Century Marks

Century Marks


The Salafists are the most influential movement in the Muslim world today, says Muslim scholar Rabia Terri Harris. They were originally an anti-imperial movement that resisted the Ottoman Empire. Harris believes that all radical Muslims groups, such as the Salafists, al-Qaeda and the Taliban, are inclined to violence and to utopianism as a consequence of the trauma inflicted on the Muslim world by the Ottoman Empire, Western nations and autocratic Muslim governments. "The solution to trauma is not more trauma; it is healing," says Harris. "The solution to traumatized Islam is not further attacks on Islam; it is supporting natural regeneration from within" (Interfaith Just Peacemaking, edited by Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite).


The late Václav Havel, the dissident Czech writer who became his country's president after the fall of the iron curtain, differentiated between hope and optimism. Hope, he said, "is not prognostication. It is an orientation of the spirit, and orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced, and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons. . . . It is an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed. . . . [Hope] is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out" (Pro Ecclesia, Winter).

Haves and have-nots

Economist Richard Wolff says that both rich and poor Americans tend to think of themselves as middle class, but the middle class has nearly disappeared. The businesses that had success catering to the middle class in the past—Sears, for example—are having difficulty today. Upscale boutiques and high-end department stores at the one end and discount stores at the other end are doing well (The Sun, February).

Teacher, teacher

A longitudinal study that followed students from fourth grade into adulthood gives empirical proof that good (or bad) teachers do make a difference. Having a good teacher in the fourth grade alone increases by 1.25 percent the likelihood that a student will go to college and decreases the chance by the same amount that a female student as a teenager will get pregnant. Having a very poor teacher is tantamount to a student's missing 40 percent of the school year, an intolerable truancy rate. Nicholas D. Kristof notes that the quality of public school education is hardly getting any notice in the primary campaigns. Improving the quality of education may be the most essential strategy for the nation's economic development and job creation in the future (New York Times, January 11).

Dead ringer

In a video shown by the Westminster Presbyterian Church, Burbank, California, congregants are reminded to turn off all cell phones and all electronic and messaging devices. The video warns that a fee of $25 will be assessed for a cell phone that goes off during announcements, $50 if it goes off during prayer concerns. Anyone whose phone goes off during the sermon . . . is going to hell (YouTube.com).