11 Recommendations from "The Middle Path of Moderation In Islam"

1. "Peace is an absolute priority" and a prerequisite for normality for all of us."

2. "Militarism, extremism, and violence...signify the failure of wasatiyyah (moderation)."

3. "Waging a campaign against criminality and aggression may call for strong measures to protect society against lawlessness."

4. "Good governance is a potent instrument and facilitator of moderation and balance in public affairs."

5. "In the sphere of government, national constitutions are the principal tools of establishing a system of checks and balances in the exercise of power."

6. "A constitution that is cognizant of the essentials of Islam, and enacted through consultative methods and promulgated by the lawfully designated leader in a Muslim majority country, may well qualify as the command of the ulu'l-amr that inspires obedience."

7. "Education and the media play crucial roles in the realization of a state of socio-political equilibrium."

8. "Misinformation on Islam and Islamophobia can only be addressed by parallel efforts to call attention to the often neglected peace-like, humanitarian and compassionate teachings of Islam."

9. "There is a need also to develop the discourse of wasatiyyah among Muslims themselves."

10. "Pluralism is a powerful moderator that ensures accommodation of differential interests from within. The essence of a positive approach to pluralism is in the openness of its various component parties."

11. "Islamic scripture accepts the validity in principle of monotheist religions and Muslims have through history lived amicably, engaged, and interacted with other faith communities in their midst."

- Professor Mohammad Hashim Kamali, 11 conclusions & recommendations from his book, "The Middle Path of Moderation Islam" (pp. 236-237)

Slow Down. You're Screwing Up.

Did this crazy thing the other day. It was so out of character.


I went to the library.


They had a shelf called "great reads."


Went over to it and ran my hand along the modest beat-up walnut.


One book stood out. It was old but I'd always wanted to read it.


"New notifications" said my cellphone and then it started beeping. Texts.


Annoyed, I put it away.


As a kid, time seemed to crawl.


Now, many years later, I realize the value of slowing down.


This month's Harvard Business Review has a cover story called "The High-Intensity Workplace." It's about the strategies people use to deal with an unreasonably demanding environment, which is to say most workplaces these days.


Briefly, they either


- Go along and lose their personal lives;


- Pretend to go along and burn out along the way, ultimately burning out from the stress; or


- Admit that they're not automatons and get punished. 


Boy have things changed in just a few decades. And there isn't even a reward for it.


Why exactly are we in school day and night, chasing degrees that yield debt but not a job?


Why are we ignoring our families to work on...name it. Why don't we make marriages and kids in the
first place? (No time.) Why are so many people divorced and then in unhappy relationships?


Why are so many people loudly unhappy at work, toxic to themselves and their colleagues?


Why are so many quietly unhappy, constantly answering this email and that email and doing this project and that and coordinating her meeting and his meeting and that initiative and this? Without any thank-you or appreciation. No reward other than "you keep your job?"


It's a sunny day today and I enjoyed feeling the sun on my face, the wind blowing soft and fresh across my body.


If we could just slow down a little bit and leave ourselves alone. We'd be happier and more productive, too.


Here, I give you permission.


________________


All opinions my own.

Understanding A Threat Environment

We were talking about the Stanford rape case and the question of drinking came up.

I said that although I felt terrible for the rape victim, she shouldn't have gotten drunk.

Because a college campus, for girls, is a threat environment and it's stupid to put yourself in a position where someone can rape you.

Last night we took a walk and passed the high school. There in the grass sat two teenage girls and three teenage guys. They were laughing in that way people laugh when things are getting rowdy.

I turned to my husband and said, "That looks like trouble about to happen."

When you're dealing with a threat environment, political correctness doesn't matter. It doesn't matter that you should be able to wear whatever you want; that you should be able to drink as much as you want, and get drunk; or that you should be safe with people you think are your friends.

The only thing that matters is the amount of threat, and what you do to minimize it.

I got a call from my daughter the other day. "I'm sitting in Starbucks," she said.

"It's 10:00 at night," I answered back. "What are you doing out so late?"

"Oh mom," she said to me.

"Please get a cab home and don't take the bus," I shot back. "Don't look for trouble."

It's curious to me that people have trouble distinguishing the features of a threat environment, from their feelings about why the threat environment exists in the first place, or their passionate conviction that the threat itself is wrong.

When it comes to a threat, we cannot worry about being "nice."

It is not the time to accomplish "social justice."

You simply eliminate the threat.

This sounds so very basic and self-evident but if you look around the world, in particular at the mishandling of the refugee situation in Europe, you see that common sense does not always play out in real life.

If a proper threat assessment had been done beforehand, it seems unlikely that we would be witnessing the outcome we are seeing right now. Floods of desperate people committing crime after crime after crime, and the authorities paper over what's happening.

Unfortunately, when your policies are based on "narrative" and "spin" instead of an objective risk assessment, you leave it to hate groups to assert the obvious. And when hate groups become a primary news source, that's a whole other level of threat that compounds the original problem.

When you look at the world from a threat-based perspective, it doesn't really matter what the issue is, what your politics are, or what your morality claims to be. It only matters that the people who populate any given area are safe.

So...let's review the types of things one should avoid from a threat-based perspective.
  • Women - don't get drunk and go to a college party. Don't hang out with immature people and expect that they will behave like responsible grownups. Don't stay out late at night, and then walk home alone.
  • Nations - don't try to help a flood of desperate people escape a war-torn country unless you have a lot of money and a plan to ensure the safety of all parties involved. Food, shelter, healthcare, education and very good security.
  • Message-makers - Don't try to recreate reality using "spin." Don't let hate groups tell the story.
  • Everybody - don't confuse feelings with facts. Don't go off on a social justice mission when someone is openly threatening to kill you and your loved ones, and to destroy everything that you hold dear.
Denial is a normal psychological reaction when we're threatened.

But we can't afford to give in to it. We cannot let it substitute for common sense.

Retail Branding: Don't Confuse The Customer

Over the past few days I’ve done my fair share of browsing unfamiliar retail environments.

I cannot find a goddamn thing.

In Publix (grocery store) I needed a protein bar. Well who would think that the protein bars would be in the same aisle as the…Snapple and shampoo.

Perhaps you’re thinking Macy’s, a national brand, would be better.

No.

Here is what we confronted in our quest to buy a bathing suit for my husband.




It was a dizzying array of merchandise, but everything was piled on top of everything, placed adjacent to every other thing, and the store was almost impossible to navigate.

Plus the customer service staff was scarce.

One guy with a mountain beard stood there trying to look preoccupied with folding things.

Another lady was sweeping the men’s dressing room (???).

And then of course there was a person at the cash register, dealing with customers.

For goodness sake, carry less stuff and use white space. Have better signs. And require staff to interact with customers in a way that is genuinely kind and helpful.

Don’t you want to sell stuff?

_____

All opinions my own.



All opinions my own. Photos by me.

How One Hilton Hotel Improved Its Customer Service

I travel to a certain Hilton hotel fairly frequently. Between my most recent visit and the previous one – less than 6 months – the improvement in customer service is so noticeable that I would call it drastic. This was evidenced by the following behaviors:
  • Quick response to customer service requests
  • Followup phone calls to make sure we got what we needed
  • Pre-arrival text to make sure we had a contact number
  • Actually stating “we are here to serve you, that’s what we’re here for”
  • Smiling, courteous, but non-intrusive attitude
  • Generous provision of incidentals like newspaper, toothpaste, etc.
  • General welcoming atmosphere, very quiet and relaxing
This was a case study in customer service improvement!


I wanted to know more on a practical level: How did they do it?


So I asked one of the employees – letting the person know that I was writing a blog post, and that their name would not be used. In a sign of being well-trained and brand-conscious, the person agreed and then introduced me to the operations manager, who thanked me for the kind online review and shared some additional thoughts. They are included in the below.
  • Extensive Training With Role-Playing: Employees receive extensive training, including face-to-face role playing to help them handle potentially unpleasant scenarios.
  • Positively Oriented Employee Rewards Program: When employees do a good job of providing customer service, guests are encouraged to let Hilton know through its “Catch Me At My Best” program. Of course guests can also complain, but the idea is to focus on what people are doing well rather than badly.
  • Relevant Rewards: When employees are happy and productive, the brand shines. In this case, the rewards program is relevant to employees in two ways. First, they are recognized among their peers, which provides social status and self-esteem. Second, rewards are tangible and financial, translating into gift certificates usable at local grocery stores and tourist attractions.
  • “Practice What You Preach” Management Style: Management clearly models the behaviors it asks of its employees. Working at the hotel is a dignified profession and serving guests is a privilege and an honor. It is a classy environment to be in, and the way people carry themselves reflects this. I personally found this to be true, whether dealing with people at an executive level or people who were serving coffee.
  • Empowerment: Management gives employees the discretion to handle situations (to a certain extent, I’m sure, not infinitely) according to their best judgment.
______


This post represents my own opinion and was not sponsored by Hilton Hotels. It is not official communication on their part or mine. The employee I spoke with introduced me to the operations manager at the hotel, who graciously thanked me for getting the word out online.

3 Ways Your Resume Needs Improvement

A few times in my career I’ve had to review resumes. Most of the resumes I see are terrible. This is because the candidate:
  • Throws every possible qualification into the document – regardless of whether it matches the type of job they’re applying to.
  • Jams words on top of words, making it impossible to read them without Herculean effort.
  • Tries to obfuscate their true level of experience.
Oddly, in messing up their resumes people ignore the most basic rule of branding: make yourself uniquely appealing to the customer. But people do it anyway.
 
The underlying psychological reason? Ego.


There is a resistance to “changing” yourself “just to satisfy someone else.”


Even if it’s for the sake of a job.
 
Think about how much that costs you.
_____


All opinions my own.

The Sight Of Two Men Kissing

He was repulsed, says his father, by the sight of two men kissing. He was upset that his son should see this.

His ex-wife says that he hit her. One time, because she hadn’t finished the laundry.

And then he committed the worst mass shooting in American history, killing 50 people or more at a gay nightclub.

It is hard for normal people to make sense of the killer’s mindset. So we tell ourselves he is a “cowardly hater,” not one of us. 

But maybe we are letting ourselves off too easily. We have a fair share of hatred in ourselves - often for ourselves - and it is only too easy to put that hatred on others.

There is this word “intersectionality” now. It basically means that people suffer from multiple forms of hatred at once, because all baseless hatred is related. If you hate on gay people and lesbians, you’re going to hate on people of other cultures, other colors, and classes you perceive as lesser than yourself. And guess what? You are more prone to be a terrorist.

Oddly, brands are a kind of self-preservation measure, a way of protecting oneself against this type of bullying. And clearly, Omar Mateen spent his share of time posing for the camera. 

An obsession with image, an obsession with being better than everybody else, an obsession with hating on anyone whose difference threatens you personally.

It occurs to me that Mr. Mateen may have been gay, and shot all of those people because he just couldn’t deal with it.

I think that he got involved with radical Islam as a way of bolstering his self-image. You and I don’t have to understand that - but for many recruits the group fulfills their fantasies of greatness.

We really need to get smart about terrorism. It’s not the enemy “out there.” It’s the enemy “in here,” the impoverishment of the self.

So at the end of the day, it isn’t “them” who poses the most danger. 
It is “us.”

Time to wage a jihad against the evil part of ourselves. 
___

All opinions my own.


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