The Power of Conversation

My old friend Charles Cameron has become involved with a very interesting conversation with an erstwhile al-Qaeda leader that has been going on in the blogosphere. Al-Masri’s reply to Charles was very interesting. Here is what I said to Charles:

This is an amazing correspondence. Bravo on being part of it.

For me the most significant thing, underlying all the others, is the
Richard/Saladin image. Basically the import of Al-Masri’s writing is
a desire for respect, to be treated as an honorable equal. That was
why he responded with such chivalry to Farrall and with such
enthusiasm to your own revelation of your warrior ancestry.

I think that the Ummah itself wants one symbolic victory, where it has
the moral advantage and the chance for magnanimous action in victory.
It was Egypt’s few days of success in the Yom Kippur war that gave it the
sense of self-respect to make peace with Israel.

[If we allowed] breathing room for the grand, generous, sexist, sentimental sense of
Muslim honor, all or most of our strategic objectives might be
achieved in negotiation.

By Frederick Turner

Professor, poet, lecturer, black belt, and more.

6 replies on “The Power of Conversation”

Thanks, Fred.

I very much appreciate your posting this. As I have told you, I’m hoping to respond to Abu Walid’s comments about the mutual respect between Saladin and Richard Coeur de Lion with a post of my own about the somewhat similar encounter of St Francis with Saladin’s nephew, the Sultan Malik al-Kamil at Damietta.

It seems to me that from the time of the Companions, as evidenced by the story of the duel of Ali ibn Abu Talib with Amru ibn Abd Wudd, chivalry has been very highly regarded in Islam — a fact that we might all benefit from acknowledging, and one that I imagine will be at the core of my future dialogue with Abu Walid.

I posted the story of the duel earlier on Zenpundit:

As I noted there, the story is also told with lyrical admiration by Rumi in his Mathnawi:

I think the world is much better off when the Saladins and Richard Coeur de Lions of the world become CEOs rather than political/military leaders. The world is certainly richer for it when it happens.

Now all we need are some epics on Saladin, CEO, and we might get people to believe it.

It’s slightly off topic, but I’m currently teaching a group of 13 Saudi teenagers, and I’ve found that sincere appeals to their sense of honour and manhood are far more effective than the carrot/stick methods we use in public schools here.

There’s quite a difference between telling a group of 15 year olds that you expect them to act like adults and telling them that you expect them to act like men.

Odds are that it would work well with any group of 15 yr olds, telling the boys you expect them to act like men, and the girls you expect them to act like women. “Adults” is too vague a term.

Not only vague, but nagging and pedantic, like the covertly self-interested teaching behavior Robert Trivers theorizes about in Parent Offspring Conflict.

As an adult male, I’d be uncomfortable telling 15 year old girls to act like women. Thank goodness my own daughters will stay 10 years old forever. *cough cough* What were we talking about?

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