During a trip to Iraq in 2005, I wrote a column about spending a night aboard the USS Chosin, which commanded the US Navy task force off the Iraqi coast. There I interviewed Mustapha Ahansal, a Moroccan-American sailor who acted as the Arabic translator of Chosin when he stopped ships suspected of carrying pirates or other hostile actors.
âThe first time I got on a boat,â he told me, âwe had six or seven people – one Hispanic, one black, one white, maybe a woman in our unit. . Their sailors told me, âI thought all Americans were white. Then one of them asked me, “Are you in the military? It actually shocks them. Ahansal told me that an Iraqi Coast Guard officer once expressed to him his amazement that people of so many different religions and races could produce such a powerful navy, whereas “here we are fighting in the north and to the south, and we are all cousins ââand brothers â.
Leadership Matters: America’s population is similar in diversity to the U.S. military, but the ethos of pluralism and teamwork demonstrated by many of our men and women in uniform reduces tribal divisions within the forces armies. It’s not perfect, but it’s real. Ethical leadership based on pluralism of principles is important. That is why our military is our last great vector of pluralism at a time when more and more civilian politicians are opting for cheap tribalism.
What scares me the most is how this virus of tribalism is now infecting some of the world’s most dynamic multisectary democracies – like India and Israel, as well as Brazil, Hungary and Poland.
India is a particularly sad story for me because after 9/11 I presented Indian pluralism as the most important example of why Islam per se was not responsible for motivating people. Al-Qaeda terrorists. It all depended, I argued, on the political, social and cultural context in which Islam, or any other faith, was anchored, and where Islam is anchored in a pluralistic and democratic society, it thrives like any other religion. . Although India has a large Hindu majority, it has had Muslim presidents and a Muslim woman on its Supreme Court. Muslims, including women, had been governors of many Indian states, and Muslims were among the country’s most successful entrepreneurs.
Unfortunately, today Indian nationalism based on pluralism is weakened by the Hindu supremacists of the ruling BJP party, who seem determined to convert secular India into a “Hindu Pakistan”, according to the eminent Indian historian. Ramachandra guha once put.
That democracies around the world are infected with this virus of tribalism couldn’t come at a worse time – a time when every community, business and country will have to adapt to accelerations of technological change, globalization and climate change. And this can only be done effectively within and between countries through higher degrees of collaboration between businesses, workers, educators, social entrepreneurs and governments – not rule or die, not my way or l highway.
We must quickly find the antidote to this tribalism, otherwise the future is bleak for democracies around the world.
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