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Weekend Roundup: A War Hero and a Nobel Scientist Trump Muslim Stereotypes

06/08/2016 2:50 AM IST | Updated 06/08/2016 3:29 AM IST
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This week, three events -- the continuing political brawl over Donald Trump's indecent assault on the grieving parents of an American war hero, who was a Muslim; the death of one of the world's leading scientists, who was a Muslim; and a new intervention by Pope Francis in defense of the Muslim community -- all challenge the narrative that reduces Muslim identity to acts of terror.

As a new poll shows that 7 out of 10 Americans view Trump as "out of bounds" in his attack on the parents of Humayun Khan, the Muslim American soldier killed in Iraq, Dean Obeidallah is happily surprised that "the Khans were not viewed by our fellow Americans as Muslims, immigrants or in any way as foreigners. Rather, they were viewed as Americans who had lost a son while fighting heroically for the United States of America." We also report on a new documentary in the works about Muslims in the U.S. military.

Turk Pipkin eulogizes Ahmed Zewail, the Egyptian-born Muslim scientist and the first Arab to have been awarded a Nobel Prize in science, who died this week. Zewail became a dual Egyptian-American citizen and taught at the California Institute of Technology for four decades. In recent years, he realized his lifelong dream of establishing the Zewail City of Science and Technology in Cairo, an institution he envisioned as a sort of MIT for the Middle East. As Pipkin notes, Zewail believed the message of Islam was to live peacefully with others and seek knowledge. "The binding force of science is its common language extending rational thinking across borders, cultures and religions to the benefit of all," Pipkin quotes Zewail as saying.

In a blurb for his last book, "Reflections on World Affairs: Peace and Politics," I wrote:

Ahmed Zewail is a rare individual indeed. His remarkable scope ranges from exploring the minutest interactions of particles to engaging the complexity of global politics and culture to pondering the far reaches of the universe. His unique qualities as a foundational scientist with a strong moral voice recalls other great figures of the past, such as Albert Einstein, whose clarity of mind and deeply humane nobility of spirit the world today so sorely lacks.

Writing from Italy, theologian Massimo Faggioli reflects on Pope Francis' declaration this week that it is wrong to identify Islam with violence. "With his words," says Faggioli, "Francis keeps the church, and the entire Western world, safe from the abyss that would open up in the event of a theological retaliation on global Islam -- which remains to be the primary victim of terrorism worldwide." In an earlier commentary in The WorldPost, Akbar Ahmed traced the long history of Muslim contributions in Europe.

Writing from Paris, philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy wants to end the media's "mixture of trivialization and glorification" of terrorists and relegate them to "the obscurity of their own infamy."

Writing from Germany, Elif Zehra Kandemir is offended that so many Germans see Turkish immigrants who opposed the recent coup as sympathizers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan instead of as defenders of democracy. Yusuf Muftuoglu, a top advisor to former Turkish President Abdullah Gul, laments how, once again, the West fails to understand reality on the ground in Turkey in the wake of last month's coup attempt. WorldPost Fellow Jesselyn Cook reports on an unusual protest in Iran -- men donned women's hijabs to challenge the compulsory veiling law.

This week, Yuriko Koike was the first woman to be elected governor of Tokyo. As the world's largest city gears up for the 2020 Olympics, which it will host, Koike sees a new future rooted in her favorite period of the past -- "the Tokyo of 1900, when the city stood for Asian modernity after a millennium of being overshadowed by the West."

Writing from Manila, Richard Javad Heydarian worries that new divisions in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations over how to deal with China as it lashes out over a United Nations tribunal ruling against its claims in the South China Sea could spell the institution's demise. "For now," he says, "it seems that not only has China managed to tame the response of the international community, but ASEAN itself also has missed a historic opportunity to reassert any semblance of relevance in the South China Sea. Failing to embrace wholesale institutional innovation, the only way forward is 'ASEAN minilateralism,' where likeminded and influential countries in the region coordinate their diplomatic and strategic calculations vis-à-vis the South China Sea disputes."

Writing from Shanghai, philosopher Bai Tongdong recalls an ancient rebellion against the opening up to the world of the Spring and Autumn and the Warring States periods (roughly from 770 B.C.E. to 221 B.C.E.) in China and compares it to the anti-globalization backlash today seen in the Brexit and the Trump campaign.

With China's accelerating economic slowdown and the consequent drop in global commodity prices, Eric Olander and Cobus van Staden see an end to the China-Africa honeymoon of recent years. Steven Hoffer reports on a novel transportation solution in China that is now operational: a bus that travels over traffic along side rails on either side of congested highways.

As the Olympics get underway in Rio, Chandran Nair writes from Hong Kong that the Olympic Committee seems to favor sports of the developed world in the international competition, such as golf and basketball, while ignoring the champions of globally popular sports like squash. Reporting from Recife, Brazil, Poppie Mphuthing profiles a clinic that treats up to 15 children a day with microcephaly linked to the Zika virus.

Writing from Bastoy Island, Norway, Baz Dreisinger visits a prison that demonstrates that treating prisoners as human beings works. "Treat people like dirt, and they will be dirt," she quotes the prison governor as saying. "Treat them like human beings, and they will act like human beings."

Our Singularity series this week examines how poor countries are leaping over the need for fossil fuels by pioneering new renewable energy technologies.

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