Another error in the “war on terror”

From the outset, the so-called “war on terror” has proceeded erroneously. The first error was an incorrect diagnosis of the root causes of 9/11. The second error was the response. The third error has been the faulty narrative that has sustained the conflict. Instead of engaging in some real introspection and changing course where necessary, Congressman Peter King’s hearings on the radicalization of Muslims are a doubling-down on a path of errors.

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Civility 101: Do Unto Otters

Review of Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller (New York: Henry Holt and Company LLC, 2007).

Shrillness, vitriol, and a distinct lack of civility characterize much of our public discussion in America these days. America is torn and tense. One example is that the topic of Islam in public discussion has become almost radioactive. A jolting, disturbing reminder spread across the internet last week in video footage of loud, rude, and at times vicious anti-Muslim protesters who held a rally in February at a mosque in California. And Rep. Peter King’s hearings on Islamic radicalization in America have been the focus of intensely polarized—and not particularly civil—national debate.

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A New Egypt

In the aftermath of Mubarak’s resignation, Egypt stands at the dawn of a new era. It is an era borne of the ingenuity, sacrifices and dedication of an entire nation. We remember and recognize all those brave men and women who lost their lives but have ignited and galvanized the movement of change. The past month has been a testament to the spirit and integrity of the Egyptian people.

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Beyond State Idolatry in Egypt

What we are currently witnessing in Egypt is a transformative moment that has been described by the pro-democracy demonstrators in the streets of Cairo as a “Tunisami”—a tsunami of social activism that first swept a despot in Tunisia from power and now in Egypt. The question on many people’s minds is: What comes next? I hope Egyptians will embrace a lesson citizens in my own South Africa have learned the hard way: beware the idolatry of the state.

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Let Fundamental Reforms Bring a New, Peaceful Egypt

It is with a heavy heart that I have watched the events of the past few days unfold. Violence is always regrettable, but to watch my own country deteriorate into virtual chaos is a cause of unimaginable grief and sadness, and the recent attacks against demonstrators are worthy of the strongest condemnation. To see Egypt in such a state of chaos is truly heart-wrenching. There is, however, reason for hope and optimism.

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North African Islamists Are Stronger Than They Look

Although everyone by now has traced a narrative arc from Tunisia to the momentous events in Egypt, eyes darted first to Algeria. In the days surrounding the collapse of Tunisian President Ben Ali’s government, many wondered about the stability of the government in Algiers. In fact, some Algerian political opposition forces are currently attempting to rally around the present moment of political openness—a moment fraught with all the more potential because of the unfolding situation in Egypt.

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The “Mormon Menace”

Nineteenth-century America saw a nationwide campaign to tame the “Mormon menace.” Promoted by an alliance of religious and secular individuals, institutions, and ideals, it even led President Rutherford B. Hayes to recommend stripping Mormons of their citizenship. Although Contending Modernities will focus primarily on Mormonism’s fellow subjects of modern opprobrium—Islam and Catholicism—it is important to consider such other “shadow cases” as we examine the complex dynamics of religion in modernity. The deep pluralism characteristic of the modern age has posed, and will continue to pose, a substantial challenge to the largely Euro-American-Protestant construct of secularism that dominated much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

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Egypt’s Sad Entrance into 2011

Series:

I returned to Egypt for a visit, as I often do around this time. On New Year’s Eve my husband and I were wandering in the nearly empty streets of our Cairo neighborhood looking for a cyber café as our internet was down. When I saw two men pass by briskly carrying three huge boxes of pastries I thought of the merriment that was unfolding in houses, clubs, and restaurants and of the shouts of joy that would resound at the stroke of midnight. Within hours, though, all hell broke out at a large Coptic church in the heart of Alexandria—ending twenty-one innocent lives and shattering peace and hope throughout the country.

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On the New Year’s Day Church Bombing in Egypt

Series:

Terrorism cannot be the outcome of any proper understanding of religion. It is rather a manifestation of the immorality of people with cruel hearts, arrogant souls, and warped logic. It is thus with great sadness and outrage that we witness the emergence of this disease in our nation with the recent bombing outside a church in Alexandria that killed tens of Egyptian citizens. There is no doubt that such barbarism needs to be denounced in the strongest of terms, and opposed at every turn. We demand that the perpetrators be brought to justice and stand trial.

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American Identity and the Challenge of Islam

A review of Akbar Ahmed, “Journey into America: the challenge of Islam” (Brookings Institution Press, 2010).

“The challenge of Islam,” as Akbar Ahmed calls it, is ushering in a new chapter in the history of American identity. But in the ideals of America’s Founding Fathers Ahmed finds hope for a vibrant, inclusive American future—if, that is, Americans remain faithful to these ideals and preserve America’s true identity.

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