The Fault Line of Fear – a Tectonic Response

September 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Samia Moustapha Bahsoun and Brenda Naomi Rosenberg

Our world is in emotional  HIGH RED  ALERT  with fear as our compass.  Headlines read: Are  terrorist  masterminding another  Sept  11? If  the  Palestinian  authority gets formal UN  recognition  does it  mean  no  peace  treaty  with  Israel  and  another war? Will more Muslims immigrants result  in  Sharia  being  the  law  of  the  land?  Is  the  Arab  Spring a venue  for Islamic fundamentalists to take over the world? Today the  world is afraid of Muslims and  their  motives.  Sixty  years ago,  Hitler  used fear to rally  half  a  continent against Jews engineering their total  elimination.  “Fear continues  to be  the  weapon of choice  in  small  and  large  conflicts  worldwide  used  to  manipulate  and  control”1  as leaders play on our physiological responses to these fears – fight or flight.
Originally discovered by the great Harvard physiologist Walter Cannon, this physiological response is hard-wired into our brains – and represents a genetic wisdom designed to protect us from bodily harm2. We have been indoctrinated to believe that these are the only responses to fear.  In fact, such conditioning is so prevalent that it is rarely questioned when leaders use fear-mongering for their own personal ambitions, acting as protectors for their constituents.  The fight or flight response fuels the tension and fear generated by mistrust, lack of respect, unmet expectations, denial of identity, and targeted aggression. This tension cannot be eradicated but can be addressed in a new way.

We are proposing a third and new response to fear – a Tectonic response to fear- one that connects not separates, one that engages the other and does not alienate, one that empathizes and does not destroy – one  that distinguishes us from the animals who are limited to fight or flight. Using earth plate tectonics as a metaphor, we recognize that human interactions in situations of conflict are like fault lines between tectonic plates; plates interacting and building friction at their boundaries, causing earthquakes to occur when the natural elasticity of surrounding rocks has been exceeded. Human interactions can similarly create fault lines. When the pressure generated by tension and fear becomes unbearable, the energy released is tsunami-like, creating mass hysteria, inciting hate and fear, separating nations, destroying businesses and communities, oppressing people, and instigating wars. To give the rocks back their elasticity, we must move beyond the fight or flight model and use the tension as an opportunity to inform ourselves of the deepest fear, pains, and trans-generational wounds that separate people in conflict, and plague our world, build trust and create a new discourse. To construct this new relational architecture that can sustain seismic events inherent to our civilization, we are proposing a less 1 “Fear and Argentina’s Dirty War” published in July 2010 by Crystina Wyler for course work at NOVA Southeastern University.

2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fight-or-flight_response

instinctive and more evolved paradoxical and Tectonic response to fear, one that goes beyond (“para”) our common sense (“doxa”).

We developed this Tectonic response to fear by utilizing the tension in our own relationship – a relationship defined by our separate national, professional, religious, cultural, and political identities – Samia Moustapha Bahsoun, an  American Arab of Muslim descent,  telecom executive, pro-Palestinian activist, and Brenda Naomi Rosenberg, an American Jewish Zionist, pro-Israel, global fashion executive.  Together, we tackled the hot topics that separate our communities – Zionism, Holocaust, Gaza, Lebanon War, Jerusalem, occupation, settlements, suicide bombing, right of return, flotilla, the Cordoba Center at ground zero –  and used the tension surrounding these elements of conflict to deepen our understanding of the other. We expanded the holocaust story to include both our narratives without changing our core beliefs, connecting without comparing the death of 70 year old Holocaust victim Dora Shklyan, who died at Teofipol in the Ukraine to the death of Samia’s 70 year old grand-mother Mariam Bahsoun, who died in 1982 under Israeli raids on Southern Lebanon.

As we used tension as an opportunity to face our realities and deepen our understanding of each other and not as an obstacle in partnering, we learned that being committed and disciplined to care equally about self and other is essential to building trust, transforming conflict, and sustaining our relationship. 

The September U.N. Conferences on Palestinian Statehood and Durban III give us an opportunity to apply a Tectonic approach to conflict transformation. 

Leaders responding to the upcoming conferences are falling into the “fight or flight” trap. In the upcoming UN vote on Palestinian Statehood, the Palestinians are presenting it as a “fight” for their denied identity, the Israeli are “fighting” against it as a threat to their security; both parties are “fleeing” from the peace process. Their respective allies are not responding any differently; a veto by the United States is a “flight” response to the fear of alienating its ally in the region, broadening the divide.  Reactions to the upcoming Durban III UN conference are no different. Australia, Canada, the United States, Israel, the Czech Republic, Italy and the Netherlands have announced that they will boycott Durban III, charging that the Durban process has been used to promote racism, intolerance, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, and to erode freedom of speech and Israel’s right to exist. Such boycott unfortunately does not address the tension surrounding these issues, broadening once again the divide. Both are “fighting” for what they believe to be right, both are “fleeing “  to the comfort of those who share the same point of view instead of addressing the fear and real issues that are creating the  tension with the people whose views are different.

Under the Tectonic response model, leaders on all sides of conflict can instead use the tension that separates Israelis and Palestinians and their respective allies to articulate the real needs of both people, common to both; need for a national identity, safety, equality, and freedom. To transform conflict and give peace a chance, we must move beyond the fight or flight model to a tectonic response to fear – one that brings tension to the negotiating table instead of seeing tension as the enemy, using it as an opportunity to reveal the unspoken barriers to peace, addressing the deep trans-generational wounding, the cultural, sociological and motivational differences of both people.

Samia Moustapha Bahsoun and Brenda Naomi Rosenberg are co-founders of the Tectonic Leadership Center for Conflict Transformation and Cross Cultural Communication. The center trains leaders on opposite side of conflicts to take joint ownership in using tension to transform conflict. For more information, please visit www.tectonicleadership.org.

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Right to Vote for Oversees Pakistanis

March 31, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The Government of Pakistan is considering granting the right of vote as well as representation in National and Provincial Assemblies to Overseas Pakistanis. In this regard all those Pakistani who wish to participate in the electoral process, may kindly fill the form available at following link (http://www.pakistanconsulatehouston.org/oversees-pakistanis.asp) and email or mail it back to the Consulate.  The response would enable the Government in assessing the extent of interest among the Pakistani Diaspora in the electoral process and taking a final decision in this regard. The immediate response would be highly appreciated.

You are requested to kindly circulate this message widely to your Pakistani acquaintances. The mailing address of the Consulate is as under:

Consulate General of Pakistan

11850

Jones Road

Houston, TX 77070

Right to Vote for Oversees Pakistanis

March 31, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The Government of Pakistan is considering granting the right of vote as well as representation in National and Provincial Assemblies to Overseas Pakistanis. In this regard all those Pakistani who wish to participate in the electoral process, may kindly fill the form available at following link (http://www.pakistanconsulatehouston.org/oversees-pakistanis.asp) and email or mail it back to the Consulate.  The response would enable the Government in assessing the extent of interest among the Pakistani Diaspora in the electoral process and taking a final decision in this regard. The immediate response would be highly appreciated.

You are requested to kindly circulate this message widely to your Pakistani acquaintances. The mailing address of the Consulate is as under:

Consulate General of Pakistan

11850

Jones Road

Houston, TX 77070

Marwa Al-Sherbini

July 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

A thirty-one year-old Egyptian Muslim pharmacist plaintiff — four months pregnant with her second child — while wearing her traditional Hijab, was viciously stabbed eighteen times, and died in a Dresden courtroom on July 1st — by an alleged naturalized German attacker.  Previously, he had accused her of being a “Terrorist” because of her Islamic dress, and ripping her hijab off her head.  Unfortunately, such Islamaphobia is only too common in Europe even though Germany, with its horrendous history of instigating the Holocaust against the Jews and other minorities during World II, has some of the most stringent hate-crime laws in the world.

Her husband, who tried to intervene, was, also, stabbed by the attacker and, then, shot in the leg by a security officer who “mistook” him for the attacker.  Al-Sherbini, who was not only pregnant, but was, also, cruelly murdered in front of her three-year old son!

She was about to testify against her impending murderer when this vicious assault took place. The prosecutor at the proceedings had just described the accused as having a deep hatred against Muslims.

Your reporter is a regular listener to Deutche Velle, but they and most of the German privately owned media there largely ignored or played down the incident.  The BBC (the British Broadcasting Corporation) gave suitable examination of the episode as did the Islamic press and media.

In a press release from The Muslim Council of Great Britain (MCB), they “…urged political leaders and opinion formers to end their muted response to the recent wave of anti-Muslim violence…”

The Middle Eastern Institute’s Editor’s Blog noted that the case “…has been little noted in the Western media [especially in the U.S.]…the crime itself has outraged the Egyptian[s]…her body was met at [the] Cairo airport; thousands…turned out for her funeral in Alexandria……the opposition forces … [are]…particularly incensed [especially the Muslim Brotherhood who have called her the head-scarf martyr]…the official media as well…these popular…outcries… [have become a]…backfire on the unpopular [Mubarak] Regime…”

The Tehran Times described the unofficial response to the martyred Mother’s death in Saxony with spontaneous demonstrations on the Streets of the Iranian capital which included protests in front of Deutschland’s Persian Embassy, and a funeral in replication of hers in Alexandria both in protest and to honor to her soul.  Officially, “….The Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned the German ambassador…to protest…the murder…of the woman.  Iran criticized the German government for its slow response…and…that Germany is responsible for… insuring the security of minorities…including Muslims…”

In April 2007 I was privileged to attend a conference organized by Hatem Baziam of U.C. Berkeley on Islamaphobia.  Your scribe has never had a chance to comment about the perceptions expressed there on the European version of the phenomenon which are different than the American practice in that, because of the former European form of Colonialism over Muslims lands– which for the most part the Americans did not follow – the social class on the other side of the Atlantic include more individuals – with the right to emigrate — in competition with the traditional nationalities of their new countries for working class jobs. This does not follow in the Sherbini case because they were professionals, but that in itself might been the issue that shot off her attacker to violence in a society where its brutal former right-wing is once again reasserting itself.

The Western scholar on Islam, Peter Gottscalk, noted that “Islamophobia is the making of Muslims into enemies.”  He talked about the Danish cartoon which so outraged the Islamic ummah by portraying the followers of Mohammed (PBUH) with hedonism in contrast to Occidental secularism.  Political cartons, such as that are powerful negative weapons.  This one was applied against Islamic immigrants.  A cartoon’s symbolism can caricaturize and stereotype another people.  Fundamentalist Christians often associate Muslims with their (the “Christian’s”) simplistic theological concept of “Satan.”  Modern Islamophobia has re-manipulated the female into an oppressed one, too.   This makes the violence done to Marwa totally illogical even in the relation to Islam-bashing, and, furthermore, it became no more than gratuitous aggression.  Thus, on the whole, it is felt that Islam is an “… omnipresent…posing a threat;” therefore, “…violent
actions against…Muslims… [are made]…more palpable.”

A Mohammed Tamigid pointed out that both Islamaphobia and Islamaphillia are both elements of the West’s [neo-]Imperialism, and are part of a systemic racism.  The cultural economy  of the hate/love relationship here in the West have encouraged a carrot and stick methodology within contemporary Imperialism.  This (trade) Imperialism (which includes Globalism and neo-liberalism) has been expanding about the planet.  Even to Saxon province, where the former European Colonials are free to settle, to the resentment of the traditional citizens of the Nineteenth Century nation-state of that and other in other European regions, and with this crumbling worldwide economy can only lead to resentment, and to simplistic racist / sectarian blame – especially amongst the lower classes of the guest nations.  Islam has had differences with Europe from the beginning – both in religion and imperialistic structures.  Islamaphobia and Islamaphillia are two sides of the same coin.  “Islamaphobia only gives reasons for the powerlessness” of the Metropoles (Centers of the Empire).

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