I am a father, husband, son, brother, friend and professor. I am American. But I am also a Palestinian, a Lebanese and a Muslim. These many identities have been particularly salient to me as I have watched the continuing popular uprisings in the Middle East. Our six-year-old Leila and four-year-old Rania are too young to fully grasp what is happening, despite the efforts of me and my wife, Tammy, to explain the events at their most basic level — “People in places have been treated unfairly for a very long time. They want to be treated fairly.” In the spirit of creating learning moments we add — “It takes a lot of courage for them to speak up because some people are trying to stop them by doing hurtful things. We want to give you the courage to speak up when you’re treated unfairly or in a mean way.”
[media-credit name=”Ian Sanders” align=”alignleft” width=”250″][/media-credit]Upon reflection, it really is as simple as that. But these events have also taught me many things while reminding me of others. Although our children are too young today, they won’t be tomorrow. And with that in mind, here is what I will say about what this moment in history has shown me:
1. You can make a change. In the most destitute of situations — when it seems as though everyone and everything is working against you, when the barriers seem insurmountable and when change is far out of reach — know that change is achievable, and pursue it. Don’t wait for it to happen. It is not magical like that.
2. Resist oppression, whether it is from a friend, partner, society or stranger. Whether it is tyranny against you or against others, resist it. The longer you stand silent in its face, the more difficult it is to break its stare. It is magical like that.
3. Believe in possibility. Believe in yourself and your ability. Believe in others and their ability, even when they may not see the talents within themselves. Help them see the possibilities they bring.
4. You have it in you to empower others — millions of others. Act courageously and someone will be watching. That person will gain courage from you and will act in a similar way. Someone else will be watching that person and might move the world. That movement would have been impossible without you.
5. Strength comes from community. Build and cherish relationships within your communities. Those bonds will return emotional, personal and spiritual riches to you 100-fold, and in the most unexpected ways and times.
6. A commitment to non-violence is not weakness. In fact, it takes incredible strength. Know the difference between a commitment to non-violence and the right to self-defense.
7. Be willing to struggle for your culture and what it stands for. Approach it with your eyes open. Know the sacrifice it takes, and learn what it means to be patriotic. Resist those who say it requires silence or blind support.
8. Whatever religious position you take, never pursue it blindly. Develop and hold those beliefs with care, and release them if they encourage you to judge others. Your religious beliefs don’t make you any better (or worse) than anyone else.
9. Be proud of your Arab identity. Be proud of our innovations and passion. Be proud of our communities and our resilience. Be proud of our revolutions.
10. Throughout life, you will encounter many people who, often due to no fault of their own, are misinformed about aspects of your cultural and religious identities. Many are thirsty for knowledge. Remember, you can make change.
These reflections are simple. They are first and foremost statements of the human condition, but the ongoing popular uprisings in the Middle East, like others before them throughout the world, bring absolute clarity — Our lives are ultimately dependent on the basic foundations of what it means to be human, and we ultimately rely on the leadership of our children.
There’s a reason all of the Islamic world’s freedoms are stunted. Here it is: The only way for the people of the Middle East (all of Islam for that matter) to experience true democracy is to free themselves from the shackles of Islam. Islam and democracy are incompatible and anyone who says Indonesia is an example they are simply showing just how dire Islamic democracies are. Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan, Oman, Syria, Lebanon, Sudan, Mauritania, Niger, Algeria, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Kirgizstan, etc… Name one country from this or any list of Islamic dominated countries where one can… Read more »
“Name one country from this or any list of Islamic dominated countries where one can freely criticize Islam, convert from Islam, proselytize for any other religion, draw pictures of Mohammed, criticize Saudi Arabia, openly practice homosexuality or Judaism, be a free woman with all this implies.” Bosnia. The anti-democratic, anti-liberal facts you point to in majority-Muslim countries are cultural problems, not really religious ones. Most of the Islamic world is culturally very conservative, as was the Christian world 200 and more years ago. In Italy or Russia or Portgual or most anywhere in Christian Europe in the 1700s and before,… Read more »
I want to point out my love for your kindness supporting people that actually need help on this important subject. Your personal commitment to passing the message around turned out to be wonderfully advantageous and has truly made workers just like me to achieve their dreams. Your amazing important guideline can mean a whole lot a person like me and even more to my fellow workers. With thanks; from all of us.
April, Thank you. What a sweet note.