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If Gandhi and Bin Ladin Were to Engage in Dialogue…

If he were alive today, how might Mahatma Gandhi, the greatest apostle of non-violence, challenge Osama bin Laden’s worldview? A piece by Bhikhu Parekh, a professor of political philosophy and author of three books on Gandhi, featured in this month’s issue of Prospect Magazine answers this question through a bold fictional dialogue between these two figures. This unique and fascinating effort at “translating” and giving Gandhi a contemporary relevance is based on a lecture first delivered at Boston University. A longer version will appear later this year in “The Stranger’s Religion: Fascination and Fear” edited by Anna Lannstrom (University of Notre Dame Press). Click here for the piece, called “Why Terror?”, or click below to read the author’s preface.

Bhikhu Parekh’s preface:

Like millions around the world, I found the atrocities of 9/11 abhorrent and utterly condemn such acts of terror. Despite the war against terror, we continue to see more horrors such as that in Madrid. What drives the bombers? How do they live with their deeds? Is there no alternative to the cycle of violence? No one is better qualified to advise on this than Mahatma Gandhi, the great apostle of non-violence.

My imaginary exchange between him and Bin Laden tries to do two things: to comprehend at least part of the twisted worldview that inspires Bin Laden, for we cannot defeat it without understanding it; and second, to explore a neglected alternative. My Bin Laden is an intellectual construct, a metaphor, referring not so much to the real man as to a more generic pro-terror radical Islamist.

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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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