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September 21, 2006

CGI - Morning Plenary - Managing Diversity

-- by Dave Johnson

This morning Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek moderates a panel of:

  • Rania Al-Abdullah, Queen of the Royal Hashemite Kindgon of Jordan
  • Hamid Karzai, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
  • Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus

    Bishop Tutu talked about how South Africa managed the transition to representative government. He said that the African culture understands that anger, resentment and the desire for revenge are corrosive, so the people were able to proceed without retribution.

    President Karzai, asked about transition in a multicultural society, said they conducted a number of discussions with different elements of the country - tribal leaders, etc., to decide how to set up the country, what language to use, etc. In the current national anthem they mention 14 ethnic groups of the country. ("The poet was great, he shortened it a bit.") Q: What about the Taliban, who have roots in Afghan society? A: I am being tolerant. Those Taliban who are Afghans who are not associated with al Queda and not part of terrorism are part of the Afghan people. Other than those who have or are committing crimes, we want to have them back.

    Queen Rania is concerned with just how much the roots of division between the East and West has deepened. These had existed on the fringes, but they are being pulled into the center by two forces. The first is the lack of knowledge we have of one another. The west does not see Arab diversity. The challenge for the 21st century is finding ways for us to understand each other, which she finds baffling in this day and age. Living in the same neighborhood is not multiculturalism, youhave to invite people into your own home. An ideology of hatred is turning into a culture of fear. Grievances that have not been dealt with turn into hatred. The Palestinean problem MUST be dealt with. This is the issue that is at the core of our region and in the heart of every Arab. This is fueling the extremism. It is critical for us to try to find a solution to this problem. (Note - as far as I know, every speaker from the region has said that this is the core problem that MUST be solved before other problems, including Iraq, can be addressed.)

    The Queen says we must not keep ruling out diplomatic solutions and relying on military options.

    Regarding Lebanon, over the course of two months the Arab public became much more radicalized. The moderate majority has shrunk and extreme voices are taking over. The voices of moderation and negotiation are being marginalized. People are not seeing the dividends of peace.

    President Karzai says it is a policy of others to turn Afghanistan into an extremist society, and take away its traditions of diversity. Hesays the current violence seems more political, to try to subvert, and turn demoralize people, not from extremist ideology. Calculated to try to subvert the movement to democratic society.

    Bishop Tutu, asked about the Pope's speech, said there is no faith that he knows of that advocates violence and hate. If you use a knife to cut bread it is good, if you use it to cut someone it is bad. He says it is bad to slide into talking about "Muslim terrorism." He hasn't heard the guy who bombed Oklahoma or those fighting in Northern Ireland as examples of Christian terrorism. Most Christians would be appalled if you said that is a characteristic of Christianity - it is a perversion. He hopes that we get to learn that we can survive only together, be free only together, be safe and secure only together. God created us different not so that we should be alienated from one another but so that we can know one another. The totally self-sufficient is sub-human.

    Regarding the Pope's remarks, Queen Rania said the timing was unfortunate. Not only the content enraged, but the reactions would not have been so violent if it had taken place at a diferent time in history. Hilights the need for more inter-religious and intercultural dialog between us. We have more in common than we have that separates us. The fact that he would choose to focus on the 1% difference rather than the 99% that binds us was unfortunate. We need a tolerance movement that makes acceptance part of our daily lives. The next phases of needed government and private sector reforms is to have a multicultural responsibility.

    President Karzai, asked about American troops in Afghanistan, started by saying there is a serious misunderstanding of Islam in the West. It was the same people who blew up the towers in New York were making Afghanistan suffer, killing people, and Karzai and others were begging the West to come help, or it would eventually reach them. No attention was paid because those in the West were not hurt, and that was wrong. (Note - this echoes what President Musharraf said about lack of assistance for Pakistan - "high and dry" - following the USSR laving Afghanistan.) Do not take the voice of the bad as the voice of the people. We forget the epole because they do not have an organization that is their voice, we must stop takig the voices of kilers as the voice of Islam.

    Bishop Tutu - you and I are frequently appalled by the amount of evil around in the world, but it makes us blind to all the good. But this conference and the incredible generosity exhibited here is part of saying this is a moral universe. This is a universe in which right and wrong matter and good will prevail. You and I are people who are made for goodness. This is why the people we admire are not the macho, the aggressive. The world reveres Ghandi, Martin Luthor King, Jr., the Dali Lama. It is because we are made for goodness, embracing one another, and that is what is going to prevail.

    Posted by Dave Johnson at September 21, 2006 5:55 AM

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