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WAR without end!
we may harbor sympathy for those of the Islamic faith, it is important
to remember that Islam was not intended as a tool to mold society.
As the Middle East stands on the verge of a new round of upheaval, can anyone learn from all the centuries of failed relations? It’s almost impossible to conceive that discourse can replace the dread that seems to be the permanent condition for that region. Blame substitutes for shame, hatred impels frenzy and reflection avoids remorse. Regret or goodwill are unfamiliar concepts, as hopelessness and despair replace confidence in a future worth living. Can this tragic cycle be broken, or is the world doomed to an apocalyptic ending that is inevitable?
As an advocate of Western Christian tradition, our sympathy extends to the other two monotheistic religions, while we maintain our faith in the gospel of Jesus. Understanding and empathy for their religions, cultures and heritage is extended, when there is a common overlap that does not conflict with our fundamental beliefs, values or principles. Such a standard is rare between Jews and Muslims. Tolerance is not a goal that requires or necessitates equivalency. Common sense and self interest is the reason for forbearance. Now is it reasonable to expect courageous Israelis and Palestinians, to break the biblical discord and look within themselves and their own communities to seek resolution?
One such attempt can be seen in an appeal from Shaykh Rashid al Ghanuchi, head of the Al-Nahda Islamic movement of Tunis, to confront shortcomings in the Muslim world. He states: “Islam was around before the modern Islamic movement, but it had been thought of as a preparation for one to get to heaven, not a system to mold society.” This point is often lost, rarely appreciated and seldom applied by Christians and Jews, as well, to their own religions and governments. No doubt salvation resides in the realm of theology, but civil conduct and public policy regularly ignore the tenets of their own religious doctrine and laws. Ghanuchi makes the point, that Islam is progressing forcefully while secularism is falling rapidly and that one of the elements of repentance is reconsideration. If he is correct, the recognition that a void in secularism causes it to loose disciples, while a religious perspective presents hope. Compunction requires reflection in order to achieve renewal.
Elements for Muslims to consider include:
1) Strategy of the Islamic movement in dealing with minorities.
The role I suggest for Muslim minorities is to reinforce the Islamic presence in the countries they live in. There is a big difference between maintaining a presence and working to establish an Islamic government. The most a minority can hope for is participation in politics. In fact, their entry into the realm of politics is sometimes a major reason for the attention minorities get. So they better focus on social work. Politics is a grinding arena. The race for government is the race for wealth and influence.
2) Is our priority social work or reaching power?
These two items might not be mutually exclusive - Islam wants to Islamize politics and society simultaneously - but if the interests of social missionary work (da`wah) contradicts political interests, the social interests must be put before anything else. It has been proven that what is achieved socially is more permanent and better than what is achieved politically. Modern experience has taught us that things achieved through the state are quick but short-lived, because they depend on force. But what is done through social activity lasts, because it depends on persuasion.
3) Nature of civil society.
The Islamic movement should be keen on developing and strengthening civil society even after the state is established. Even the Islamic state doesn't have control over everything under it. Government is a small part of the institutions of civil society. It is there to support and strengthen society. There must be more institutions of civil society, enough so that the people don't need the state. The Islamic movement must return power to the society through grassroots institutions. These institutions must be led by elected officials.
4) Conflict between the Islamic movement and the secular state.
The question is: how should the movement respond to oppression by the secular state? Is state violence a justification for popular violence? There are many religious replies to this question; most do not condone violence against a government that calls itself Islamic. Pragmatically speaking, however, all of the episodes where Islamists responded violently to state violence have been negative. Popular violence, whether Islamic or otherwise, has not been able to damage any regime's standing.
5) Reevaluate democracy.
The Islamic movement's negative attitude toward democracy is holding it back. We have no modern experience in Islamic activity that can replace democracy. The Islamization of democracy is the closest thing to implementing Shura (consultation). Those who reject this thought have not produced anything different than the one-party system of rule.
If Muslims are able to deliberate and discuss these points and then apply some of these standards to reform their societies, meaningful progress may be achieved. Democracy as it is practiced in Israel, America and other Western countries is not a pristine model. But democratic principles that protect all citizens, from abusive State policies, are worthy goals. It may be wishful thinking that fanatical “Ayatollah’s” would willingly surrender their dream of a pure Islamic theocracy. However, the next Khomeini may be averted, not by installing another Shah or tacit approval and support for a replacement Saddam; but with our own repentance and reconsideration. Shaykh Rashid al Ghanuchi last comment also applies to Israel and the United States. “The Islamic mind must adjust until it sees things in their real light. America, the Zionists, and the secularists are the ones afraid of democracy in the Islamic world.”
Presently the leadership of the Israelis and Palestinians don’t want peace or a resolution to the conflict. The Intifada has been a disaster for both Palestinians and Jews. Homicide bombers have totally discredited Yasser Arafat, while Likud policies under Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu have brought the region to the edge of total war. Amram Mitzna may present a more rational option, but without Zionist repentance and reconsideration, to go along with an Islamic contrition and reexamination, peace is impossible. This blood vendetta between feuding cousins is a family affair and cannot be settled until both sides are drained of their malevolence. Outside intervention that favors the side that wheels political influence and veto power in our country will reap retribution upon us from both sides. The former for not supplying enough treasure or acquiescence, and the latter for a bias prejudice and deceitful allegiance to their bitter enemy.
While the prospects for ending this eternal conflict with a negotiated settlement are remote, the alternative for all those secular societies will be the Armageddon they fear. For the “Amen Choir” that practice a Dispensational worship and ‘Christian-Zionist’ politics, they need to seek penitence and practice retrospection. When pious zealots apply narrow doctrine to civic policy and demand converts or threaten punishment, religious trust is damaged within the public arena. Yes, we advocate a sincere and faithful Christian America. Jews are inspired to seek redemption from their secular version of a ‘Chosen’ Israeli society. While - Muslims, Arabs and Palestinians are encouraged to renounce ultraistic Islamists. Israelis and Palestinians have a direct and mutual interest in establishing an accord of reconciliation. Ali R. Abootalebi summarizes ISLAM, ISLAMISTS, AND DEMOCRACY with this statement:
“The greatest threat to the traditional 'ulema come from either their own meager performance as heads of state (e.g., in Iran, and the Sudan) or their failure in political opposition to formulate and propose comprehensive agendas for resolving socioeconomic and political problems (e.g., as in Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait) or their sectarian fighting that has resulted in violence and acts of terrorism.”
This WAR without end will cease only when both sides acknowledge their own sins and sin no more . . .