Russell Razzaque on religion's inoculation against extremism In 1989, Russell Razzaque was one of the few Muslims enrolled at the Royal London Hospital medical college. Alienated by the dominant social culture, he was drawn to the welcoming Islamic Society. Soon, though society started teaching a radical message, he writes in The Wall Street Journal. Razzaque dropped the society, but others became "intoxicated," even leaving school to devote themselves to the cause. After 9/11, thinking harder about what made the society's message repellent to some and attractive to others, Razzaque saw a pattern. "Those men who were the most opposed to the perverted messages being peddled by the Islamic Society were those who had been brought up by religious parents... Those who had no exposure to Islam prior to the encounter with extremist recruiters seemed more likely to follow them." Studies back up his observation, he says. One Gordon College study "found that childhood religious experience tended to give individuals increased compassion for others, as measured in psychological rating scales. This helps explain why it would be harder for such people to follow a supremacist ideology that by definition is uncompassionate towards the 'out' group." Those who associate Islam as taught by their parents with warm childhood memories are less likely to infuse the religion with hatred for others later in life. "Thus contrary to the insistence of some that religion is inherently divisive and harmful, this research suggests that early-life exposure to moderate forms of religion may be a vital inoculator against the dangers of extremist recruitment," he says.
Nicole Gelinas on Republican politics in the wake of Irene Republicans in Washington should be careful as hundreds of thousands in New England remain flooded and without power in the wake of Hurricane Irene. They will not win any battles by making disaster relief another opportunity for austerity measures, writes Nicole Gelinas in The Boston Globe. Instead, "the GOP can help the country--and itself--by making sure that recovery efforts are targeted toward real needs and executed efficiently." In New England, floodwaters have destroyed bridges, water-treatment plants, and utilities. Governments didn't require many inland communities to purchase flood insurance, so insurance companies will not replace destroyed homes. Yet Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said disaster funds must be offset with cuts elsewhere, Michele Bachmann said Irene was a sign from God about the deficit, and Ron Paul suggested we eliminate FEMA. "Nickel-and-diming disaster victims is, at the least, bad politics," especially for Republicans, Gelinas writes. Moderate voters already suspect Republicans aren't up to managing disasters in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Republicans should focus on a plan that will "approve money for bridge, road, and other infrastructure repairs, and to assist farmers and homeowners who lived well outside of federal flood zones. This will cost money--a few billion dollars or more--but unexpected events are what deficits are for." Republicans can also take the opportunity to say that this disaster proves the 2008 stimulus did not improve infrastructure. "Disaster recovery can show voters that the nation can spend infrastructure money well," she writes, and Republicans should show the country they are the party who knows how.