A short talk by the great Cornel West, Princeton professor and author of “Race Matters”, on his childhood and how he learned to channel his feelings of rage into a productive direction.
Following the Swiss anti-minaret referendum, I quoted Tariq Ramadam who argues that the referendum reflects a rejection of public symbolics of Islam in Europe. The contested symbols, he says, are different in each European country but the mindset behind it is essentially the same.
Nilüfer Göle believes that these symbolic battles mark a new stage in the process of immigration to Europe:
Just like the other silent symbol, the veil, minarets reveal the presence of Muslims both pious and female in public life. This visibility certifies the presence of Muslims in European society and their desire to remain there, demanding freedom of conscience, freedom to practice their religion and also the freedom to dress according to their personal interpretation of their religion. Paradoxically, Islam becomes a political and cultural source for identifying immigrants, their quest for acknowledgment. They in turn manifest their particular citizenship within the European public arena. This visibility marks the end of a stage in the migratory phenomenon, that of integration, as well as experiences and ways of appropriating the public sphere in Europe. It is the difficulty in acknowledging this passage from foreigner to citizen that lies beneath the controversies surrounding Islam.
Might the Swiss minaret rows be seen in a positive light in the end? Is it the last mobilisation of the ignorant and fearful against a changing public sphere; one that accommodates Islam as a component of European civil society? Is it a futile attempt to undo the development of a more inclusive concept of citizenship? Let us hope for it.
For the most peaceful season of the year, a beautiful Iroquois folktale…
Before the Peace-Bringer came, the Iroquois were afierce and violent people, constantly at war with neighboring tribes. Their braves were raised to be warriors; their tribes were organized for waging war; their culture was shaped by the mythology and values of the raid, the ambush, the valiant act, the violent victory.
Then came the Peace-Bringer. He walked through the village to the house of the greatest and bloodiest hero, the Man-Who-Eats-People, and he climbed to the top and looked down through the smoke hole.
The Man-Who-Eats-People was preparing a ritual feast from the cut-up body of one of his victims; he would absorb the victim’s power by eating him. A large pot sat on the fire, and the face of the Peace-Bringer, looking in at the smoke hole, was perfectly reflected on the oil on the surface.
The Man-Who-Eats-People froze as he saw the reflection, astonished by the nobility he saw in it.
“That is my face,” he said to himself, “and it is not the face of a man who kills others and eats their flesh to steal their power. That is the face of one who draws people together, the face ofone who makes peace, not war. “
He seized the pot and emptied it outside. “Never again shall I take a life or seek to take another’s spirit and strength,”he told all those who came running.
Then the Peace-Bringer came forward to meet him, and the man said, “Here is the face of peace. I have seen it in my own face. I see it in another’s.”
And the two became as one. The Man-Who-Eats-People became Hiawatha the hero, the healer, the maker of peace.
Merry Christmas & happy holidays!