Elie Wiesel devoted his life to Holocaust education. Let’s honor his legacy by reading his story.
Bernice King is in a protracted legal battle with her brothers over control of their father’s bible and Nobel Peace Prize.
At the end of Selma, the new movie about a pivotal campaign in the Civil Rights Movement, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (played by David Oyelowo) rises to address a crowd in front of a courthouse.
It’s a recreation of the moment in which King gave one of his most well-known speeches: “How Long? Not Long.” You know the one: “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
But as the scene goes on, none of the actual language from that speech shows up.
“The intellectual property wasn’t available to us,” Ava Duvernay, the film’s director, told NPR’s Michelle Norris last month. So Duvernay had the less-than-enviable task of writing speeches for the movies from scratch, because King’s speeches — as well as his papers, personal items and likeness — are tightly controlled by his surviving children, Martin, Dexter and Bernice King.
If King was a polarizing figure in his life, in death he has become increasingly central to the story America tells itself about itself. He has a federal holiday and a towering memorial on the National Mall. The builders of that memorial paid his heirs nearly $800,000 to use King’s likeness and words. King is an American hero, but King is also a business.
And like a lot of businesses, the fighting between stakeholders can get really, really ugly.
For years, King’s children have been feuding bitterly over King’s legacy — with outsiders and each other. They’ve made some widely criticized decisions in their stewardship of their father’s estate, like demanding compensation from the filmmakers behind the landmark PBS documentary on the civil rights movement, Eyes on the Prize, for the unauthorized use of King’s image.
They famously filed a suit against USA Today for running the “I Have a Dream” speech — and won. Not long after that, though, they licensed the “I Have a Dream” speech to Alcatel, the French telecom company, for use in a television ad. And right now, Bernice King is engaged in an ugly, protracted court fight with her brothers over ownership of their father’s Nobel Prize and personal Bible.
Last Friday, talk show host Bill Maher and author Sam Harris made headlines for appearing on Maher’s television program and implying that Islam was an inherently violent faith, with Maher insisting that Islam is “the only religion that acts like the mafia” and Harris calling it “the mother lode of bad ideas.” Their on-air spat with actor Ben Affleck, who blasted their comments as “gross” and “racist,” triggered a week-long national debate over the nature of the Muslim faith, with various pundits, religion scholars, and thinkers tackling the question of whether or not Islam is an irreparably destructive religion
This Friday, however, Islam offered its own answer: Malala Yousufzai, a young Muslim woman, just won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Awarding a Muslim an internationally recognized symbol of peace may be surprising to folks like Maher and Harris, but it shouldn’t be. Yousufzai, who survived being shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for the education of girls in Pakistan, won the prestigious award for being a “leading spokesperson for girls’ rights to education,” activism that she says is grounded in her peaceful understanding of the Muslim faith. In her speech before the United Nations in 2013, Yousufzai, then 16, articulated her religious perspective by contrasting it with the horrific actions of the Taliban, saying, “Islam is a religion of peace, humanity and brotherhood … [the Taliban] think that God is a tiny, little conservative being who would send girls to the hell just because of going to school. The terrorists are misusing the name of Islam and Pashtun society for their own personal benefits.”
But while Yousufzai’s peaceful approach to Islam is powerful, it is by no means unique. In fact, she is actually the fifth Muslim — and third Muslim woman — to be awarded the Nobel Peace prize since 2000. The other four, like Yousufzai, represent a diverse, peaceful flavor of Islam that Maher and Harris — along with many others in the cable news media — appeared to ignore. They include:
1. Shirin Ebadi, a lawyer, a former judge and human rights activist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her efforts to protect democracy and human rights in Iran — particularly the rights of women and children. An advocate for interpretations of Islam that liberate women, Ebadi called the award “a recognition by the international community of the cause of Islamic feminism.” She, like Yousufzai, beat out a sitting pope for the award, as many had expected Pope John Paul II to take home the prize.
2. Mohamed ElBaradei, a law scholar, diplomat and former Vice President of Egypt who was awarded the prize in 2005 alongside the International Atomic Energy Agency (the organization he headed at the time), for efforts to “prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes and to ensure that civil use of nuclear power takes place under reliable international control.”
3. Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi banker, economist and social entrepreneur who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for “efforts to create economic and social development from below.” The award was a de-facto endorsement of his Grameen Bank, which seeks to combat poverty all over the world by offering long-term loans to entrepreneurs in impoverished regions. When some Muslim men balked at his willingness to grant loans to women, Yunus drew on his Islamic background, saying, “…in Islamic history women [have] been warriors and businessmen — look at the Prophet’s first wife!”
NOBODY thought it would be easy to transport several hundred tonnes of highly toxic chemical agents on a road that runs through territory fought over by two sides in a civil war. Speaking in Oslo on December 9th, a day before collecting the Nobel peace prize awarded to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Ahmet Uzumcu, its head, warned that a December 31st deadline for getting the Syrian government’s most lethal substances out of the country would be “quite difficult” to meet.
Yet much has been achieved. A joint team from the UN and The Hague-based OPCW was sent to Syria two months ago as part of a deal to avert an American missile strike in response to President Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons on August 21st. Co-operation from the Syrian government, which has a legal responsibility for implementing the plan, has been all that could have been hoped for, says Sigrid Kaag, a Dutch diplomat who leads the mission. Key milestones for the verification of chemical-weapons stockpiles and the functional destruction of the facilities where they have been produced were met on time (October 27th and November 1st, respectively). Of 23 sites, 22 were visited by inspectors. The one that proved inaccessible because of fighting is believed to have been dismantled and abandoned.
First, the weapons must be sealed and packaged in special containers brought across the border from Lebanon by Syrian technicians who have been trained there by OPCW specialists. Then they must be transported by road from multiple sites to Syria’s biggest port, Latakia. Once there, they will be loaded onto ships provided by Norway and Denmark and taken to an American government-owned vessel, the Cape Ray, a 200-metre (650-foot) cargo ship that is part of a reserve fleet used for transporting military hardware.