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Discussion guide

This guide is designed to help teachers and parents better explore the contents of this special section and use it in discussions regarding the growing conflict in Afghanistan.

Questions on Islam and other religions

1. After reading about the issues that have contributed to the tensions between the West and many Middle Eastern countries (specifically, issues involving U.S. policies, religion, Israel and Western culture), discuss why you think such conflicts occur. Why do you think some issues escalate from differences of opinion to conflict and war?

2. Historian Karen Armstrong writes that fundamentalists are usually radical in their interpretation of religion. What does it mean to be a "religious radical?" Can you think of other examples of religious radicalism by Christians, Muslims or Jews? What happens when radicals use religion to justify violence?

3. Christianity, Judaism and Islam share sacred texts. Why have different religions developed around the world? Reading over the Islamic articles of faith, can you identify beliefs that Muslims share with Christians and Jews? What are the main ways that they differ? In what things do the Taliban believe?

4. The conflict between Palestinians and Israelis has deeply affected the lives of the people of that region. What actions and religious beliefs have led to the continuation of the strife between these two peoples? What do you think it would take to bring peace to this region? Should Palestinians have their own homeland?

5. How do we usually resolve conflict here at home? When two neighbors have a dispute, how do they resolve it? How do families? Companies? States? What are the first steps that we take to resolve conflicts in our homes and communities? What role does compromise play?

Activity: Take some time to look through the newspaper to identify everyday conflicts and the many ways that people work through them. When conflicts are resolved, what tools did the parties involved use? What are the qualities of a good negotiator? What happens when conflict negotiations fail? Can you find conflicts that no one has tried to resolve? What happens then, when disputes are left to fester?

Questions on Afghanistan and the region

Look over the large regional map of the Middle East and Southwest Asia. With which countries does Afghanistan share a border? With which country does it share its longest border?

2. Using the topographical map, locate Afghanistan's different regions. Where are there mountains? Where are there deserts? Think about the difference between the mountainous regions and the deserts here in the United States. What kind of extremes in weather occur in these regions?

Activity: There are many different kinds of people living in this area. Look in The Seattle Times, magazines and on the Internet for photographs of the different cultural groups that live in Afghanistan and surrounding countries. Collect them and attach photographs of these people to the region where they live on your map.

Questions about turbans and veils

1. Have you seen men wearing turbans here in Washington? How about women wearing veils? Talk about your first impressions of turban-wearing men or veil-wearing women. Did you have any preconceived notions about these men or women?

2. What are the reasons that men wear turbans? Think about your own clothing, shoes or hats. Do you ever wear these things for any of the same reasons?

3. Have you ever worn a piece of clothing to identify yourself with a group, a school or with a team? What are you trying to say with your clothes? What do you think the people of Afghanistan would think about your clothes if you were to walk down the streets of the capital city of Kabul tonight?

Activity: Imagine you are responsible for explaining the different kinds of turbans or veils to the people of the Pacific Northwest. Design an ad campaign that would accomplish this. Create a billboard, a newspaper ad and a television or radio spot that helps people understand turbans better.

Other activities

In the midst of all the bad news, there has been good news as well. Stories about heroes or generosity or community spirit. Look for a hopeful and uplifting story in the news today. Read it aloud to someone you care about. What is their reaction to this story? Write or talk about why you think these stories are important enough to appear in the newspaper.

2. Many powerful photos and graphics have appeared in the news in the last month and a few are reprinted here. Pick your favorite photo or graphic. Write a headline for the photo or graphic that reflects your own feelings and your creativity. Write a short story, poem or article based on the photo. Share them both with your class or with your family.

3. Surprise is startling and unsettling to people. Since the attacks on Sept.11 shocked Americans, there has been much talk of actions to prevent these things from happening again. Look in the news for articles that talk about such actions and make a list. Discuss with your family or classmates which of these actions you think are worthwhile and which are troublesome to you. If they are troublesome, what are alternative actions you would take? Make an outline of how you would undertake these actions. How can you communicate these alternative ideas to the appropriate people?

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