The death of Majd “Jude” Alshoufi: A Peacebuilder

The death of Majd “Jude” Alshoufi: A Peacebuilder

A friend died on Friday, April 2, 2021. He was a talented young man with a promising career in peace and psychology. I have tried to process his death, but nothing in my training or life experiences has prepared me for this tragedy. Jude and I corresponded on March 10. I congratulated him on Instagram on his efforts to build Brain Drive, a mental health app, and he thanked me for my comments. Jude was highly driven, searching for solutions to problems that he, more than any other person I have ever met, intimately understood. His death by suicide compels us to heighten efforts in dealing with mental health issues. Below is a profile I wrote about Jude during our first year in graduate school at the University of Notre Dame.

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Majd Alshoufi is the founder and chairman of the board of directors of New Syrian Human (NSH), an NGO providing psychosocial support and peacebuilding services to Syrian refugees worldwide. The NGO conducts holistic and sustainable communal processes of change through evidence-based and locally-led programming. 

Majd’s passion for social change has evolved; as a child, he had a habit of observing and analyzing situations, “I was always interested in how I felt, I knew that I wasn’t happy with the way things were, and I wanted to change them.” Majd says.

His interest in peacebuilding took roots during his sophomore year in college when he attended a psychosocial class. However, the turning point was when he was arrested for participating in a peaceful demonstration. After his release, he fled to United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, and then Turkey. Before starting a psychosocial support NGO, the forerunner to New Syrian Human, he worked with the Catholic Relief Services.  

Majd is interested in psychosocial training and identities; he believes, “Identities are key to conflicts and have borders. When violence is promoted, these borders become bloody as people start killing each other, and the more they do this, the more they keep defining themselves in relation to the “other.” He has learned that you will reach an understanding when you develop an emotional bond with a person and probably develop a common or pluralistic identity. He is attending Notre Dame to reinforce his skills in this field and peacebuilding in general.

Majd loves peacebuilding, especially training people. He says, “peacebuilding is never a job to me,” he quips, “it is a vocation, and it is something I find deep satisfaction in doing.” That is the motivation that led him to abandon the well-paying engineering profession to work for social change.

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Majd “Jude” Alshoufi looked for a home—a place from which he can work to develop solutions to mental health and peace challenges. He died young before finding the home or achieving his dreams. His quest will live in all of us—those who knew him and those who care passionately about mental health. We should all care.  Jude, Rest in Peace!

Ubaguzi wa Rangi wa Maafisa wa Polisi – Marekani

Ubaguzi wa Rangi wa Maafisa wa Polisi – Marekani

Siku mbili tu baada ya kifo cha mwanaume mweusi (mwafrika) ambaye video ya kukamatwa kwake iliwekwa mtandaoni na mpita njia, kumezuuka taharuki jijini Minneapolis, jimbo la Minnesota, Marekani.

Kwenye video, afisa wa polisi mzungu anaonekana akiwa amemkamatia chini marehemu George Floyd huku goti la afisa huyo likiwa limembana shingoni akiboboja na kuomba aachiliwe. Maandamano yamezuka jijini Minneapolis yenye jumbe za kutaka maafisa waliohusika kuchukuliwa hatua kali za kisheria.

Akiwahutubia waandishi wa habari Jumatano, Meya wa jiji la Minneapolis Jacob Frey amemtaka mwanasheria mkuu wa Kaunti ya Hennepin achukue hatua za haraka za kumfikisha mahakamani afisa mhusika mkuu kulingana na ushahidi uliopo.

“Kwa nini muuaji wa George Floyd hayuko kwenye jela? Ingekuwa ni wewe au mimi nilitenda kitendo hiki, ningekuwa korokoroni hivi sasa. Sina jibu mwafaka kwa swali lako,” Frey aliwaeleza wanahabari Jumatano.

“Sote tumetazama video ya dakika tano nzima za uchungu usiomithilika ambapo afisa amemfinyilia shingo barazani mwanaume mweusi aliyetiwa pingu za mikono nyuma kwa goti,” Meya aliongezea, na kutaja kwamba mbinu hiyo ya kukabili mshukiwa ni marufuku katika idara ya polisi. “Kwa hakika sikuona hatari; sikuona chochote ambacho kingemfanya afisa huyu kutumia nguvu kiasi kile.”

Hata hivyo bwana Frey hakubainisha ni mashtaka gani angependa mhusika ayajibu na kuongeza kwamba asingependa kuingilia uchunguzi kwa matamshi. Kwenye mahojiano ya runinga mapema Jumatano, ndugu wa kike wa marehemu Bi. Bridgett Floyd alisema,
“Ningependa wale maafisa waliohusika kushtakiwa kwa mauaji kwa sababu kitendo chao kilikuwa cha kuua. Walimuua ndugu yangu; huku akilia kwi kwi kwi akiomba wamwachilie.”

Alisema kwamba licha ya familia kupata mawakili, hawajaridhika na tangazo kwamba wahusika wamepigwa kalamu – jambo ambalo Meya Frey anasema ni hatua nzuri. Idara ya Polisi ya Jiji la Minneapolis haijafichua majina ya maafisa hao, lakini imetaja kwamba makachero wa FBI pia wanachunguza mazingira ya kifo cha Ndugu Floyd.

Tangazo hili halikuwaridhisha waandamanaji ambao Jumatano jioni walifurika nje ya ofisi za Idara ya Polisi wakiimba “Hakuna Amani Bila Haki”. Baadaye makabiliano makali yakazuka. Maafisa wa kukabiliana na ghasia walitumia risasi za plastiki na vitoa machozi kuwatawanya waandamanaji waliokuwa na hamaki.

Wakenya wengi wanaoishi katika jimbo la Minnesota wana hofu kwa hali hii ya mambo.

“Watoto wa kiume wanaozaliwa hapa wana mstakabali mgumu kama hali hii itaendela hapa Marekani”, amesema mkenya mmoja ambaye hakutaka jina lake litajwe.
“Tunachosubiri ni kuona kama haki itatendeka. Itavunja moyo sana kama chochote hakitatokea.” Aliongezea Grace Marucha – mkenya anayeishi viungani mwa jiji la Minneapolis.

Kilichofanyika Minneapolis si kigeni Marekani. Mapema mwaka huu katika jimbo la Georgia, kijana mmoja mwafrika aliandamwa na wanaume wawili wazungu – baba na mwanawe – na kupigwa risasi kadhaa alipokuwa akifanya mazoezi ya kukimbia mtaani. Wahusika hawakukamatwa mpaka video ilipozuka mitandaoni baada ya miezi kadhaa.
Wiki jana tu kulizuka video nyingine mtandaoni katika bustani ya jiji la New York ambayo ilizua gumzo kwenye mitandao ya kijamii. Kwenye hiyo video, mwanamke mzungu anapigia polisi simu alipoombwa na bwana mmoja mwafrika amvute mbwa wake.
“Ananirekodi na kunitisha mimi na mbwa wangu,” anasikika akiwaeleza polisi kwenye 9-1-1 ingawa huyu bwana alikuwa mtulivu kabisa.

Baada ya video kuibuka, mwanamke huyo alifutwa kazi na mwajiri wake – kampuni ya Franklin Templeton.

Video ya mauaji ya Floyd, inaleta kumbukumbu za mauaji mengine sawia yaliyotokea New York miaka michache iliyopita. Itakumbukwa kwamba mwathiriwa wakati huo (2014) ni mwafrika mwingine kwa jina Eric Garner ambaye alikata kamba alipokabwa kooni na afisa mwingine mzungu licha ya kusalimu amri kwa maneno: “I can’t breathe” [Siwezi Kupumua].

Floyd pia anasikika akilia kwa uchungu mara kadhaa akiwa amesukumwa chini barazani, mikono yake ikiwa na pingu na afisa wa polisi akimpigia goti shingoni. Watazamaji na wapita-njia wanasikika wakimrai afisa amwachilie kwa sababu Floyd alikuwa hoi na akitokwa na damu puani ishara ya kukata roho. Ombi hili halikuwahusu ndewe wala sikio afisa huyu na wenzake wakati wote mpaka masiki Floyd akajinyamazia. Huyu afisa hakubandui goti lake mpaka wahudumu wa afya walipofika na ambulensi na kumbeba Floyd kwa machela.
Ikumbukwe kwamba yule afisa wa New York aliyemkaba Garner, bwana Daniel Pantaleo, hakushtakiwa kwa kosa lolote lakini alifutwa kazi mwaka jana baada ya jaji kutoa pendekezo hilo.

Maandamano yanayoendelea Minneapolis huenda yakaweka maisha ya waandamanaji – wengi wao wakiwa waafrika – katika hatari ya kuambukizwa Virusi vya Korona na kusababisha athari zaidi kwa jamii hii inayobaguliwa kirangi hapa Marekani.

Makala ya Jonah Ondieki

Epistemic Injustice

Epistemic Injustice

Miranda Fricker explores the concept of epistemic injustice in the context of testimonial practice and argues that the virtue of reflective critical openness can serve as an antidote to the prejudice inherent in epistemic injustice. She examines the concept of “testimonial sensibility,” which she elaborates as being an ethical virtue that shapes our responses to the speech acts of the other. She further describes “epistemology of testimony” as a broader framework for organizing her arguments about the phenomenon of epistemic injustice, which she interprets as pernicious conduct in testimonial practice. 

Fricker problematizes the phenomenon of epistemic injustice by examining different propositions that seek to address or engage the concept of epistemic injustice. To begin with, she unpacks two models, the inferential model and the doxastic responsibility model, to reveal their shortcomings in addressing epistemic injustice. The inferential model advocates that in testimonial practice, the hearer’s receptiveness to the speaker is influenced by perceptual reasoning grounded in what is known about the speaker. This includes the speaker’s background and stereotypes that define the speaker’s social identity. Fricker shows how this model, which arrogates the notion of unreflective exchange to show its spontaneity in the exchange between the speaker and the hearer, fails to account for “justificational laxity.” This model is not grounded in the conventional experience of testimonial practice, which as Fricker explains, tends to follow the “everyday phenomenology of unreflective transparency” (157). She delves into research presented by McDowell and Coady to reveal gaps in the inferential model. She discloses how the model fails to address epistemic injustice because it lacks a critical openness to the speaker’s speech. 

Doxastic responsibility advances the claim that the hearer is anti-referentiality and argumentation. In other words, the hearer is spontaneous in the manner of everyday speech. Fricker contests these claims by showing how doxastic responsibility is unreflective. She argues for the introduction of ethics into the epistemology of testimony. Here, she points out that ethics brings the “notion of sensibility” (159), which in turn leads to interpretive and practical judgments. Sensibility is historical, cultural, and learned. A person is socialized into a specific sensibility through a process that considers both the individual and the social as a collective. Acquiring sensibility brings one closer to rational-unreflective and critical non-inferential judgments, which leads us towards a critical openness to the words of the speaker. 

As Fricker demonstrates, testimonial sensibility supports the notion that the hearer’s response to the speaker is anchored in what she refers to as “epistemic socialization,” which is a “social training of the interpretive and effective attitudes in play when we are told things by other” (161). She explains how people are socialized through passive social inheritance and active learning. Testimonial sensibility is the virtue that gives us spontaneity and reflectiveness. Fricker discusses how stereotypes damage testimonial sensibilities. She combines this notion with the concept of epistemic injustice in examples found within Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and the film The Talented Mr. Ripley. Lee’s novel describes a situation where a major court decision is made because of “corrupted testimonial sensibility” in which the jurors find a Negro man guilty solely because of their “immovably prejudiced social perception” of him (Fricker, 167). In The Talented Mr. Ripley Greenleaf is not able to recognize the prejudices of race and gender inequality. The worst individual in this film is Mr. Ripley, who is not only aware of reflective critical openness but also determined to create epistemic oppression. These materials consider the thematic issues of race and gender, and how insensibility to these issues leads to epistemic injustice. Fricker determines that hearers’ social identity often acts like a cloud that shoulders the hearers from moving beyond the social constraints that limit their ability to engage in reflective critical openness. 

Even though Fricker flaunts reflective critical openness as an antidote to epistemic injustice, she is cognizant of the challenges of actualizing this virtue in societies with deeply ingrained ways of thinking that prejudice specific populations. The stories of Tom Robinson and Marge underscore the powerlessness of reflexive critical openness. These are an example of a framework that is captive to the very systems that it seeks to contest. In other words, this virtue is a product of influential powers in society. Its utility becomes more visible as society strives to address inequality, racism, and gender oppression. 

In conclusion, Fricker states that human beings live in social spaces with relations that shape their sensibilities. A community can be both a space for evolving prejudice and inculcating the virtue of reflective critical openness. In this kind of community, people experience life differently. The current social structures have the ability to further support the alienation of individuals within this society from the “essential attributes of personhood” (Fricker, 172). It is important to recognize the current faults and issues within the modern epistemic climate and recognize it for the oppression and prejudice that it systematically encourages.

Works Cited

Fricker, Miranda. “Epistemic Injustice and A Role for Virtue in the Politics of Knowing”. Metaphilosophy, vol. 34, no. 1, Jan. 2003, pp. 154-173.

Of Pirates and Violence

In this essay, I argue that pirates are space traitors who trespass legal and economic boundaries to achieve individual or collective gains and destabilize a society. The popularity of the concept of piracy in cultural representations such as films, fashion, comics, and literature highlights changes in society that mirror the legal-economic happenings during the Golden Age of Piracy. At the core of the pirate culture is the concept of neoliberalism, which is understood as the promotion of ideas of individual freedom that favor market-based initiatives and limited governmental role in social welfare.[1] Neoliberalism removes business barriers and seeks to privatize and monetize sectors of the economy, such as education and healthcare, that are ordinarily the preserve of governments. Piracy is, “a form of morally ambiguous property seizure committed by an organized group which can include thievery, hijacking, smuggling, counterfeiting, or kidnapping.”[2] Although the definitions of pirate culture and neoliberalism appear pejorative, these concepts have rekindled discourse on contemporary pirate culture in two ways: (1) They have created conditions that mirror the high seas, which was the primary arena of piracy, and (2) They have led to the emergence of a class of “traitors,” or people who are bent on undermining the neoliberal order. This essay examines some of the neoliberal practices that have sustained piracy in our contemporary culture.

Both piracy and neoliberalism occupy ambiguous positions within capitalism. David Harvey shows that from the late 1960s and through the 1970s, world economies stagnated, unemployment and inflation skyrocketed, and governments such as Britain borrowed from international bodies such as IMF to take care of rising welfare expenditures. The United States of America’s inability to control the flooding of the dollar led to the abandonment of fixed exchange rates. Moreover, the oil crisis of 1973 shattered many economies and marked the beginning of a rapid economic decline in both developed and developing countries. The welfare state that was the hallmark of European and African countries could no longer be sustained in a world that was shifting emphasis from Keynesian policies that privileged society, to neoliberal policies that put individuals at the center of economic planning.

People have adopted pirate culture as a response to nonemployment, low welfare, and high cost of living. It is arguable that the pirate culture inspired the Occupy Wall Street movement. It was a movement attempting to destabilize capital while calling for an end to economic inequality. The pirates of the Caribbean directly opposed the violent control of labor and merchandise by nationalist mercantile companies and what they viewed as “tyrannical” inequalities.[3] Thus, protests or initiatives such as Occupy Wall Street are organized around the idea of opposing monopolies, colossal capital, and corporate practices that have shrunk the labor market. Pirates reduced the profits of privateer companies, including slave ships. Similarly, in our contemporary world, pirates devastate governments and businesses through attacking websites, hacking banks, and calling for boycotts.

Interestingly, even though neoliberalism purports to lift trade barriers, the age of intellectual property protection has enacted many laws that punish people for attempting to access knowledge from an unauthorized avenue. Modern companies, similar to the privateer companies during the Golden Age of piracy, are increasingly becoming monopolies that control patents for innovations. Furthermore, corporations such as big pharmaceutical companies are involved in biopiracy, which is the act of extracting indigenous medical or science innovations without compensation. Piracy has become the contemporary moral response to these inequalities.

We can draw parallels between the internet and the high seas. The high seas were the arena for the Golden Age of piracy, but in our contemporary world the internet has created “nationless” pirates. Businesses are increasingly shifting their operations from brick-and-mortar buildings to virtual spaces. Some of these businesses have considerable advantages that have enabled them to create monopolies that offer commodities without competition. An example of this type of company is a record label. These businesses own all forms of artistic works and attempt to have exclusive rights to specific spaces of art performances to gain complete control of capital flow within the art industry. Additional examples include online retailers, movie streaming services, and book publishing industries. Pirate culture in these sectors has become a form of redistributing commodities that people can no longer afford. Scholars have pointed out that the core values of pirates were “collectivism, anti-authoritarianism, and egalitarianism.”[4] It seems that the Golden Age of piracy was conceived as a socialist utopia where people distributed property equitably. Whether they achieved this goal is debatable. However, what is important is the notion that pirate culture in the contemporary world operates on the same principles.

Pirate culture in the contemporary world, like that of the Golden Age of piracy, is becoming more organized and highly coordinated. The internet allows pirates to create a sense of brotherhood. There are aspects of the pirate culture that are less known in scholarship communities because historians and cultural analysts are yet to reconcile their research with the idea that pirates create unique work culture, complete with language, music, rituals, and a sense of brotherhood. Pirate culture is organizing as a social order with rules of governance.[5] The Disney World frenzy and the rise of the video games industry have broadened the platform for this culture to flourish.


[1] Harvey, “Neoliberalism as Creative Destruction.”

[2] Dawdy and Bonni, “Towards a General Theory of Piracy,” 675.

[3] Dawdy and Bonni, 667.

[4] Dawdy and Bonni, 680.

[5] Dawdy and Bonni, “Towards a General Theory of Piracy.”

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