This morning, I awoke to the always insightful Krista Tippet—whose "On Being" is one of the only shows on faith and religion that I can listen to routinely—having a remarkable discussion with anthropologist Scott Atran, discussing how in the decade since 9/11, the Muslim world, and its youth, have changed dramatically… but our world view of them has not.
With anthropologist Scott Atran, we make deeper sense of the human dynamics in the Middle East and North Africa. Atran offers bracing context on the promise of this moment and the response it asks from the watching world.
Being old enough to have worked with Margaret Mead, the bulk of Atran's career has been spent studying the root causes of religious and social conflict, and has followed the track of evolution behind globalism, Islam, and terrorism all over the world. Among the many fascinating threads of insight that he unravels, intentionally, or not, are how our perceptions and understanding of these things are completely distorted by our culture biases in general, but especially by the political and economic propaganda that are designed to block any hope of understanding them.
"And now they are foisting this view of the Muslim Brotherhood on everyone…. these guys are keystone cops…"
In this interview, you will hear things about Islam you have never heard before. Not just that Al-Qaeda barely exists anymore (it's about 100 people, now), but also that Jihadists come from a youth culture that never studied religion as children (in Madrasahs or anywhere else), and that Barack Obama (had been) a bigger hero to much of Islam than Bin Laden ever was (but not because he was purportedly a Muslim).
But those are just a few teasers I picked at random. I have more notes on this interview than any I have heard in many years.
Anyone, but especially those rare thinking conservatives who have been fed such a steady diet of utter bullshit about Islam for years, must listen to this interview end-to-end. The final points are some of the most important. It may be one of the most important educations that any global citizen can hear.
Note: It is programs like this that make me tremble with rage at the thought of the right wing ever actually being able to shut down NPR. As flawed and corporatist as it can be so often, it remains one of our few mass media links to the kinds of operational scholarly intelligence that built the world that so many of us now take for granted (at great peril to our future).
- Listen Now (direct MP3 link to show
- The unedited interview (don't listen to this first) — This is a rare NPR trend that not enough hosts have the guts to do. It's so compelling to hear such conversations happening in real time, as they might happen in your living room.