عمر علي الياسيري
A portrait about Omar Ali Al-Yaseri (Arabic: عمر علي الياسيري )
– Interview from the 8’th June of 2019, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia –
Picture description: Omar Ali Al-Yaseri, which is a fictional name for the interview, watches the tower blocks of Kuala Lumpur out of a loft in the 28’th level. He firstly shares a critical view on current religious and political situation of Iraq in publicity and is highly scared of getting identified by Iraqi government. So it was more than important for us to take a picture of his silhouette and using a fictional name.
1. When was the last time you felt happiness from the bottom of the heart?
It was the time my sister came to this world and I felt that now I have to take the responsibility and starting to look after someone younger. I felt so much happiness and her smile was deeply touching for me.
2. What are the three basic elements of peaceful living together?
If we need to live together, it means we have to understand every notion and thought in each member of that group, that’s the first point. The second one must be the respect. If you understand that person’s ideas, also, you must give that person the respect for his or her notions in every area of life, maybe they are against your faith, your tradition, your own ideas or whatever you think, but you still must have the respect for people’s ideas. Thirdly, the group members must be collaborative, because if a group has taken an order or a law it must fit the group all together. Each member has to support the other one. The most important thing is to collaborate with other humans.
3. Do you remember a moment of your life you had tears of joy?
This takes me far away into the past. When I was really young my mum had an accident and it was very horrible for me even when it was not a very heavy accident. So, I did imagine that I am going to lose her. I cried. We went to the hospital and after a few seconds she walked up to me, hold my arms saying “Son, I’m good, everything is fine.” She hugged me, gave me some kisses and I just cried, because she was fine. That was real joy and I just cried from my heart.
4. Do you believe in a god?
I think human beings were created by a god. I am from Baghdad, Iraq and the majority of people there are Muslims. A lot of them say, “Our creator is Allah and we owe to him whatever we have”, but I’m different. Whenever I hear an atheist who rejects the existence of a God, I confront them by saying “I believe that God shouldn’t just be a being with human attributes such as love, hate, etc. God could be the whole universe or a certain law that governs the universe or even God might be something spiritual that people need when they are weak. These weak humans might need this spiritual God to feel not alone.” That is the picture of god that I imagine. I think that my thoughts and other people’s notion must be respected by all scholars who might think that we are leaving Islam and we are turning to be infidels!
We are still praying and doing our deeds correctly. The only thing is that we expressed our thoughts differently.
5. What does it mean for you to live in liberty?
This is really touching question as well. My thoughts about liberty varied from the past and now. In the past I thought liberty means to live in America and to live the American dream, because of the influence of fake ideas about this country. Now, I think this term has changed. Liberty is to have the freedom to express my own notions as much as I would without harming anyone and without any interventions of anyone and having the safety to say my opinion openly in the public. Liberty includes the freedom to protest, to publish any books and any other act that doesn’t harm any society. My thoughts about liberty changed from having my freedom only in America to having freedom on every place on this earth.
I want to tell you an incident that describes how our thoughts were treated in my country. During one of our Quran classes in High school a preacher, who had a mix background of Islam and traditions did ask us, “Would a person who isn’t a believer, but has done many actions that served humanity go to the heaven?” I answered directly, “Yes, he or she must be accepted in the heaven and if not, it would be unfair.” He did reply saying, ”No, what you are saying is wrong. There is a verse in the Quran that says this person must only go to hell and whatever great actions he or she accomplished are not accepted.” When I tried to reply again, he said, “Son, don’t confront any verse in the Quran,” and I knew that I should stop speaking, because I was about to say, ”Would a Muslim who has done wrong things still be able to go to heaven and is he comparable to that nonbeliever?” This might have made that preacher to doubt my faith in Islam at that time, because such people still think that whatever is mentioned the Quran must only be the truth and it must not be questioned.
However, I had a friend in the class who was an open person. We discussed this problem and believed that a real God won’t judge us on how real Muslims we were rather on how did we serve humanity or how we developed the environment during our life on earth. I felt a quite fear to continue the discussion with that preacher, because there were many recorded cases where some people who were really thoughtful and who just wanted to know more about Islam were imprisoned, taken to mental hospitals or even killed as a result of their questions. As it’s known in some of our countries that whoever says something that doesn’t correspond to whatever mentioned in the Quran to be a liar. The problem is that most of the scholars do have the same mentality as that of my preacher. So having a conversation with them is quite dangerous, because as some people know that if anyone was suspected by such scholars to have some doubt about Islam, he or she might face death or thought to be controlled by ghosts (so it’s like that person is not aware what is going around) or even to be under drug effect (that means the person is not awake). All these accusations do come out of these radical scholars as a consequence that they think no rational person would criticize Islam. However, the criticism of religion is part of freedom and to me the faith that doesn’t accept any criticism is not strong enough to face any questions.
6. Imagine, the last day of your life has come and there is nobody who has any information about you and your life. All the information has mysteriously been deleted. If I would give you an empty sheet of paper and you could leave a message with the three most important wisdoms of your life, which three wisdoms would you write down?
Love. Harmony. Skepticism.
7. What’s your vision for your life?
I’m mostly attracted towards science and I like to think and search about our universe. I wish one time with my knowledge from my studies I can accomplish to build a robot that can act like a human and has all our senses. This might not be accomplished only by me. I think it could be a collaborative work of many scientists and engineers from all over the world, that would be a really amazing moment if we reached to that level that we built a human by some complicated electronic stuff, this might be the main goal. But this dream is far away more than I could live.
8. What was the most life-changing insight so far and do you connect it with a certain key experience?
It was in my eleventh grade in school and the first time I became skeptical about my religion, which I tried not to do, because it is quite forbidden in Islam. Then I tried to hold it until I reached home and started explaining it to my brother. After we finished our conversation, I remember the joy I had that I finally faced my faith in the same time that I faced my fear of questioning my belief. It was one of the hardest steps that I’ve ever taken.
So when a kid thinks about doing something wrong, then he knows that his parents mostly will punish him for doing this. For me it was kind of the same situation. I felt that my parents are going to punish me really hard that I have confronted my religion, but at that moment I didn’t care and I just said, ”Go for it”. Although I’m still thinking that my parents are proud of me that I’ve taken this step.
9. Which song has touched your heart the most recently?
One time I was listening to one of our most famous singer called Kadhim Al-Saher (كاظم الساهر) who writes texts about the issue of Iraq. The song ”Peace Be Upon You And Upon Your Rivers” (سلام عليك على رافديك) describes Iraq itself even with all of it problems and tragedies, but it is still my origin and the place that I love. This song did encourage me to go back to Iraq and dive through its whole history.
10. If an artist would draw a picture of your life, what animal would he choose to represent you and what type of nature or landscape would he select to symbolize your life?
I would choose a cheetah. I guess it is a sharp and wise animal in the way it follows its prey, the machinery of thinking it has and the method of planning. For the landscape view I’ll nominate a mountain and the cheetah is standing on top of the mountain. Around me is a scenery of destroyed buildings as the earth did go through a war ended up with an apocalypse. In the same drawing there is rain and it cleans up the whole destruction and rebuilds earth from its roots and removing the evilness from earth. The rain here doesn’t represent me, it’s not like that I’m the cause of rain, but I think that rain is a collection of water drops and out of this view every drop represents a human that will help and collaborate to rebuild the earth from its destruction.
Additional information: 19 years old, studies Engineering Mechatronics, from Baghdad, Iraq//10