When I first met these young men, they had been living in the U.S for less than a year. They were young children when the Taliban took power in 1994. They, along with their families, were forced to flee the country because their parents worked for the Afghan government. When the U.S. removed the Taliban in 2002, all three returned to Afghanistan as young adults. Each of them recalled watching the news reports of the U.S. invasion, and upon returning to Kabul all three secured prestigious jobs assisting the U.S. in rebuilding the Afghan government. Both Ibrahim and Yusuf worked for defense contractors in Kabul and Ahmed worked directly with the U.S. military as a translator throughout the country. Both Ibrahim and Yusuf had professional degrees and were some of the highest paid Afghan civilian contractors in Kabul. They loved their jobs because they felt like they were seeing their country transformed for the better, particularly the city of Kabul. Ibrahim put it this way, “It’s not because Kabul is very modern, but there is a deep connection for a lot of Afghans. Friends in Kabul are different. If you have a friend there, they are friends forever. Even after my dad died, his friends would still come to my house to check on us and take care of us.”
The truth is, these young men loved living in Kabul. They described the city as being cosmopolitan and that the ethnic and religious differences that dominated rural areas of the country did not matter in the city. However, as time went on, the threat of retaliation by the Taliban became an ever present reality. They applied and were given visas to come to America but none of their family members could join them. This has resulted in an incredible sense of loneliness and concern for…
Courses and books on Muslim Women are often seen as peripheral materials. This is odd when you consider that women make up at least half the Muslim world, amounting to one billion people. Because the Muslim world is largely gendered, the world Muslim women inhabit is largely invisible to many of the men running courses and writing books around the world. I don’t mean that women are not visible and active in public places, along with men—they are in most Muslim countries today. But the rules that guide their interaction, behavior, the topics they discuss, and the themes that shape both their religious and personal experience are different from those of Muslim men. They are two different communities occupying the same space.
Reflections on Citizenship from a Lebanese-Canadian follower of Jesus
I am a native Lebanese citizen. I was born and raised in Lebanon. I love Lebanon, despite the insecurity, uncertainty, and corruption that characterize the country, and despite having grown up during the civil war. Lebanon has left its mark on me. Even the years of the war have contributed to shaping me into the person that I am today. I love Lebanon with the good and the bad. Consequently, I care a lot about the welfare of Lebanon. But what does this mean for me as a follower of Jesus? Should I care more about the welfare of Lebanon at the expense of other neighboring countries? Should I care about the holders of Lebanese citizenship more than I care about the displaced in Lebanon such as Syrians, Iraqis, Palestinians, and the stateless?
Research the root of radicalization. Look at heart and soul issues. Ask why young men, and sometimes women, are drawn to radical Islam. Many in Muslim-majority nations are experiencing a loss of spirituality. They need to learn about how to be reconciled with God, self and others.
Discredit the dangerous ideologies of Islamism, Salafism and jihadism. We must not support nations that export or fund terrorism. Servant leaders must replace ego-centered political leaders, religious dictators and warlords. We cannot tolerate political parties that support violent End Times theologies. Muslims must learn to disagree without using violence.
Narrowly define the enemy. Some Islamists are more dangerous than others. Keep the conflict measurable. Applaud countries like Tunisia that are resisting radicalism and transitioning to democracy.
Train and equip parents. Recognize that radicalization usually occurs when parents don’t take a strong role in the lives of their children. Parents must learn how to speak to their kids about the dangers of radicalization. The number one factor that stops a suicide bomber is his or her mother.
Focus on economic reform. Grinding poverty is the impetus for thousands to join death cults in the Islamic world. Many Muslims need help with education, microenterprise and savings programs. NGOs and churches can assist them.
Create advocacy networks. The King of Jordan invited many world leaders, including Americans, to advise him on peacemaking and recovery projects. Such networks must include researchers, clerics, businesspeople, policymakers and stakeholders. Religious advisors should not only be older males, but women, and young people as well.
Empower women. This includes training, not only in earning a living, but also in raising families that are committed to building free and civil societies. We must speak out against gender segregation and support girls’ education at all levels.
Leverage the media and the arts. Share testimonies of former extremists and victims. Show role models. Rather than restrict free speech on TV or the internet, provide a counter narrative of life and peace. Enlist soccer stars and celebrities to promote a message of peacemaking.
Embrace religious freedom. Challenge Muslims to explore other faith traditions and the benefits of secular society. As new democracies are formed in North Africa and the Middle East, Islam should no longer be the state religion. When governments are neutral on religion, religious leaders focus less on power and conflict, and more on civil society and social issues that concern their constituents. We must challenge Muslims to transition from black martyrdom (violence) to white martyrdom (service).