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The Women’s March: Perspectives from Los Angeles and beyond….

January 26th, 2017

march

This past Saturday, I was one of the millions of women and men on all seven continents who participated in the Women’s March. The march started as a movement on Facebook but quickly expanded to more than 600 “sister marches” in major U.S. cities outside of Washington D.C. and even outside the U.S. According to CNN, some 2.2 million people worldwide participated in marches from Australia to Hong Kong, New Zealand, UK, Italy, France, Germany, Serbia, Portugal, Spain, Greece, Kosovo, Georgia, The Netherlands, Macau, Mexico, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and as far south as Antarctica.

The final count for the crowd marching in my hometown Los Angeles was 750,000. It was heartening to see so many Angelinos, of all ages and ethnicities peacefully converging and marching through the streets of downtown Los Angeles. There were no police, at least in uniform, and no mayhem or looting, just happy peaceful people marching in solidarity for human rights, civil rights, women’s rights, and the health of our planet.

While we were marching in Los Angeles, hundreds of thousands of people were doing the same in the nation’s capital to show their solidarity and support for those who feel their rights may be threatened by the new administration, under Donald Trump who was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States on January 20, 2017. Tens of thousands of college students, faculty and administrators were also at the march in D.C. as they too feel their rights are under attack.

According to Madison Thomas, the march’s national coordinator for college engagement as reported by InsideHigher Education: “An estimated 50,000 students from college campuses across the country attended the Women’s March on Washington.” Many of these students had traveled from their college campuses far away to be at the march. InsideHigherEducation reports: “College women marched for reproductive rights and stronger legislation against sexual assault and sexual harassment. Some students said they were marching for the rights of undocumented immigrants, Muslims, members of the LGBT community, people of color and people with disabilities. And university professors marched for freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of inquiry and campus diversity.” Clearly, many see the current administration’s intended policies to be in direct conflict with the gains made during the previous administrations concerning women’s reproductive rights, women’s rights, human rights, and gender equality.

Participating at the march in DC, was Julie Schmid who is the executive director of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP); one of the groups that had partnered with the Women’s March. AAUP is deeply concerned about protecting freedom of expression and inquiry on college campuses and ensuring that qualify of education and accountability of educational institutions is not negatively impacted under the Trump administration. According to Ms. Schmid, AAUP had “members participating in over 600 sister marches across the country.”

Here in Los Angeles, I was overjoyed to see such a large contingency of young college- and even high school-aged women and men marching side by side chanting slogans and carrying signs supporting women’s rights. On the metro ride to the march, during the march and on our return home, I overheard informed and passionate conversations on the importance of having stronger legislation against sexual assault and sexual harassment on college campuses, as well as protecting the rights of undocumented immigrants, people of color, Muslims, people with disabilities, and members of the LGBT community.

The nationwide and global outpouring of support for the Women’s March and the record breaking numbers of participants highlight the significance of human rights and social justice issues. The question is if this global solidarity was a moment in time or start of a worldwide movement as more countries, especially in Europe lean toward extreme right leaning nationalistic political parties and candidates running for positions of leadership.

Links to sources:

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/01/23/tens-thousands-college-students-and-professors-march-washington

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/photo-essays/2017-01-21/the-women-s-march-in-pictures-from-washington-to-antarctica 

https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-01-21/women-s-march-draws-thousands-to-washington-to-protest-trump

http://www.thedp.com/article/2017/01/womens-march-reflections

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Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert is the President and CEO of the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI).

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

The Million Woman March: A Los Angeles Perspective

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I attended the Million Woman March in Los Angeles this past Saturday with several friends, and although I knew it would be crowded on the trains, the only logical transportation to the downtown location of the march, I never imagined exactly how crowded it would be. As of 2016 the “counted” population of the city exceeds 4 Million.

Our urban rail system is relatively new, and we spend a significant portion of time isolated in our cars on endless miles of streets and freeways, without much human contact. This is rapidly changing as the Metropolitan Transit Authority continues to make significant additions. Public transportation is the only way to understand the true nature of a city, sadly lost otherwise. Los Angeles is a polyglot, multicultural city with 224 languages spoken other than English, and it was a rare, unique moment in time when many of us converged, at the same place, at the same time, united in the same cause.

What an overwhelmingly beautiful thing to see and experience.

The first thing I noted was the way we all negotiated the new rules of personal space/distance. Perhaps it was because we were united in a singular cause, we seemed to be part of one organic form, functioning together, effortlessly, with unexpected grace and of all things, kindness. We were there for things much bigger, much more important, much more urgent than our personal issues of comfort.

No aggressive pushing, no shoving, all emotions channeled into a common cause. Not even a noticeable police presence, which is unheard of in protests in the city. Men, women, transgender, straight, gay, infants on their mother’s backs, grandmothers in wheelchairs, children holding signs on their father’s shoulders…all flowing together, extremely close together and everything just worked. 

I felt an overwhelming sense of empowerment, and a core feeling of joy. This is what the world should be like, this is what the world is moving towards, and my city is an outstanding example of how it can work in a “perfect world.”

Joining the masses moving effortlessly down the street, the views of the sheer numbers packed into streets and alleyways was staggering. Once we reached the stage set up in front of City Hall, and were lucky to position ourselves with a view down on the masses I had a realization that something else deeply significant had occurred, which warmed my heart and gave me hope for the next generation.

Driven by the critical nature of the serous issues we were and are protesting, we had, collectively as a society, altered the invisible overlay of puritanical ethics by casually using the word “pussy” so openly, so cavalierly…a slang word used in a defiling way, by Donald Trump, bounced around the world in a never-ending sound bite. These young parents, had to have explained it all to their children in some way that made sense. One father, surrounded by pink-hatted little girls, had his daughter on his shoulders.  Her neon-pink sign read “Don’t’ touch my …” with her own hand-drawn face of a kitty.

I tried to imagine the conversation he must have had with her, and I was filled again by the second wave of pride and hope for the future of our children. These young girls, and some boys, got it. They understood what we are all fighting for. This word, held up on hundreds of thousands of signs was a channel for the outrage and represented our refusal to accept the civic, personal, and human rights, the ecological and environmental abuses, the rising, and very frightening agenda to silence the voice of the people. 

The way I see it, is that these young parents have given us all hope, by shifting the paradigm. Their children have learned to fight, to stand up and continue to have their voices heard, and we need them.

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Jeannie Winston is a frequent guest blogger for ACEI’s Academic Exchange. Jeannie is an artist and writer living and working in Los Angeles, California. Jeannie completed her undergraduate studies in Illustration at The Arts Center of Pasadena, California.  Her vast and intricate knowledge of Los Angeles and its cultural history bring a new perspective to our understanding of the City of Angels. She draws her inspiration from the natural and inhabited world around her. She is especially inspired by her observations of cultural fusions and how people strive to invoke spirit in daily life.

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Three Timely Presidential Songs

November 14th, 2016

songs

With the election just over, I thought I’d call to mind some songs about U.S. presidents and elections — songs that either celebrate or poke a little fun at being POTUS. We can all use a little levity about now, right?

The first is “Tell Me Why You Like Roosevelt” by Otis Jackson. Jackson first recorded this tribute song in 1946, a year after Roosevelt’s death, and re-recorded it many times after. A book called Roosevelt’s Blues: African-American Blues and Gospel Songs on FDR by Guido van Rijn talks about this song as well as dozens of other blues and gospel songs that celebrated FDR, who was an important figure for the African American community. The video below is for part one of Jackson’s song, but there is a part two as well. I found it on a great album called Hot Gospel (Get Right with God) 1947-1953.

The second song is by the great bluesman Percy Mayfield with Johnny “Guitar” Watsonfrom 1974 called, “I Don’t Want to Be President.” It’s a fun and timely song by Billy Vera’s favorite singer-songwriter. I found it on an Atlantic Records two-LP set from the 1980’s called Atlantic Blues:Vocalists.

Finally, Ry Cooder wrote “Cold Cold Feeling” about presidential blues on his albumElection Special. The 2012 CD, released before Obama’s second term, also included the sad lament about Mitt Romney’s poor canine,”Mutt Romney Blues“.

toms

Tom Schnabel, M.A.

Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Blogs for Rhythm Planet
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons
www.tomschnabel.com

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What Sparked the Student Protests in South Africa?

October 13th, 2016

2016-10-16
University of Witwatersrand (Wits University) on Monday, protesters throwing rocks were dispersed by riot police using tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades. (Photo credit: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images)

Monday, October 10, 2016 was supposed to be the start of regular classes at the University of Witwatersrand but this did not happen as students continue their protests against tuition hikes.

Here is some background and update on the ongoing student protests in South Africa:

1. In 2015, tuition fee hikes of between 10% and 12% were proposed.

2. The demonstrations began last October at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. Students blocked the entrance to the university campus in protest against proposed hike in fees by 10.5% for 2016.

3. Under the banner #FeesMustFall, demonstration caused the closure of some of the country’s top universities. President Zuma ordered a freeze on tuition fees for a year.

4. Students have been protesting since September 20th, following the education minister’s announcement that universities can raise tuition up to 8 percent.

5. Protests at many universities have been peaceful. But at the University of Cape Town, protesters lobbed petrol bombs.

2016-10-16_2
Students protesting under the “FeesMustFall” banner. (Photo credit: BBC)

 

6. Fire destroyed a library at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).

7. Fires were set at Cape Peninsula of Technical (CPUT).

8. Students at Rhodes University put up burning barricades on campus streets.

9. President Jacob Zuma says the damage has cost the government more than $40 million.

10. According to President Zuma, the government has also absorbed $1 billion after similar protests forced a tuition fee freeze last year.

11. Annual increases in student fees differ between universities as fees are determined by institutions. Fees also vary by degree programs.

12. The government subsidizes tuition for poorer students, but undergraduate fees can be as high as $5,000 a year, which makes it unreachable for many black students.

13. More than two decades after the end of apartheid in 1994, South Africans continue to face extreme income inequality. The students want the opportunities they were promised when apartheid ended.

14. Protests show growing disillusionment with the governing African National Congress (ANC), which took power after 1994.

15. On Tuesday, October 11, 2016, President Zuma announced the establishment of a Ministerial Task Team to resolve the current impasse at institutions of higher learning. Those invited to serve on the  Task include heads of the following Ministries: The Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, Minister of Higher Education and Training, Minister of Science and Technology, Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Minister of Police, Minister of State Security, Minister of Defense and Military Veterans, and Minister of Home Affairs.  Absent from the team is the Minister of Finance who is set to answer a summons to appear in court on November 2. Ultimately, it is the Finance Ministry that would be tasked with finding the funds to address the funding issue for higher education.

For an audio/webinar presentation of this blog report on student protests in South Africa, please click here: http://www.anymeeting.com/mwemfxacpupn/E954DD83804B3F

Sources: 

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/10/10/497380342/photos-students-police-clash-in-south-africa-over-free-tuition demands?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=2036

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-37607757

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-34615004

http://www.thedailyvox.co.za/president-zuma-leaves-pravin-task-team-deal-feesmustfall/

http://www.thedailyvox.co.za/buildings-torched-overnight-wits-cput-ukzn/

http://www.dontparty.co.za/latest-news/is-feesmustfall-the-most-significant-protest-of-the-new-south-africa/

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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The New Normal in the 21st Century

September 22nd, 2016

robot
Police Robot sent on the mission to deactivate/detonate the suspicious object.

The “new normal” paid me a visit on September 20, 2016 at 7:02 AM PST. My husband and I woke to the sound of our neighbor knocking on our door alerting us to news that the police and bomb squad were outside our condominium building. A medium-sized pressure cooker was found sitting on the sidewalk directly in front of our building. In no time, our quiet non-descript neighborhood in West Los Angeles, was turned into a crime scene. LAPD had barricaded all roads and streets around us blocking all types of traffic.  The police robot was brought in which detonated the suspicious object. Luckily, the object was empty, no one was hurt though a little shaken. By 8:00 AM the police began lifting the barricades and one by one left the scene returning our neighborhood to normal.

This event happened at the heels of the bomb that exploded in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood over the weekend. The term I heard on the NPR news hour, following the Chelsea explosion, was that this is the “new normal.” For a second, I nodded in agreement; yes, this is now the new normal and we just have to continue with our lives. Yet, this is not the new normal at least not for those of us growing up in the 1970’s where the “new normal” was most likely originally introduced. In the 70’s, I was attending a boarding school in Bexhill-on-Sea, in Sussex County, England. This sleepy beach town, home to mostly blue-haired retirees and a couple of boarding schools, was the quintessential English town with charming tea shops and antique stores. Ensconced in the protective walls of my school, my classmates—fellow boarders from the four corners of the world—and I were hundreds of miles away from the terror and disruption experienced in European capitals like London, Munich, Rome and beyond. We did not have social media or round the clock cable news alerting us of terrorist attacks, but they existed and had become a part of our daily lives; the new normal.

Every morning, especially, in the last two years of my schooling, before the start of our classes, we would converge in the school’s small library and pour over the daily newspapers in preparation for a pop quiz to be delivered by our fastidious History teacher, Miss Wade, an Australian transplant. This exercise kept us abreast of the world, the ongoing war in Vietnam, the Cold War between the USA and USSR, the Watergate Scandal, terrorist threats and attacks by the Irish Republican Army (IRA), Spain’s Basque separatist group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), Italy’s Anni di Piombo (Years of Lead) and the Red Brigade, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the Libyans, Germany’s Red Army Faction aka Baader Mainhoff Gang, and other subversive groups with agendas to disrupt societies and topple governments. A day didn’t pass us by without news of a plane hijacking, explosion at an airport or Tube station in London, kidnappings of top government officials, and even the assassination of Aldo Moro, the Prime Minister of Italy. There was even the 1975 brazen hostage taking of oil ministers from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) who were meeting in Vienna, Austria by German and Arab terrorists led by Carlos the Jackal. And, let us not forget the brutal hostage taking and massacre of athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany. 

In September 1975, during a weekend visit to London, where I was going to spend the time with my father who was staying at the Hilton Hotel on a business trip, the lobby of the hotel became the target of a suspected IRA bomb explosion. My father and I had just the left the hotel to dine at a nearby restaurant and returned to find the entrance blocked off with police, ambulance and fire trucks parked outside in the driveway. Two people were killed and 63 people were injured in the main lobby. Londoners woke up the next day to the tragic news and set off to work, school, or on errands as before. It was the new normal.

Another time, in mid-70’s, when returning to England after a short holiday at home in Iran, the BOAC flight from Tehran to London made a surprise landing in Beirut, Lebanon. It may have been a technical problem which had forced the Captain to land us in Beirut. We were not allowed to disembark. I was most likely 13 or 14, traveling alone, something I did regularly on the trips between school and home and back. I had read about the civil war which had erupted in Lebanon and remember looking out the window of the airplane and through the darkness of the night, I could make out the silhouettes of tanks and military vehicles. It was an eerie sight and one that I remember clearly to this day. The plane sat on the tarmac for perhaps an hour but soon after takeoff the Captain apologized on the PA system for the unscheduled stop and explained how lucky we were to have taken off when we did as the airport had been the target of a bombing as soon as we were in the air.

In its March 25, 2016 article, The Telegraph includes a glimpse into what the world was like in the 70’s and 80’s, marred by terrorist attacks fueled by various governments and insurgent groups. The world, as the old saying goes, has not just recently gone to hell in a hand basket. Yes, there’s no denying the horrific impact and loss of lives brought on by this century’s recent terrorist attacks in the U.S., Norway, Spain, Belgium and France, the ravages of the Civil War in Syria, the Refugee crisis, the savagery of religious fanatics who will go unnamed as their mere mention gives their heinous acts credit.  In no way am I belittling or dismissing this century’s horrible acts of violence. The present is as equally horrible as the past. The new normal has been with us throughout history. I always say that the only way to understand or make sense of the present is to know our history. It will not lessen the grief for the loss of a loved one or a way of life, but knowing the lessons learned from the past offer us perspective and focus to understand the present so that we can courageously navigate our way through it empowered without feeling afraid and helpless. It may sound trite or simplistic, but there is something to be said for the two words “Carpe Diem,” so beautifully memorialized in the film “Dead Poet’s Society,” by the late actor/comedian Robin Williams. The lessons of the past are there for us to learn from. We need to know the past in order to survive the present with its currents threats and Seize the Day.

Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert

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Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert is the President and CEO of the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI).

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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How many countries?

August 5th, 2016

How many countries

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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10 Facts about the now defunct Trump University

March 5th, 2016

trump

With Donald Trump taking center stage in the upcoming Presidential Elections, stories of his now defunct Trump University have been resurrected and making the rounds in the news. In this week’s blog we offer you a few facts on the Trump University and a pending lawsuit filed by NY State Attorney General’s office.

1. Trump University was founded in 2004 as an online operation. Mr. Trump made an initial investment of about $2 million and based the business in the Trump Building at 40 Wall Street in Manhattan.  The day-to-day operations were managed by the Trump Organization and its affiliates.

2. Trump University was not an actual university but rather consisted of seminars promising lessons in real-estate investing.

3. The sales pitch was for potential students to attend a free 90-minute orientation after which they were encouraged to sign up for a three-day seminar at the cost of $1,495.

 

4. Students who enrolled at the three-day seminar were told they would earn six figure incomes in a year just for working five to seven hours a week. They were also told that Mr. Trump frequently dropped by at the seminars to share success tips, which students say did not happen.

5. Students who finished the three-day seminar were advised to register for the next level, known as the Elite mentorship and apprenticeship programs for additional costs of up to $35,000.

6. As early as 2005, the New York State Department of Education warned Trump University that it was operating an unlicensed educational institution in violation of state law, according to the investigation.

7. New York educational regulators said it was misleading and illegal for the company to call itself a university.In 2010, at the insistence of New York education regulators, Trump changed the name of his school to the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative.

8. In 2014, a New York state judge ruled that the company had operated illegally by not meeting state licensing requirements for education providers.

9. The ruling was part of an ongoing lawsuit by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, which also alleges that the company and its spokesman, Mr. Trump, made false and deceptive claims to students. As many as 7,000 people across the country bought the sales pitch, spending an estimated $40 million on the seminars offered by Trump University.

10. According to Mr. Schneirderman’s office, in 2009, an ad that was published at least 170 times promised students would “learn from Donald Trump’s handpicked instructors, and that participants would have access to Trump’s real estate ‘secrets.’ ” However, an investigation by Mr. Schneiderman’s office found this to be the contrary. Most of the seminars were found to have been run by motivational speakers and not instructors, one of whom was a manager at a Buffalo Wild Wings.

Update: On March 2, 2016, a state appeals court gave a green light to a civil fraud claim against the GOP front-runner and his Trump University. In a unanimous ruling, a four-judge panel of the state Appellate Division said the state attorney general’s office is “authorized to bring a cause of action for fraud” — despite Mr. Tump’s claims to the contrary. To be continued…

Sources:

Inside Higher Education: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/03/01/what-does-trump-university-show-about-state-regulation-profit-schools?utm_content=buffer089d4&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=IHEbuffer

The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/27/us/donald-trump-marco-rubio-trump-university.html?_r=0

CBS This Morning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQ_IEvczweY

The New York Daily News: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/court-rules-g-trump-university-fraud-lawsuit-proceed-article-1.2548924

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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Morels and the Mujahideen

January 29th, 2015

How is the spread of militant, jihadist, Salafist Islamic fundamentalists like the seemingly random outcroppings of mushrooms in a forest? And why on earth would anyone ask that question!

mushrooms

Mujahideen

Visualize the Internet as a literal, humongous net cast over the planet, which conducts information in a constant active, never-ending stream, bringing people and ideas together and creating a fertile ground for innovation and the realization of inspired and life-changing concepts, resulting in new innovative technologies ad infinitum.

Now visualize a mushroom. You probably see a small seemingly insignificant sedentary little cap, minding it’s own business on the forest floor, on a log, or wherever. Actually, it’s anything but that. Mushrooms are the “fruiting” body of fungi, and fungi grow via a vast network of underground branching tube-like structures, called hyphae, which mesh together into a substance that appears similar to a spider web, which is collectively known as mycelium. There seems to be “intelligence” to this mycelium– when only one of these hyphae comes into contact with a food source, the mycelium has the ability to mobilize its energy to actually grow towards and exploit it. This mycelium can actually communicate with the mycelium of another species of mushroom fungus and pass along information, including information about toxic or hazardous substances previously encountered.

Not only that, but this massive network of subterranean mycelium, carry nutrients, which are vital to the propagation of almost every plant ecosystem on the planet. So…now you’re asking, what in the world does all this have to do with the Salafist, fundamental jihadists?

Well, think of the seemingly random explosions of horrific, deadly violence around the globe committed by Islamic extremists such as Al Qaeda / Taliban, ISIS, Boko Haram, and the Mujahideen as mushrooms. Beginning to get the picture? And we, the Christian, Jewish, and other “non-believers” are the food source.

It’s not quite that simple, or bleak, but we must begin to examine how we–I’ll say the Western world; have had a good hand in fertilizing this rampant growth.

Fertilizer

There are a number of ways in which we very effectively fertilize this mycellium of terrorists. For centuries now, the Western world has destabilized vast regions of the world, with predominantly Muslim populations, through endless wars, aggravating already existing tribal enmity and then failing to thoughtfully, and responsibly integrate the resulting refugees and immigrants fleeing those conflicts into our societies.

The most recent, horrific terrorist attacks have been perpetrated by offshoots of radicalized, nihilistic, Islamist Jihadist militant groups: The Peshawar school massacre, committed by the Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP), the Boko Haram, (translates to,” Western education is forbidden”) massacre in Baka, Nigeria, the Charlie Hebdo and Kosher Market massacres in Paris, Al Qaeda, the ISIL beheadings of foreign journalists and other barbarous acts committed against their own people in Syria and all over the Middle East.

It is a very precarious time and we must be very thoughtful, and consequent before we jump to react to such terrorist acts and risk becoming the terrorists ourselves. Their fundamentalist intolerance cannot be allowed to ignite our own fears, which unchecked, lead to intolerance. We must educate ourselves, and act from a place of big-hearted compassion, otherwise, what good will come from labeling the 1.6 billion Muslims as the “other” and perpetuating a climate of fear and aggression.

Not one entire group of people must be condemned for the fanatic heinous murderers committing crimes in the name of their God. We need to sit back, breath deeply and take a moment of sobriety to rethink our ideas and learn about what Islam is, and not form opinions and foster emotions based on headlines in the media, or psychotic rants by newscasters, spouting an hysterical Western version shout-outs for jihad, (as did Fox News’s Jeanine Pirro last week, and chillingly, she’s a judge.)

This vitriolic rhetoric only serves to fuel the fearful fires of hatred (think meat tenderizer) and a general misconception about Islam itself. The tragic aftermath is to turn an uninformed general worldwide population against “Islam” and make the lives of the most, peace-loving Muslims, exponentially harder and more dangerous.

I would say that education is the key factor. Both a lack of education about Islam in our cultures, and the forfeiting of foresight, by not realizing that in order to clean up the mess we’ve created, our societies have to create viable, equal education for the refugees and immigrants among us. Quality education is integration in our new multi-cultural and ever changing societies.

Firstly a lack of understanding and education about what Islam (the fastest growing religion in the world) is and what it means to be a Muslim might be a good place to start. The explosion of global anti-Muslim hysteria is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more we denigrate and cast out hateful rhetoric, the larger we make the target.

All Muslims are not fundamentalist, murdering jihadists. In fact Muslims believe that the imitation of their prophet Muhammad helps one to know and be loved by God: one lives in constant remembrance of God. Sounds beautiful right?

When my husband and I recently spent 14 days in Istanbul on vacation, we did think twice before booking our trip. The ISIS radicals were fully engaged in battle with the Kurdish troops in Kobani, and we checked in with the “situation” in Istanbul in regards to expected, possibly violent, Kurdish protests against Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for his lack of action to support the Kurdish in Kobani.

We’re not comfortable with his “covert” acceptance and constantly changing stance in regard to the ISIS militants, as well as his listing towards the right, in his thinly veiled desire to reverse the broad legacy of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern, secular Turkey, and return Turkey to an Islamic state. But…we decided that is was now or possibly never, and decided to not venture southeast towards the Syrian border.

It was on this trip, that I was led to explore the relationship of Islam to both Christianity and Judaism during a visit to the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. The Topkapi Palace was the primary residence of the Ottoman sultans for approximately 400 years (1465–1856); during this time it was also the center of the Islamic world. In one of the rooms, the Destimal Chamber a number of sacred relics were on display, and boy, was I surprised! Long ques, equal to those waiting to get into the Treasury where the insanely opulent jewels of the sultans were on display, filed by vitrines containing religious pieces sent to the Sultans: Abraham’s Pot, Joseph’s Turban, Moses’ Staff, David’s Sword, scrolls belonging to John, and Muhammad’s footprint. I didn’t understand, why were these things here?

Then we went to visit the Süleymaniye Mosque (the Mosque of Süleyman the Magnificent) where they had glass covered informational pages about Islam, a sort of religious breakdown on display in several languages. Admittedly uninformed, I was shocked to read that Muhammad was a direct descendant of Ishmael, the eldest son of prophet Abraham, and that Qur’an has a chapter named after Mary, the mother of Jesus. Huh? Apparently Muslims respect and admire Mary as the ideal of womanhood, (which is good, because she presides over the highest dome in the Hagia Sofia)…but really, what was all this about?

I decided to educate myself and found out that Islam, Christianity, and Judaism all trace their spiritual origins to the prophet Abraham, they comprise the Abrahamic religions. They all believe in one God, and that one God blessed Abraham the common Patriarch: His descendents being: Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, who as prophets, brought his revelations to humankind. Islam also recognizes and respects all the prophets––the riddle of the relics was solved!

So what’s up with everyone fighting and killing each other in the name of God, when they all share the same God?

For the answer to that, we have to look back to the second half of the 19th century, when the Salafist movement, (a movement, sect, or a school of thought within Islam,) surfaced as a reaction to the spread of “European ideas,” and which is based on its commitment to exposing the roots of this “modernity” within the Muslim civilization.

The Salafists believe that they represent the epitome of Islamic practice, in its purest form, as they most closely adhere to the original teachings of their prophet Mohammad, as the messenger of God, (analogous to the Christian fundamentalists in their “literal” adherence to the exact letter of the Bible.) According to the Salafists, living one’s life by fulfilling these divine injunctions is the will of God, and the imitation of Muhammad is tantamount, thus there is no room for any diversion from this path. To open the way to any form of Western thinking within Islam is to commit a sin, worthy of death.

After the invasion of Afghanistan there has been a rise in Salafists committed to radical jihad, aided and abetted by the departing Soviet troops defeated in 1989, who left behind a massive amount of weapons and arms and munitions. After the Soviets were so successfully expelled from Afghanistan, several radical Salafists seized upon this defeat of the Soviet “Crusaders,” the non-believers trying to modernize Muslim culture, to support the call to arms in the form a jihad. The fundamentalist mycelium-Mujahideen feasted on the victory, blossoming into a major network throughout the Muslim world. Then Osama Bin-Laden came to power, 9/11 happened, then we added more fertilizer with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan…and things began to go nuclear.

The resulting rise in Islamic terrorist activity has fueled an ugly, virulent anti-Muslim hysteria, a backlash of equally, potentially dangerous fundamentalists all over Europe, who are temporarily benefiting from the recent horrific events in Paris last week.

I live in Germany, where every Monday, lunatic fringe right-wing extremists rally together in Dresden under the banner of Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West), run by a convicted criminal, who fears that Islam will overrun his picture perfect idea of the “real” Germany. Yuckily, scarily and very, very unbearable ideas for most Germans in the 21st century–considering their history. Thank god the majority of Germans think this is insane as well

In France, the National Front led by Marie Le Pen, whose party recently entered into alliance with the Party for Freedom, (PVV) in the Netherlands led by Geert Wilder, have “cashed–in” winning supporters and converting minds and hearts of the uneducated fearful masses. The same is true for the Progress Party in Norway, whose leader is a woman, Siv Jensen, who is also Norway’s Minister of Finance.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg was quoted in an article in the New York Times in January 2014, “Public discussion of Islam is less about “their beliefs or their color; it’s more about lack of education and need for training,” Ms. Solberg said in an interview. Given Norway’s generous asylum policies and social welfare system, the new government wants to reduce abuse and ensure, she said, that “you always earn more money by working than by not working — it’s a bigger social issue here than immigration.”

Ah yes, now we’re getting somewhere.

Weed Killer

What if the mycellium of terror suddenly formed mushrooms simultaneously, and they all sprouted at once, thrusting out spores into every city with a sizeable immigrant population?

The only possible way to prevent this is not with angry warrior aggression, or by developing technologically superior weapons, thereby fueling the fires, fertilizing the ground, but by improving the quality of education for everyone.

No more tax shelters for the 1%, and offshore corporate accounts, channel those billions into education so that our cities don’t further degrade into rampant Blade Runneresque noir scapes of crime and daily terror. No place in the world will be “safe” for the absurdly wealthy offspring of those 1%, did they ever stop to think of that while hoarding their billions?

Amid the new economic austerity measures imposed by the EU, most European cities are going to have a hard time improving schools in order to create the needed opportunities for disenfranchised, impoverished immigrant populations. All over Europe increasing social and economic marginalization is driving young people towards extremism.

In France, the banlieus, basically ghettos inhabited by immigrant families, have such a high unemployment rate for youths that hopelessness is a matter of daily life and the factor leaving, especially young men, vulnerable, depressed and angry.

Mostly Muslims, these youths already feel shunned, set aside and stuck between worlds. They wind up committing theft and burglary, just to have a little money, or power, maybe to help feed their poor families and wind up being thrown in jail, alongside the extremely radicalized Islamic Imam proselytizers, who lie in wait, to get their hearts and minds, waiting to take control of their destinies to do their twisted version of jihad. These young, mostly men, are easy targets for extremist Islamic groups, who offer them a sense of purpose and belonging. In the U.S we’ve been dealing with this for decades among the immigrant Latino, Chinese and Vietnamese communities as well as the impoverished and marginalized African American communities.

All three young men responsible for the attacks in Paris; Saïd and Chérif Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly, grew up in these banlieus.

There are minor “trade schools” in place, but how many un-employed mechanics can a society support?

A recent New York Times article quoted the deputy mayor for education in the Paris suburb of Colombes, Leila Legmara,”… We are not treating the problem at its roots. Of course we need more security and resources to fight terrorism. But we also need to address what it is within our society that is capable of producing monsters.”

Great, finally at least someone is getting down to the roots, and hopefully, we will all learn how to deal with them.

Jeannie Winston Nogai
Owner / Winston Nogai Design
www.jeanniewinston.com / E: jeanniewn@gmail.com

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