Aslan Media Book Salon discussion

Past Discussion Questions > Reining in radicalism along the Tenth Parallel

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message 1: by Reza (new)

Reza Aslan (reza-aslan) | 16 comments Mod
Last week we discussed the growth of extremism in relation to a religion's distance from its traditional "center." This week let's look at the opposite. Do the traditional centers of religion (i.e. the Vatican, Damascus) have the influence to rein in the more radical movements along the Tenth Parallel? Do the tools of globalization (mass communication, etc) make it possible? Or do these groups, thanks to geographic and cultural differences, simply lack ties to their historical roots?

message 2: by Sophia (new)

Sophia | 8 comments Interesting question, Reza. I immediately thought of the Assad government decision to ban the niqab in Syrian universities. Of course, Syria is a Baathist secular regime, and it is in their interests to promote their political philosophy. However, I am not sure this was their only motivation on this policy. I imagine there were some other political considerations at play.

Is the allowance of Western popular culture (shows like Big Love and The Simpsons, for example) a sign that globalization can be a useful tool? Isn't Syria a good example of what your question asks, due to its (relative) religious diversity, which exists despite the efforts of radical groups to disrupt the society? (i.e. bombing at Sayyida Zainab) I am just thinking aloud here - would love to hear what people think.

message 3: by Megan (new)

Megan | 5 comments Today, it seems the only effective weapon against extremism is moderation, and actively waging peace, as it's been described. Such things happen at a grassroots level. Personally, I don't think the central Catholic Church has had much authority since Vatican 2, and Muslim leaders the world over, despite having roundly condemned bin Laden and al Qaeda, have not been effective in discouraging the sentiments that create followers. It's up to local leaders to combat extremism, the way evangelical clerics talked a Florida Qu'ran burner off the ledge. I don't think traditional centers of religion can bring to bear on the life of someone who's afraid their village will be razed to the ground- it's not as if the Swiss Guard will prevent it from happening.

Griswold makes the observation that a lot of the conflict today (specifically in the Sudan), though couched in religious terms, is a conflict over oil (sounds familiar...). She even speaks to the six centuries long peace pact the two religions had in the region before the religious wars in 1504, before two different groups discovered they shared a land rich in natural resources. Maybe economists and oil executives could bring about peace, rather than a religious institution.

I'd like to think mass communication would bring Christians and Muslims along the tenth parallel back into lockstep with centers of religion who claim peace as a prerogative. According to the CIA World Fact Book, the median age in Sudan right now is about 18.4- prime for the effective use of disseminating information through technology. But with an estimated 40% living under the poverty line and only 61% literate, I do not see an opportunity for mass media to have the same effect in battling, even voicing out against, oppression as it did in, say, Iran, Gaza, etc. There are not enough people with the resources to get a tweet out from the bush.

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