Tag Archives: understanding

Sympathy for one group – but not the other?

I had a conversation this week and, in trying to make a point to the person with whom I was speaking, these two narratives popped into my head, almost fully formed before I even wrote them down:

muslim and police woman

I am a Muslim. I love being a Muslim. So much of my identity is based in being a part of Islam. I love the camaraderie and fellowship of other Muslims. I make no apologies for that.

I understand that many people are afraid of me. That makes me sad, and, at times, very defensive, even angry.

It is completely unfair that people assume all Muslims are bad because of the violent acts of a small minority of Muslims in the USA. The vast majority of Muslims are good people who care deeply about their communities, they want to contribute positively to such, and they want all people to live in peace. Yes, there are Muslims that do not respect human rights and that have done horrible, violent, reprehensible things in the USA, like:

But I should not have to publicly condemn such acts of violence over and over and over. The assumption shouldn’t be made that I support these events just because I’m a Muslim.

We’ve seen social media posts and videos of Muslims, some of them considered leaders by other Muslims, celebrating or trying to justify these violent acts. But I shouldn’t have to apologize because an Iman with thousands of followers excuses or even promotes these violations of human rights. I want to be judged by my character and actions, not those of others.

I’m proud of my hijab, and when you see me in it, please don’t automatically assume that I am a bad person and that I am your enemy. Please talk to me. Get to know me. I welcome the conversations.

I am a police officer. I love being a police officer. So much of my identity is based in being a police officer. I love the camaraderie and fellowship of other officers. I make no apologies for that.

I understand that many people are afraid of me. That makes me sad, and, at times, very defensive, even angry.

It is completely unfair that people assume all police officers are bad because of the violent acts of a small minority of police officers in the USA. The vast majority of police officers are good people who care deeply about their communities, they want to contribute positively to such, and they want all people to live in peace. Yes, there are police officers that do not respect human rights and that have done horrible, violent, reprehensible things in the USA, like:

But I should not have to publicly condemn such acts of violence over and over and over. The assumption shouldn’t be made that I support these events just because I’m a police officer.

We’ve seen social media posts and videos of police officers, some of them considered leaders by other police, celebrating or trying to justify these violent acts. But I shouldn’t have to apologize because a police union with thousands of members excuses or even promotes these violations of human rights. I want to be judged by my character and actions, not those of others.

I’m proud of my uniform, and when you see me in it, please don’t automatically assume that I am a bad person and that I am your enemy. Please talk to me. Get to know me. I welcome the conversations.

These two groups are so similarly demonized, but I never realized it until the morning of the day I originally drafted this. Both of these groups can say the same thing, almost word-for-word, about how they are negatively perceived by many people.

There are going to be people who are going to read one column and totally agree – and read the other column and be outraged. There are those that believe all Muslims are potential terrorists because of the acts of a minority, but would never believe all police are potentially racist because of the acts of a minority of members. And vice versa.

If you read this and felt sympathy for one group, but not for the other, I hope you will think long and hard about why that is.

Comments are welcomed, unless such use what I consider misinformation or hate-based language.

Also see:

Tourism, a catalyst for peace and development

World Tourism Organization

Press Release

Madrid, Spain, 14 July 2016

PR No. 16055

Tourism, a catalyst for peace and development

Tourism can play a key role in building peace and supporting reconciliation processes, concluded the UNWTO Conference on ‘Tourism, a catalyst for development, peace and reconciliation’ held in Passikudah, Sri Lanka between 11 and 14 July.  

Community engagement and empowerment, capacity building and training, and public/private sector partnerships are key factors in advancing a culture of peace through tourism in post-conflict societies. Participants recalled the importance of placing tourism at the heart of the peace and reconciliation agenda, to ensure the sector can deliver on its capacity to generate development and social inclusion.

“Tourism is a vehicle for trust and goodwill. Cultural understanding can change attitudes and build peace. Tourism’s role in peace building is also  enacted through its contribution to poverty alleviation, cultural preservation and environmental conservation,” said President of Sri Lanka Maithripala Sirisena in a message to the Conference.

“For most of the last thirty years, this place has been a warzone. Today, Passikudah is an example of how people affected by conflict have picked up the pieces and rebuilt their lives. We would not be meeting here if it were not for peace,” said the Minister of Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs and Lands of Sri Lanka, John Amaratunga. “We will work to provide an example to the world on how to rise from the ashes of conflict to become a leading tourism destination,” he added.

“We face a deficit of tolerance. Tourism brings people together; it opens our minds and hearts”, said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai, opening the Conference. “Yet to gain peace we need to give people opportunities for a better future; we need to create jobs and bring them hope,” he added.

“The Petra National Trust conducted a number of informal surveys that suggest that when tourism is poorly managed, societal tensions persist, local communities’ connection to their heritage weakens, responsible practices around tourism sites suffer, and local culture and values erode,” said HRH Princess Dana Firas, Chair of the Petra National Trust, Jordan, in her keynote address.

The Conference focused on four main topics: the contribution of tourism development to peace, local community involvement and ‘peace sensitive tourism’, public/private partnerships, and marketing in post-conflict destinations.

“This was an historical event in an area once torn apart by war. We trust that tourism development in Sri Lanka will bring more opportunities to the people and particularly the youth of the country,” said Paddy Withana, Chairman of Sri Lanka Tourism, closing the event by recalling that the conference welcomed perspectives on how that can be done in full respect of communities and traditions from across the country.

On the occasion, five Sri Lankan companies – Aitken Spence Hotel Holdings PLC, Lanka Hotels & Travels PVT Ltd, Laugfs Leisure Limited, Siddhalepa Ayurveda Health Resort and Theme Resorts & Spas Pvt Ltd. – signed the Private Sector Commitment to the UNWTO Code of Ethics for Tourism, pledging to upload and promote the values of the Code. The signing ceremony was witnessed by UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai, the Sri Lankan Minister of Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs and Lands of Sri Lanka, John Amaratunga, and Hiran Cooray, Member of the World Committee on Tourism Ethics.

Additional information:

The conference website

Tourism and Peace book

Photo album of the conference

Contacts:

UNWTO Media Officer Rut Gomez Sobrino
Tel: (+34) 91 567 81 60

UNWTO Communications & Publications Programme
Tel: (+34) 91 567 8100 / Fax: +34 91 567 8218

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), a United Nations specialized agency, is the leading international organization with the decisive and central role in promoting the development of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism. It serves as a global forum for tourism policy issues and a practical source of tourism know-how. Its membership includes 157 countries, 6 territories, 2 permanent observers and over 500 Affiliate Members. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and Flickr

volunteer engagement to promote social cohesion, prevent extremism?

social cohesionThere will be a conference in Brussels, Belgium on 13 October 2016 regarding the possible role of volunteer engagement in promoting inclusion and preventing extremism.

Examples from across Europe and beyond, such as from South Africa, Colombia and Algeria, will be reviewed to explore ways that volunteerism has contributed to building trust and social cohesion. The conference will also discuss elements and factors that are essential for success in such endeavors. The examples will be included in a publication that “will offer analysis of the challenges faced in Europe concerning social inclusion and the risks of extremism from different belief groups and explain how the volunteer projects contribute to addressing these issues.”

The conference is being promoted by the European Volunteer Centre (CEV), supported by the European Commission. The event will be organised in the framework of the Slovak Presidency of the Council of the European Union and with the support of London House and Team London (European Volunteering Capital 2016).

There are lots of ways for an organization that involves volunteers to be thinking about inclusiveness in its volunteer engagement, even if social cohesion or community building isn’t explicitly stated in its mission. For instance:

Also see these related resources:

Goodbye newspaper, goodbye community?

I don’t just come from a city in Kentucky; I come from a community. And I believe that one of the things that has made Henderson a community has been our local newspaper, The Gleaner.

I started reading The Gleaner as soon as I started to read. Everyone in my family read The Gleaner. Every neighbor read The Gleaner. Every adult I knew referenced the newspaper regularly. We all knew what city and county ordinances were up for debate, who had died, who was running for what office, what was happening in the state legislature, who was getting married, who had gotten divorced, local team sports scores, what Spring musical the high school was doing, and all the other things a community should know. The news from our paper crossed lines of culture, ethnicity, religion, political belief and neighborhood. The news was about us, for us. In so many ways, The Gleaner was the best representative of our community, as a whole.

I worked at The Gleaner when I was in high school. I worked there again as a summer intern in 1986. More than 25 years later, when I’m back in Henderson, people recall some of the stories I wrote, some I don’t remember myself. When I left Kentucky, my parents bought me a subscription to my hometown paper, and I would get the newspapers in bundles in the mail. I was long gone from Henderson, but I knew what was going on there. I used what I learned from my time working at this paper in my press relations career, which I chose over a journalism career. More than once, I had a reporter tell me, “I can so tell you worked at newspapers. You always have the info I need!”

In the 1990s, what I dreaded for so long happened: the local owner of The Gleaner sold the newspaper. It came under the management of a newspaper in another state. I got a taste of the identity and news Henderson was losing when I went to The Gleaner‘s web site but couldn’t access the front page story about the death of Dr. Donald Cantley, a beloved member of the Henderson community, a former president of the Kentucky Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics who devoted his life to improving the physical and mental health of children. He established seven school-based clinics to provide care for children with inadequate health coverage of other barriers to care, and was a pioneer in his approach to caring for children with behavioral disorders. It was huge news in Henderson when he died, but the web site had been revamped in such a way that anyone with a Mac OS just a year out of date couldn’t access it. Furious, I called The Gleaner, and a staff member and friend told me, sorry, but the web site is managed by the Evansville, Indiana Courier Press. So I called that other office, asked that the front-page story be emailed to me, told them why, and they sent me… the obituary from page 2. Because they didn’t know who Dr. Cantley was. They didn’t know he was on the front page of the newspaper in Henderson, Kentucky.

When I was last in Kentucky, I was stunned at the skimpiness of my hometown paper. The cuts in reporting staff have been devasting on local coverage. And the Internet has not replaced this information; I just tried to find some of the information I used to find in my hometown paper, by spending time on various organization’s social media and web sites – funeral home web sites, school social media accounts, government social media sites, etc. I think I know less than a quarter of what I would have known in the same amount of time with a version of the newspaper produced in the way it was in the 1980s.

I remember when I was studying for my journalism degree at Western Kentucky University. One of my professors said that, if you are ever out of story ideas in your local community, just look at the newspaper’s classified ads – there will be something there that will lead you to a story. Classified ads in newspapers now barely exist, replaced by Craigslist. Honestly, I feel like most Craigslist ads are either scams or from creepy people I really don’t ever want to meet face-to-face.

I long ago accepted that my hometown newspaper is going away, slowly but surely. I know this is happening all over the USA. 105 newspapers closed in 2009 alone. In 2007, there were 55,000 full-time journalists working at nearly 1,400 daily papers; in 2015, there were 32,900, according to a census by the American Society of News Editors and the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Florida International University, and that number doesn’t include the big buyouts and layoffs last fall, like those at the Los Angeles TimesThe Philadelphia Inquirer and the New York Daily News, among others, and weeklies and magazines like National Geographic.

But what is the cost of this loss? “You know who loves this new day of the lack of journalism? Politicians. Businessmen. Nobody’s watching them anymore,” said Russ Kendall, quoted in this blog on the Bill Moyers site. Kendall was a long-time photojournalist and editor who is now self-employed as a pizza maker. Indeed, I’ve wondered often if state legislatures have been so prolific in some of their legislation that rolls back civil rights legislation, women’s access to health care, environmental laws and more because they know they aren’t being scrutinized by the public the way they were 30 years ago, because of the demise of newspapers.

But the loss is also the loss of community. What city and county ordinances are up for debate? What is happening in the state legislature? What Spring musical is the high school doing? I ask – and people aren’t sure, they can’t remember… not in Henderson, not in the small town where I live now, in Oregon. Local information is slowly disappearing – along with local connections. And social media ain’t so social.

Myths aren’t just annoying – they promote hatred

I have long been passionate about debunking urban legends, and that I’m very concerned at how easy online and phone-based tools, from email to Twitter, are making it to promote rumors and myths. Five to 10 years ago, I was blogging on this subject regularly. The web host where I published these blogs is long gone, and I’m now trying to find my many blogs on the subject of how folklore, rumors (or rumours) and urban myths Interfere with development work, aid/relief efforts and community health initiatives, so I can republish them here. I’ll be publishing these every Saturday until they are all back online. 

This blog originally appeared on a different blog host on 13. August 2009.

myths aren’t just annoying – they promote hatred

I worked in Afghanistan for six months in 2007, and I maintain a lot of contacts there. One of them forwards emails to several people, including me, regarding warnings or calls for protests, and all of them have been urban legends — not one has been true. The latest was this:

In the business area of MID TOWN MAN HATTAN in New York a new BAR is opened in the name of APPLE MECCA which is familiar to KAABA MAKKAH. This bar will be used for supply of Wine and Drinks. The Muslims of New York are pressurizing Government of USA not open this BAR.

Accompanying this myth is a purported photo of the “bar” — here’s an example.

Ofcourse this is all a lieThe picture is not real. It is a doctored image of the Apple Computer store on Fifth Avenue in New York City (which, indeed, has a bar — a genius bar — where knowledge, rather than wine and beer, is served). It is a clear block, not a black box, and is not at all a rendering of the holy Ka’ba. But many people forward the message via their phones or computers to all their friends and relatives, and they not only keep the lie alive, they also generate hatred and misunderstanding by Muslims against the West.

In the USA, we have a variety of online resources that debunk myths and rumors, such as the Straight Dope column by Cecil Adams, truthorfiction.com, President Obama’s Reality Check, and the popular but politically-framed snopes.comAre there any efforts in Arab-speaking countries and countries with large numbers of Muslims that are actively, engaging in myth-busting? If you know of such, please contact me. If not — please, someone, get busy!