End Bullying and Prevent Hate

Created for us by one of PREVENT HATE’s student friends.

Update: Sent to us by another one of our student friends

A Primer to Promote a New Era of Democracy and Socioeconomic Development in the Middle East and North Africa

It has been more than a month that the people of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are demanding improved rights, representation, and socioeconomic development. And yet, muffled in the calls for liberty, is a low murmur uttered by people around the world who are concerned, and rightfully so, that today’s freedom fighters may be opening a sociopolitical Pandora’s Box, out of which will come a militant takeover by anti-democratic forces. The fear is that today’s rebels and protestors who are disorganized and well-meaning when it comes to changing the region’s leaders will create an opening to be exploited tomorrow by those who are better organized, power-obsessed, and who have nefarious intentions for those who do not fit their world view. It is really no surprise this turmoil is occurring. The world economy is struggling. Food prices are up. And the Middle East already is ranked the lowest on the global human development index. The conditions are ripe for serious change, but in which direction will that change occur and is there anything we, in the west, could do about it without appearing imperialist?

Let’s take a quiz to help us focus.

What to do?

A) Wring our hands and do nothing;

B) Make a lot of proclamations and threats about sanctions and reductions in financial exchanges that take some time to begin having an impact, while in the short term do nothing;

C) Bomb and shoot the heck out of people and infrastructure, then fly away and leave the locals to their own devices;

D) Bomb and shoot the heck out of people and infrastructure, then get stuck in their country for an unforeseen number of decades to come;

E) Come up with a strategic plan that actually speaks directly to the needs of the people on the street far better than any militant, anti-democratic force ever could do, so they see we are prepared to engage them constructively, and on their terms, as soon as “the day after” arrives.

You should know, by the way, that A-D are the options recently offered and discussed in international power circles while innocent people in the Middle East are massacred, friendly governments are threatened, and adversarial eyes watch from the shadows with their own plans for the region’s future. Meanwhile, the only viable answer, E, remains ignored.

Below are recommendations based upon best practices in socioeconomic development to assist President Obama maneuver the United States, and subsequently the rest of the west, into the new and improved MENA regional ally:

1. Speak directly to the people on the ground, explaining that we offer them the hand of friendship and cooperation, rather than waste any more time making proclamations about their leaders;

2. Make it very clear that the intentions of the United States and western nations, from now on, are to promote self-sufficiency in the people of the MENA region, and that, to that extent, we are at their service through the following methods (Points 3-10):

3. Offer to widen access to the vast resources in socioeconomic development that are found throughout the United States and other western nations to the people of the Middle East — our capital, technology, and best practices in human development (healthcare, education, public safety, etc.) — through training programs and financial exchanges to assist them rebuild their economies under democratic governance;

4. Offer to make all non-oil exports to the USA and Europe from MENA countries duty free to help them diversity their economies;

5. Send in members of MENA Diaspora communities now living in the west who will offer assistance organizing governmental changes along the following lines:

  • That MENA leaders empower their parliaments with more authority to enact the will of the people in their districts;
  • Create neighborhood advisory councils that function independently of government, made up of civilians (e.g. tribal elders, academics, etc.) who discuss methods to improve services and attract business to their areas, and who provide their insights directly to local mayors and governors;
  • The elected leaders of the neighborhood councils, the mayors, and the governors from all over the country should meet annually to elect, from among their ranks, a “kitchen cabinet” of advisors that, in turn, meets directly with the executive branch of government; MENA leaders and their official cabinets should meet with these kitchen cabinets quarterly for official consultations;
  • Promote laws that maintain equitable treatment for all people irrespective of their ethnic, tribal, or religious affiliation;
  • Facilitate modern community policing methods so that the police no longer act as a militia, and the people develop a friendly, trust-based relationship with local law enforcement;
  • Thus, by providing more power to parliament, improving citizen participation in local government through neighborhood councils, creating kitchen cabinets made up of local representatives that meet directly with the executive branch of government on a routine basis, ensuring equitable treatment before the law, and promoting good ties between the locals and cops, MENA governments will facilitate much greater direct participation in government by the people themselves;

6. Offer assistance through training programs to develop government agencies that engage socially disadvantaged groups through best practices in services and empowerment programs that focus on full integration into mainstream society, e.g., minorities, women, people with disabilities, etc. so that these services are not left up to aspects of the civilian sector run by militant organizations that may be hostile to democracy;

7. Create cross-cultural programs between the people of the MENA and people from western countries that focus on mutual sustainable community development programs because nothing overcomes competition better than does cooperation to accomplish a humanitarian goal;

8. Create youth entrepreneurship opportunities through international trade and infrastructure development to facilitate equitable exchanges between youth and young adults that result in mutual stakeholders in poverty-reducing programs;

9. Promote stronger ties between technological research centers at western universities and MENA universities with dual focuses on urban and agricultural development;

10. Maintain a strong military presence in the region to deter any semblance that the west has gone weak while we begin engaging the local population socioeconomically to build their independence in a healthy partnership with the west.

In addition, the people of the MENA region should:

1. Create a Middle East and North African Youth Regional Parliament, made up of elected representatives specifically to this grouping who are under the age of 40; that provides recommendations on democratic governance and regional policy, and present their findings bi-annually to a regional group of official parliamentary heads that includes all nations in the region irrespective of their diplomatic ties with each other;

2. Create the Middle East and North African Youth Regional Games, which would function as a mini-Olympics for youth throughout the region irrespective of politics. These games should have a Special Olympics component for people with developmental disabilities, and a Paralympics component for people with physical disabilities to promote humanitarian interaction between the countries.

Any nation that refuses to allow its youth or parliamentary heads to participate in these programs should be expelled from its political regional grouping at the United Nations via direct petition of the MENA Youth Parliament, which would effectively interrupt its ability to participate on the United Nations Security Council. It is also incumbent upon the Youth Parliament and Regional Games not to exclude or marginalize Israel or any one nation, but rather, to focus on improving the region collectively.

Altogether through these policies, the west and MENA countries, and the people from both areas, would promote a combined micro- and macro-approach to MENA development in partnership with each other without exploitation.

If these policies are enacted comprehensively, the end result will be improved living conditions for the diverse peoples of the Middle East and North Africa, increased regional peace and cooperation, enhanced relations between Middle Eastern and North African countries with each other and with the west, and a significant reduction in global militancy. These policies speak directly to the needs of the people without appearing to be a fair weather friend to regional allies by promoting workable democratic reforms; and implement methods that will keep Pandora’s Box of Militancy shut tightly — the best of all worlds.

Freedom and democracy are not just discussion topics. They have real meaning. People are dying in the chaos. Yet, unfortunately, time is not on our side. We must move beyond rhetoric and focus on results-driven policies… now.

PREVENT HATE Speakers Bureau for At-Risk Youth Going Strong

On Tuesday, May 25, 2010, PREVENT HATE brought one of our speakers to Canoga High School in Los Angeles, CA for a program to inspire youth away from hate and violence, and to open their minds to creative outlets for their frustrations.

Mr. Zuhdi Sardar, a brilliant artist from the Kurdistan region of Iraq, spoke for approximately 45 minutes to a large group of students about his experiences with institutionalized discrimination and intergroup violence under Saddam Hussein’s regime, as well as his determination to channel his anger into productive methods. Today, Zuhdi Sardar’s smile is irrepresible, as well as is the love for humanity that he exudes.

An ethnic minority in the Middle East, the Kurds have been subjected to systemic violations of their human rights by various political parties representing ethnic majorities in the region. Mr. Sardar’s story is one of hope and inspiration, explaining how the friendships he cultivated across ethnic lines saved his life at a time when nearly all his childhood friends were murdered by government forces. At the end of the program, he opened his portfolio and shared some of his art with the students. The swarm of youth that approached Mr. Sardar at the end of his speech was a strong testimony to his message and his ability to speak directly to the hearts of at-risk youth.

For more information on Zuhdi Sardar’s art, please visit zuhdisardar.com.

PREVENT HATE’s speakers bureau brings survivors of genocide and severe crimes against humanity to speak to students about overcoming their differences, rejecting violence, and making a productive contribution to society. Our speakers are role models who have been through the worst hellfire, and yet, celebrate life.  As is always the case, at the end of the program, we were asked to come back.

Remaining in Control of One’s Better Self

As our nation’s economy continues to sputter like an old car that is badly in need of maintenance and repair, an increasing number of people are suffering – jobs are being eliminated, workers are being laid off, employees’ hours on the job are being reduced, cash reserves are being depleted, home owners’ ability to keep current on mortgage payments and other on-going obligations is being weakened, and the mood of the average American is souring.

One of the concerns that many of us ought to have is that this fiscal condition may prompt grossly affected folks to try to point fingers and blame innocent “others” for this on-going human and national tragedy. After all, history records the fact that in the midst of financial turmoil there is an increase in discrimination, hate and prejudice – these are but some of the ways that people act out their anxiety, fear and worry. 

Under these circumstances, we would do well to constantly monitor our own feelings and to gauge our reactions to situations not of our own making. If we are usually calm and deliberate, and we discover that some of our coping skills have become less effective simply because the flow of bad economic news – accompanied by our own uncertainty – is playing havoc with our emotional strength to endure adversity, there are steps for us to take.

Should we feel that we are under siege, rather than suffering in silence or uncharacteristically lashing out at others, it would be very helpful if we turn to people whom we trust (such as a psychotherapist, a clergyperson, et al.) and not only seek time to articulate our deepest fears but to seek guidance before we drown in these uncharted waters.

In like manner, if we find that a loved one or friend is showing signs of great angst – and we think that this condition is the manifestation of fiscal upheaval – out of concern and with compassion we need to be emotionally supportive and let that individual know that we are nearby – certainly not to interfere but to provide empathic comfort whenever that would be welcome and useful.

Each of us is endowed with a “better self;” it is sometimes very difficult to remain in control of it when we are scared. Thus, awareness and acknowledging what’s really happening are essential as we interact with others in the most wholesome ways even when challenged by a most awesome monetary crisis.

Rabbi Allen I. Freehling

What Triggered Major Hasan’s Massacre at Fort Hood?

How could Major Hasan have turned against his own colleagues in the army? Was this terrorism? A hate crime against non-Muslims? The act of a crazy man? All of the preceding? None of them? WHY did he do it?

These questions continue today, analyzed, brainstormed, and debated by a wide variety of people.

Chances are that Major Hasan’s actions were due to a combination of deep motives that enraged him. But the actual trigger for the violence is becoming more clear as the evidence comes out and we are allowed to analyze it for ourselves.

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, for example, asks whether Major Hasan was motivated by sexual frustration. They note that he, like some of the 9/11 hijackers, went to strip clubs before his violent rampage. With this question, they begin to approach what triggered his rampage, but they don’t actually get it.

Essentially, Major Hasan has the same motivations as a homophobe who commits a hate crime against a gay person. In 1996, the Journal of Abnormal Psychology published a breakthrough study that showed, for the first time, that homophobic men have some level of homosexual arousal. This has been anecdotal for a long time … that homophobes are often motivated to commit violence against gay men because they, themselves, have same-sex attraction, but social factors repress their ability to express that attraction, so they, like all of us, try to construct a world around them that makes them feel more comfortable. The thinking goes that by eliminating the physical presence of gay people, homophobes A) do not have to be continuously reminded of what they themselves cannot have, and B) will not be tempted to step outside of their social “box” and explore behaviors they crave, but are deemed unacceptable and even sinful. Basically, if it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind.

Similar motives likely come into play with Major Hasan. I believe that Major Hasan was frustrated by cultural behaviors allowed in western societies that did not fit in with his strict religious views. He experienced temptation around him, but felt guilty participating in it. (One thing I have come to realize is that some people deal with guilt through hostility. They don’t know how to cope with guilt so they resent whatever causes it rather than work through the issues themselves.)

This explanation also provides insight as to why Major Hasan would be in contact with militant Islamists who hate the USA … not because he was a pawn doing their bidding, but because they reinforced the restrictive socio-religious box in which he felt the need to live, and gave him the internal strength to resist the enticement to participate in what Hasan viewed as sinful, westernized behavior … behavior he nevertheless desired.

Why did Major Hasan go to strip clubs? Because he was horny and wanted to be with women, but since he couldn’t let himself do it, he turned on the society that constantly tempted him and made him feel guilty for exploring those urges. Major Hasan needs to repress and control his internal urges for sex and perhaps other “decadent” behavior more readily allowed in the west by directly confronting the external society that cultivated them (and also to confront the external society that he felt perpetuated these values and behaviors abroad). This is why he turned violent. It’s almost as if he had a temper tantrum on steroids because he couldn’t allow himself to have what he truly wanted — he just couldn’t give himself permission for it. That level of internal conflict between what he wanted to do, and what he felt he was supposed to do, was too much to bear so he snapped.

Undoubtedly there are some other factors that come into play, such as mental capacity, etc., which we will find out as more evidence is brought to light. However, I do feel certain that the immediate trigger for Major Hasan’s rampage was that he no longer could deal with his internal conflict between his strict Islamic values and the behaviors allowed by western society, so he turned against the society that he believed is responsible for creating the confusion and guilt — in this case, the USA.

This article was written by Matthew Rosenthal, PREVENT HATE’s president.