Babar Ahmed is a talented up-and-coming movie director ("Royal Kill") and the son of Professor Akbar Ahmed, who first taught me about the history of Islam at the Aspen Institute‘s Socrates Society. Babar recently spoke about Islam at a gathering in Palm Beach. The Palm Beach Post reported on his remarks:
"And so why are we seeing suicide bombings if Muslim history is so good?" he asked.
Because Islam is divided into three groups, Ahmed theorized, the conservative, the moderate and the extremist, the latter of which is "growing every single day."
In the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s occupation of Afghanistan, Ahmed said, orphans were driven over the border to Pakistan, where they were taken in and educated by the most primitive tribal schools, run by illiterates who could not read or properly interpret the Koran.
"In driving the Soviets out of Afghanistan," Ahmed said, "the United States developed relationships with military dictators which continue to this day. That may have worked in the short term, but it left the orphans poor, desperate and angry, without any skills except how to use a gun."
The current movie, Charlie Wilson’s War, makes the same point, he noted.
The solution, Ahmed said, is education, because the majority of Muslims are young. In Pakistan alone, he said, 40 percent of the population is under 16, and more receptive to radicalism.
"One half of the world’s population is Muslim, Christian or Jewish," Ahmed said, "and if we don’t start finding this common ground, we are going to be heading for a very turbulent century."
Babar is right on point. One of the few successful models of bilingual interfaith educational success in the Middle East is Hand in Hand in Israel– the madrassas have a long way to go, but there is light at the end of the tunnel, and we can act to make sure that it is not on oncoming train…