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ABDUL GHAFFAR KHAN

Throughout human history, violence has been a recurring theme. Some attribute this to religious teachings, while others argue that human nature is to blame. However, it is undeniable that Abdul Ghaffar Khan discovered the peaceful aspects of both humanity and religion. Born into a Pashtun family in the Peshawar Valley, now part of modern-day Pakistan, Badshah Khan, or "King Khan," experienced a turbulent upbringing, as this essay will demonstrate. Despite a culture that often condoned and even promoted violence, Abdul Ghaffar Khan championed non-violence for his people and his faith. He showed that even a population deemed violent by Gandhi could embrace a peaceful path.

 

Born in 1890, A.G. Khan's upbringing was far from peaceful. Reflecting on his childhood, he noted the violent tendencies he inherited from his Pashtun ancestors: "As a young boy, I had violent tendencies; the hot blood of the Pathans was in my veins" (Easwaran 141). Despite this legacy, Khan rejected the violent customs, such as the badal, or code of "blood vengeance," and began to view Islam and morality as inherently non-violent. He interpreted Muhammad's teachings as a call for peace and redefined 'jihad' as an inner struggle to quell violent impulses. Khan dedicated himself to promoting this non-violent perspective, a challenging task in a region under British rule with a history of violent traditions. Drawing inspiration from Islam and Gandhi's work in northern India, Khan sought to unite people and foster religious tolerance. In doing so, he defied conventional norms and provided a platform for progressivism, even in the face of personal tragedy.

 

The loss of a spouse can leave a lasting impact, and Khan's two wives both met tragic ends. Despite this heartache and spending over 30 years in prison, A.G. Khan remained steadfast in his commitment to love and peace. His dedication allowed him to persuade more than 100,000 Muslims and northern Indians to renounce violence and adopt a non-violent worldview under the banner of his Khudai Khidmatgars. Known as the "Servants of God," these red-shirted pacifists resisted British rule and later Pakistani politics. Despite persecution and, in some cases, the murder of their own, Khan's followers remained loyal to him and the principle of non-violence. He promoted a peaceful interpretation of Islam and advocated for the rights of all people, regardless of gender or religious background.

 

Many Muslims believed that the term "People of the Book" or "Dhimmi" referred exclusively to Islam, with all others deemed infidels. Abdul Ghaffar Khan introduced the idea that all religions with teachings of love should be considered "People of the Book." He stated, "My religion is truth, love, and service to God and humanity. Every religion that has come into the world has brought the message of love and brotherhood. Those who are indifferent to the welfare of their fellowmen, whose hearts are empty of love, they do not know the meaning of religion" (Khan, Abdul Ghaffar). While orthodox Muslims may have rejected this notion, Khan remained committed to it, supporting the education of Christians and English speakers and advocating for gender equality within his communities. He believed in equal rights for women, including the freedom to dress as they wished, and rejected the traditional practice of veiling. Khan's progressive views were decades ahead of their time, and he consistently stood by his values.

 

A.G. Khan collaborated closely with Mohandas Gandhi and worked to unite the Pashtun people in what would become Pakistan. As a member of the Indian National Congress, Khan was arrested multiple times for his advocacy of a unified population. During his incarceration, he studied the Quran, 

which further solidified his belief in its peaceful teachings. However, his support from India diminished after the Muslim League took power and Pakistan was established. Following Gandhi's assassination in 1948, A.G. Khan found himself alone. Despite pledging allegiance to Pakistan, he continued to push for Pashtun independence and the rights of Hindus in the region. He even denounced the Pakistani government and criticized the Pakistani guards as "worse than the British" (Khan, Abdul Ghaffar). The Khudai Khidmatgars faced heightened oppression under Pakistani rule, culminating in the "Charsadda Massacre," which left many dead, with estimates ranging from 50 to possibly 2,000 or more. Khan's resilient spirit persisted throughout his life, resulting in arrests and threats in Pakistan and the Middle East. He was hailed as a hero in some places and persecuted as a revolutionary in others, but his commitment to non-violent independence remained unshaken until his death in 1988.

 

Abdul Ghaffar Khan's life is a testament to his devotion to the love and independence of all "God's creatures." Although often overshadowed in historical accounts, he rightfully earned the title of the "Frontier Gandhi." His achievements were largely suppressed by governments that sought to quell his ideology and maintain their vision of Pakistan. Nevertheless, A.G. Khan's legacy proves that Islam is not inherently violent. Despite the aggressive teachings of Bin Laden's Jihad and the unfortunate stereotypes resulting from the 9/11 attacks, a more peaceful interpretation of Islam is embodied by Badshah Khan. He paved the way for a progressive and non-violent approach not only for Muslims but for all people. Furthermore, he demonstrated that even a population steeped in violence could embrace peace through proper guidance and teachings. While his lessons and methods may remain relatively unknown, they hold the potential to inspire contemporary society to learn from his example.

A LOVING FEAR

Love and fear have eternally remained the cardinal points of discourse, regardless of the subject, be it religion, politics, economics, or the meaning of life. The 16th century, a period of profound change and intellectual awakening, is frequently referenced to illuminate contemporary dilemmas. In this regard, the writings of Niccolò Machiavelli are particularly influential. His treatise "The Prince" provides profound insights into the dynamics of power, how it can be preserved and how easily it can be lost. Given its basis in millennia of human history and Machiavelli's personal experiences, "The Prince" transcends its historical context, offering lessons not only for the monarchs of his era but also for the political leaders of today.

 

To illustrate the enduring relevance of Machiavelli, it is apt to consider a critical juncture in modern history, almost four centuries after the publication of "The Prince." World War II, a colossal struggle for power, reshaped global politics. During this period, Italy was under the fascist rule of Benito Mussolini, who seemingly embodied Machiavelli's principles. In his essay, "Preludio al Machiavelli," Mussolini linked Machiavelli's philosophy to the fascist ideology, asserting the necessity for the populace's unwavering loyalty to the state. Mussolini's notion of statehood and leadership echo Machiavelli's teachings, where he emphasizes the necessity of citizen cooperation with their leader for maintaining authority. This Machiavellian doctrine inspired not only Mussolini but also other influential leaders like Hitler, Stalin, and Lenin.

 

The question of whether it is more advantageous for a leader to be loved or feared is a recurring theme in political discourse. Contrary to the common misinterpretation, Machiavelli does not advocate fear over love. In Chapter 17 of "The Prince," he suggests that the ideal scenario is for a ruler to be both loved and feared. However, given the complexities of governance, if one must choose, then it is safer to be feared. This perspective does not imply that ruling through fear is superior for a nation's wellbeing, but rather it is more conducive to maintaining power. This principle was notably employed by Hitler, who manipulated fear and strength to consolidate his rule and expand his territory, and Mussolini, who suppressed democratic ideals to establish a dictatorship.

 

The relevance of "The Prince" to contemporary society and leadership is not a matter of debate; rather, the focus should be on which aspects of the book resonate with which leaders. Machiavelli's work transcends its context, offering an analysis of the human condition in relation to power, without being confined to a particular nation or religion. His commentary on the human tendencies in power dynamics is still evident in modern American politics. For instance, the faction-based party system in America, where declaring oneself against another candidate or policy can either garner praise or incite hatred, parallels Machiavelli's views on the strategic importance of committing to a stance rather than remaining neutral.

 

These examples only scratch the surface of the lessons that can be gleaned from Machiavelli's work. While his references to princes and Italy can be seen as relics of a bygone era, they can be universally applied to leaders and governments across the globe. "The Prince" is a distillation of historical triumphs and failures, and while it belongs to the past, it is no less applicable today. The cyclical pattern of rise and fall of leaders will persist as long as human conflict exists. Understanding the mechanisms behind this cycle, as explained in "The Prince," can prevent unscrupulous leaders from gaining power and ensure the reign of benevolent ones. Thus, dismissing Machiavelli's treatise as a mere historical commentary is 

not only shortsighted but also risks a repetition of past mistakes, some of which have had devastating consequences. By recognizing the timeless lessons within "The Prince," we can better inform our decisions and actions in the present, fostering a more stable and just society.

 

Machiavelli's exploration of the human psyche, the dynamics of power, and the consequences of leadership choices have transcended time and geography. His work has influenced political thought and practice across centuries, from the monarchies of the Renaissance to modern democracies. It is imperative that we continue to analyze and learn from "The Prince," for it offers invaluable insights into the complexities of power and governance that remain relevant today.

 

The above examples are merely a fraction of those that can be related to Niccolò Machiavelli’s writing. He writes in terms of princes and Italy but that can just as easily be replaced by the term leader and in any government or country. His book is one that has learned from the successes and failures of the past, and while the book itself has now also fallen into the past this does not make it any less relevant to today. For as long as humans argue and fight with each other the rise of princes or leaders will always be there, and the subsequent fall of those very same people will follow. Knowing why and how, is what will prevent the “vile” princes from obtaining power and keep the “good and kind” princes in control, so to look at the book as simply a commentary of his time is not only a waste but what can cause a repeat of the past, a past of tragedy in some cases.

Christianity at the Crossroads

The United States, a melting pot of diverse cultures and religions, was founded upon the principles of religious freedom and the separation of church and state. As such, the nation has a complex and ever-evolving history of Christianity's influence on its culture and politics. Although society is becoming increasingly secular and religiously diverse, Christianity remains a significant force in American politics. This essay will delve into the current state of Christianity in America and its impact on the nation's political landscape, taking into account the shifting dynamics, the challenges, and the opportunities that arise from this relationship.

Throughout American history, Mainstream Protestantism and Roman Catholicism have been the peanut butter and jelly of America's political sandwich, sticking to social movements and moral concerns. "Protestant Christianity has been a major force in the shaping of the nation’s culture and politics since the colonial era". While much of the media focuses on the damages and extremes of Christianity, more often than not these traditions have led to substantial progress in areas like civil rights, women's suffrage, and environmental stewardship. While their influence has declined recently, they continue to contribute to political discourse and policy in meaningful ways."Evangelical Protestants remain the largest single religious tradition in the United States, comprising 25.4% of the adult population in 2020". Roman Catholic politicians, such as President Joe Biden, often face the challenge of balancing their faith's teachings with their public duties – a political high-wire act, if you will. This struggle highlights the ongoing interplay between personal beliefs and political decision-making, trying to keep a strong faith of any religion while in a political office that promotes separation of that faith can not be an easy balance. Moreover, Mainstream Protestant denominations have actively engaged in social justice initiatives, promoting policies that address issues like poverty, racism, and climate change, proving that faith can still rock the boat even if the bad apples are the ones shown in the media. The rise of conservative evangelical Christianity in the mid-twentieth century, spearheaded by the Moral Majority, has undoubtedly left an indelible mark on American politics. "During the 1980s, the Moral Majority emerged as a powerful political force, mobilizing conservative Christians to become more active in the political process". This segment of the Christian community has become a major voting bloc, with many of its members cozying up to the Republican party like peas in a pod. Consequently, the growing influence of conservative evangelicals has led to the development of a more socially conservative political agenda, emphasizing issues such as abortion, LGBTQ+ rights, and religious freedom. To many this has been a major source of friction and it can not be argued that the clash of sexual or romantic freedoms and religion is now much more common ground. These conservative evangelicals have played a crucial role in shaping political agendas by supporting candidates who share their values and influencing legislation related to their core issues. 

They've also impacted the judicial system, as seen in the appointment of conservative judges who may be more inclined to uphold religious freedom and anti-abortion policies. "Roman Catholicism's influence on American society has been significant, particularly in areas such as education, health care, and social services". One could argue it's like they've got their hands in every political cookie jar. 
 

The Decline of Christianity and the Rise of Religious Pluralism 

 

The influence of conservative evangelicalism may be waning as church membership declines and younger generations distance themselves from organized religion almost like teenagers shunning their parents' music. "Americans’ membership in houses of worship continued to decline last year, dropping below 50% for the first time in Gallup’s eight-decade trend". This shift coincides with the rise of religious pluralism in America, as non-Christian faiths such as Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and various Indigenous traditions gain prominence. This growing diversity presents both challenges and opportunities for the future of Christianity's role in American politics, like a game of religious Tetris we are beginning to stack upon each other. "The number of Americans who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic, or "nothing in particular" is now at a record high, with nearly one in four Americans (24%) identifying this way”. As religious demographics continue to shift, political parties may need to adapt their platforms to accommodate a more diverse range of religious perspectives. This could lead to a broader and more inclusive political discourse that better represents the nation's changing religious landscape. Additionally, Christians from various traditions may find common ground with other religious communities, forming coalitions that advocate for shared values and goals, like a multi-faith Avengers team.
 

Secularization and the Debate over Religion in the Public Sphere

 

 As American society becomes increasingly secular, debates over the role of religion in the public sphere can often be hotter than a jalapeño pepper. On one side you find many arguing that religious beliefs should remain a private matter, while on the other there are those who contend that faith has a place in informing political discourse and decision-making. "In a 2020 survey, 63% of U.S. adults said that churches and other houses of worship should stay out of political matters, while 36% said they should express their views on social and political questions". This ongoing conversation reflects the complex relationship between religion and politics in the United States, as well as the need for a more inclusive and pluralistic approach to political engagement; one can think about it like a potluck dinner where everyone brings something to the table, but not everyone wants a bite. A key aspect of this debate is the interpretation of the First Amendment, which provides that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Some argue that this separation of church and state should extend to preventing religious beliefs from influencing political decisions, looking at it like an invisible force field keeping the two apart and resisting the effect of dogmatism. On the other hand, others maintain that faith can and should inform political discourse, almost as if it's some sort of secret ingredient in the grand recipe of society that adds the flavor of morals and depth of consciousness. 

Christianity's impact on American politics is a multifaceted and continually evolving tapestry, with Mainstream Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, and conservative evangelicalism each weaving their threads into the nation's political fabric. As America's people become more secular and religiously diverse, the future of Christianity's influence on politics remains uncertain. Perhaps we should look at it like a weather forecast that keeps changing, one day the rain of Catholic Judges, the next a snow of secular atheists. Regardless, the continued engagement of Christians in the public sphere, alongside adherents of other faiths, can contribute to a richer and more inclusive political discourse. In the face of shifting religious demographics and growing secularism, it  can be argued that it is crucial for Christians to remain engaged in political discourse and find common ground with other religious communities, like a dance where everyone learns each other's steps,  and we realize it's not a matter of where we end up on the dance floor but rather whom we are dancing with.

It is important to note as well that as the debate over the role of religion in the public sphere continues, it is essential to strike a balance between respecting the separation of church and state and allowing religious beliefs to inform political decision-making, at least from an inclusivity stand point. This delicate balance will help ensure that the United States remains a nation that upholds religious freedom and values the contributions of various religious traditions to its political landscape. Christianity's influence on American politics is a complex and dynamic phenomenon that reflects the nation's diverse religious heritage. By recognizing and embracing this complexity, American society can continue to navigate the relationship between religion and politics in a way that promotes inclusivity, respect, and the common good. The debate of religion is an ancient and seemingly unending one, however our goal isn't to end it, but rather ensure it stays a debate of words, and not of violence. 
 

Bibliography 

 

Balmer, R. (2019). Evangelicalism in America. Baylor University Press.

 

Jones, J. M. (2021, March 29). U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time. Gallup. 

 

J. T. (2003). Catholicism and American Freedom: A History. W.W. Norton & Company. 

 

Noll, M. A. (2015).In the Beginning Was the Word: The Bible in American Public Life, 1492-1783. Oxford University Press.

 

 Pew Research Center. (2020, July 7). Americans' Views on Religion in Society, Politics, and Life.

 

 Pew Research Center. (2021, January 4). Faith Among Black Americans. 

 

The First Amendment, U.S. Constitution (1791)

ANTHROPOLOGY, ACADEMIA AND 9/11

            September 11th, 2001, is a day that lives in infamy and became the key formative event for much of the population within the United States. For many they remember a day at work, at school or just out and about doing chores and suddenly being shown the terrible footage of the two planes crashing into the world trade center. Some of us listened to the calls of family members involved or even were present in New York the day it happened. No matter the perspective the shift seen in society both as a nation and our view of other nations changed dramatically. I am most curious about the shift in Academics from both the Professors and students and more specifically the Anthropologists view. How did teaching styles change and were students more focused on topics that otherwise would have been a burner elective? Did the prejudices and stereotypes edge their way into not only professors teaching style but even official studies abroad? I will be Interviewing Dr. Lori Lee who earned her Ph.D. in Anthropology specializing in Historical Archaeology, I will be using her unique perspective as both a student and a professor to gain more insight on how 9/11 affected her and those around her.

            One of the very first questions I wanted to ask Dr. Lee before anything thing else was simply where she was during 9/11. I wanted to know where she was living, what brought her there and where she wanted to be at that time. These details of what most consider small talk at a dinner table are in fact quite important if we are to understand 9/11 from her unique perspective and really compare and contrast the effect that event had on the academic community both in schools and in the field.  After many conflicting schedules myself and Dr. Lee finally found time to speak. I asked her my question on her life in 9/11 and to say it was quiet the surreal situation is an understatement. Only three weeks prior to 9/11 Dr. Lee was married and living on Saint John, an island in the Caribbean and the smallest of the three U.S. Virgin Islands. She explained that she was working as both a Bio technician and a Cultural technician with the National Park service there. She spent most of her time living and sleeping in an Eco-Tent, however the week of September 11th she had the task of house siting for the superintendent of the program she was working under. This is an important detail to take note of as her access to news and more specifically U.S. news was limited because of her usual living situation. However, because she happened to be staying at a house with a T.V. and cable, she had the opportunity of being informed of the first plane crash before many of her coworkers. Dr. Lee explains “the first plane was all we saw, I was getting ready to leave for work so I didn’t have an opportunity to stay and watch”.  Dr. Lee explains that when she arrived at work she spoke with her resource manager about the plane crash, the manager either, not listening or at the very least not understanding the gravity of the situation essentially ignores her statement and focuses on the days work. This disregard of the importance of the situation often stems from who is spreading the information as we will see later in the paper in the months following 9/11 and the disparity it created. Some individuals have fallen into the belief of stereotype and sexism, the idea that pertinent information can not come from anthropologists or women. This belief unfortunately was shown by many during this time creating an even greater divide in an already divided topic.

            Continuing her day Dr. Lee explains she was able to pull up some news articles on the work computers and found the knowledge that a second plane had in fact collided with the tower. She brought this information forward to the same resource manager who responded Ironically with “why didn’t you tell me”, this response shows that he was in fact not listening to what Dr. Lee was attempting to relay much earlier in the day. Following this, the consensus came down that as federal employees they should not be congregated in one place and they were all sent home. This is where the perspective of 9/11 that Dr. Lee has is so unique compared to others, she was being sent “home” for the day from work. However, home is a foreign U.S. Territory with a population where many individuals are not necessarily fond of the control the United States has over where they live. Dr. Lee explains that bars were her usual source for news and updates as that was the most accessible T.V. While watching from within the bar, Dr. Lee notes that when reports or pictures of the 9/11 attack were shown it was not uncommon for some individuals to show not just indifference but in some ways a positive sentiment to what happened. This contrast seems unthinkable to many American’s living within the states, the concept that you could be ok with such a tragedy seems in many ways heartless. However, one must understand the perspective of many of the individuals there and the knowledge they had at the time. Many of the residents there are not allowed U.S. citizen ship yet deal with US rule. This power dynamic has left some people with a distaste and distrust of the United States, pair this with the idea that many of them did not have all the information on the actual numbers of death and those effected, and it is possible to understand, perhaps not accept though, the perspective of those that cheered instead of mourned when images of 9/11 appeared. Now while all this is going on, Dr. Lee is also working on her dissertation, she was finished with all her course work but still communicated with the school through email and meetings. Due to a series of events bolstered by the difficulties of 9/11 she was unable to pursue her original dissertation and instead completed her dissertation on the consumerism of enslaved peoples of the antebellum era, in the advent of time we did not discuss deeply on the details however it led to a discovery and questions I had not expected to come across during this interview. A different angle of 9/11 I had not thought about nor had any knowledge of was the fact that many historical items were lost during the towers collapse. Among those lost was the remains and items from over 496 African Burials within the Manhattan area nearby. An African Burial ground that is expected to have well over 1000 graves with beads and works directly from Africa was being excavated partially due to construction. This led to a large debate and eventual understanding that these items and remains need to be protected led to them being held in the world trade center while waiting for a new area to be made ready for them to remain. Unfortunately, they never made it back out of the trade center and were destroyed with the building collapse. This crushing blow to the anthropological world was one of many. The months and even years following 9/11 showed a huge shift in national agenda and consequently the funding seen in academia.

Dr. Lee explained that following 9/11 “political ideology and diverseness, academia and funding were greatly effected” and that “Paid research was only for national security”. This brought up many questions and just as many issues. Many began to ask if people are going to be forced to give up information like many have seen before. Dr. Lee told of situations where governmental or outside agencies was use anthropologists to learn information about a nation or people in order to control or hurt them. With many Anthropologists’ working in or on the Middle East environment, this question of immoral use of information became a focus. This brought lots of funding on studies and projects that before were not really on the main stage. This sudden focus of the worlds views on this topic brought forth what Dr. Lee calls “just in time scholars” or in other words, scholars that have been working in the field of the middle east that are now being looked at as the expert in that field however may not have the expertise required to make proper decisions politically about their field of study. Some may argue that this dynamic led to many of the poor decisions seen in the wars and actions pushed by the United States the years following.  Unfortunately, this massive shift in focus and study meant that many of the advances being made in other fields outside of National Security lost funding and public view. The work of Dr. Lee and the Plantations and Slaves on Saint John were not easily relatable to national security so any access to funding was minimal if existent at all. This lack of funding meant many projects across Anthropology and even other fields had to be abandoned or were greatly slowed down in progress. Dr. Lee comments on this effect and how we are today in academia, “we are in a very different academic environment than it use to be”. She explains that many of her colleagues shifted focus on what they were studying and many of her friends decided to drop everything and join the military. This was seen across the states, this shift had a massive impact on not only what was studied but also who was studying it. Majors that were not as populated became more sought after. Teaching styles and the talk on a way forward became even more divided in this already divided environment. Dr. Lee mentions that although there was a lot going on as a whole the Anthropological community was looking at ways to help avoid conflict as much as possible. Understanding the situations and the cultures involved to better handle the way forward. Another aspect she noted was different was the involvement of politics on campus, with the addition of so much focus on foreign policy, the politics found its way into much of academia. This influence of politicizing education led to situations where certain topics were not allowed to be talked about or could only be explained in a certain way. This has never been seen to be acceptable in academia before and is something that could greatly hurt and already hurting community.

These tough situations were made even tougher by the intense strengthening of Security and the stark reality of racism.  Dr. Lee’s Husband at the time was originally born in Chile and travel across South America for art. Before 9/11 traveling from the Caribbean to the United States was relatively easy and normal. Following the months and now years after 9/11 Dr. Lee explains she saw extreme security measures and stereotyping. Her husband was stopped nearly every time for interrogation while traveling through the U.S. The Anti- Muslim sentiment was seen growing across the nation, the Anthropological communities main goal was to disparage and stop any misinformation or interpretation of not only the religion but its people. Yet again another pressure thrown on to an already stressed community in Academia.

            All these stressors and details combined give a greater understanding of the effect 9/11 had on many communities and ethnicities especially that of Dr. Lee’s community of Anthropology and academia. We can see that 9/11 brought fourth many diverse perspectives and ideologies found within the United States as well as the disparity in groups such as the anthropologist and even the female anthropologist. This effect is seen today in the politicized environment we find all of academia in right now as well as the need to focus on more than one perspective of any debate. Dr. Lee’s stories explain the surreal difference in all of those perspectives as well as just how complex a situation 9/11 created within the many different groups in and outside the United States. She has given insight onto the changes that academics faced as well as the overlooked importance of the effect 9/11 had on academia and those within it.

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