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“When To Draw The Line?”

February 1, 2015 Leave a comment

The phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” is quite poignant right now. In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo assassinations the world is engaged in a conversation of how to deal with terrorism some say originate from an extremist interpretation of Islam, and some say is a bastardization of a religion practiced in peace by 1.5 billion people; thugs making an excuse. Editors from Charlie Hebdo say they will continue to satirize the prophet Muhammad, and other religious prophets as they see fit; if the times call for it, they will do it. The rest of the journalistic world is not so sure about that course of action. Is that because of respect for a figure 1.5 billion people hold sacred, or the fear of the retaliation by a small number of people who have a warped mentality strong enough to carry out murder in the name of defending Islam? There are debates taking place about when to draw the line; when to push the envelope further; how to “take back” a religious faith; the meaning of humanity.

In squaring this circle and coming to grips with the reality that people do heinous things in the name of something else, personally I feel awarding these terrorists the mantle of Islam, and religion in general, is ill-advised. ISIS/ISIL are like Boca Haram who are like the Klu Klux Klan, thugs who hate and want power. These people want neither religion or faith or peace or to govern. They want to rule and destroy. They are gangs of thugs and need to be treated as such, which means denying them agency; denying them identity; denying them power. Does Islam play a role in the conversation? Maybe, but to condemn Islam would be to attach the peaceful majority who practice it to a corrupt few who claim the same. I do not believe the Klu Klux Klan represent the broader Christian view. The people who drape white cloths over their bodies in order to terrorize people “different” than them by lynching innocent people and burning the very symbol of their supposed faith do not represent the Christian faith I was raised with. I believe the same goes for Islam.

These may be difficult times, and as such difficult conversations need to be had, but I think we can separate the thugs from the faithful; the murderers from the healers; the minority from the majority. The Charlie Hebdo satirists, I think, have shown us where and when to draw to the line. Now maybe journalists of their ilk can give the 1.5 billion Muslims that practice Islam some space to have their difficult conversations. One that will lead to resounding actions to separate the violent extremists who use terrorism to preach their words from the peaceful observers who pray for prosperity and respect toward their fellow persons who share the same Earth as one.

Categories: Islam, Religion, War

Obama In Turkey – An Exercise in Cross-Cultural Awareness

April 15, 2009 4 comments

Over the past week, President Barack Obama was up to quite a lot. He had a few things on his plate – the G20 Summit, a speech directed at nuclear non-proliferation, a meeting in Turkey with political, religious, and future leaders, approving his kid’s new dog, etc. You can read more about Obama’s busy schedule in the article I wrote entitled, “A Busy Busy Obama.”

Through all the excitement something struck me that goes to the heart of why Obama will be a GREAT president. During his town hall with Turkish university students he mentioned that he wanted to finish the town hall before the Call to Prayer. Check it out at 3 minutes and 20 seconds (3:20) into this video.



Why does this grip me so? Well, a few years ago I did a seminar/presentation on cross-cultural understanding in the business world. The whole presentation centered around a simulated business meeting, where one group had to do business with another. One group however was deeply religious and had something similar to the Call to Prayer they had to do.

During this simulation everything went well, and business was looking good except for when the religious group realized the people they were dealing with were insensitive to their religious beliefs. And to be fair, the other group wasn’t really privy to such general but detailed information. (I withheld such information, and only told the non-religious group that the people they would be dealing with are very socially conservative and deeply religious.)

Both groups asked me how I would have dealt with such a situation. I told them I would have done my research concerning the others’ religious faith and customs. The moment I read, “deeply religious,” in my briefing report I would have asked follow up questions. I told the group I would have vocalized and stated that I was aware of their “call to prayer.” This little step would have made all the difference during the initial negotiations.

Acknowledging these cultural characteristics, even in a lip-service way shows, at least, that you are aware to some degree of the difference in the room. From that point on people know that you know about them, and can feel that you are taking everything into account.

By acknowledging the Call to Prayer Obama showed that he was culturally sensitive to the people he was engaging. If Obama shows this level of thought and sensitivity to another people, something tells me his policies are not fly-by-night suggestions.

Peace

Ad Agency McCain Campaign 2008

I support Barack Obama, but I can admit when he and his campaign have stepped over the line. This week he brought race into the campaign. I have little problem with that as long as he keeps it on general terms and does his homework before making accusations. The McCain campaign has said nothing about race, and Obama gave them the red carpet treatment in talking about how Bush and McCain will try to scare U.S. American voters away from voting for him because his name sounds “funny” and he is black. While I agree that the overall Republican machine will do this, Bush and McCain have said nothing the like. Barack better watch himself.

That said, the ads by the McCain campaign are way overboard and absolutely ridiculous. You can see them at the John McCain for President website. The McCain campaign needs some serious help if that is what they are going to produce. How could anyone even put Barack Obama, former Chief Editor of the Harvard Law Review, in the same sentence as Britney Spears and Paris Hilton (the celebs have even said they wanted nothing to do with this election)? How about “The One” ad where Obama is supposed to be Moses…and that factually inaccurate ad about Obama not visiting troops while in Europe because he couldn’t take in news cameras…I can’t underscore enough the pathetic ridiculousness of these ads. I’m embarrassed to say I volunteered for McCain back in 2000. At least at that time he really stood for something.

Obama has his faults, but McCain is pathetic, and if the voters of the United States of America want crap executive leadership for another 4 years to (God forbid) 8 years then they should vote for McCain. If they are smart they will take that “risk” and vote for Obama. America was built on a risk. I’ll vote for Obama. I’ll take that risk.

A few parting notes – 1) OBAMA IS NOT MUSLIM, AND DOES NOT PRACTICE ISLAM!!!! For the 26% of Americans who actually believe that – WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE!!!! Because his father practiced that religion doesn’t mean Barack has followed suit. Yes he has Muslim heritage, but most Americans are of mixed heritage. That is what America is all about – a mixture of cultures that creates a unique environment primed for prosperity. Obama encompasses all of that, and more. 2) Obama is not running for class president of his junior high class. He is running for the opportunity to be President of the United States – arguably the most powerful executive position in the World. If people know his name, and what he stands for then all the better I say. 3) When did we become a nation of lost hope? And those who speak of hope and change seem to be crucified. When did we become a nation of lost souls? – Oh that’s right, 8 years ago when George W. Bush took office.

Peace

A Ball to Start a War

August 31, 2007 Leave a comment

A Ball to Start a War

So this is my take on this – lighten up on this one. I’m not defending the cultural insensitivity from U.S. military, but I am saying that getting worked up over this situation is not wise.

Religion is important to life, and in the case of these villagers it is 100% life. That said, I think this is a chance to look at a bigger picture. Just a few months ago the Iraqi soccer team played for the Asian Cup as their homeland was being blown apart by car bombs, etc. On this team were many different Muslim sects all who, currently are killing each other, all got along. Somehow they didn’t want to kill each other. What did they share in common – they played soccer (or futbol). They play a game that the world acknowledges as the international sport. More so, they got along.

I say this because I think having a religious slogan on a ball does not harm the religion at all. With a game that brought dignity to an entire group of people I think some tolerance on the part of the religious folk should be shown. People just aren’t kicking the ball for fun and no reason. People are playing this game as a way to show the courageousness of a culture. I cannot see any reason why one would demonstrate even prepare to fight over a flag being on a ball being used for peaceful reasons.

Let’s ease up, take a look at this with a patient and rational mind, and move forward. Advise the military in a calm and rational manner. There was little need for a group of a 100 to protest, burn efigees, and invoke violent rhetoric.

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I guess this is my problem with religious extremists.

See the BBC website for more information on this topic – Click this address – http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/6964564.stm

Peace ya’ll