Jihad vs. Just War: Understanding Armed Struggle in Islam

Written by Mariam Awaisi  Pick up the latest New York Times, skim through the top entries on The Huffington Post, or tune into the latest headlines on CNN, and you can be sure to read or hear about how various Muslim groups are perpetrating violence in the name of Islam. And it so follows that […]

Diversity is Divine Design

Written by Mariam Awaisi  Difference, plurality, and diversity of opinion were the central themes of the Critical Connections event “Dealing with Difference and Diversity: An Islamic Perspective.” Held at the Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts (ISWM) in West Springfield, Massachusetts, the event brought together over forty local Muslims for a community dialogue to discuss intra- […]

Afghanistan at a Crossroads

Written by Bernie Pelletier As the crow flies, South Windsor, Connecticut is 6,622 miles from Afghanistan. But on May 29, a group of people in South Windsor had a window directly into this small and troubled nation. Three experts – each of whom had direct experience in Afghanistan – spoke to a group people drawn together by […]

Green Shoots of Reconciliation

Written by Bernie Pelletier Just as Critical Connections is determined to resist misrepresentation, push back against intolerance, and defend against misunderstanding, we must seek, support, and welcome those who work from any side towards the goal of a resilient diverse world community. We have a prominent example of such outreach in Pope Francis, the new Catholic […]

Countering Militancy in Pakistan: A Talk By Dr. Haroon K. Ullah

On May 28, Critical Connections partnered with the World Affairs Council of Western Massachusetts to host Dr. Haroon K. Ullah, an international scholar, U.S. diplomat, and field researcher specializing in the Middle East and South Asia. He currently serves on Secretary Kerry’s Policy Planning Staff and is a Countering Violent Extremism specialist at the U.S. […]

Boko Haram, Islamists, and the New York Times

Written by Mehlaqa Samdani Two weeks ago the New York Times published an excellent article on the controversy surrounding the opening of the 9/11 museum.  At the center of the debate is a short video produced by the museum that describes members of Al-Qaida as Islamists and refers to their campaign as jihad. The interfaith advisory […]

Rethinking “Normal”: Challenging Western Narratives of Muslim Women

Written by Justine Berg The second event in the “Bridging the Muslim/non-Muslim Divide” series co-sponsored by Critical Connections and Karuna Center for Peacebuilding, centered on the question “Do Muslim Women Need Saving?” Throughout the evening, around 50 participants engaged this provocative question by examining their own assumptions and biases about Islam, Muslim women, their conceptions […]

No Dishonor in Dialogue

Written by Mehlaqa Samdani Honor killings, domestic abuse, forced marriages and female genital mutilation as practiced in Muslim societies and communities are just some of the issues raised in the recently released documentary “Honor Diaries.” It features Muslim activists from around the world working to advance gender empowerment within their respective communities. What, then, is all the […]

Pakistani Taliban Backgrounder

Written by Mehlaqa Samdani 1. Who are the Pakistani Taliban? While the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was formally established in December 2007 under the leadership of Baitullah Mehsud, Taliban groups in Pakistan’s tribal belt had emerged many years earlier. During the war in Afghanistan against the Soviets, the Pakistani, Saudi and American governments colluded to socialize […]

Thinking Beyond Dichotomies in the Holy Land: A Student’s Experience in Palestine

“I want to take you down to the piece of land my parents own,” Mariam, the middle-aged daughter of our landlords said on our first morning in Beit Sehour. “It’s outside of Bethlehem, a beautiful piece of property. When they built the Wall it went straight through their land, putting most of it on the Israeli side. We went to visit the remaining piece a few years ago. My girls were young, and it was a lovely afternoon. Then this Jewish soldier came over to us, asked ‘What are you doing here?’ I was furious. I told him ‘This is our land. We’re having a picnic.’ He was like, ‘We saw someone throwing rocks.’” “Throwing rocks,” I would learn, is an accusation used liberally by Israeli soldiers, and has caused the incarceration of many young Palestinian men. But on that first morning in Bethlehem I just sat in a baffled silence. Throughout the next five months I spent in Palestine I discovered these stories everywhere. Stories of the occupation, always there, just beyond the surface.

A Book Review Of Tamim Ansary’s Destiny Disrupted

Written by Faiza Kaukab As we are starting our Muslim World in Transition Series at Critical Connections on February 11, we would like to share with you a few very interesting books that we think will add to your experience of the upcoming events! One such book is Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through […]

Geneva II: A brief backgrounder on the Syria peace conference

Written by XXX 1. What is the aim of the Syria peace conference in Montreaux, Switzerland? The original aim of the UN-backed peace conference on Syria scheduled for January 22, 2014 (actual negotiations begin Jan. 24 in Geneva) was to establish a transitional government with comprehensive executive powers that could potentially include members of both the government […]

The Question is Still Palestine: Arab Unity and Revolutionary Change in the 21st Century

Written by XXX The Georgetown Center for Contemporary Arab Studies Master’s program, to which I am currently applying, requests a “well-written, scholarly essay (not exceeding 750 typed words) analyzing what you consider to be the most significant situation, problem, or development in society, politics, economics, or culture of the Arab world today.” The following is my […]

The Legacy of 9/11: Domestic and Foreign Policy Trends 12 Years On

Written by Terry James On Sunday, September 25, Critical Connections, along with Hartford 20/20 and the Charter Oaks Cultural Center in Hartford, hosted a panel discussion on the topic of “The Legacy of 9/11.” Speaking were Sandra Staub, legal director of the Connecticut branch of the ACLU; Dr. Falguni Sheth, associate professor of philosophy and […]

Intervention Syria: Why American Missiles Cannot Save Syrian Lives

Written by Terry James In a BBC interview last Tuesday, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel confirmed that if the president chooses to militarily intervene in the Syrian civil war, “We are ready to go.” Other officials suggested that missile strikes could have begun as early as last Thursday. Were it not for a last minute parliamentary veto of UK prime […]

Egypt and Turkey 2013: Democracy and Revolt

Written by Terry James In 2011, the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia sparked a series of pro-democracy uprisings throughout the Arab world that were dubbed the “Arab Spring.” In Egypt, Turkey, Bulgaria, and Brazil, 2013 has also been a year of protests, but this time against elected powers, raising the question of whether elections are a […]



Dr. Peter Coleman

THURS, OCT. 19, 7-9 PM


Bangs Community Center       70 Boltwood Walk        Amherst, MA


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These events are part of our Transforming this Moment series and are organized in partnership with the Karuna Center for Peacebuilding. For more details, please click here. Our events are made possible by Mass Humanities, whose grants inspire considered thoughts, conversations, and action


Friday, December 8, 2017        9-4pm                               Holyoke Community College Holyoke, MA

A daylong event with  educators, religious clergy, law-enforcement personnel, social workers, and Muslim community leaders committed to building inclusive communities.


Prof. Sudha Setty on the future of American-Muslims under the Trump administration


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Mr. Daryl Johnson on homegrown extremism


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