I am a Muslim, a Christian, a Jew and a Buddhist too. If you don't like it, then this place is not for you, but as long as you don't force your beliefs on anyone, you're welcome to join in, it doesn't matter if you're a liberal, a republican or just simply you.
Saudi Arabia initiated inter-religious meeting at the United Nations this week. King Abdullah called his initiative a “Culture of Peace Summit,” to promote tolerance among the world’s major religions. Participants who gathered in New York on Wednesday and Thursday, called for promoting mutual understanding and tolerance, through dialogue. Among those who attended are leaders from Pakistan, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, Egypt, Britain, Spain and the Philippines, said Enrique Yeves, spokesman for U.N. General Assembly president Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann. President Bush joined the leaders this morning and gave a speech at the U.N General Assembly hall.
Other participants include U.N. Secretary General Ban Li-Moon and the head of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the bloc of Muslim nations spearheading a campaign at the U.N. to outlaw the “defamation” of religion.
Critics note that while King Abdullah hosted leaders from different Muslim sects in Saudi Arabia, his other initiatives have taken place outside the kingdom. Any inter-religious meeting inside Saudi Arabia could draw opposition from conservative clerics unhappy with the presence of Christian and, especially, Jewish religious leaders.
The underlining results of this Summit are to make non-Muslims accept Islam and the shari’a law as well as the Islamic banking system without any recognition by Muslims to other faiths. The whole focus of the Summit is to endorse a U.N. Resolution of anti-blasphemy law against Islam around the world.
The United States has a black president, but the Netherlands has never had a black prime minister. And plenty of other countries have had women heads of government - so why not the Netherlands?
The explanation is simple, says Radio Netherlands Worldwide'spolitical editor Hans Andringa. It's simply a matter of time. "New Dutch" people have only been in the Netherlands for a matter of decades, and they have been active in politics for an even shorter time.
"Before you get to the top in a political party, so you're as widely recognised and acknowledged as you need to be to become a party leader, it takes a long time."
It has taken years for the number of MPs with ethnic minority backgrounds to build up to the present level, yet the figure is still no higher than eight percent of the total.
Tensions There are even fewer people from ethnic minorities in leading political positions. One exception is the Moroccan-born Achmed Aboutaleb. Currently the deputy social affairs minister, he has just been appointed mayor of Rotterdam. This has a particular resonance, because in recent years the city has been associated with tensions between white Dutch people and ethnic minorities, and was the home ground of the murdered rightwing populist politician Pim Fortuyn. Political commentators have pointed out that if Rotterdam had an elected mayor, it seems unlikely that Mr Aboutaleb would have made it to the post.
Fifty years ago, the people of Morocco's Rif mountains rebelled against the central government. The uprising was brutally put down by the Moroccan army and many of the Rif mountains' native Berbers left for Europe. The world's media didn't pay much attention to the 1958 rebellion, but it left its mark on many people's lives, including that of Mohamed Amezian, son of the rebel leader.
Barack Obama's victory is also being greeted with enthusiasm in Japan - especially in the city of Obama. The residents of the city, which is in the south near Kyoto, support the Democratic candidate mainly because of the shared name, but they have political reasons too.
Last Sunday I got a phone call from my nephew Chakib who lives in Amsterdam along with the rest of my family. He told me to hold on a minute because he had a surprise for me.
So I waited for a few seconds and oh what great surprise!
My childhood best friend Saida, whom I hadn't seen or talked to for close to two decades, got on the phone and....
Saida? OMG I can't believe it!
Saida and I share so many memories, getting in trouble together and having such a great time growing up together. Eventually we went our seperate ways when we were about 19 years old and only seeing each other in passing occasionally.
Imagine my surprise when the first thing she said to me was:
Hey, Ahmed Aboutaleb is now Mayor of Rotterdam hahaaa!
I said: Yes, I read about that in the news. Isn't it awesome?
She said: Remember when you had a fight with him?
Hmm me a fight with Aboutaleb? What are you talking about?
Saida: Hahaa well, maybe not a fight, more like an argument.
I said: I used to run into him here and there, we knew some of the same people and I do remember having a few exchanges with him, but an argument?
If I did, I don't remember.
Saida goes: Well, maybe not an argument, but more like a discussion about politics and I remember clearly when you said you thought he was an arrogant prick and very stubborn...hahaaaa!
Oh WOW really? I swear I don't remember that, but let me tell you something. I've been following his political career in the news for many years now and I'm so proud of him for all that he has accomplished in such a short period of time, despite all the apposition he had to face not just in Dutch society but within the Moroccan community as well.
I think Barry Rubin is one of the best political analysts out there on mideast politics. The man really knows his stuff (I often read his articles), but I wish he were slightly more centered and objective in his overall reviews on the region for the sake of promoting peace and understanding....sort of like he does here in his latest article :
Don't be Fooled by Good Reviews Barry Rubin June 16, 2008
Golda Meir once said that a bad press was better than a good epitaph. In other words, pragmatic considerations must take precedence over public relations.
Sometimes it seems as if contemporary Israeli governments have forgotten that concept. Yet in general, especially where it counts, this principle continues to prevail in Israel.
Not so in the Arab world. There, maintaining a rhetoric of war, militancy, and refusal to compromise--as proof of the regime's impeccable Arab nationalist and Islamic credentials--has always been a powerful factor in governance. This method has great benefits by mobilizing popular support for dictators and a high cost because it blocks their making peace and leads them into costly foreign adventures.
For rulers, the good news is that they remain perpetually behind the steering wheel; the bad news, at least for their citizens, is that the vehicle never gets anywhere good. But this is not to say that the masses are mere dupes in this process. Tempting as it is to say, dictators bad; people good, the fact is that even if the masses don't (in the words of George Orwell's classic on modern dictatorship, 1984) love the ruling Big Brother, they at least like what Big Brother says.
What Big Brother, and all his helping little brothers, says, however, has changed internationally if not locally. The old script, still used in Arabic, was very macho: We'll fight forever, spill oceans of blood, and win completely in the end.
The new script, available only in English, is: we're poor victims who want peace and. In tune with current world thinking, this generates much sympathy.
But the resulting public relations' victories avail them not.
First, let's ask: what, in material terms, has the shift in Western opinion and media coverage actually cost Israel? It's easy to say Israel has been restrained from triumphs by Western pressure as a result of this change. Yet that situation dates back to the early 1970s, before the public relations' blitz, and has more to do with geopolitics than public opinion.
One can argue that there have been some costs to Israel (beneficial advantages from the European Union) and some benefits to the other side (more money to the Palestinian Authority). There's been a lot of personal discomfiture for Israelis treated as pariahs and Jews abroad dismayed by waves of hatred and misunderstanding.
Yet this has amounted to relatively little material disadvantage for Israel and not much real benefit for its adversaries. After all, there's still no Palestinian state, Palestinians are more divided than ever, Hamas is isolated, there's not much pressure on Israel for concessions, the Israeli presence on the Golan Heights remains, Israel's economy thrives, Israel's relations with the major European countries are good, the international campaign against Iran's nuclear drive is as strong as can be expected, and so on.
In short, the radical Arab nationalists, Islamists, Arab regimes, and Palestinian movement have squandered their public relations' victories in the West. The main reason for this is their extremist goals. They are like a bettor who wins at the gambling table but never cashes in his chips since defeat makes him more determined and success makes him over-confident.
If, for example, Palestinian leaders had wanted a deal to get an independent state or Syria had preferred to get back the Golan Heights in exchange for full peace they would have succeeded. A good press and favorable Western opinion, reflected through government policies, would have helped them make a better deal. As it is, however, they are merely enabled to continue their endless struggle with a smile on their faces.
A second way they have lost is by failing to be constructive. Aid given Palestinians was thrown away rather than used to build a productive stable society. The same principle applies to many Arab countries, with a partial exception for high-income, low-population Gulf Arab oil-producing states. Fickle fortune doesn't favor one forever. If you don't grab an advantage it flies away. The moving finger writes and having writ moves on, as Omar Khayyam put it. And sometimes, within a very short time, the very same finger that once praised you gives you, so to speak, the finger.
Third, specific actions undermine temporary popularity. Such events as September 11, the London subway bombings, the Islamist specter, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's demagoguery turn off the Western audience.
Finally, what Arab nationalists and Islamists often cite as their strongest card that time is on their side--because of high birth rates, which also mean lower living standards, or due to Israel's impending miraculous collapse--is among their worst mistakes. You could call it the vulture strategy, wait around in hope your adversary will die. They go on fighting and suffering--postponing peace, progress, and prosperity--while Israel, despite costs, prospers and its people live much better lives.
Rather than being used as part of an integrated strategy to obtain the best possible deal, public relations' successes act as morale builders to keep fighters going in the belief that victory is inevitable. In short, the more sympathetic stories about suffering victim Palestinians, the stronger the impetus to continue policies ensuring Palestinians continue in that status.
One reason for this malady is that most Arabs and Muslims are misled by a history often characterized by the cycle famously described by the historian Ibn Khaldoun. City-centered civilizations grown rich and decadent were destroyed by warlike tribes who reveled in battle. Sheep-like peasants were preyed on by nomadic warriors who raided them like wolves, killing and pillaging.
This was before, however, developed societies built technology, organization, discipline, and identity which gave them real military superiority beyond the strong right arm of individual hero warriors who courted death in battle. Now would-be conquerors sacrifice all for a future that'll never come. A strategy based on loving death and hating life reaps the commensurate result.
Jews know well from history that it is wrong to say "sticks and stones" are physically damaging while "words will never hurt me." Experience has shown that one day, blood libel; next day, pogrom. Yet Golda Meir was in fact right: progress trumps propaganda; quality triumphs over quantity; building beats destroying; and pragmatism is superior to ideologically-based wishful thinking.
Having a nice scrapbook of press clippings doesn't equal victory. Indeed, it can spell defeat.
I have been friends with someone ... let's call him A. ... for a very long time. We met at college, later became roommates, and remained friends ever since. In fact, I've considered him one of my best friends since we first met. Over the years, we stayed in regular contact, often talking on the phone, although we rarely see each other. The past couple of years, I've noticed A. growing more and more angry about life in general. I found him having less and less positive things to say about people. It began to bother me, and we talked about it a bit. He never really explained what's going on with him, but I figured he was lonely and just needed to find someone to love.
A couple of months ago we got into a bit of an argument, the details of which aren't too important. But we haven't spoken since, which isn't necessarily a big deal because it's happened before only for us to reconcile as if nothing ever happened. He has a tendency to close off and I know when to give him his space. Plus, in this instance, I really needed some space of my own because I felt a growing disconnect between us. Well, after not speaking for awhile, I decided to do a Google search on his name, and what I discovered was rather distressing.
It turns out that A. frequently responds to articles over at the Huffington Post, and wow, all I can say is that he is one of the nastiest, angriest, rudest commenters they have ... the type of extreme hater we sometimes find commenting on political websites, and the type that gives opposing political websites fodder to use against them. From the things he says, it's pretty clear that he hates the USA -- his own country where he was born. Post after post is something negative, insulting, and derogatory, routinely painting the USA in a totally unredemptive light, often using pejorative language to describe us. He makes it pretty clear that he feels the USA is a brutal, oppressive, vile world-force that should be stopped. According to him, the USA occupies others, steals, and screws the world over, and that's pretty much the whole story. The USA is evil according to the way he talks. I had absolutely no idea his political views had gotten this extreme. I never experienced such hatred from him.
But here's the kicker ...
I know A. I mean, I really know A. and it would be one thing if he were running around working hard to save others, making enormous sacrifices that he felt were going to hell because certain powers-that-be in the USA kept making his job harder by thwarting his efforts; and that is what drove his anger. His hate wouldn't be mitigated, but at least it would have some sort of context -- a place to start addressing his issues. It would be one thing if he fought against exploitation in some form, treaded lightly on the environment, and focused on sustainable methods of living. But that's not what is going on here. The guy does absolutely nothing to make the world a better place. He is involved in no charity work although he has time on his hands. He is involved in business that has no socially responsible component to it, and lives a thoroughly bourgeois, me-oriented lifestyle. I've heard him say homeless people are disgusting. He eats mostly take-out food with all that disposable trash, including styrofoam. He recently bought himself a new Hummer SUV, which gets hardly any gas mileage to the gallon. He goes out in his gas-guzzling car, gets his Starbucks in a throw-away cup for $4.00, goes home and comments at the Huffington Post what a trashy, consumer-oriented nation we are that screws over the world's little people. Good L'rd, if I didn't just write a post about it, I'd say I were speechless. However, pretty much nothing really shocks me anymore.
The moral of the story here is that hate is very rarely, if ever righteously motivated. Usually, there are just personal issues involved. It's very easy to demand others create change for us, make our reputations look good, and encourage the world to pat us on the back instead of doing the actual work ourselves; and then to turn bitter and resentful when our demands aren't met.
All I can say is that now when I read rude, angry, self-righteous comments from people on the internet, I can only wonder who these people really are and how many of them live their lives in a way that stands in direct hypocrisy to what they say on the blogs.
Meanwhile, as far as my relationship with A. is concerned ... I haven't figured out how I want to handle it yet.
The role of women in promoting peace and security is increasingly acknowledged, with UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women and Peace and Security as a crucial reference point, though much still remains to be done at all levels to implement this resolution.
On the eve of the International Women's Day more than 50 international women leaders will meet in Brussels to discuss the role of women in stabilizing an insecure world.
As we write this, it is hard to imagine a world without war. Every day, we hear reports of new conflicts, of escalating tensions and violence. And in any situation of insecurity, from war to health threats to climate change, women are often disproportionately affected because of their traditionally more vulnerable position in the society.
Eighty percent of the world's refugees are women and children. Sexual violence and rape are prevalent in regions of war as well as in refugee camps. We cannot talk about the role of women in conflict resolution without acknowledging this terrible reality.
At the same time, we need to remember that women are also key actors promoting peace and stability. Security cannot be effectively discussed or achieved without the involvement of women.
Women's participation is crucial not only in the more traditional "hard" security spheres like war efforts, peace-building, post-conflict reconstruction and counter-terrorism, but also countering "softer" human security threats such as global epidemics, psychological health during and post-war, and the emerging concerns of climate change and environmental degradation.
Yesterday, more than 50 women leaders from all continents met in Brussels at the invitation of commissioner Ferrero-Waldner to discuss about "Women: stabilizing an insecure world".
Female heads of states, ministers, and heads of international organizations, business leaders, and civil society activists have discussed the twin themes of security and women's empowerment.