Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Blog # 5

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

In When a Jew is not Jewish, the story of Jonathan Levitt and how Jews who are not considered Jewish enough is revealed.  The principle of this is basically if you are not and Orthodox Jew, you aren’t realized in Israel unless you become an Orthodox Jew, which doesn’t seem to be pretty fair in my opinion. It was shocking to know that in the army there is a 3month conversion course where at the end one will be  considered Jewish and can be  buried under Israeli grounds. But, like Jonathan, this is still not enough to be considered Jewish enough, even if you fight for the country you desire so much to be a part of religiously. This concludes with the problem that not that the people don’t want to be Jewish (because they do),  but that people are being turned away because they want to become Jewish and will not be considered Jewish no matter how much faith in the religion they hold.

Philip Jenkins brings to center the idea of how Christianity is surviving and expanding in many fast-growing countries around the world, which is the opposite as When a Jew is not Jewish, as Jews are being pushed away.  There has been a gravity change in Christianity  southward to  Africa, Asia and Latin America. Christianity is doing well in the South as Christianity is being practiced more traditionally.

Assignment #2 Media and Sovereignty

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Monroe E. Price discusses how the relationship between media and borders is always in transition; although it does not always promote liberty or liberation. The internet is the key to spreading democracy, Price says. These days technology is always evolving and playing a bigger role in today’s society. We become more dependent on media in our daily lives, and as a result companies are making it easier to access certain material. For example a few years ago we did not have internet on our cell phones, which honestly didn’t bother most of us because we had a cell phone to do just that, make phone calls. Now you can barley find a cell phone that cannot surf the web. If you do not have one you are living in the stone age. Now they have phones that already come pre installed with Facebook and Twitter built into them. I believe this is a prime example of advancement in media and technology.

The earth quake in Haiti really demonstrates media and sovereignty. This terrible disaster took the lives of roughly 400,000 people and left thousands injured. The whole country was basically shut down and in complete chaos. Being Haitian this took a huge toll on our family as we were glued to the television trying to find out if there were any updates on the terrible disaster. We were left in suspense for a few days.

There was a political upheaval and a blackout in terms of news coming in and out of Haiti that occurred. There was no way to get any information about the earthquake. In an age of booming technological advances one would not expect a lack of media coverage on an event. Since media is in our everyday lives (Ex: Aol, Facebook, Twitter, News stations ect.) and very easily accessible one would think the last thing on our minds would be a LACK of information and media coverage on an event. Foreign news organizations were not allowed to come into the country until a certain time. In this case media should have been of more use and actually covered an important catastrophe such as this, instead of waiting for quite a while to get there and have access to broadcast images and videos across the globe. The funny thing is the first glimpse of information regarding pictures or videos on the matter came through Facebook. If it were Angelina Jolie getting a divorce everybody and their mother would know about it due to the constant news updates on various different television channels, web sites and other media tools. Or hearing about how Lady Gaga’s tour in Japan is going would all be at our finger tips but a devastating tragedy such as the Haiti earthquake is not as appealing and would take longer for coverage to be brought to us.

Media often challenges state power. I do not mind government intervention and censorship as long as it is for the right reasons.

Blog #5:Christian Revolution

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Jenkins speaks of a Christian Revolution as a movement from the traditional northern/western white, rich, old ideology to a now revolutionary southern black/latino, poor, young ideology.  It is an interesting article on the change of demographics for Christianity.  He argues that though the growth is substantial, the black church and Latino church are non-communicative.  The Catholic church from Europe tends to cultivate the Latino community while the western and protestant church cultivates the black churches.  The newer churches are much more interested in personal salvation than in radical politics and believe in a Pentecostal affirmation of their faith.  More emphasis is placed on mysticism, conservatism, and puritanism while focusing on a visionary and apocalyptic point of view.

My theory is that the Latino and Black communities the Jenkins speaks of and their direct reflection and dependence of a Pentecostal Christianity reflects the poor.  These poor communities, whether black, white, asian, or Latino, are suffering firsthand simple virtues that humans should not be deprived of.  Christianity provides hope and salvation to a community deprived of it.  I do believe that there is a movement going on that has given lesser communities the opportunity to rise up and gain access to their own salvation.  Worldwide missionaries are higher than ever to the poorer countries and even communist governments cannot fully stop this new wave of preaching that has saved millions.

Blog Post#5 – Naomi Klein and the Yes Men: Branding in the 21st C

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

In her 2004 interview with PBS, activist Naomi Klein discusses the evolution of branding, brand-messaging, and consumerism. What she really seems to be doing is giving a sociological account of marketing in US society.  According to Klein, the most successful branding is seamlessly integrated into culture so that members of society actually participate in it. In that way, branding has actually replaced advertising.

During early industrialized periods in America, food started being mass-produced. As the country grew, it was no longer feasible for everyone to purchase food at a farm. Advertising was used as an intermediary between the farm and the household, to forge a connection with the food company and the consumer.  Fast forward to roughly one hundred years later, and consumers have become more immune to advertising. We now live in a world of TiVo’s and DVR.  Nobody wants to be consciously advertised to.  Slowly advertising evolved into branding.  In Klein’s words, “the trend in branding is for the brand to become the infrastructure, not to tag onto our culture, [but] to sort of associate with the culture that it wants to be associated with — whether it’s music, theater, sports, young people. It’s to actually sort of supercede it and become the actual cultural infrastructure, and then we sort of live inside the brand.” Examples of this in action are Starbucks, the Body  Shop, and Nike. When you enter into a Starbucks or a Nike Store, you actually do feel like you’re stepping inside the brand. Starbucks tries very hard to foster a sense of a tight-knit and inclusive community.  The Nike Store tries to make everyone feel like a champion.  Disney and Marlboro are also two masters of this type of brand-messaging; Klein’s example with Disney is Celebration, FL. Personally, I have friends who smoke Marlboro for that lonestar image.

Klein also spoke of the role of the consumer in branding. The act of branding is no longer restricted to companies and products, and you no longer need an MBA to start your own brand. Celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Gordon Ramsay and Ryan Seacrest are engaging in self-branding and making millions.

The irony of Fortune 500s’ massive branding push is that it’s being turned against them on some level. Even activists are using branding theory to form social organizations to combat what they see as evils of Big Corporations. For example, the activists Yes Men, and Rainforest Action Network and Amazon Watch ruined a Chevron ad campaign by creating their own viral parody. The Yes Men in particular branded themselves as activists who engage in satire to increase accountability of big companies. In the trailer for their film “The Yes Men Fix the World,” they’ve targeted companies like Dow and Haliburton. They’re funny guys, but I also think their efforts are laudable. In a world where we can be totally enmeshed in a brand’s message, it’s good we have some people trying to keep everyone’s feet on the ground.

Blog 4:Everyone’s Missing the point & Inside American Islam

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Osama bin Laden’s death didn’t have much of an effect on me, mainly because I saw the whole thing as a bunch of propaganda. I saw the American celebrations as too much and way too late. Osama bin Laden has not been an active figure on the terrorism front in quite some time, and his ‘death’ was had more symbolic value than actual value. After 9/11, the US went on a wild goose chase to find bin Laden, trying and failing miserably until they got their lucky break 10 years later. Recently, there have been news reports saying how terrorism will morph into a singular act, such as Mohamed Bouazizi, with people acting alone instead of going to Al Quada for training. The aid that we are offering to Pakistan and Afghanistan is a flimsy attempt to make ourselves look good.

Akbar Ahmed explains the difference between American and European Muslims. When Muslims came to America, many of them did not bring their customs with them. After 9/11, they were not able to clearly explain their religion to people, which helped spread the anti-Muslim hysteria. The mainstream association of American Muslims and Al Quada is a shocking viewpoint that has become increasingly more popular. The bias against Islam is based on nothing more than false perceptions and misinformation. It is a shame that a radical group has become the face of a religion, tainting it in our minds.

Blog #5: Saadawi and Joya Clips

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

In the Middle East, examples of democracy being under attack are evident. Dr. Nawal Al Saadawi states that the revolution in Egypt brought men and women together because they were united for a common cause – the resignation of President Mubarak. Post-revolution Egypt faces new challenges, one of them being electing a new president. While there is no female candidate so far, Dr. Saadawi thinks that one of the men and women she met who rallied in the square should become the next president because of their close relationship with fellow revolutionaries, not Mubarak. She goes as far to say that the new Egypt doesn’t even need one person governing the country. Her vision for the new Egypt is collective leadership where men and women, Christians and Muslims are equal. We’ll just have to wait and see who will take over. Dr. Saadawi also mentions that the former first lady, Suzanne Mubarak, didn’t help women because she was an image of her husband, a quality she thinks queens and first ladies all have in common. Now that Mubarak is out of the picture, Dr. Saadawi seems hopeful that Egyptians could try again to rebuild the Egyptian Women’s Union. Unity among women can bring forth women’s rights. A final point Dr. Saadawi makes is that the Egyptian constitution must be rewritten in order for it to become more secular. In doing so, she thinks this will allow for women and men to become equal. Additionally, she believes that the fight for democracy and the fight for women’s rights are one in the same because women are a part of society and deserve rights. Justice and democracy are classified as meaningless if the government does not make it possible for women to participate democratically or protect women’s rights. Malalai Joya, another women’s rights activist and author, stresses in her interview that she wants to see U.S troops leave Afghanistan. Since President Obama entered office, more troops have been sent to Afghanistan, but this has caused more problems and obstacles for her people. She mentions that civilians, including women and children, have been killed by U.S troops referred to as “die teams.” Joya finds the news of these war crimes heartbreaking and wants to see an end to them in the name of democracy and women’s rights. She also points out that the U.S appears contradictory because Obama supported the Egypt revolution but the killing of innocent people still continues in Afghanistan. While troops in the die teams are on trial, families receive $2,000. Joya finds this disrespectful because it puts a price tag on a family’s loss and, in a sense, the dead family member’s worth. Democracy is difficult to come by in Afghanistan because, as Joya says, the people have three enemies: warlords, the Taliban, and U.S troops. She believes that if the U.S occupation forces leave her country, the Afghani people will know what to do with their own destiny. She points out that her people hate the warlords and the Taliban. There are democratic-minded parties present, but U.S troops are eliminating them, thus creating problems. Her main point is simply: how is the U.S going to bring democracy to Afghanistan if they are massacring innocent civilians?

In Israel/The Christian Revolution

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

The audio clip In Israel, When A Jew Is Not Jewish enough provided an insight into how American-Conservative Jews are treated in Israel. Having grown up Orthodox and no longer consider myself a religious person, I find it absurd that Jonathan was not allowed to serve in the army. I have several Israeli friends who currently serve in the army and they are not remotely religious, nor do they consider themselves Jewish. Rather, they consider themselves Israeli. However because they were born in Israel, they are allowed to serve. However, this person who comes from America, who associates with the Jewish religion and wants to fight and die for the country he believes is his is not allowed to simply based on a technicality. After hearing about how the Orthodox, and Ultra-Orthodox communities in Israel reacted to the army’s conversion program I felt ashamed to have come from an Orthodox (albeit a modern Orthodox) up bringing. It amazes me that in this time when it seems that most of the world is against Israel, they are still finding ways to turn people away from not only the faith, but the defense of our country.
This situation is completely different from the one portrayed in Jenkins’ article “The Christian Revolution”. His article talks about how Christianity is booming in a way. The religion is spreading throughout the world-as far as some remote villages throughout Africa. The Christian religion is working at spreading itself throughout the world. It appears that the world-wide Christian movement is working to open itself in a way while the Jewish religion in Israel is working to become more narrow and less loosely defined. I think the Jewish religion should take a look at what the Christians are doing and understand that in modern times, having a more open religion is a good thing especially in order to have a strong religion.

Blog Post 5- Resisting Globalization

Monday, May 9th, 2011

BBC’s Newsnight coverage of the British education crisis was quite eye opening. Paul Mason listens to some students whose education may be put on hold because of the high price that they need to pay for a proper university education. One young women speaks of her education and how she believes that the government will listen to students because of their recent unification and movements. She believes that students are at the forefront of the movement towards lowering the price of higher education.
Many other students state that they will not be able to attend university if the government does not lower the prices. One student claims he is from a very poor part of London (the slums of London, as he refers to it) where if he does not attend university he will most likely be selling drugs on street corners. It is unfortunate that many young students will not being getting the education they would like because of these hard times in Britain.
When students marched to parliament however, this peaceful protest against price increases took a turn for the worse. Many police men did not hesitate to use harmful force against the protesters which resulted in many hurt young men and women. Most protesters were not forceful against the police but in fact wanted to dance to profess their dislike in price hikes in education, a road mostly untaken by traditional protesters in protest marches. This act of peacefulness should have been enough to stop police from brutally harming marchers.
Paul Mason also speaks at Pace University to inform students that there are many countries were students are most unlucky as compared to students in the United States. Most students are unemployed and unable to afford education in other countries along with most countries unstable economy. He goes on to say that networks are the means to keep cultural societies amidst one another. This allows other countries to see where young people of other places come from and how they differ from our own culture and society.
He believes that social networking helped to educate others of others religions as well. Lastly he states that the days of non-violence are back and that many youth and other members of community are putting forth this notion so that harmony and liberalization can take place amongst nations of civil unrest in the ideals of non-violent acts.

Blog #4 Democracy

Monday, May 9th, 2011

In Egypt today, women are clamoring for their own cultural and political identities. The Egyptians are starting to demand justice and democracy. The question is what role will women play in Egypt’s new political era? According to Nawal Al Saadawi the fight for democracy and women’s rights are one and the same. She says “There is no democracy without women because women are more than half of the society so how can you have democracy, justice, and freedom without half of the society?”Saadawi defines herself as a radical feminist, their goal is to change the Egyptian constitution so that it becomes secular, and all Egyptians are equal.Also, the family courts should grant men and women the same rights, in the Egyptian culture and economy, both genders should be treated equally as well.

When Malalai Joya was interviewed she stated that the U.S should leave Afghanistan because many civilians are being killed. She also found it insulting that for every victim the family receives 2000 dollars. She says its as if the victim’s life was only worth 2000 dollars. She continues to say that since Obama became president there have been more massacres and tragedies. There are photographs displaying the so called “kill teams” killing Afghani civilians. The soldiers who took part in the “kill teams” now face trial for killing Afghani civilians and collecting their body parts. Joya hopes the the soldiers will leave Afghanistan soon but does not believe it will happen anytime soon, even though she believes it will be best for the people of Afghanistan.

Blog #5: Looking Deeper into Religions

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

In the video, “In Israel, When a Jew is Not Jewish Enough,” I was surprised by what was said mostly due to the fact that I myself am Jewish. Jonathan Levitt, a Jew from California went to the state of Israel to serve in the army. But he was rejected, and told he wasn’t Jewish according to the Jewish law. There are many different levels of Judaism that Jews across the world practice, but to me it doesn’t matter who is more Jewish than the next. This situation with Jonathan Levitt, definitely needed to be looked into more for them to for sure know according to the Jewish law whether he is Jewish or not. But regardless, if you believe in the state of Israel and you want to fight for it, then why can’t a person be a part of it? That’s what truly matters.

In the article, “The Christian Revolution” by Philip Jenkins, he discusses the stereotypes of the Christians. Some see it as the religion of the west, un-black, un-poor, or un-young. So Christianity then seems to be dying out more and more. But this is just a stereotype and seems not to be true because the Christians are doing very well in the global south, and keep expanding. This will continue, and they will keep growing, despite the stereotypes that may be present. After we realize this global perspective that they are prospering in many more places than we believed, we should think before we say statements about what modern Catholics accept. Western Christianity has been dying down, and Southern Christianity is just emerging.

Blog Post #4: The Growing Anti-Globalization Movement

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

In the Introduction to Part X, “Resisting Globalization: Critique and Action,” editors Frank J. Lechner and John Boli begin dissecting the anti-globalization movement. Its roots grew from the World Social Forum, held in Brazil in 2001. Protestors and opposition groups see globalization as a Western capitalist system that is unjust and unequal. They argue that globalization undermines “local cultures and democratic-self control” (441).

According to the editors, there is no specific face of an anti-globalization protestor.  Those in the anti-globalization movement can be “students protesting athletic apparel produced in sweatshops to peasants resisting multinationals’ control of their land and seeds; from indigenous groups defending their forest habitat to religious leaders seeking debt relief for developing countries” (441).

The popularity of globalization as a social problem has caused many groups to jump behind it, even though these groups may have specific grievances. They all share in common the call for “another world” and global justice; they see justice in globalization as only for those with capital (442).  Despite their backgrounds and reasons for protesting globalization, they share a common goal, “global justice…especially increased regulation of global economic activity (442).

Boli and Lechner write that the “global intent” of this movement is “to remake world society in accordance with principles that conflict with established institutions” (441).  It’s no surprise then that the keys players from both sides include intergovernmental organizations (IGO’s), international nongovernmental organizations (INGO’s) and nongovernmental organizations (NGO’s), and transnational corporations (TNC’s). These groups participate in the struggle for some form of power in developing nations, whether it is advocating on behalf of local communities or against them.

One manifestation of the anti-globalization movement can be seen with UK students’ protests over austerity reforms that will end up increasing education costs. The protests were covered in the BBC News article “Dubstep Rebellion: the British banlieue comes to Millbank.” The UK Parliament has reasoned these cuts were crucial as Britain had to tighten its belt following the global economic crises. Working students especially came out to protest. They were standing up for a world they envisioned, one in which affordable education is a reality.

We can see firsthand the student protestors Lechner and Boli discussed.  Even closer to home, we had a protest on campus last week involving students sleeping in tents to raise awareness for global genocide.  In my opinion there is definitely some weight to the argument that we can be too heavily globalized.  I think one of the effects of being overly globalized is that too many people get lost in the mix.

Blog Post #3 Religion in the Future: Israel’s Legal Definition of Jewish and Jenkins’ Christian Revolution

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

In the NPR story “When a Jew is not Jewish Enough” by Lourdes Garcia-Navaro looks at the current state of Jewish law in Israel. Navaro tells the story of Jonathan Levitt, from California who migrated to Israel in order to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces. When he went to apply, he was told that by Jewish law he was not considered Jewish because his mom had converted. As a result, he did not possess equal rights under Jewish law – he could neither marry nor be buried in Israel.

Since Levitt’s story is but one of thousands, the IDF decided to instate a three-month conversion program, completion of which would entitle the individual to full legal protections under Jewish law in Israel. But now the conversion program is coming under attack by Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox communities.

One Ultra-Orthodox newspaper wrote an editorial condemning it as a “massive industry of fake conversions;” an influential Ultra-Orthodox rabbi called it “cheating.” Their complaint is that those who underwent the conversion did so under false pretenses, and did not take the Jewish Orthodox oaths seriously. He said that the reform movement “made conversion something else.”

But a Reform rabbi responded that the Orthodox community was “holding diaspora Jews hostage” to a strict interpretation. He stated that 60 after the Holocaust, “people want to become Jewish” and “we’re turning them away.”

How does this story fit in with our reading by Philip Jenkins’ “The Christian Revolution?” For one thing, the Jewish faith in Israel is seeking to more narrowly define itself, at the same time that the Christian faith is becoming less narrowly defined. Once considered the religion of the West and North (America and Europe) Christianity today is spreading quickly through Latin America and Africa. He refers to them as “Southern Hemisphere Christians,” and states that by 2025 “Africa and Latin America would be in competition for the title of most Christian continent” (380).  Europe would only be in third place, while now it takes first.

The Southern Christians will not share the ideals of the Western and Northern Christians. Their beliefs are either very traditional or very reactionary by Western standards.  Most Southern Christians will comprise the poorest populations in the world.  Jenkins writes that “the churches that have made the most progress in the global South have either been Roman Catholic, of a traditionalist and fideistic kind, or radical Protestant sects, evangelical or Pentecostal”(381). They will not reject supernatural –based explanations of life and will be “more interested in personal salvation than in radical politics” (381). Jenkins sees a parallel between the “churches of the future” and “those of medieval or modern Europe” (381).

Jenkins spends the next few pages detailing what he sees as the rise of New Christendom, but summarizing that in itself can constitute another blog.  It seems interesting to see how the Roman Catholic Church, seen as the most orthodox of Christianity, is spreading its religion into other regions. Meanwhile, many high religious level figures in the Israeli government see Judaism as heading down a much more insular path. This is not to say that Orthodox Jews and Roman Catholics do not view their respective religions in equally serious light. I do not pretend to be a religious scholar, and I don’t pretend to understand religious leaders’ reasoning. But we can’t deny globalization is playing a significant role in how these religions define themselves going into the future.

Blog #2: Face Veil Ban

Saturday, May 7th, 2011

In the video on the face veil ban, there a debate about whether the state is entitled to tell people what to wear and what not. Professor Tariq Ramadan doesn’t think the state should be the one to say so. He believes it has to do with political atmosphere. I believe the state shouldn’t be the one to have a say in something like this, especially when it is something most people willingly do. He stated that many of the women who wear the niqab, converted to Islam, and they say they are doing it on their own, this is this own choice.

I personally know many women who wear the niqab because it is their decision and they are willing to do so, not because it is being forced upon them. It’s not about what to wear and what not, like being limited to being naked or not wearing pants, or indecent exposure. That would be on the grounds on offensive to other people, not on grounds of religious expression. Wearing more shouldn’t be a problem, nor should anyone else have a say besides the person wearing it. Freedom of expression should exist in this situation. Mona supports banning the face veil, and she opposes the burka. She states the niqab renders women invisible. I disagree with Mona, I don’t think it makes women invisible.

Sam Harris states that some significant percentages of the earth’s women are forced. I think that is a very bad assumption for him to make. Some women who converted to Islam actually take their religion more seriously than the ones that are born into it. And those women willing wear a face veil or burka. I feel people should be free to dress however they want to dress.

In the interview with Malalai Joya, she speaks of the situation today on Afghanistan. She spoke of the apology U.S. had to make for a series of killings around children, men, and women. She said the government was killing innocent civilians, and they would pay $2000 to each victim’s family. They feel insulted that the lives of their people are worth $2000 for them. When Obama sent more troops in Afghanistan, it resulted in more killing and failure. People were being killed as if birds were being killed.

Soldiers called the kill teams are now on trial; they murdered unarmed afghan civilians and collected body parts as trophies. They took pictures and posted them up on sites also. To her Afghanistan is now the 2nd most corrupt country. Almost 80% of people are jobless, and people don’t have enough food to eat. She doesn’t believe the troops will leave Afghanistan anytime soon, she believes it’s all lies, the troops double the civilians miseries.

Blog#3-Ramadan-Locke/Kurzman

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

In “Formerly Banned Muslim Scholar Tours U.S.” an Oxford Professor who was at one point banned from a number of countries is interviewed about his beliefs regarding reformist-Islam. In it, he says that he disagrees with the statements that Islam is not a western religion and that Muslims are not integrated. He feels that Muslims are already integrated because they live in western countries, speak the language of western countries and abide by the laws of these countries. Rather, he feels that Muslims living in western countries need to go beyond simple integration. He feels that Muslims should contribute to their countries rather than live there and abide by its laws. In regards to a debate he had where he stated there needs to be a “moratorium” on stoning he stated that he used that word because his goal isn’t to appease the west, but rather to change beliefs in Muslim-majority countries. In a way I agree with most of what he is saying here. I feel that people of all religions living in various countries should work to contribute in the country they live in. If they don’t contribute then it appears that they are simply living there and don’t really care about the country.

In Locke’s letter he talks about how he feels that religious toleration rather than religious uniformity is the solution to the civil unrest occurring in Europe at the time. He feels that civil unrest stems from the persecution of religious groups. I have to agree with him here. Throughout history, some of the largest uprisings in various countries stemmed from the leader of that country persecuting a religious group in that country. If religious tolerance had existed, then many of those uprisings would not have happened. It is a shame that even in modern times, this idea is still rejected and religious groups are still being persecuted.

In “Bin Laden and Other Thoroughly Modern Muslims”, Kurzman talks about the shared similarities between radical and the more liberal Muslims in the world. The most common goal is modernization. He talks about how various leaders in the Muslim world had secular education and use technology. He also talks about how even groups such as Al Qaeda who seem to be against western beliefs use modern technology to operate throughout the world. In his article, Kurzman worked to eliminate some of the stereotypes about Muslims throughout the world both radical and liberal such as the belief that many of these countries are backwards and anti-technology.

Blog Post #2 – “Inside American Islam” NPR stream

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

The stream “Inside American Islam” begins by pointing out how the Islamic religion has been celebrated through history.  I did not know that John Adams had called the prophet Muhammed a “great truth seeker,” and that Thomas Jefferson had hosted an “If-tar”(possible sic) dinner in the White House. I do remember, as broadcaster Tom Ashbrook pointed out, that even George W. Bush spoke out against mistreating Muslims (despite his military campaigns in the Middle East.)

In this audio stream Islam expert and ambassador Akmar Akbed discussed the issue of dual identity that Muslims in America face, since Western practies have for the most part not included values recognized by strict followers of Islam.  Akbed has been an advisor to Gen. Petraeus, and he also holds a number of speaking and teaching positions.  During the interview he spoke of his experiences visiting 100 mosques in 75 cities. When Ashbrook referred to Akbed as the Tocqueville of his time, he rejected the notion.  He instead referred to himself as an anthropologist.

Akbed says we are living in times of rapid change. He says that right now in society everyone feels under pressure, because we are going through many societal changes. We are dealing with economic and immigration issues, wars, and our first African-American president…according to Akbed, all these developments add to Americans’ sense of fear and uncertainty. Akbed spoke of the “lightining rod of Islam,” also on Americans’ minds. Saod Akbed, “All you needed was a catalyst,” and that arose with  the mosque issue in NY and the pastor in FL.

Akbed finished his project in 2009. He found that the gap between muslims and nonmuslims had not closed. A sense of unease exists among muslims, although many acknowledge that the USA is still the best place in the world to be muslim. Muslims feel threatened.  Akbed spoke of vandalism against mosques, including a mosque that was firebombed in TN.

In Akbed’s opinoin, the biggest problem in the muslim community is religious leadership. For instance, members of the boards and the imams running mosques who come from the Middle East don’t know culture in America.  This leads to friction with younger followers who are dealing with teenage issues like how to handle alcohol and sex. If imams and parents can’t provide proper guidance, muslim youth go online.  There they may increase their exposure to what akbed and other analysts call “homegrown terrorism” – radicals in chatrooms looking to assimilate more radical believers.

Akbed also said that ethnic divisions exist amongst Muslims from different countries, and ethnic divisions bring national and sectarian divisions. Akbed continued to say Islam in America does possess a unified muslim leadership and does not know where its going. Unless muslim leadership “comes to grips with the situation” it will affect American society.

Akbed believes that America can absorb the muslim community into its culture.  But it all revolves around the debate about american identity.  Akbed said our assimilation of Muslims depends on the kind of America that Americans want: “genuinely pluralist” – respectful of all – or a society made up of “tensions within communities.”

This was an exceptionally interesting piece because it presents another side of the narrative. Media coverage often adds fire to already caustic religious divides in this country, and rarely shows things from a muslim perspective.  Akbed stands against extremism. In my opinion the media needs to pay more attention to peaceful Muslims and stop giving radicals the attention they so desperately crave.