Stories With Heroic Imagination and The Meaning of Memoir

I spent an entire afternoon at the library and discovered the humanity and warmth of stories written as a memoir with heroic imagination. This kind of narrative--the use of a hero or heroine--is one of the oldest and most compelling methods of holding someone's attention: everyone wants to be told a story in narrative form.  For years, I focused on the stories of people living in conflict and … [Read more...]

The Meaning of Religion and Why It Matters Today

Three days into the month of Ramadan, one of Islam's holiest months, and I'm reminded of the strength of faith. CNN seems to think so too with its new series on religion.  A month into the show, The Believers that takes a deeper look at the power of believing in a higher being and living for a greater purpose. Narrated by an internationally acclaimed writer and scholar on religions, Reza Aslan … [Read more...]

Living True Islam Negates Violent Extremism

My entire life, I've heard this one simple line: write the book you want to read. The trouble is that most people I know didn't want to read about violent behavior. Until now.  But when writing about terrorism, or violent extremism, it's equally important to learn about 'true' Islam. I have spent nearly two decades trying to understand why and how extremists manipulate religion for political and … [Read more...]

Islam Is Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): Part Three

Prophet Muhammad once said: "God will continue to assist the servant, so long as His servant helps others." This is civic involvement. A concept I learned from my parents, and then an American scholar known as Shaykh Hamza Yousef. On a recent lecture tour, I showed a video clip of Yousef explaining the need to return to the attribute of mercy. Yusuf talks about the need to learn the Prophetic … [Read more...]

A Special Keynote Address: The Path to Ijtihad or Critical Thinking

Last week, I was honored to present at The Homeland Security and Emergency Management Conference in New Mexico. Set in historic Albuquerque, the conference venue and the audience could not have been more perfect--hundreds of law enforcement officers, emergency managers, and government officials, all working together to keep our country safe. As a keynote speaker, I was invited to talk about … [Read more...]

A World-Recognized Terrorism Expert Studies Motives and Meaning

A man with pearl-gray hair and a friendly face leaned against the wooden desk in the middle of the classroom. Once his graduate student at The George Washington University, Dr. Jerrold Post taught a class in political violence and terrorism as the Director of the Political Psychology Department. At the time, I was mystified by men (and women) who perpetrated acts of violence--a puzzle I wanted to … [Read more...]

The Super-Hero Adventurist Saves Lives

On a sunny day in California, I walked into an orchard of grapefruit trees and over-sized lemons. Canadian-born Robert Young Pelton cleared away the rocks in his backyard, making room for more fruit trees. I stood by Linda, his wife. As his guest, I was honored to share this moment with Robert and his wife, the brave woman who stood by her daring husband as he entered the world of madmen and … [Read more...]

The Revolutionary Who Changed Me

The Revolutionary I am convinced that one teacher can change the life of a student forever. We met in class at a private Methodist college, Southwestern University, set in small-town America with a candle factory, vintage shops and one main grocery store. In 1993, I chose to take a class on Latin America, a region of the world I still know nothing about except for the location of Brazil and … [Read more...]

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