Today, Iran votes. By the time I post this, many of you will have already seen footage of Iranians waiting in line to reach the polls. As we eagerly anticipate the results of thishistoric election, read coverage of the events here.
For those of you who haven’t heard of her, another interesting journalist to check out is Dr. Ibtihal Al-Khatib. I saw this interview last year. In it, she argues that secularism may be a path to religious freedom for everyone – including, if not especially – Muslims. (The previous link is a transcript. Here is a video of Dr. Al-Khatib’s interview, in Arabic with English subtitles.)
We already know that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Most of us also know that to get our questions (or phone calls/emails/letters) answered, an attack is not the way to start a conversation. Not the conversation that will get anyone anywhere, anyway. I haven’ t been blogging much recently, but this point about human decency has appeared in a few media stories lately. Two of my favorites:
1 – Torture: when we have had questions in urgent need of answers, those who were supposed to be in charge of communication for all of us decided to take the approach most likely to alienate. We know that torture doesn’t work (despite Dick Cheney’s statements to the contrary). It turns out that if if being rude doesn’t help you get what you want – waterboarding someone 83 times really won’t help them feel inclined to talk to you.
Surprise! It turns out that not being a barbarian is a more promising approach. In fact, when we recognize the humanity of those people with whom we are trying to engage, they might even be willing to talk to us.
“If you have to inflict pain, then you’ve lost control of the situation, the subject and yourself.” – Army staff sargeant Eric Maddox
Read about Ali Soufan, a former FBI special agent and top interrogator who speaks quite unequivocally against torture – which he says is actually likely to produce false testimony from individuals desperate to stop the agony of the violent — excuse me, “enhanced” – interrogation. It seems so obvious, doesn’t it?
2 – Mercy: Mohammed Sohail gets my “favorite person of the week” award, for sure. This is a guy, who, while working late at his convenience store – experienced what would likely scare the pants off of most people. A robber entered, wielding a bat and demanding money.
Here’s the amazing part. By the end of interaction, Mr. Sohail had given the robber both sustenance and faith: recognizing the desperation of the would-be-robber, he gave him $40 and a loaf of bread. The robber (whose identity we do not know) was so moved by Mr. Sohail’s mercy that he asked the storekeeper to help him convert to Islam. Finally, Mr. Sohail went to retrieve additional groceries for the man’s family – but returned to find that the fellow had fled. Read the story here, and click here to see Mr. Sohail tell the story himself.