Monday, September 15, 2008

Extending Our Hands of Friendship

In response to my learned friend Paul's message (included below), I offered the following response tonight:
Brilliant, Paul...I was so bewildered when I read the words on this DVD...I have recently returned from Egypt where it is Ramadan...I challenge each of us to look at our address books as one way to evaluate our sense of connectedness and, as Paul wisely advises, to make sure that love and not fear is our lens. How many Muslim friends do you have living on the pages of your address book?...Does your address book reflect people of multiple faiths, diverse racial heritages, many chronological ages, and embrace those whose sexual orientation is different from your own? Expanding our hearts to see a brother or sister in all human beings is critical and, for me, my best way of living my Christian beliefs. God is truly all in all.
Love and respect,Laura

Greetings! I found it very disturbing that a DVD entitled "Obsessions, Radical Islam" was included in the Denver Post on Sunday. I wrote the following for my church members. If you find it of use, please distribute it to you networks. Paul

In Sunday's Denver Post there was a mass distribution of a DVD entitled "Obsession, Radical Islam's War Against the West." This distribution represents an action with which we should be deeply concerned. It represents desperately inflammatory material that loosely charades as being factual and therefore accurate. This DVD was initially created back in 2005. The timing of this distribution is directly tied to the upcoming election. If you go to the website, the website makes it very clear which candidate you should vote for in this election if you want to fight radical Islamists. While the website does not actually tell the viewer which candidate to vote for, the video clip does end up with John McCain's face in full view of the screen and Barack Obama's profile view in the back ground. What becomes clear is that this material is intended to make fear be the primary motivation for how people vote. History has shown over and over again that when we allow ourselves to be motivated by fear, we allow ourselves to be manipulated by the very people who say that they will protect us. There are many reasons to vote in this election. I truly believe that both presidential candidates are worthy choices. But please encourage those around you to be NOT be so bluntly manipulated. Here are five reasons to say NO to such blatant material:

There are radical, militants who are Muslims, whose desire is to force the world back into a type of Medieval existence. The issue is not whether these individuals are serious threats. The issue is how best to fight them so that we do not inadvertently create a world public sympathy for them, which will only increase their ability to inflict violence.
Our best resource in this fight is to befriend the moderate Muslims here and around the world. To help them build quality lives and remove the sympathy and intimidation that the radicals try to form with them. But this alliance with moderate Muslims cannot be created with bombs and guns. We have to demonstrate that we can assist them in their efforts to create better communities and lives for themselves and for their children. The efforts of an American named Greg Mortenson [ Three Cups of Tea ] illustrate the effectiveness of such quality community building efforts.
On Wednesday, September 10, Admiral Mike Mullen chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff acknowledged in front of the House Armed Services Committee that "we cannot kill our way to victory." His statement was that while we must have a military presence, we must be more diligent to offer effective nonmilitary assistance to the Afghans.
Senior editorialist for Newsweek Fareed Zakaria wrote on May 24, 2008, "The Simon Fraser study notes that the decline in terrorism appears to be caused by many factors, among them successful counterterrorism operations in dozens of countries and infighting among terror groups. But the most significant, in the study's view, is the "extraordinary drop in support for Islamist terror organizations in the Muslim world over the past five years." This study directly counters the fear that Sunday's DVD is attempting to instill.
There are numerous Muslim voices that speak out against the extremists [yes, in some cases at great risk to themselves]. One such voice is Fethullah Gulen. I would invite you to "google" his name and read his writings. He has millions of Muslim followers around the world. In Denver, we have many Muslim voices that speak strongly against terrorism.

We really do have two quality presidential candidates for this November's election. It is imperative though that people study the issues and be informed in their vote. Do not let yourself be motivated by television "sound bites" and fear-mongering. If these two influences carry the election, then we will be at risk of having created that which we most feared.

Rev. Paul Kottke
Senior Pastor
University Park UMC

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