Sunday, 31 August 2008

Future Amereican VP or Just Running Mate ? Who is Sarah Palin ?

There were no late night text messages and perhaps not the same build up that preceded the announcement of Barack Obama's choice for running mate.

Mrs Palin with Republican candidate Seneator John McCain

Elected Alaska's youngest and first woman governor in 2006
Grew up in Wasilla, near Anchorage, and was voted Miss Wasilla in 1984
Studied journalism and political science at University of Idaho
Is mother of five, including a son with Down's syndrome
Her husband Todd is an oil production operator
Likes hunting and fishing

But because it was kept a secret almost until the end, John McCain's choice did generate a fair amount of rumour and speculation.
Was he going to pick a traditional candidate, a safe bet - someone like the young governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty, or would the veteran Arizona senator go for the wild card?
The answer came on a private jet that flew in from the Alaskan city of Anchorage on Thursday night and landed outside Dayton, Ohio, apparently carrying on board a woman, two men and two teenagers.
All the journalists who were covering the story started looking up the biography of Sarah Palin, the 44-year-old governor of Alaska.
'Average hockey mom'
She may be seen by some as a rising star of the Republican Party, but she was relatively unknown on a national level.
As he took to the stage, in front of a packed audience, Mr McCain introduced her as "exactly who I need, exactly who this country needs to help me fight the same old Washington politics of me first and the country second".
For observers, it showed Mr McCain felt he needed to make a bold move to help change the course of the race to the White House.

The two presidential hopefuls have been running head to head, with Mr Obama gaining eight percentage points in the polls in recent days.
The choice of Sarah Palin is a high risk bet that could bring high rewards, but there are no guarantees.
Mrs Palin, a mother of five, is the first woman to be on a Republican presidential ticket.
Married for 20 years to Todd Palin, her high school sweetheart, she was nicknamed "Sarah Barracuda" during her college years for her aggressive basketball playing style - the name has stuck.
On stage, dressed in a conservative black power suit, her hair raised in a high ponytail, she described herself as "an average hockey mom from Alaska".
She drew applause when talking about her anti-corruption drive, her standing up to big oil companies and even the "good old boys club", which drew a smile from Mr McCain.
She eats moose meat and is an inveterate hunter, a lifelong member of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
One of her sons is heading to Iraq in September. The other, born in April, is diagnosed with Down's syndrome.
'Exciting choice'
In many ways, her story is all American and her values will appeal to the conservative base and to blue-collar voters.
With 80% approval ratings back home, she seemed to also get the approval of the crowd she was addressing, drawing very enthusiastic cheers, as she spoke in a relaxed, accessible way.

Mrs Palin also ticks several required boxes - she is fiscally conservative, in favour of drilling for oil and very staunchly anti-abortion.
Most of all she is a reformer and a fresh face for the Republican ticket.
President George W Bush said she was "an exciting choice" and Mrs Palin certainly adds energy and sizzle to the McCain campaign.
She also clearly reached out to disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters, who are disappointed their candidate did not make it on to the Democratic ticket, not even as vice-president.
"I can't begin this great effort without honouring the achievement of Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and of course, Hillary Clinton, who showed determination in her presidential campaign," Mrs Palin said.
"It was rightly noted in Denver this week that Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America. But it turns out the women of America aren't finished yet, and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all."
The Democrats for McCain group sent out an e-mail saying its supporters, especially the women, were "ecstatic" about the choice of Mrs Palin.
But other Democrats said they felt insulted that Mr McCain thought he could woo women by just putting any woman on his ticket, with one sentence making the rounds: "Palin, you are no Hillary Clinton".
Experience questioned
It all made for an exciting day in Dayton, a city of just over 150,000 that has been hard hit by job losses in the past few years.
But the whole of the US is probably now scouring the internet for more information about Governor Palin and trying to assess her credentials. Many will be wondering whether she is ready to be vice-president and even lead the US, should something happen to Mr McCain if he is elected president.
As commander of the Alaska National Guard, she visited troops in Kuwait last year, but has a very thin foreign policy background.
Similarly, while she does have executive experience, the Obama campaign wryly pointed out she had been the mayor of a town with just 9,000 people.
As governor of Alaska during the past two years she has gained more experience, but even some Alaskans calling into talk shows on US network television said they doubted whether that had prepared her for the challenge of national politics.
She did herself no favours in a recent interview.
"As for that VP talk all the time, I can't answer until someone answers me. What is it exactly that a VP does every day?" she said just a month ago on CNBC when asked about her chances of being on the ticket.
"I'm used to being very productive and working real hard in an administration. We want to make sure that this VP slot would be fruitful type of position especially for Alaskans and for the kind of things we are trying to accomplish here for the rest of the US."
By choosing her, Mr McCain may have undercut his best attack against Senator Obama - if he uses the inexperience card now it will be turned against him and his running mate.
While conservatives, such as radio host Rush Limbaugh and former Bush adviser Karl Rove, hailed the Palin surprise, there were also dismayed reactions from some Republicans, who felt the choice underscored Mr McCain's weaknesses and was too risky.
Polls in the coming days, and Mrs Palin's performance at the Republican National Convention, will help assess the impact of Mr McCain's decision.
In the meantime, Mr McCain and his new partner have something else to worry about - Mrs Palin is facing an investigation in Alaska for alleged abuse of power involving her former brother-in-law. Her deposition is expected to be scheduled soon.
She says she has "nothing to hide" and is "cool" about the investigation.


Wake up and smell the tobacco

By my good friend Nabila Pathan (God bless her )

For the past three decades, there has been a growth in intolerance and developing repulsion towards a certain community in the UK. This group are increasingly finding it tough to integrate their particular practice amongst many social settings and as a result, are finding themselves isolated and unable to fit in. A nation that once was for so long accepting and inclusive towards this community in all indoor public arenas has finally banned these individuals from their routine cultural practice. Thank goodness! Long live Britannia, long live the Queen. On moments like this, I am proud to be British.
Smokers no longer make-up the fabric of our indoor-public society. The battle against smoking has begun shifting attitudes and psyches. There are daily indications of this new phase from the media to social attitudes. The shock horror projected by many tabloids at Brittany Spears’ two year old son playing with a packet of Marlborough Lites and trying to mimic his mum’s smoking antics marks a strong shift in the media’s perception of smoking. Furthermore, speaking to people embarking on trying to find soul mates, there has been a stark move away from anyone trying to “make-do” and “put up” with Mr. or Miss eligible if they are a smoker. For many, the prospect of enduring a life with a partner who could possibly suffer premature death is a major turn-off in a prospective partner.
So whilst the war against smoking is beginning to be won in the UK and generally in the West, we are totally unaware of how we are inadvertently shrugging off our addiction to the developing world. Tobacco, a rich country problem, is soon to be a low to middle-income country problem because the number of smokers is decreasing in regions like the US, so American multinationals are now looking to aggressively target developing countries. Do not underestimate the fact that smoking will be the biggest killer in the developing world. Smoking related deaths are expected to surpass those caused by the Aids epidemic. Tobacco consumption will outstrip global population growth. By 2030, 10 million smokers will dye annually, 7 million deaths will occur in developing countries.
The statistics paint a bleak picture. We have the ability to predict an epidemic so far in the future and also have the knowledge to prevent it. Surely the window of opportunity is now? But unlike the other killers, smoking is a matter of civil liberty and is not an instant killer so therefore does not receive the same level of media attention than other epidemics such as the SARs virus, Aids, terrorism, Global warming. Along with the statistics, change therefore, from the bottom-up, looks equally bleak.
The only hope for change seems to be in the hands of the top-down approach. This means a complete reliance on global governance. But the forces that form global governance – international institutions, laws, regulations and agreements – are using measures to protect fledging industries in developed countries. Far from being part of the solution, Global governance will only exacerbate the inequality around the world as developing countries are forced to drop tariff barriers against highly successful international brands. What’s more, many Governments are courted by inward investment. China is a major problem as its Government owns cigarette manufacturing companies and draws profits from them.
The rich look set to get richer whilst the poor are on a down hill slope. At the moment, the only hope lies with two billionaires – Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg who will inject $500 million to promote strategies to reverse rise of smoking in China, India and Russia. Their generosity will certainly dwarf the current $20 million spent every years on anti-smoking campaigns in these regions. However, they are only two uber rich philanthropists amidst 950 billionaires. The combined annual income of the poorest is less than that of the 500 billionaires in the world. You do the maths. This global inequality set to be propelled by tobacco could easily be averted but the urgency is not realized, or should I say, not desired to be realized.
The vision for equality should be that all communities enjoy good health, access to education and be in control of their own destiny. Globally, tobacco receives poor financial commitment and human attention than other causes of death. This exacerbates deep inequality. It is both a moral imperative and a pragmatic necessity in terms of future global economics to diminish inequality. I’ve felt pride in the UK for beginning the process of kicking the habit. But I certainly feel no pride as a citizen of an unfair world.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Book Review : Seeking Sanctuary

I was walking in the centre of the historic town of Oxford and I was completely bored. Suddenly, I saw the sign of one of my favourite shops; yep you guessed it Waterstones.So I walked inside and started to browse; I walked my walk up the four storey building slowly. Firstly, I went pass the novel section, next I passed the classics section , I quickly walked passed the educational books.I had to stop in the religion and philosophy section, after pickeing up a couple of books but because they was not to my fancy, I put them down again.I thought to my self I better leave, then I saw the clearance section.I instantly went to the clearance books and started looking. I was looking for bargains I only wanted to spend a mere £ 5 pound on a book, I had allocated myself this figure. I am a student so most of the time I am broke.Then suddenly I saw it it was inexpensive and looked interesting.I had always wanted to know about Sudan, this was mainly because it was always on the news for its longstanding civil war and humanitarian atrocities.I brought the book Seeking Sanctuary and the rest was history as they say.

Seeking Sanctuary tells the stories of Western reverts how they accepted the religion of Islam, and why they came to settle in the dusty desert country of Sudan.Their stories are very spiritual even though they come from the materialistic West to the simple Sudan.All the stories have a common theme, people who are seeking spirituality and trying to discover and improve their relationship with God.However, at the same time they are all trying to adjust to the culture and simplistic life that Sudan offers.They explain why they leave their well paid jobs , families and materialistic lives and how they discover happiness and contentment in an country that is going thought intense drought and civil war. The whole book is based on the characters that are of Mikal Mahmoud, Fatima, Moly,Mohammed Abdul Qadir, Naimah , Zarina and their stunning portraits.It is a great collection of humanity, kindness, courage and struggle.

After reading the book it gave me an different perspective, I now understand to a certain level why their is immense conflict in this country and the politics of it all. I have broadened my understanding of the Sudanese culture.The book has given me different insights of how life in Africa is really like and the difficulty foreigners face where they migrate there.The book has challenged my prejudice and stereotypes.I know know that it is not always as black and white as it may seem but many layers of grey.I recommend the book to anyone that ones to know how life in Sudan is really like and know what the media portray.which are based on their negative prejudice and lazy journalism.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Book Review:Husseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns

After reading the "Kite Runner" by Khaled Husseini, I purchased his new novel thinking the same can not be achieved again. I was thinking that Hosseini cant possibly write any better then he has in the superb "Kite Runner"; and for him as a writer it is all downhill from here.How wrong I was proved to be." A Thousand Splendid Suns " was truly a heartwarming and thought provoking read.I knew after the first chapter that Hosseini is not a one off author but a natural storyteller of the highest calibre.

"A Thousand Splendid Suns" is really two stories that are entwined majestically together.It is about the lives of two extraordinary women Mariam and Laila. They both come from two complete different backgrounds, one extremely well educated and well off. While the other ill educated and extremely destitute. The book is about how these two characters both come together through extraordinary circumstances like the emergence of the Taliban state ,civil war, sudden death , starvation and love. Although they start originally as foes they come together and compromise their differences in order to survive and fulfill their dreams.This book is very moving and will make you cry, it will make you cherish your friendships and the luxuries you have. It shows how love, friendship and hope can lead people to overcome the most daunting of obstacles with their endurance to achive their objectives. I have not wrote a book review on the book for the simple reason, which is because I want you to read the novel. I thought if I write a book review I will do injustice to the epic that is "A Thousand Splendid Suns"

Obama and the Latin left

Last year, Time magazine made her the "Latin Hillary." It was a comparison which President Cristina Kirchner seemed to fancy, just as Germany was the country she wished Argentina to become. A few months later, bruised in the opinions polls and beaten in the convulsive struggle over farm taxes, she faced the press - for the first time in her presidency - and let it be known that Obama was her new idol. "I've never been as interested in a presidential election in the United States," she said.

The liking does not yet seem to be mutual. A report in Chile's El Mercurio newspaper quotes diplomatic sources as indicating that Obama plans to visit Latin America during his campaign, but only the safe places run by prudent socialists and cooperative accountants - Chile, Mexico and Brazil. Nothing too daring: no campaign approach to the Bolivarian quartet or the Kirchner dynasty, and definitely none to Raúl Castro's mobile phone perestroika.

If a more perfect union is what you are after, then these latter are not countries for a photo-op. Argentina's president is in a corner, trying her hardest to change tack while altering nothing, not even the disgraced statistics bureau. Venezuela still simmers, outside the media glare for a while as Chávez spreads his state ever more widely and the opposition figures out a way to steal his thunder. It is hard to imagine Obama in one of the Bolivarian's Endogenous Development Nuclei, though I could be wrong.

But in the other direction, the beatific outreach of a peace-making mulato has proved very seductive. Fidel has praised the candidate from his bed, while Chávez cannot quite muster the splendid fury of his anti-imperialism when ticking off "the little gentleman". How Cristina would like to do as Obama does, and as her husband did, and dissolve the resentments of black and white in a hard stare at the operations of global banks and corporations. Or travel from one country to the next, as Chávez did last year, and stir up mass devotion with the spine tingle of substantial political change.

The radical, redistributive promise of Obama is almost certainly in spite of himself, yet his telegenic surface has undoubted appeal beneath the Río Grande. Latin America's left-wing "revolutions" have depended on a two-switch process: the law of the heart for the poor and marginalized, roused by people like themselves taking power and promising dignity; and a rule of iron, marked by the employment of political and ideological tools suited to keeping power in hostile, oligarchic environments (new parties, media laws, price controls, managed corruption, and, of course, anti-imperial crusades).

Here is the problem. Just by existing, Obama prises apart these two, often contradictory elements. Within the Latin left, he harvests sympathy even as he works for the devil. A top adviser to Venezuela's foreign minister insists that the "the state machinery in the United States functions with or without a president," that the structure itself is turned on the poor of the global south. He adds that Democrats are also much better at starting wars.

But it will still nag Chávez and others were Obama to become president. Darker than most of the Venezuelan's compatriots, and certainly more so than the ruling couple of Argentina - a society where class and skin colour tend to coincide - President Obama could no longer be the site where these or other rulers displace domestic class hate and turn it into global mobilisation; he is not a "daddy's boy," not a "squalid oligarch". McCain would be business as usual, in every single way. He may not be interested in the region, but Obama in the White House could send strong and confusing tremors across the continent.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Jewish School where half population are Muslim

It's infant prize day at King David School, a state primary in Moseley, Birmingham. The children sit cross-legged on the floor, their parents fiddling with their video cameras. The head, Steve Langford, is wearing a Sesame Street tie.

A typical end-of-term school event, then. But at King David there's a twist that gives it a claim to be one of the most extraordinary schools in the country: King David is a strictly Jewish school. Judaism is the only religion taught. There's a synagogue on site. The children learn modern Hebrew - Ivrit - the language of Israel. And they celebrate Israeli independence day.

But half the 247 pupils at the 40-year-old local authority-supported school are Muslim, and apparently the Muslim parents go through all sorts of hoops, including moving into the school's catchment area, to get their children into King David to learn Hebrew, wave Israeli flags on independence day and hang out with the people some would have us believe that they hate more than anyone in the world.

The Muslim parents, mostly devout and many of the women wearing the hijab, say they love the ethos of the school, and even the kosher school lunches, which are suitable because halal and kosher dietary rules are virtually identical. The school is also respectful to Islam, setting aside a prayer room for the children and supplying Muslim teachers during Ramadan. At Eid, the Muslim children are wished Eid Mubarak in assembly, and all year round, if they wish, can wear a kufi (hat). Amazingly, dozens of the Muslim children choose instead to wear the Jewish kipah.

At the prize morning Carol Cooper, the RE teacher, says: "Boker tov," (Ivrit for "Good morning").

"Good morning Mrs Cooper," the children chant in reply. The entire school, Muslims, Jews, plus the handful of Christians and Sikhs then say the Shema, the holiest Jewish prayer, all together.

The Year Four violin club (five Muslims, two Jews) play "Little Bird, I Have Heard". Just as many prizes are being distributed to Hussains and Hassans and Shabinas as there are to Sauls and Rebeccas and Ruths. In fact, if anything, the Muslim children have beaten the Jewish ones. Thus does the Elsie Davis Prize for Progress go to a beaming little lad called Walid, the religious studies prize to a boy called Imran wearing a kipah and the progress prizes for Hebrew, to a boy called Habib and a girl called Alia.

Times being as they are, King David doesn't advertise its presence in a city where its pioneering multiculturalism could raise all kinds of unwelcome attention. There's a discreet signboard outside that reveals little about the school's unique nature. There are watchful video cameras high up on the walls, plus two electronic gates to pass through. Sadly, it is, to a significant extent, says Laurence Sharman, the (Christian) chairman of the PTA, "an undercover school".

The Muslim parents, however, are only too keen to talk in the playground about what might be seen by some in their communities as a controversial schooling decision.

"We actually bought a flat in the catchment area for the children to come here," says Nahid Shafiq, the mother of Zainah, four, and Hamza, nine, and wife of Mohammed, a taxi driver. "We were attracted by the high moral values of the school, and that's what we wanted our kids to have. None of us has any problem with it being a Jewish school. Why on earth should we? Our similarities as religions and cultures are far greater and more important than our differences. It's not even an issue.

"At the mosque, occasionally, people ask why we send the children here, but there is no antagonism whatsoever, and neither is there from anyone in our family. In fact, it was a big family decision to try and get them into King David. This is the real world. This is the way real people do things in the real world. All the violence and prejudice and problems - that's not real, that's just what you see on the news."

Fawzia Ismail (the mother of Aly-Raza, nine, and Aliah, six) is equally positive. "My nephew came here and my brother showed me the school, so it's a bit of a family tradition now. We're very, very pleased with the school. It's so friendly. All the kids mix and go to one another's parties and are in and out of each other's houses. They teach a bit about Israel, but we don't have any problem with that. There are such similarities between our people and our societies."

Irum Rashid (mother of Hanan, nine, and Maryam, four) says that a lot of people in Small Heath are considering moving to Moseley because of King David. "It's a very happy school, the behaviour is fantastic, the food is great - because it's kosher - and so are the SATs results."

But what about learning Hebrew and the Jewish prayers? "I think it's great. The more knowledge, the more understanding," says one of the mothers. "They learn all they need about Islam at mosque school. Actually, the kids often sing Hebrew songs in the bath, which is a bit confusing because we speak Gujarati at home, but I think it's great."

The Jewish parents and teachers I speak to are just as enthusiastic. "You know, in these difficult times in the world, I think we show how things should be done. It's really a bit of a beacon," says one teacher, whose three children all went to King David and ended up at Oxford University.

Parent Trevor Aremband is from South Africa. "In Johannesburg, we have Jewish schools, but they're 100 per cent Jewish, so we were a bit shocked when we first came here. But the integration works so well. It's clearly the way to go in today's world. My son is eight and has loads of Muslim friends."

The most important thing, I am told repeatedly, is that the cross-cultural friendships forged at King David last a lifetime. I hear a conversation about how a Rebecca is going to fly over from the States for a Fatima's wedding. I am told about a pair of lads, one Jewish, one Muslim, who became friends the day they started in the nursery, went to senior school together as well as to university and are now living close to one another with their wives and families and are currently on holiday together.

King David was not designed to be such a beacon of inter-faith cooperation and friendship. Founded in 1865 as The Hebrew School, it was 100 per cent Jewish until the late 1950s.

Then two things began to happen: there was a growth in the Muslim population in middle-income areas such as Moseley, and a shrinking of Britain's Jewish community, especially outside the main centres of London and Manchester. Muslim children started coming to the school in the early 1960s, but the current position, in which they are in the majority (Jewish children comprise 35 per cent, Muslims 50 per cent, Christians, Sikhs and other, 15 per cent) is very new.

"One of the things that surprises people about this school," says Langford, "is that it's not an especially privileged intake. Half of our kids have English as an additional language. But the amazing thing is how well it all works. We have a new little boy here from China, whose only English a few weeks ago was to ask for the toilet. He now speaks English - and can say the Shema perfectly.

"If you gauge success, for instance, by racial incidents, which schools always have to report to the LEA, we have at the most one a term. And that can just mean some harsh words with a racial slant used in the playground. At multicultural inner city schools where I've taught, there will be far, far more than that, possibly one or more a week."

In terms of SATs and Ofsted inspections, King David has also shone. It is rated as good - the second highest possible ranking - in all areas, and Ofsted made a special mention at the last inspection of the integration between children of different faiths and races. In the recent SATs results, the school also came in well above the national average in all subjects.

Steve Langford, a Warwick University economics graduate, is himself a bit of a paradox. He is Church of England on both parental sides and only became interested in Judaism when he worked in a Jewish summer camp in Massachusetts in his gap year. His interest paid off when he got a teaching job a King David. Now he is learning Ivrit at evening classes and goes to Israel for holidays.

The Rabbi of Birmingham's Singers Hill Synagogue, one of the financial backers of King David, is proud of Steve Langford and of the school's extraordinary interfaith record.

"King David School is amazing," says Rabbi Tann. "The reason I think it works well is that racism is engendered entirely by adults. Children don't have it within themselves. Their natural mode is to play happily with everyone. It's only when adults say, 'Don't play with him, he's black, or don't have anything to do with him, he's Muslim, that troubles begin.'

"We never have any racial or inter-faith problems at all. Not ever. In 20 years here, it's simply never happened in any significant way. We teach that if you don't like someone, you avoid them. Don't play with them. Go to the other side of the playground. I believe that if more people followed the lead of King David School, we'd have a much more peaceful world."

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Book Review: Roses are Red,James Patterson

I have been wanted to read Roses are Red for a long time, I was instantly attracted to the title and I knew James Patterson would write a good read. When I picked up the book and saw that it was “The No 1 International bestseller “ I was instantly attached to the book even with out turning a page yet. The book is solely base on the charismatic intelligent and hunky Detective Alex Cross. The book grabs you from the beginning as numerous banks in Washington DC area are robbed and the innocence big or small, young or old get awfully mutilated. The more you read the more puzzled you get who would commit these crimes. The FBI and the Police combine to catch the murders but to no avail. The more you read the more confused you get, James Patterson certainly has a unique style of capturing your imagination. More and more banks are robbed with meretriciously with planned accuracy and Alex Cross has finally met his match. The superb detective is loss and does not know where to start. His problems are growing and you really feel sorry for him. With his daughter Jannie suddenly suffering from a tumour, his relationship with his long term partner hanging by a thread and his mind is torn and tired he can not take it any more, the Mastermind appears and challenges him. Alex Cross must now put hit wits against the mastermind, and capture him before he strikes again. Patterson give us subtle hints to who the mastermind is but your mind is so confused with the twist and turns, your adrenaline level is high and you finally conclude that you simply do not know who the sadistic psychopath mastermind is. Patterson has you exactly where he wants you and you are forced to keep turning the pages with ever increasing speed. Cross is torn between his family commitments and the case, he has to find the balance but knows that they both need his attention, he cannot ignore the case and knows the risks that will come with hunting the Mastermind down. Can Cross win his family, outthink the bizarre psycho and save the day? I will leave it for you to find out I am not revealing anything just read the book, suspense, tension and pure

It Is The Hand Of God In History

It is the Hand of God in History”

We spoke to Dr. Umar F. Abd-Allah, the scholar-in-residence at the Chicago-based Nawawi Foundation, about America, Islam, and the future.

What is the single most important challenge facing the American Muslim community?

For me, the most important challenge facing the American Muslim community over the long run is the cultural challenge to create an authentic, indigenous American Muslim culture. I say over the long run because meeting the challenge will take a long time, and I also say over the long run because of the fact that there are immediate developments that might happen, generally speaking, that we hope would not happen, that could make the major challenge something else. But in normative circumstances, the cultural challenge is the great challenge in my mind and also is the unique possibility for the community.

What is the most important response to that challenge, and how do we mobilize our community to respond appropriately?

The appropriate response is to generate a culture, and we should be as creative, as innovative, as ingenious, as original in that as we possibly can be, and still be authentic and genuine as Muslims. We [need to] create a culture that is attractive to us, that affirms our identity as Muslims in this society, but is also recognizable as a valid, attractive way to live. And then of course, also to believe—and I think the issue of belief is probably the most important of all, because in order to believe and to have spiritual development, the soul has to be safe, and the psyche has to be sound. If you don’t have a culture in the place where you live, you don’t live there—you’re an alien. Therefore, not belonging creates for you all kinds of anxieties and feelings of being uprooted and feelings of needing to go home and not even knowing where your home is. That makes it very difficult to be a true believer in the full sense and to be a person who makes spiritual progress. And I think belief and spirituality are our ultimate goals in a society like this, [which is] so economically endowed and [provides] so much political freedom and so much opportunity to do what we want to do, good or bad. Can we actually believe, can we actually support our faith, and can we have a faith which is not simply a way of clinging onto the past or onto the way of others, of our mothers and fathers, but is something that is real for us?

What are your hopes for the future of the Muslim community in the West?

I would note that the West is not any more monolithic than any other part of the world. But the United States’ Muslim community, which is the one that I belong to because I’m an American and I live here, is a really gifted community. And I think it has a dynamic role to play. My hopes are very great hopes. And I hope that I’m not naïve in that, and I hope that I won’t be proven wrong. My hopes are based on what I know about this religion and its incredible potential to transform people. It has the power of the alchemist to turn rocks into gold. It has done that in the past. It has powerful spirituality. It unlocks knowledge and the potential to knowledge. Our community is one of the most educated, one of the most endowed, one of the most prosperous Muslim communities per capita in the world. In the United States, the Muslim community per capita is much more educated in terms of college degrees than mainstream America. We are really a remarkable community, and that is not fortuitous. No doubt it goes back to [President Lyndon B.] Johnson’s immigration policy, but it is the work of God. It is the Hand of God in history, and it is for a reason. And that reason is to establish Islam in this country in a very sophisticated and a very forward looking way that is meaningful for us and for our children and grandchildren so that we can survive in this country and flourish in this country—but which is also meaningful for this country itself.