now be able to return home – the cornerstone of the Zionist movement.

On the other hand, the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees who were either expelled or fled during the 1948 and 1967 wars are not allowed to return to their homes. They are granted entry in neither Israel nor the OPT simply because they aren’t Jews [5,a] . This restriction has created the one of the largest refugee crises in the history; today these refugees and their descendants number around 5 million. It is also in clear violation of UN resolutions, international law and the Geneva Conventions which state that everyone has the right to leave and return to one’s country [6].

While Jews are automatically granted Israeli citizenship, Palestinians are not afforded the same privilege and face insurmountable obstacles [7]. Palestinians within Israel proper have to prove they resided in Israel between 1948 to 1952 (i.e. during the worst of fighting) to be eligible [8]. Palestinians in East Jerusalem have to prove their ‘center of life’ is Jerusalem in order to simply retain their so-called permanent residency status [9]. Palestinian refugees living in the OPT have no rights to citizenship while Jewish settlers in the same area do [10].

In addition, in an attempt to close doors to the ‘creeping right of return’, Palestinians in OPT are restricted from reuniting with their spouses and families in Israel; Jewish settlers face no such restrictions [11][12].

Palestinian Enclaves, Jewish Colonies and Land Confiscation 

As discussed in the previous post, land distribution based on race is one of the defining features of apartheid. This is most evident in the West Bank which has been fragmented into numerous ethnic cantons or Bantustans. The Palestinian enclaves (Areas A and B) are currently split up into some 131 disconnected Bantustans; these are surrounded by a contiguous region (Area C) under complete Israeli control [13a]. Jewish colonies are currently made up of over 220 settlements; 121 official ones and the remainder being unofficial ‘outposts’ which are built without Israeli approval. Residence and entry in each ethnic enclave is determined by one’s racial identity; Jewish colonists in one area and Palestinians in the other[13]. Settlers have access to all the amenities of a developed nation while most Palestinians live under substandard conditions.

Though they are illegal by international consensus, these colonies have been constantly expanding on land confiscated from Palestinians for four decades now. At present, 43% of the West Bank is taken up by these settlement blocks which are for exclusive Jewish use [14]. Housing, schools, hospitals and recreational facilities in the settlements are inaccessible to non-Jews.  While a Jewish person from any part of the world can move to and lease land in these cantons, Palestinians are barred from the use of their very own land. Continued expansion of the colonist enterprise means little is left of ‘Palestine’; effectively rendering the two-state solution meaningless. In fact, the official map of Israel doesn’t even demarcate the Palestinian territories from its own boundaries; clearly indicating its de facto annexation of the territory.

Creation of the monstrous Separation Wall has further annexed 10% of the West Bank into Israel [15]. The Wall is justified as a ‘security fence’; however, Israel has conveniently planted it on the neighbour’s territory – 85%  of it runs through the West Bank.  As a result, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) deemed the barrier illegal. Although it hasn’t segregated the population entirely, the Wall has further divided it – 85% of the the Jewish settlers live on the western side of this Wall [15a]. In addition to all this, Israel also restricts land usage within its own territory. 13% of the land within Israel’s borders is reserved for Jewish use and is thus even off-limits to Palestinians with Israeli citizenship* [15b].

Given Israel’s constant claim to democracy, some might falsely argue that the settlements are not Jewish-only; rather they are Israeli-only.  One of Israel’s traditional methods to direct national resources exclusively to the state’s Jewish population, without being accused of discrimination, is delegating responsibilities to the non-governmental organizations such as the Jewish Agency (JA), World Zionist Organization (WZO) and the Jewish National Fund (JNF) [16]. The JA, WZO and other parastatal institutions are currently responsible for the planning and establishment of the settlement enterprise [17]. These institutions act as ‘authorized agents’ of the state and solely work to serve interests of the world Jewry; effectively barring even non-Jewish Israeli citizens from their services.

Dual Legal Systems

Israel has implemented two systems of law in the Palestinian territories. It applies Israeli civilian law to Jews while indigenous Palestinians are subject to military law. It treats the settlements as de facto extensions of Israel and grants settlers the rights of citizens with democratic protections, despite them living outside Israel on occupied Palestinian land [18] [19].

Being subject to the Israeli judicial system, Jewish settlers enjoy liberties and legal guarantees that are denied to Palestinian defendants in the Occupied Territories charged with the same offense. The authority to arrest an individual, detention period before hearing, the right to an attorney, the protection for defendants, the maximum punishment period, and the release of prisoners before completion of their sentence – all of these differ greatly in the two systems of law, with the Israeli civilian system providing the suspect and defendant with many more protections [20].

Thus, different legal systems are applied to two populations residing in the same area, and the nationality of the individual determines the system and court in which he or she is tried. This situation violates the principle of equality before the law, especially given the disparity between the two systems. It also violates the principle of territoriality, conventional in modern legal approaches, according to which a single system of law must apply to all persons living in the same territory [21].

Next Post: More Apartheid Policies 

The more commonly quoted figure is that 93% of Israeli land is inaccessible to Palestinian citizens. 13% of this is owned by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) which leases to Jews-only. However, the remaining 80% is under the Israeli Lands Authority (ILA). I haven’t been able to find credible documentation to indicate that ILA only services Jews; I have thus only quoted 13%. If you have access to it, please refer me to legal documentation which could clarify this . 

References 


 [1] Occupation, Colonialism and Apartheid? Human Sciences Research Council,South Africa, 2009 – pg 161

[2] Ibid, pg 216

 [3]  Russell Tribunals on Palestine – Capetown Session, 2009 . pg 14

 [4]  Acquisition of Israeli Nationality – Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs

 [5]  United Nations Human Rights, Report of the Special Rapporteur,  Richard Falk.  ID A/65/331, August 2010 – pg 6

[5a]  Occupation, Colonialism and Apartheid? Human Sciences Research Council,South Africa, 2009 – pg 213

 [6]  Palestinian Right of Return – Wikipedia

 [7] Occupation, Colonialism and Apartheid? Human Sciences Research Council,South Africa, 2009 – pg 21

 [8]   Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Israel: Citizenship Law, 6 March 2008, ISR102749.E

 [9] Occupation, Colonialism and Apartheid? Human Sciences Research Council,South Africa, 2009 – pg 206

 [10] Ibid, pg 217

 [11]  Forbidden Families: Family Unification and Child Registration inEast Jerusalem. January 2004. B’Tsaleem, Jerusalem.

 [12]  Occupation, Colonialism and Apartheid? Human Sciences Research Council,South Africa, 2009 – pg 211

 [13]  Ibid. – pg 19

[13a]  Forbidden Roads: Israel’s Discriminatory Road Regime in the West Bank, B’Tselem. August 2004- pg 4

 [14]   Separate and Unequal: Israel’s Discriminatory Treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Human Rights Watch, New York 2010 – pg 9

[15] The Humanitarian Impact on Palestinians of Israeli Settlements and other infrastructure in the West Bank.  UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 2007

[15b]  Israel and the Occupied Territories – International Religious Freedom Report 2005  U.S Department of Sate

[15a] Arrested Development: Long Term Impact of the Barrier, B’Tselem. -pg 13. October 2012

 [16]  Land Grab: Israel’s Settlment Policy in the West Bank, B’Tselem, Jerusalem 2002 – pg 21

 [17]  Ibid.

 [18]  United Nations Human Rights, Report of the Special Rapporteur,  Richard Falk.  ID A/67/379 , September 2012 – pg 5

 [20]  Ibid 

 [21]  Ibid

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First Published in the National Post, May 11 2012 

Re: The Problem With Calling The Koran ‘Anti-Semitic,’ Jonathan Kay, May 8.

While I appreciate Jonathan Kay’s attempt to clarify the charge against the East End Madrassah, I disagree with his analysis of Islamic teachings. He conveniently declared that “Islam’s traditionally negative take on Jews is troubling” and drew analogies between the Christian view of homosexuality and Islam’s view of Judaism. This juxtaposition implies that Islam inherently preaches anti-Semitism and considers the Jewish faith a moral vice. The Koran uses the honorary term “People of the Book” to refer to the Jews due to the shared scriptural and prophetic heritage of the two faiths. It recognizes Judaism’s dietary laws and allows interreligious marriage with the faith too. The Prophet Muhammad had Jewish in-laws as well. Stories of generosity and good will between him and the Jews are too many to recount here.

The Koran is not anti-Semitic because calling it such would have to mean declaring the Bible homophobic also. It isn’t anti-Semitic because it doesn’t preach hate. Yes, it has phrases that reprimand ancient Jews for worshipping the Golden Calf, 7th-century Jews for breaking treaties and contains commandments relating to war. These are criticisms which are time restricted and don’t formulate an absolute moral judgment on the Jewish people. The problem lies not with Islam but those that teach it. The challenge for religious institutions is to be able teach scripture academically with its historical context, without projecting one’s own prejudices through it.

Waleed Ahmed, Mississauga, Ont.


Also see my letter to The Toronto Star

The Toronto District School Board has recently come into a lot of heat for accommodating Friday Prayers at school for Muslim students. The controversy was sparked when the Canadian Hindu Advocacy group objected to this practice, which has been happening for several years at schools in Toronto and surrounding regions.

Many major Canadian newspapers have published editorials calling an end to this practice and have offered numerous arguments; public opinion seems to be in their favour too. One of the main arguments proposed by supporters of the ban is that religious services shouldn’t be offered in a secular publicly funded school. If the Lord’s Prayer had to be banned, then Muslims too shouldn’t be allowed to offer their prayers they argue.

The main flaw in this argument is that Lord’s Prayer is not analogous to Friday Prayers. That is, Friday Prayers are a voluntary service organized by the students while the Lord’s Prayer was administered by the school and all students were expected to participate. The school is not indoctrinating a particular creed; it’s simply accommodating religious needs of students who choose to practice. If the issue is with an Imam coming to lead the prayers; this can be changed and students could lead as is the case in most schools (including the one I attended). Interesting to also note is the bigoted notion that the Imam might be preaching intolerance and hate.

One must not forget that religious practice is not banned from public schools; I quite clearly recall the Christian club at my school assembling for prayers and organizing other religious events. We still have Christmas assemblies at public schools too. Also, keep in mind that these prayers only take place from November to March during school hours. This is because the prayer time varies seasonally and it expires before the end of the school day during those months.

Another blatantly false accuation being made is non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the cafeteria during prayer. People of other faiths aren’t even prohibited in mosques, let alone a temporary prayer space. Infact, these prayers are often supervised by a non-Muslim teacher and in my personal case, my non-Muslim friends would drop by the cafeteria during prayers. Not only are they allowed, non-Muslims are generally encouraged and welcome to attend Muslim prayers.

The fact that Friday Prayers can only be offered in congregation leads to the other main argument, and perhaps the fiercest one, against this practice. Men and women are segregated in congregational prayers and girls usually sit behind the boys. This setting is said to be discriminatory towards women and opponents argue that it is against social values of gender equality taught at school.

This is yet another example of self righteous secularists looking at Islamic practices from their myopic worldview and passing judgment. They are out to rescue the ‘poor Muslim woman’; whether she asked for it or not. Did any of these girls complain to them about being subjugated at school? Did it not occur to them that these girls voluntarily pray in this setting? Little do they realize that by making such petty arguments they are actually hurting Muslim girls that want to pray. They also assume that Muslim girls would want to intermingle with the opposite sex during prayers; I can tell you with complete confidence that suggestion would cause them nothing but discomfort. Muslim girls are not obsessed with superficial displays of feminism.

Segregation during prayers is something done simply for the purposes of modesty. This is something the worshippers do themselves with knowledge of how prayers are normally conducted; not something forced on by the school. Islamic prayers involve a series of physical movements (e.g. bowing and prostrating) performed in unison and it would be considered immodest for men and women to perform these actions side by side.

Mosques often have separate prayer halls for women that are sometimes above the men’s prayer hall; would one conclude that women are superior to men just because they pray above them? If this in fact is such a big deal, then women could also pray alongside the men’s rows provided there is a barrier between them. Remember, segregation doesn’t equal discrimination. If that were the case then complaints should also be launched for having segregated gym classes and bathrooms at school.

One contention that I would have never expected to see raised was the alleged stigmatization of menstruating girls. This again is another example of extreme secularists and feminists viewing Islam from their lens of superficiality. Actually, Muslim men often complain about how menstruating women are relieved from the obligation of prayer and fasting while they have to perform these duties regardless. As Shahina Siddiqui pointed out, this is exemption is meant to be a compassionate accommodation and is something appreciated by Muslim women; especially those with PMS issues.  It is not tied to the gender of the worshiper; rather it is tied to fulfillment of some pre-conditons of the ritual prayer (Salah) which apply to both men and women.

People fail to see that these ‘third class’ menstruating girls attended the prayer sessions despite it not being a religious requirement upon them. It demonstrates that they feel a part of the community and see benefit in attending the sermon. No one knows who’s menstruating and who’s not and thus no one can tell anyone not to pray; these girls do this out of their own will inline with religious requirements. In fact, many menstruating girls pray regardless of their period and its quite probable that this happens in this particular congregation too. If these girls were in fact subject to the subjugation and mistreatment being claimed, why would they even attend prayers? There is more than meets the eye.

If the school board bows down to public pressure and bans theses prayers, then know that Muslim kids serious about their religion will continue to pray. However, instead of the cafeteria they might resort to secretly praying under a staircase, a storage closet, out in the parking lot or even the bathroom. Accommodating prayers for students means they don’t have to make the difficult choice between faith and education. Having attended a school which did accommodate my prayer requests, I know what a blessing that is.


Originally written for MuslimMatters

In the midst of the Islamophobic outbursts of 2010, a time when the future looked bleak and our aspirations suffered a blow, this inspirational story of a small Muslim community in the Arctic captivated hearts and gave us hope.

While most people were preoccupied with the Park51 debate and the American Muslim community battled a slew of Islamophobic attacks, a different story, a more hopeful one, developed north of the border. Quite a bit north actually, about 4000 kilometres north to be more specific. This is the story of a new chapter in the lives of the Muslims in Inuvik, Canada.

Inuvik is an arctic town in Canada’s Northwest Territories with a population of about 3500 people. It’s located right at the tip of North America facing the Arctic Ocean. With a polar climate and harsh living conditions, one wouldn’t expect to find a town there, let alone a town with Muslims. But there is a Muslim community there and a growing one, too. So much so that the trailer that was being used as the mosque ran out of room and this community now needed a new mosque.

Building a mosque in the Arctic, however, is far more complicated than it is anywhere else. The scarcity of skilled labour and material makes the cost of such a project skyrocket and this undertaking is simply impossible for a small community of a 100 people. Their situation is akin to that of the Muslims in Edmonton, who despite all odds managed to erect Canada’s first mosque in 1938. With faith in God anything is possible. At a time like this, the Inuvik Muslims could have simply prayed for a mosque to be shipped over. And that’s exactly what they were about to get.

Enter, the Zubaidah Tallab Foundation. The Zubaidah Tallab Foundation is a charity based out of Manitoba. The remarkable individuals at this organization decided to give the Inuvikans a hand and took it upon themselves to ensure that the mosque got built. After evaluating the cost of locally building the mosque, they came up with a plan which at first sight would easily be dismissed as insanity. Build the mosque in Winnipeg and ship it 4000 kilometres away to Inuvik in the Northwest Territories.

As insane as that may sound, this was the most economical way of getting the mosque built. Part of the mosque’s journey was going to be on roads (2400km) and part on water (1800 km). The goal was to get the mosque on to the last barge heading towards Inuvik for the season. Not only was this going to be a logistical nightmare but it was to be a race against time as well. With receding water levels in the Mackenzie River, the shipping company decided to push up the departure date by 3 weeks.

The 1500 square-foot mosque was built in Winnipeg and started its journey on a semi-trailer. The over-sized trailer made its way through back roads and country highways, struggling to make it to the barge in time; it was delayed further by Labour Day celebrations and highway regulations. To complicate matters even more, the bridge across Reindeer Creek proved too narrow for the trailer. The driver had to remove the back wheels and a second truck was brought in to balance the back of the flatbed as the mosque was moved carefully across bridge. But this wasn’t the biggest scare. All hopes and dreams came close to being shattered when the mosque almost fell off the trailer into a creek near the Alberta border.

The organizers managed to request the shipping company to hold the barge for two extra days and perhaps by divine intervention, the barge was delayed further due to poor weather. With lots of prayer and a little bit of luck, the trailer managed to get to the barge just in time. The mosque was loaded on to the barge and set off for its journey towards the North Pole.

The barge arrived in Inuvik, on September 24th2010. After an excruciating 3-week journey, the little mosque arrived at its destination; all in one piece. The Inuvik Muslims gathered around the port to witness the historical event. They chanted prayers to praise and thank God as they waited. Some jumped around with joy while others were overwhelmed with gratitude and came to tears.

Numerous finishing touches needed to be added and it took about a month to get the mosque ready for use. Fathallah Fargat, a carpenter from St. Catherines, Ontario was inspired by the story and traveled all the way to Inuvik to help set up the mosque. He even helped build a 10-meter minaret to accompany the newly erected mosque. The Midnight Sun Mosque, as it is now called, was inaugurated on November 10th 2010 to become North America’s northern most mosque. All in all, the entire project cost about $300,000. The Zaid Tallabah Foundation, which still has outstanding payments to make, is looking to raise another $21,000.

The Inuvik mosque is a stellar example of what can be accomplished by unity, hard work and faith in God. For those let down by the petty attacks on mosques around the West, this story should rejuvenate your spirit and give you hope. If people can manage to build a mosque in the Arctic, then building one anywhere else should be far from impossible.

Click here for picture slideshow


In an unexpected turn of events on The View this week, Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar walked off the set after a heated argument with Bill O’Reilly. This happened right after Bill O’Reilly assertively commented, ‘Muslims killed us on 9/11!’. As the video shows, Whoopi was genuinely infuriated and offended. Earlier she tried to speak for the 70 Muslim families that lost loved ones when the twin towers collapsed; with hopes of showing that 9/11 was a tragedy for the Muslims too.

I truly admire and appreciate Whoopi and Joy’s strong indignation. Its one thing to stand and defend yourself but to stand up and speak for someone else takes a different sort of courage. The fact that Bill O’Reilly had the audacity to openly make such harsh comments on national television represents a scary reality. How can such discriminatory rhetoric become acceptable in our politically correct society where people are sensitive to wishing others ‘Merry Christmas’? The power of the media in swaying public opinion never fails to amaze me.


Agnosticism is starting to become quite popular these days; everyone seems to be seeking refuge in it. Its perceived to be the safest route for the secular man. For those unfamiliar with it, agnosticism is basically the belief that there is no way to know whether or not there is a God. The agnostic therefore neither believes nor disbelieves in God, since both the theist and the atheist fail to conclusively prove the existence of one. There are different forms of agnosticism with varying definitions (e.g. ignosticism); but at the end it boils to the agnostic being someone who refrains from taking a stand and defends his ignorance.

Here’s the problem with the entire agnostic world view. It is based on one fundamentally flawed precept; and that is the assumption that the proof for God is an empirical one. It rests on the belief that if there was to be a proof for God then it would be very much like a philosophical or scientific proof which could be repeated by any one at anytime and would always yield the same result. Since nothing like that exists, the agnostic ignorantly yet confidently says, ‘There’s no way to know’.

What the agnostic fails to realize is that empirical proofs exist for things that are confined to the material world; things to which the laws of nature apply, things that are within the realm of human comprehension. God by definition is far beyond all this. How then does one expect to find an empirical proof for something that is metaphysical? How then does one apply science to the One that created science?

Furthermore, the demand for a proof for God begs the question, ‘What would qualify as a proof’? If you demand to “see God”, how would you recognize him? Were you to wake one day and see some holy figure hovering above your head, or a miraculous wonder happens before your eyes…would you take that to be ‘proof’ for God?  Of course not – you would dismiss it as a hallucination and go see a physiologist. The reality is, most people don’t know what they are asking for when they ask for a ‘proof’ for God.

The proof for God is not an empirical one but is experiential and logical. It is not like a mathematical proof that is based on fundamental axioms rather it is an experiential proof like the proof for love. How do you prove that you love your parents or your spouse? Certainly not by running scientific experiments and by debating with philosophers. We all know that love exists since it is a phenomenon that we’ve all experienced.

In addition, the proof for God is one that is logical. How does one prove that their great-great-great-great-great Grandfather existed? We don’t have any empirical evidence for that. However, we know this to be true because our existence is contingent on theirs. Similarly, anything that begins to exist has a cause and creator. The universe began to exist and it thus also has a Creator. It would be absurd to believe anything else.

As Imam Al-Ghazali once said, faith in God doesn’t come about by abstract proofs and speculative theology . Faith is something that is realized through contemplation and experience. The phenomenon of faith and the issue of finding God simply can’t be treated as a mere philosophical problem to which an abstract proof is sufficient.

Hypothetically speaking, let’s say I was to give you a concrete proof for God’s existence right now. Assume that I’ve told you what it was and you see no way of arguing against it. It’s foolproof; flawless. Would you all of a sudden start believing in God just because of an argument you can’t rebut? Would you change you entire lifestyle and live in accordance with God’s will just because of one argument? Most people won’t. You believe in God when you realize that He exists, not when you are told He exists.

The issue of faith is directly related to experience. Finding faith and God is a journey that is ought to be undertaken; it requires a combination of the mind and the heart. Its not about blindly following faith or relying entirely on your brains; it’s the convergence of the two in perfect harmony.

There are numerous evidences of God all around, the greatest proof for the Creator is creation itself. Not believing in God implies the universe had no creator and came out of nothing; an illogical and unscientific belief. The only ones who will see these evidences and accept them are the ones that will sincerely seek God, those who look for the truth.

God in the Quran constantly pushes the reader to ponder over the world around him and to realize the beauty of God’s creation. He further says in a hadith qudsi, “Take one step towards Me, I will take ten steps towards you. Walk towards me and I will run towards you.” Those who ask God to guide them are the ones that will be guided. God is to be found where he claims to be, He doesn’t claim to be in books of philosophy but He does claim to be in the Quran. so I encourage you to read it.

“Behold! in the creation of the heavens and the earth;
in the alternation of the night and the day;
in the sailing of the ships through the ocean for the profit of mankind;
in the rain which God sends down from the skies,
and the life which He gives therewith to an earth that is dead;
in the beasts of all kinds that He scatters through the earth;
in the change of the winds,
and the clouds which they Trail like their slaves between the sky and the earth;
(in all this) indeed are Signs for a people that are wise” (Quran 2:164)


I’ve pondered over the whole concept of ignorance quite a bit in the past. I always understood it to be the lack of knowledge about a certain matter. Based on that understanding, I would always come to the conclusion that we are all ignorant since no one knows everything. Socrates also believed in the same thing and he made it his life’s mission to prove to people how ignorant they really are.

However, these conclusion did not sit well with me. I didn’t like the idea of saying that we are all ignorant. We can all intuitively tell the ignorant fool from the wise man; what is it that sets them apart I wondered. I didn’t want to put the ‘wise man’ in the ignorant category just because he/she was uninformed of certain matters. My philosophy prof once said that ‘If you don’t know that Russia is a country then you are ignorant’. He implied that if you are unaware of very general knowledge, then you are an ignorant person. That seemed to be a better understanding of the concept. But then again his definition isn’t very concrete as ‘general knowledge’ is time dependent. Anyhow, I put those thoughts to rest and basically concluded that the reason I was having a problem with this entire concept was because of the negative connotations associated with the word itself. So whether I like it or not, I had to accept that we are all ignorant one way or another.

I recently found a new definition of ignorance in the most unexpected place. I was skimming through Kitab al-Waraqat ,which is a text in Islamic jurisprudence, when I came across a definition of ignorance that I hadn’t seen before. This book defined it as follows,

“Ignorance is conceptualizing something contrary to what it is in reality”

Wallah! There it is. Something that makes perfect sense and is yet so simple; almost makes me wonder why I didn’t think of this before. The interesting thing is that it makes no explicit references to knowledge or the lack of it. It is certainly implied since the lack of knowledge is what to leads to a distorted view of reality. My search for ignorance finally comes to an end. I’ve found an understanding which,as of now, makes sense. Perhaps it is flawed, I don’t know yet. Lets see if it can stand the test of time.

“The unexamined life is for man not worth living” – Socrates