While leading storytelling workshops with Syrian refugee youth, I found myself unavoidably drawn into a spirited exchange in which some perceptions of religion and culture both encouraged and discouraged the pursuit of self-expression, creativity and communication.
When I think of Kashmir, I picture my grandmother strolling through her manicured garden in our family home in Raj Bagh. 'Cookie Mummy', as I used to call her, would be flanked on both sides by tall flowers standing at attention to salute her.
The barriers are perceived as unbreakable, but what I found was that barriers can and will be broken down all the time, all around us. The world may be failing the youth of Syria by not realizing peace, but the youth of Syria will not fail the world.
Recently, I had the opportunity to meet a rock and roll band visiting from Algeria called Dar K' Side, or "House of Poems" (HoP).What captured my attention were the smiles on each of the Algerian musicians. These smiles were louder than the music. These guys were inspired.
Music and art and community development (not stones and guns and politics) will revive hope in Kashmir's future, which has suffocated under decades of conflict and exploitation from all sides and all parties.
Before we as a Muslim community can find solutions, we must first look in the mirror to identify what stands in our way. It is incumbent upon Muslims to form a united stance against the minority of extremists.