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World Views: Mideast Protest Aftermath, Fmr. Tulsa Mayors on Internationalism (Sep 17, 2012)

In the wake of last week's violence in the Middle East, Suzette Grillot talks with Joshua Landis and Rebecca Cruise about perceptions of Islam at home and abroad.

Landis said the world can expect much more of these kinds of protests in the Middle East, calling the spread of democracy a tumultuous and messy process.

“Most Arab countries are redefining their identities,” Landis said. “Small political parties, factions, are going to use questions of Islam, America, and freedom of speech as wedge issues to try to embarrass their governments and to fight internal battles.”

Last week’s protests, that began on the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, have also raised questions about the perceptions of Islam in the U.S. September 17 also marks the 11th anniversary of a speech then-President George W. Bush delivered at the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C. on the first Monday after the attacks.

“Both Americans and Muslim friends and citizens, tax-paying citizens, and Muslims in nations were just appalled, and could not believe what we saw on our TV screens,” the President said.

“These acts of violence against innocents violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith. And it’s important for my fellow Americans to understand that.”

“In the last decade or so, since 9/11, the violence against Muslims in this country, or those that are perceived to be Muslims, has increased,” Cruise said. “There have been over 800 cases of violence in this sense. Job discrimination has also skyrocketed.”

Speaking to students shortly after the attacks on the Libyan consulate, Cruise said most understand the selective nature of the images from the Middle East.

M. Susan Savage was born in Tulsa, and became Tulsa’s first female mayor in 1992 when she succeeded Rodger Randle, having previously served as his Chief of Staff. She signed three new Sister City agreements while mayor, before accepting a position in newly-elected Governor Brad Henry’s cabinet as Secretary of State in 2003.

“My parents talked a lot about what was going on in the world,” Savage said. “ I also began to study language at an early age. French was the language of choice, and when I was 17 and a junior at Edison High School, I had an opportunity to study in France, to live in France, to visit French-speaking countries. That peaked for me an enormous interest.”

“Also, I grew up in the Vietnam War era,” Savage said. “It was the first time war came to television sets in people’s homes. And I had friends who were in Vietnam, so there was an interest in ‘What is the country like? What are they doing there? What are the living conditions? What is the language, what is the culture? How do they survive beyond the military culture?’”

Rodger Randle led Tulsa from 1998 until 1992 after a long career in the Oklahoma House and Senate. He also served as the President of the Tulsa Committee on Foreign Relations, and as a member of Governor Mary Fallin’s International Economic Development team. Growing up in Tulsa during the 1940s and 50s, Tulsa’s position as the so-called “Oil Capital of the World” allowed an international window from America’s Heartland.

“We grew up with relatives that had been in the oil fields in Caracas, or Mexico, or somewhere,” said Randle. “We had friends who had been off in the international world, and had that exposure as children in Tulsa.”

Randle said when he went through school, foreign travel was prohibitively expensive, so he satisfied his international desire through the Peace Corps

“In Susan’s case, and in my case, the settings may have been different, but the consequence was the same, which was that we found the foreign living experience to have been transformative,” Randle said.

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