Tag Archives: multi-cultural

Understanding Islam and Charlie Hebdo

As I studied Islam over the past two years, trying to understand the dichotomy between my personal experience with peaceful, thoughtful Muslims and the brutal, hateful violence pursued by radical Islamist terrorists, I learned why silent acquiescence to radical Islam will not lead to peace. Much of what I now know is shocking to those who think of religious figures from a Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist or many other perspectives.

Here’s a few critical points worth contemplating as, through the attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris, we again live the violent tragedy imposed by those who believe we must live by their rules rather than the principles of freedom used in founding the United States:

  • Muhammad was a national ruler as well as a preacher. Most key religious figures, including Jesus Christ, did not attempt to rule an empire on earth. Christ and others guided followers to behaviors that would earn them a place in eternity. Muhammad sought to and did create a nation ruled by his views, and encouraged its continuous expansion.
  • Muhammad used violence to achieve his territorial objectives. Whether it was leading attacks on Mecca, approving the beheading of hundreds of Jews at Medina, or many other battles described in the Quran and Hadith, violence was part of the life of Muhammad. The Quran can be read as advocating violence or peace, depending on the desires of the interpreter.
  • Lying in the name of Islam is not a sin. Concepts known as taqiyya and kitman allow Muslims to lie to non-believers, particularly when lying advances the cause of Islam. It is even permissible in many branches of Islam for Muslims to deny their own belief in Muhammad and Allah to avoid persecution. Lie detectors track physical changes created when people engage in behavior they know to be wrong. Those changes won’t be found in those who believe their lying is not only acceptable, but encouraged.
  • Death is salvation. Many young Muslims are able to be convinced through interpretations of the Quran and Hadith that death in the name of Islam is a guaranteed pass to salvation. In The Great War for Civilization: The Conquest of the Middle East, author Robert Fisk details the exalted pride of children preparing to ride motorbikes through mine fields during the Iran-Iraq war when Shia Muslims in Iran battled the predominantly Sunni Muslims of Iraq. For many raised in radical Islam, attacks on infidels are a thrilling opportunity, not a source of fear. (As an aside, Shia, Sunni and other branches of Islam often see each other as infidels.)

There’s much more to explore to understand the world as it is, rather than the world as we might hope. I’ll leave you with a quote from murdered Charlie Hebdo editor in chief Stéphane Charbonnier: “I’d rather die standing than live on my knees.”

Get On Your Side of the Room, Ladies

As ultra-orthodox religious leaders increasingly insist that women be segregated from men during public events, universities have begun allowing women to be forced to one side of the room. Now the practice is nationally sanctioned, glorified as a better alternative than forcing women to the back of the room.

“Concerns to accommodate the wishes or beliefs of those opposed to segregation should not result in a religious group being prevented from having a debate in accordance with its belief system,” a national organization of administrators stated recently in condoning forced gender segregation at university-sanctioned events.

If it had been orthodox Christians in America making these segregation demands, you certainly would have heard by now. MSNBC might even provide 24-hour coverage of ensuing protests.

The demands, however, originate with Islamic scholars and clerics in the United Kingdom and other Western European nations. Universities UK, a national association of vice chancellors in the United Kingdom, issued the guidance above, stating that free speech rights and religious respect are more important than concerns about gender segregation.

Universities UK at least acknowledges the rights of students and faculty to publicly object to forced gender segregation or, more aptly, gender apartheid given the ultimate goal of some segregation promoters.

“Those opposed to segregation are entitled to engage in lawful protest against segregation, and could be encouraged to hold a separate debate of the issues, but their views do not require an institution to stifle a religious society’s segregated debate where the segregation accords with a genuinely-held religious belief,” the association states in its guidance document on “External speakers in higher education institutions.”

What happens when white or black nationalists, espousing theories supported by a church, demand that their on-campus events be racially segregated?

What happens when hard-core Islamists demand segregation not just by gender, but further demand that Muslims be separated from Jews, Christians and especially anyone who doesn’t follow an Abrahamic faith?

There is a conflict growing between some elements of Islam and western democracies. Western Europe is giving America a preview of the debates heading across the Atlantic.

Forced public segregation is never an acceptable answer. America is already challenged with voluntary re-segregation – by race, political party, language, religion and other factors. If we head down the path argued by Universities UK of saying that publicly forced segregation is acceptable as long as it derives from “genuinely-held religious belief,” where do we stop?

Muslims have the right to practice forced segregation inside their mosques, just as Catholics have the right to not allow female priests. No one, though, has the right to impose forced gender segregation at events supported by public resources, just as no one has the right to impose racial segregation at such events.

In trying so hard to appease all sides of an issue, Universities UK missed that some principles require unwavering support.

Can Islamic and American Values Coexist?

How should the United States handle immigrants who have no intent to follow our laws? In the interest of tolerance and openness, should America welcome immigrants who believe it is their religious obligation to instill gender segregation at every opportunity? Should we ensure immigrants share our commitment to freedoms of speech and religion, along with other foundational rights such as the right of women to vote?

While incidents of gender discrimination occur on occasion inside the United States, gender segregation is becoming a frequent challenge on United Kingdom university campuses where radical Islamist student organizations are becoming increasingly bold in enforcing gender segregation at university events.

In recent years, radical Muslim gangs have begun roaming London streets and entering gay night clubs to beat patrons for their homosexuality, a punishment some who follow Islam believe is their religious duty to administer despite no legal backing in the U.K. or most non-Islamist countries for these heinous actions.

I believe firmly that robust, legal immigration is essential to America’s long-term economic prosperity. We need to welcome people of all races, religions and cultures. But I also think it’s fair to insist that those entering here tolerate Americans, our Constitution and our insistence on equal rights.

There are many of the Muslim faith willing to adapt to America’s legal requirements or whose view of their faith does not contradict compliance with our laws. Many others do not, and it is those individuals we should weed out in the immigration process.

UK universities fall victim to campus segregation trend – The Commentator.

Finally Integrating Prom

My first reaction was simply: Why is this still an issue?

It’s remarkable that, in 2013, teenagers are finding they have to overcome objections of adults to engage in an integrated activity. Societies in which races, ethnicities and languages are allowed or required to operate separately never reach the level of integration and understanding necessary to develop harmony and national continuity.

As a nation, our integration progress has become more sporadic and demographic evidence suggests is even reversing in many areas of the country. Continue reading

Segregation Suggestion at CPAC Misses Mark

A controversy erupted recently when a Towson University student suggested that black Republicans should be segregated from white Republicans during a recent gathering of political conservatives. “We self-segregate as it is,” the student was quoted as saying during a Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) session.  “I really don’t think we have any other choice, it’s just human nature.”

Recent U.S. demographic trends and other historical studies suggest his first statement is accurate. But the idea that we have no other choice but to segregate is wrong, ignores evidence of the value of integration, and weakens our society by separating each of us from others whose philosophies, cultures and ideas can enrich America’s melting pot and us as individuals.

While this article, and many others about the exchange, rightly call out those in the conservative movement who advocate racial intolerance, there is equal evidence that many liberals think race should be a determining factor in establishing a wide range of government policies. Both directions call for the population to be segregated. Segregation does not bode well for America’s future, and should be rejected in whatever forum the idea arises. Building a common language and common elements of culture are necessary pre-conditions to the nation’s long-term survival.

Baltimore Sun Article

Integration Reversing into Segregation

In a recent discussion at a local high school, we talked about concerns with the re-segregation of America and how not sharing a common language and some elements of common culture and experience makes it difficult to solve community problems. From an overall perspective, America looks more diverse today than 50 years ago. That diversity, however, is not evenly spread. Our melting pot is coagulating into separate spaces.

Much of our divide, as Bill Bishop writes in The Big Sort, is driven by demographic choices families are making to live in communities where other residents look like them and share their political and economic interests. To compound this segregation, race is a primary characteristic used in establishing legislative and congressional districts around the nation with majority-minority districts created to elect officials of a particular race or ethnicity. Racial gerrymandering had the positive purpose when promoted in the Voting Rights Act of ensuring that minorities had electoral power. Too many politicians, though, recognize this Act means they will never represent a diverse constituency. They then proceed to mock the Act by fostering racial divides to enhance their reelection prospects at the expense of solving real problems.

The linked article, from the Richmond Times Dispatch, provides background on another growing issue worth understanding, the issue of segregation within communities and even within individual school districts: http://bit.ly/13Yd9wV

How do we ensure that America has enough of a common culture to be united? How do we encourage integration, while maintaining respect for various cultures and differences? Not easy questions. But it’s clear we have yet to find the right answers.

Secession, Common Language and Bilingual Brains

Sharing a common language and some elements of common culture are important to multi-century national survival, particularly in democracies where secession movements can gain political traction. Right now, secession efforts are underway with Barcelona and other Catalan speakers trying to break off from Spain, the Flemish wanting to separate from the French-speaking part of Belgium, Scottish seeking to break from the United Kingdom and many in French-speaking Quebec wanting to separate from the rest of Canada. Still, it’s not always language that drives secession movements. Continue reading

Global world enabled by common language, cultural respect

I woke early this morning to find updates from friends in China, Australia, Argentina, the Netherlands and South Africa, all wonderful former colleagues from my 15 years of working at Nalco. One of my favorite parts of working at this global sustainability service / water treatment firm was the chance to interact with bright, hard-working people in just about every country. In a very hands-on way, this experience taught me that talent, energy and dreams are not restricted by national boundaries. Perspectives, however, can be very different. To build strong relationships, it is essential to understand cultural differences and share a common work language. We worked together to deliver results, with each of us relying on the other for our different capabilities and different perspectives shaped by our experiences. Multi-cultural understanding and respect is important to the success of global business. It is equally important to the success of increasingly multi-cultural nations like the United States and many other countries. I realize, though, that had these wonderful people not all shared a common language, it would have been very difficult for us to communicate and build the trust that enabled our collective success. As I approach 50, I’m trying to expand my language skills and it’s not easy for me. The ability to speak and read at least two languages is something we need to build in our children starting at least by first grade. Not only will this help build cross-culture understanding, it will improve our chances for global success in a world in which the U.S. economy becomes less important with each passing day. Inside our borders, we also need to share a common language to ensure our ability to resolve differences and build strong cross-cultural relationships with all of our fellow citizens.

Are Babies Racist?

A recent “60 Minutes” story explores whether babies are born with racial preference tendencies, quoting Yale University researchers who determined that children start to prefer items that are more like them even in their first few months of life.

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50135408n

While one of these researchers states that babies may be born as “bigots” because they disproportionately choose to be around those who are most like them, perhaps the real answer can be found by looking at how humans have behaved since the world started. Over the past 10,000+ years, people learned that those who don’t look like them or share their behaviors, language and views are more likely to destroy their life than those with whom they share many common bonds.

Does human genetic coding, perhaps the flight mechanism that causes deer to run away when I walk past them on hikes, predispose us to prefer those like us and avoid those with whom we have many differences? Interestingly, the Yale researchers found that early childhood biases are tamed as children grow up.

The lesson from this is that multi-cultural societies can work effectively as we learn to respect and trust those who differ from us. For this to happen though, we need to have enough reassurance — through education and/or interaction — to lose what the Yale research shows may be inherent tendencies. The need for interaction to reduce biases is one of the reasons I am greatly concerned with what I see as the re-segregation of America, where we increasingly live by people like us, listen to news that fits our existing view of the world, and rush to reject those who share a different perspective on an issue as being mean-spirited in having that view.

Laitin, Language Policy and Civil War

In the upcoming book, Melting Point 2040, a lead character is identified as holding the David Laitin named professorship at the University of Chicago. While every other character  is fictional, Stanford University Professor David Laitin is not. Professor Laitin, formerly a University of Chicago professor, is a recognized expert on the role of language, religion and ethnicity on national survival. His research, much done with other academics, is interesting for its conclusions about the ability of multi-cultural societies to survive. His findings are reassuring for multi-cultural societies like the United States, India and others, but the concepts do encounter challenge. My concerns are informed by looking at national boundaries over centuries and millennia rather than within a single century. Through history, few strongly multi-cultural societies lasted more than several hundred years. To ensure survival for 1,000 years or more (without more civil war), it’s critical to understand what triggers civil wars and then avoid these conditions. For more, I recommend http://www.ninetymeetingsinninetydays.com/Civil_War.html for an overview and http://www.uclouvain.be/cps/ucl/doc/etes/documents/12.Laitin.pdf for a more detailed look at the role of language on national survival. As an aside, who came up with the name for civil wars? The word “civil” is out of place.