Thursday, March 15, 2007

Sami makes it to Metafilter.

Photo Hosted at Buzznet

By good friend, Sami Rasouli is mentioned in a post on yesterday's metafilter. There are tons of links there, but I especially wanted to note this article that was in the Minneapolis paper this week:

Doug Grow:

Sami Rasouli, back from Iraq, says U.S. is impeding peace

By Doug Grow, Star Tribune
Last update: March 12, 2007 – 10:42 PM

Sometimes in this troubled world, even peacemakers smile.

Sami Rasouli, the former restaurateur who gave up a comfortable life in Minneapolis to return to his native Iraq three years ago, laughs when he thinks about the recent trip Gov. Tim Pawlenty made to Iraq and Afghanistan

"I would love to talk to him," Rasouli said. "I'll ask him, 'So tell me, what's going on in Iraq?' I will ask him, 'Did you meet any Iraqis?' And then I will invite him to stay with me the next time he comes. I'll tell him, 'I'm an embedded son of Minnesota. Come visit. You might see some different things than you've seen before.' "

Rasouli, 56, doesn't expect he'll hear from the governor anytime soon. Few U.S. officials have been knocking at his door in Najaf, the city where he has established his organization, Muslim Peacemaker Teams.

They haven't been attending the sessions he's holding at schools and in churches since returning to the United States on Feb. 27, either.

U.S. officials just don't seem interested in hearing an ex-restaurant guy tell them there can be no peace in Iraq until U.S. troops are out of the country.

But Rasouli does sound pretty rational.

"Occupation and democracy do not fit together," he says to anyone who will listen.

This is Rasouli's third trip back to the Twin Cities since November 2004, when he decided to sell his popular Nicollet Avenue restaurant, Sinbad's, and return to the country of his birth.

Rasouli's goal -- here and there -- is to build bridges among people of all religious backgrounds with the message, "One God, one people."

It seems like a good message, but it has been a tough sell.

Over the three years he has been in Iraq, he has seen violence increase, friends assassinated and living conditions deteriorate. Distrust reigns.

Given these realities, was it a mistake to give up "Eat Street" for Iraq? After all, even this man on a peace quest still loves dining at Sinbad's.

"Oh no, no, it was not a mistake," he said.

Where's the hope?

"Human beings always have evolved to something better," he said. "It is the war that is delaying the process of evolution."

Repeatedly he says it's U.S. policy that's creating the continuing deterioration.

This is the second time I've met with Rasouli on one of his return trips. Both times I've tried to put myself in his shoes. Both times I've failed.

I can't imagine going back to something that seems so futile. But in both conversations he insisted that it's a greater shock to return to the Twin Cities than it is to return to Iraq.

"It truly is more heartbreaking to come here," he said. "Sometimes I actually break down when I see the food, or use the electricity. It just reminds me of what the people don't have."

So, late this spring, he'll go back. "Maybe on his next trip, the governor will look me up," the peacemaker said, smiling.

Doug Grow •