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The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Dalia Mogahed is Executive Director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies.
By Dalia Mogahed
Right-wing pundits in the U.S. and Europe sometimes argue that it is misguided to avoid religious language when describing terrorists. They point out that members of Al-Qaeda and its affiliates call themselves “jihadists”, a derivative of the Arabic noun “jihad” meaning a struggle for God. They explain that it is therefore accurate and fair to refer to Al-Qaeda and its affiliates by the same term.
These same commentators also assert that political correctness in labelling the enemy is the last thing Western societies should be worried about. In fact, they say, focusing too much on not offending others may even weaken Americans’ and Europeans’ will to defeat those who wish them harm.
(Photo: Orhan Pamuk at the International Book Fair in Guadalajara, November 28, 2009/Alejandro Acosta)
From his Istanbul window, the Nobel-winning Turkish author Orhan Pamuk sees a city in flux.
Gleaming steel towers that signify Istanbul's new economic power rise in the distance, rivalling more familiar views of old mosques and palaces, home to the former Ottoman dynasty. Teeming suburbs spread across hills.
from Africa News blog:
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe backs Iran's controversial nuclear programme and has accused the West of seeking to punish the two countries for asserting their independence.
"Be also assured, comrade president, of Zimbabwe's continuous support of Iran's just cause on the nuclear issue," Mugabe told Ahmadinejad at a banquet he hosted for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who arrived in Harare on Thursday for a two-day visit..
Since 9/11, studying the relations between Islam and the West have become a growth field in academia. Among its leading proponents is Saudi Arabian investor Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, a billionaire who has spent tens of millions of dollars via his Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation creating study centres at leading universities, including Cambridge, Harvard and Georgetown, with the goal of fostering interfaith dialogue and understanding. (Photo: Prince Alwaleed in Kabul, 18 March 2008/Ahmad Masood)
In the wake of the Islamist attacks in Mumbai last November, the foundation's executive director, Muna AbuSulayman said recently, the organisation is keen to set up a centre in India and also to foster dialogue between Muslims and Jews.
President Barack Obama has just pledged to make a new start for United States relations with the Muslim world: "To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect," he said in his inaugural address. "To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist." (Photo: President Obama delivers his inaugural address, 20 Jan 2009/Jason Reed)
It's not clear what he plans to do. One idea he's mentioned is to deliver a major speech in a Muslim country in his first year in office. There's already a lively discussion on the web about where he should go. During his speech, CNN showed a shot of the crowd with some people holding up signs urging him to deliver the speech in Morocco.
Did the "Obama-is-a- Muslim" whisper campaign energise Muslim voters to turn out en masse for him? Did the widely circulated DVD "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West" actually end up helping him at the polls? That seems to be the case, our Chicago religion writer Mike Conlon reports in this analysis.
"Unpublished polling data indicated that the Democratic President-elect got somewhere between 67 percent and 90 percent of the Muslim vote, probably nearer the higher end, Ahmed Younis of Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, said in a telephone briefing," Conlon writes.
from India Masala:
The clash of catwalks spurred mixed emotions in the build-up to Delhi's hosting of not one, but two fashion events this week.
"Christians and Muslims routinely mistrust, disrespect and dislike each other, if not popularly and actively rubbish, dehumanize, demonize, despise and attack each other."
Hmmm ... this doesn't sound like your usual speech at a conference on Christian-Muslim dialogue.
"With such an explosive mix, popular religious conflicts, even unto genocide, are lurking around the corner." Um, er ... the gloves are really off.
The dust had hardly settled from the Magdi Allam baptism story when Saudi King Abdullah announced he wanted to promote dialogue between Muslims, Christians and Jews. The World Council of Churches came out with its endorsement of the Common Word dialogue appeal after consulting member churches (many of which have already responded positively). And the World Economic Forum issued a study that says, among other things, that fewer than 30% of Muslims and Christians polled thought the other faith was sincerely interested in better understanding and cooperation. What's going on?
The first thing to say is that these all seem to be different developments. We've already covered the Magdi Allam baptism story. That incident looks like a bit of unexpected turbulence that should calm down now that Common Word signatory Aref Ali Nayed criticised the Vatican for it and L'Osservatore Romano said the baptism was not a hostile act towards Islam. For more on this, see Nayed's statement, his El Pais interview today (English, Spanish) and the L'Osservatore Romano editorial (Italian).
The Gallup poll, published in a report on Muslim-Western relations for the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos this week, reflects "an alarmingly low level of optimism regarding dialogue between Islam and the West", WEF chairman Klaus Schwab said.