I realized I'd never explored my hometown the way I'd explored Istanbul. I'd never given it the chances I'd gave to Istanbul. Though I greatly admire it, I'd never been open to its possibilities. Every magnificent spot in Istanbul reminded me of something about Cairo. So this is where I'm going next.
To better understand this power of religious passion, or "the Religious Bomb," as Thomas Cahill names it in Heretics and Heroes, we need to unpackage the many dynamics and components of religion and identity.
The killing in France of cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo who satirized the Prophet, among other religious figures, immediately prompted me to question whether something similar could happen in America. Could someone from my faith engage in such heinous violence?
There's a simple reason why a Le Pen presidential victory, though not impossible, remains incredibly implausible -- and that's as true today as it was last week or last month. It's because France, like many countries around the world, has a runoff presidential system.
Unfortunately, with the world still reeling from the horrific attacks in France that left twelve innocent people dead, anti-theists have jumped on the opportunity to continue their anti-Islam onslaught.
More than a week after the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, American comedians have made it clear that they stand with their fellow satirists in France. There were others who joined the condemnation as well, and not just from comedy.
In this moment of post-attack fog as the world tries to get back to normal, I urge you all, whether leaders in title or in conviction, not to poke the bear. Find a way forward that comes from a quest for understanding, soul-searching and peaceful resolution.
While religion can play an important role in demarcating the teams, ultimately these disputes are about who controls the levers of power, interspersed with more philosophical questions such as the role of religion in society.
We should strive to reaffirm the most basic principle upon which our societies stand: that all individuals are created equal. We have failed to provide Baga's victims that recognition. Let us demand that all individuals be protected from its reach, not merely those similar to us.
We are all ignorant; none of us have all the answers. That fact is not only a strong argument in favor of free speech and against those who would suppress it -- it is a spur toward greater wisdom.
In our society, vulgarians like Larry Flynt and the murdered journalists of Charlie Hebdo are the vanguard who protect freedom of speech. They are the canary in the coal mine, whose death warns us of the unseen dangers gathering around us.
I think the real opportunity for progress lies in the hands of the more orthodox Muslims and Jews. They may have more in common than they now think. Both, for example, have rules regarding appropriate food call halal by Muslims and kosher by Jews. It is my impression that the two sets of rules are remarkably similar.
The vast majority of believers adhere to mainstream religion and seek three things there: community, moral guidance, and the comforts of ritual and belief. A minority get caught up in what I call Old Time Religion. OTR is authoritarian, reactionary, oppressive, and bent on domination.
Whenever there is news of a shooting, kidnapping or attack, the first thought that goes through my mind is "Please don't let it be a Muslim" (with "Please don't let it be a Pakistani Muslim" following closely behind). For if it's a Muslim, it will no longer be considered an isolated incident. If it's a Muslim, I have the onerous burden of having to do the following.
Why must we be particularly careful about giving the West some special status when it may well deserve to be recognized for its contemporary pluralism? The main cause for caution is that history reveals patterns of prejudice in the West, just as much as in the East, and there can still be a resurgence of such impulses if we are not careful and fail to ward them off.
While I support the right of the journalists involved to express their evident contempt for the religion of Islam, I also support my right to express my disdain for the acts that precipitated their murders.