More American Jewish Students Take Up Study of the Arab World

October 18, 2013

 

Miriam Berger studied Arabic at Wesleyan University, lived twice as a student in Jordan, did thesis research in the West Bank and, after graduation, worked in Cairo. And like many of the Americans she has met each step of the way, she is Jewish.

“I don’t see it as a contradiction at all,” said Ms. Berger, 23, who grew up near Philadelphia where she attended a Jewish day school. “I grew up hearing so much about the Middle East, how it was this dangerous place we can’t understand, but as I learned more, every day it felt like old ideas were being challenged, and I wanted to contribute to better understanding.”

In the United States, colleges and universities are riding a two-decade surge in Middle East studies, reflecting that region’s consistent pull on American economics and security. And while there are no definitive demographic data, students and professors say that in classrooms, or in undergraduate study-abroad and postgraduate fellowship programs in the Middle East and in Arabic, it is not unusual for one-quarter or more of the students to be Jewish.

These students say their interest grew because of their heritage, not in spite of it. They feel a desire, even a duty, to understand a region where Israel and the United States are enmeshed in longstanding conflicts, and to act as bridges between cultures — explaining the Arab world to Americans, and America (and sometimes Jews) to Arabs.

 

The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/18/us/more-american-jewish-students-take-up-study-of-arabic.html

Richard Dawkins criticised for Twitter comment about Muslims

The outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins was involved in an online Twitter row on Thursday after tweeting: “All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.”

 

As users piled in to criticise him, the scientist continued: “Why mention Muslim Nobels rather than any other group? Because we so often hear boasts about (a) their total numbers and (b) their science.”

 

However if one looks at what Dawkins is really saying, that Muslims as a unit throughout history have done nothing since the Middle Ages, and that is clearly attributable to their stupid religion, then one must point out that a Nobel prize is not by any means a suitable or universal enough criterion. It has only been going for a little more than a hundred years, the prizes it awards are for excellence in academic research which is far superior in western scientific and academic institutions due to the socioeconomic development of the West. Nesrine Malik for the guardian commented “The whole process of trying to parse the painfully obvious fallacy reminded me of the task of arguing against extremist Muslim clerics when they try to denigrate non-Muslims, the same momentary sense of helplessness and not knowing where to start. The same opinion with an agenda dressed up as fact. But one usually takes academics and scientists more seriously and tries to engage. With this latest salvo, I am afraid that we must consign Dawkins to this very same pile of the irrational and the dishonest.”

 

With the debate escalating, Dawkins, who has more than 777,000 followers, said: “Many are asking how many Nobels have been won by atheists. Needs research. I’d love to know. I suspect the proportion is v high, and growing.”

 

Owen Jones, the left-leaning commentator and author of Chavs, told Dawkins: “How dare you dress your bigotry up as atheism. You are now beyond an embarrassment.” Legal blogger Jack of Kent added: “Following @RichardDawkins tweet, Trinity Cambridge has presumably also produced more Soviet-supporting traitors to the UK than Islam.”

 

The row also drew in historian Tom Holland and Channel 4’s economics editor Faisal Islam who commented: “I thought scientists were meant to upbraid journalists for use of spurious data points to ‘prove’ existing prejudgements”.

 

@jptoc chipped in: “A similar (and infuriating for Dawkins) ‘fact’ is that Islam has more recipients of Nobel Prizes than Dawkins. It’s bad scientific method.”

 

But some users appeared more forgiving. @Chriss_m, said: “Dawkins spent the best part of 10 years attacking Christianity and not raising an eyebrow. He now turns that same eye on Islam and uproar.”

 

Trinity College, Cambridge, has 32 Nobel laureates, as against 10 Muslims listed in Wikipedia. When the Guardian contacted Dawkins by email to ask whether he was surprised by the uproar, he replied: “Prompted by exasperation at hearing boasts of (a) how numerous Muslims are in the world and (b) how great is their science.

 

US Born radical cleric took winding path to become ‘Pied Piper of jihadists’

Born in New Mexico and raised in Yemen, Anwar Awlaki learned to preach in the U.S. As a young man, he studied in several U.S. states, including California.

At the local mosque where he preached, he delighted in playing soccer with young children and taking the teenagers paint-balling. “He had an allure. He was charming,” Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, outreach director of an Islamic center in Falls Church, Va., where Awlaki later gave sermons, told reporters in 2009.
With his fashionable eyeglasses and fluent English, the U.S.-born radical cleric also had been called a “Pied Piper of jihadists,” an Internet phenomenon who produced video and audio recordings to lure Westerners to his extremist ideologies. Awlaki, who had been linked to several terrorist plots in the U.S., was killed Friday in a joint CIA-military airstrike, U.S. officials said. He was 40.

His was born in 1971 in Las Cruces, N.M., where his father had moved from Yemen to study agricultural economics at New Mexico State University. At 7, Awlaki returned with his family to Yemen, and his father served as the country’s agriculture minister.

An overview of religion and economics in Nigeria

Whether attempted Northwest Airlines bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was radicalized in Nigeria where he was raised, or the UK where he attended university, is so far unclear. This NPR interview with West Africa corespondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton discusses Christianity, Islam, US-Nigeria relations, and radicalism in Nigeria, exploring the environment Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was brought up amidst.

Religious Tradition or Political Symbol? Muslim Headscarves Test the Limits of German Tolerance

For years, Germany’s legal experts have been arguing about whether Muslim public officials have the right to wear headscarves. The issue raises difficult questions about religious tolerance and constitutional rights in Germany. “When you do something,” Brigitte Weiss says, “you need to do it right.” It’s a motto she knows from home. She remembers people saying it where she comes from, a coal-mining area in Germany’s western Ruhr region. Later, as a grade school teacher in Mettmann, a small town near D_sseldorf, she tried to pass the homespun wisdom on to her students. Whether it was their homework in German, geography, home economics, or whatever else they were doing — the main thing was to do it right. “All of my students,” Weiss says, “were happy to have me as their teacher.” Now this is no longer entirely the case. The reason is Brigitte Weiss’s conversion to Islam. Now she has a new name, Maryam, and she dresses differently: She wears a headscarf. Thomas Darnstadt reports

Muslim Identity & Global Change

The controversy in the UK over voluntary partial adoption of shariah law to help solve domestic disputes within some Muslim migrant communities led to a storm of criticism of the Archbishop of Canterbury , the leader of the Anglican Church, over what he did not say, and very little discussion on the implications of what he did say. The subsequent bashing of the Archbishop with the image of violent intolerant Islam did not reflect the findings of the recent global Gallup poll on what world Muslims think, and was ritualistic, political and diversionary. But it did convey that part of British public opinion is now frightened of Islam and that British Muslims are nervous that British identity and loyalty are in question. The problems encountered in UK are not unique and are part of a more global picture. The Archbishop was right to imply that a new synthesis must emerge, but this goes wider than a new synthesis with Islam. First, globalization is accelerating and migrants from countryside to town may find themselves marginalized in poorer urban communities, whether in Pakistan or the UK. Economics is the driver and social development has to catch up. Second , urbanization and the drive for secular rights and democracy, especially in rapidly modernizing Muslim states, conflicts with traditional tribal and religious values. Thirdly , society whether in Europe or in modernizing Muslim societies wants consumerism and secular democracy but seeks to preserve religious, cultural and regional identities. We cannot build the new world in the cathedral of a shopping mall with the values of a TV soap opera. There has to be more to life than that. Terry Lacey reports.