From my writings on Europe’s Muslim communities and the future of tolerance, co-existence and social enterprise
Liberals and conservatives often want the same thing – a peaceful, flourishing society – but speak about it with different languages through different moral lenses.
The problems and possible solutions proposed in this paper should appeal quite strongly to both moral tribes.
This fact will help greatly in how we make these points across different audiences and influencers across the political landscape. Fostering social inclusion, as well as economic opportunity, within marginalized communities can be a multiplier against the forces which precipitate riots, gangs and extremism. To fail to embrace this is to take a hit on the very things we hold dear as standard-bearers of a free and prosperous nation-state, and well as a fair, just and inclusive society.
Introduction, from my paper, Muslim Youth, Strong Communities, and Social Enterprise: A Rational Response to extremism
“…the most dangerous person in the world is a person without hope.”
– How the Poor Can Save Capitalism: Rebuilding the Path to the Middle Class, by John Hope Bryant In areas prone to terror attacks, there is a layer of human, social, and cultural terrain in which extremism can either
In areas ripe for both terror, recruitment and extremism on the one hand, and opportunity, entrepreneurship and business on the other, it is obvious that many areas abroad –and many of our communities here at home – stand at a crossroads. Even a critical juncture of history. We must choose if it is possible, and desirable, to help foster the latter to marginalize and minimize the former. And if so, we must decide if we are really willing to do it. It would cost far less than the space program and the arms race of the last half century, but would be no less challenging. The benefits would be indescribable on many fronts. After a decade of insurgency and counterinsurgency on two fronts, and decades of community-building successes and failures here at home, and centuries of clashes with police and the emergence of ethno-sectarian rifts and violent episodes, certain things are clear, and the clarity quite pronounced. It should be clear to us now that one of the best ways to combat social unrest, be it in Ferguson, MI or Damascus, Syria, is to build community, enable hope and opportunity, and mitigate the risk resulting from a lack of these things in the presence of violent alternatives that seek to fill this vacuum. This is a basic facet of human behavior which has been observed, assessed and seen replicated across geographical, cultural and religious boundaries.
This paper, as well as an emerging discourse across Western and even global society*, postulates that science and rational, abstract thinking, rather than political soundbites and fear, are the best tools we have in existence to respond to the complex problems of radicalism, poverty and social unrest. However, in what will hopefully come across to readers in a quite compatible way, it also espouses that human ‘sociality’, human understanding and the cultivation of empathy are absolutely indispensable. The following is a citation from Geoffrey Mitelman, the Sinai and Synapses founder and director * whom I met and have had pleasant exchange with during and after meeting him at a NYC 92Y event titled “The Moral Genius of Good and Evil”*, in which he had an hour-long discussion with famous scientist and skeptic Michael Shermer. As he stated in an article in the Huffington Post*,
“…reason is a crucial skill for us humans. It allows us to understand the world and to ensure that our beliefs match reality. But while reason is necessary to truly create a just world, it is not sufficient. Instead, we need to find the individual humanity in each person. To realize that each person’s life matters. To realize that we are all responsible for the world we create. And to realize that relationships, connections, and compassion — not simply reason — are what will make our world more whole.”
Now let us examine the crisis of identity and multicultural unrest which colors the canvas of secular and Islamic debate in Europe. We can respond to this with political soundbites, emotion and demagoguery, or we can respond with rational thinking, applied science, human reason and a humble and continually-refined understanding of realities around us – this is a choice we have. To quote something I have used in previous works*,
“If we capitulate to superstition or greed or stupidity we could plunge our world into a time of darkness deeper than the time between the collapse of classical civilization and the Italian Renaissance. But we are also capable of using our compassion and our intelligence, our technology and our wealth to make an abundant and meaningful life for every inhabitant of this planet.”
– Carl Sagan, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean (Episode 1) This is our arms race to empower communities. Indeed, in many cases, without firing a shot.