Monday, March 02, 2009

Decriminalization of Islamic Community

Something I discovered to my dismay while attending the Holy Land Foundation trial in Dallas Federal Court was the extent to which the past occupied White House demonized the entire Islamic world. The entire community is served by 'zakat' committees in Palestine, yet our government made a case for judging as criminal the character of those charitable operations.

As we learn new offenses against humanity daily in the unraveling of Gitmo, we are learning the effect of our government's prejudices against Islam as a whole. Our government which represented us to the world for eight years was criminal in its conduct.

There are some rational beings who have continued to behave humanely through the eight years of criminal conduct just past.

No task is greater than educating children and teaching them compassion and philanthropy. Greg Mortenson, a unique humanitarian, is doing all this and more. So it's fitting that he is this year's winner of the prestigious Austin College Leadership Award, with its $100,000 prize; caring and learning about the world are an integral part of Austin College education.

Mortenson shows what an ordinary person can do to change our idea about attaining peace: Peace is achieved through education and friendship, not through violence and war. The Pentagon, too, understands his philosophy. His international bestseller, Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace ... One School at a Time, is required reading for military intelligence training.

For Mortenson, a mountaineer, it all started in 1993, when in memory of his younger sister Christa, he began climbing the K2, the world's second-highest mountain. But he failed miserably and almost died. All this happened because a team member got sick, and they had to turn around. On the way back, he got lost. He walked 58 miles in those desolate, harsh mountains, with little food and stumbled into a poor village, Korphe, in northeast Pakistan – near Afghanistan and in the Taliban's back yard.

At Korphe, he was welcomed by Haji Ali, the village chief, and his family. They saved his life, and later, the chief became his mentor. Moved by the villagers' generosity, he wanted to do something in return. Then he saw the village children writing with sticks on sand, out in the elements, for they had no school building or paper. Mortenson promised to build a school at Korphe. Educating children, he felt, would be a more meaningful memorial to his departed sister.

But he had no money. His story, however, inspired the students of his mother's elementary school in Wisconsin. They collected 62,340 pennies to help him. In the process, Mortenson launched the children's philanthropic program, Pennies for Peace, in which children collect pennies to aid the needy. With financial help from Jean Hoerni, a scientist, he co-founded the Central Asia Institute. With local support, the institute has built 78 schools in the remote mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan to teach more than 28,000 children, 18,000 of whom are girls. A young readers' edition of Three Cups Tea, with a subtitle, "One Man's Journey to Change the World ...One Child at a Time," says a lot about shaping minds. Ignorance, poverty and isolation make a fertile ground for the Taliban.

Once ignored and maligned, Mortenson is now mentioned for the Nobel Peace Prize. But why has he succeeded where others have failed? Because he disregarded the prevailing notion that Muslims as a group are a violent lot. He strived to learn about the people and their faith, Islam. "The true core tenets of Islam are justice, tolerance and charity," he wrote from experience.

But his success did not come easily. When he started his project, he was vilified and threatened by both the Taliban and Americans. The Taliban was angry about the education of girls. (Talibanists are blind to the Prophet's teaching: Learning is a duty of every Muslim, male or female.) And Americans were angry about the education of the "enemies." Yet, despite the risks, Moretenson and his family persevered.

In the quest for peace, we can't be bystanders. Jane Goodall, the primatologist and humanitarian, put it best for us: "When we truly understand about people and their lives in other countries ... when we become friends, then the world becomes a happier and a safer place."

The representation of our essential decency has been left to committed humane people like Mortenson while war criminals were in power. Now that that dark time is over, hopefully more can be done to return our country to a place among civilized nations.

Thanks to all those who kept the faith during the years of criminal control of the U.S. executive branch.

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Blogger Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

"The dark times are over?"


Then how izzit that the Obamanauts are defending Bushevik intelligence policies and practices?

Dang, Ruta, much as Ah luvs ya, I ometimes believe you done drunk the moon juice...

9:00 AM  
Blogger Ruth said...

The differences are very big to me, Woody, although I would love everything to be just as I want it. There is a huge weight off my mind knowing we have a sane adult in the White House.

12:39 PM  

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