While visiting the United States for official work a few weeks ago, I was bestowed the honour to be invited as a special guest by eminent Pakistani-American scholar, author and former diplomat Professor Akbar S. Ahmed to attend alecture by Mowahid Hussain Shah, another distinguished member of the diasporas’ legal community, at the American University’s School of International Service (SIS) in Washington DC. We were also joined by Ali Imran, a DC-based journalist working on a wide range of topics relating to local and international issues. The class consisted of some of the brightest young students from a wide range of backgrounds including those from the US, India and Morocco. All of them were eager to learn new things and question views which provided a platform for healthy debates.Mowahid’s topic was ‘Tensions that roil West-Muslim relations’ which was quite a complex issue to discuss given the ground realities of the global political order. In his opinion, the collapse of the Soviet Union provided the US – as President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser (NSA), Zbigniew Brzezinski posited – a brief window of opportunity. Further stating that the 9/11 Attacks were another game changer for US foreign policy. ‘But, the response to it was more to do with the argument of force instead of the force of argument. The resultant militarised overreaction exacerbated flammable elements,’ he argued.He emphasised that those who foresaw a conflict in perpetuity are seeing now its scenario fulfilment. Forces, which could have been sensibly deployed to quell alienation, have been mis-deployed, sharpening rifts .n In his view, Kashmir is at an untenable impasse with Indian troops firing pellet guns at protestors, blinding them. ‘Two steps, rescinding the word of Washington and violative of international law, were completely unnecessary: the shifting of the US Embassy to Jerusalem and the unilateral pulling out from the Iran nuclear deal,’ stated Mowahid.He was quite vocal on this issue for he believed that while the focus is on symptoms, little attempt is made to dig deep and look at the blowback effects of Western policies. Current militancy is a blowback of US policies, putting Palestinian issue on the back burner, and ignoring Kashmir. When mentioning the Afghan quagmire, he firmly believed that it was a by-product of Charlie Wilson’s War in the context of Soviet presence in the region. In the context of humanity, notwithstanding the aforementioned, he provided examples abound of amity and coexistence. It was argued that there is a reason why Pope Francis picked Albania as the first country for him to visit back in September 2014: it is Mother Teresa’s homeland and her spirit visibly lives on there; it is European; it is white; and its 70 percent Muslim majority lives in friendly tranquillity with Catholics and Greek Orthodox.Japan, after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was another example quoted where such calamities are being presented as a teaching moment for humanity.When talking about unconventional intervention, Mowahid mentioned the farewell address of President Dwight Eisenhower from January 1961 in which a prescient warning on the dangers of ‘unwarranted influence by the military-industrial complex’ was given alluding to those who have a vested interest in keeping the cauldron boiling.The students can’t be blamed for their views since perception is everything when it comes to a state’s stature. While India had marketed itself quite well, Pakistan lagged far behind owing to lack of importance given and the internal problems that devoured the state’s international standing in recent decades‘Overlooked in the polarising environment is the huge debt that the West owes to the Islamic civilisation,’ argued Mowahid. For example, it was disclosed to the class that the world’s oldest continuously functioning university, the University of Al-Karaouine, in Fez, Morocco, was founded by a woman, Fatima al-Fihri, in 859 AD. This highlighted the role of women in the Muslim world notwithstanding the linear values presented by certain conservative lots in recent centuries.Spiritualism was also found to be important to Indian celebrities such as Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma who gifted MaulanaJalaludin Rumi’s anthology of poems to guests present at their destination wedding in Tuscany, Italy.Mowahid strongly emphasised to be vigilant about usage of terminology, particularly the terminology on terrorism that has been politicised. He said,’ When the perpetrator is a non-Muslim and white Caucasian, the term ‘terrorism’ is mostly eschewed. When it is a Muslim, it is loosely thrown around.’Further stating in this context that the indoctrination—brain-washing— can even occur in a society of free expression where there is a preponderant exposure to a one-sided perspective along with exclusive socialising with a like-minded social circle, making one vulnerable to closed-minded thinking.It was quoted that the entrenched caste system in India and its odious treatment of its 200 million-strong untouchable (Dalit) community, along with 100 million Adivasi (indigenous tribes), makes a mockery of its claims to secularism and democracy.‘Exempting Israel from critical scrutiny – as often happens during debates on Middle East-related issues – sets the stage for self-censorship and unconscious bias,’ he strongly argued.So, what is the pathway forward? The key steps Mowahid suggested were: build bridges of outreach; press the ‘pause’ button to dig deep and look inward; break the yoke of the comfort zone; and do not be befooled by the status quo hiding under the mask of change, implying towards the rise of fascists in the Free World.Students from the class were also quite curious to know about the nuclear arms race in South Asia on which Professor Akbar, Mowahid and myself explained in detail the nature of the conflict originating from New Delhi’s first nuclear weapons test in 1974. Unsurprisingly, they weren’t aware that the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) was formed in response to the test and it coincidingly forced Pakistan to accelerate the development of its own nuclear weapons programme that was first proposed in 1972.The students can’t be blamed for their views since perception is everything when it comes to a state’s stature. While India had marketed itself quite well, Pakistan lagged far behind owing to lack of importance given and the internal problemsthat devoured the state’s international standing in recent decades.In conclusion, Professor Akbar found the arguments persuasive; it opened their minds to new dimensions and made them look at issues differently.The writer is a diplomatic correspondent, at Daily Times. He can be reached at email@example.com and tweets @mhassankhan06Published in Daily Times, November 10th 2018.