Watch the video of Karima Bennoune’s talk at TEDxExeter 2014.
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Karima Bennoune seeks to give a voice to people who are living under Islamist fundamentalist repression.
One day, when she was a student and staying with her father in Algiers, she woke up to pounding on the front door. She found herself wondering whether she could protect him – a teacher of evolution – with a paring knife. Luckily, the potential attacker went away. Her father refused to leave the country, and continued to write.
Her book “Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here” contains many untold stories from the peaceful fight against Muslim fundamentalism, based on interviews with 300 people.
The dark decade of the 1990s showed that the popular struggle against fundamentalism is one of the most important but overlooked struggles in the world today, and that these local people need our support.
Many people of Muslim heritage are staunch opponents of fundamentalism and terrorism, for good reason… they are much more likely to be the targets. Only 15% of Al Qaeda’s victims in 2004-08 were westerners.
Karima uses the definition: Fundamentalisms (note the plural) are political movements on the extreme right, which in the context of globalisation manipulate religion to achieve their political aims.
These fundamentalist movements have their diversities – some are more violent, some are NGOs, some form political parties. She’s talking about the extreme right, offensive wherever they occur. They are movements which seek to curtail the rights of minority groups and rights to practise religion, and conduct an all-out war against women.
There has been an increase in discrimination against Muslims recently. Telling the stories of individual Muslims struggling against fundamentalism will help to challenge this discrimination. She has four stories: of Peerzada, a theatre group in Pakistan staging girls school theatre; Maria Bashir, the first female prosecutor in Afghanistan; Burhan Hassan and his uncle Abdirizak Bihi, trying to counter Al Shabaab’s recruitment in Minneapolis to carry out atrocities like the Westgate bombing in Nairobi; Amel Zenoune-Zouani, a woman law student in Algiers, who refused to give up her studies, and was taken off a bus and killed in the street.
Amel’s name means hope, the hope of telling stories and carrying on their lives despite the terrorism. It is not enough just to battle terrorism. We must also challenge fundamentalism, which makes the bed for terrorism. Karima wants us to commit to support people like Amel, who peacefully challenge terrorism and fundamentalism in their own communities.
Big grin and wave from Satish, and a big cheer from the audience.
Threesomes throughout the ages – Father, Son, Holy Spirit; mind, body, spirit; liberté, egalité, fraternité; life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Satish comes with soil, soul and society. We come from and will return to the soil. We think we can control nature, but we are not nature’s rulers. We need to learn to revere nature because we are part of it – what James Lovelock calls Gaia. Sowing an apple seed in the soil is a ordertramadol much better investment than banking. Plant a tiny seed, and a tree generously bent with fruit will grow. And you don’t need a credit card to pick the apples!
Richard Dawkins says there is no such thing as soul or spirit, but everything has soul, and if we don’t care for the soul, we can’t care for the earth. “An artist is not a special kind of person, rather every person is a special kind of artist.” (Meister Eckhart) We have potential to be another Van Gogh, Shakespeare, or Gandhi. We need to look beyond the 9-5 office existence and take care of our souls.
We have been too focused on our own narrow identities and not enough on society. If Satish had walked on his peace pilgrimage as an Indian, he would have met a Pakistani. If he had walked as a socialist, he would have met a capitalist. But he walked without labels as a human being, and met other human beings. We need diversity, otherwise we will have no unity. But we need to avoid divisions – celebrate our diversity. Tourists always complain – laughter! Pilgrims celebrate. No more living as me me me me, my house, my job, my ego. Let’s be our true selves, and live on the earth as pilgrims. Earth is and you are, therefore I am. We are members of one earth community. That is society, and we are all members.
Soul, soil and society are three connected words in our interconnected world. Leadership is not going to come out of No.10 or the White House. We are all potential leaders, every one of us. Gandhi: “be the change you want to see in the world”. Speaking at TEDx is wonderful, but our words and our actions have to be consistent. So he gives us this new related trinity of soil, soul and society.