EVENTS 2017

TRANSFORMING THIS MOMENT SERIES

While the post-election period has been a time of deep uncertainty for vulnerable communities across the country, it has also been a moment of intense mobilization. Concerned citizens and groups are galvanized for positive change and are rallying together to protect the rights of their compatriots. In this context, Critical Connections and the Karuna Center for Peacebuilding are launching the ‘Transforming This Moment’ series with two distinct tracks: Transforming this Moment: Protecting Civil Rights, Promoting Civic Engagement and Transforming this Moment: Bridging our Divides. 

Join us in 2017 to learn about the threats to civil rights and liberties, our enduring racial, religious, class and culture wars, the strength and ability of our institutions to protect targeted communities, and the transformative role citizens can play during challenging times.

FREEDOM AND JUSTICE FOR ALL? CIVIL RIGHTS IN THE AGE OF TRUMP

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WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 25
7-9PM
KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS
45 BOLTWOOD WALK
AMHERST, MA

RSVP: Caleb Seamon (calebseamon@gmail.com)

SPEAKER: PROFESSOR SUDHA SETTY

There are many questions and concerns surrounding the future of civil rights under the Trump administration. What are the prospects of a Muslim registry? What will be the future of marriage equality? Will refugees and immigrants have their status rescinded? Can Roe v. Wade be overturned? Will stop-and-frisk be instituted? Will there be a shift in the system of checks and balances? What protections does our constitution afford and what recourse is available to targeted communities? For an in-depth analysis of these issues and more, please join us for an interactive session with Professor Sudha Setty of Western New England University School of Law.

 

 WHEN DEMOCRACIES TURN AUTHORITARIAN: STRATEGIES FOR NON-VIOLENT RESISTANCE

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MARCH 2, 7-9PM

Smith College

Northampton, MA

Speaker: Dr. Maria Stephan, USIP

What are effective strategies for civic engagement and resistance when democracies gradually become authoritarian and begin to undermine the constitution and democratic institutions?

THE RESURGENCE OF WHITE POWER: A CONVERSATION WITH A FORMER WHITE SUPREMACIST

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With hate crimes and bias-related incidents on the rise, there is growing concern surrounding the resurgence of white supremcist groups around the country. To understand how these organizations operate, their recruitment strategies, and the factors that have contributed to their proliferation, please join us for a community conversation with Mr. Christian Picciolini, a former white supremacist and the co-founder of Life After Hate. Mr. Picciolini will also share his experience of radicalization, as well as insights about the current socio-political climate.

TUESDAY, APRIL 4
7-9 PM
FLYWHEEL ARTS COLLECTIVE
43 MAIN STREET
EASTHAMPTON, MA

DIVIDED BY GOD: UNDERSTANDING AMERICA’S RELIGIOUS-SECULAR DIVIDE

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In a secular nation, what is the role of religion in matters of policy—this is a fundamental question that deeply divides American society around issues of abortion, marriage equality, euthanasia, display of religious symbols in public spaces, government funding for religious schools, etc. To understand how the framers of the constitution envisaged the separation of church and state, how successive generations have interpreted the religious-secular divide, and how it is likely to play out under the current administration, please join us for an interactive discussion with Professors Sudha Setty and Peter Gottschalk.
TUESDAY, MAY 23
7-9 PM
FIRST CHURCH OF CHRIST
763 LONGMEADOW STREET
LONGMEADOW, MA

RSVP: mehlaqa@criticalconnections.org

Co-sponsors: Critical Connections and Karuna Center for Peacebuilding
This event is part of the ‘Transforming This Moment’ series, jointly organized by Critical Connections and the Karuna Center for Peacebuilding and funded by Mass Humanities, whose grants inspired considered thoughts, conversations, and actions. 

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EVETNS 2016

DIALOGUES ACROSS DIVIDES SERIES

Critical Connections and the Karuna Center for Peacebuilding are organizing a series of dialogues around contentious issues that shape perceptions of Muslims and affect inter-communal relations here in the U.S. This series is funded by Mass Humanities.

UNDERSTANDING VIOLENT EXTREMISM IN AMERICA

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Thursday, September 15, 7-9pm

Longmeadow Community House, MA

Speakers: Mr. Haris Tarin (Department of Homeland Security), Mr. Daryl Johnson (Author, Right-Wing Resurgence) Dr. David Schanzer (Duke University) joining via Skype

The threat of violent extremism in the U.S. has grown in recent years. To explore the causes and processes of homegrown extremism and to examine ways to address the threat posed by right-wing groups as well as those inspired by Al-Qaida and ISIS, we will be joined by national security experts on September 15.

ISLAM, PLURALISM, AND HOMOPHOBIA

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Thursday, October 6, 7-9pm

Bangs Community Center, Amherst, MA

Speaker: Professor Mehammed Amadeus Mack (Smith College)

The brutal massacre perpetrated by Omar Mateen at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida that claimed the lives of 49 members of the LGBTQ community led many to question Islam’s approach to homosexuality. To explore traditional and contemporary theological discourses surrounding homosexuality and examine how the Muslim world grappled with the issue historically, Professor Mehammed Mack of Smith College who recently penned the piece, ‘What does the Koran Say About Being Gay’ will share his insights at the Bangs Community Center (70 Boltwood Walk) in Amherst, MA.

 

RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE THROUGH A HISTORICAL LENS

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Wednesday, November 2, 7:30-9pm

University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Campus Center, Room 174

Speaker: Dr. Peter Gottschalk

In today’s climate of division and Islamophobia, it is easy to imagine that we are going through a unique moment in our history that is out of sync with our national ethos of tolerance. The idea that the United States is a stronghold of religious freedom is central to our identity as a nation―and utterly at odds with the historical record. In his book, American Heretics, historian Peter Gottschalk traces the arc of American religious discrimination and shows that religious groups from Quakers to Judaism have been subjected to similar patterns of persecution. Today, many of these same religious groups that were once regarded as anti-thetical to American values are embraced as evidence of our strong religious heritage―giving hope to today’s Muslims, Sikhs, and other religious groups now under fire.

U.S. POLICY IN THE MIDDLE EAST: A POST-ELECTION DISCUSSION

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Sunday, November 13, 5-7pm

Venue: Smith College Chapel

Speaker: Dr. Muqtedar Khan

As civil wars continue across the Middle East and South Asia, the nature of American engagement there will have direct implications for stability in the region as well as security here in the U.S. for years to come. As the end of the Obama presidency nears, we will explore the next administration’s foreign policy approach and agenda in the Middle East. What are some of the challenges and opportunities surrounding U.S. relations with the broader Muslim world? Please join us for a post-election discussion with Dr. Muqtedar Khan, an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Delaware.

JIHAD VS. JUST WAR: A MULTI-FAITH PERSPECTIVE

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Sunday, November 20, 10:45am – 12pm

Congregation B’Nai Israel, Northampton, MA

Speaker: Dr. Sohail Hashmi, Respondent: Rabbi Justin David

Critics of Islam often make the case that Muslims are bound by Qur’anic injunction to offensively and violently wage jihad against non-Muslims. Concurrently, groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are openly calling upon Muslims to engage in jihad to launch a new-age Islamic caliphate in the Middle East. So what exactly is jihad, and what does the term denote? Individual struggle, armed struggle, or “holy war”? How have other Abrahamic faiths grappled with notions of holy war and armed struggle in their respective scriptures? In this event, Critical Connections and Karuna Center for Peacebuilding will partner with Congregation B’nai Israel to explore the concept of armed struggle through a multi-faith perspective.

 

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SPRING 2016

American Heretics: Catholics, Jews, Muslims and the History of Religious Intolerance

In today’s climate of division and Islamophobia, it is easy to imagine that we are going through a unique moment in our history that is out of sync with our national ethos of tolerance. The idea that the United States is a stronghold of religious freedom is central to our identity as a nation―and utterly at odds with the historical record. In his book, American Heretics, historian Peter Gottschalk traces the arc of American religious discrimination and shows that religious groups from Quakers to Judaism have been subjected to similar patterns of persecution. Today, many of these same religious groups that were once regarded as anti-thetical to American values are embraced as evidence of our strong religious heritage―giving hope to today’s Muslims, Sikhs, and other religious groups now under fire.

May 10, 2016, 7-9pm

First Church, Longmeadow, MA

Speakers: Dr. Peter Gottschalk, Attorney Tahirah Amatul Wadud

Is There an Islamic Threat? Perceptions, Realities and the Way Forward

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Thursday, February 25, 7-9pm

First Church, Longmeadow, MA

Speakers: Dr. Ammar Nakshawani and Mr. Kevin O’Regan

The coordinated attacks in Paris and in San Bernardino, California have increased concerns about terrorism here in the United States. Can such attacks be thwarted and what measures are currently in place to prevent these from happening? Are Muslims particularly susceptible to radicalization and does Islamic scripture justify violence? How significant is the threat and are there ways to effectively combat it without curtailing civil liberties? Please join us Thursday, February 25, 7-9pm for a conversation with Dr. Ammar Nakshawani (Hartford Seminary) and Mr. Kevin O’Regan (Assistant U.S. Attorney, Springfield, MA)

 

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The Dialogue Across Divides series is funded by Mass Humanities, whose grants inspire considered thought, conversation and action. 

 

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The Mosque in Morgantown: A Film Screening and Discussion

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Tuesday, March 8, 7-9pm

Friends Meetinghouse, Northampton, MA

THE MOSQUE IN MORGANTOWN is a documentary film that aired nationally on PBS, earning a 2010 Emmy® Award nomination for its original musical score. It chronicles what happens when Muslim writer and activist Asra Nomani launches a campaign for gender equality in her West Virginia mosque—angering the mosque’s moderates. These would-be allies seek to adapt the community’s cultural practices to the reality of American life, but disagree passionately with Nomani’s methods and, eventually, her message. Through unfolding scenes and intimate interviews, the film frames this local conflict as a means to explore larger dilemmas facing American Islam. It tells a story of competing paths to change and the nature of religion itself. Watch trailer here. The 54-minute documentary will be followed by an interactive discussion.

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U.S. FOREIGN POLICY AND THE MUSLIM WORLD SERIES

Critical Connections and the Karuna Center for Peacebuilding will organize a series of policy discussions around social, political and religious trends in Muslim-majority countries and U.S. involvement in the region.

REVOLT, REFORM AND THE ARAB UPRISINGS: U.S. POLICY OPTIONS FIVE YEARS ON

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Monday, March 287-9pm

Venue: Jones Library, Amherst, MA

Speaker: Dr. Muqtedar Khan

Five years after the Arab uprisings began, the Middle East remains mired in violence, militancy, civil conflict and autocratic rule. What are the socio-political, structural and institutional factors that prevented the emergence of an Arab Spring and what are the lessons learnt? What are prospects for stability and what is the U.S. government’s current policy towards the region? Join us for a discussion with renowned scholar, Dr. Muqtedar Khan (University of Delaware) and others. Audience members will have the opportunity to engage not just with our experts but also each other through small group discussions on the topic.

EVENTS – FALL 2015

COLLABORATING AGAINST SECTARIAN INTOLERANCE IN PAKISTAN

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NOVEMBER 19-22, ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN

In partnership with the Karuna Center for Peacebuilding and the Peace and Education Foundation (PEF), Critical Connections convened a multi-day workshop in Islamabad in mid-November to analyze the causes of sectarian intolerance in Pakistan. The workshop brought together an ideologically diverse group of people representing four sectors (human rights, educators, media, and religious clergy) who jointly examined the various factors that support violent sectarianism in the country and developed four seed projects to mitigate them in communities around Islamabad.

DAGH DAGH UJALA: THIS STAINED DAWN

A LECTURE DEMONSTRATION

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“Beginning in August of 1947, the largest mass migration in history began as fifteen million men, women, and children left their ancestral homes to cross the newly drawn borders between India and the new country of Pakistan. During and after the partition of India over one million people died as a result of violence that erupted between people who were attempting to migrate from one country to the other. This Stained Dawn is the story of some of the survivors of Partition and how this tragic event affected their lives.

We hope the stories you hear tonight will stir you and open your eyes and ears to the collected memories of those who lived through this troubled time and share in their hope for a new and more perfect dawn.”

– David Studwell

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 25, 4-6PM                                                                                                                                                          (PLAY AND DISCUSSION FOLLOWED BY DINNER)

LONGMEADOW COMMUNITY HOUSE                                                                                                                                               735 LONGMEADOW STREET, LONGMEADOW, MA

DIRECTED BY DAVID STUDWELL, KATHLEEN MULLIGAN, ITHACA COLLEGE

 CO-SPONSORS: CRITICAL CONNECTIONS, KARUNA CENTER FOR PEACEBUILDING

COMBATANTS FOR PEACE

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WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 7, 7PM

HAMPSHIRE COLLEGE, FRANKLIN PATTERSON HALL, AMHERST, MA

SPEAKERS: URI BEN ASSA, MOHAMMAD OWEDAH, SULAIMAN KHATIB

Combatants for Peace (CfP), founded in 2006, is a non-profit, volunteer organization of ex-combatant Israelis and Palestinians, men and women, who have laid down their weapons and rejected all means of violence. Their mission is to build the social infrastructure necessary for ending the conflict and the occupation. They work together toward this goal of bringing justice and peace to the land, demonstrating that there is a real alternative to the cycle of violence and that Palestinians and Israelis can work and live together. They believe that disseminating such activities widely can and will affect attitudinal change at the societal level and policy change at the political level.

CO-SPONSORS: CRITICAL CONNECTIONS, KARUNA CENTER FOR PEACEBUILDING, CONGREGATION B’NAI ISRAEL

 

COUNTERING VIOLENT EXTREMISM: EXPLORING COLLABORATIVE APPROACHES

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SUNDAY, OCTOBER 4, 4-6:30PM

ISLAMIC SOCIETY OF WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS

SPEAKERS: U.S. ATTORNEY CARMEN ORTIZ, DR. ALIYA SAEED, MR. MICHAEL GERMAN 

(BY INVITATION ONLY)

Over the past few years, militant groups such as ISIS and Al-Qaida have increased their efforts to recruit young Muslims in Europe and the United States. While it is important for Muslim community leaders, parents, and law-enforcement to work collaboratively to prevent this from happening, their relationship is marred by deep mistrust. Reports of sting operations and paid informants within mosques have led to limited cooperation and mutual suspicion.  Critical Connections, in partnership with the Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts, organized a dialogue between Muslim community members and law-enforcement agencies to explore ways to counter the threat of radicalization, preserve the Muslim community’s civil liberties, and improve relations between law-enforcement and American-Muslims

THE SYRIAN REFUGEE CRISIS: ADDRESSING POLITICAL AND HUMANITARIAN DIMENSIONS

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MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 7-9PM

JONES LIBRARY, 43 AMITY STREET, AMHERST, MA

SPEAKERS: BASILEUS ZENO and SUSANNAH CROLIUS

The Syrian civil war has killed approximately 220,000 people and displaced more than half of Syria’s pre-war population. According to the United Nations, 4 million Syrians currently live as refugees in surrounding countries. As the civil war rages on and desperate families continue to seek asylum in Europe and North America, what are prospects for a peaceful settlement in Syria? What is the U.S. response to the growing humanitarian tragedy? What can American communities do to ensure their representatives adopt a more robust response to the Syrian refugee crisis? To understand the humanitarian and political dimensions of the worst refugee crisis of our time, and to learn more about how you can help, please join us for a conversation with Basileus Zeno (Syrian researcher and activist) and Susannah Crolius (Coordinator of Outreach, Western Massachusetts Refugee and Immigrant Consortium)
CO-SPONSORS: CRITICAL CONNECTIONS AND KARUNA CENTER FOR PEACEBUILDING

THE IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL: IMPLICATIONS FOR THE REGION AND U.S. FOREIGN POLICY

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with MS. HILLARY MANN LEVERETT, MAYOR SAUD ANWAR, AND OTHERS

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 7-9PM

FRIENDS MEETING HOUSE

43 CENTER COURT, SUITE 202

NORTHAMPTON, MA

In July, the United States and five major powers signed a historic deal with Iran to limit the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting sanctions against it. How will this deal impact relations between Iran and the Gulf states, the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, societal relations between the U.S. and Iran, and overall U.S. policies in the region? Experts Hillary Mann Leverett, Mayor Saud Anwar, and others will address these questions and more on Thursday, September 17th in Northampton, MA. Join us for a timely discussion on Iran!

 

ARCHIVED EVENTS: SPRING 2015

ENDING THE SYRIAN CONFLICT: REGIONAL RECALIBRATIONS AND U.S. POLICY OPTIONS

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TUESDAY, MAY 19, 7-9PM, JONES LIBRARY, AMHERST, MA

Over the past five years the Syrian conflict has claimed over 200,000 lives, displaced more than ten million people and ravaged the country’s infrastructure. At a time of increasing uncertainty, what are the opportunities and challenges surrounding a political settlement in Syria, what is the future of ISIS, how will regional developments (conflict in Yemen, continuing unrest in Iraq, and Iran-U.S. rapprochement) shape the international response to the conflict, and what are U.S. options going forward? Professors David Mednicoff and Omar Dahi, having recently returned from the region, will answer these questions and more on Tuesday, May 19th, 7-9pm at the Jones Library in Amherst. Please join us for a timely discussion on Syria and the region.

DAY-LONG SYMPOSIUM

Building Inclusive Communities: Engaging our American-Muslim Neighbors

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Friday, April 10, 8:30 – 5:00pm

Holyoke Community College, Kittredge Center

303 Homestead Avenue, Holyoke, MA 01040

 

HOLYOKE, Massachusetts—From 8:30am to 5:00pm on FRIDAY, APRIL 10, local organizations Critical Connections and Karuna Center for Peacebuilding will hold a daylong symposium among local Muslim communities and religious leaders, educators, refugee organizations, journalists, and law enforcement personnel in the Pioneer Valley. Attendees will leave the conference with an improved understanding of the American-Muslim experience and a clearer picture of the role each sector can play in building safer, more inclusive communities.

Who should attend:

The event is free and open to the general public. Registration is required and is open through April 7th. Community leaders, activists, students, journalists and public sector workers who encounter diverse cultural, religious, and social groups are particularly encouraged and invited to register and attend.

Event highlights:

  • Panel discussions with local educators, law enforcement personnel, religious clergy and social service providers that will highlight opportunities and challenges in building cohesive, diverse and resilient communities
  • Sector–specific working groups that will devise strategies drawing on best practices
  • A free networking Mediterranean lunch

Background Information: Approximately 2% of Pioneer Valley residents practice Islam, and many of those identifying as Muslim are recent immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa.  Assimilation into American life can be a difficult and confusing process that discourages many Muslims from connecting with Americans outside of their tightly knit immigrant communities. Likewise, Muslims’ presence can be a source of tension for many native-born residents who have never met a Muslim before, and who base their impressions of the culture and religion on such high-profile events as the Boston Marathon Bombing, 9/11, or the rise of ISIL.  Public sector officials who come into contact with Muslims may struggle to provide appropriate support without a contextual understanding of the familial or cultural dynamics at play.

Symposium Schedule

Welcome and Introductions
8:30-8:45

Teaching Tolerance: The Role of Educators
8:45-10:00am

Building Resilience: The Role of Law Enforcement
10:15am – 11:30am

Embracing Refugees:The Role of Social Service Providers
11:45am – 1:00pm

Mediterranean lunch
1:00-2:00pm

Bridging Divides: The Role of Faith Communities
2:00pm – 3:15pm

Working Group Discussions
3:15pm – 4:15pm

Working Group Presentations
4:15pm-4:45pm

Closing remarks
4:45pm – 5:00pm

The four panel discussions and lunch are free and open to the public–however, you must be registered to attend the event. Please register here or email: mehlaqa@criticalconnections.org

PANEL ON FREE SPEECH

Charlie Hebdo: Is Your Free Speech My Hate Speech?

Friday, April 17at 2:30pm

Center for Public Policy and Administration

Gordon Hall, 418 North Pleasant St, Amherst, Massachusetts 01002

The recent attack at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has forced an international conversation on the very essence of free speech. Assertive and polarizing reactions to this attack and related events raise concerns around the possible links between free speech in the West and important, contentious issues such as Islamophobia, speech and power, blasphemy, and tolerance.

This panel will examine perceptions from contemporary non-Western Muslim-majority venues of the line between free speech and hate speech. Panelists will share their thoughts on what media outlets such as Charlie Hebdo may aim to achieve, and how that work is actually understood by others. The discussion will also explore whether these different approaches toward, and perceptions of, speech freedoms can be reconciled.

This event is hosted by the Center for Public Policy and Administration and co-sponsored by the Interdisciplinary Studies Institute, the Journalism Department and the Middle Eastern Studies program at UMass Amherst, as well as the Karuna Center for Peacebuilding and Critical Connections.

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Blasphemy, Bigotry and Bloodshed: Perspectives on the Charlie Hebdo Attack

Solidarity rally in Bologna to support of victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack

Tuesday, February 17, 2015, 7-9pm

Friends Meeting House, 43 Center Court, Northampton, MA

Featuring Dr. Peter Gottschalk (Wesleyan University), Professor Mehammed Mack (Smith College)

Several questions emerged following the brutal attack on Charlie Hebdo last month. What is the place of blasphemy in Islam’s legal tradition and how has the Muslim world been shaped by it? Were the attacks in Paris motivated by religious or political considerations? Are there limits to freedom of expression and when does freedom of speech become incitement? What is the situation of French Muslims and what are the underlying causes of radicalization among certain groups? To respond to these questions and more, Critical Connections is organizing a panel discussion on Tuesday, February 17th, 7-9pm, at the Friends Meeting House in Northampton. Free and open to the public.

MOVIE SCREENING AND DISCUSSION

Feature Film: Wham! Bam! Islam!

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Sunday, February 22nd, 2015, 4-7pm

Western New England University, Center for the Sciences and Pharmacy, Rm. 300 

1215 Wilbraham Road, Springfield, MA

Violent extremists around the Muslim world have increasingly turned to popular media to spread their gospel of radicalism. Coverage of these groups’ campaigns to recruit young minds through flashy internet campaigns and YouTube videos has dominated the airwaves at the expense of individuals whose commitment to pluralism and democracy goes largely unnoticed by the mainstream media. Please join Karuna Center and Critical Connections for a showing of the film Wham! Bam! Islam! to learn about one Kuwaiti-Muslim’s innovative efforts to counter violent extremism using the most unlikely of social mediums – comic books.

The movie screening will be followed by a dialogue on key themes raised by the documentary.

In this PBS Indies/independent Lens production, Kuwaiti psychologist and comic book aficionado, Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa partners with the best graphic artists in the business to design a children’s comic book series based on the 99 virtues of Allah. Director Issac Solotaroff follows Dr. Al-Mutawa and his animation team as they endeavor to design and market a product that the Muslim world’s most conservative can get behind. Wham! Bam! Islam! provides viewers with a unique opportunity to experience the diversity of thought, opinion and popular in the Muslim world as viewed through the eyes of a devout Arab-Muslim struggling to reclaim Islamic values as a force for peace and pluralism in a troubled region.

Snacks and light refreshments will be provided.

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Sponsors: Western New England University Spiritual Life and International Student and Scholar Services

ARCHIVED EVENTS (2014)

 BRIDGING THE MUSLIM/NON-MUSLIM DIVIDE INITIATIVE

Relations between Muslim and non-Muslim Americans have markedly deteriorated in the aftermath of the events of 9/11. The mainstream media’s coverage of world events – from the U.S. military’s campaigns in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq, to the Boston Marathon Bombings, to the series of complex, and at times violent, popular protests that defined the Arab uprisings – has further exacerbated anti-Muslim sentiment in communities across America where Muslims and non-Muslims have peacefully co-existed for decades. The Karuna Center for Peacebuilding and Critical Connections seek to reverse this trend with a series of discussions and dialogues that will engage participants in a more nuanced, multi-angled analysis of political and social trends in the Muslim world, and lay the foundation for mutual understanding and respect.

Six scheduled events comprise the 2014 Bridging Muslim/Non-Muslim Divides Initiative. These events fall into three categories: the Muslim World in Transition, Dialogues, and a Symposium. You can learn more about them below. We look forward to seeing you at the events!

Note: Check back often for information updates including dates and locations for these events. 

Movie Screening and Discussion

Feature Film: Wham! Bam! Islam!
Movie screening and discussion
Tuesday, October 21, 2014, 7-9pm
Jones Library, Amherst, MA

Wham-bam-islam-banner-600wViolent extremists around the Muslim world have increasingly turned to popular media to spread their gospel of radicalism. Coverage of these groups’ campaigns to recruit young minds through flashy internet campaigns and YouTube videos has dominated the airwaves at the expense of individuals whose commitment to pluralism and democracy goes largely unnoticed by the mainstream media. Please join Karuna Center and Critical Connections for a showing of the film Wham! Bam! Islam! to learn about one Kuwaiti-Muslim’s innovative efforts to counter violent extremism using the most unlikely of social mediums – comic books.

The movie screening will be followed by a dialogue on key themes raised by the documentary.

In this PBS Indies/independent Lens production, Kuwaiti psychologist and comic book aficionado, Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa partners with the best graphic artists in the business to design a children’s comic book series based on the 99 virtues of Allah. Director Issac Solotaroff follows Dr. Al-Mutawa and his animation team as they endeavor to design and market a product that the Muslim world’s most conservative can get behind. Wham! Bam! Islam! provides viewers with a unique opportunity to experience the diversity of thought, opinion and popular in the Muslim world as viewed through the eyes of a devout Arab-Muslim struggling to reclaim Islamic values as a force for peace and pluralism in a troubled region.

Popcorn and a range of drinks options will be provided free of charge to all who attend.

Check out the movie trailer here.

Public Dialogue

Jihad vs. Just War: Understanding Armed Struggle in the Islamic Context
Thursday, September 18, 2014, 7-9pm
Jones Library, Amherst, MA 

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Critics of Islam often make the case that Muslims are bound by Qur’anic injunction to offensively and violently wage jihad against non-Muslims. Concurrently, groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are openly calling upon Muslims to engage in jihad to launch a new-age Islamic caliphate in the Middle East. So what exactly is jihad, and what does the term denote? Individual struggle, armed struggle, or “holy war”? In this event – the 4th in our Bridging Muslim-Non-Muslim Divides Series – Critical Connections and Karuna Center for Peacebuilding invite you to attend a panel discussion that will place the concept of jihad in its appropriate and bona fide historical, religious, legal, and social context and explain how the term has been widely understood and misunderstood up until the present day.

Featuring: Dr. Sohail Hashmi (Mount Holyoke College) 

Panel Discussion and Community Dialogue

Dealing with Difference and Diversity: An Islamic Perspective
Sunday, September 7, 2014, 7-9pm
Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts (ISWM), 377 Amostown Road, West Springfield, MA

Given the multiplicity of religious opinions and interpretations that exist among Muslims on a variety of different theological issues, it is often challenging for diverse Muslim communities to effectively deal with these differences. Our three distinguished panelists were Dr. Ali Hazratji, President of the Hampshire Mosque and former ISWM president; Professor Celene Ayat Lizzio, a Faculty Associate of the Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations at Merrimack Colelge and Director of the Center for Inter-Religious and Communal Leadership Education at Andover Newton Theological School and Hebrew College; and Dr. Muqtedar Khan, Associate Professor of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Delaware. shared their knowledge and insights on how Muslims can tangibly approach and respond to difference in their daily interactions, both within and outside the mosque.

Panel Discussion

Beyond 2014: Afghanistan, Nation-building and U.S. Foreign Policy
Thursday, May 29, 2014, 7-9pm
South Windsor Public Library, Connecticut 

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With U.S. troops scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan this year, our discussion focused on lessons learned from America’s nation-building enterprise in Afghanistan and implications for U.S. foreign policy.

Featuring: Matt Waldman (Harvard University), Omar Samad (New America Foundation), and Scott Smith (via Skype from the United States Institute of Peace)

To watch the video of the event, click here.

 

Public Dialogue

Do Muslim Women Need Saving?
April 2, 2014, 7-9pm
Northampton Friends Meeting House, Northampton, MA 

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We facilitated a discussion and dialogue on gender and empowerment in the Muslim world, featuring Dr. Falguni Sheth of Hampshire College

Panel Discussion

Between the Sacred and Profane: The Future of Political Islam
February 11, 2014, 7-9pm
Jones Library, Amherst, MA 

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Thank you to all those who attended our event on the future of Islamism. Participants had the opportunity to engage in meaningful discussions and pose questions to our speakers. Couldn’t make it to the event? Listen to CC’s Executive Director Mehlaqa Samdani’s take on political Islam from an interview with Bill Newman. You can also read about the event or watch the live recording.

Featuring Dr. David Mednicoff (UMASS Amherst) and Dr. Natana J. DeLong Bas (Boston College)

ARCHIVED EVENTS (2013)

The Legacy of 9/11: Domestic and Foreign Policy Implications
September 25, 2013, 5-7pm
Charter Oaks Cultural Center, Hartford, CT 

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At this panel discussion – co-hosted with Hartford 20/20 and the Charter Oaks Cultural Center in Hartford, Connecticut, Critical Connections brought together three speakers: Sandra Staub, Legal Director of the Connecticut branch of the ACLU; Dr. Falguni Sheth, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Political Theory at Hampshire College; and Dr. Muqtedar Khan, Associate Professor of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Delaware.

For the rest of the blog on the event, click here.

Public dialogue

Resilience in Adversity: The Boston Marathon Bombings and The Aftermath
May 19, 2013, 6-8pm
The Community House, Longmeadow, MA 

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Critical Connections hosted this discussion about radicalization in the 21st century and the impact of the media’s coverage of the Boston Bombings on pluralism in the United States. The four distinguished speakers, Mr. Michael Felsen, Dr. Aliya Saeed, Dr. Peter Gottschalk, and Dr. M Saud Anwar, MD, spoke on a range of issues including an exploration of why individuals commit radical acts, critiquing the similarities and differences between political cartoons directly after 9/11 and Boston, in the context of Islamophobia and characterizations of terrorists, and the importance of creating open and safe spaces to engage in conversations about preventing violence and faith-based extremism (while recognizing that the Boston Bombings were not necessarily an example of such extremism). The evening brought to light the importance of inter-community solidarity in the face of the tragic events in Boston coupled with the media’s attacks on multiplicity and attempts to perpetuate anti-Muslim sentiment.

Panel Discussion

Clenched Fist to Outstretched Hand: Iran-U.S. Nuclear Negotiations
April 18, 2013

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This discussion aimed to provide an alternative perspective on politics in the Muslim world and US-Iran negotiations in particular. Featured were two Iran experts, Dr. Flynt Leverett, Professor of International Affairs at Pennsylvania State University’s School of International Affairs; and his wife, Hillary Mann Leverett, a Senior Adjunct Professor at the School of International Service at American University. The discussion attracted a variety of people, including intellectuals interested in peace studies came from the SIT Graduate Institute, individuals from the World Affairs Council, undergraduate students from the Five Colleges, and local residents. The Leveretts spoke about their book Going to Tehran: Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran, which advocates for a radical shift in US policy toward Iran: exchanging hostility for cooperation and interacting with the Republic in a way that acknowledges its legitimacy, rather than perpetuating the caricatures of the government that label it temporary and on the verge of collapse. The talk  sparked a lively discussion and was a refreshingly alternative  perspective from what is found in mainstream outlets.

To listen to a podcast of the event, click here.

We are currently on summer break and will resume programming in the Fall. Stay tuned!  

 

EVENTS

DIVIDED BY GOD: UNDERSTANDING AMERICA'S RELIGIOUS-SECULAR DIVIDE

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TUE. MAY 23, 7-9 PM

763 Longmeadow Street, Longmeadow, MA 01106

Speakers: Prof. Sudha Setty and Dr. Peter Gottschalk

UNDERSTANDING THE RESURGENCE OF WHITE POWER

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Speaker: Mr. Christian Picciolini

Watch video here 

These events are part of our Transforming this Moment series and are organized in partnership with the Karuna Center for Peacebuilding. For more details, please click here. Our events are made possible by Mass Humanities, whose grants inspire considered thoughts, conversations, and action
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MUSLIM YOUTH WORKSHOPS

 Islamic Networks Group

May 13, 2017

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INCLUSIVE COMMUNITIES COALITION

A network of educators, religious clergy, law-enforcement personnel, social workers, and Muslim community leaders committed to building inclusive communities. More here

CC TV SHOWS

Prof. Sudha Setty on the future of American-Muslims under the Trump administration

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Watch here

Mr. Daryl Johnson on homegrown extremism

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See all episodes