Friday, February 15, 2013 a Muslim who saved Jews from Nazis?

What remains a mystery to me still is why the Hutu extremists passed these Muslims by, while slaughtering others who were neither Hutu, Tutsi nor Muslim. Pygmies, for example, are a very distinct and ancient people throughout sub-Saharan Africa. They are only about 1% of the Rwanda’s population, with little political or economic power. Pygmies were hardly a threat to anyone, and yet, they were slaughtered at least as thoroughly as the rest of Rwanda’s population. (Diamond, 2005, p. 318)
What then saved the Muslims in Biryogo (and elsewhere) in Rwanda? I can’t say. Perhaps luck. But perhaps they were spared as a natural consequence of practicing true religion. Perhaps God protected the Muslims of Biryogo simply because they were practicing true Islam.

Meanwhile, not long after the genocides, a group of Islamic fundamentalists (funded by few wealthy Pakistanis) tried to establish themselves in Rwanda. They organized themselves to the extent that they had gained control of at least one Mosque. However, when there could no longer be any doubt about their philosophies and jihadist intentions, these Islamic fundamentalists were kicked out of the country by official Muslim organizations of Rwanda.(Ngowi 2002)
So, whether the danger is massive genocide by Christians or the mere threat of imported Islamic fundamentalism, we now know that the Muslims in Rwanda not only practiced a “religion of peace” but they were also proactive by sheltering and protecting many others, whether Hutu or Tutsi, Christian or non-believer. Had there been any Jews in need of protection, they would have found it in Biryogo. I have no doubt about that. Why? Because this protective behavior has precedent throughout the Muslim world.
Muslims Who Saved Jews from Nazis
For example, most people are completely unaware that Muslims protected Jews against Nazi occupied Europe during the period up to and during World War II, as told in a recent issue Emel–The Muslim Lifestyle Magazine:
During that time of systematic persecution, it is nearly impossible to accept that there was one country in Europe that saw its Jewish population grow. But that is exactly what happened in Albania and Kosovo-Jews were safe there. Muslims ignored the grave risks to themselves and sheltered not only their Jewish neighbors, but also thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi terror. “During the Nazi occupation of Albania,” states Johanna Neumann of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, “there is not one confirmed instance of a Jew being handed over to the Nazis by a Muslim Albanian.”
The Albanian government actively defied Nazi rule. In 1938 King Zog, the first and only Muslim King of Europe, issued four hundred passports to refugee Jews, granting them safe entry into Albania. After learning of the Nazi campaign elsewhere in Europe, the Mayor of Tirane issued documents to Jewish families, protecting them by stating they were Muslims. When the Germans occupied Albania and demanded lists of Jews from the authorities, the Albanians answered, “We don’t know any Jews, we only know Albanians.” Everybody knew, but nobody told.
The Albanians’ resistance is a hidden period in history, emerging now only after the fall of an isolationist communist regime. American photographer Norman H. Gershman has been exploring that tale. He is a long-time supporter of Yad Vashem (the Jerusalem-based Holocaust memorial), an organization that has honored more than 22,000 non-Jewish Holocaust-era rescuers. Gershman became fascinated by the little-known fact that Muslims had saved Jews, and decided to document their stories.(Emel Magazine 2010)
By all means, buy Gershman’s book, Besa: Muslims who saved Jews in World War II. It’s filled with beautiful black and white photos of the heroic Muslims themselves and/or their children or grandchildren. Each photograph of these people is accompanied by their own story, told in their own words.(Gershman 2008)
It’s the perfect coffee table book since nothing beats a subtitle like Muslims Who Saved Jews in World War II.
The Variety of Muslims
Islam is a large and varied faith. Muslims reside in a variety of countries, speaking a variety of languages. Most Muslims are not Arabs and do not reside in Arab countries or in the Middle East. In fact, the country in which the greatest number of Muslims resides is… Indonesia. Now, there may certainly be a “crisis of Islam” going on right now. I don’t know enough about Islam to agree or to disagree with such a statement.
Were the Rwandan genocides a “crisis of Christianity” or the results of countless other factors at that time and place? I might add that, although many Christians in Rwanda obviously failed to live Christian virtues during the genocides, many individuals did practice the best of what Christianity had to offer. In fact, there have been miracles in Rwanda since the genocides that not only exemplify Christianity in its purest form, but also clarify Christianity itself. Read about one of these experiences in the final chapter of this book.
While more capable and educated people debate the merits and meanings of “the crisis of Islam”, I believe that we Latter-day Saints should be particularly cautious about judging any religion and that’s even when basing our judgments on the behavior of its practitioners. Much of what any given Muslim thinks, feels or practices may indeed be from Qur’an. And yet many of these attitudes may be the result of their native culture. There is variety in the beliefs and attitudes of Muslims from such diverse places as Indonesia, Albania, Saudi Arabia and Rwanda.
Which one teaches the most genuine form of Islam? I’m too unfamiliar with Islam to answer that question. What I do know is some of the good news about Islam and its adherents. By showing the best of Islam, I hope to illustrate its potential. By sharing these positive stories, I hope to have shown how good Islam can be.
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed: Revised EditionDiamond, Jared M. 2005. Collapse:How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. 1st ed. Penguin (Non-Classics).

Emel Magazine. 2010. “When Muslims Saved Jews.” Emel -The Muslim Lifestyle Magazine (64)
Besa: Muslims Who Saved Jews in World War II
Gershman, Norman. 2008. Besa: Muslims who saved Jewsin World War II. 1st ed. Syracuse N.Y.: Syracuse University Press.
Lacey, Marc. 2006. “Rwandan Priest Sentenced to 15 Years for Allowing Deaths of Tutsi in Church.” The New York Times.
Black Rednecks and White LiberalsNgowi, Rodrique. 2002. “Rwanda Turns To Islam After Genocide.” The Herald Tribune.
Sowell, Thomas. 2006. Black Rednecks and WhiteLiberals. Paperback. Encounter Books.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013 a Muslim Feminist?

THAT is the title of Raheel Raza's upcoming book, to be released in February of 2012. It is a follow up to her first book Their Jihad... Not My Jihad: Revised 2nd Edition.
How Can You Possibly be a Muslim Feminist? will also include writings from Islamic scholar, Margot Badran, PhD., of George Mason University.

Now, here are a couple of ways to get a taste of what to expect from this book and Raheel Raza in general. First, here is Raheel's own Preface to the book.

While it is short, as Prefaces go, I must warn you... it is FUN to read!


Many years ago when I first came to Canada, a journalist cynically asked me if there was such a thing as a “Muslim feminist”? I certainly felt empowered by my religion. More than that, I felt particularly empowered as a Muslim woman.
 I called the journalist back and reported, in more or less these words: 
I am proud to stand up and say that I am blessed to be a Muslim woman. If being a feminist means burning your bra then it’s not for me. However, if being a feminist means liberation of the mind and soul, then I am a feminist along with many others in the Muslim world.
This did not quite convince the journalist but it set me on a path a learn more about Muslim women who are involved in the “gender jihad”.
This was a pivotal moment for me, in two ways. First, this was when I realized that I wanted to stand up and speak publically about Muslim women. Secondly, I realized that, in order to do so, I needed to better under-stand myself, to take an honest look at understanding my own spiritual and intellectual journey.
This was important twenty years ago and it is even more important today as we see Muslim women take an important role in the uprisings against dictatorships and tyrants in many parts of the Muslim world. However, I feel that western media is still a bit befuddled about who we are. They tend to judge us more through our outer coverings than what is in our minds and hearts.
I grew up in a culture where women were sup-osed to be seen and not heard. In fact, my mother would turn in her grave if she knew that I am now invited to ‘speak’ at events! But I was always a bit of a rebel. I was also relentless in asking “why?”. I found many answers in the works of eminent scholars and academics like Dr. Amina Wadud and Margot Badran (among others). Their work fascinated me and I thank them for setting the ground-work in which grass roots women like me found our identity and strength.
I look upon the early women of Islam as my role models Khadija, Fatima, Ayesha and Zainab–all knew Mohammed personally–were not shrinking violets but women who stood up and were counted. It’s sad that their histories are buried under an avalanche of misinformation and ignorance. But their deeds are known and their stature cannot be denied. This is something no one can take away from me.
My path has not been without its challenges. I am able to proudly call myself a feminist because I have the support of men in my family–my father, my husband, my two sons and now my grandson. It is of paramount importance that this movement be supported by a few good men because patriarchal cultures have been the reason many women have not been able to speak out or reclaim their rights. My sons have stood as body-guards when I am addressing a controversial challenging issue. These men have to also take some flack.
My husband is sometimes pulled aside and asked by orthodox Muslim men why he gives me so much freedom. He would smile his calm smile, take them aside and confidentially whisper to them “no worries–she also beats me everyday”. After this, they stopped bugging him.
If it were not for his sense of humor and quick thinking, I would not be where I am.
The concept of Islamic feminism has many perspectives and since Muslim women are not a monolith, they understand this concept in different ways. My understanding of Islam and feminism has come from a lifetime of actions, reactions and interactions with people of all faiths.
What you will find in these pages is a mere glimpse of my own personal journey. And as a personal journey, my opinions, experiences and conclusions should not be viewed as representing any kind of a general trend.
This book contains interviews with women whom I consider to be the movers and shakers of Islamic feminism. Yet, what you will read is a mere sampling of what is truly out there. These women represent a mere fraction of those whom I have come to know in my lifetime: “a drop in the bucket,” as they say. And were I to include every interaction with every Muslim feminist that ever crossed my path, it would fill several volumes. And yet, while my experiences “fill the bucket” so to speak, the story of “gender jihad” is an ocean of happenings when compared to my mere bucket, full and varied as it may be.
The world of Islam is not monolithic. And neither is the world of gender jihad, within Islam or outside it. It is my hope that the experiences and ponderings found within these pages will help the reader get a small but potent glimpse of that world.


Raheel's Media Appearances

Secondly, you can observe Raheel in action, by watching the following clips of seveal of Raheel's most recent media appearances, starting with her appearance on The O'Reilly Factor, back in 2010.

Ah, how refreshing she is, isn't she?


Monday, December 17, 2012

...even Ask "How Can You Possibly..." (Part 2)

Consider the very first book title that began with "The Complete Idiot's Guide to..." It is quite possible (probable, in fact) that someone initially responded to the book title with something like, "You can't sell a book that calls its own readers idiots or dummies.”
But now, even if you have never read an "Idiot's guide" yourself, we all know that the book is not actually written to self-proclaimed idiots. This would apply to the “… for Dummies” books also.
Now, regarding the series HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY®, what we hope to accomplish is something of far greater significance and importance. We are trying to change culture, or rather, change a teeny tiny part of the present culture, specifically, the part of people’s minds that relate and react to questions that begin with these four words: “How can you possibly…” Right now, this sub-phrase is used as rhetorical weaponry. It is an accusa-tion, for the most part. Not a question, but an implication that there is NO answer. But imagine if that were to change someday…
Now, imagine a time in the future when a HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY® book is as famil-iar as the Idiot's and Dummies books are today. You are at a social gathering and a couple of people are getting into a heated debate about some political topic. Imagine one of them standing up, puffing out his chest and saying, "What?! You’re crazy! How can you possi-bly..."
But then this excited person just trails off for a moment. He sees, in his mind, a half-dozen HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY® books flashing across his memory.
Then, instead of finishing his rhetorical question, he simply says, "Hmm. I wonder if there is a ‘How Can You Possibly’ book out there on this subject."
“Nope!” says someone across the room. “I’ve checked. There isn’t a book. But there is a HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY® podcast that’s similar..
“Really,” says that man, who just moments ago, was about to assert the IMpossibility of… whatever the issue was.
But now, just as he was in the midst of saying something rhetorical, accusatory and mind-closing, his mind now reversed directions as he considered the existence of a book that might contain that answer.
Behold! From a non-answer to a possible answer.
From the implied impossible to the ponderously possible.
It's a simple goal, isn't it? Changing rhetorical questions to real ones. It would be nice to change all of them. But, at least, we might be able to change how people react to those questions that begin with "How can you possibly...", whether they are saying it or hearing it.
And THAT is the goal of the HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY® book series. And that’s why I trademarked it.
P.S. Here are some titles that are “in process”, meaning, I have willing and qualified contributors lined up.
With the exception of this first one on Muslim feminism (finished and should be pub-lished by February), until I generate development funds, the rest of them will be slow in coming:
HCYP be a Muslim Feminist? by Raheel Raza
HCYP Make a Case Against Teaching? by a retired Penn State professor Larry Spence
HCYP be a Black Tea Party Advocate? by… well, by a Black Tea Party Advocate, of course, though I’m still not sure that the title is right.
HCYP be a Black Mormon?” by several contributors
HCYP Think Spider-man II is Better than Citizen Kane?” by several contributors, in-cluding a Foreword by Stan Lee (seriously!)
HYCP Protect the Borders with Open Immigration?” by… me!
HYCP be a Mormon and a Republican?”by me (Though I wish an LDS Democrat would take this one on, utilizing the same technique that I used in writing “HCYP be a Mormon and a Democrat?”
HCYP Build a Hobbit Hole in Your Own Backyard? by me and another "Joe" who has also build one in his backyard

Saturday, December 15, 2012

...even Ask "How Can You Possibly..." (Part 1)

Plenty of people get the impression that How Can You Possibly be a Mormon and a Democrat? is anti-Democrat. It’s not at all. Far from it. The book actually answers the question.

Still, why didn’t I title the book something like “How you CAN be a Mormon Democrat?”? Great question… and a common one, I am sure. Just last week, someone posted the following comment under a radio interview I had done about my book:
I just don't get why he gave this book such a provocative title. He didn't really answer that question. I've read reviews of this book and it's supposed to be a very mature, civil book that presents both sides. So why the immature title? PS I'm a Mormon and a Democrat.

His reaction is totally understandable. As a Mormon Democrat, hearing that question has always been especially painful because it's not a question but an accusation: never really asking how you can be but implying that you cannot be.

Now, I suspect (and this is based on experience), that he would very quickly appreciate a book titled "How Can You Possibly be a Mormon and a Republican?" (That book is in the works, by the way.)
In fact, many a Mormon Democrat has replied exactly that way. But they're not asking the question sincerely, either. They are posing it, not as a question with a potentially valid answer, but as a rhetorical question, implying that being a Mormon Republican is a truly and obviously inconsistent.

But this is classic “eye for an eye” behavior. We got these two questions going back and forth, but neither side is asking their question with sincerity. Neither side asks the question with a mind open to the POSSIBILITY that there might be a really good (even great!) answer.

At the same time, BOTH sides tend to get offended that other is even asking the question at all! Ah, how Screwtape laughs.

One side does not think the question needs to be asked, but the other side is not actu-ally asking the question anyway. And there they stand, at a stalemate, forever accusing each other of being accusatory and closed minded, while the question itself gets lost.

But, if only the question was truly open for the asking. If only it were asked with real intent. Perhaps then, it might actually get heard. Perhaps then, it might get answered.

How can you possibly be a Mormon Democrat? Or a Mormon Republican? Until there is more sincerity from both sides (to both ask and answer), it doesn’t even matter what the question is.

(to be continued)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

...Make a Case Against Teaching? (Part 1)

This is not a post against teachers or the public school system. It's beyond that. And, to be honest, it's best said through this video that is based on a speech by Professor Larry Spence of Penn State. His speech is titled "The Case Against Teaching".

Here is a 6 minute excerpt:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011 a LDS Dem, a Politician and a Good Parent?

The following is an extract from the final pages of the final chapter of my book How Can You Possibly be a Mormon and a Democrat? (Bear in mind that this book is written from the active believing LDS point of view.)

In the course of writing my book, I have learned that all of Harry Reid’s children are still active in Church and, still more extraordinary, they have suffered no divorces. Not bad.

Now, that could all change tomorrow. Life offers no recess from… life. But even up to this point, they have certainly had a good streak going and have definitely beaten the odds. So, how did they do it?

As stated, I don’t know Harry Reid’s family. So, I can’t make any real judgments about ways and means. I have no firsthand knowledge. But, in doing my research, I have gained just enough  confidence to make a few suppositions (and that’s all they are at this point) about why this family is the way it is.

I’m not about to give Harry Reid much credit for this phenomenon. Nope. I must give credit where credit is due, in this case, to Landra, the wife and mother. You see, in reading news about the Reids, I’ve detected a silent yet strong undercurrent, a foundation to the family, which is Landra Reid. For example, Reid is often assailed by opinionated people who chew him out. And yet, many of these ranters manage to include the side comment, “As much as I love your wife, I think you are…” and the rant continues. This top of the hat to Landra happens with curious and amusing frequency. I could be wrong about her. But, as I said, these are the musings of a complete outsider. I don’t even know what Landra looks like.

However, I thought that the following interview excerpt was particularly enlightening, on many levels. This is Harry Reid being interviewed by Tom Daschle, a former Democratic Party leader and longtime friend:

Daschle:   You've raised them particularly well despite incredible pressures of public life.

Reid:        One of my pet peeves is when people leave public office and say, "Now I can spend time with my family." I don't say that. I've spent enough time with my family. I feel that I could have been practicing law... a businessman...

I think that people should understand that the mere fact that you've been in politics doesn't mean you can't be a good parent. Now, I hope I've been a good parent. But I wouldn't have been a better one if I had been doing something else.

Now, there's no question, Tom, that my children are as good as they are mainly because of my wife. She is a wonderful mother. Wonderful wife. But she would have been doing that if I had been doing something else. So I think that people should not hesitate going into politics because they're afraid it will hurt their family.

Daschle:   Well, I can say–with some authority because I know them–that I think the test of a good parent is how good a parent your children become. And you've got children that are fantastic parents.[1]

Once again, I’ll have to take Daschle’s word for it. But, why not? It rings true to me. As I said, I may be wrong. I could emulate a few conservative friends by choosing to constantly think the worst of Reid.

But, with limited time to spend on earth, I have no interest in spending it in the search for negativity. I have already been given guidance on how to spend my time: “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy,” I’ll seek after those things.

So, at the end of the day, all I can say is that Senator Reid sure has my vote–uh, actually, no. Not literally. He doesn’t literally have my vote. You know what I mean. Harry Reid seems like a great guy to me.

And, you know who else seems like a great guy? Glenn Beck. I await the day when a leftist Democrat writes a whole chapter praising Beck. I don’t think that day will come. I can only hope to be proven wrong.

Opening the Door to the Treasure

I quote from Reid’s recent biography The Good Fight, in which he describes his and his wife’s conversion to the LDS faith:

We opened the door to our heavenly father. Yes, we were married, but now we would reconcile our disparate backgrounds in a union of spirit and understanding, and in a recognition that there was more to life—more to existence-—than what we could see. More than just us. It was as much choice as revelation. A simple act. And our choice was made so much easier by the people we’d met… even the crazy man who lived next door to the Birds. He was expert in scripture, and referred to Satan as “Old Horns.” A nice man, with a wonderful spirit, who, we later learned, had struggled with mental illness and had been in and out of institutions. There were many others, who didn’t so much speak their religion as live it. We would start a family soon. For my children, I would do anything to avoid the path that my parents had taken. This was to be a very different path.[2]

Their story reminds me of a talk by President Boyd K. Packer, in which he relates a parable about Celestial marriage:

They made a covenant that together they would open the treasure and, as instructed, he would watch over the vault and protect it; she would watch over the treasure. …his full purpose was to see that she was safe as she watched over that which was most precious to them both.

With great joy they found that they could pass the treasure on to their children; each could receive a full measure, undiminished to the last generation.[3]

[1] Reid, “Book TV interview with Harry Reid.”
[2] Reid, The Good Fight, 128.
[3] Packer, “For Time and All Eternity,” 21.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

... serve Coca Cola at an LDS Owned Restaurant?

First, this is rather a trivial matter since Coke is not against the Word of Wisdom (the Mormon health code). But it is a bit of a taboo among the most orthadox Mormons (and health nuts). For that reason, it is fun to relate the following two stories,

The first happened at the FAIR LDS Conference in Sandy, UT in early August. I met a lot of intersting people. But the most often bragged of my events happened during the breaks, when everyone was out in the lobby consuming whatever was provided, which was, in several cases, a bunch of Sprites. But two of the scholars (fairly well known among the apologetics growd) needed something "a little stronger". So I showed them both (but at different times) where the Code Machine was.

The second story happened when I was visiting the Joseph Smith Memorial building and decided to poke my head into one of the cafes there. I couldn't resist takeing a picture of the men. Could ou blame me?

Friday, September 9, 2011 a Mormon and a Democrat? (Part 2) "Instruments of the Lord's Peace"

Have we... slipped unknowingly into patterns of slander, evil speaking, and bitter stereotyping? Have personal or partisan or business or religious differences been translated into a kind of demonizing of those of different views?

Elder Robert S. Wood gave one of my favorite General Conference talks in April of 2006 called “Instruments of the Lord’s Peace”. Finally, a talk on politics! I highly recommend that you read or listen to the entire talk on the Church’s website. Here's an excerpt:

    We appear to be living in an era in which many are speaking without thinking, encouraging emotional reactions rather than thoughtful responses. Whether it be on the national or international stage, in personal relations or in politics, at home or in the public forum, voices grow ever more strident, and giving and taking offense appear to be chosen rather than inadvertent.    Have we... slipped unknowingly into patterns of slander, evil speaking, and bitter stereotyping? Have personal or partisan or business or religious differences been translated into a kind of demonizing of those of different views? Do we pause to understand the seemingly different positions of others and seek, where possible, common ground?    It is far too easy sometimes to fall into a spirit of mockery and cynicism in dealing with those of contrary views.

Robert Wood comes at this from a unique perspective. As the dean of strategic studies at the U.S. Naval War College and an advisor to several U.S. presidents and defense secretaries, he knows Washington politics up close.

Elder Wood’s conference talk was the final push that I needed to get this book underway. That book is called How Can You Possibly be a Mormon and a Democrat? and it is now available on Amazon, at Deseret Book, and various independent LDS bookstores in the U.S. and Canada, as well as Costco (see below).

The following excerpt from that talk helped me solve the primary problem of finding someone write the liberal/Democrat perspective on each issue.
    I recall that as a graduate student I wrote a [negative] critique of an important political philosopher. My professor told me that my paper was good, but not good enough.
Before you launch into your criticism," she said, "you must first present the strongest case for the position you are opposing, one that the philosopher himself could accept."
   I redid the paper. I still had important differences with the philo-sopher, but I understood him better, and I saw the strengths and virtues, as well as limitations, of his belief. I learned a lesson that I’ve applied across the spectrum of my life.
Behold, a thought experiment: to taking upon yourself the opposite view, arguing from that perspective using arguments that the person with that view would accept, rather than building up a straw man. In essence, the book I have written is my own personal homage to that simple mental exercise recommended by Elder Wood and his professor.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

...have a Positive Experience in Yemen on 9-11?

Peter Johnson, director of such classic LDS films as How Rare a Possession and The Mountain of the Lord, was in Yemen shooting footage for a couple of documentaries. The day his crew visited the palace of the famed Queen of Sheba was noteworthy for being September 11, 2001. Although plenty of Americans were abroad at the time of the attacks, this crew were “lucky” enough to experience 9/11 in a way few Americans could lay claim. I cannot imagine a more interesting country to be in on 9/11 than in Yemen, Osama bin Laden’s ancestral home country. Johnson explains the experience:
When we completed our shooting for the day, we returned to the Queen of Sheba Hotel. We were unloading our equipment when Abdu came out of the lobby excitedly yelling, “An airplane has crashed into the White House!” We quickly went to our hotel rooms and watched in horror as the events of “9/11” unfolded before our eyes. It was late in the afternoon in Yemen, morning in New York City. We watched in astonishment as the planes hit the Towers. After a brief time to at least initially absorb what was happening in the United States, we gathered in one room to watch together and discuss what we should do. Senator Orrin Hatch came on the TV screen and said, “This has Osama bin Laden written all over it.” Yemen is the ancestral home of bin Laden, and the realization of where we were, in the midst of this shocking world event, started to sink in. (Journey of Faith, pgs 121-122)

Johnson’s crew was advised to stay away from large population centers until arrangements could be made to fly them out of the country, which could not be done for several days. Whenever I have related this occurrence to people, the most common reaction is something like, “So did they see people dancing in the streets?” The answer to that question is, NO!

Yemen had all kinds of reasons to hate America. And yet, Johnson’s crew saw no dancing or cheering. On the contrary, the consensus attitude from the people they encountered in Yemen was quite the opposite as Johnson explains:
The morning after 9/11, I left my hotel room and went outside. We had a contingent of about 18 or so Yemeni military guards. And I walked over to the military commander and I looked at him (and I was trying to be as cheerful as one could be that morning) and… he looked at me and tears welled up in his eyes. And he said, "I'm so sorry." (Journey of Faith, The Making of DVD)
He looked at me with genuine sorrow and expressed how bad he felt because of what had happened in America. I held his hand warmly and told him that we were very pleased to be in his fascinating country. I told him how much it meant to us to be with him and to see the land of his heritage. His eyes rimmed with tears, and he said, with emotion, that they were honored to have us with them. When I looked at the other soldiers, all their heads hung down. The commander saw this and said that they were “embarrassed” to face me. I asked him to tell his troops that we considered it a great blessing to be in Yemen and that it held great meaning for us. A smile came into his eyes and he seemed truly cheered by that. So many misconceptions about America exist in the Middle East. Many think that America hates them, and so they hate America in return. But their hatred for America does not necessarily mean they hate Americans. I found that sincere expressions of respect and affection from us warmed their hearts and ours immensely. (Journey of Faith, pg 118)

Since the crew had been advised to stay away from any population centers and even the American Embassy, the safest and most pragmatic course of action was to head out into the desert and continue shooting footage of the terrain. Johnson describes the following incident, which took place on September 12, 2001:
The sweetest human interaction occurred during our crossing of the Empty Quarter. On one of our stops, I was sitting in the Land Rover waiting for our journey to resume when I felt a hand touch my arm, which was resting on the open window. I looked to see one of our Bedouin guides, Amin, his face lit up with a warm smile. I turned to him as he took a ring from his hand and gave it to me to look at. It was a simple ring, not expensive. I turned it over in my hand, admiring it, and smiled back trying to express my appreciation for his friendship. Neither of us spoke the other’s language, so body language was our only means of communication. After a moment, I handed the ring back to Amin, but he refused to take it. I tried again to give it back to him, knowing that he was a poor man, recently married, with few material possessions. Again, he refused and looked at me with the most compassionate countenance. He again gestured that he wanted me to keep the ring, his broad smile and earnest eyes lighting up his face with a bright, sympathetic expression. I finally realized that Amin was attempting to let me know of his sorrow for the events of 9/11 and to assure me that he was my friend. I shall ever remember that moment in the stark desert when a very poor man reached across vast differences in culture, language, and religion to express his sincere brotherhood and love.(Journey of Faith, pg 129)

You can read more about the experiences of Peter Johnson and crew while they were filming in the Arabian Penninsula in the book Journey of Faith: From Jerusalem to the Promised Land by Kent S. Brown and Peter Johnson.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

...Survive the Rwandan Genocides by Practicing Islam?

The following is part of the Foreword to Raheel Raza's book How Can You Possibly be an Anti-Terrorist Muslim?, now available on Amazon and Kindle.

Christian doctrine has never claimed that Christians, as a group, would necessarily be more righteous than people of any other faith would. In fact, it seems that the scriptures testify of quite the opposite: every group that has been called God’s “chosen people”, from Israelites to the early Christians, seem to be as plagued with sin as any other group.
However, perhaps Christianity imbues its people and cultures with a bit more awareness of their own lost and fallen state: their own sins and weaknesses. You can thank Christians for ending the accepted institution of slavery, worldwide. (Sowell, 2006, chap. 2)

Nevertheless, at the time of the horrible Rwandan genocides of the 1990s, as a percentage of the population, it was perhaps the most Christian country in all of Africa. This was an obvious case how Christianity failed prevent Rwanda from degenerating into a genocidal bloodbath, with neighbor against neighbor, teachers killing their students, and even clergy killing those who sought sanctuary. (Lacey, 2006)

Most people are under the impression that these killings were driven by ethnic hatred alone, specifically Hutu vs. Tutsi. However, the motivations for the killings were not so cut and dry. For example, while the country as a whole lost about 11% of its population, even in a village where everyone was Hutu, at least 5% of its population were killed in the genocide. (Diamond, 2005, p. 319)

Nevertheless, there were a few places, one in particular, where there were no killings whatsoever… and, chances are, you have never heard of it. There is a village just outside the Rwandan capital of Kigali. No one in that village did any killing or was killed. The place was called Biryogo. And many potential targets found safe haven there. What made that little corner of Rwanda an island of real peace and safety? There were a few factors, but they all seem to involve the fact that Biryogo was a Muslim village. The following excerpt tells the story:
For nearly a century, Muslims remained on the fringes of Rwandan society. The faithful in Kigali were restricted to Biryogo, a dusty neighborhood where the Al-Fatah mosque now stands. They needed permits to leave.

During the genocide, Muslims were among the few Rwandans who protected both neighbors and strangers. Elsewhere, many Hutus hunted down or betrayed their Tutsi neighbors and strangers suspected of belonging to the minority.

But the militiamen and soldiers didn't dare go after Tutsis in Muslim neighborhoods like Biryogo, said Yvette Sarambuye, a 29-year-old convert.

"If a Hutu Muslim tried to kill someone hidden in our neighborhoods, he would first be asked to take the holy Qur’an and tear it apart to renounce his faith," said Sarambuye, a Tutsi widowed mother of three who survived the slaughter by hiding with Muslims. "No Muslim dared to violate the holy book, and that saved a lot of us." (Ngowi, 2002)
A 35-year old Tutsi convert to Islam, named Jean-Pierre Sagahutu said that the Muslims in Rwanda do not view the world through a “racial or ethnic lens.”

What remains a mystery to me still is why the Hutu extremists passed these Muslims by, while slaughtering others who were neither Hutu, Tutsi nor Muslim. Pygmies, for example, are a very distinct and ancient people throughout sub-Saharan Africa. They are only about 1% of the Rwanda’s population, with little political or economic power. Pygmies were hardly a threat to anyone, and yet, they were slaughtered at least as thoroughly as the rest of Rwanda’s population. (Diamond, 2005, p. 318)

What then saved the Muslims in Biryogo (and elsewhere) in Rwanda? I can’t say for certain. I'm sure luck was involved. But perhaps God protected the Muslims of Biryogo simply because they were practicing true Islam. Put more generally, perhaps these people were spared as a natural consequence of practicing "true religion".
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed: Revised Edition Diamond, Jared M. 2005. Collapse:How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. 1st ed. Penguin (Non-Classics).

Emel Magazine. 2010. “When Muslims Saved Jews.” Emel - The Muslim Lifestyle Magazine (64).

Lacey, Marc. 2006. “Rwandan Priest Sentenced to 15 Years for Allowing Deaths of Tutsi in Church.” The New York Times.

Black Rednecks and White LiberalsNgowi, Rodrique. 2002. “Rwanda Turns To Islam After Genocide.” The Herald Tribune.

Sowell, Thomas. 2006. Black Rednecks and White Liberals. Paperback. Encounter Books.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

... be a Democrat OR a Republican?

The following is an extract from my book, How Can You Possibly be a Mormon and a Democrat?

A friend of mine once remarked that “a political party is merely a public relations firm for political ideologies.” This is a useful way of viewing political parties. Like a PR firm, a political party has clients: special interest groups driven by need or ideology.

Like any business firm, their clients change over time. Some clients lose their power or motivation and fade or lose influence. Some clients go out of business altogether, while other clients win their case and simply retire (abolitionists, for example). Sometimes a client will leave one firm and go to the other, like the southern Democrats who flocked to the Republican Party in the late 1960s.

The stated goals of a political party do not originate from one client alone but from multiple clients. They do not espouse a single ideology but several. So, many of these ideologies (and their subsequent goals) have nothing to do with each other. Consequently, the stated goals of a firm are never consistent. Why should they be? Still, it is frustrating when your firm represents and advocates other agendas that you downright oppose. In the “real world” of business, you have plenty of options; the choice of several public relations firms. But in the world of contemporary American politics, there are only two big shots. And most people feel they need to cling to one or the other if they expect to have any chance of representation.

Many Republicans and Democrats continue to believe that their party has a relatively consistent ideology compared to that “other party.” However, a serious look at the history of political parties tells us that many contradictory political positions are often a matter of incidental history and pure circumstance. I quote Orson Scott Card, from an editorial column called “The Insanity of Parties”:
Let’s say you think abortion should be restricted to only those cases where the fetus is nonviable, and only when the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest, or when the life of the mother is at stake. That would be my position, too.
     So what rule of logic, what great universal principle then requires you also to think it’s a great idea for assault weapons to be available to the general public, or for any clown to carry a handgun concealed on his person? How do these topics overlap?
Likewise, consider the words of P.J. O’Rourke:
Consider how much you’d have to hate free will to come up with a political platform that advocates killing unborn babies but not convicted murderers. A callous pragmatist might favor abortion and capital punishment. A devout Christian would sanction neither. But it takes years of therapy to arrive at the liberal view.
That’s the price we pay for a two-party system, so it is said. But, think for a moment if there really were several major political parties. These political parties, like any group of people, could never avoid ideological hypocrisy because it is so difficult even for individuals to do so, as expressed by C.S. Lewis:
Humans are very seldom either totally sincere or totally hypocritical. Their moods change, their motives are mixed, and they are often themselves quite mistaken as to what their motives are.
If individual people find it difficult to remain consistent, why on earth should anyone expect groups of people to remain consistent?

Also, the language used to describe people, parties and ideologies change over time and context. Yes, terms like “conservative” and “liberal” have different political meanings today than they did 100 years ago, not to mention terms like “gay” or “straight.” And one could say that a “true conservative” is one who believes in conserving the environment, and so on and so on. I quote economist Thomas Sowell:
If you have always believed that everyone should play by the same rules and be judged by the same standards, that would have gotten you labeled a radical 50 years ago, a liberal 25 years ago, and a racist today.

Note: This post is an extract from my book, How Can You Possibly be a Mormon and a Democrat? It's fun and not what you expect.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

... be an Anti-Terrorist Muslim?

How Can You Possibly be an Anti-Terrorist Muslim?Canadian journalist Raheel Raza and I have collaborated together to come up with a new book How Can You Possibly be an Anti-Terrorist Muslim?, which is now available on Amazon.
Who is Raheel Raza? Well, you may not be aware that she and many other Muslims came out in open opposition to the Ground Zero Mosque. Consequently, Raza was interviewed by Bill O’Riley on August 9, 2010.
Here are a few choice snippets from that interview:
O’Riley:  Ms. Raza, why do you oppose building that mosque downtown?
Raza:    I oppose the idea along with other members of the Muslim-Canadian Congress because it’s confrontational. It is in bad faith. And it doesn’t really set up any kind of dialogue or discussion on tolerance.
O’Riley:  Well, the pro-mosque forces, including the mayor of New York City, say… the reason [for the mosque] is to show respect for the victims of 9/11. You’re not buying that?
Raza:    No. As a Muslim, I’m not buying that at all. How does building a mosque in the very place where Muslims murdered so many other Americans... create any kind of respect?
            What I’m hearing from people, especially those who are victims... is that this is very hurtful, and it’s very painful.
            As a Muslim, I read in my holy book, the Qur’an, that we should be very sensitive towards people of other faiths… and these are our neighbors and our colleagues and the people we care about.
Building a mosque… across the street from Ground Zero is a slap in the face upon Americans. I can’t begin to imagine how they would even conceive an idea that building a mosque there–an exclusive place of prayer for Muslims–would, in any way, build tolerance and respect.

Personally, I never really had much of an opinion about the Ground Zero mosque. I had always considered this issue to be the main concern of New Yorkers and the family of victims of 9/11. And yet I was surprised by my own personal reaction to Raheel’s words. To my surprised, I felt so consoled, as if I had been waiting for someone to come to my personal defense. A certain tension had lifted.
Her next comment put her on another level:
Mayor Bloomberg and other bleeding-heart white liberals like him don’t understand the battle that we moderate Muslims are faced with in terms of confronting radical Islam and Islamization and political Islam in North America, which has only grown since 9/11 because of political correctness and people because of their politically-invested agenda does not speaking out against issues like this.
As a self-respecting conservative Republican, when she called Bloomberg a “bleeding-heart white liberal”, I jumped out of my seat as if I had seen a touchdown. I admit it!
You see, though most people have trouble understanding Islam, these days, conservatives and Christians are especially shallow in their assessments. This is why I had been searching for a Muslim with the particular kind of ideology that would appeal to conservative and Christians, in particular.
I don’t know a thing about Canadian political parties or ideological terminology. And I don’t technically know if Raheel Raza is or would consider her-self the American political equivalent of a “conservative Tea Party Republican”. But there’s no doubt that calling Bloomberg "a bleeding-heart white liberal", would be a huge credential to many of those right-wingers who keep misunderstanding Islam.

Right after I saw Raza’s interview, I called her. We had a most enlightening conversation. She quickly caught on to my idea of using a “How can you possibly…” question as the title of a book about Islam and terrorism. She really is an eternal optimist.

The results of that phone call have finally come to fruition, as I said, with the recently published book, How Can You Possibly be an Anti-Terrorist Muslim? by Raheel Raza, with a Foreword by Clinton Joe Andersen, Jr. (that's me!)
I hope this is only the first in a series of books on Muslim individuals who break paradigms and shatter stereotypes.
I also recommend checking out Raheel's website at

Wednesday, February 23, 2011 a Mormon Democrat? Pt 1: "How Wide the Divide?"

How Wide the Divide 
Several years ago, I came across a wonderful book called How Wide the Divide: a Mormon and an Evangelical in Conversation by Stephen E. Robinson (the LDS scholar who wrote Believing Christ) and Craig L. Blomberg (an Evangelical scholar). The back cover of this book reads as follows:
Mormons and evangelicals don’t often get along very well. Unfortunately, much of what they say about one another simply isn’t true. False stereo-types on both sides prevent genuine communication.
   Having discovered this sad state of affairs, [the authors] set out to listen to one another and to ferret out the genuine agreements and disagree-ments between them. In the conversation that develops, you will read what each believes about [four] key theological issues.
The book is structured in such a way that each chapter is devoted to a specific theological issue. That issue is treated first by one side and then the other. The chapter ends with a “joint conclusion” in which the two authors point out where there is consensus and agreement and where they must simply agree to disagree. Most helpful is when they discover simple but complete misunderstandings because the two religious cultures often work with a slightly different vocabulary, such as when both sides use the same word but mean two different things. Understanding, not debate, was the goal, as Robinson explains:
It is our hope that with this book we will begin to tell and believe the truth about each other, the issue of who is ultimately right and wrong being set aside for the moment.
What a concept! What a wonderful and straightforward goal: First, seek understanding. Set aside any hopes of persuading the other side for the time being and concentrate on learning about each other. As simple as the idea is, I am sure it was a rough ride for the authors to execute it and to present their discussion in an organized manner. But it resulted in a great book. It was a long awaited step in the right direction.
It was while reading How Wide Divide that I thought about how nice it would be to see a similar book written between a Republican and a Democrat of the same faith.
Well, as you know, such a book now exists. It's called How Can You Possibly be a Mormon and a Democrat? It was first published back in November 2010 straight to Amazon, where it is still available. However, now it is available at LDS bookstores throughout the U.S. and Canada, including Deseret Book.