Category Archives: Politics

Polemics to Pluralism

Last semester at the Graduate Theological Union (GTU), I took a class called “Introduction to Islamic Theology” with Dr. Ahmed Khater. My final paper for the class was “Polemics to Pluralism.” Our main reading text was Commentary on the Creed of At-Tahawi by Ibn Abi al-Izz. We also read selections from Sharh Al-Aqeedat-il-Wasitiyah: Text on the Fundamental Beliefs of Islam and Rejection of False Concepts of its Opponents by Ibn Taimiyah, Kitaab at-Tawhid by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, The Fundamentals of Tawheed by Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, publications in the “Proofs of Prophethood Series” by the Yaqueen Institute for Islamic Research, parts of The Final Day by Umar Sulaiman Al-Ashqar, as well as videos and other published works. For my book review, I sought a different point of view, choosing Never Wholly Other: A Muslima Theology of Religious Pluralism by Union Theological Seminary‘s Associate Professor of Islam and Interreligious Engagement, Jerusha Tanner Rhodes. Many of these works were referenced in my final paper, which begins…

Polemics to Pluralism

In this paper, as an extension of our weekly class discussions this semester on similarities and differences in theology between Islam and other faiths, I engage with selected historical and contemporary Muslim scholars with regard to how they communicate, by means of theological polemics at one end of the range, through pluralism and interfaith dialogue at the other. I focus on communication by Islamic scholars in their interactions with two other Abrahamic faiths, Christianity and Judaism. I find that some contemporary Muslim scholars value and promote concepts of religious pluralism in the Quran, which may be a sign that Islam is moving away from the polemical rhetoric of its most famous historical scholars.

Please read the remainder of the paper at “Polemics to Pluralism.”

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TechWomen Sierra Leone Project

TechWomen Sierra Leone team, 2 Nov 2020

Following up on my 8 October 2020 post: Despite the challenges of working at home during a pandemic, the inspiring TechWomen team from Sierra Leone is making good progress developing a project to benefit their country. We have worked for months to identify and refine our focus on the challenge of malnutrition in children, and on a statement on the social impact of this difficult problem. The current version of our action plan statement is below. Next week, we begin to make our pitch video.

TechWomen is a competitive and prestigious exchange program of the U.S. State Department – Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Executive Vice President of Knightscope Software Engineering Mercedes Soria, Country Coach Salwa Campbell, and I are mentoring the five Emerging Leaders from Sierra Leone, Dr. Fatmata Munu, Glenna Wilson, Isha Kamara, Joan Koroma, and Josephine Turay (all from Freetown).

Team Sierra Leone Impact Statement

We don’t want to watch our children die. Team Sierra Leone will start with 50 mothers as our pilot. Our campaign will reach the target audience in Freetown and western area by radio, and advertising vans distributing brochures with pictures. We will provide educational materials on best food and good nutritional practices. In addition to mothers, we will contact community leaders, chiefs and community health workers.

Our mission is to reduce the level of malnutrition in Sierra Leone. We will achieve this by educating mothers on how to use local foods to make balanced diets. According to the government of Sierra Leone, 31.3% of children have the chronic form of malnutrition. This is because according to UNICEF, 70% of infants and young children are underfed, surviving on diets consisting mainly of starchy staples. We believe we are the best people to work on the malnutrition project because our skills and background are a perfect match, comprising but not limited to a medical doctor, pharmacist, public health graduate and a data scientist.

This text and photo was published with permission of Team Sierra Leone.

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Inspiring Muslims in America

Notable Technical Women cards 2019
Notable Tech Women Card Deck 2019

This semester at the Graduate Theological Union (GTU), I took the class “Islam and its Interreligious Context” taught by Dr. Mahjabeen Dhala. One of our final reflection papers was to answer this question, “Present a key historical or contemporary Muslim personality in America. Explain the reasons for your selection. How does this personality inspire you?”

The American Muslim personality I chose is Lila Ibrahim. She came to my attention after she was made President of Coursera in 2013, after she was Chief of Staff at Kleiner Perkins in 2010. Coursera is an American MOOC (massive open online course) provider, founded by Stanford University in 2012. She is currently the Chief Operating Officer for DeepMind. In 2019, Ibrahim was featured on several UK Business Insider’s lists of influential and impactful leaders. Purdue University is her alma mater and she is on their Board of Advisors. Ibrahim is the Co-founder and Chair of Team4Tech, a technical mentoring non-profit for developing countries. She has created computer labs in the orphanage in Lebanon where her father was raised. Ibrahim has a remarkable depth of experience in education, especially online, and as a mentor. I admit that I do not know about Lila Ibrahim’s personal faith but I am writing about her as an inspiring American of Lebanese descent.

In 2014, my daughter Jessica and I started working on a project with Dr. Susan Roger, Duke University Professor of Computer Science. Susan and I had known each other for many years and each of us had developed lists of remarkable technical women. Jessica had the idea to make playing cards and posters from our research to inspire girls and young women. We wanted to include a very broad range of women, socially, demographically, geographically, and by professional area. Susan and I each sorted through decades of our professional contacts to find the 54 honorees, and then we contacted each woman for a picture and to fill in biographical details, or used what we found on Wikipedia. Because she had won an Anita Borg Institute Women of Vision Award, Lila Ibrahim was one of the women we selected. Since 2014, Notable Women in Tech has distributed thousands of our card decks and posters around the world. Lila Ibrahim is the five of hearts. You can see the 4th Edition list of honorees on my blog.

Lila Ibrahim inspires me not just because she is a remarkably successful professional woman in the highly-patriarchal technical industry but because she has routinely sought out and succeeded in creating educational projects while acting as a mentor for young entrepreneurs. For many senior executives, it is enough to succeed, but Lila Ibrahim has intentionally and consistently carried others along in the wake of her accomplishments. She always pays it forward.

Inspiring American Muslims about whom other students wrote were:
Mahershala Ali (Academy Award winning actor)
Muhammad Ali (Boxer, activist and philanthropist)
Reza Aslan (Author and scholar of Religious Studies)
Soumaya Khalifa (Executive Director, Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta)
Hind Makki (founder and curator of Side Entrance, an award-winning website)
Ilhan Omar (U.S. Representative for Minnesota)
Malcolm X (Muslim minister and human rights activist)

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TechWomen Team Sierra Leone

Fourah Bay College (University of Sierra Leone) in Freetown, 2017

I am honored to be one of the 2020 TechWomen Impact Coaches for Sierra Leone, working again with fellow Mentor, Mercedes Soria. We mentors just finished our second online training meeting with IIE. I have visited Sierra Leone twice, once in 2017 with Families Without Borders and then again in 2019 as part of the TechWomen Delegation, for which I gave the Networking Keynote address. I am happy to be working with Salwa Campbell as our Sierra Leone Peer Advisor for the five Emerging Leaders from Salone.

I was the Process Architect for TechWomen 2010-2011 and have been a TechWomen mentor and part of eleven international delegations since 2011. TechWomen is an exchange program of the US Department of State – Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. This life changing program is very dear to me and I am looking forward to helping the 2020 Team Sierra Leone develop a project that will help their community.

Tools I mentioned on today’s training call, for teams working at a distance: Google Groups – email distribution and archive, WhatsApp – quick messages and meeting reminders, Facebook – personal updates and contacts, LinkedIn – professional updates and contacts, Skype or Zoom – to communicate verbally, Google Drive – to share and communicate in writing. Send a WhatsApp message to the whole team 2 hours in advance of a team meeting so they don’t have to remember US time zones, Daylight Savings, etc. Mentors have to keep up with country events by reading BBC News, Al Jazeera, New York Times

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Wear the Mask – We Are Strong Together

Wear the Mask by Paul Sizer, June 2002, sizer_wear_the_mask_2020-736x1024

I try to offer congratulations to friends and family for the life events they so generously share on social media. I am glad to be even a small part of their busy and interesting lives. However, I am having increasing difficulty saying something positive when I see wedding and party pictures where no one is wearing a mask. It is so fundamentally disrespectful in these pandemic times. Forgive me if I cannot celebrate your endangering others. There is so little we can do to stop Covid-19 but masks work. Lead by example: wear the mask. We are strong together.

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Image Copyright 2020 by Sizer Design + Illustration.Free Download Available.

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Silicon Valley and the Congo

Please consider joining me in donating to ERD. I am part of the Episcopal-Anglican Congo Network that coordinates information and support for the DRC. Violent militia raids against villages are common – causing people to flee to the relative safety of one of 60 internal refugee camps. Covid-19 and Ebola are active.

Think this has nothing to do with you? Congo produces 60% of the world’s cobalt, used to produce lithium-ion batteries for electric cars, laptops, and smartphones. We in the Silicon Valley helped to create this mess. Let’s work to solve it. Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) is coordinating much-needed aid. What ERD does: “Episcopal Relief & Development works in collaboration with church partners and other local organizations to facilitate healthier, more fulfilling lives in communities that are struggling with hunger, poverty, disaster and disease.”

Recent stories from the Congo:

Not all the news is bad, some Silicon Valley companies are working on recycling as an alternate solution to the problem of needing Congo’s  cobalt. For example: “Daisy is Apple’s new iPhone-recycling robot” (The Verge, 19 April 2018)

The Congo Network is chaired by the Rev. David Copley, Director of Global Partnerships and Mission Personnel, Ministries Beyond the Episcopal Church.

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Leading by Example

On Facebook, I have been posting stories which demonstrate leading by example. I disagree with Sharon Keating’s assessment in her Buzzfeed article yesterday, “Stop Sharing Viral Photos Of Cops Kneeling With Protesters”, in which she writes, “This movement is not about individuals.”  Systemic evil like our country’s racism and violence toward people of color was built up one person at a time. I believe this toxic system can only be torn down by each of us honoring each other’s importance as an individual, a valued and loved child of God. A moment of humble solidarity is important, is something we can build on and celebrate. Even though they may not last, I will continue to share those moments of leadership.

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer)

Facebook Posts on Leading by Example

Dee Alcott-Rogriguez post 5 June 2020

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Thanks to the Rev. Peggy Bryan for the “Faith can move mountains…” image!

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