Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Anti-corruption movements in India and Pakistan gather momentum with women's participation

Anna Hazare’s hunger strike against corruption in India has caught media attention worldwide. The 74-year-old man of slight built has emerged as a hero for adopting the Gandhian way of non violence to exert pressure on the Indian government to enact a strict law against corruption and demanding the creation of an ombudsman to deal with corruption in public offices.

Hazare first went on a hunger strike in April 2011 to make his point and since then has inspired nationwide support for his anti corruption campaign. Women – both political figures and grassroots activists – are among the strongest supporters of the campaign.

Priya Dutt, a Congress member of Parliament who met anti corruption activists outside her Mumbai home on 22 August, has promised to extend full support to the anti corruption campaign.

The young parliamentarian said that she is in favour of strong anti-corruption legislation and stressed dialogue between the government and civil society activists as the way forward. Writing an open letter to the India Against Corruption movement, Priya said that she supports all efforts for "a corruption-free nation".

The inspiring role played in the anti corruption movement in India today by women like Priya and Kiran Bedi, a retired female police officer is so infectious that it has found solidarity with populations across the border in Pakistan. Zohra Yusuf, head of the Pakistan Human Rights Commission, admitted that corruption is an ever-growing menace in Pakistan.

Tired of widespread corruption in his country, a 68-year-old Pakistani businessman recently announced plans to go on a hunger strike in Islamabad. Jehangeer Akhtar complained that corruption is a serious disease in Pakistan and recommends parliament to pass an anti-corruption law.

Jehangeer is in the photography business and apart from corruption what also bothers him is money spent on defense instead of education and infrastructure. He plans a Gandhi-like non-violent protest against corruption and military buildup in his country.

Ansar Burney, another Pakistani and former minister for human rights declared that he will soon organise an anti-corruption and anti-terrorism campaign in Pakistan.

Ansar told the media that corruption and terrorism are destroying the future of children in Pakistan. He is fed up of corruption and against violence that has spread across the country. He feels it is up to civil society to take steps to rid the country of the evil.

He describes his campaign as an attempt to unite the nation against corruption and terrorism.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

People-to-people initiatives instrumental in reducing suspicion caused by terrorism between India-Pakistan

The verdict is out. A majority of people surveyed in India recently say that terrorism has no religion and belongs to no country. This majority opinion is important at a time when the world seems so volatile and the official relationship between India and Pakistan remains somewhat frail.

The constant reminder that both India and Pakistan are sitting on an arsenal of nuclear weapons does not help people to sleep soundly, not just in South Asia but around the world.

In a CNN-IBN-CNBC-TV18 State of the Nation Poll conducted in association with Forbes India soon after the terror attack in Mumbai on 13 July 2011, it is found that more people reject the notion that terror is somehow related to one religion, openly delinking acts of terror with Islam.

In this most recent survey a majority of those talked to categorically stated that a terrorist can come from anywhere and strike anyone. Previous opinion polls have shown that the populations of both India and Pakistan prefer increased trade, cultural exchanges and easy cross border travel within South Asia. The majority of the population has time and again demonstrated a demand for more dialogue, debate and many more people-to-people initiatives.

In India, women were more optimistic than men about the future of peace prospects between the two countries and agreed that rapport between people is helpful for a lasting peace in the region. These women spoke out in a 2010 opinion poll sponsored by Aman ki Asha, or hope for peace, to mark the first anniversary of the joint peace initiative by the Jang Group of Pakistan and The Times of India.

This friendly attitude between the people is the greatest hope for forging new ways towards a more inclusive peace process, involving the design of a dream agenda that includes different sections of society, including women and members of the young population in both countries.

The greatest asset of both India and Pakistan today is its population of young people. It is said that 51% of India's population of 1.1 billion people is under 25 years of age and two-thirds is under 35 years of age. Experts also warn that this youth bulge can turn into a demographic disaster if the young are not gainfully engaged in education and employment activities.

In Pakistan 30 to 40 percent of the nation's males are between the age of 15 and 29. This large energetic yet untapped pool of young people on both sides of the border has the potential to play a huge and lasting role in contributing to peace and prosperity in the region. It must not be forgotten that half of this population is female, another section of society that is confident in its skills and capabilities and yet is little involved in contributing to peace initiatives. As the number of symposiums, think tanks and forums on global issues increase around the world, the absence of women from both global and local decision making bodies has become even more obvious.

The appointment of Pakistan's first female foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar, who is 35 years old, is a positive sign, bringing a woman into official peace talks between India and Pakistan.

Officials may compare the relationship between Indian and Pakistan to the treatment of two patients whose only disease is an allergy to each other, but ordinary citizens are far less cynical. The polls are proof that an overwhelming support for friendship is there. In India the perception that all terror attacks in the country are related to Pakistan is already down to 42% from a previous record of 75%. This significant change in the collective perception of a society comes from campaigns that encourage people-to-people contact and build social and cultural bridges. The polls reveal a high degree of optimism expressed by ordinary citizens about the possibility of an end to hostilities one day and they unanimously agree that the task of making peace is too important to be left only to the government. About 70% of Pakistanis and 74% of Indians said that they want peace and only a tiny minority of 17% in India and 8% in Pakistan are reluctant to let bygones be bygones.

The polls covered six Indian cities and eight cities in Pakistan including 36 villages. People-to-people contact is seen as an effective instrument to encourage peaceful coexistence by 81% of Pakistanis and Indians.

Now that a majority of Indians have denied past allegations that Muslims are responsible for all acts of terror it is time to come together and to look for new ways to move into the future.

This good news from the grassroots is a golden opportunity to talk of a more collaborative peace process, involving citizens from all walks of life, including women and youth leaders.

The optimism amongst the majority population is very precious and needs to be nourished before further political failures and terrorist attacks cement walls in the minds of the people that may prove to be far more difficult to tear down than geographical boundaries.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Looking to a future without fear on Indian and Pakistani Independence Days

Last weekend both India and Pakistan celebrated Independence Day on 14 August and 15 August respectively. In the midst of joy it was also reiterated by some that it was a tragedy to divide South Asia, first into Pakistan on 14 August in 1947, and later into Bangladesh as well in 1971.

However more and more people want to move beyond the painful memories of divided families and material loss. Six decades after partition there is a desire now to reverse the relationship between India and Pakistan from mutual suspicion to mutual benefit, particularly amongst the young.

“We are poised to be the fifth most populous country in the world in a few years. With 60 percent of Pakistan’s 187 million-strong population below the age of 24, the youth of Pakistan form a potentially powerful force for change. We must be nation builders. It is our greatest responsibility and burden,” wrote Shehrbano Taseer, the Lahore based journalist on the eve of Independence Day celebrations in Pakistan.

“In 1947, Pakistan may have got its independence from the British Raj but 64 years later, with a moth-eaten country, we are still waiting for a new dawn...Crimes against women must also be stopped. A society cannot progress unless and until women are treated equally,” writes Mehmal Sarfaraz, the youthful editor of Pakistan's Daily Times.

Marvi Sirmed is an Islamabad-based student of international relations and counter terrorism. She has nicknamed herself “a Pakistani with a bindi” (the red dot on the forehead that Hindu women wear) and her thoughts on independence are focused on the future. Sirmed is a firm believer in cultural roots rather than oneness through religion and is convinced that the solution of Pakistan's current problem is to be a secular state whether Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan endorsed it or not.

“Being a secular state is to Pakistan’s best benefit. What Jinnah said or did not say more than half a century ago is hardly relevant to the solution of Pakistan’s current problems,” says Sirmed.

Salman Latif, a Pakistani blogger said that Pakistan's best hope is the youth. He feels that 64 years are sufficient to attempt a discourse over whether or not a nation should have been founded. “It’s about time we moved on and talked of something more constructive. We are the future of this nation and it’s up to us to shape this future,” Salman says.

In Dawn, Pakistan's oldest English language newspaper analyst Adnan Rehmat writes, “We have tried India as an enemy and it has cost us dearly. It’s time to try India as a friend because the cost of being a friend is far, far less than the cost of being an enemy.”

For Indians, improved relations with Pakistan will also mean diverting a little from precious resources away from security matters into programs that will provide the majority population a little more freedom from poverty, illiteracy and gender inequality.

In her Independence Day address Pratibha Devisingh Patil regretted on 15 August that there is a decline in the gender ratio in the 0 to 6 age group. “It has touched a low level of 914 girls as compared to 1000 boys. It reflects the continuing preference for boys in our society and the bias against the girl child. We need to fight social prejudices which have resulted in this situation, and also work to eradicate the practices of dowry, child marriage and female foeticide, which we continue to battle even in the 21st century,” said the president. Clearly the call is to fight social evils and not neighbors.

India's first female president lauded the success of the movement of self help groups in the country, 80 percent of which are all-women groups. They operate at the lower rung of the economic strata and carry out activities on a limited scale. These groups have provided women not only with possibilities of income generating activity, but have given them confidence and a sense of self-esteem.

In his message to his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh on Independence Day, Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was filled with hope that dialogue between India and Pakistan will help to take bilateral issues forward. Gilani expressed his desire to see friendly relations restored between the two countries in the interest of peace in the region, socioeconomic progress and prosperity for the people.

Members of civil society held a candlelight vigil at the Wagha border in the Indian city of Amritsar. Led by Indian journalist Kuldip Nayar and film-maker Mahesh Bhatt the vigil was joined by local people who marched in candlelight to the border with Pakistan where prominent Indian and Pakistani artists met each other and staged performances. With so much goodwill amongst the people, can peace be far behind?

Friday, August 12, 2011

A letter of reconciliation that brings hope to two nations

Hats off to Farida Singh. With one gesture so full of grace she has flicked away the doubts that very often cloud the thoughts of those dreaming of a little more peace and a little more friendship amongst people worldwide. She has revived our faith that talking to each other is the most valuable gift both India and Pakistan can give to the youthful population of their respective countries.

Farida is the daughter of an Indian pilot, Jahangir Engineer, whose civilian aircraft plane was shot down by a Pakistani fighter pilot during the 1965 war between India and Pakistan. Recently Farida reached out to the same Pakistani pilot to tell him that she and her family had never nursed bitterness or hatred towards him.

The great generosity of spirit demonstrated by Farida did not fail to bring tears to many eyes, and has hopefully shamed many a war monger.

Engineer’s plane had apparently drifted off course along the border between India and Pakistan and was shot down by Qais Hussain, a Pakistani pilot, more than four decades ago.

A few days ago Hussain wrote an email to Singh, saying that he was sorry for the loss of precious lives during the incident and that he was acting under orders from his superiors.

The email confession of Hussain says that he felt elated once he had accomplished his mission and landed back at a Karachi air base. However his mood changed when he heard a radio report that the plane he had shot down was a civilian aircraft with eight innocent Indians on board.

Hussain, 70 is a Lahore resident today. He wrote in his apology that he had shot down the Beechcraft after it showed up on the Pakistani radar, having drifted many miles away from the Indian coast and going up and down over the borders of Rann of Kutch.

“Nonetheless, the unfortunate part in all this is that I had to execute the orders of my controller,” wrote Hussain. “Mrs Singh, I have chosen to go into this detail to tell you that it all happened in the line of duty and it was not governed by the concept that ‘everything is fair in love and war’ the way it has been portrayed by the Indian media due to lack of information.”

“I did not play foul and went by the rules of business but the unfortunate loss of precious lives, no matter how it happens, hurts each human and I am no exception. I feel sorry for you, your family and the other seven families who lost their dearest ones. I feel greatly grieved that you lost your brother Noshir recently,” wrote Hussain.

In her spontaneous reply Farida confessed that the loss of her father was a life-defining incident for her.

She was barely in her teens, and life was very difficult for her after the loss of her father.

“But in all the struggles that followed, we never, not for one moment, bore bitterness or hatred for the person who actually pulled the trigger and caused my father's death. The fact that this all happened in the confusion of a tragic war was never lost to us. We are all pawns in this terrible game of war and peace,” Farida Singh said in her reply, accepting Hussain's apology.

In yet another gesture of generosity Farida gives all credit to the courage of Hussain for tracing her out after all these years to write to her. This is the beginning of a dialogue and the beginning of a friendship for both of them who are now in the autumn of their lives.

Both Farida and Hussain appeared on an Indian television channel soon after their respective emails were picked up by the media, which has gone overboard celebrating the generosity shown by both souls. It was on television that the two saw each other for the first time.

Farida said that at this stage in her life nothing is more important to her than peace of mind and Hussain’s apology has provided her that peace.

Hussian said that if an opportunity ever arose that he could meet Farida to condole the death of her father, he would grab it with both his hands.

Hussain has publicly requested Farida to convey his feelings to other members of the family who were equally hurt by the untimely departure of the Indian pilot whose plane he had shot down.

Farida says that she learnt the generosity of spirit and intuitive understanding of the pain of others from her late father and is convinced that he would have liked nothing more than to bring about a spark of forgiveness between our two peoples, who after all were one.

Now that Farida has put into practice what was taught to her by her father, her gesture is sure to teach the same to many a young person on both sides of the borders who are desperately in search of role models and of the inspiration that can empower youth and lead them away from hopelessness towards a more human path.

By Mehru Jaffer

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Reassessing our perspectives on terrorism: lessons from Norway

Almost a fortnight has passed since 77 innocent lives were lost in the terror attack in Norway, but the reasons for the tragedy remain uncertain.

The questions surrounding the tragedy won’t go away easily, particularly because the incident took place in one of the most peaceful and tolerant countries of Europe.

We should take inspiration from Norway, a country that is determined not to change its tolerant way of life. Instead it vows to encourage more openness and to fight back against the terror attacks that shocked the nation and the world through more democracy and more tolerance than ever before.

“Norwegians will defend themselves by showing they are not afraid of violence and by participating more broadly in politics,” promises Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.

The determination and solidarity of the Norwegian people was evident in the rose march held outside the Oslo City Hall in which some 250,000 people participated. Tens of thousands of Norwegians have rejected the gunman amidst them and his anti-immigrant rhetoric by strewing the streets of their capital city with thousands of flowers until Oslo's florists ran out of blossoms.

Arne Walther, Norwegian ambassador to Japan, said that the gatherings on the streets of Oslo and across the country with roses and candles “share grief and comfort those who have lost their loved-ones, and not least send a strong message of unity in safeguarding the democratic values upon which our country and open society are built.” Walther called 2011 “a year of tragedy and sorrow” for Norway, identifying the attacks as a “one-man made human atrocity.”

Even amidst the sorrow that Norway is facing, the rest of the world can take a cue from the country.
Norway has shown that this is not the time to retreat away in fear and mistrust, but instead to increase engagement with one other in debates and discussion on how to make communities we live in more open, democratic and inclusive.

This is a moment to together defend our freedom to express different thoughts, even as we condemn violent extremism and strengthen our resolve for a smarter security system.
It is a time to reiterate daily to our children that no view is illegal but that violence used to express a view is unacceptable.

This is a golden opportunity for all of us to revisit ideas that will further enrich our pluralistic existence on this planet. It is time to redefine the relationship between the majority and minority population in a fair and creative manner.

Today, societies everywhere are struggling to find the proper balance between preserving valued traditions and living side by side with individuals with diverse cultural backgrounds and beliefs. The spirit behind integration and assimilation everywhere is to make everyone feel that they are an integral part of life on this planet. The need of the hour is to make newcomers in any society feel at home and to provide space where a common identity is allowed to eventually flower.

At the policy level the task is to manage and harness the potential of diversity both in education and unemployment. Experts warn that poor integration, alienation and resentment within immigrant and minority groups is fodder for radical groups forever on the lookout for new recruits amongst disenfranchised populations.

Author of Love in a Headscarf Shelina Zahra Janmohamed regrets that as soon as news of the Norway killings broke, some news commentators were quick to point a finger at Muslims, who after September 11 became highly visible.

“The attacks of September 11 changed the nature of the discourse about the place of Muslims and migrants in the West. Last week's tragedy in Norway can and must change it again,” writes Shelina.

Shelina does not think that this is the time for triumphalism either, but believes that the loss of these 77 innocent lives should be a turning point. She would like the collective mind of the world to focus on resetting the terrorism narrative.

“This is the moment to subject previously unchallenged views to rigorous scrutiny. All those involved in the discourse around extremism and violence would do well to take away some big lessons from the past week to steer us away from the polarised trajectory we are on. First, we must be more precise in the language we use for such incidents. Just as it is not right to describe the September 11 perpetrators as "Muslim" terrorists, so it is not right to describe Breivik as a "Christian" terrorist,” suggests Shelina, who is a British Muslim writer.

At this time, societies that felt threatened by outside forces are beginning to look at terrorist tendencies within their own society as well. Shoma Chaudhury, managing editor Tehelka, a New Delhi weekly news magazine, believes it is time to reassess our perceptions of terrorism, even down to the language we use to describe it.

“It is important for all of us to correct the way we talk, write and look at the Muslim world and to learn to celebrate diversity,” says Shoma.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Empowering Indian women to tackle extremism on the home front

Archana Kapoor, coordinator of the SAVE “Indian Women Say No to Violent Extremism!” program, was sure that no-one would turn up for the workshop the day after a fresh terror attack in Mumbai on 13 July, 2011. But on the morning of 14 July she was pleasantly surprised.

Group of participants in the brain-storming session, November 2010

“The morning of 14 July saw 100% attendance at our workshop. All the 80 participants were there and also the trainers, some of whom continued to commute from far flung areas of the terror stricken city,” recalls Kapoor, referring to the second three-month phase of SAVE’s workshop in Mumbai.

“I was amazed. I was overwhelmed,” adds Kapoor.

SAVE recently successfully completed the pilot phase of its income-generation, empowerment and anti-extremism workshop in Mumbai. The pilot workshop ran from April to June and involved 100 women. Due to the success of the pilot workshop, SAVE decided to immediately continue with a second workshop for a further 80 women. This second workshop had barely been launched when Mumbai was hit by a series of bomb blasts that killed 26 people.

Archana is convinced that the reason women don’t want to miss out on the workshop despite the traumatic events is due to the fact that the first workshop proved so useful to its participants. She suspects that the positive change seen in the women who participated in the pilot SAVE training was noticed by their neighbours, some of whom have joined the second phase.

Before they came to the workshop, many of the women felt they had little choice but to watch the world pass by helplessly. They lived in a narrow world of their own, with little insight into the motivations and risks of their children’s behavior. The participants now seem far more vigilant and aware about their children’s activities.

SAVE India first visited the neighbourhood where members of Mumbai’s large police force live soon after the three day terrorist siege of Mumbai in 2008. Most of the women SAVE talked to were deeply traumatized by the attack on their city, especially as most had male relatives who had been on duty during the siege. Some had lost family members in the attacks.

Many of the women felt helpless in the face of the changes that were taking place so rapidly in the world around them. They did not understand why their lives were threatened, and most were totally dependent on male members of the family. Most of them had no experience of formal education and no income of their own.

SAVE decided to introduce concepts of self-empowerment to these women, initially through a week-long workshop called Our Stories, Our Future in April 2010. Storytelling was used as a tool to get the participants to find their voice, to articulate personal encounters and to make the lived experiences of those impacted by violent extremism heard. Before this exercise, the women had no outlet to voice either their pain or their joy.

This was followed by Swimming into the Future with the aim of providing a new skill but also creating a bond between participants. Swimming was chosen as a tool conducive to confidence building that helped participants to feel comfortable with their body.

In November 2010, SAVE organized a brainstorming session with the women to discuss what skills they would like to learn in order to make their life more meaningful for themselves, their families and the communities in which they live. After initial hesitation, the women found their voice and the unanimous answer was that they wanted to learn a skill that would also help them to generate an income.

Reacting to the women’s wishes, SAVE decided to launch a pilot project in the midst of these women who spend their entire lives supporting male members of the family in the police force. As the agenda of the workshop took shape with the help of professionals including EduGuru India, a skill-providing agency, an integrated program of income-generating activities, empowerment and anti-extremism training was designed by SAVE especially for these women.

By the end of the eight week training, participants said that their time-worn perceptions of themselves and of the world that they live in had changed.

For example Sandhya Nikam, a housewife in her mid 30s said that the SAVE training is not just about leaning a skill, but about learning a life-changing skill.

Sandhya was part of SAVE’s Our Stories Our Future workshop and has returned for computer lessons and more confidence building. She says that she has come a long way since she was married at the age of 22 to a policeman with a meager salary. The family grew to three children but the income did not. At that time Sandhya probably believed that a life of deprivation was her fate. She lacked confidence to think of an alternative. But then she signed up for the computer training program, which changed her life.

“The success of the first workshop made it easy for us to begin a second one so soon after,” Archana points out.

However both the workshops were organized in the face of multiple challenges, says Archana.

The 80 participants in batches of four alternated in shifts between two small rooms that had to be fully renovated before the workshop was able to begin. While one group of ten learnt computer skills in one room the second room held English language lessons for another group of ten.

The workshop opened its doors at 10.30 am to the first group of participants and the day ended at 8.30 pm with barely a break of 15 minutes in between for the trainers.

“The problem of time, space and budget are real challenges but the thrill of engaging more and more women in activities that inspire us to take our life into our own hands is what will make me do this over and over again,” Archana concludes.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

After Norway: Women's Voices for the Way Forward

Floral tributes to those who lost their lives in Norway  
© Johanne Dohlie Saltnes

The attacks in Norway are a wake-up call for all of us. Social polarization among Europe`s diverse ethnic and religious communities has the potential to challenge the fundaments of social cohesion which is the fabric that holds open societies together. Stereotypical assumptions about “the other” rather than robust bridgebuilding efforts have set the stage for the ideologies of hate, social polarization and exclusion.

Norwegian flag flies at half mast © Johanne Dohlie Saltnes
Multiculturalism is not a promise and not a threat, but always a work in progress, and its success is based on open communication, participation and fairness from and for all parties involved. Our daily observations will certainly confirm research findings showing that interactions across communities have not been established except for high-level dialogue efforts which have tended to take place between elites, while prejudice, real and projected problems and mutual suspicion in society at large have persisted. Systematic people-to-people contact across community divides at all levels need to be encouraged. The function that women can play in this regard is significant. Their role as educators of the next generation and key players of civil society is often under-estimated or overlooked.

SAVE is currently reaching out particularly to mothers to build their self-confidence and political awareness, and sensitize them to currents of radicalization in their communities in order to position them as key allies in the creation of the social cohesion needed to ensure a stable future for all of us.

Please read the perspectives of SAVE Sisters and leading women from around the globe on how Europe and the wider world can move towards a future where we are able to live together peacefully.

Farah Pandith, Special Representative to Muslim Communities, U.S. State Department
In my role as Special Representative to Muslim Communities, I have traveled all over the world -- to every region -- and I see firsthand the impact lexicon and actions have to communities. How we talk about each other, treat each other, and talk with each other matters. It is important that people of every faith, ethnicity, gender, and socio-economic group treat each other with dignity and respect. Knowledge of “the other” is immensely important. If you can learn about someone who is different, you can form the foundation for a relationship and increased understanding. One way to build respect is to work on projects or issues that are of mutual interest to distinct communities. By working together on challenges like health, childhood education, or the environment, bonds can be formed that are stronger than the differences between people. At the U.S. State Department we are mobilizing President Obama’s call to action for mutual interest and mutual respect. This year, Secretary Clinton launched the 2011 Hours Against Hate campaign (www.facebook.com/2011hoursagainsthate), which asks young people around the world to volunteer their time for someone who doesn’t look like them, live like them, pray like them. Bigotry and hate-language is increasing around the world, while at the same time I see young people across the planet talking about the world they want to live in—a world where old barriers are broken and people can come together to work on common challenges. This campaign is one small step toward creating stronger communities that embrace and celebrate diversity. We all must do our part.

Anita Pratap, Indian journalist living in Oslo
This tragedy is so deep it has wounded Norway's soul. Not even in their wildest nightmares could Norwegians conceive that a disaster of such epic proportions would strike them. A shocked and bereaved nation stands united. They are united not only in their grief, but also in their shared values. This tragedy is a wake up call to remind us that serpents lurk even in Eden. For, if there is a paradise on earth, it is indeed Norway - not only for its spectacular natural landscape but also in epitomizing the best human values of tolerance, peace, egalitariaism, gender rights, transparency, ethics and rule of law. While they could not prevent this tragedy, Norwegians have also shown us how to move forward - with the silent majority strongly reaffirming multiculturalism as well as these cherished universal human values that Norway epitomizes. Muslim immigrants and ethnic Christian Norwegians mourned together - for among the dead were young Muslims who had integrated with the democratic political mainstream. Despite the national outrage against the perpetrator, Norwegian citizenry defended his legal rights. It is by exercising our cherished human values and reaffirming our faith in multiculturalism during times of gravest provocation that we defeat violent extremists who are the real enemies of peace and tolerance.

Sasha Havlicek, CEO/Director, Institute for Strategic Dialogue, London
What we have seen with the tragic events in Norway is how certain narratives that have regained mainstream momentum across Europe can provide a sense of moral justification to those that would do harm. With such painful evidence of how dangerous extremist ideology is in all its guises, we must also tackle the subtler, widespread narratives that serve to part-justify those views. We must stand together across communities to be successful. Women who have been directly affected by extremism are doing just that through SAVE. Whether extremisms lead to violence or just to fuelling suspicion and division, they are a problem that weaken our society and that we have to address together.

Hibaaq Osman, SAVE Board Member, Cairo
This tragedy has touched me in a very personal way. I have children the same age and I send them to camps and just to think that these kids were shot at close range is despicable. The Islamophobia in Europe and the US has been of the utmost concern to us, politically and otherwise, and this tragedy should be blamed on all the political parties, media, bloggers and radio programs that are encouraging these right wing groups and campaigning on this issue. The hatred is now focused on the Muslims but soon it could be on everyone who looks different and thinks different. We should fight together against terrorism, racism and extremism by remembering and taking to heart Pastor Martin Niemöller’s courageous words:

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Fahmia Al-Fotih, SAVE Yemen
We have not recovered yet from the heinous terrorist acts that hit Bombay recently. An now the mass killings in Norway have strongly shaken the world specially as the act happened in a place known for peace and a country that annually presents Noble Prize for peace! The heinous act has also shaken some common concepts and stereotypes related to terrorism and extremism in which Muslims are always the first suspect. That has also reassured the world that terrorism knows no religion, no culture and no specific place. It is a threat for all and which rings the alarm for all of us that we should work collectively and look for serious actions and ways to prevent more massacres.

Carla Goldstein, Director of the Women’s Institute of the Omega Institute, New York
The Norway tragedy could happen anywhere - no place or people are immune from terrorist violence. The ending of extreme violence will not happen solely by traditional law enforcement, military, or retributive responses, so we must take up the extraordinary effort of building a new way of living on the planet together. Globalization connected us through transportation and information superhighways, and now we must build a new kind of superhighway – an empathy superhighway -- based on the understanding that the well-being of every individual is deeply connected to the well-being of all people and all living things. This empathy superhighway will connect us through compassionate and loving relationships, and will provide the networks and mechanisms to reconcile our differences, heal past traumas, and find ways to share the world’s precious resources more equitably and sustainably. The good news is that this work is well underway, and women are taking a leadership role in communities around the globe. Women who have suffered from losing their loved ones through violence, or who themselves have suffered from rape or domestic violence, are joining a global anti-violence movement and saying “enough is enough.” They are risking everything to reach across enemy lines and build a more peaceful world. Throughout history there has been a call to the women of the world to join together to end the bloodshed of war -- and the profound grief from Norway raises again the urgency of that call.

Norma Shearer, CEO of Training for Women Network, Research Partner of Women without Borders, Belfast
I stand in solidarity with Norwegian women and the people of Norway following the unacceptable violent attacks on 22 July 2011. This violence is an assault on democracy itself and young people attempting to engage with democratic processes. We in Northern Ireland know something of the grief which accompanies these horrendous and indiscriminate acts of violence and our thoughts and prayers are with the surviving victims and the many grieving families who are left so devastated. Of note in the wake of the attack was the speculation that those responsible were Islamic extremists which brings to light the anti-Muslim ‘tendencies’ that are attempting to embed themselves into Western Europe. There needs to be a policy debate and action from all state actors over whether governments are too ‘tunnel-visioned’ when it comes to combating extremist violence. There is the danger that by focussing solely on Islamic militants it contributes and encourages greater anti-Muslim sentiments as well as detracting from the threat of home-grown radicals not associated with Islam. Combating radical extremism requires dealing with these embedded ‘tendencies’ which in so many cases are learnt in the home, highlighting the important role of the mother in educating the next generation as either radical extremists or tolerant accepters of the “other”. My prayers and thoughts go out to all those in Oslo who have lost innocent loved ones and friends who are the very fabric of the future of society. It will take many years for the grief and hurt to heal and if any good can come of such a tragedy it will require courage, vision and education in order to allow us all to live in peace, understanding and tolerance.”

Siham Abu Awwad, SAVE Palestine
As a human being and especially as a woman, I believe we can always solve our problems through non-violent actions. I believe that Islam is always the religion of peace so I am sending my support to the Norwegian people in the hope that it’s the last violent action in Norway. I live in a crazy country full of violence and daily I meet mothers who are full of pain. As a member of SAVE, I, my organization and my nation are against all the faces of terror.

Pamela Philipose, Senior Journalist and Director of Women's Feature Service, Delhi
I remember reading somewhere (I think it was in Rushdie's Midnight's Children), that on the day Gandhi was shot dead, the one thought running through the minds of Muslims in India was this: "God, let it not be a Muslim." The presence of terrorism inspired by Islam is without doubt undeniable, but the Norway tragedy reminds us how untenable and dangerous are facile positions like "All terrorists are Muslims". In fact it is precisely such attitudes that contribute towards creating the horrifyingly delusional world of killers like Breivek. The Norwegian tragedy reminds us that geographical stereotyping doesn't work in a world connected by rapid travel, the internet and hatreds of various kinds. The bomb attack and shooting exposed the fact that reality is always far more complex than the human imagination can comprehend. This attack should be seized as a moment to build bridges between Europe's diverse communities in ways that are imaginative, humane and non-bureaucratic. The main vehicle for this is education, education and more education. Not just in schools but also in neighbourhoods and government apparatuses. Women are largely absent in conflict resolution. Their voices and experiences must inform policy discussions at all levels.

Beatriz Abril Alegre, who lost her brother Óscar in the 2004 Madrid train bombings
We have just come to realize how dangerous racism is. Maybe some people thought that the threats in Europe come from the outside; however, now we see that this is not a question of nationality or religion, but a question of extremism, whichever form it may take, all of them with fatal consequences. I send my condolences to all those families who have lost their loved ones, whose life has changed forever. I encourage them to fight their grief not with hatred or revenge, but with tolerance and peace: the only way to a better world.

Flash Points: Edit Schlaffer presents SAVE on CBS