Here on Earth: Radio Without Borders Program on Wisconsin Public Radio
Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism
Special Representative to Muslim Communities
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This hour on Inside Islam.
I wrote the official U.S. statement condemning anti-Semitism and Farah wrote the official statement condemning Islamaphobia is how it was worded at the conference. And the night before the conference we decided to swap speeches.
So what we heard from people at that conference was that that was really powerful that the United States Delegation made such a bold move. Now for those people who are not in government it doesn't seem like such a bold move. But trust me when I tell you, in government we don't usually see this kind of thing. But what they also said to me and my job and Hannah and hers was you can't stop there.
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JEAN FERACA, HOST: And indeed they didn't. U.S. Special Envoy Hannah Rosenthal and her Muslim counterpart Farah Pandith speaking at the OSCE Conference on Tolerance and Non-Discrimination in Astana last February. Went on to announce their joint initiative, the global 2011 Hours Against Hate Campaign. Their idea was to encourage people to pledge an hour of service to a community other than their own. The campaign is attracting worldwide attention and momentum, picking up volunteers from Turkey and [inaudible], to Canada and the U.S.. Raking up a whopping 13,000 hours plus pledged to date. Welcome to Inside Islam, on Here on Earth Radio Without Borders, from Wisconsin Public Radio. This hour the 2011 Hours Against Hate Campaign. If you had an hour to give what would you do for someone who doesn't look like you, live like you or pray like you? The 2011 Hours Against Hate Campaign is directed at young people. As someone who may no longer fit that demographic, would you sign up? Does this strike you as the sort of initiative you expect to see coming from the U.S. State Department? What do you see as the greater good coming from this project? And have you spent time in a community other than your own? Tell us about your experience. To join the conversation call 1-877-GLOBE07, 1-877-456-2307. Send an email to Here on Earth at WPR.org, or leave a message on Inside Islam.wisk.edu where you'll find more information about the campaign. Farah Pandith is the first ever Special Representative to Muslim Communities for the U.S. Department of State. Prior to her appointment she served as senior advisor to the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, and Director for Middle East Regional Initiatives for the National Security Council. Farah Pandith thank you so much for being with us.
SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE PANDITH: Well thank you so much for having me.
JEAN FERACA: And joining Farah is Hannah Rosenthal, Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism for the U.S. Department of State. Prior to Hannah's appointment she headed the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and the Chicago Foundation for Women. Hannah Rosenthal welcome to Here on Earth.
SPECIAL ENVOY ROSENTHAL: Great to be here.
JEAN FERACA: Well it's wonderful to have the two of you with us and I should say that you're both joining us from the studios of NPR in Washington DC. Farah let me begin with you. I have here a quote from that famous conference that took place at the OSCE last February. Oh, OSCE stands for Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, in case anybody wants to know that. So you switched speeches which I find absolutely delightful. And so Hannah spoke out against Muslim hatred, and Farah spoke out against Anti-Semitism. And you both entered your remarks, saying this simple statement. Jews cannot fight Anti-Semitism alone, Muslims cannot fight Islamaphobia alone. Hate is hate, but we can overcome it together. So Farah what kind of response did you get to this, I don't want to call it a gimmick, because I think it was really rather profound what you did.
SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE PANDITH: Well it's been, it's been really eye opening to see the kind of welcome we received around the world, conservative communities, more liberal communities, people with different fates and cultures all who understood the wisdom of trying to build coalitions. And I think one of the, the greatest strengths America has actually is their ability, we have, we are a country that has understood the importance of coalition building and, and we have been very successful in moving ideas forward when we build coalitions. So it is not surprising that when we came together we got a good response who said it's about time to see this kind of effort on a principle that we all hold as humans very dear. Mutual respect is something we would expect. This is something that is embedded in, in many cultures around the world, but it's not actionable always. And, and so for me certainly in the work that I'm doing, reaching out to young Muslims around the world on behalf of the State Department and in the more than the 50 countries that I've been to in the last 24 months, I will tell you that the need on the ground to express important values like this, to build coalitions, to listen to what the grass roots has to say is really important. And what they have said in response to this action that Hannah and I took is that it was welcomed, it was necessary and it was needed for right now.
JEAN FERACA: So Hannah was it you who came up with this bright idea to switch speeches?
SPECIAL ENVOY ROSENTHAL: Well I did. But Farah got it right away. And let me tell you it was more profound than a gimmick. Clearly all the people, all the diplomats who were in attendance at this big conference in Astana, this is what they remember about it. Normally these international conferences have groups of people, mostly older white males sitting around a table reading, you know, cleared statements. And we didn't do that. We were not the usual suspects, saying what we were saying. So when I'm in Saudi Arabia and I meet with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, that's what they remember from that conference, is that we swapped speeches. When I meet with the Ambassador from Sweden, he says oh I remember, you guys swapped speeches. And what we were saying is that the message is pretty important that we're saying, but sometimes the messenger can be more important and can make the statement have far more impact.
QUESTION: And in what way was switching speeches a kind of metaphor for a much larger strategy?
SPECIAL ENVOY ROSENTHAL: Well it was saying that it isn't headline news frankly, if somebody named Hannah Rosenthal condemns anti-Semitism. But when Farah Pandith does it, it has a different potent resonance. And so when we heard from the young people who we had also brought, we brought six non-governmental organizations to Astana with us who focus on youth, they're either youth run or their major focus is on youth. They got it. They appreciated listening to what we did and watching the reaction. But their response as you had Farah say was they wanted to do more. So what gave birth to 2011 Hours Against Hate was the notion of trying to get people to walk in each other's shoes. To try and understand the other. And that's why it's had such potency.
QUESTION: And I just want to ask each of you, how Hannah, has your understanding of your own cause, anti-Semitism, increased as a result of walking in Farah's shoes? And visa versa.
SPECIAL ENVOY ROSENTHAL: Well my awareness of hatred, fundamental hatred that's underneath all the bad isims, is what it has done for me is shown, it really shines a light on it. When I come back and I report to the Secretary and the President and to all interested people what I'm observing when I travel, I'm often reporting the hatred I am seeing and hearing against Muslims. Because it's pretty profound out there, and people are surprised to hear me say that because I'm the Special Envoy on anti-Semitism. But hate is hate. We finished those speeches telling the truth. It really, if today they hate Muslims, tomorrow they hate Jews, the next day they're going to hate Roma, then you know gays and lesbians are down the list and hate is hate. And so we need to combat it at the fundamental, which is taking action against hate.
SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE PANDITH: And another piece of this for sure is, I mean I want to echo what Hannah said, but you know in the work that we do we have two profoundly different jobs. I mean we are not in parallel structure, I mean Hannah reports to Congress. She's a congressionally mandated position. She has a very specific task that she needs to do on behalf of the U.S. government. The position that was created for me is very, very different. And my role is to engage with Muslims around the world, and to build partnerships and increase dialogue, between the United States and communities and Muslims all over the world. So we come from very different perspectives. But when you're seeing two people who travel as much as we do, whose job it is to listen and observe what's happening around and report back to the Secretary of State and President on what we're seeing, if Hannah's seeing what she's seeing, and I am seeing what I'm seeing, which is in many communities around the world an increase in anti-Semitism, which is very destructive obviously. And as Hannah said, you know, it starts, it's not just about religion, this is not just about Muslims and Jews, this is not, this cannot be encapsulated into that little sound bite. This is far broader, this is what is happening on our planet today 2011, where it is permissible to say nasty bigoted things about people of different colors, of different ethnicities, of different races, different genders, and on and on. So for us, walking in somebody else's shoes is a very basic thing that we can all agree to do, but importantly many people don't do it. They don't look around. We have had the luxury in our jobs of being able to observe and to be able to come back to the United States and say, there has been and there is absolutely an increase in anti-Semitism around the world. And there is absolutely been an increase in Muslim hatred around the world. But these aren't the only hatreds out there and we have to call it out.
JEAN FERACA: You know Hannah I'm sure you remember this. There is a famous panoramic photograph of a little town someplace out west. When there was an incident of anti-discrimination against Jews in that little town. Somebody threw I think a rock through a window where an Menorah was displayed. Everybody in the town came out with Menorahs.
SPECIAL ENVOY ROSENTHAL: I wish I did know that story Jean, it's a good one. I'm going to be repeating it.
JEAN FERACA: It's a fantastic photograph.
SPECIAL ENVOY ROSENTHAL: But it is an example. It is an example of what we're trying to get at. One of my favorite people that I've gotten to know in this job [inaudible] from the Washington area here who is the head of the Islamic Society of North America, tells a story about September 12, 2001, the day after the world turned upside for us in the United States. And what he describes is going to his mosque in his community center, and the parking lot was full, and people were standing in a circle, hooked arms around the mosque to protect it. Because they were worried that the blowback against Muslims in general would be horrid. And I think we saw some pretty horrid stuff. But in that community it was the Jewish community that helped organize it, and I'm sure there were some Christians and Hindus and Buddhists that were there. To say we're here to protect you because some bad things have happened and we can't let stereotypes and hateful speech, wild accusations destroy the fabric of our country. And it is a story he tells, and of course when he's telling it it's more powerful than when I'm telling it. But it's an example of the community rallying when they see someone in need. And trying to protect against what we know people do. They fall back on old prejudices, old stereotypes, old hatreds. And he, you know, we all are trying to anticipate that.
JEAN FERACA: Hate is hate, but we can overcome it together. So say Farah Pandith and Hannah Rosenthal who both work for the Department of State and have together launched this initiative. They call it the 2011 Campaign, excuse me, the 2011 Hours Against Hate Campaign. I'm Jean Feraca, you're listening to Inside Islam on Here on Earth, Radio Without Borders, from Wisconsin Public Radio. We're at 1-877-GLOBE07, 1-877-4562307. Email address is HereOnEarth@wpr.org. You can also leave a message for us on our Inside Islam blog, you'll find it at InsideIslam.wisc.edu. How about you? Does this idea strike a chord? If you had an hour to give what would you do for someone who doesn't look like you, pray like you, or live like you? What do you see as the greater good in this initiative? 1-877-GLOBE07.
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JEAN FERACA: You're listening to Inside Islam on Here on Earth Radio Without Borders, from Wisconsin Public Radio. Where this hour we're talking about the 2011 Hours Against Hate Campaign. A special initiative launched by Farah Pandith and Hannah Rosenthal, both special envoys at the Department of State. This is a project to encourage young people from all over the world to volunteer time on behalf of a community other than their own. And one apparent influence on the project was the President's 2009 speech in Cairo. He made many mentions of faith-based initiatives like the one our guests started. Let's hear again some of the President's remarks.
In fact faith should bring us together, and that's why we're forging service projects in America to bring together Christians, Muslims and Jews. That's why we welcome efforts like Saudi Arabian King Abdullah’s interfaith dialogue. And Turkey's leadership in the Alliance of Civilization. Around the world we can turn dialogue into interface service. So bridges between peoples lead to action. Whether it is combating malaria in Africa or providing relief after a natural disaster.
JEAN FERACA: So actions do speak louder than words. And Farah and Hannah can you tell us about how your initiative reflects the President's remarks?
SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE PANDITH: Well I think one of the things that has been very inspirational is the impact on the ground from creative minds who have taken the concept to go beyond faith to talk about race, to talk about ethnicity. As Hannah was saying earlier, these are people who get it. They get it immediately. What's the generation that we're talking about? We're talking about the generation under the age of 30. These are digital natives who are connecting with each other around the world. If you go to www.facebook.com/2011, like the year, hoursagainsthate and you take a look at some of the videos that have been posted by young people around the world about what they're going to do to pledge their time, you'll be inspired. We were, we've gone together. We have traveled to six countries who have, at one point in time communities that have lived side by side very peacefully. And whether it has been in Spain or it's been in Turkey or Azerbaijan or Lebanon or Jordan, we've had some very successful visits, talking to young people. And you know one of the most compelling experiences that we had was in Beirut actually, very recently. We got an email back from the young people that we met there of many different faiths, and backgrounds and these Lebanese young people who sent us an email saying look we want you to look at this YouTube video that we did. We've pledged 520 hours and they, you know the Muslims went to visit the Jews, the Jews went to visit the Muslims. It was a really inspirational video of young people trying to be creative about how they do things and whether or not you have a day of service in a school, or you have an independent NGO that's doing a day, or hours of service, or you have a teacher that is spending an hour of their time in a classroom teaching about a community that's different than their own. People have taken this on in very different ways. But to reach a goal that we are building online. And we, you know when we started this campaign we named it 2011, yes it's the year, but we thought, we hoped we'd get 2011 volunteer hours. In fact we're almost at 16,000 hours worldwide of those people who've decided to post their hours. We have gotten many, you know, emails from people who have said that, oh gosh you know we didn't put our numbers up there on the wall. But regardless what we're seeing is creativity innovation in the way in which you can actually take the time to learn about somebody different than yourself.
JEAN FERACA: Wasn't the.
SPECIAL ENVOY ROSENTHAL: It was just.
JEAN FERACA: Go ahead Hannah. Go ahead.
SPECIAL ENVOY ROSENTHAL: I just wanted to mention the President also in his Cairo speech referred to Cordova, Spain. And Cordova is kind of a symbol of where Christians, Jews and Muslims lived and thrived together. And not so much now, but in their history. It's a very rich history where they did philosophy and science and inter religious actions. We went to Cordova because it was symbolic, and we wanted to remind people of the importance of what had happened on their ground, and how do we build it so it's that way again. Well the mayor completely adopted it and took it as his own. We have no idea of all the things he's doing. But he did, he took on the logo, translated it into Spanish with the help of our wonderful Ambassador to Spain Solomont. And this is an entire initiative that you won't find on our website because, on the Facebook site, because it's a whole thing they've taken on. And we found this happening also in other places. Farah mentioned what this group of Lebanese kids. I just want to refer to this lunch that Farah and I had with a group of young people in Beirut. Talk about simplicity of message, which is what I think is some of the reason why 2000 Hours Against Hate has been so powerful is because it's so simple. It talks about the fundamentals. This young woman looked at us and said I do not want to inherit the bigotry of my parents. And you know, what can you say to that? So much of the hatred is passed on generation after generation, and here was a woman, a young woman, but part of a very large class, who is saying we don't, we've got to stop it somewhere and we want to take responsibility for stopping it here. That was one of those moments of the clarity of the simplicity of what we were hearing back from young people really moved us.
SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE PANDITH: Jean you asked about sort of the President's vision in Cairo and what he is asking us to do and the importance. You know we talked a little bit earlier about coalition building. And certainly whether we're talking across faith or otherwise, the idea that when you, when you're able to speak with each other with dignity and respect, when you're able to collaborate on ideas to reach a goal together, whether as he said in your clip, it's malaria or it's education or it's poverty, you're able to do things more successfully when you're reaching across and building, building capacity with others. And what we are seeing here is that vision we hope that is being executed that the President put forward in June of '09. But the President also talked about innovation and thinking out of the box. And some of the organic ways in which this campaign has taken on is in fact you know you put the tools out there and it, and they're in the toolbox but each community is using them in different ways. And I think that's quite inspirational.
JEAN FERACA: We have Norm Gresham joining us from, I think it's from Colorado. Norm?
QUESTION: Yes it is. It's, I'm in [inaudible] Basalt, Southern Colorado which is just down the alley from Aspen.
JEAN FERACA: Oh thanks for joining us Norm.
JEAN FERACA: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Well if you want to know what we've been doing, for the past seven years I've been traveling to primarily Albania, Kosovo as well, but primarily Albania, which is well over 70 percent is, are Muslims. Interviewing these families, in some cases it's the children, in some cases the older person that saved Jews. In fact, there is no evidence of any Jew being turned over to the Nazis in Muslim Albania.
SPECIAL ENVOY ROSENTHAL: That's exactly right.
QUESTION: And it's a unique and wonderful story, and it's based on their code of honor of Besa. Which is unique to the Albanian people that if there's a knock on the door they have an obligation to take responsibility, whom ever that person is. And they clearly did that with the, with the Jews. I might add something else as well. If we met 10 families, seven that saved Jews, seven were Muslim and three were either Orthodox or Catholic. But we focused on the Muslim families because whoever heard of a Muslim saving a Jew. And that's what we did. And the, the idea of Besa and the Koran was seamless. They were inspired by both in the savings. Completely unique experience.
JEAN FERACA: What is the word you're using, Besa?
QUESTION: Besa, B-E-S-A.
JEAN FERACA: And what does that mean exactly?
QUESTION: It's a code of honor that essentially all men and women are brothers and sisters under the one of the divine. Even enemies. If there is a knock on the door they must take responsibility for that person.
JEAN FERACA: Do you know where the origin of that concept?
QUESTION: It's thousands of years old. It's thousands. But so many of the Muslim families that we met have incorporated Besa in their teaching and their religion. Some people said as an example, there is no Besa without the Koran. There is no Koran without Besa. It's, it's so unique and the world doesn't know. And what we've been doing.
JEAN FERACA: When you say we what do you mean?
QUESTION: When I say we, our foundation. We have had well over 100 exhibitions, all over the world of the pictures I took and the stories, the specific stories of these Muslim families that saved Jews.
JEAN FERACA: And what is your, your foundation?
QUESTION: It's called the Eye Contact Foundation. And when I say we've had exhibitions, including the United Nations, including the House of Commons, House of Lords, universities, churches, museums. Literally, literally all over the world. As a matter of fact, as well there will be a film, a full on film that will be sent to various schools, not schools, but it will be exhibited at various, at film centers.
JEAN FERACA: Well this is a classic example of a Jew working on behalf of Muslims.
QUESTION: That's correct, that's correct.
JEAN FERACA: And Hannah you must know something about this? Didn't you go to Albania?
SPECIAL ENVOY ROSENTHAL: Well Norm.
JEAN FERACA: Yeah.
SPECIAL ENVOY ROSENTHAL: Norm I want you to know that I sponsored a viewing of that film at the State Department and I just got in the mail the newest cut of it. It's a wonderful story that explains what the concept of Besa is. You did beautiful work and I have your photos and they're fabulous.
QUESTION: Well thank you.
SPECIAL ENVOY ROSENTHAL: The story of Albania is like the great secret. I don't know why more people don't know about it. But I will tell you that in a completely different setting when I am dealing with the issues around the Holocaust and I'm talking to Muslims who have not learned anything about it, that when the subject of Albania comes up, and I point out that Albania was the only Muslim majority country in Europe. And it not only saved all of their Jews during World War II, but at the end of the war there were 10 times as many Jews there as before the war. Because those that could escape went to Albania. It's a wonderful story and I watch various Muslim communities feel great pride in that. And so it's a story I like to tell a lot because I want to talk about how Jews lived, not only how they died.
JEAN FERACA: Norm, I'm just going to suggest that you send us some examples of the photographs you're speaking of and then we can post them on our Inside Islam blog. That would be wonderful. It's a fabulous example of the, of the heart of the matter here. Hate is hate but we can overcome it together, it's a very simple slogan for this campaign but very profound. Kelly joins us next from River Falls, I think with a different kind of story. Hi Kelly.
>> Kelly: Well hi. I just wanted to start, I had a chance to work closely with a gentleman that came here from Kenya and another who came here from Iran. And they were kind of fresh off the boat. And they were both wonderful. They were just humans just like me. And I learned a lot about them, and they learned a lot about the culture that I lived in. But you know we basically valued the same, the same things when it came right down to it. But my question was, they talked about the anti-Semitism a little early and I was wondering what part the whole Palestinian problem plays in that, that anti-Semitism. And on the flip side, when we had Congressman King holding hearings on terrorism where it was only talking about Islamic terrorism if that doesn't rachet up the volume against our Muslim brothers and sisters.
JEAN FERACA: We'll throw that one to you Farah.
SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE PANDITH: Well so first of all Kelly thank you very much for calling in with a question. Let me start with the sort of the broader issues here. I mean you know we are in a place where when something happens in one part of the world it is spread like wildfire to the other. So I often talk about the fact that in every conversation I've had since the preacher in Florida made a statement that he was going to burn the Koran, ever since that moment, in every conversation I've had no matter where in the world I've gone, people ask me about that, that pastor. And they think that that is representative of America. So we have a communication problem, and we have to understand, and I think most people do. Maybe not in such a real way as I do on the ground when I'm talking to people in different countries. But what matters in our country, matters to many around the world. And similarly when we see a sound bite in another part of the world we sort of take that and think it's representative of that entire nation as opposed to taking the individual or the con, and people take things out of context all the time. So I think there has been, over the course of the last 10 years since 9/11 great discussions around the world. A lot of increase in problematic language, Lexicon has shifted and changed, which has really impacted the way we are thought of around the world. But not only that, but the way in which we think about issues around the world. And I think it's very fair to say as well that when you have something that might be happening on Capitol Hill or you have a preacher in one part of our country or a new mom or somebody else, a religious leader, or a, you know, another kind of person who has 15 minutes of fame and gets oxygen from media outlets to talk about what it is they're doing, we cannot control the message overseas in terms of how people interpret that. So in my job I've spent a lot of time having to talk about the history of our nation. The importance of pluralism in our nation. What our Constitution provides. And what in fact it means to be a citizen of the United States where we have the right to be able to practice our faith no matter what that faith is. We have principles that are embedded in our Constitution that are, that are founded on this issue of freedom and expression and all the things that we know really well. But never before in my, in my work have I had to spend as much time talking about our Constitution, and the rights of American citizens. And so that is an absolute legacy from the you know effects of different things that are happening in our nation. So I am glad you raised it because I think for the viewers, or listeners rather today, and certainly in the context of the larger issues of how we engage around the world, how we build bridges, how we build dialogue and partnership, we have to understand that it's not just a government voice that matters, it's a citizen’s voice that matters as well in terms of how we're thinking about things. Now you asked another question having to do with a foreign policy issue. And you used the example of the Palestinian issue. I could use that example or many others that are taking place where you know it has been, it often is used as an inflammatory to talk about other issues. I think that there are very important foreign policy issues that people have a lot of differences on around the world. And they aren't necessarily surrounded by issues of religion. I think it's important that we speak very clearly about what it is that we, that we are discussing. Whether it is, you know a question of the policy in the Middle East, from the United States' point of view or otherwise. And I hear audiences around the world ask me questions about foreign policy and actually marry both the foreign policy piece with religion. And I think you have to be able to separate at some point and unpack the various issues. Because I think the minute you put everything together you create faulty reasoning. You've a faulty analysis and it actually just adds to the flame of some of the very important role pieces of that.
JEAN FERACA: I do want to stop you Farah, because I hear State Department language in the way you're answering this question. And I wonder if a moment, if just for a moment you could speak from your heart? What if a Palestinian were speaking on behalf of somebody from Israel, what would that sound like?
SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE PANDITH: Well so let us, let us be really clear. I mean I am a State Department person and so when I talk about these issues I'm looking at it from the perspective of somebody who's been on the ground hearing from people. And I do, I do get what you're saying Jean. I mean I, I have had very emotional conversations in many parts of the world on issues whether it is an issue in Iraq or Afghanistan or having to do with the Middle East. I, we are, both Hannah and I are working really hard with youth groups on the ground who deal with issues such as Palestine, the Palestinian issue. And you specifically were asking, I mean we brought in some young kids, both Muslims and Jews from Palestine, and Israel. The Yalla Youth Group for example, that came to the State Department and talked with us about the campaign to talk specifically about what more they can do to move the ball forward and not get stuck into sort of old premises. And that was a really -- I mean we are doing a lot from the heart, as you say.
JEAN FERACA: Exactly. I mean supposing there was a group of Palestinian youngsters who said just exactly what we heard earlier in the program. We don't want to inherit the bigotry of our parents. I mean what kind of a difference might that possibly make.
SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE PANDITH: But Jean that's not a hypothetical. That is a reality. We've heard that from Palestinian youth and Israeli youth, from Bosnian youth, from [inaudible] youth. I mean it doesn't matter where in the world we go, we would not be able to have the momentum that we've had if young people are looking back at us going that's a nice campaign but it doesn't really work for us. What we've heard is we understand the importance of some of these foreign policy issues, or these cultural issues, or these historic issues, but we want to move to the next level.
JEAN FERACA: We're talking this hour with Farah Pandith and Hannah Rosenthal, both who, these are two extraordinary women who have launched on behalf of the U.S. Department of State, an initiative that is called 2011 Hours Against Hate. It's a campaign that encourages young people to pledge volunteer time on behalf of a community that is not their own. And the thing has taken off like wildfire if you'll forgive a cliché. They set out to garner 2011 hours of pledges before the end of the year, and so far I think at last count, at latest count it was something like 16,000. I'm Jean Feraca, you're listening to Inside Islam on Here on Earth, Radio Without Borders, from Wisconsin Public Radio. What about you? Have you ever considered dropping your own cause and taking up somebody else's? That's really what this is really all about. Creating collations, creating communities against hatred. As these two women have said, hate is hate. But we can overcome it together. Do you believe that? Have you spent time in a community other than your own? If you had an hour to give what would you do for someone who doesn't look like you, pray like you, or live like you? 1-877-GLOBE07 is the number, 1-877-4562307. Email address is HereOnEarth@wpr.org. You can also leave a comment on our blog, that's InsideIslam.wisc.edu.
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QUESTION: Together we are asking people from around the world to volunteer 2011 hours in the year 2011 on behalf of someone who doesn't look like you, live like you or pray like you. We think it can be important to learn about another religion, to volunteer in a different community, or to reach out to people from another culture. And to find out how they live. So I urge all of you to join this campaign. Stand up and speak out against hate.
JEAN FERACA: That's of course Secretary of State Hillary Clinton throwing her weight behind the 2011 Hours Against Hate Campaign, which is our topic this hour on Inside Islam. Whether you are an African American teenager volunteering at an old age home in Chicago, an Egyptian Copt teaching computer skills to two [inaudible] refugees in Cairo. Or a Jewish American teaching English at an orphanage in Chicora. Volunteering Against Hate means breaking stereotypes by building something together. That's at the heart of this 2011 Against, Hours Against Hate Campaign. We're at 1-877-GLOBE07. And Hadi is joining us from out at Madison. Hi Hadi.
QUESTION: Hi Jean. As always a great show. I think from my standpoint I volunteer every day. Every hour. Because I don't miss any opportunity to talk to people, to explain things to people that they never thought it existed. And having been just about anywhere in the world, I kind of take that as my mission. Every opportunity I explain something.
JEAN FERACA: And what do you mean by explaining something? Something about your own culture, about your own religion? Do you ever do that on behalf of somebody else?
QUESTION: About religion for example, just last month there was a gathering at a birthday party and there's a nun and she listens to you all the time. She is in Milwaukee. Hello. I know she is right now. And we were talking, I said my son's name is Musa, okay. And when you tell people that, that's Moses is the same guy that is from Judah, you know. They just step back and think. Oh okay. Then we go back to the [inaudible] from Abraham, Ishmael and Isaiah (sic), the two brothers, half brothers. To where the two religions meet. Judaism and Islam. And in between you've got Christian [inaudible] coming to Jesus from the Middle East. So I was wondering if the guest doing the work, if they talked enough about the collection between these three religions, for example.
JEAN FERACA: Okay. Good question. Who wants to take that one?
SPECIAL ENVOY ROSENTHAL: We really don't. We don't get into theological conversations. I'm reminded however of one conversation we had with a group, I think it was in Lebanon, Farah. Where they were doing a reconciliation effort and they called it for the Abrahamic Faiths. And it was between Christians and Muslims. And Farah said, there's something missing from this picture. You know they just hadn't thought that the Jews were part of the Abrahamic Faith. So sometimes we'll raise things. But we don't get into theological conversations at all.
SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE PANDITH: But many of the people, Hadi, it's a good point you're raising. But there are many NGOs that we come across throughout the world that do use an opportunity for education among, you, among theology circles. So you will get faith leaders that come together as they come together to discuss. We've heard of people who have volunteered their hours to do exactly that kind of thing. So I think it makes a lot of sense but it's not something the U.S. government can't actually talk about theology. That's not what we can do.
SPECIAL ENVOY ROSENTHAL: One of the groups we did bring to [inaudible] was a group out of England called the Three Faiths Forum. Try saying that ten times real fast. And it is literally, this is not a joke, a Muslim, a Christian and a Jew in threesomes, they go to every school in England. And they make presentations, where they talk about how important their religion is to them, and all three of them do. And then how important it is that they know these other two people. And then they open it up for questions.
JEAN FERACA: Have you heard of the interfaith three Amigos?
SPECIAL ENVOY ROSENTHAL: Oh yes.
JEAN FERACA: Yeah.
SPECIAL ENVOY ROSENTHAL: Yes, yes, out of New York. Right?
JEAN FERACA: Seattle actually.
SPECIAL ENVOY ROSENTHAL: Oh well there's another group. Anyway they do the same thing. And what the kids do is they go into these schools and they open it up for questions, and of course not a single one of the questions has to do with theology. It has to do with things kids care about, like do you have sex, is it okay to have sex with each other. Or when is it okay for your group, or your identification to kiss? And all of a sudden you're in the world of hormones where kids are, and you've got diverse people talking to them. And it gives a very powerful lesson to them.
JEAN FERACA: Since you just mentioned England.
SPECIAL ENVOY ROSENTHAL: Kissing?
[ Laughter ]
JEAN FERACA: It, oh don't get me on that. No didn't you talk to the Olympic team in England?
SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE PANDITH: Jean you have really done your homework. That's really great. What we did was, you know we are doing this everywhere. We are looking for great partners that can be a platform to expand this. And I want to say something we didn't say earlier. It is true that Hannah and I, you know, kicked us off. We acted as catalysts. But this is not a State Department campaign. This is your campaign. This is anybody in the world that takes this issue you know seriously. If you go to the Facebook page and you take a look at the logo it's not a State Department logo. It's a logo that anyone can take on and we actually spent a lot of time thinking about how to make this accessible to anyone around the world. So what we're looking for are people who like the idea and want to do something with it. And so you have all kinds of people who have taken it on in new ways. So toward that end we are looking for partners that cut across different lines, athletics is one place where people come together in a stadium around football, or around you know a basketball court, or whatever they happen, or baseball, you know, field. I mean it doesn't matter what, what it is. But what matters is that you have, we have many examples in our communities and places where people of different colors and stripes and faiths are together. And so we have gone, it is true to the Olympic Committee and said you know we think this would be a really great opportunity for you to take this campaign and run with it and make it yours. We have an amazing artist in Brazil name, who is very famous. His name is Ramiro Bruito. Who loved the campaign so much that he's designed an independent piece of art that is his own design for the 2011 Hours Against Hate Campaign, which is tremendous. We have a group like Lincoln Park, if you go to the Facebook page you'll see Linkin Park. There's a video from one of them talking about this campaign. So it's not about whether it's music or it's art, or it's sports, it is about different communities rallying towards a common human goal.
JEAN FERACA: We have Jack Mar joining us next from Madison. Thank you Hadi. Hi Jack Mar.
QUESTION: Hello, yeah, you know some time ago I came across a wonderful hopeful story that I never forgot. It was about a Rabbi who moved to the Midwest and was in the East. He was receiving a [inaudible] call by some supremacist group. And he searched to find out who was making these calls and it was a diabetic man who had lost a leg. He was sitting in a wheelchair and nobody had to help him. And to this supremacist group came in and he had to make these calls as a thank you for them helping him. And the Rabbi offered to help him. He was very carefully but consistently becoming friends with him, and eventually they became really close friends, and the Rabbi could take over and help him with grocery or shopping and many things. They became eventually very close friends. And towards the end of his life, the man without the leg, when he got really very sick the Rabbi took him into his home and the man was so incredibly grateful. He said he had never received such loving care. And everybody was richly rewarded the family and the man who got the help.
SPECIAL ENVOY ROSENTHAL: That is a very touching story Jack Mar, thank you so much for introducing it into this conversation. It's all about relationships. I mean really what this initiative does is not just ask young people to go and volunteer an hour, it means that young person has to figure out where to go, where is there a preschool that I can read books to for the Baha’i faith, you know. They're entering relationships with people. It isn't just the hour spent, it's also how you make the arrangements, and the impact you make. And we in the State Department are in the relationship business. So it came naturally to us to be the catalyst for this. But people all over the world are making those kind of relationships from that wonderful story that hopefully little by little, baby step by baby step, will be able to fight hatred.
JEAN FERACA: Just wonderful mind. Oh go ahead.
SPECIAL ENVOY ROSENTHAL: I just want to remind everyone that no one gets off the hook. Anyone listening now has promised to go on to the website, which is Facebook.com/2011hoursagainsthate. And pledge your time, tell your stories about what you know you're doing and that you know other people in your community are doing to fight hatred.
JEAN FERACA: How are you going to, is there any kind of measure of accountability? It's one thing to pledge time, it's another thing to actually give it.
SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE PANDITH: Well you know Jean this is something we've thought a lot about. I mean we're using Facebook as a vehicle because the audience that we are primarily trying to reach are the young people under the age of 30. I mean demographic wise in the world, the percentages are off the charts about in terms of how many young people there are out there. They're all digital natives. So we were thinking that Facebook was a tool that would be easy, an easy way for us to get maximum capacity. What that does for us however, is that by not making it so structured, by making it more organic, it doesn't allow us the kind of measurement that often time government is supposed to do. Which is why I say to you we've cataloged this on Facebook. We want others to take it on. We have in fact gone back to some of the folks that have posted you know things on the wall or talked about their hours to learn more about their campaigns, so that we, we know a little bit about it. But it's more the honor system more than anything else.
JEAN FERACA: Just like our pledge drives.
[ Chuckles ]
JEAN FERACA: I want to thank you both very, very much for being with us this hour. It's been just great having you.
SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE PANDITH: Thanks so much Jean.
SPECIAL ENVOY ROSENTHAL: Thanks Jean.
JEAN FERACA: You'll find links to Farah Pandith and Hannah Rosenthal, and to the 2011 Hours Against Hate Campaign page when you visit our website at HereOnEarth.org. You can also visit our Inside Islam series website, at InsideIslam.wisc.edu. And you can continue today's conversation on our Inside Islam blog, just go to InsideIslam.wisc.edu and share your comments and experiences on the post on 2011 Hours Against Hate, where you'll also find recent posts on the Islamic New Year and the Culture of Gift Giving and Shopping in Islam. Thanks to Joe Harley our technical producer, to Laura Zimmerman our webmaster. Diana [inaudible] and produced today's show in collaboration with Global Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. And with funding from the Social Science Research Council in New York City. I'm Jean Feraca. Thanks for listening.