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Indybay Feature

DOES GOD LOVE WAR?: The Fine Line Between Faith and Fanaticism

Saturday, March 11, 2006
7:00 PM - 10:00 PM
Event Type:
Zaytuna Institute
Location Details:
Martin Luther King Jr Middle School Auditorium
1781 Rose Street / Berkeley, CA 94704/ Free off-street parking
An evening of conversation with
CHRIS HEDGES (Pulitzer-Prize winning NY Times War Correspondent)
HAMZA YUSUF (Prominent American Muslim Theologian)
Have the teachers of our religions failed us? Or have we not been listening? From leaders of America's Christian Right seemingly forgetting that "Blessed are the Peacemakers," to Jewish rabbis watching unflinchingly as collective punishment is doled out to Arabs in Palestine, to Muslim jurists ruling that civilian victims are acceptable under a Just War, the three great Abrahamic faiths are increasingly facing accusations of ignoring the sanctity of life. Some, pointing perhaps to Malcolm X when he famously advised a group of black nationalists to, "Leave your religion at home," are not surprised, believing religion is best at dividing, not uniting; others argue, often just as persuasively, that this new penchant the religious have for the immediacy of violent solutions is bred from ideas other than those rooted in sound religious tradition. The same Malcolm X, after all, boldly argued from Mecca that only a belief in the Oneness of God could harmonize a discordant America. Can our current leaders-and some of us-achieve a similar understanding?

And so, does religion offer a way toward reconciliation? Or has it instead become part of the problem? Please join us for an enlightening conversation between two teachers worth listening to: Pulitzer Prize-winner and National Book Award-finalist Chris Hedges and the distinguished American-Muslim thinker and theologian, Hamza Yusuf.

Chris Hedges is a reporter for The New York Times and has spent 15 years covering crises in many conflict-ridden locations including El Salvador, Nicaragua, Algeria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Iraq, Sarajevo and Kosovo. His debut book, War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, has been reviewed by the Times,The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and is a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Hedges has also appeared on a variety of radio and television programs such as "Charlie Rose," "The News Hour," "CBS Sunday Morning," "Fresh Air," "Talk of the Nation," CNN and PBS's "Religion and Ethics." He has lectured at numerous colleges and institutions including Harvard, Yale, Columbia, University of California at Berkeley, The Council on Foreign Relations, Bates College, New York University and Colgate University.

In War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, Hedges addresses humanity's love affair with war, offering a moving and thought-provoking perspective on the subject. He draws on the literature of combat, from Homer and Shakespeare, Erich Maria Remarque and Michael Herr. Hedges cautions that even for the winners, war unleashes unforeseen consequences. At a time when the US is girding itself for yet another military showdown, the message of this book is particularly timely.

Hedges holds a BA in English literature from Colgate University, a master of divinity from Harvard Divinity School where he was a Neiman Fellow, and taught at Columbia University. He then went on to teach at Princeton University in the fall of 2003.

Hedges was the Central American Bureau Chief for the Dallas Morning News and later the Middle East Bureau Chief for that newspaper, based in Jerusalem, from 1988 to 1990. He was the Middle East Bureau Chief for The New York Times, based in Cairo, from 1991 to 1995 and later the Balkans Bureau Chief for the Times from 1995 to 1998. He was a member of The New York Times team that won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting for the paper's coverage of global terrorism and he received the 2002 Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism. In 2005, Hedges published Losing Moses on the Freeway: The Ten Commandments in America.

Source: American Program Bureau

Hamza Yusuf is regarded as one of the foremost Muslim thinkers and theologians in the English-speaking world. Hamza Yusuf’s story is of both the East and the West, of both Islam and America. Born in southern Washington state and named after a Shakespearean scholar, Yusuf became a Muslim in 1977. The son of a humanities professor and a civil rights activist, he enjoyed an intellectually nurturing upbringing and, soon after accepting Islam, embarked upon a search for knowledge that would introduce him to the East. That search has led him to take seriously the saying, “Blessed are the Peacemakers,” and, since September 11, 2001, he has spent more than half his time away from home in an effort to foster meaningful dialogue between the East and the West.

As a new Muslim, Yusuf stayed briefly in England, then moved to the United Arab Emirates for four years, and on to Saudi Arabia as well as North and West Africa to pursue instruction in the various disciplines of Islam. He immersed himself in the study of classical Arabic, Qur’anic exegesis, jurisprudence, the traditions of the Prophet, theology and spiritual psychology. He has been granted teaching licenses in several of Islam’s disciplines. After more than a decade in the East, Yusuf returned to the United States in 1998 and co-founded the Zaytuna Institute to help revive the traditional Islamic sciences. Zaytuna, located in Hayward, California, has rapidly established an international reputation for presenting a classical picture of Islam in the West.

Widely admired for a fluid familiarity with scholarship from both the East and the West, Yusuf has delivered lectures at some of the world’s most prominent universities. The first American lecturer to teach in Morocco's oldest university, the venerable Kairoiuin in Fes, he has also been a guest of Morocco's King Hasan II and now of his son, King Muhammad VI, for the last several years at the Ramadan Lectures. He has translated into modern English several classical Arabic texts and poems, including the newest rendering of the 13th century devotional poem, the Burda, or The Poem of the Cloak. Most recently, he published Purification of the Heart, a translation and commentary of Imam al-Mawlud’s Matharat al-Qulub, a nineteenth century text that examines the conditions and treatments of the spiritual heart.

Since September 11th, Yusuf has advised the President of the United States, addressed the House of Lords and the Welsh Assembly in the United Kingdom, and counseled the Secretary General of the Arab League and several Arab foreign ministers. He was invited to represent American Muslims at the 2001 Muslim-Christian Summit hosted by the Community of Sant’Egidio in Rome. He has written numerous editorials and essays and has also appeared on several national and international media outlets as an outspoken advocate for a better understanding between the Muslim East and the modern West.

Hamza Yusuf currently resides in Northern California with his wife and children.

Source: Zaytuna Institute

Safir Ahmed (Moderator) is a long-time journalist and editor. He began his career at the Pulitzer-family-owned daily newspaper in St. Louis, Missouri, where he was first a reporter and then a metro editor. He went on to edit that city’s national-award-winning weekly newspaper for 11 years. He has been the Editorial Chair of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies and the Vice President of the Independent Media Institute. For more than a decade, he was moderator of a cable television program on international news, where he moderated discussions between guest experts. He has directed communications for a U.S. Senate campaign. He was most recently the editor of AlterNet, a major national online newsmagazine, and currently serves as a book editor for Chelsea Green Publishing, an independent publishing house.

Driving Directions:
- Off of highway 80/580 take the University Avenue exit to Berkeley.
- Go East on University Avenue toward UC Berkeley.
- Turn left at Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
- Turn left on Rose Street.
- School is on the right side. (Turn right on Cedar St. for free parking behind the school.)

Public Transportation Directions:
- Take the BART ( to the Downtown Berkeley Exit.
- Go to the South-East corner of Center Street & Shattuck Avenue. Board the AC Transit Bus #43. $1.75 Fare. (Runs every 20 minutes, at HH:06, HH:26 and HH:46)
- Depart the bus at the corner of Shattuck Place & Rose Street.
- Walk West on Rose Street approximately 5 blocks and arrive at the MLK Jr. Middle School. (1781 Rose Street)
- Enter on the Grant Street Entrance. (wheelchair accessible)

For more information:
Phone: (510) 582-1979
Added to the calendar on Sat, Mar 11, 2006 5:03AM
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