citizen diplomacy

  • A more important story than the headscarf debate

    Respect partyThe current European headlines are dominated by France and Belgium’s impending face-veil legislation, but there is another, more important, story that isn’t getting as much attention—that of a quiet revolution throughout Europe of Muslim women emerging onto the political scene.

    One of the most prominent examples is that of Salma Yaqoob in the UK. Yaqoob, a prospective parliament candidate, is the most prominent Muslim woman in British public life today. She herself wears a headscarf, a powerful symbol of a faith she has accommodated with her passionate leftwing politics. She represents UK’s Respect party and has a pretty good chance of making history as one of the first British Muslim women MPs. There are other Muslim women running for seats in Birmingham, Bethnal Green, Bolton South and other cities.

    Sadly, however, by virtue of being both Muslim and women, Yaqoob and others face opposition from all sides who don’t believe …

  • Professional Development Seminar in Citizen Diplomacy w/ Rabbi Dr. Marc Gopin and Palestinian Peacebuilder Aziz Abu Sarah

    Professional Development Seminar in Citizen Diplomacy

    with Rabbi Dr. Marc Gopin and Palestinian peacebuilder Aziz Abu Sarah

    May 27th – June 4th

    Based in Jerusalem with day trips to neighboring cities and Holy sites

    • Contact: Scott Cooper or Becca Grimm at ‘‘ or 1-703-993-4473 (USA)

    This seminar will be a combination of theory exploration, training, and concrete practice in the field. Based on Dr. Gopin’s most recent theories in To Make the Earth Whole: The Art of Citizen Diplomacy, the course will create space for participants to understand and measure in a new way the dynamics of their own potential impact on war and peace. It explores:

    1. The theory and practice of positive incremental change and citizen diplomacy
    2. A central case study from the Middle East
    3. The philosophical and spiritual ethics, East and West, of decision making in conflict interventions.

    Along with

  • Music Returns to Afghanistan

    Indie rock music in Afghanistan??


    “We thought it was about time for Afghanistan to have its own rock band, ” says bass player Siddique Ahmad.  Meet Kabul Dreams, a band that is Afghanistan’s first and only rock and roll group.

    Kabul DreamsThe three members of the band all hail from different ethnic groups: one is a Tajik, one Uzbek, and one Pashtun. “The reason we formed this band was to give a message to the Afghan youth, a message that they can live together,” Ahmad explains. The trio say their aim is to “express the voice and dreams of Afghan youth through their music.” The dominant message in all their lyrics is one of “unity, peace and love.”

    With the political turmoil which gripped Afghanistan in the 1990s, all three members sought refuge in the neighboring countries of Uzbekistan, Pakistan and Iran, where they were influenced by the Western …

  • Cooperation: Rewarding, Contagious, & Cascading

    We see evidence of conflict and competition all around us. It seems inevitable and depressing. So, the question that remains is – why does cooperation exist at all? Well, science is now coming out with exciting discoveries about the nature and spread of cooperation that may paint a more uplifting and hopeful picture.

    A Biological Basis for Cooperation:

    Using the latest technology, brain imaging experiments at Emory University have now revealed a biological basis for cooperation. These studies show, for the first time, that social cooperation is intrinsically rewarding to the human brain, even in the face of pressures to the contrary. This suggests that the altruistic drive to cooperate is embedded in humans – either genetically programmed or acquired through socialization. In other words, reciprocal altruism activates a reward circuit that motivates us to persist with cooperative social interactions. These results also suggest possible ways to study conflict by …

  • The Biology of Forgiveness

    Recent studies are coming out with interesting findings on forgiveness. In one area of research, science is showing how forgiveness can help humans become more healthy and happy, and how holding on to anger leads to emotional and physical deterioration. Another area of research is exploring the possibility that humans are biologically wired for forgiveness, that it is just as normal as our revenge instinct, leaving up to us the choice of which to nurture.

    One pioneer in the study of forgiveness is Dr. Frederic Luskin, the co-founder and director of the Stanford Forgiveness Projects, where he developed his research-tested “Nine Steps to Forgiveness” training methodology. His research, as well as others’ research, has consistently shown that forgiveness increases physical vitality, optimism, hope, compassion, and self-confidence while reducing anger, blood pressure, hurt, depression, and stress.  In his work as co-director of the Stanford-Northern Ireland HOPE Project, he has successfully

  • Youth working to break down stereotypes


    Since 2003, the organization Kreuzberg Initiative Against Antisemitism has been working to dispel stereotypes and prejudices amongst Muslims against Jews. It is based in the Kreuzberg neighborhood in Berlin which is mainly populated by Muslims—including immigrants of Kurdish, Turkish and Asiatic origin as well as Palestinians—and were there were many manifestations of Muslim anti-Semitism in the past.

    The group involves youth who organize and participate in workshops throughout schools and youth centers where they use activities—such as role playing—to raise awareness and break down stereotypes.

    Maja, a Muslim of Syrian descent who was born and raised in Berlin, joined the organization after experiencing intolerance within her own Muslim community. She says:

    “In my view, there are two sets of problems. On the one hand, Muslims are confronted with prejudices, such as the idea that they are fundamentalists or traditionally backward.  On the other hand, Muslim groups, especially young people, are

  • No More Taking Sides: An Israeli-Palestinian Story

    No more taking sides

    Listen to a powerful interview on Krista Tippett’s Speaking of Faith program.  In this show, she features Robi Damelin, who lost her son David to a Palestinian sniper, and Ali Abu Awwad, who lost his older brother Yousef to an Israeli soldier. But, instead of clinging to traditional ideologies and turning their pain into more violence, they’ve decided to understand the other side — Israeli and Palestinian — by sharing their pain and their humanity. They tell of a gathering network of survivors who share their grief, their stories of loved ones, and their ideas for lasting peace.

    Listen to the full interview and check out other resources here: No More Taking Sides

  • Challenging Prejudice Creatively


    Melih Kesmen created his company StyleIslam as an unconventional antidote to prejudice.  This German designer of Turkish background made his first t-shirt, bearing the slogan “I love my Prophet,” during the cartoon controversy in Europe.  He received a lot of positive feedback from Muslims and non-Muslims, which then motivated him to create a fashion label for street wear with Islamic slogans. Reconciling the two cultures he grew up with, Turkish-Islamic and German street art, his label has become very popular.  He says:

    “We communicate Islam in a language young people can understand, without sacrificing our values in the process. Our customers can go out in public with StyleIslam messages across their chests and they often find the opportunity to speak with curious passersby about the designs. And since communication is the best antidote to prejudice, I really think that StyleIslam offers something which helps build bridges.”

    Explore the various designs …

  • The Lonely Man of Peace: An In-depth Interview

    Folks, many of you may have seen this, but we have friends in the world who cannot directly access the Jerusalem Post piece. So here it is. Lauren is an amazing interviewer. She interviewed me for nine hours, longest interview of my life:

    The lonely man of peace




    This week, Orthodox American rabbi Marc Gopin saw his coexistence work in Syria bear fruit. What turns a Soloveitchik disciple into an unofficial diplomat to the Arab…Somewhere between the shtetls of Eastern Europe and sites across the Levant, Rabbi Dr. Marc Gopin, 52, has found his calling.

    Heading the George Mason University Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution in Arlington, Virginia, he is not waiting for a peace treaty to cause change. Gopin gets on a plane and heads for trouble spots wherever he can find openings. He meets with sheikhs, heads of state …

  • Dialogue Sparked by To Make the Earth Whole

    Some good questions from my student Agatha Glowacki on To Make the Earth Whole. Her questions are bolded; my answers are italicized.

    Dear Prof. Gopin,

    I am reading your newest book and am very energized by the insights and vision you offer. As I read, I have so many thoughts and have been jotting them down, and decided to email you to start a conversation.

    Here are some of my thoughts:

    1. You mention the possibility of hope resident in the idea of a global social contract based on democracy and freedom. What about those elements, especially the radical Muslim fringe but even the more mainstream Political Islamists, who don’t accept or want democracy or human rights because they see them as illegitimate products of the West?

    Actually, I think this Western approach is overemphasized. Indicators are that support for non-democratic forms of political Islam, and especially violent