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By Tahira Saleem, GPS Issue Analyst on Iraq and Afghanistan

The Afghan President Hamid Karzai has recently announced the formation of a new Peace Council headed by the former President Burhanudin Rabbani. The new peace council is another effort for reintegration of the Taliban in the country’s political system. The earlier Kabul conference and London conference had similar aims of brokering peace with the warring factions in Afghanistan. But the question arises about whether this new council promises any hope for the war-torn country.

The peace council, the brainchild of Karzai, has neglected the Afghan traders, intellectuals, and the members of civil society. All of its 69 hand-picked members are Afghan warlords; the key figure among them is Burhanudin Rabbani, who is implicated in war crimes of killing and displacement of Afghan people.

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By Hannah Nemer
Hannah is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Hannah below or take a look at the  Student Issue Analysts.

Walking through suburbia covered in a hijab, I felt the deafening silence of discomfort follow me. For the first time, I, a Jewish teen, felt a small bit of the burden of being Muslim in America.
This social experiment, designed to identify post-9/11 stereotypes of Islam, was eye opening, revealing all too many misconceptions. These perceptions only intensify as time passes, as demonstrated by the upset over the “ground-zero mosque.”
Somewhere along the way, America’s fear began to usurp the power of the First Amendment. Now, as youth, it is our obligation to stop the fear mongering in order to embrace our differences, making way for religious pluralism.
The forums for this are plentiful.
Students have a unique opportunity; rarely will we be thrown into an environment as socially and culturally diverse as our schools, nor with a group of peers as genuinely enthused about identifying problems and seeking solutions. Here, conversations are born.
The Interfaith Youth Core, a global dialogue building interfaith coalitions, has grown among these campus communities. More than a forum for discussion, the global nature of this program forges new partnerships, bridging cultural divides.
Students do not hold political power because we are future leaders, but because we are leaders. In 2006, the youth 9/11 Plus 5: A Hope Not Hate Summit proclaimed that message loud and clear. Joining forces, over 400 youth leaders took a stand for religious pluralism, calling attention to legitimate driving forces of terrorism, rather than explaining it away as “Islamic Fundamentalism.”
Conversations must commence, and tough questions must be asked. Something as simple as complimenting a Muslim woman on the color of her hijab breaks down long built barriers of silence. And that gateway conversation is one we all can begin.

I am Hannah Nemer, a freshman at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Interested in advocacy through public policy and film, I am eager to partner with Americans for Informed Democracy. Despite my love of politics, I find myself concerned over the political process which seems to breed both xenophobia and hate; but, I see hope in informed youth who speak out against both social and political injustices.

As the international community views all Israel settlements as illegal, Israelis moved in to 4 new villages only hours after the 10 month building moratorium was over. The political goal of the settlers is to occupy so much land that a shared state between Israel and Palestine will be impossible. What will happen to the peace talks between Israel and Palestine now is uncertain. The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said this Saturday that Israel now will have to choose between “peace or settlements”. Abbas now is in a tight spot, as he risks losing support with both the Palestinians and members of his own Fatah party if he continues the peace talks even though the Israelis are restarting their settlements processes. At the same time, Fatah has started a reappeasement process with Hamas, and they have appearantly agreed upon the procedures for new elections. As Israel sees Hamas as a terrorist group, and so does the EU and the U.S., it might be difficult for Abbas to have a normalized relationship with Hamas, and still negotiate peace talks with Israel.

Abbas has said that the peace talks will end if Israel restarts the building of the settlements, but the Palestinian president has called a meeting with the Arab League on October 4th to discuss the situation, and review his options. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has said that his intentions for peace are genuine. The big issue still remains that as long as the Israelis are building settlements in the middle of the West Bank, the more unlikely will we see a two-state solution to this conflict. And even if the peace talks will be somewhat successful, the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip will still be in conflict with Israel, as Israel only recognizes Hamas as a terrorist organization.

However, the U.S. pressure to keep the peace talks going might be the extra push to the backs of both the Palestinians and the Israelis (at least to get back on track). The U.S., in the long run, is hoping that the parties will go back to negotiate the Arabian Initiative from 2001/02 that said that if Israel will withdraw from the occupied areas, there will be a total peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had a meeting with the Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem. Syria is essential in this, considering that Israel still occupies the Golan Heights. Even though such an agreement may seem long ahead in the future, it is a beginning.

By Amna Amjad
Amna is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Amna below or take a look at the  Student Issue Analysts.

I was bored and watching television a while ago and there it was- news that showed that only a few days remain until the ninth anniversary of 9/11 incident. I was only 15 in 2001, but the whole news sequences that ran at that time still run vividly in my mind when I think of it. What happened nine years ago certainly changed the dynamics of the relationship between the US and Muslims.

I know a quite a lot of Muslims in the US and they believe that the incident has etched into the minds of the Americans and quite a lot of them do feel insecure around Muslims. Vicious extremists of 9/11 harmed thousands of people and made it justified for Americans to mistrust or feel uncomfortable around Muslims. But I believe that it is time for a change and the students of the US should come forward and talk about this issue. They can help change the perception of those who lack the proper understanding of Islam and do away with the negative stereotypes of Islam. Islam is a religion that advocates peace and religious tolerance.

I think that the youngsters of this generation in US have an edge over the previous ones because of the use of the internet; so they should use it to their advantage and try to learn more about the Muslims of different countries and interact with them through proper forums to have a better understanding and knowledge about them and their religion and help educate others, because ignorance is not the way out. On the other hand conferences should be held between the students of the US and Muslims countries to talk on various issues and come up with the resolutions to work on this sensitive and precious relationship. It is time for a change, for good.

Amna is from Pakistan and has recently completed her Bachelors degree from Lahore University of Management Sciences with a major in Accounting and Finance and minor in Mathematics. She has been involved in spreading awareness about the local and global issues with Amnesty International Chapter at her university and believes that every individual should play a part to make world a better place to live in. In her spare time she likes to hang out with friends, watch movies, read books and also loves photography.

Americans for Informed Democracy, in partnership with Unity Productions Foundation and the 9/11 Unity Walk, is proud to present the second installment of the Hope Not Hate/20,000 Dialogues Film Series:

A screening and discussion of

On a Wing and a Prayer: An American Muslim Learns to Fly

with special guest Ambassador Akbar Ahmed


Saturday September 11th, 3-5:30pm

DC Jewish Community Center – 1529 16th Street NW, Washington, DC

(Nearest Metro: Dupont Circle)

Free, but space is very limited!


Click Here to RSVP

About the film: On a Wing and a Prayer: An American Muslim Learns to Fly follows one Muslim-American man on his quest to obtain a pilot’s license. But will the “land of opportunity” deny Monem his dream in the aftermath of 9/11 and in the face of heightened domestic security? The cinema verité-style documentary reveals a funny, loveable, altogether human Muslim-American as he pursues the American dream against tides of negative public perception.

About the speaker: Ambassador Akbar Ahmed is the author of the recent book Journey Into America: The Challenge of Islam. He is also the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University and has been called by the BBC “the world’s leading authority on contemporary Islam.” Click here to watch Amb. Ahmed on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

All students attending the event will be entered into a raffle for 1) a travel scholarship to Americans for Informed Democracy’s annual student conference in spring 2011 2) grants to organize similar cultural awareness programs on their campus and 3) free copies of the DVD of the film! And if you bring a friend, you’ll get a bonus raffle entry!

Share this Flier Below with Your Friends and Post it on Your Campus! (Right-click and save the flier to your desktop, then print!)

Click Here to RSVP Today

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Ever since my original post on the controversy surrounding the construction of a supposed “mosque” (I will explain the quotations later in this piece), I have had several conversations with friends and relatives, both in favor of and against the project. I want to take advantage of this space to respond to some of the criticisms I have heard as well as reiterate some of the points I made in my original post as I feel they are important to emphasize.

First is my response to the critique I seem to continually come across from people opposed to the “mosque” who say that my opposition to their opposition is somehow infringing upon their right to be against it. My guess is that this is rooted in opponents dissatisfaction with being called either “ignorant,” “racist,” or both. Neither in my original post, nor in my subsequent writings and conversations have I ever advocated the denial of FIrst Amendment rights to anyone opposing the project. Instead, all I have done is exercised my own First Amendment right to call out what I see as blatant ignorance and bigotry.

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Well a mosque is different from those other two houses of worship in some very important ways, but most obviously, they are different because each structure is designed and built for the purposes of practicing a particular faith. A church, Christianity; a synagogue, Judaism; a mosque, Islam. In the United States, we have all three of these structures in many different cities and towns, sometimes right across from one another. We have all three of these structures in the United States because of the founding principle of this nation that we shall not discriminate within our laws for or against any particular religion or creed; that every citizen has the right to practice whatever religion they so choose. It has been a guiding principle of this nation for over 200 years and has brought about iconical phrases that have permeated the American lexicon, such as “separation of church and state.” However, if you have not heard recently, according to the right-wing news media, there is apparently a place within this country that is exempted from this principle, that is subject to prejudices of one religion over another, that is eerily reminiscent of the kind of religious persecution that the settlers of the American continent were fleeing from when they crossed the Atlantic so many years ago. And oddly enough, it’s located in New York City, the metropolis of metropolises, and arguably one of the most culturally diverse settings in the entire United States, if not the world.

If you don’t already know by my inferences, I am of course referring to the disgraceful controversy that has surrounded the construction of an Islamic mosque near Ground Zero in lower Manhattan where the Twin Towers once stood. Apparently, the right-wing within the media got completely incensed by the idea of religious pluralism, which is what the construction of this mosque is meant to symbolize. Now, the right-wing intolerants have been trying to portray this well-intentioned initiative as some kind of game of “Capture the Hill,” and by letting this mosque be constructed, it is essentially letting the terrorists claim victory. I don’t believe its necessary to go into how utterly absurd and ignorant and disgraceful such a portrayal is, so instead I will pose the question of why this has become such an issue and make an attempt at an answer.

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Take part in the commemoration of International Youth Day, whose theme this year is “Dialogue and Mutual Understanding.”  Celebrations are occuring across the nation today, with the largest one headquarted at the United Nations in New York City, which celebrates the global launch of The International Year of Youth with musical guests, performances, and an art exhibit showcasing “Youth Perspectives on Global Issues.” As active youth committed to changing the world, we deserve to be celebrated!

One way to participate no matter where you are is through Advocates for Youth’s Blog-a-thon:

Advocates has now officially launched its International Day of Youth Blog-a-thon that runs from today until Saturday, August 14th.  This is a time and space to blog about young people and sexual and reproductive health and rights issues commemorating the start of the International Year of Youth with International Youth Day!  So, this week, go to amplifyyourvoice.org and blog about the issues that you care about alongside many other proud youth across the nation!

Read more about International Youth Day at http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unyin/iyouthday.htm.

Well, last Thursday, we officially launched the Hope Not Hate/20,000 Dialogues Film Series that has been months in the making, and is only just getting started! Oh, and by “we” I mean not just AIDemocracy, but also our invaluable partner, Unity Productions Foundation (UPF).

Our first screening took place at Busboys and Poets and we screened Prince Among Slaves, a documentary about an African Muslim prince that was enslaved in the American south. It was actually my first time seeing the film, so I was just as anxious as the audience was, and at the conclusion of the screening, the film did not disappoint. I encourage everyone to see it if you haven’t already. Contact UPF for more details about acquiring a copy. Afterward, we then conducted a dialogue session about the film, the issues it raises, and how it relates to contemporary society and our relationship with Muslims and Islam today. UPF, through their 20,000 Dialogues program, has conducted approximately 300 dialogues so far, and we look forward to working with them to continue increasing that number.

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Here at Americans for Informed Democracy, we are always looking for ways to inspire young people to learn about our world and how to make it better. And we also want to make those opportunities as fun and interesting as possible. That is why we are incredibly excited to be holding a special screening of Prince Among Slaves: The True Story of an African Muslim Prince Enslaved in the American South. This is the amazing story of Abdul Rahman Ibrahima Sori, an African prince enslaved in the Americas.

When: Thursday, August 5th 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Where: Busboys and Poets, 1390 V St. NW, Washington, D.C. (Nearest Metro: U Street/African-American Civil War Memorial – Green and Yellow Lines)
How: Get your free ticket here: http://hopenothateatbusboys.eventbrite.com. Space is very limited!

All students attending the event will be entered into a raffle for 1) a travel scholarship to Americans for Informed Democracy’s annual student conference in spring 2011, and 2) grants to organize similar cultural awareness programs on their campus and 3) free copies of the DVD! And if you bring a friend, you’ll get a bonus raffle ticket!

This event is the kickoff to the Hope Not Hate 20,000 Dialogues Film Series, a collaboration between Americans for Informed Democracy’s Hope Not Hate initiative and Unity Productions Foundation’s 20,000 Dialogues project. The goal of the film series is to help improve the public’s understanding of Islamic culture and how we can tackle the challenges of building positive US-Muslim world relations.

You can find out more about the entire Film Series, including info. about the other films we are screening for the series here: www.facebook.com/filmseries

Program:

6:00 – Dr. Sulayman Nyang presentation on the legacy of Abdul Rahman Ibrahima Sori and the African Muslim experience in America.

6:20 – Film Prince Among Slaves

7:30 – Interfaith dialogues

8:00 – Take away session

Also, if you are interested in guiding a small group dialogue at this event please contact Matt Fuller, or (202) 298-8088.

Keynote Address: Dr. Sulayman Nyang, Chair of African Studies at Howard University. A former deputy ambassador and head of chancery of the Gambia Embassy in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Nyang has served as consultant to several national and international agencies and on the boards of the African Studies Association, the American Council for the Study of Islamic Societies, and the Association of Muslim Social Scientists.

RSVP Now at: http://hopenothateatbusboys.eventbrite.com

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