On May 3, 2012, CAIR-Chicago hosted author and political expert M. Salahuddin Khan, who presented a speech entitled, “America, Afghanistan and Pakistan: Pathology of a Relationship.” Khan presented his audience with an overview of the history of foreign relations between the former Soviet Union and these countries in order to contextualize current conflicts.
Khan stressed that understanding the larger sequence of events leading up to 9/11 (an event he called “an international tragedy”) was crucial in order to avoid the kinds of cross-cultural misunderstandings that he examines in his work. As Khan discussed, these misunderstandings result from the absence of accurate information and the either intentional or unintentional promulgation of misinformation.
When presented with “simple blank space” – the unanswered questions and confusion surrounding global terrorism – Khan notes that the mind becomes uncomfortable and begins to fill in the blanks “subjectively” without searching for more empirical authority.
According to Khan, those affected most by this phenomenon seem to be the political segment of the population (the people in power) and, interestingly enough, New Yorkers, who Khan says feel a sense of unique sense of ownership over the events that lead them to feel that any explanations that “ascribe reason to behavior” are “too much like exoneration.”
Quoting Stephen Covey, Khan reminded his audience that they “must seek first to understand before attempting to be understood” – a message especially apropos to the present political climate where fully comprehending the failures and successes of the past is a necessity in moving forward into the future.