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Hope, Freedom & Peace: Adults' Version
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Hope, Freedom & Peace: Adults' Version

By kileyturner
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We may (arguably) be more sophisticated than kids in our sense of what's right and wrong, but we sure do need reminding that we can personally add to the light and goodness in the world, and to its capacity for change and healing. Here is a list of books for inspiration.
Finding Peace

Finding Peace

also available: Paperback
tagged : spiritual, social

One of our deepest human desires and needs is to live in peace. We all yearn for peace, but what is it exactly? How do we find it, and how can we bring peace to our lives and our communities?

Jean Vanier reflects on recent world events, identifying the sources of conflict and fear within and among individuals, communities, and nations that thwart us in our quest for peace. Peace is not just the work of governments or armies or diplomats, he argues, but the task of each one of us. We can all becom …

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Allah, Liberty & Love

Allah, Liberty & Love

The Courage to Reconcile Faith and Freedom
also available: Hardcover

Now in paperback with a discussion guide.
"Irshad Manji is the new voice of reform, not only for Islam, but for all religions."
— Deepak Chopra

The New York Times bestselling author to whom Oprah gave her first ever Chutzpah Award, Irshad Manji has written a book that equips all of us to develop moral courage.

Among the most visible Muslim reformers of our time, Irshad Manji reflects on the journey she has taken since her previous book catapulted her into the public spotlight, drawing on her re …

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“Can you just imagine my life without you? Can you just imagine?”
Can you imagine hearing that from your own mother? Can you imagine watching her beg you to tone down your call for moderate Muslims to speak out against the destructive extremists? We’re at the dining room table, fl oral teacups before us but barely touched. Mum can’t swallow right now. “I live with my heart in my throat every day,” she gently reminds me. She looks as if she could vomit. Thank God for me that her heart is blocking her throat.
When she falls silent, her mouth remains slightly open, as if ready to refute whatever my head might marshal in feeble defense. And my defense does feel feeble, because the issue here isn’t winning a debate with my mother. It’s abiding by the universal law that children are supposed to bury their parents, not the other way around.
Years ago mum had advised me, “Whatever you do, don’t anger Allah.” Can you imagine having to wonder if a just and loving God is furious with you because violent ideologues might make you break the parents-must-die-first rule? Talk about a double whammy. I won’t lie to my mother, so when she asks about the latest death threats, I answer. “What about the new ones?” mum whispers. “What do they say?” I tell her that one of them ends, “This is your last warning.”
Can you imagine your mother developing any measure of calm when you insist that cowering in fear only hands the enemies of humanity more power than they already have? That they can give you their last warning but you refuse to give them the last word? I don’t expect my mother to agree. What I expect from her is faith—not so much that I’ll live another day, since longevity isn’t guaranteed to any of us; faith, instead, that if I’m offed tomorrow, I’ll go with my conscience fully and ferociously alive.
Lesson one: Some things are more important than fear.
It’s remarkable that Salman Rushdie has outlived the Ayatollah Khomeini. On February 14, 1989, Khomeini harnessed the murder machine of the Islamic Republic of Iran to promise death to Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses. But the novelist ran afoul of more than the world’s most notorious cleric. During a public conversation in New York City to mark the twentieth anniversary of “the fatwa,” Rushdie told me about the reaction of one family member: “I had an uncle who was a general in the Pakistani army. I hated his guts, but there he was. He hated mine too.”
“Normal family dysfunction,” I interjected. “You get it everywhere.”
 “Well, actually, not so normal,” Rushdie corrected me. “After the Khomeini fatwa, he took out an ad in the newspaper to say, essentially, we never liked [Salman] anyway.”
His story brings to mind something that an educated relative of mine had said to me a couple of years earlier. “Do you still live at the same place?” he asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
“So maybe the security threat isn’t that real. I mean, it looks like Muslims haven’t targeted you enough.”
I like this man—he’s been good to my mother when she’s most needed the support. But, as Rushdie would agree, Muslim uncles say the darnedest things.
Risking the disapproval of our families ranks among the biggest fears of Muslims. While that’s true for everybody, it’s even more so for Muslims. Our culture of honor, as I’ll soon explain, makes us believe that we must protect our families from shame before claiming dignity for ourselves. Put bluntly, individual dignity doesn’t exist without the acceptance of your community. No wonder I receive messages like these from Muslims who live in the East and the West:
I read your book on the Internet and you are right, we need a wake-up call. I was born in north Iraq. My family have become citizens of the United Arab Emirates. I am this century’s child and I will live the way life is now, not in ancient times . . . Muslims are locked in their rules. It will take more people like you and me to unlock the iron wall. I was going to tell the world my feeling, but I love my family and I don’t want to ruin their life. — Alya
I look at other Muslims and ask them if they have any doubts about Islam. They all reply “no” without any hesitation. Is there something wrong with me? Why is it that everyone else seems to accept what they were taught? I’m so frustrated at this point that I can’t help but cry about it. All I’d like is some time away from the religion so I can find myself without outside influences.
But to do that, I would have to forsake my family. They would never speak to me again if I were to take the path that I wish to take. Every time I even ask them questions, I get yelled at, get told not to question, or get an explanation that comes directly from the Qur’an. I can never tell them that in order for me to believe those explanations, I would need to have unquestioned belief in the Qur’an itself. After so many years, I’m at the breaking point. If you have any advice at all, it would be appreciated. — Yasmin
Many of the questions on your website address Muslim and non-Muslim couples. I was in a relationship of that sort. But it is ended now because I realize there is no hope. The only hope is if I leave my family, and family is too important to do that to . . . I’m the type of person who hides a lot of my own feelings for my family. How do I become the person I want to be? Or the person I am, but am too scared to let out? — Phirdhoz
I am a Muslim and am aspiring to be a writer. My mother is a Christian and my father is a Muslim. Therefore, I’ve grown up accustomed to nasty stares from other Muslims. As the days go by, however, I find myself torn between being an advocate for reform in Islam and completely dropping my religion. As if Muslims did not take enough crap from non-Muslims and it wasn’t a constant struggle to distinguish yourself from a terrorist, it seems we also have to face the judgments of our fellow Muslims. Sometimes, I have moments of weakness when I feel it’s just not worth it anymore; these people cannot be changed. But the soul-searching calls to prayer and soul-soothing surahs [chapters] of the Qur’an that I recite daily are a part of me that I love. Currently, I am dealing with adversity within my own family. All these older aunts and uncles always have something to criticize. They talk behind your back because they are sooo self-righteous. Is there any way, in your experience, to make them see things from a different perspective and maybe even show compassion? — Elizabeth
My hometown is Solo, Central Java. This is also the home of the Indonesian Mujahideen Council, a radical Islamist organization. Since 2005, I have been participating in a youth group to promote Islamic reform and pluralism. We do this by distributing publications to many universities. A couple of years ago, we tried to organize a seminar on pluralism and received phone calls saying they would send hundreds of Allah’s soldiers to stop us.
My family is also very conservative. They will send me threatening letters whenever I get my work published. Recently, I was highly disappointed by a relative who is a local imam. He became involved in one of the terrorist groups. He is now in jail, leaving a wife and son without proper care. What kind of jihad is that? But no matter how conservative they are, I love my family and I want them to love me for what I believe. I often find myself giving up when I face my father. Then I lie. I don’t speak my mind. I don’t want to hurt him and I don’t want him to hurt me because I don’t want to hate him. So how do I use my freedom of speech? — Sakdiyah
I responded to them all that before you decide you can’t upset your family, think about one of the most overlooked verses in the Qur’an: “Believers! Conduct yourselves with justice and bear true witness before God, even if it be against yourselves, your parents, or your relatives” (4:135). That’s a call for honesty, no matter who’s offended by it. How could traditional family members argue with the Qur’an? They wouldn’t go there. But they will always concoct excuses to belittle the point made by such a verse, which is why citing passages isn’t enough ballast for speaking truth to power within the Muslim family—or community. Suspicions about reform-minded Muslims will persist, so each of us has to grapple with Yasmin’s question: Is there something wrong with me?
In a way, there is. You care about Islam. You feel pain precisely because you pay attention to the integrity of your faith. Your conscience counts, and that’s an open invitation to hurt. If Alya, Yasmin, Phirdhoz, Elizabeth and Sakdiyah didn’t care, then by definition they’d lapse into apathy. That’s probably the case with many of their family and friends, as it is with more than a few of mine. The irony is, religious types pronounce reform-minded Muslims unfaithful, and yet we might be more consumed with faith—because of our haunting questions— than believers who have no questions at all.
That said, there is something we shouldn’t care so much about: the approval of other mortals. If they don’t tolerate our curiosity, why should closed minds enjoy the power to define our dignity? As I recall asking my own mother (for whom blood relations once meant everything), “If so-and-so wasn’t family, would I respect her enough to want her as a friend?” Sultan Abdulhameed, a teacher with the Muslim Reform Movement in New York, knows where I’m coming from. In his redemptive series of essays The Quran and the Life of Excellence, he cautions against turning your family into your deity: “If we let the superstitions and prejudices of our ancestors dictate to us, we ascribe authority to something other than God, who wants us to live consciously and take responsibility for our lives.”
Mushy? Not to a God-conscious reformer named Martin Luther King, Jr. Even before he faced off against white segregationists, King had to challenge the abrasive prejudices of his father, a spellbinding Christian minister and dominant figure in Atlanta, Georgia. The historian Taylor Branch writes that Daddy King tried “to prevent his son from joining a new interracial council of students from Atlanta’s white and Negro colleges, arguing that M.L. should stay among his own and not risk ‘betrayals’ from the white students. King thought this was absurd.”
Years later, as a civil rights leader, King had to choose between his father and his conscience. It was nearing Easter weekend, 1963. Activists had been slapped with an injunction not to march in Birmingham, Alabama, quite possibly the most incorrigible stronghold of racism in the United States at that time. Would King follow the law and obey the injunction? The dilemma glared. At the same table, upping the ante of guilt, duty and respect, sat his father, who made no secret of the fact that he wanted his son back at church on one of the most festooned weekends in the Christian calendar. King retreated to another room for prayer. When he emerged, he didn’t need to say a word. According to Branch, “the fact that he came out in blue jeans is announcing that ‘I’m not going to the services with the flowers and the anthems and the great choirs. I’m going somewhere in blue jeans,’ which meant jail.”
In too many Muslim households today, parents demand robotic respect—to the point where their children censor themselves as a habit. But we’ve just seen from the letters of young Muslims that self-censorship doesn’t foster peace of mind. If the “religion of peace” is observed with countless consciences secretly churning in turmoil, there’s no peace to speak of. There’s also no faith. There’s only dogma. At that point, the question is not whether the law demands obedience; the question is whether the law deserves obedience. We know where King would have stood on this. In his jeans.
Every reform-minded Muslim will have to risk backlash to widen the path of Islam. Muslims deem Islam “the straight path”—a simple and clear code of living. But the straight path can also be “the wide path,” connecting us to the God that’s bigger than biological family, larger than local community, more transcendent than the international Muslim tribe. Muslims are monotheists. To be a monotheist, you must accept that Allah knows the full truth and that we human beings don’t. Nor, as monotheists, may we play the role of Allah. Recognizing God’s infinite wisdom means acknowledging our own limited wisdom and therefore letting a thousand flowers bloom. So it’s an act of faith to create societies in which we can disagree with each other without physical harm from one another. Anything less undermines the Almighty’s mandate as final judge and jury. To devote myself to one God is to defend liberty.
In widening the path of Islam, the stakes are high—but so is the payoff. Given how entwined the globe has become, a reformed Muslim mindset could make life better for most inhabitants of God’s green earth. I’m reminded of this by Ahmadollah, an artist who emailed me from Egypt, three years before his country’s January 2011 uprising for freedom:
although i am traditional muslim and committed so much with five prayers a day i wont decide to kill you immediately. J your book make me ask some facts and open my mind to try that bad thing called free thinking. for example why the media in egypt shows israel as the evil enemy? you know, ariel sharon’s son in jail while gamal mubarak rides government cars with a huge security? why really a young egyptian engineer fl y away and hits himself to the walls of world trade center and what was the message he was trying to say and what kind of education pushed him do such stupid thing?
the problem i believe is we r living in continually suppressedthinking state. I mean we egyptians have right to shout loud in a football game but we doesn’t have right to protest against any political or religious affair. Do you know that a girl was arrested because she made a group on the facebook calling for strike? and famous journalist was jailed because he said that mubarak is maybe, maybe, ill because he doesn’t show up at a recent ceremony?
As we know by now, Ahmadollah wasn’t exaggerating. When I traveled to Egypt in May 2006, banners preached openness yet the place reeked of authoritarianism. That week in Cairo, President Mubarak’s hired henchmen pummeled democracy activists in the streets. I could appreciate Ahmadollah’s desperation when he ended his message to me: “oh irshad sometimes I dare to ask—while I am hiding in dark—is there a hope for us?”
I believe there is hope. I believe it not only because Egyptians have shown themselves capable of a bottom-up revolt for political liberty, but also because of subtle signals that reveal a thirst for religious liberty. A self-described “Sharia law student” at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University wrote to me with a pledge: “i will be a reformist scholar and i will support lesbians and gays.” Can we pause here for a moment? Think about the intellectual will and moral muscle it takes to go your own way at the College of Sharia within Al-Azhar University, the most respected school in the Sunni Muslim world. God help him. This student, who signed his name and whom I feel obliged to protect by not including it, understood just how stacked the odds are:
i’m studying at one of the greatest Islamic universities but yet no one are using his mind or the critical creative thinking, i can’t say what i think, feel or want about hijab, jews, etc. if i say what i think i will be accused to be a kafer [unbeliever] then my family will get hurt or my family will hurt me. the best that can happen is a dear friend will listen to me. i have decided that i will support you any way i go and i will not read the Qor’an and Sunnah [Prophet Muhammad’s reported words and deeds] as i used to read them before . . . i really need your support and i want you to know that i as a future Imam InshAllah [God willing] support you.
We who love freedom owe him a debt because his success will help secure freedom beyond his own borders. Those of us lucky enough to be in open societies have a responsibility to recognize what this young man does: that some things are more important than fear. It’s a lesson for which I’ve got zest and gratitude.

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Global Citizens

Global Citizens

Social Movements and the Challenge of Globalization
tagged : globalization

The dawn of the twenty-first century has been accompanied by an upsurge of anti-capitalist campaigning, challenging the very basis of the New World economic order. This book sets out to explore the lessons from these experiences of social mobilization. How can non-governmental organizations, community based organizations, and the labour and trade union movement develop effective campaigning alliances — without becoming institutionalized and incorporated themselves? How can they balance immedi …

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Where Hope Takes Root

Where Hope Takes Root

Democracy and Pluralism in an Interdependent World
by Aga Khan
introduction by Andrienne Clarkson
tagged : democracy

One of the world's most influential leaders discusses pluralism, democracy and Canada's potential for world leadership.

In Where Hope Takes Root, a collection of talks given over the past six years, the Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims-a sizable number of whom live in Canada-sets out the principles that inform his vision of peaceful, productive societies. He returns again and again to the three cornerstones upon which his many years of work in the developing world are based: dem …

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Acting for Freedom

Acting for Freedom

Fifty Years of Civil Liberties in Canada
also available: eBook

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association celebrates its fiftieth anniversary with this overview of its activities--sometimes quiet and sometimes strident--as a watchdog and safeguard for Canadians and their rights as citizens. Through a series of discussions and interviews, a picture of Canada over the last half-century evolves. From the Charter of Freedoms to life and death matters such as abortion and the death penalty through to public security vs. the right to privacy. A fascinating look at …

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Becoming Human

Becoming Human

also available: eBook
tagged : social, spiritual

Acclaimed as a man "who inspires the world" (Maclean's) and a "nation builder" (Globe and Mail), Jean Vanier has made a difference in the lives of countless people -- including those with disabilities and the many young people who have been moved by his life's work.

Becoming Human is a modern classic that continues to resonate among the generations. In a world of competition, where the strong dominate the weak, Vanier calls on each one of us to open ourselves to those we perceive as different or …

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The Best Buddhist Writing 2012

The Best Buddhist Writing 2012

tagged : tibetan, theravada, zen

A treasury of the most notable, profound, and thought-provoking Buddhist-inspired writing published in the last year.

The Best Buddhist Writing 2012 includes:

   • His Holiness the Dalai Lama on cultivating a universal ethic of kindness
   • Sharon Salzberg on getting your meditation practice started
   • Pema Chödrön on how to smile at fear
   • The Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi on analyzing global problems through the lens of traditional Buddhist teachings
   • Bruce Rich on th …

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The Life and Teachings of Venerable Master Cheng Yen
tagged :

An inspiring account of the life, teachings and worldwide humanitarian work of Venerable Master Cheng Yen and the international foundation she leads.

May 14, 2007 marks the seventieth birthday of one of the world's most inspiring yet largely unrecognized women. Wang Chin-Yun, a Buddhist nun now known as Venerable Master Cheng Yen, was born in central Taiwan in 1937. At the age of 29, she established the Tzu Chi Foundation, an organization committed to compassion and relief that now numbers 10 mi …

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