07 September 2014

jihad or crusade

If you were a young person and the path to dropping out of school and drugs seemed more attractive or popular than studying and going to college, if you were a young person of color or a punk and the cops harassed you if you stood around on the street corner, if you were a young person who did not find much support in Christianity, might you be tempted to convert to Islam? If you lived in a society that glorified guns and soldiers and vilified terrorists and immigrants, if you lived in a country that gave early boarding privilege to uniformed servicemen and women, might you be tempted to join a military adventure? Today's New York Times has a profile of two young men from Minnesota, one white and one black, who became jihadists. One, the white guy, went to Somalia and died there in 2009. The other joined ISIS and died this year in Iraq.

If you cannot imagine that, think back a thousand years. The local priest or nobleman is calling on people to join a crusade and rid the Promised Land of the infidel.

Work for peace and justice. Another article on the front page of today's paper was about Al Fawwar, a Palestinian camp in the West Bank, where architect Sandi Hilal and local residents have created a public square. The camps were opened as temporary settlements but have persisted for generations. Social public spaces are important, especially for women in the Middle East, even if they challenge ideas about permanence. Interacting with others in ordinary ways is the foundation of a diverse and peaceful society.

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