Imam Sajid in Oslo ParliamentSustainable Peace for a Sustainable Future

United Nations International Day of Peace 2012

(A paper prepared for UPF European Leadership Conference on Sustainable Peace for a Sustainable Future United Nations International Day of Peace 2012 At Stortinget, Oslo, Norway, 20th-22nd September­ 2012)

 

Introduction: In my faith tradition the Holy Qur’an commands believers for establishing inner-peace through interfaith co-operation “to come to common grounds” (The Holy Qur’an 3:64). As a Muslim I have been ordered to build good relations with all people of the world (The Holy Qur’an 49:13 & (16:40); work for peace everywhere and whenever possible with others (The Holy Qur’an 2:208) & 8:61); cooperate with others in furthering virtue and God–consciousness (The Holy Qur’an 5:2); seek and secure human welfare, promote justice and peace (The Holy Qur’an 4:114); do good to others (The Holy Qur’an 28:77) and not to break promises made to others (The Holy Qur’an 16:91). The Holy Qur’an tells believers that those who do good deeds and help others are the best creation (The Holy Qur’an 98:6).

The Holy Prophet of Islam made it clear that “Religion is man’s treatment of other fellow-beings” (Bukhari & Muslim); and “the best among you is he who does good deeds in serving other people” (Ahmad & Tabrani).Bis Millah HIR Rahma nir Rahim (I begin with the name of Allah the Merciful and the Mercy-giving) Assh-hadu an la ilaha ill-lal-Lahu Wah-hadu la Sharika Lahu Waassh-hadu anna Muhammadan Abdu-hu wa Rasu-lu-hu. (I declare that there is no god but Allah, Allah is one and has no partner, and I also declare that Muhammad is Allah's servant and His last Messenge.) ). I greet you with the greetings of Islam (Assalamu Alaykum wa Rahmatullah wa Barakathu (May God’s blessing and peace be with us all.)

 

 

“My Prayers, My Rituals, My life, and My Death are for Allah, Lord of all the Worlds. He has No Partner. This I am commanded, and I am the first of those who surrender” (The Holy Qur’an Al-An’Am: 162, 163). [Lord!] Set us firm on the straight path.  The path of those you have blessed, not of those who have earned your wrath, nor of those who have gone astray. (The Holy Qur'an 1:4-6) "Verily, never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves." (The Holy Qur’an 13:11) O God Almighty You are peace and from You Peace comes. Bestow on all of us Your Peace and make our final destiny in your eternal abode of Peace. Let there be respect for the earth, peace for its people, love in our lives, delight in the good, forgiveness for our past wrongs and from now on a new start. AMEN May the blessing of God Almighty be upon you and all those whom you serve, today and always. AMEN

In my faith tradition the Holy Qur’an commands believers for establishing inner-peace through interfaith co-operation “to come to common grounds” (The Holy Qur’an 3:64). As a Muslim I have been ordered to build good relations with all people of the world (The Holy Qur’an 49:13 & (16:40); work for peace everywhere and whenever possible with others (The Holy Qur’an 2:208) & 8:61); cooperate with others in furthering virtue and God–consciousness (The Holy Qur’an 5:2); seek and secure human welfare, promote justice and peace (The Holy Qur’an Religious Freedom Panel - Oslo from back4:114); do good to others (The Holy Qur’an 28:77) and not to break promises made to others (The Holy Qur’an 16:91). The Holy Qur’an tells believers that those who do good deeds and help others are the best creation (The Holy Qur’an 98:6). The Holy Prophet of Islam made it clear that “Religion is man’s treatment of other fellow-beings” (Bukhari & Muslim); and “the best among you is he who does good deeds in serving other people” (Ahmad & Tabrani).

 

Be Peaceful in all aspects of life: The word Islam is itself derived from the word peace (i.e. salaam). And Muslim is the best description of those who believe in this religion:

‘It is the religion of your father Abraham. It is He (Allah) Who has named you Muslims both before and in this (the Holy Qur’an), that the Messenger be a witness over you and you be a witness over mankind!’ [1]

The essence of this religion is peaceful submission to the Lord of the worlds:

‘Yes, but whoever submits his face (himself) to Allah (i.e. follow Allah’s Religion of Islamic monotheism) and he is a good-doer, then his reward is with the Lord, on such shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.’ [2]

‘When his Lord said to him, "Submit (ie. Be a Muslim)!" He said, "I have submitted myself to the Lord of the worlds." [3]

‘"And we were ordered to submit to the Lord of the worlds"’ [4]

Even the greetings between Muslims are "May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon you." Prayer itself is concluded with the announcement of peace - once to the right, once to the left and once to the front if there is an Imam in front - as if to greet his brothers after he had left them during the brief moments that he turned completely to Allah.

Paradise is itself a place of peace:

‘For them will be the home of peace (paradise) with their Lord. And He will be their Helper and Protector because of what they used to do.’ [5]

‘Allah calls to the home of peace and guides whom He wills to a Straight path.’ [6]

Allah, the High, the Blessed, has named Himself "Peace":

‘He is Allah other than Whom there is none (that has the right to be worshipped) the King, the Holy, the Peace...’ [7]

Of course the Muslim would not hesitate to answer this call to peace, and will never reject it.‘But if they incline to peace, you also incline to it, and put your trust in Allah. Verily, he is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower.’ [8] ‘And say not to he who seeks to make peace with you, "you are not a believer". Seeking the perishable goods of the worldly life. There are many more profits with Allah.’ [9]

No religious law or social system has encouraged the establishment of peace in the same way that Islam has done, for Islam has ordered the practise of this great virtue through respect and self-restraint even at the most testing of times such as Hajj (pilgrimage). During this sacred time, a pilgrim is strictly prohibited from cutting his nails, shortening his hair, destroying a tree, killing an animal or harming anyone in any way, even if he shall find the killer of his father he is not permitted to hurt him at all: ‘So whosoever intends to perform Hajj then he should not have sexual relations (with his/her wife/husband), nor commit sin, nor dispute unjustly during Hajj’ [10]

These prohibitions establish peace within and between the Muslims.

Be Merciful and BEepatient

Mercy is the companion of peace in the salutation of Muslims. The Messenger of Islam is a Mercy to the worlds. And the slogan of Islam, repeated in every utterance and action is "In The Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful."

The behaviour between the believers is one of patience and mercy:

‘Then he became one of those who believed and recommended one another to perseverance and patience, and (also) recommended one another to piety and compassion.’ [11]

The verses of the Holy Qur’an and sayings and practices of Muhammad (PBUH.) exemplify the high position of love and mercy.

Long before any animal rights organisations were founded in the west, compassion towards animals was, and will always be, a characteristic of Islam and the commandment of Muhammad (PBUH.) to every Muslim. Abu Hurairah (RA) said that the Prophet (PBUH.) said:

‘Do not use the backs of your camels as pulpits, for Allah ordained them to take you to places you would only otherwise reach with great suffering, and created the earth for you, so on it carry out your business.’ Narrated by Abu Dawood.

Ibn Al-Haakim relates, regarding the life of Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz (the fifth Khalifah of Islam) that he prohibited the riding of horses except for a need, and wrote to Hiyaan, his governor in Egypt, that he had received news that some caravan camels in Egypt were used to carry up to one thousand pounds in weight at a time. He warned Hiyaan that if he (Hiyaan) received his letter, he should not allow a camel to carry more than six hundred pounds. The Fustaat (an ancient village south of Cairo) was named so because during the conquest of Egypt by ‘Amr Ibn Al-‘Aas (RA) a dove built a nest at the top of his tent (Fustaat). When the time to leave the city came, he left the tent exactly where it was so as not to disturb the resident dove. People started building around this tent eventually leading to the growth of the city of Fustaat.

All this is but a small example of the mercy of Islam towards Animals that can be found within the hearts of the believers. For Islam is indeed a religion of mercy and peace.

Justice and peace for everyone: The Divine demands from the follower of His message to work for peace and justice through peaceful means, not through violence or anger.

There is no compulsion in religion. Surely, the right way has become distinct from error; so whosoever refuses to be led by those who transgress, and believes in Allah, has surely grasped a strong handle, which knows no breaking. [The Holy Qur'an 2:256]

And worship Allah and associate naught with Him, and show kindness to parents, and to kindred, and orphans, and the needy, and to the neighbour who is a kinsman, and the neighbour who is a stranger, and the companion by your side, and the wayfarer, and those whom your right hands possess. Surely, Allah loves not the arrogant and the boastful; [The Holy Qur'an 4:36]

Ye who believe! Be steadfast in the cause of Allah, bearing witness in equity; and let not a people's enmity incite you to act otherwise than with justice. Be always just. That is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah. Surely, Allah is Aware of what you do. [The Holy Qur'an 5:8]

And abuse not those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest they, out of spite, abuse Allah in their ignorance. Thus unto every people have We caused their doings to seem fair. Then unto their Lord is their return; And He will inform them of what they used to do. [The Holy Qur'an 6:108]

And if any one of the idolaters seeks protection of thee, grant him protection so that he may hear the Word of Allah; then convey him to his place of security. That is because they are a people who have no knowledge. [The Holy Qur'an 9:6]

Peace is not an alternative; it is a necessity for the true comprehension of the divine message. One does not attack those who are the intended recipients of the divine message. If we want to show our commitment to peace, then we must go beyond words and rhetoric. The least that we can do is to express our condemnation of the killing done in the name of religion regardless of the victims and perpetrators. The self-killing that is directed deliberately at innocent people is not part of the divine faith: “None despairs of God’s grace except the disbelieving people” (The Holy Qur'an 12:87)

Peaceful coexistence: An early example: The relationship between Abyssinia and the early Islamic state is an excellent case study for rebutting the classical conception of the two territories (Dar al Islam and Dar al harb), which calls for a permanent war against non-Muslim political communities. Malik ibn Anas, the founder of the Maliki school of law, advised that the Muslims should not conquer Abyssinia predicating his opinion on a Hadith of the Prophet: "Leave the Abyssinians in peace so long as they leave you in peace." He acknowledged that he was not sure of the authenticity of the statement, but said: "People still avoid attacking them."

Abyssinia had maintained its Christian identity long after Islam was established in Arabia and North Africa. Few Muslim families could be found in the fourth Hijri century. From the beginning, Abyssinians showed their good will to the early Muslims who, escaping the persecution of Quraysh, had sought refuge in Abyssinia. The Muslims were welcomed by the Abyssinians and were further protected from their persecutors who sent a delegation to bring the Muslim escapees back home. Good relations between Abyssinia and the Muslims of Arabia continued, the former being the only nation to acknowledge Islam at that time.

The peaceful relationship between Abyssinia and the Islamic state is very significant for rebutting the concept of the two territorial division of the world, and its corollary conception of a permanent state of war, which does not permit the recognition of any non-Muslim state as a sovereign entity. Some Muslim sources claim that al Najashi, the king of Abyssinia during the time of the Prophet, had embraced Islam after receiving the invitation of the Prophet. Ibn al Athir, for instance, wrote in this regard: "When al Najashi received the letter of the Prophet, he believed in him, following his (instructions), and embraced Islam in the presence of Ja'far ibn Abu-Talib. The story about al Najashi's accepting Islam did not affect the status of Abyssinia as a territory in which Islam did not rule.

The principles of peace and its Strategy: If war is justified in the situations described above, a question arises as to whether Muslims are obligated to fight in these situations, no matter what the circumstances are, or whether it is simply a matter of permissibility or choices, and hence up to the Muslim community to exercise its right to declare war in such situations? To answer this question we need to differentiate between the principle of Jihad Fi Sabil Allah as a permanent obligation incumbent upon Muslims, and the method of Jihad Fi Sabil Allah which is to be determined after assessing the prevailing conditions of the moment, and selecting the most appropriate method of Jihad Fi Sabil Allah to effectively deal with these conditions. In other words, while the Muslim Ummah (World Community) is obliged to uphold the principle of Jihad and satisfy its requirements, the method of honouring this principle is a question of strategy. Eliminating oppression and protecting human life, defending Muslim sovereignty and upholding the Islamic law, are objectives of the Islamic Ummah. The principle of Jihad Fi Sabil Allah obligates the Muslims to maintain and achieve these objectives. The best way to achieve these objectives, and most appropriate method of upholding the principle of Jihad Fi Sabil Allah is, however, a question of leadership and strategy.

Throughout the Makkan period, the Muslims maintained a pacifist approach in dealing with their adversaries, despite the physical abuse and mental anguishes inflicted upon them by Quraysh. For pacifism was then the best method to effectively achieve Muslim objectives. Some might argue that Muslims did not resort to violence during the Makkan period because they were not permitted to fight at that time- an argument easily overturned when we realise that the absence of the principle of self-defence during the Makkan period was a temporary suspension of the principle's application, rather than its nullification or rejection. Certainly, the Holy Qur'an unequivocally states that the principle of self-defence and military deference is an essential element of social life and a fundamental principle around which human civilization has evolved

". . . . and had it not been (the Will of) Allah that one set of people is repelled by another, certainly the earth would have been in a state of disorder".[12] ". . . and had it not been (the Will of) Allah that one set of people is repelled by another, certainly there would have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of Allah is commemorated in abundant measure." [13]

Thus, it is up to the Muslim leadership to assess the situation and weigh the circumstances as well as the capacity of the Muslim community before deciding the appropriate type of jihad. At one stage, Muslims may find that Jihad, through persuasion or peaceful resistance, is the best and most effective method to achieve just peace, as was the case during the Makkan period. At another stage, fortification and defensive tactics may be the best way to achieve these objectives. The selection of the method of Jihad, however, is not an arbitrary decision, but one that takes into account the general conditions of both the Muslim community and its adversaries, including the military balance between the Muslims and their enemies and the morale of the Muslim army.

The Holy Qur'an circumscribed the Muslim ability to militarily confront its adversaries by two ratios (ten-to-one and two-to-one) that sets the upper and lower limits of the Muslim forces in terms of their manpower. "O Prophet, rouse the believers to the fight. If there are twenty amongst you, patient and persevering, they will vanquish two hundred: if a hundred, they will vanquish a thousand of the unbelievers: for these are people without understanding".[14] "For the present, Allah hath lightened your (task), for He knows that there is a weak spot in you: but (even though), if there are a hundred of you, patient and persevering, they will vanquish two hundred, and if a thousand, they will vanquish two thousand, with the leave of Allah: for Allah is with those who patiently persevere"[15] .These verses vividly state that given favourable conditions and high morale, Muslims could, by virtue of their faith, win against odds of ten to one. But when their organisation and equipment are weak, and their morale falls short of the optimal situation, they are obligated to tackle no more than odds of two to one.

Let us examine some verses of The Holy Qur’an, which unfortunately has led many to misunderstand the Islamic conduct of war. One cannot understand Qur'anic verses without knowing their reference to context and period of revelation and circumstances when the verses were revealed. Below is a clear explanation that can help clarify misconceptions. When it comes to the Islamic conduct of war, some of the verses of the Holy Qur'an that have often been quoted by enemies to "prove" Islam promotes violence and bloodshed are found in Chapter/Surah 2 verses 190-194:

"Fight against those who fight against you in the way of Allah, but do not transgress, for Allah does not love transgressors. Kill them whenever you confront them and drive them out from where they drove you out. (For though killing is sinful) wrongful persecution is even worse than killing. Do not fight against them near the Holy Mosque unless they fight against you; but if they fight against you kill them, for that is the reward of such unbelievers. Then if they desist, know well that Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most Compassionate. Keep on fighting against them until mischief ends and the way prescribed by Allah prevails. But if they desist, then know that hostility is only against the wrong doers. The sacred month for the sacred month; sanctities should be respected alike (by all concerned). Thus, if someone has attacked you, attack him just as he attacked you, and fear Allah and remain conscious that he with those who guard against violating the bounds sets Allah." [16]

Peace Building is a real challenge for all: One must remember that much of the conflict in the world is because of poverty, hunger and unemployment. If these problems are solved much of the conflict will be resolved. One should wage war against poverty in all possible ways - by increasing production, by ringing about redistribution of economic resources and by not allowing wealth to be circulated only among the rich. (The Holy Qur'an 59:7) Even when first permission was given to fight in the Qur'anic verse 4:77 it was basically to defend the rights of weak from among the old men, women and children.  The building of peace requires an attitude of sanctity and reverence of life, freedom and justice, the eradication of poverty, dissolution of all forms of discrimination and the protection of the environment for personal and future generations. The ideals of peace include fundamental and global directives such as:

-    Do not kill i.e. have respect for life;

-    Do not steal i.e. deal honestly and fairly;

-    Do not lie i.e. speak and act truthfully;

-    Do not commit sexual immorality i.e. respect and love one another.

 

Golden Rule:

"Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself". It is noteworthy that most religions base their moral code on the highly effective Golden Rule:

Buddhism: Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful (Udana-Varga 5:18)

Judaism: What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man. That is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary (Talmud, Shabbat 31a)

Hinduism: This is the sum of duty: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you. (Mahabharata 5:1517)

Confucianism: Surely it is the maxim of loving kindness: Do not unto others what you would not have them do to you (Analects 15:23)

Zoroastrianism: That nature alone is good which refrains from doing unto another whatsoever is not god for itself. Good thoughts, good words and good deed are the bases of good life.

The Christian faith actually uses two complimentary rules: The (ineffective) Biblical "Golden Rule" which proclaims: "All things whatsoever ye would that man should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets" (Matt 7:12). However, the (effective) Ten Commandments are framed in the negative, as all moral codes must be in order to be effective.

Islam: “No one is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.” (Sunnah) This moral code is also a version of the Golden Rule. It is very ineffective. It is obeyed very selectively and ambiguously. Clearly, it is based on the unrealistic assumption that your brother has precisely the same needs and wants as you do.If we wish to live in harmony with others and never give rise to a conflict with others, we must convert the "Golden Rule" into practice: "Don’t do to others what you don’t want done to yourself".

 

Avoid War and cycle of wars at all costs: In a war or war-like situation the effort to avert bloodshed and find out ways and means to promote negotiated settlement is far more important. The Prophet (PBUH) always tried all possibilities of negotiated settlement and resorted to war in self-defence only if all efforts to find a negotiated settlement failed. The best example of this is what is known in the history of Islam as sulh-i-Hudaibiyah (Peace agreement made at Hudaibiyah). This is a major contribution by the Prophet of Islam in promoting a negotiated settlement and averting needless bloodshed. He even accepted terms, which were not apparently favourable to Muslims. The terms of peace appeared to be even humiliating to his senior companions. The Prophet accepted these terms to avoid human slaughter and in the interest of peace.

 

Sulh-Hudaibiyuyah is of fundamental significance in the interest of peace. Peace is the real objective and war only a necessary evil in certain unavoidable situations. Also it is a wrong assumption that it is duty of the Muslims to fight against all non-believers. The Holy Qur'an itself mentions about treaties with unbelievers and according to the Holy Qur'an and hadith it is the duty of all Muslims to honour all treaties and alliances with non-believers. The Muslims must respect all such alliances until non-Muslims dishonour these.

 

Peace comes through total submission and following to the Will of Lord the Creator. This submission, of course, is submission to Muhammad and his concept of Allah in the Holy Qur’an, in other words, Islam.

The Holy Qur’an, the Hadith, and other Islamic traditional sources provide plenty of evidence to support the conviction that Islam is a religion of peace and justice, and that non-violent practices are well rooted in the religion. Educating both Muslims and non-Muslims on the peaceful message of Islam and eradicating the ignorance that leads to the negative stereotyping of Islam and to enmity between Muslims and non-Muslims is the first step toward peaceful and just relations between Muslim and non-Muslim communities.

The Holy Qur’an offers a very sophisticated view of peace. In many verses it promises the believer peace as a final reward for a righteous life[17] . It also describes the house of Islam as the abode of peace [18]. At the behest of the Holy Qur’an, Muslims greet each other every time they meet, by wishing peace for each other [19]. However the Holy Qur’an does not shy from advocating military action in the face of persecution and religious intolerance. “The strongest statement is in the chapter al-Baqarah: “And slay them wherever you find them, and drive them out of the places from where they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter.” [20]

The presence of this verse in the Holy Qur’an clearly precludes a complete prohibition of violence. The verse is important because in spite of the enormous significance that the Holy Qur’an attaches to peace and harmony, it is categorical in its assertion that persecution is worse than killing. There is nothing allegorical in this verse:  "persecution is worse than killing" [21] Elsewhere the The Holy Qur’an states: "And fight them until persecution is no more"[22] .

 

Peace through Inter-faith Dialogue with all:

The Holy Qur’an not only recognised religious pluralism as accepting other groups as legitimate socio-religious communities but also accepting their spirituality. The preservation of the sanctity of the places of worship of other faiths is paramount in Islamic tradition (The Holy Qur’an 22:40).”

 

The Holy Qur’an says: “And abuse not those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest exceeding the limits, they abuse Allah through ignorance. Thus to every people have We made their deeds fair-seeming; then to their Lord is their return so he will inform them of what they did” (The Holy Qur’an 6:109)

 

The Holy Qur’an says: “Allah loves the doer of good (to others)” (The Holy Qur’an 3: 133)

 

Prophet Muhammad’s Letter to Christians (I do not have ready references of these letters but in Dr Muhammed Hadidullah’s excellent book  Wasaiq of Muhammad these are mentioned in Arabic)

 

In 628 C.E. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) granted a Charter of Privileges to the monks of St. Catherine Monastery in Mt.Sinai. It consisted of several clauses covering all aspects of human rights including such topics as the protection of Christians, freedom of worship and movement, freedom to appoint their own judges and to own and maintain their property, exemption from military service, and the right to protection in war.

 

What does the Holy Qur’an say about dialogue with people of other faiths?

 

Many people are under the impression that Muslims are close-minded and unwilling to engage in discussion with people of other faiths. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Holy Qur’an offers very clear guidelines and encouragement for Muslims to engage in interfaith dialogue.

1.   Speak Gently: Love Humanity:  At all times, Muslims must show the best of manners and wisdom when speaking of faith to others. One must listen carefully, and share opinions with careful thought and patience.

“Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance.” (The Holy Qur’an 16:125)

“And do not argue with the followers of the Book except by what is best, save with those of them who act unjustly, and say: We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you, and our God and your God is One, and to Him do we submit.” (The Holy Qur’an 429:46)

“...Whenever you speak, speak justly, even if a near relative is concerned; and fulfil the covenant of God. Thus does He command you, that you may remember.” (The Holy Qur’an 6:152)

2.   Recognise that God is the One to Guide: Love God:

Do not feel discouraged if people seem unconvinced by your beliefs, and are unwilling to share your faith. The Qur’an describes that God Alone is the One to guide people’s hearts.

“Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things.” (The Holy Qur’an 4 2:256)

 

“If your Lord had so willed, He could have made mankind one people: but they will not cease to dispute.” (The Holy Qur’an 411:118)

“And do thou be patient, for thy patience is but from Allah; nor grieve over them: and distress not thyself because of their plots. For Allah is with those who restrain themselves, and those who do good.” (The Holy Qur’an 416:127-128)

3.   Part Kindly From Those Who Ridicule Faith: If you face someone who persistently ridicules or mocks your faith, and is obviously unwilling to listen to your point of view, quietly withdraw from the situation. Do not become angry or engage in arguments.

“He has already revealed to you in the Scripture, that when you hear the signs of Allah held in defiance and ridicule, you are not to sit with them unless they turn to a different theme. If you did, you would be like them...” (The Holy Qur’an 4:140)

 

“Tell those who believe, to forgive those who do not look forward to the Days of Allah: It is for Him to recompense (for good or ill) each people according to what they have earned.” (Yhe Holy Qur’an 45:14)

“Therefore be patient with what they say, and celebrate (constantly) the praises of thy Lord, before the rising of the sun, and before its setting; yea, celebrate them for part of the hours of the night, and at the sides of the day: that thou mayest have (spiritual) joy.” (The Holy Qur’an 20:130)

 

“Bear, then, with patience, all that they say, and celebrate the praises of thy Lord, before the rising of the sun and before (its) setting.” (Qur’an 50:39)

There is no compulsion in religion, for the right way is clearly distinct from the wrong way. Whoever therefore rejects the forces of evil and believes in God, he has taken hold of a support most unfailing, which shall never give way, for God is All Hearing and Knowing. (Holy Qurán 2:256)

 

But if they turn away from you, (O Prophet remember that) your only duty is a clear delivery of the Message (entrusted to you). (Holy Qurán 16:82)

Yet if God had so willed, they would not have ascribed Divinity to aught besides him; hence, We have not made you their keeper, nor are you (of your own choice) a guardian over them. (The Holy Qurán 6:107)

 

Islam and Other Religions - by Shaheed Ismail Raji al Faruqi :There is a lot of misinformation as regards the attitude of Islam towards other religions. Some think that Islam is intolerant towards other faiths, aims to spread religion by force. Such could only be far from the truth. This article excellently explains the position of Islam regarding other religions and their followers. For more please see at: http://saif_w.tripod.com/interfaith/general/islam_and_other_religions.htm

 

No compulsion in Religion : This article explains Islam’s position through Quran & Hadeeth (Traditions of the Prophet) that religion cannot be forced upon anyone and gives an answer to commonly misquoted verses from the Holy Quran by anti-Islam authors.

 

Tolerance in Islam by Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall. An essay on religious tolerance exhibited by pious Muslim rulers through history as a practical demonstration of the teachings of Islam. Also visit the sections Islam and the Question of Violence and Stereotyping and Misconceptions

http://saif_w.tripod.com/questions/violence/no_compulsion_in_religion.htm

 

This long list of verses from the Holy Qur’an and the Traditions of Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him) show that Islam at it's core and at its source is a religion of peace. Terrorists who persecute innocent people because of their faith are not welcome - their use of Islam as a scapegoat, does not make Islam what they portray it to be.

2:256 There is no compulsion in religion, for the right way is clearly from the wrong way. Whoever therefore rejects the forces of evil and believes in God, he has taken hold of a support most unfailing, which shall never give way, for God is All Hearing and Knowing.

16:82 But if they turn away from you, (O Prophet remember that) your only duty is a clear delivery of the Message (entrusted to you).

6:107 Yet if God had so willed, they would not have ascribed Divinity to aught besides him; hence, We have not made you their keeper, nor are you (of your own choice) a guardian over them.

4:79, 80 (Say to everyone of them,) 'Whatever good betides you is from God and whatever evil betides you is from your own self and that We have (O Prophet) sent you to mankind only as a messenger and all sufficing is God as witness. Whoso obeys the Messenger, he indeed obeys God. And for those who turn away, We have not sent you as a keeper."

11:28 (Noah to his people) He (Noah) said "O my people! think over it! If 1 act upon a clear direction from my Lord who has bestowed on me from Himself the Merciful talent of seeing the right way, a way which you cannot see for yourself, does it follow that we can force you to take the right path when you definitely decline to take it?°

17:53, 54 And tell my servants that they should speak in a most kindly manner (unto those who do not share their beliefs). Verily, Satan is always ready to stir up discord between men; for verily; Satan is mans foe .... Hence, We have not sent you (Unto men O Prophet) with power to determine their Faith.

21:107 to 109 (O Prophet?) 'We have not sent you except to be a mercy to all mankind:" Declare, "Verily, what is revealed to me is this, your God is the only One God, so is it not up to you to bow down to Him?' But if they turn away then say, "I have delivered the Truth in a manner clear to one and all, and I know not whether the promised hour (of Judgment) is near or far."

22:67 To every people have We appointed ceremonial rites (of prayer) which they observe; therefore, let them not wrangle over this matter with you, but bid them to turn to your Lord (since that is the main objective of religion). You indeed are rightly guided. But if they still dispute you in this matter, (then say,) `God best knows (the value of) what you do."

88:21, 22; also see 24:54 And so, (O Prophet!) exhort them your task is only to exhort; you cannot compel them to believe.

48:28 He it is Who has sent forth His Messenger with the (task of spreading) Guidance and the Religion of Truth, to the end that tie make it prevail over every (false) religion, and none can bear witness to the Truth as God does.

36:16, 17 (Three Messengers to their people)Said (the Messengers), "Our Sustainer knows that we have indeed been sent unto you, but we are not bound to more than clearly deliver the Message entrusted to us.'

39:41 Assuredly, We have sent down the Book to you in right form for the good of man. Whoso guided himself by it does so to his own advantage, and whoso turns away from it does so at his own loss. You certainly are not their keeper.

42:6, 48 And whoso takes for patrons others besides God, over them does God keep a watch. Mark, you are not a keeper over them. But if they turn aside from you (do not get disheartened), for We have not sent you to be a keeper over them; your task is but to preach ....

64:12 Obey God then and obey the Messenger, but if you turn away (no blame shall attach to our Messenger), for the duty of Our Messenger is just to deliver the message.

67:25, 26 And they ask, "When shall the promise be fulfilled if you speak the Truth?" Say, "The knowledge of it is verily with God alone, and verily I am but a plain warner."

60:8 Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just.

60:9 Allah only forbids you, with regard to those who fight you for (your) Faith, and drive you out of your homes, and support (others) in driving you out, from turning to them (for friendship and protection). It is such as turn to them (in these circumstances) that do wrong.

The teachings of the Prophet on how you and I should treat our Non-Muslim friends and neighbours on a day to day basis as well as how to government should treat a Non-Muslim citizen of a Muslim state.

"He who believes in God and the Last Day should honour his guest, should not harm his neighbour, should speak good or keep quiet." (Bukhari, Muslim)

"Whoever hurts a Non-Muslim citizen of a Muslim state hurts me, and he who hurts me annoys God." (Sahih Bukhari)

"He who hurts a Non-Muslim citizen of a Muslim state, I am his adversary, and I shall be his adversary on the Day of a Judgement." (Bukhari)

"Beware on the Day of Judgment; I shall myself be complainant against him who wrongs a Non-Muslim citizen of a Muslim state or lays on him a responsibility greater than he can bear or deprives him of anything that belongs to him." (Al-Mawardi)

"Anyone who kills a Non-Muslim who had become our ally will not smell the fragrance of Paradise." ( Sahih Bukhari)

Diversity in humanity recognised in Islam: Through my reading of the sacred text of the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah, I have come to conclusions that are relevant to the application of the Qur'an to contemporary society, particularly with regard to democracy and pluralism. First, one of the core principles of Muslim belief is shura, which means consultation. This was how the Prophet consulted with his companions on making decisions for his society. In the Qur'an, shura is mentioned twice, as a fundamental belief, just like prayer, and as a practice, according to the time in which one lives. In our times, genuine shura means genuine pluralism of points of view, and democracy. Second, this view of shura changes the concept of Jihad, which we hear so much about from the fundamentalists.

 

The foundations out of which an Islamic perspective on any topic should arise are nothing less than the authentic sources of Islam, the Qur’an and the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). Both the Holy Qur’an and the Hadith embrace and affirm Ikhtilaf, i.e. differences in belief, perspectives and viewpoints, as being natural and an essential part of the human condition. A denial of the right of others to hold beliefs and views, which are different and incompatible to one’s own, is tantamount to a denial of Allah himself. In the Holy Qur’an, chapter 10, verse 99, Allah, the Sublime, declares:

“If your Lord had so desired, all the people on the earth would surely have come to believe, all of them; do you then think, that you could compel people to believe?”

And again in the Holy Qur'an, chapter 11, verse 118, Allah, the Sublime, declares:

“And had your Lord so willed, He could surely have made all human beings into one single community: but (He willed it otherwise, and so) they continue to hold divergent views.”

 

Both of these verses establish the principle of freedom of belief and thought in Islam. At the conclusion of the first verse, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is himself reproved for transgressing this principle by being over-enthusiastic in convincing others with regard to the truth of Islam. Thus the Holy Qur’an stresses that the differences in beliefs, views and ideas of humankind is not incidental and negative but represents an Allah-willed, basic factor of human existence. The challenge which the principle of freedom of belief and thought in Islam holds for us is to develop clear ethics and find mechanisms to manage and deal with the differences of beliefs and theologies that exist. This is the challenge that religious pluralism holds for us. Imagine ….. A world where we focus more on our similarities and less on our differences ….. A world where differences of religion, race and caste are not the reason for injustice …. A world where we can live justly and not oppress one another. What can lead to such a utopian society? Aren’t our petty differences the root cause for most of the problems in the world?

 

Let me begin with the Qur'anic verse which celebrates diversity
Among God's wonders is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the diversity of your tongues and colours: for in this, behold, there are messages indeed for all who are possessed of [innate] knowledge! S Holy Qur’an 30:22

The Holy Qur’ân equates the miracle of the creation of the whole universe with the variations of our races and languages. This needs a little elaboration.

Racial differences are now almost universally accepted as a source of strength to our species according it with the biological equipment to survive the many challenges of environment, climate or life threatening diseases. The diversity of tongues is meant as a reference to the diversity of cultures. If racial diversity is strength, cultural diversity is liberation. Uniformity is oppressive, even unnatural. Contrary to the views of monoculturalists, human beings are seldom comfortable with cultural uniformity. A glance at the history of our religions will alert us to the fact of the instability of the single interpretation our texts or doctrines. The dictatorial nature of uniformity often uses every means to stamp out ideas and beliefs that question its authority. Inter religious conflicts manifest the struggle of the faithful to free themselves from the shackles of imposed vision. Peace and harmony are established when the people are granted the freedom to follow their own chosen path.

Diversity is a liberation providing that it communicates. Lack of communication between various groups and cultures makes diversity meaningless. A Harvard sociologist gives an example which illustrates this point. He says that if people of different cultures were travelling in an elevator in total silence, having started their journey from the same point and were going to the same destination, without exchanging a word they have not really experienced diversity.

The Qur'anic use of the word tongues is significant in that it tells us that we should communicate with each other. That means that in society with diverse communities we must have a common language stemming from a commitment to basic values. These values are those which are essential for the good life and whose absence would negate it. They are a commitment to the security and the survival of the society, the protection of every individual, life and limb, the respect for property, the safeguard of progeny and the preservation of human reason against any action that might distort its function. These basic values may be adjusted in their application to the needs of certain communities without violation to their universal validity; for we must accept that we communicate with each other as a member of a specific cultural group, Muslims in mosques, Christians in churches, Jews in synagogues, Sikhs in gudwaras, Hindus in temples, etc. This is a parochial language which must function alongside a national and even universal language.

Diversity has another and even more significant benefit. It accords us the chance to learn from each other. Human life is never free of problems. These problems are fundamentally similar though they might not appear so on first contact. The number of solutions to these problems is limited. The differences between one culture and another depends on the choice of one or other of these solutions. The experience of one group could help others address their problems in a more informed way, living together and sharing the commitment to the basic values, learning from each other.


Experience demands that we accord respect to our differences. This, however, does not mean that we succumb to the enticement of relativism. Relativism is a negation of religious belief and cultural identity. A diverse society will have to be absolutely committed to the basic values essential for the good life. Within this framework we pursue life in the way that is most suited to our needs.

In Great Britain we are lucky to have a society that is endeavouring to achieve the ideals accommodating differences not simply with tolerant indifference but with an interest in engagement with each other. This celebration of diversity sends a message to our people, and especially our youth, and the whole world that here is an example to emulate to build trust, harmony and peace in a modern society. There are elements who are misfits and who are disloyal to the basic values of our society. They do not reflect on the citizens of the country nor should they shame their particular community, nor should their crimes degrade the faith they claim to belong to.  There will always be criminals who will disturb the tranquillity of society. The strength of our common unity in diversity will help us through any difficulty that we might face.
Had the situation in France not been so painful, I would have ended my statement with the famous call - Vive la difference.

 

The Prophet's Pluralistic Constitution:The Holy Qur’an never claimed to teach a new religion. It consistently contextualized the Prophet Muhammad as being the final messenger in a long line of messengers from Allah confirming the truth of all earlier scriptures. This continuity is clear in the respect the Prophet showed to people of other religions.

Muhammad's mission was to restore the pure religion of Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus. The Islamic view of earlier religions is clear from the following verses of the Holy  Qur’an:

[The same religion has He established for you as that which He enjoined on Noah--which We have sent by inspiration to thee (O Muhammad)--and that which We enjoined on Abraham, Moses, and Jesus… Call (them to the Faith), and stand steadfast as thou art commanded, follow not thou their vain desires; but say: "I believe in whatever Book Allah has sent down; and I am commanded to judge justly between you. Allah is our Lord and your Lord: for us (is the responsibility for) our deeds, and for you for your deeds. There is no contention between us and you. Allah will bring us together, and to Him is (our) final goal.] (The Holy Qur’an Ash-Shura 42:13 & 15)

It was in the year 622 CE that the Prophet came to Madinah after a period of thirteen years of preaching Islam to the Quraish tribe in Makkah. In Madinah he found many who were ready to receive him and help him in his mission. At that time, the city of Madinah and its surrounding area was home to many Jewish and Arab tribes. There were also people of various racial and national origins including Romans, Persians and Ethiopians living in Madinah.

Taking into consideration the hopes and aspirations of this community of multi-religious background, the Prophet Muhammad drew up the basic principles of a pluralistic constitution. In addition, it established the rights and equality of every citizen before the law, as well as freedom of religion, trade and speech. The constitution spelled out the political rights and duties of both the Jews and Muslims to protect each other from every threat to their security and to uphold moral conduct and fair dealing.

Part of the constitution reads as follows: The Jews of Banu `Awf are one nation with the Muslims; the Jews have their religion and the Muslims have theirs, their freedmen and their persons shall be protected except those who behave unjustly or sinfully, for they hurt but themselves and their families. The same applies to the Jews of Banu an-Najjar, Banu al-Harith, Banu Sa'idah, Banu Jusham, Banu al-Aws, Banu Tha'labah, and the Jafnah, clan of the Tha'labah and Banu al-Shua'ibah. Doing good deeds is a protection against sinfulness. …….There is no responsibility except for one's own deeds….This document shall not constitute any protection for the unjust or the wrongdoers.

Whoever goes out to fight or stays at home is safe in the city, unless he has committed an injustice or a crime. God is the protector of whoever honors his commitment to this document, and is God-fearing and so is Muhammad, the Messenger of God. (Ibn Hisham)

The Constitution of Madinah was a historical document authored and dictated by Prophet Muhammad as the law of a land inhabited by different ethnic groups and nationalities. The document secured and promoted cooperation and fraternity among all people of any creed, color, ethnicity, and lineage, and set down the criterion of righteousness as the base of distinction.

The Necessity of Inter-religious Dialogue and Co-operation: In my faith tradition the Holy Qur’an commands believers for interfaith co-operation “to come to common grounds” (The Holy Qur'an 3:64). As a Muslim I have been ordered to build good relations with all people of the world (The Holy Qur'an 49:13 & (16:40); work for peace everywhere and whenever possible with others (The Holy Qur'an 2:208) & 8:61); cooperate with others in furthering virtue and God–consciousness (The Holy Qur'an 5:2); seek and secure human welfare, promote justice and peace (The Holy Qur'an 4:114); do good to others (The Holy Qur'an 28:77) and not to break promises made to others (The Holy Qur'an 16:91). The Holy Qur’an tells believers that those who do good deeds and help others are the best creation (The Holy Qur'an 98:6). The Holy Prophet of Islam made it clear that “Religion is man’s treatment of other fellow-beings” (Bukhari & Muslim); and “the best among you is he who does good deeds in serving other people” (Ahmad & Tabrani).

The Holy Qur'an Teaches Peaceful and just Dialogue based on mutual Respect:
A Muslim is encouraged to carry out an intellectual dialogue with the People of the Book to establish and improve relations. Following are two examples:

"Say O people of the Book! Come to common terms as between us and you that we worship none but God; that we associate no partners with Him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, lords and patrons other than God. If then they turn back, say: "Bear witness that we (at least) are Muslims (bowing to God's Will)." (The Holy Qur'an 3:64)

"Say: We believe in God, and in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and in (the Books) given to Moses, Jesus, and the Prophets from their Lord: We make no distinction between one and another." (The Holy Qur'an, 3:84)

After all, it is an integral part of Muslim's faith to honor Prophets Abraham, Moses, Jesus and all other prophets of God, and follow their teachings.

Acceptance and Understanding:  Islam teaches the Muslim to be kind, tolerant and understanding, and to establish fraternity among all people. The Holy Qur'an tells us that God has made people into nations and tribes in order to know and deal with each other in kindness, and that the best of us is he who is more pious than others.

"O humankind! We created you from a single pair of a male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know and deal with each other in kindness (not that you may despise each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God (is he who is) the most righteous of you, and God is Knower, Aware." (The Holy Qur'an, 49:13)

Thus, Islam bases people's relational conduct on kindness. Hence, it condemns intolerance, prejudice and bigotry, and rejects discrimination based on color, creed, national origin or religion.

The Muslim acceptance applies to all elements of life and must reflect in all of the Muslim's affairs. The teaching of Islam towards proper behavior, anger control, patience, treatment of spouse, parent, neighbor, the young and the old, the friend, the enemy, the environment and specifically the People of the Book are evident in the Holy Qur'an and the life and example of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing of God be upon him).

In calling people to the Islamic Faith, for example, a Muslim must be wise, sensitive, humble and considerate. The Holy Qur'an teaches:

"Invite (all) to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and discuss with them in ways that are best and most gracious." (The Holy Qur'an, 16:25)

The Muslim's acceptance of the Jews and Christians, is even more intense and specifically addresses the Muslims to prevent any communication or approach that would lead to dispute, anger or negative implication between the two parties. Allah instructs the Muslims:

"And dispute not with People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong and injury." The Holy Qur'an, 29:46.

The Prophet (peace and blessing of God be upon him) also said:

"Let it be known, if any one (Muslim) commits injustice, insults, aggravates, mistreats or abuses a person of the People of the Book (protected, by the state or an agreement), he will have to answer me (for his immoral action) on the Day of Judgment." Izzeddin Blaque, Minhaj Alsaliheen, Page 106.

Thus, the lack of tolerance towards the non-Muslims under Islamic rule is a grave offense.

The Prophet of Islam (May the peace of God be upon him) practiced this ideal for interfaith dialogue himself while talking to Jews, Christians and other faith traditions, as well as people with no faith on issues concerning life, death and relevant matters.  The Prophet of Islam confirmed this in writing explicitly in the Charter of Medina in 622 CE.  The Holy Qur’an not only recognized religious pluralism as accepting other groups as legitimate socio-religious communities but also accepting their spirituality. The preservation of the sanctity of the places of worship of other faiths is paramount in Islamic tradition (The Holy Qur’an 22:40).  The Holy Qur’an is full of many examples but time does not permit me to dwell on this at this stage.

Jewish and Muslim communities come from a distinct background, culture and set of beliefs and practices, and are regarded as minorities. Jews are recognised in British Law though Race Relations Act but Muslims yet to be recognised. In Britain there is a lessening of the ties, which bind the Jewish community together. In a generally tolerant pluralist Britain with an increasing number of cross-cultural marriages the struggle to define Jewish identity and to secure the survival of Judaism in the Diaspora has come more to the fore. Serious divisions continue to exist between Orthodox and more moderate and liberal communities. Tensions also exist between the liberal, progressive, reformed, more moderate Orthodox and the ultra-Orthodox. The Muslim community is not different. They are a relatively new community. Muslims are divided and trying their best to organise themselves and unite for purposes and issues that concerns them. There are number of things that are common with both communities.

 

Share Common Humanity: Both communities believe in God Almighty, the one who created us all. Both acknowledge the one, true God as Sustainers of the universe whose Will has been manifest to humankind through prophetic revelation. Both affirm the immortality of the soul, the existence of a future state of rewards and punishments. Both affirm similar moral and ethical standards for life in community. Muslims believe the proper human response to this revelation is obedience both in the worship of God and in all aspects of life. Muslims worship the same God as Christians and Jews. Some non-Arabic speakers are confused by the name Allah. Allah is simply the Arabic word for God. For Muslims there is no ambiguity: the one, true God is the God of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, and everyone else in creation. Abraham is a real starting point for their main connection. Though there are important differences in understanding the Unity of God, Judaism and Islam with Christianity do constitute the “Monotheistic family of religions”. The belief that God has created every human person in his/her own image and destined each one for eternal life is the basis of a common understanding of the dignity of man and woman and their basic equality before God in common humanity. The remarkable harmony and symbiosis recorded in history is often overlooked because of the current confrontation in the Middle East, and it is well for scholars and leaders to look back to the synthesis there once was in Spain. The Encyclopaedia Britannica notes the "almost boundless toleration" of the Muslims:

"In Spain there came about a remarkable revival. The Jews knew no restrictions upon their activities... the Arab invasion brought salvation." Muslim Spain, at its best, was a culture of religious and cultural tolerance, of libraries and literature and parks.

Several times, when Muslims took Jerusalem from Christians, one of their first acts was to allow Jews back to the city: Hazrat Umar, one of the greatest names of Islam, who re- conquered Jerusalem, permitted the Jews to return to the city. I was not surprised to learn that a great Muslim hero, Salahuddin, had as a senior advisor Maimonides, the great Jewish scholar.

Interaction and Interfaith: An Absolute Must: It is essential to interact with people of other faiths because otherwise there is no way one can appreciate what the other person thinks and feels, what are the priorities in his life, what are the driving forces  and his aims in life.

 

Here is the power of the moral teaching of Islam – in its broad moral view which comes from the idea of promoting good and preventing evil, the idea from which may be derived the following moral imperatives:

1) Read and Learn! Read and learn in the name of God who has created. [1]

It means, then, that the revelation of the Holy Qur’an did not begin with the imperative of faith, but with the imperative of knowledge. God Almighty did not ask Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), to believe, but He, has asked him to read and learn what and how to believe. This is so because man is born with faith. There is no need; therefore, to ask man to believe if that is already in his soul. But there is a need to remind man that he ought to read and learn what is in his soul. So, man needs knowledge with faith as well as faith with knowledge. And here is where both East and West need Islam to teach them: the East to practice knowledge and the West to appreciate the faith.

2) Believe and work hard. Those who believe and work hard deserve God’s forgiveness and a great reward [2]

 

Man neither lives in a pure spiritual world without matter, nor in a pure material world without spirit. The secret of success is that man unites in himself these two values: his spirit and his body. In other words, the purpose of man’s life is in the activity of his spirit, and that is his faith, and in the activity of his body, and that is his hard work. The Muslims will regain their dignity if they learn how to make balance between these two forces of progress: the faith of heart and the work of hand. At the moment there is a big discrepancy between the Muslim heart and the Muslim hand; there is a big gap between Muslim faith and Muslim work. There is no Muslim dignity unless this gap is overcome in such a way that the faith of heart and the power of mind work together.

3) Be pious and respect your parents. God Almighty has prescribed that you worship none except Him and that you do good to your parents...[3]

This Qur’anic injunction emphasis on the relationship between the worship of God and the respect for parents. The message is not to concede to the pressure to give up on the family values. The institution of family tradition has no alternative. The issue of the family values is not only a moral demand of human society, but also an existential condition of humanity. The attempt to break the common law of family life is equal of an attempt to break the common law of the nature of the Sunrise from the East.

4) Be honest and fight for your rights. You ought to be engaged in the effort to the way of God courageously and honestly...[4]

The success here and the salvation in the hereafter do not come by themselves. One should go after his/her success. One should fight for his/her rights here and now. Also one should work for the salvation in the hereafter; one should deserve God’s mercy.

5) Be aware of tomorrow. Let every one, male and female, see what he/she is doing for tomorrow...[5]

 

In this verse of the Holy Qur’an there is a clear proof that we have the right, nay the obligation, to plan our future and to believe that our future may be better than our past. It is really peculiar how some came to the idea that the Muslim future is hopeless and so the hope is only in the Muslim past as a way of life and a goal of history.  This idea has no foundation in Islam. It is not only that God teaches Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), that “your future will be better than your past”, but also the common reason tells us that we cannot change our past, but we can, with God’s help, shape our future in guidance with God. So, we are not responsible for the past Muslim history, but we are responsible for the future Muslim history. We should not be the prisoners of our past history. “That is a past nation. It belongs to it what it has earned by itself and to you belongs what you have earned by yourselves, ...[6]

 

So, the Muslims should not be afraid to think about their future in the same way as they should not be possessed by their past. The Muslims have future because they have faith in God. And they have faith in God because they believe that the truth and justice will prevail. 

6) Be Compassionate and Forgiving: Muslims are enjoined by the Holy Qur’an to “pardon and forbear... [For] do you not desire that God should forgive you your sins, seeing that God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace?” They are reminded of this duty when they pray five times daily to “Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate” or invoke “God the Forgiver” or “God the Pardoner” - four of God’s ninety-nine names. Believers also have the life of Muhammad to guide them, including stories about how the Prophet chose to forgive the killers of his uncle and, after being stoned, rejected the angel Gabriel’s offer to “cause the mountains to crumble” on his persecutors. Instead, he asked, “May it please your Lord to forgive my people, for they do not know” — another intimation that ignorance breeds wrongdoing.

Forgiveness is important for two reasons:

1. Very importantly, for the after-life or the life hereafter. One forgives to seek forgiveness. Seeking forgiveness is a sign of humility and forgiving others is a sign of magnanimity.

2. Seeking forgiveness and forgiving others brings happiness in the worldly life - it’s a psychological thing. In addition, forgiving improves relations with people by bringing good reputation and respect.

In the ancient world tribes and families carried on blood feuds for generations because they could not forgive. Islam taught a middle path between turning the other cheek and never ending blood feuds, that is, revenge to the extent harm done is allowed but forgiveness is preferred. Allah said in the Holy Qur’an:

“The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree): but if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah: for Allah loves not those who do wrong.” [7]

 

Peace follows forgiveness:

The concept of forgiveness in the Holy Qur’an is expressed in three Arabic terms, (1) ‘afw, (2) safhu, and (3) ghafara:

1)’Afw means to pardon, to excuse for a fault or an offence or a discourtesy, waiver of punishment and amnesty. Examples of usage in the Holy Qur’an are verses 42:40, 2:187 and 5:95.

2)Safhu means to turn away from a sin or a misdeed, ignore, etc. Examples of usage in the Holy Qur’an are verses 2:109, 15:85 and 43:89.

3) Ghafara or maghfira means to cover, to forgive and to remit. Examples of usage in the Holy Qur’an are verses 2:263, 42:37 and 43:43.

There are no particular words to say for asking forgiveness. However, Muslims are taught many phrases and words to keep repeating daily asking God’s forgiveness. For example:

(1)     Astaghfiru-Allah meaning, “I ask forgiveness from Allah.”

(2)     Subhanaka-Allah humma wa bi hamdika wa ash-hadu al la Ilaha illa Anta astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk meaning “Glory be to You, Allah, and with You Praise (thanks) and I bear witness that there is no deity but You, I ask Your forgiveness and I return to You (in obedience).

 

Leadership must be forgiving: “And it was by God’s grace that thou [O Muhammad] didst deal gently with thy followers: for if thou hadst been harsh and hard of heart, they would indeed have broken away from thee. Pardon them, then, and pray that they be forgiven. And take counsel with them in all matters of public concern; then, when thou hast decided upon a course of action, place thy trust in God: for, verily God loves those who place their trust in Him.” [8]

 

Explanation: Allah approved Prophet Muhammad (S) for his leniency with his followers and taught him to pardon. In addition, Allah instructed the Prophet to counsel with the followers and once a decision in a given matter was taken, follow through with it and trust Allah for results. Following the example of Prophet Muhammad, Muslim leadership is required to adopt a similar course.

 

General teachings of forgiveness in Islam:

‘Allah orders the faithful believers to be patient at the time of anger, and to excuse those who treat them badly’ [9]

Family situations:

“O You who believe! Behold, among your spouses and your children are enemies unto you: so beware of them! But if you pardon [their faults], and forbear, and forgive- then, behold, Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” [10]

Explanation: In a family, some members may cause a lot of pain by their wrongdoing. Sometimes, a family member may cause others to do wrong and transgress which may cause another to commit a crime but it was not intentional. Allah is exhorting to adopt a forgiving attitude within the family.

 

Repelling evil with good:

Allah Almighty in the Holy Qur’an commands us to return the evil that is done to us by others not only with good, but with the best!  Let us look at the Holy Qur’an Verse 13:22 “Those who patiently persevere, seeking the countenance of their Lord; establish regular prayers; spend out of gifts we have bestowed for their sustenance, secretly and openly; and turn off evil with good: for such there is the final attainment of the (Eternal) Home.” [11]

Let us look at the Holy Qur’an Verse 23:96 “Repel evil with that which is best: We are Well-acquainted with the things they say.”

You do not return good for evil, for there is no equality or comparison between the two.  You repel or destroy evil with something which is far better, just as an antidote is better than poison.  You foil hatred with love, compassion and forgiveness. You repel ignorance with knowledge, folly and wickedness with the friendly message of Revelation.  The man who was in bondage of sin, you not only liberate from sin, but also make him your greatest friend and helper in the cause of Allah Almighty!  Such is the alchemy of the Word of Allah Almighty!  Your credit for returning evil with good and paying for charity is double.  Also if you forgive and return the evil with good, then Allah Almighty will love you and reward you.

Forgiveness: A different outlook and a new start:

I draw your attention to the actions of the Holy Prophet of Islam when he entered Makkah as victor. Everyone was offered amnesty and complete forgiveness. When Caliph Umar entered Jerusalem he was not even prepared to pray in a Church for fear that those who came after him may treat the place as a mosque and take it away from the Christians. But when the Crusaders took the city of Jerusalem there was a total massacre of the population. What happened in Spain? Not a single Muslim or Jew was left unexecuted or un-exiled. It was the same in Sicily where all the mosques were demolished. Even in the last century the same practice was adopted in Bosnia, Kosovo and Chechnya and many other parts of the world.

The way to bring forth this rebirth is by practicing revolutionary, true and absolute forgiveness.  That is, forgiveness that accompanies a commitment to justice. When sincere forgiveness was sought it becomes clear that such forgiveness could only come within a commitment to justice.  “People cannot simply ‘forgive’—invite back into their lives on a mutual basis—those who continue to violate us,”  “otherwise ‘forgiveness’ is an empty word.  Forgiveness is possible only when the violence stops.  Only then can those who have been violated even consider the possibility of actually loving those who once brutalized and battered them.  Only then can the former victims empower the victimizers by helping them to realize their own power to live as liberated liberators, people able to see in themselves and others a corporate capacity to shape the future.” It is in the ending of injustice and the journey toward a mutual and just future that forgiveness becomes revolutionary. This understanding of revolutionary forgiveness, though Christian in inspiration, is also Jewish and Islamic in its demand for justice.  By placing forgiveness in motion, the static and superficial request — even demand by the powerful — to be forgiven without embarking on a new social and political project of inclusion and justice, is placed in perspective. Forgiveness is less the end of the matter than it is a process of conversion to a future different from the past.

 

Quiet Time - Prayer in Silence – Listening to God and the Holy Qur’an:

In the Holy Qur’an God Almighty commands: “And remember your Lord in peace and silence with humility and reverence without loudness in words in the morning and in the evening and do not become one who is forgetful” [12]

Silence in Islam is worshipping God Almighty in a quiet time; there are many examples in the Holy Qur’an of people who took vows of silence as a means of worship. The Qur’anic emphasis is on being aware of, and taking responsibility for, one’s speech in order to avoid doing harm or causing injury through talking.

In the Holy Qur’an God Almighty said: “ And when any one speaks to me, I indeed listen to the prayer of any supplicant when he/she calls on Me. Indeed I am close to them and I reply to their calls. Let them also, with a will, listen to My call and believe in Me that they may walk in the right way.” [13]

Challenges for the Dialogue Movement: I believe that those of us who value the interreligious dialogue movement have to face at least four challenges. These are as follows:

1) We should develop models of interreligious encounter which are not only multireligious but also multidisciplinary.
2) Religious tradition must learn to adapt to the best of modern knowledge.
3) There is a desperate need to focus on the needs of the whole world and not just on our bit of the whole.
4) Tolerance of the other helps a process to begin, but interreligious dialogue calls us to move beyond tolerance to mutual interaction and mutual critique.

Permission for dialogue has been hard won, but it is now established in principle. The next phase is for us all to harvest the fruits of dialogue. Nevertheless, opposition will continue. Some of this opposition is made on the grounds that dialogue assumes that all religions are really the same underneath their outward symbolism and cultural packaging. But this argument is bogus. Dialogue takes place in the space between the assumption that “we're all the same” and the insistence that “we're all different”.

Plainly, we are not all the same - the religions have different origins, historical trajectories, spiritualities and so on. Yet neither are we all different in the sense of being confined to sealed off rooms. We inhabit one earth and we have powers to exercise human empathy across many boundaries. Believers from whatever tradition participate in the search for transcendent vision and accompanying human transformation, no matter how that vision and transformation has been shaped symbolically and worked out in practice. If we were all the same there would be no need to talk to one another; if we were incommensurably different there would be no need to do any talking!

Let us move into the future boldly - proud of what has been achieved so far, yet aware of the need to deepen our grasp of the challenges emanating from the processes of dialogue itself.

The noble Prophet of Islam (May the peace and Blessings of God Almighty be upon him) practiced this ideal for interfaith dialogue himself while talking to Jews, Christians and other faith traditions, as well as people with no faith on issues concerning life, death and relevant matters.  The Prophet of Islam confirmed this in writing explicitly in the Charter of Medina in 622 CE.

Some Basic Moral Guidelines:

When I read Frank Buchman’s emphasis on the four absolute standards of honesty, purity, unselfishness and love, and listening in prayer to seek God’s direction, being the means of change, I thought that these might have come from the following principles which every Muslim learns from the Holy Qur’an:

Be honest

Engage yourself in efforts for the way of God courageously and honestly.(22:78, 16:92)

Be truthful

A believer does not witness falsehood...Always avoid loose talk.(25:72 & 104:1)

Be pure

...And those who guard their chastity except with their spouses...they shall inherit paradise to live there forever. (23:1-11)

Be unselfish

Do not follow your selfish desire and do not come near to fornication as it is a serious, sinful and shameful act. (17:32)

Love

Learn in the name of God...God loves those who love others. (2:195, 9:108 & 96:1)

Be just

Be firm on justice even if it goes against you, against your parents, against your family, against any rich or poor as God is the Best Protector. (4:135)

Change

God will not change the condition of a people until they change themselves. (13:11)

Be good and do good to others

And do good. Truly Allah loves the good-doers...Always speak good or keep silence. (2:83, 2:195 & 41:33)

Prohibition of arrogance, self-admiration and showing off.

And swell not your cheek (for pride) at men. Nor walk in insolence through the earth: for Allah loves not any arrogant boaster.(31:  18)
Humility and humbleness.

Allah has revealed to me (to tell you that) you should humble yourselves until none wrongs none and none takes pride over none. (Muslim)
Mercy and compassion toward humans.

He who has no mercy on humans, Allah has no mercy on him. (Bukhari & Muslim)
Prohibition of injustice and aggression.

And do not commit aggression for Allah loves not the aggressors. ( 2:190 )
Prohibition of envy and hatred.

Do not hate each other, do not envy each other, do not turn your back (in hostility) to each other, do not sever ties between you, and be, o servants of Allah, brothers. (Bukhari & Muslim)
Prohibition of ridicule, contempt, backbiting, and offensive name-calling.

O you who believe, let not some men among you laugh at others; it may be that the latter are better than the former. Nor let some women laugh at others; it may be that the latter are better than the former. Nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other. Nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames; ill-seeming is a name connoting wickedness, (to be used of one) after he has believed. And those who do not desist are (indeed) doing wrong. 49:11)

 

Cooperation and solidarity among humans.

Cooperate in (what is) virtue and piety but not in (what is) sin and aggression. (: 5: 2)

Obedience

Listen and obey. (64:16 )

The reader will find many other parallels to the experiences recounted in my story about meeting with Initiatives of Change, which I list from the Qur’an as follows:

A Letter from the Prophet Muhammad To The Assyrian Christians

“God has told me in a vision what to do, and I confirm His command by giving my solemn promise to keep this agreement.To the followers of the Islam I say: Carry out my command, protect and help the Nazarene nation in this country of ours in their own land. Leave their places of worship in peace; help and assist their chief and their priests when in need of help, be it in the mountains, in the desert, on the sea, or at home. Leave all their possessions alone, be it houses or other property, do not destroy anything of their belongings, the followers of Islam shall not harm or molest any of this nation, because the Nazarenes are my subjects, pay tribute to me and will help the Muslims. No tribute, but what is agreed upon, shall be collected from them, their church buildings shall be left as they are, they shall not be altered, their priests shall be permitted to teach and worship in their own way-the Nazarenes have full liberty of worship in their churches and homes. None of their churches shall be torn down, or altered into a mosque, except by the consent and free will of the Nazarenes. If any one disobeys this command, the anger of God and His Prophet shall be upon him.

“The tribute paid the Nazarenes shall be used to promote the teachings of Islam and shall be deposited at the treasury of BetAlmal. A common man shall pay one denar (piece of money), but the merchants and people who own mines of gold and silver and are rich shall pay twelve denars. Strangers and people who have no houses or other settled property shall not have taxes levied upon them. If a man inherits property he shall pay a settled sum to the Baitulmal treasury. The Christians are not obliged to make war on the enemies of Islam, but if an enemy attacks the Christians, the Muslims shall not deny their help, but give them horses and weapons, if they need them, and protect them from evils from outside and keep the peace with them. The Christians are not obliged to turn Muslims, until God’s will makes them believers.

“The Muslims shall not force Christian women to accept Islam, but if they themselves wish to embrace it, the Muslims shall be kind to them.

\“If a Christian woman is married to a Muslim and does not want to embrace Islam, she has liberty to worship at her own church according to her own religious belief, and her husband must not treat her unkindly on account of her religion. If any one disobeys this command, he disobeys God and his prophet and will be guilty of a great offense.

“If the Nazarenes wish to build a church, their Muslim neighbors shall help them. This shall be done, because the Christians have obeyed us and have come to us and pleaded for peace and mercy.

“If there be among the Christians a great and learned man the Muslims shall honor him and not be envious of his greatness.“If any one is unjust and unkind to the Christians he will be guilty of disobeying the Prophet of God.

“The Christians should not shelter an enemy of Islam or give him horse, weapon or any other help. If a Muslim is in need the Christian shall for three days and nights be his host and shelter him from his enemies. The Christians shall, furthermore, protect the Mohammedan women and children and not deliver them up to the enemy or expose them to view. If the Nazarenes fail to fulfil these conditions, they have forfeited their right to protection, and the agreement is null and void.

“This document shall be entrusted to the Christian chief and head of their church for safe keeping.”

 

The peace of God be over them all! Moavijah Bin Sofian, writes the Messenger of God, this agreement according to the dictates of Muhammad, in the 4th year of the Hegira in the city of Medina.

 

A Letter from the Prophet Muhammad to the Monks of St. Catherine Monastery:

“This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them. Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them. No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate. No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray. Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants. No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).”- Muhammad Ibne Abdullah

Unity, Diversity and Hope: We have seen that history has not ended and civilisations have not clashed even after 11 September 2001 and Gulf War II in March / April 2003. Institutions, nations, groups and all decent individuals must work together and shape the modern world as peaceful place. It is our collective responsibly to give the hope and make this happen.

We should pledge to increase our awareness by positive thinking in understanding one another. We must pledge to be courageous defenders of peaceful teachings and interpretations of Islam, and to be exemplary peacemakers in our personal, family and social conduct of our lives in order to socially beneficial, peace fostering, bridge-builder and nature-friendly way of life.

"There is no alternative to Inter-faith dialogue” says Imam Sajid from Brighton Islamic Mission:

In my humble opinion, Faith brings joy and hope to millions of people in the world. Religion is a social force that can be harnessed to build bridges or manipulated to erect walls.  Living and working together in today’s multicultural, multi-religious and multi faith society is not always easy.  Faith communities have huge human and financial recourses. Faith motivates its followers for doing good deeds such as raising funds for good causes, helping elderly and needy people in our communities and motivating their followers to tackle many social issues in our society. Religion harnesses deep emotions, which can sometimes take destructive forms. Where this happens, we must draw on our faith to bring about reconciliation and understanding. The truest fruits of our faith are healing the wounds of the past and being positive to construct trust and fellowship between different people. We have a great deal to learn from one another, which enriches us without undermining our own identities. Together, listening and responding with openness and respect, we can move forward to work in ways that acknowledge genuine differences but build on shared hopes and values.

 

In my faith tradition the Holy Qur’an commands believers for interfaith co-operation “to come to common grounds” (3:64). As a Muslim I have been ordered to build good relations with all people of the world (49:13 & (16:40); work for peace everywhere and whenever possible with others (2:208) & 8:61); cooperate with others in furthering virtue and God–consciousness (5:2); seek and secure human welfare, promote justice and peace (4:114); do good to others (28:77) and not to break promises made to others (16:91). The Holy Qur’an tells believers that those who do good deeds and help others are the best creation (98:6). The Holy Prophet of Islam made it clear that “Religion is man’s treatment of other fellow-beings” (Bukhari & Muslim); and “the best among you is he who does good deeds in serving other people” (Ahmad & Tabrani).

 

The Prophet of Islam (May the peace of God be upon him) practiced this ideal for interfaith dialogue himself while talking to Jews, Christians and other faith traditions, as well as people with no faith on issues concerning life, death and relevant matters.  The Prophet of Islam confirmed this in writing explicitly in the Charter of Medina in 622 CE.  The Holy Qur’an not only recognized religious pluralism as accepting other groups as legitimate socio-religious communities but also accepting their spirituality. The preservation of the sanctity of the places of worship of other faiths is paramount in Islamic tradition (22:40).”  427 Words

 

Remember, Remember, Remember. Evil is not in the body. Evil is in the mind, therefore harm nobody. Just change the mind.

 

Lord You said and your word is true! Love is stronger than hate. O God Almighty You are peace and from You peace comes. Bestow upon all of us your peace and make our final destiny in your eternal abode of peace. Let there be respect for the earth, peace for is people, love in our lives, and delight in the good, forgiveness for our past wrongs and from now on a new start.

Many thanks for asking me to say these a few words about Islam and Interfaith.

 

References:

[1] The Holy Qur’an, 96:1

[2] The Holy Qur’an, 5:9

[3] The Holy Qur’an, 17:23

[4] The Holy Qur’an, 22:78

[5] The Holy Qur’an, 59:18

[6] The Holy Qur’an, 2:134

[7] The Holy Qur’an, 42:40

[8] The Holy Qur’an, 3:159

[9] The Holy Qur’an, 41:34

[10] The Holy Qur’an, 64:14

[11] The Holy Qur’an, 13:12

[12] The Holy Qur’an, 7:205

[13] The Holy Qur’an, 2:186

 

SUSTAINABLe PeACe For A SUSTAINABLe FUTUre THe CoNCePT oF PeACe IN ISLAM Dr Mustafa Cerić, Grand Mufti of Bosnia-Herzegovina

http://www.thecordobafoundation.com/attach/op_peace_final_draft_v3.PDF

 

 

Abu Huraira reported: one day the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) appeared before the public and a man came to him and said: “Prophet of God, (tell me) what is

Īmān?” Upon this he (the Holy Prophet) replied: - That you affirm your faith in God, His Angels, His Books, the encounter with Him on the Day of Judgment, His Prophets and that you affirm your faith in the Resurrection hereafter.

"(Tell me) what is Islām?” The Holy Prophet replied: - That you worship One God and do not associate to Him anything, that you perform prayer, that you observe the prescribed zakāt (charity), and that you fast during the month of Ramadan.

"(Tell me) what is Ihsān?” The Holy Prophet replied: - That you worship God as if you see Him because if you do not see Him, He certainly sees you.1

Al-Īmān

Thus, based on this well-known Hadith (Tradition) of the Holy Prophet, there are three pillars of a solid edifice of peace in Islam: al- 'amn (     ) al-salām (     ) and al-hasan (     ). Indeed, these three Arabic words constitute the roots of the fundamental concept of security, peace and solidarity in Islam.

A common translation of the Arabic word of al-īmān as "faith", does not show the exact meaning of the roots of the word. The three root letters of al-īmān ( point to the idea of al-'amn: security, safety, continuity, reliability, trust. Hence, the meaning of al-īmān is not just the faith of the faithful, but rather the security of the secure, the safety of the safeguarded; the continuity of the persevering; the reliability of the reliable and the trustworthiness of the trustworthy.

The active participle of al-īmān, which is the fourth verbal form of Arabic, is Al-Mu'min (  ), commonly translated as “the believer”, consequently means the one who is security minded, who is safer, who perseveres, who is reliable, who is trustworthy of confidence. Thus, the mu'min is a confident man because he is self-confident, as a result of the security of his inner soul security, al-'amn. Hence it is meant that his al-īmān, trust in God, which is a result of his ability to trust in his inner feeling of security, al-'amn, as well as his ability to communicate his inner security with the outside world.

The opposite to al-īmān within the context of a faithful society is not al-kufr, “disbelief”, but rather al-nifāq, “hypocrisy.” Here al-kufr is taken out of context because it points to the idea of a denial of belief in God, but the idea of al-nifāq is not a denial of belief as such. The nifāq, hypocrisy, is an intentional misleading claim of faith as a trust in God and in man.

The state of nifāq is a sign of insecurity within the inner man and a lack of man's moral responsibility towards establishing peace in society. we are told in a Hadith that you may recognise a hypocrite (al-munafiq) by three signs: the first sign is that when he speaks, he lies; the second sign is that when he promises, he fails to keep his promise; and the third sign is that when he is entrusted, he betrays the trust

Thus the trustworthy (al-mu'min) is just the opposite to the hypocrite (al-munafiq) because when he speaks, he tells the truth; when he promises, he keeps his promise; and when he is entrusted, he fulfills the trust. Hence, the one who is al-mu'min (faithful), and who is in a state of al-īmān (inner security) and al-amān (public trust), is a genuine Muslim who loves peace, who works for peace, and who brings solidarity and cooperation into society. For we know that it is neither the meek nor the aggressive who will inherit the earth, but the cooperative, which means the peaceful, man.

Al-Islām

The journey from a state of al-īmān, that is to say a deep inner awareness of security, to a state of al-islām, that is to say a genuine acceptance of the idea of peace as against the idea of war, is the most important journey of human life. In the same way as we have examined for the word al-īmān, we have three root letters for al-islām (      ) to guide us to the real meaning of Islam and Muslim. The letters sīn, lām and mīm are the three Arabic letters that designate the concept of peace in Islam as the core drive of an entire weltanschauung of a Muslim.

It is not inaccurate to say that Islam means submission to the will of Allah Almighty, but it is not fully understood if we do not add that Islam means: peaceful submission, peaceful acceptance and peaceful practice of Islam by the name of Allah Almighty. It is the very idea of Islam that bears witness to an historic affirmative action that "there shall be no compulsion in religion" (   ).

This Qur'anic declaration of the seventh century is unique not only in its historic initiative, but also in its farsighted divine vision for humanity that had learnt that forceful submission (not only to a religion, but also to any ideology) had not been working and will never work. Therefore, the idea of Islam has brought about a principle that a forceful submission to God is not acceptable to God Himself. only peaceful acceptance of a submission to God is a valid submission to God because God Himself is the Peace, al-Salām, and thus He accepts only peaceful worship and peaceful relations among human beings. of course, we are aware of the fact of physical laws in which the entire universe or multiverse is made to function willingly or unwillingly (   ), but here we are talking about human freedom of choice for good (   ), which is recognised by God: (2 ،      )     - It is God who has created you while some of you are now disbelievers and some of you are believers. [Sura Al-Thaghabun: 2]

Indeed, the peaceful submission to God assumes a peace of mind which comes as a result of the inner security of al-īmān, that is to say a trust in God who has breathed his spirit into Adam, when he was only clay, neither alive nor dead (       ) in order for him to become al-insān, the human being with a light of his reason, because in order to survive man must acquire knowledge, he must go through the process of learning, he must go through the process of thinking, he must activate his faculty of reason. This is why we have it in our Islamic tradition that: The first thing created by God was the ’aql (reason), and as the great Muslim philosopher and mystic Imam Muhammad al-Ghazālī had said it: - The power of reason is God's balance on earth (       2).

If al-islam means the peaceful submission to Allah Almighty, then the word al-muslim, which is an active participle of the Arabic fourth verbal form of islām, literally means "a peaceful man", the man who spreads the peace in the world. This is best expressed by the Holy Prophet Muhammad, by his definition of a Muslim when he said: - The Muslim, i.e. the peaceful man, is the one who make other Muslims, i.e. other peaceful men, to be safe from his hands and his words! (

). It is the "other", whoever he/she is, that should feel at peace and

safe by a Muslim at any time and at any place. It is this idea of peace and safety of the "other" that encouraged the early Muslim jurists to arrive at an historic moral and legal principle based on an overall spirit of Sharī'a Law, that each and every non-Muslim person in a Muslim society must enjoy five essential human rights: the right to life (al-nafs), the right to religion (al-dīn), the right to freedom (al- 'aql), the right to property (al-māl) and the right to dignity (al-'ird). It must be said that this principle of basic human rights was adopted by Muslim Jurists centuries before the Universal declaration of Human rights was adopted in 1948 by UNeSCo.

This historical evidence shows that Islam is not opposite to non-Islam and that Muslim is not opposite to non-Muslim. Islam is opposite to fasād, “corruption”; to zulm, “injustice”; to ijrām, “crime”; and to 'unf, “violence”; and the Muslim is opposite to corrupt, unjust, criminal and violent people.

Al-Ihsān

The third pillar of an Islamic edifice of peace and security is the idea of al-ihsān, the fourth verbal form of three Arabic root letters (       ), which point to beauty-beautiful, to well- wellbeing, to good-goodness, to right-righteousness. Thus, in the said Hadith we read that one should always maintain his/her human character to be beautiful in the eyes of others, he/she should be always be concerned for the wellbeing of others, he/she should always be good to others and he/she should always be righteous to fellow human beings to gain the title of al-muhsin, the one who is doing well, good and right to others, not only to be praised by man, but also to be seen by God, who sees what he/she is doing although he/she does not see God. This is the highest degree of beauty of the human soul, this is the highest moral value of the human being - indeed, this is the highest ideal of a concept of peace for the human society.

COnClusIOn

In this short article on the occasion of September 21, 2012 that has been proclaimed as the International day of Peace, Sustainable Peace for a Sustainable Future, I have tried to show that the very words Islam and Muslim carry the message of peace and security in the world. It is worthwhile to note that unlike Judaism, Christianity and Buddhism, the name of Islam is not derived from a person but from an abstract concept, i.e. the concept of peace. Therefore, Islam

is a faith of peace and a Muslim is a peaceful man. However, the fact that Islam is portrayed as a religion of violence

and Muslims terrorists should not confuse genuine Muslims to believe in peace and to work for peace in the world. Conflating Islam with violence and terrorism is very unfortunate and misleading.

It is not the first time in history that a religion is misinterpreted by the prejudices of those who are stuck in their hatred towards the other; it is not the first time in history that a concept of a faith has been constantly misguided in the opposite direction; and it is not the first time in history that the victims of prejudices must realise that a misconception about them will not go away by itself. They must rise up and speak up about their real concepts of life, of faith, of culture and of peace in the world. But not only speak, they must act in a convincing manner, so that what they say they believe and preach but also practice in their own lives. A personal example is more powerful than a thousand words of empty preaching.

Indeed, as Muslims we must admit that there are some irresponsible men among us who are doing a disservice by their service to Islam and Muslims in a way that no one understands and no one can accept. They are spreading misconceptions about Islam and Muslims in such a way that generations will have a hard time to clear it up. An injustice does not justify another injustice. Muslims are advised by Allah that they should promote peace and do justice even to their enemy in order to change their heart and make them their friends: Good and Evil are not the same. Therefore, you should always promote Good and thus if there is an enmity between you and him, he might as a result of your goodness become your sincere friend. [Al-Fussilat: 34] (43: ) And that is the concept of peace in Islam - making all people friends with one another, especially in a multi-cultural, multi-religious, multi-racial and multi-lingual society such as the society of europe.

Endnotes

1. al-Bukhārī, al-ğāmi’ as-Sahih, Book. II: k. al-īmān, Nr. 48 and Book. LX: k. tafsīr al-Qur’ān, Nr. 300. 2.(71 )]

 

 

 

Dr Mustafa Cerić Grand Mufti of Bosnia

Dr Mustafa cerić is the raisu-l-‘ulama (president of the scholars) of islamic community in bosnia and herzegovina, grand Mufti of bosnia since 1993. born in Visoko, bosnia-herzegovina in 1952, he graduated from Madrasah in sarajevo as well as the faculty of arabic Language and Literature at al-azhar university in egypt. in 1987 he earned a doctorate in islamic studies from the university of chicago, where he studied under the late dr. fazlur rahman. cerić recently founded the grand Mufti Mustafa cerić foundation based in sarajevo.

cerić served as an imam at the islamic cultural center, chicago and islamic center of Zagreb, croatia. he was a professor in bosnia (faculty of islamic sciences), Malaysia (international institute for islamic thought and civilization, Kualalumpur) and the united states (american islamic college, chicago).

cerić is the co-recipient of the 2003 unesco felix houphoet boigny peace prize for contribution to World peace and recipient of the international council of christians and Jews annual sir sternberg award for exceptional contribution to interfaith understanding. in germany cerić was awarded the theodor-heuss-award 2007 and the eugen-biser-award 2008. the grand Mufti is a member of several local and international scientific organisations and societies, including the interreligious council of bosnia-herzegovina, the foundation of srebrenica- potocari Memorial and cemetery, the european council for fatwas and research, World conference of religions for peace, the executive committee of the European council of religious Leaders, the fiqh academy in Mecca, aal albayt foundation for islamic thought in Jordan, international commission for peace research chaired by dr. Henry Kissinger.

cerić has authored “roots of synthetic theology in Islam“; “a choice between War and peace“, and “European Muslim declarations“ (published in arches), among other numerous publications in bosnian such as “religion, nation and homeland”.

Appendix One

The Summit for Muslim World Leaders
Islam and a Future World of Peace
Jakarta, Indonesia — December 21 - 23, 2001

In the name of Allah, Most Beneficent, Most Merciful

Jakarta Declaration 1422 H/2001

Preamble

We begin by invoking the blessings of Allah on this effort and with salutations on the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him)

 

We, the participants and guests of the Summit of World Muslim Leaders gathered to reaffirm the teachings of the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), under the theme Islam and a Future World of Peace, on 6 - 8 Shawwal, 1422 (20 - 23 December, 2001) in Jakarta, Indonesia.

 

We affirm that:

 

Islam is a religion of peace and justice. From its core values emanate respect for life and human dignity, affecting all ideals and actions that guide the day to day life of the Muslim.

 

Our understanding of religion and spirituality grows from the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). These resources provide the basis for resolving all challenges of this and every age, as well as all social circumstances.

 

The universality of the teachings of Islam affirms the sanctity of humankind, and thus enjoins on us an enduring dialogue of faiths and civilizations.

 

Deliberations proceeded along three lines of inquiry: Religion and Spirituality, Civic Responsibility in Political Society, and Interfaith, Intercultural, and International Relations.

1. Religion and Spirituality

We affirm that:

 

The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was sent as mercy for all humankind. The message he delivered aims to produce peace and prosperity, promote love, compassion and forgiveness, and create a humane society. It is an important source of guidance in a changing and shrinking world and must be recognized as such.

 

To fulfil the ideals of the Prophet (PBUH) Muslims must recognise these teachings and his example as a guiding principle of their moral and spiritual development.

 

Islam rejects violence in any form against the innocent. In fact, it promotes justice and exhorts Muslims to be just even it be against their own selves, their parents, or kinfolk. Thus implementation of justice for and by the Muslims will be the single most important factor in the elimination of violence and terrorism.

 

To be just is the spiritual obligation of all faiths and nations.

 

Muslim leaders and scholars are responsible for, and have a moral obligation to teach and promote knowledge about the fundamental ethics of Islam, thus providing the foundation for peace and peaceful coexistence and harmony in the world.

2. Civic Responsibility in Political Society

We affirm that:

 

Muslim nations must devote their energies toward education of their masses, and improvement of economic opportunities for their people. They must enhance their interaction with other Muslim countries in joint projects for the welfare of their populations.

 

All nations of the world must apply their energies to conflict resolution globally, and be consistent at both home and abroad in their concern for justice, freedom and human rights.

 

In any system of government, the protection of the freedoms and rights of the citizens is paramount.

3. Interfaith, Intercultural, and International Relations

 

We affirm that:

 

Dialogue toward harmony and understanding is a Muslim religious responsibility. As a consequence, Muslims encourage people of all faiths to acknowledge, accept, promote, respect and appreciate the diversity among their different faiths and cultures.

 

Interfaith dialogue for the purposes of removing fear of the unknown, generating good will, and establishing mutual trust, should occur at all levels including at the level of individuals, faith groups, larger communities, and globally.

 

Intellectual and spiritual leaders are obliged to establish enduring structures of dialogue to prevent conflict among people of differing religious commitments and opinions. These leaders of all faith must convince their constituencies to work harmoniously with other groups and influence their elected or appointed leaders to promote peace and justice as the cornerstone of their agenda, policies, and practice.

 

May Allah bless this effort and forgive our shortcomings.

 

Jakarta                       UPF 23 December 2001

Appendix Two

Building Good Relations with People of Different Faiths and Beliefs

In Britain today, people of many different faiths and beliefs live side by side. The opportunity lies before us to work together to build a society rooted in the values we treasure. But this society can only be built on a sure foundation of mutual respect, openness and trust. This means finding ways to live our lives of faith with integrity, and allowing others to do so too. Our different religious traditions offer us many resources for this and teach us the importance of good relationships characterised by honesty, compassion and generosity of spirit. The Inter Faith Network offers the following code of conduct for encouraging and strengthening these relationships.

As members of the human family, we should show each other respect and courtesy. In our dealings with people of other faiths and beliefs this means exercising good will and:

 

Respecting other people's freedom within the law to express their beliefs and convictions

 

Learning to understand what others actually believe and value, and letting them express this in their own terms

 

Respecting the convictions of others about food, dress and social etiquette and not behaving in ways which cause needless offence

 

Recognising that all of us at times fall short of the ideals of our own traditions and never comparing our own ideals with other people's practices

 

Working to prevent disagreement from leading to conflict

 

Always seeking to avoid violence in our relationships

When we talk about matters of faith with one another, we need to do so with sensitivity, honesty and straightforwardness. This means:

 

Recognising that listening as well as speaking is necessary for a genuine conversation

 

Being honest about our beliefs and religious allegiances

 

Not misrepresenting or disparaging other people's beliefs and practices

 

Correcting misunderstanding or misrepresentations not only of our own but also of other faiths whenever we come across them

 

Being straightforward about our intentions

 

Accepting that in formal inter faith meetings there is a particular responsibility to ensure that the religious commitment of all those who are present will be respected.

All of us want others to understand and respect our views. Some people will also want to persuade others to join their faith. In a multi faith society where this is permitted, the attempt should always be characterised by self-restraint and a concern for the other's freedom and dignity. This means:

 

Respecting another person's expressed wish to be left alone

 

Avoiding imposing ourselves and our views on individuals or communities who are in vulnerable situations in ways which exploit these

 

Being sensitive and courteous

 

Avoiding violent action or language, threats, manipulation, improper inducements, or the misuse of any kind of power

 

Respecting the right of others to disagree with us

Living and working together is not always easy. Religion harnesses deep emotions which can sometimes take destructive forms. Where this happens, we must draw on our faith to bring about reconciliation and understanding. The truest fruits of religion are healing and positive. We have a great deal to learn from one another which can enrich us without undermining our own identities. Together, listening and responding with openness and respect, we can move forward to work in ways that acknowledge genuine differences but build on shared hopes and values.

Looking after one another - The safety and security of our faith communities

In general, the UK is a place where there are good inter faith relations and where there is respect for the traditions of different faiths and for the beliefs and practices of different communities and for their places of worship. In times of tension, however, faith communities may find themselves vulnerable in a number of ways. Those who are visibly identifiable as members of a faith may sometimes be verbally or physically harassed or attacked. Hatred or suspicion of a particular faith may be incited. Or the cause may be mindless vandalism. Places of worship, community burial sites, and religious symbols may be defaced, damaged or destroyed or precious artefacts stolen. In such situations there needs to be a firm response by the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, the public and the faith communities themselves.

As faith communities we appreciate the vigilance and support of the police, the fire- service and the public at difficult times and note the many positive ways that organisations are working for community safety at national and local level.

We, as faith communities, also have a role in responding to emergency situations and to inter community tensions, both as individual communities and – very importantly – together.  In our shared society we are deeply interconnected. An attack on one is an attack on all.

These short guidelines have been produced by the Inter Faith Network for the UK in consultation with the Commission for Racial Equality, the Association of Chief Police Officers [and the Chief Fire Officers’ Association to assist in responding together as communities to increase our safety and security.

Respond jointly – an attack on one is an attack on all

Some attacks or threats of attack appear linked to racist or religious hatred or designed to stir this up. We believe that it is vital for faith community organisations and places of worship to respond jointly and to show solidarity. Some ways to do this are:

  • Faith leaders go together to visit any faith community property that has been attacked or is under threat
  • Faith groups contact one another by email or telephone in any time of crisis or tension for mutual support and assistance
  • Take action - of a  kind agreed with the faith community directly affected - in support of  a place of worship which has been attacked or vandalised
  • Meet with police and local authorities to discuss and implement appropriate measures to provide reassurance for the community or communities affected
  • Encourage swift reporting of the incident to the police. Some offences, such as criminal damage and assault, now receive higher sentences if the convicted person is shown to have been motivated by faith hatred. When reporting an incident to the police, it is important to make clear at the time of reporting that you consider it to have been motivated by faith hatred.
  • Contact local media and ask them to give publicity to the joint efforts of faith communities to support each other and respond jointly to the situation
  • Agree and issue joint statements in response to crisis situations to support the affected community and defuse tensions  (but only if the community wishes this)
  • Work with local inter faith groups and others to arrange ‘clean up’ teams to go and assist if buildings have been defaced or damaged and the community in question would like help in this way
  • Work jointly to sponsor fund-raising efforts in response to crises
  • Where appropriate, in particularly serious circumstances, hold events such as vigils for people to come together to pray, each in their own tradition

 

Build on existing good inter-community relations

Joint responses to attacks on community properties or inter community tensions are most effective if they are built on an existing process of strengthening communications and building trust.

  • Develop good relations with neighbours
  • Build long-term personal relationships between faith community leaders
  • Develop opportunities for members of different communities to meet one another, to learn about their different faiths and to encourage personal friendships
  • Always challenge misperceptions or misrepresentations of one another – ill informed stereotyping is damaging to us all
  • Ensure that local inter faith structures are strong, have active involvement from senior figures of all the local faith communities,  and are well-resourced
  • Run programmes to promote better understanding between people of different faiths – and, in particular, between young people of different faith backgrounds
  • Establish regular meetings with police and local authorities to keep relevant issues under review and develop partnerships for joint practical action
  • Ensure that each place of worship has a list of the faith bodies and places of worship in the local authority area and a way to contact them in times of crisis by email or telephone
  • Develop a communications strategy  – what might we want to say if problems arise? Who might carry the messages (for example through co-ordinated sermons and local newspapers and radio)?

 

Don’t under-estimate your contribution – our partners such as the emergency services may be stretched during times of tension. The help of faith communities could be vital.

Calm in times of tension

Problems of the kind discussed in this leaflet can be the result of a range of factors from racism to social exclusion. They are rarely the fault of faith communities.

 

Sometimes, however, situations can unintentionally be exacerbated by comments from within our faith communities themselves as rumours spread at times of tension or attack about the likely culprits or perpetrators. In such circumstances, trusted members of communities can help calm some situations and lessen the likelihood of inter community misunderstanding.

 

  • Check out the accuracy of stories with trusted contacts in other communities and ensure that inaccurate rumours do not spread
  • Do as we would be done by - if people in our own communities have been involved in disrespectful or dangerous behaviour towards members of other communities, make it clear within the community and more widely that this is not condoned.
  • In the event of distorted or misleading interpretations of other faiths which may be contributing to tensions, tackle these as strongly as we defend the appropriate use of the symbols and beliefs of our own faith
  • Be very careful in the language we use -  avoid generalised, exaggerated or simplistic expressions about other faiths or groups which can cause or inflame tension
  • Ensure that our members are regularly reminded of the importance of good community relations and give community recognition to the peacemakers and bridge builders

Appendix Three

Education for Peace: Guideline for Frontline workers By Ranu Jain & Taha Abdul RaufInstitute for Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution 133 pp, | Rs 150The book by Jain and Rauf is an important attempt to give us the background and the prevalent models of peace studies. The book gives a comprehensive account of the pedagogy of peace and compares and contrasts various patterns of peace studies. While the authors do address the problem in general, their focus is more on the communal violence which has reared its ugly head in the country during last three decades.

They see the role of education in drawing attention towards conflicting forces and the need to build knowledge of the structures and processes enforcing conflict.

It suggests ways to understand and resolve exiting conflicts in a peaceful and mutually beneficial manner. The book operates at various levels, from giving the interventions needed for school children to social workers, but the major focus is on frontline workers.

THE IDEA is to demystify the images of the other community to ease the tensions and thereby defuse the violence. It also outlines various models for intervention developed by social groups and elaborates some ongoing methods as samples. These are necessarily diverse, depending on situations and respondents to whom they are addressed. The book is a valuable aid for all those engaged in the process of peace and conflict resolution. It leaves the reader much more equipped to undertake the exercise of peace building in the community.

It suggests ways to understand and resolve exiting conflicts in a peaceful and mutually beneficial manner. The book operates at various levels, from giving the interventions needed for school children to social workers, but the major focus is on frontline workers.

Ram Puniyani is a communal harmony activist based in Mumbai. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,

The Book is available with:

Institute for Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution,

603, New Silver Star, Prabhat Colony Road, Nr. Railway Bridge, Santacruz (East), Mumbai, India PIN: 400055

Price: Rs. 150/- Pages: 133

 

Pathways to Justice and Peace

(Book under review: Education for Peace: Guideline for Frontline workers, by Ranu Jain and Taha Abdul Rauf, Published by Institute for Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution, Mumbai (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) January 2012, Pages  133, Price Rs 150)

 

The need for peace in the society has been the major concern most of the times, more so during last few decades. There are many causes of conflict, violence, which are deeper and are related to social; political and economic injustices. In many a cases of violence the prevalent perceptions, myths biases of the society play a major role in precipitation of violence and in giving it a silent social sanction. This is what creates the base on which such a violence is possible. That’s where the role of Peace education comes in. Peace education should groom the generations in overcoming these perceptions which are far from truth but are deeply ingrained in the psyche of the large sections of society.

 

Scholar-Activist Noam Chomsky formulated the thesis of ‘Manufacturing consent’, where the state by various mechanisms creates an approval of society for its acts of violence. Similarly one can say that the prevalence of ‘social common sense’ plays major role in the area of ethnic; communal violence. Social groups have been struggling against such perceptions. The challenge for them has been as to how to lay the foundation of critical thinking about ‘other’ communities, how to give the missing narratives which result in misconceptions, how to create respect for diversity and pluralism to ensure that proper understanding of the ‘other’ becomes possible? These are the steps which can act as cementing bond between the communities and will result in an atmosphere where the triggers planted by the vested interests do not lead to tension or violence.

 

The book by Jain and Rauf is an important attempt to give us the background and the prevalent models of peace studies, the UN resolutions about it, the attempts by educationists and social groups to develop their models to be effectively brought about in the understanding which can lead to peace and amity in the society. The book gives a comprehensive account of the pedagogy of peace and compares and contrasts various patterns of peace studies. The book squarely blames the pro-elite approach of the state ignoring the needs of the people, to be at the center of various factors which result in the vulnerability of the people seeking community support, resulting in community identity becoming more important. While the authors do address the problem in general, their focus is more on the communal violence which has reared its ugly head in the country during last three decades. They see the role of education in drawing attention towards the conflicting forces and the need to build knowledge of the structures and processes enforcing conflict.

 

As per Jain and Rauf education can attempt towards attitudinal changes amongst individuals making them understand the negative implications of conflict and violence, as well as the benefits of the democratic processes that build dialogue and negotiation. While violence has a lot to do with the structural inequalities, the book limits itself to give guidelines on recounting and addressing differences at individual and community level. The core of Education for peace is ‘deconstructing the other’ and recognizing members of different communities, especially those who are oppressed. It suggests the ways to understand and resolve the existing conflicts in a peaceful and mutually beneficial manner.

As such peace has been the major concern of human race, trying to strive for it through religious values to begin with, and later through legal endeavors. The culmination of these processes is reflected in the mandate of United Nations, which targets not only at prevention of conflict but to promote social amity and progress. The ‘Culture of Peace’ is a respectable objective which aims at promoting mix of identities, attitudes, values, beliefs and institutional patterns due to which people live in mutually beneficial manner with one another. Hereby comes the concept of positive and negative peace. While negative peace aims at absence of direct violence, positive peace aims at addressing those societal issues which disturb peace or have the potential of generating situation conducive to peace.

 

Away from lecture mode, the recommendation is on multifaceted participatory activities. Overall it is not an easy subject to handle as it does require a holistic view of society and multilayered nature of the issues involved. The compliment of peace education is conflict resolution which requires the ability to build relations of amity. In this part of the social endeavor, mere demystification of misconceptions is not adequate; as it needs to be further built up by an empathetic understanding of the ‘other’. Currently the peace education requires the challenging task of critically analyzing the structures and process of violence from micro to macro level. In Indian context the National Council for Education Research and Training (NCERT) has made commendable effort in this direction by bringing out Education for Peace (for Students) and Ways to peace (For Teachers).

 

The NCERT approach focuses on values to be conveyed and the mechanism most suitable for that are stories and activities aimed at the outcome for culture of peace. The pedagogy of peace aims to ensure that the content of books overcomes biases and stereotypes in the books. The authors are appreciative of the attempt of NCERT, but here the question remains, do state educational boards follow the NCERT in a serious way. This problem has to be directed to the social workers and the political leadership to ensure that the foundations of the students are based on objective understanding of the ‘other’ communities and history in particular is presented above the biased presentation as it is today.

 

The book operates at various levels, from giving the interventions needed for school children to social workers, but the major focus rightly remains on the frontline workers. The idea is to demystify the images of the other community to ease the tensions and there by defuse the violence.  It also outlines various models for intervention for peace developed by social groups and elaborates some ongoing methods as samples of the possible activities, which necessarily are diverse depending on situations and participants to whom they are addressed. The book could nave been enriched by giving possible horizontal and vertical integrations of different modules for different social groups.

Overall it is a valuable aid for all those engaged in the process of peace and conflict resolution. It leaves the reader much more equipped to undertake the exercises of peace building in the community.

(A briefer version of this article appeared on Tehelkaweb)

http://www.tehelka.com/story_main52.asp?filename=Ws140312book.asp

Appendix Four

Historical Perspectives to Arab-Israeli Conflict

 

THE BRITISH CABINET endorsed Balfour's declaration on October 31, 1917, and it was issued on November 2. Lord Rothschild was a leader of the British Jewish community.

“I do not think that Zionism will hurt the Arabs; but they will never say they want it. Whatever be the future of Palestine it is not now an independent nation, nor is it yet on the way to become one. Whatever deference should be paid to the views of those who live there, the powers in their selection of a mandatory do not propose, as I understand the matter, to consult them. In short, so far as Palestine is concerned, the powers h! ave made no statement of fact which is not admittedly wrong, and no declaration of policy which, at least in the letter, they have not always intended to violate.”

 

Since the “literal fulfilment of all our declarations is impossible”, they must be trimmed to accord with the aspirations of the “the French, the British and the Jews”. The Arabs to whom the pledges were given and to whom the land belonged were deliberately omitted. (Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919-1939; First series, Volume IV, 1952, His Majesty’s Stationery Office; pages 342-345). It contains the texts of the Sykes-Picot documents and more. This invaluable volume on that decisive phase exposes the cynicism in the entire decision-making process. But it omits an equally revealing document dated October 26, 1917. It was written by Lord Curzon, member of the Cabinet, and was published with a sneering intro by the Prime Minister of those times, David Lloyd George, in 1938 (The Truth About the Peace Treaties, Volume II; pages 1123-1132).

 

There is an excellent compilation, Palestine Documents, by Zafarul-Islam Khan (Pharos Publishers, New Delhi. It covers the period 1897-1998 and is one of the best). Balfour, Lloyd George and many British leaders were pro-Zionist. Winston Churchill was among them, but as an imperialist with pro-Jewish sympathies. Segev and Pappe refer to the “Biblical Zionists” – Christians who believed that the return of the Jews would precipitate the second coming of the Messiah.

 

Curzon’s dissent hurt the Prime Minister because it was a masterpiece of scholarship and irrefutable logic. He went to the heart of the matter. “What is the meaning of the phrase ‘a National Home for the Jewish Race in Palestine’?” He asked “what is to become the people of this country?... There are over half a million of these Syrian Arabs…. They and their forefathers have occupied the country for the best part of 1,500 years. They own the soil… They profess the Mohammedan faith. They will not content either to be expropriated for Jewish immigrants, or to act merely as hewers of wood and drawers of water to the latter… Finally, next to Mecca and Medina, Jerusalem is the most sacred city of the Mohammedan faith… It is impossible to contemplate any future in which the Mohammedans should be excluded from Jerusalem.”

 

On October 31, the Cabinet endorsed Balfour’s infamous declaration, which was issued on November 2, 1917. Originally, his draft said, “Palestine should be reconstituted as the national home of the Jewish people.” Protests induced change to “establishment” of “a national home for” them. But the real objective was obvious. A year later, on December 5, 1918, Curzon noted that Zionist claims had become daily more expansive. “They now talk of a Jewish State. The Arab portion of the population is well-nigh forgotten and to be ignored.” Not only did the Zionists “claim the boundaries of the old Palestine” but they also proposed to colonise lands east of the Jordan river. In 1919, a map making such a claim was presented to the Paris Peace Conference by the World Zionist Organisation. It represents Israel’s ambitions.

 

To Curzon’s protests, Balfour replied, disingenuously, that the Zionist leader in Britain, Chaim Weizmann, had “never put forward a claim for the Jewish Government of Palestine”. Curzon had “no doubt” that that was Weizmann’s objective. In a letter to Balfour, on January 26, 1919, Curzon cited Weizmann’s statements and said, “He contemplates a Jewish State, a Jewish nation, a subordinate population of Arabs etc., ruled by Jews.” (Curzon and British Imperialism in the Middle East 1916-19 by John Fisher, pages 212-214).

 

Weizmann’s double talk, plus material incentives, persuaded Prince Faisal to sign an agreement with him on January 3, 1919. Faisal represented “the Arab State and Palestine” and agreed “to encourage and stimulate immigration of Jews into Palestine on a large scale… provided the Arabs obtain their independence.” He kept this secret from Arab colleagues and later denied knowledge of the sell-out. In July 1920, Faisal was ousted from Syria by the French. The British made him King of Iraq.

 

R.J.Q. Adam’s superb biography of Balfour must be read not only by students of West Asia but also by students of constitutional law and practice. It does full justice to his remarkable subject. Balfour was a ruthless intellectual and a cynical aesthete. He was author also of the formula defining the Commonwealth. Adopted in 1926, it enabled India to become a member in 1949. The author quotes from Balfour’s speech in 1920 in which he said, “The deep, underlying principle of self-determination really points to a Zionist policy, however little in its strict technical interpretation it may seem to favour it … the case of the Jews is absolutely exceptional.” Balfour, in truth, fully accepted Weizmann’s views. Adams ably analyses the issues in this controversy with Curzon as also Balfour’s decisive advice to the king which resulted in denial of the Prime Minister’s job to Curzon.”

In accordance to the Mandates System adopted by the League of Nations pursuant Article 22 of the League’s Covenant which states “people [who have ceased to be under the sovereignty of a state] should be entrusted to advanced nation who by reason of their resources, their experience or geographical position can best undertake this responsibility, and who are willing to accept it, and that this tutelage should be exercised by them as Mandatories on behalf of the League,” Palestine along with several other Ottoman Arab territories were placed under the administration of Great Britain after the First World War.  Palestine did not become an independent state due to Britain’s issuance of the Balfour Declaration in 1917 which established Palestine as “a national home for the Jewish People.”  The British government had given commitments to the Zionist Organization five years prior to even receiving the mandate under the claim of the Jewish people having a historical connection seeing as their ancestors lived in the area two thousand years beforehand before scattering in the “Diaspora.”  Due to the Balfour Declaration, there was a large influx in Jewish immigration from 1922 to 1947, with its peak in the 1930s due to Nazi persecution.  However, this ultimately leads to competing claims of Zionism and Arab nationalism creating a hostile conflict.  Palestine demanded her independence and resisted the Jewish immigration and this lead to the rebellion in 1937, and was followed by incessant acts of terrorism and violence from both sides during and after the Second World War.  Britain attempted to implement various plans to establish Palestine as an independent state; however, the plans failed to establish the stability and peace needed in order to gain independence.  Recognizing the serious repercussions of their plan and their inability to quell the situation, Britain referred the issue to the United Nations.

Thus, in reply the, United Nations created Resolution 181, calling for the division of Palestine into an independent Jewish state and independent Arab state, while Jerusalem remained a “corpus separatum” under the United Nations administration.  Britain withdrew in 1948, following the declaration of Israel.  Numerous skirmishes between Israel and Arab states occurred shortly afterwards, resulting Israel’s breech of the boundaries envisioned in Resolution 181.  The Palestinian Liberation Organization was created in 1964, rooted around the ideal to eliminate Zionism in Palestine, and was granted observer status in the United Nations in 1974. In 1975, Resolution 3379 proclaimed Zionism akin to racism. In 1967, Israel gained access to East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Sinai Desert. Security Council Resolution 242 and 338 called for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula and the “termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.”  Yet Israel failed to implement Resolution 242, and in response to the Egyptian and Syria attacks and the Security Council passed Resolution 338.  In 1988, Palestine was declared a State; and in December Yasser Arafat recognized the Israeli State.  However, this conflict continues to disrupt peace in the Middle East, due to the inability to create any feasible solutions.  The Palestinian people are a displaced people, and must be given their self-determination.'

In addition to the political issues currently at hand, there must be considerable consideration towards the humanitarian situation.  In 1975, the United Nations General Assembly established the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, which set forth two recommendations in 1976, “one concerned with the Palestinians’ right of return to their homes and property; and the other with their rights to self-determination, national independence and sovereignty.  The conditions of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip had deteriorated due to the twenty years of military occupation, repression and confiscation of land, and thus, contributed towards the uprising, the intifada in December 1987.  Palestinians held “massive demonstrations, economic boycotts, tax resistance and strikes, protesting the military occupation of their land and demanding national independence” during the intifada.  Between the period of 1987 and 1993, over a thousand Palestinians were killed, tens of thousands were injured, thousands were detained and transferred to prisons in Israel and many were deported from the Palestinian territory according to the reports of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People due to the excessive force demonstrated by Israeli officials in response to the intifada.  The Security Council passed Resolution 605 (1987) on December 22, 1987, which discussed the means to guard the safety and of Palestinians in the occupied territory in accordance with the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of August 1949 and “strongly deplored the policies and practices of Israel, the occupying Power, which violate the human rights of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories, and in particular the opening of fire by the Israeli army resulting in the killing and wounding of defenseless Palestinian civilians.”  In December 1968, the General Assembly established a three-member Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories in order to have reports submitted whenever the need arose.  However, the Israeli Government has not permitted the Special Committee to visit the occupied territories to conduct its mandated investigations under the guise that it was discriminatory towards the character of the Israeli government and had already prejudged the alleged acts.  The General Assembly established the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees (UNRPR), in November of 1948, in response to the report by then acting mediator Ralph Bunche who stated that “the situation of the refugees is now critical.”  Since the crisis began more than 50 years ago, more than three million seven hundred and fifty thousand Palestinians were forced to abandon their homes and migrate to neighboring countries, flooding into Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Iraq.  In recent events, the security of the refugee camps has been jeopardized by the attacks by the Israeli government.  The General Assembly also passed Resolution 194 (III), of December 1948, which allows refugees to return to their homes if they wish or else be compensated for their property.  In December 1949, the United Nations passed Resolution 302 establishing the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, which has aided in the relief and reemployment of the refugees.

Israel has began building a wall in the Summer of 2002, which was intended to heighten security and secure the well-being of both the Palestinians and Israelis from possible terrorist attacks.  However, it has been seen to violate Article 13 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which states, “everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.”  In some parts of the Wall it reaches up to six kilometers inside the West Bank, which leaves 12,000 Palestinians on the Israeli side of the wall and cuts them off from their land, workplaces, and essential social services, and thus, affects the livelihood of the Palestinian people.  The fact that parts of the Wall is located inside the West Bank and east of the Green line indicates that the project has long-term implications instead of what the Israeli government is stating that it is a temporary measure.

Due to the death of the late President Yasser Arafat, there was a possible vacuum of power since he did not name a successor.  Palestinians elected Mahmoud Abbas as President in polls that received technical and logistical support from the United Nation, and thus, was deemed legitimate by the United Nations and its Member States.  This has sparked new hope that there might be a possible peaceful solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  It may be possible for Palestinians to receive is own independent state, if the violence is ceased and peace talks continue along the path of the Middle East Peace Process.

Currently, the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Conference) firmly believes that Israel is trying to clense Jerusalem by changing the character of holy city.   Israel claims that it is excavating near the Al-Aqsa mosque to recover artifacts before they construct a pathway. However, many Muslims feel that the Israelis are trying to destroy the foundation of the ancient mosque. The Secretary-General of the OIC, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, recently stated that “this has been the case ever since Israel occupied Palestine. The Jewish state has always wanted to change the nature of the Al-Quds and the holy site”. He also feels that Israel is trying to change the city’s Islamic identity; however, he also stated that we should not resort to violence and he is currently trying to coordinate efforts with UNESCO to leverage with Israel. And on February 22, 2007 the OIC released its Final Communique of the Expanded Extraordinary Meeting of the Executive Committee at the level of Foreign Ministers on the Israeli aggressions against the Al-Aqsa mosque, which outlined the OIC’s concerns about the excavating and the initiatives that it would like the international community to take in stopping Israel from threatening the foundation of the mosque.

 

On February 25, 2007 diplomats from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia met in Islamabad to discuss the situation in the Middle East. Israel then stated that it wants to coordinate efforts to bring peace in the region. The seven countries’ heads of state will continue with their talks about the Middle East peace process in Saudi Arabia and the OIC has stated that it will adopt whatever decisions the seven countries make in Saudi Arabia.

In accordance to the Mandates System adopted by the League of Nations pursuant Article 22 of the League’s Covenant which states “people [who have ceased to be under the sovereignty of a state] should be entrusted to advanced nation who by reason of their resources, their experience or geographical position can best undertake this responsibility, and who are willing to accept it, and that this tutelage should be exercised by them as Mandatories on behalf of the League,” Palestine along with several other Ottoman Arab territories were placed under the administration of Great Britain after the First World War.  Palestine did not become an independent state due to Britain’s issuance of the Balfour Declaration in 1917 which established Palestine as “a national home for the Jewish People.”  The British government had given commitments to the Zionist Organization five years prior to even receiving the mandate under the claim of the Jewish people having a historical connection seeing as their ancestors lived in the area two thousand years beforehand before scattering in the “Diaspora.”  Due to the Balfour Declaration, there was a large influx in Jewish immigration from 1922 to 1947, with its peak in the 1930s due to Nazi persecution.  However, this ultimately leads to competing claims of Zionism and Arab nationalism creating a hostile conflict.  Palestine demanded her independence and resisted the Jewish immigration and this lead to the rebellion in 1937, and was followed by incessant acts of terrorism and violence from both sides during and after the Second World War.  Britain attempted to implement various plans to establish Palestine as an independent state; however, the plans failed to establish the stability and peace needed in order to gain independence.  Recognizing the serious repercussions of their plan and their inability to quell the situation, Britain referred the issue to the United Nations.

Thus, in reply the, United Nations created Resolution 181, calling for the division of Palestine into an independent Jewish state and independent Arab state, while Jerusalem remained a “corpus separatum” under the United Nations administration.  Britain withdrew in 1948, following the declaration of Israel.  Numerous skirmishes between Israel and Arab states occurred shortly afterwards, resulting Israel’s breech of the boundaries envisioned in Resolution 181.  The Palestinian Liberation Organization was created in 1964, rooted around the ideal to eliminate Zionism in Palestine, and was granted observer status in the United Nations in 1974. In 1975, Resolution 3379 proclaimed Zionism akin to racism. In 1967, Israel gained access to East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Sinai Desert. Security Council Resolution 242 and 338 called for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula and the “termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.”  Yet Israel failed to implement Resolution 242, and in response to the Egyptian and Syria attacks and the Security Council passed Resolution 338.  In 1988, Palestine was declared a State; and in December Yasser Arafat recognized the Israeli State.  However, this conflict continues to disrupt peace in the Middle East, due to the inability to create any feasible solutions.  The Palestinian people are a displaced people, and must be given their self-determination.'

In addition to the political issues currently at hand, there must be considerable consideration towards the humanitarian situation.  In 1975, the United Nations General Assembly established the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, which set forth two recommendations in 1976, “one concerned with the Palestinians’ right of return to their homes and property; and the other with their rights to self-determination, national independence and sovereignty.  The conditions of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip had deteriorated due to the twenty years of military occupation, repression and confiscation of land, and thus, contributed towards the uprising, the intifada in December 1987.  Palestinians held “massive demonstrations, economic boycotts, tax resistance and strikes, protesting the military occupation of their land and demanding national independence” during the intifada.  Between the period of 1987 and 1993, over a thousand Palestinians were killed, tens of thousands were injured, thousands were detained and transferred to prisons in Israel and many were deported from the Palestinian territory according to the reports of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People due to the excessive force demonstrated by Israeli officials in response to the intifada.  The Security Council passed Resolution 605 (1987) on December 22, 1987, which discussed the means to guard the safety and of Palestinians in the occupied territory in accordance with the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of August 1949 and “strongly deplored the policies and practices of Israel, the occupying Power, which violate the human rights of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories, and in particular the opening of fire by the Israeli army resulting in the killing and wounding of defenseless Palestinian civilians.”  In December 1968, the General Assembly established a three-member Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories in order to have reports submitted whenever the need arose.  However, the Israeli Government has not permitted the Special Committee to visit the occupied territories to conduct its mandated investigations under the guise that it was discriminatory towards the character of the Israeli government and had already prejudged the alleged acts.  The General Assembly established the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees (UNRPR), in November of 1948, in response to the report by then acting mediator Ralph Bunche who stated that “the situation of the refugees is now critical.”  Since the crisis began more than 50 years ago, more than three million seven hundred and fifty thousand Palestinians were forced to abandon their homes and migrate to neighboring countries, flooding into Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Iraq.  In recent events, the security of the refugee camps has been jeopardized by the attacks by the Israeli government.  The General Assembly also passed Resolution 194 (III), of December 1948, which allows refugees to return to their homes if they wish or else be compensated for their property.  In December 1949, the United Nations passed Resolution 302 establishing the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, which has aided in the relief and reemployment of the refugees.

Israel has began building a wall in the Summer of 2002, which was intended to heighten security and secure the well-being of both the Palestinians and Israelis from possible terrorist attacks.  However, it has been seen to violate Article 13 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which states, “everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.”  In some parts of the Wall it reaches up to six kilometers inside the West Bank, which leaves 12,000 Palestinians on the Israeli side of the wall and cuts them off from their land, workplaces, and essential social services, and thus, affects the livelihood of the Palestinian people.  The fact that parts of the Wall is located inside the West Bank and east of the Green line indicates that the project has long-term implications instead of what the Israeli government is stating that it is a temporary measure.

Due to the death of the late President Yasser Arafat, there was a possible vacuum of power since he did not name a successor.  Palestinians elected Mahmoud Abbas as President in polls that received technical and logistical support from the United Nation, and thus, was deemed legitimate by the United Nations and its Member States.  This has sparked new hope that there might be a possible peaceful solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  It may be possible for Palestinians to receive is own independent state, if the violence is ceased and peace talks continue along the path of the Middle East Peace Process.

Currently, the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Conference) firmly believes that Israel is trying to clense Jerusalem by changing the character of holy city.   Israel claims that it is excavating near the Al-Aqsa mosque to recover artifacts before they construct a pathway. However, many Muslims feel that the Israelis are trying to destroy the foundation of the ancient mosque. The Secretary-General of the OIC, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, recently stated that “this has been the case ever since Israel occupied Palestine. The Jewish state has always wanted to change the nature of the Al-Quds and the holy site”. He also feels that Israel is trying to change the city’s Islamic identity; however, he also stated that we should not resort to violence and he is currently trying to coordinate efforts with UNESCO to leverage with Israel. And on February 22, 2007 the OIC released its Final Communique of the Expanded Extraordinary Meeting of the Executive Committee at the level of Foreign Ministers on the Israeli aggressions against the Al-Aqsa mosque, which outlined the OIC’s concerns about the excavating and the initiatives that it would like the international community to take in stopping Israel from threatening the foundation of the mosque.

 

On February 25, 2007 diplomats from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia met in Islamabad to discuss the situation in the Middle East. Israel then stated that it wants to coordinate efforts to bring peace in the region. The seven countries’ heads of state will continue with their talks about the Middle East peace process in Saudi Arabia and the OIC has stated that it will adopt whatever decisions the seven countries make in Saudi Arabia.

The United Nations involvement in the Middle East peace Process:

The United Nations has been thoroughly involved in the Middle East peace Process since Britain request for aid in 1947.  The conflict between Israel, Eygpt, and Syria sparked the development of Egypt-Israel Treaty, of 1978, which meant the end of the possibility of a full scale attack on Israel by Arab states since Egypt is one of the most advanced nations in the bloc.  This United Nations sanctioned treaty created peace between the States, and restored the Sinai Desert to Egypt.  Recently the Security Council passed Resolution 1322.  It discusses the pending conflict brought forth by excessive Israeli force, and the provocative Palestinian actions in Jerusalem.  The United Nations also participated in both the Camp David and Oslo Accords, where States discussed a multilateral plan of action, focused on economic development, arms control and security, and Palestinian refugees.

The United Nations continues to support and encourage progress in the Middle East peace process.  Another document of note is the Declaration of Principles in which Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) mutually recognized each other.  The Division for the Palestinian Rights was established in order to better fulfill the goals of General Assembly Resolution 32/40 of December 1977 by contributing to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.  The division does so through both substantive support and secretarial support, assistance in the implementation and promotion of the mandate and recommendations of the Committee, the maintenance of contact with non-governmental organizations.  In addition the division also handles the creation of studies and publication on Palestine, the management of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, and maintenance of the United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine (UNISPAL) online so that worldwide awareness on the issue may be accomplished.

The alliance called “The Quartet” which includes the European Union, the United Nations, the United States of America, and the Russian Federation.  The Quartet is working towards a lasting solution to the violence in the Middle East and the French Republic has collaborated with this group on the issue.  They published “The Elements of Performance-Based Road Map to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israel-Palestine Conflict,” which focuses upon a timeline in which the Israel- Palestine Conflict would end soon. This plan is in the process of implementation in which the main stages in place so that can be the peace coexistence between a Jewish and Arab state.

The OIC has also been heavily involved in this issue since it’s inception. Indeed the creation of the OIC is a byproduct of the Arab-Israeli conflict. There has rarely been a OIC conference that did not touch on the plight of the Palestinians in some way. The OIC in more radical moments has created boycotts of Israel and in other moments been far more congratulatory of peace efforts. In the 1970s, Egypt was kicked out of the OIC for signing the Camp David accords a move that had more to do with Saudi-Egypt rivalry than the Palestinians. Most of the OIC states do not recognize Israel believing that is it violation of many United Nations resolutions especially resolution 242.  Many OIC states have large numbers of Palestinian refugees which is something to keep in mind. At various times the states have had different relationship with these refugees. The Kingdom of Jordan’s government and populace have often been hostile to its large population of Palestinians.

While the Israeli military has launched raids in it’s national interest abroad from time to most visibly air raids against Iraq in 1981 and Tunisia in 1985 and a mission to rescue hostages from Uganda in 1976, it’s often hard for some OIC members to consider as serious of a threat. While Israel is a threat to it’s immediate neighbors like Lebanon and Syria, what threat does it realistically pose to Guyana, Brunei, or Kazakhstan? Iran, Syria and Libya often take the most hardline anti-Israeli policies. Conversely, other countries such as the conservative Arab monarchies and Asian countries take a more moderate approach on this issue focusing not so much on condemning Israel but humanitarian aid to the Palestinians. Egypt and Jordan have full diplomatic relations with Israel. On the other end of the spectrum Azerbaijan and Turkey are often closely aligned on political and strategic issues with Israel and take the most conciliatory approach.

 

Tony Blair was appointed by Quartet as Middlle East peace envoy working on behalf of the US, Russia, the UN and the EU on Wednesday, 27 June 2007. I wish Tony. Blair all the best in his new role on the world center stage I fear that he may be taking on the position as damaged goods. The perception by many on the Palestinian side is that Blair is too close to United States President Bush and to Israel interests to be an impartial envoy.

Appendix Five

Is peace Possible in Middle-East?:

The Arab world suggested that the Arab majority had the natural right to remain in possession of the country, since they are and have been in possession of the land for centuries and the Arab connection with Palestine that has continued uninterruptedly from early historical times.  Arabs also lay claim to the acquired rights, based on the general promises and pledges officially made to our people during World War I.  Thus, all actions that Arabs have taken can be considered reactionary against the flooding in of Jewish immigrants into our land.  We view Great Britain as having taking such undertakings is now under contractual obligation to accept and uphold their obligation under the Mandate System of the League of Nations, therefore, provides recognition of Arab political rights in Palestine. The Arabs have held fast to the position that the Mandate for Palestine, which incorporated the Balfour Declaration, is illegal and does not recognize its legitimacy.

Many of these negotiations are lacking “a climate of trust... [and] the parties should therefore refrain from anything that might jeopardize it.” Under the new leadership, the Palestinian Authority has a clean slate, and can enter into peace talks with Israel in which the trust has not been broken. The entire OIC must reiterate its firm commitment to a just, lasting and comprehensive settlement in the Middle East based on Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, on the principle of ‘land for peace’ and on the Madrid and Oslo Accords.”  When faced with reality, we must realize that there is no possible way to accommodate the wishes of both parties, but, at least in the “Land for Peace agreement,” both States get part of what they want, safety and territory.  Although stated many times, the OIC feels that negotiations are going to be the heart of any solutions, and many of our Member States supported the extensive negotiations taking place at Camp David.  In which many noted that “the Israelis and the Palestinians had offered courageous gestures during the summit… [and] they had never been so close to reaching an agreement.”  Although no firm action was actually taken, it was the willingness to make concessions that marked a new era in these negotiations, and prove that they truly are a valuable asset.  The Camp David Accords ensured that Egypt would remain neutral and out of any future conflict, and with that guarantee there can be no large scale war without the largest of Palestinian (Arab) allies.

The fighting that has happened between the two parties is deplorable.  On Israeli police actions, OIC fails to see the effectiveness of such non-proportional use of force against the civilian population.  However, the OIC at the same time recognizes the inhumanity of the suicide bombings against Israeli civilian populations where the targets are places of worship, buses, and restaurants.  We would definitely appreciate a cease-fire to continue peace negotiations that could save the Middle East peace process from imminent annihilation.  The OIC is very involved with the Middle East peace process because it sees it as an important interest of all nations, and not just because of oil and natural resources involved, but also because of the need to sustain peace in a region that has been stifled and impeded by violent conflict for so long.  In order to enforce a cease-fire, some States may want the Security Council to authorize a buffer zone around the hot spots in the region.  This is important because before the United Kingdom withdrew, the situation was somewhat under control but with their withdrawal there was a void left in policing the area that caused massive instability.  It is now the responsibility of the United Nations along with the OIC, to fill that void through the use of peacekeeping forces that will be specially trained to deal with the culture and conflict in the region.  In order to have any dialogue that will result in meaning and lasting solutions, there first must be a cease-fire.  Without this cease-fire there is no confidence in each side’s willingness to cooperate and deal with the situation, and therefore, the OIC continues to support the use of confidence building measures.

The OIC believes in the self-determination of the Palestinian people who at this point in time have no homeland.  However, the goal of the homeland is far from being realized, and we believe that in the interim period it is necessary for the Security Council to work alongside Israel and Palestine.  A possible course of action that they may take is to do a demographic study to decide how to divide the land when the homeland is established.  Not having a homeland is not a choice in this current atmosphere, and its nonexistence has caused numerous outbreaks of violence throughout the world.  These actions are not those of appeasement, but rather of granting the Palestinian people their right to self-determination and their right to a home, while at the same time granting both people their right to their peace and security.  In light of new terrorist issues, the OIC feels that creating stability in the region via the governments, such as the new Palestinian Authority, might help to dissolve the private militant factions.  These talks would help to not only ease tensions between the Arabs and the Israelis, but also prevent the uprising of more terrorist organizations, for they seem to be the products of civil unrest.  The OIC realized that the roots of these problems grow deep, and the solutions must go deeper, but they are more than willing to see the problem through so that the Middle East may find itself in peace at last.

 

Israel in Violation of UN Resolutions

Posted by QB on September 20, 2006

http://quranbible.wordpress.com/2006/09/20/isreal-in-violation-of-un-resolutions/

Israel is in violation of 35 UN resolutions including resolution 138 and 242 which states the mid east is a nuclear free zone. Israel has refused to disarm despite violating 2 UN resolutions with respect to disarmament.

Resolution 252 (1968) Israel
Urgently calls upon Israel to rescind measures that change the legal status of Jerusalem, including the expropriation of land and properties thereon.

262 (1968) Israel
Calls upon Israel to pay compensation to Lebanon for destruction of airliners at Beirut International Airport.

267 (1969) Israel
Urgently calls upon Israel to rescind measures seeking to change the legal status of occupied East Jerusalem.

271 (1969) Israel
Reiterates calls to rescind measures seeking to change the legal status of occupied East Jerusalem and calls on Israel to scrupulously abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention regarding the responsibilities of occupying powers.

298 (1971) Israel
Reiterates demand that Israel rescind measures seeking to change the legal status of occupied East Jerusalem.

446 (1979) Israel
Calls upon Israel to scrupulously abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention regarding the responsibilities of occupying powers, to rescind previous measures that violate these relevant provisions, and “in particular, not to transport parts of its civilian population into the occupied Arab territories.”

452 (1979) Israel
Calls on the government of Israel to cease, on an urgent basis, the establishment, construction, and planning of settlements in the Arab territories, occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem.

465 (1980) Israel
Reiterates previous resolutions on Israel’s settlements policy.

471 (1980) Israel
Demands prosecution of those involved in assassination attempts of West Bank leaders and compensation for damages; reiterates demands to abide by Fourth Geneva Convention.

484 (1980) Israel
Reiterates request that Israel abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention.

487 (1981) Israel
Calls upon Israel to place its nuclear facilities under the safeguard of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency.

497 (1981) Israel
Demands that Israel rescind its decision to impose its domestic laws in the occupied Syrian Golan region.

573 (1985) Israel
Calls on Israel to pay compensation for human and material losses from its attack against Tunisia and to refrain from all such attacks or threats of attacks against other nations.

592 (1986) Israel
Insists Israel abide by the Fourth Geneva Conventions in East Jerusalem and other occupied territories.

605 (1987) Israel
“Calls once more upon Israel, the occupying Power, to abide immediately and scrupulously by the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Times of War, and to desist forthwith from its policies and practices that are in violations of the provisions of the Convention.”

607 (1986) Israel
Reiterates calls on Israel to abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention and to cease its practice of deportations from occupied Arab territories.

608 (1988) Israel
Reiterates call for Israel to cease its deportations.

636 (1989) Israel
Reiterates call for Israel to cease its deportations.

641 (1989) Israel
Reiterates previous resolutions calling on Israel to desist in its deportations.

672 (1990) Israel
Reiterates calls for Israel to abide by provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention in the occupied Arab territories.

673 (1990) Israel
Insists that Israel come into compliance with resolution 672.

681 (1990) Israel
Reiterates call on Israel to abide by Fourth Geneva Convention in the occupied Arab territories.

694 (1991) Israel
Reiterates that Israel “must refrain from deporting any Palestinian civilian from the occupied territories and ensure the safe and immediate return of all those deported.”

726 (1992) Israel
Reiterates calls on Israel to abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention and to cease its practice of deportations from occupied Arab territories.

799 (1992) Israel
“Reaffirms applicability of Fourth Geneva Convention…to all Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem, and affirms that deportation of civilians constitutes a contravention of its obligations under the Convention.”

(1993) UNGA Res 48/71 - Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Mideast

(1993) UNGA Res 48/78 - Israeli Nuclear Armanent

904 (1994) Israel
Calls upon Israel, as the occupying power, “to take and implement measures, inter alia, confiscation of arms, with the aim of preventing illegal acts of violence by settlers.”

1073 (1996) Israel
“Calls on the safety and security of Palestinian civilians to be ensured.”

1322 (2000) Israel
Calls upon Israel to scrupulously abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention regarding the responsibilities of occupying power.

1402 (2002) Israel
Calls for Israel to withdraw from Palestinian cities.

1403 (2002) Israel
Demands that Israel go through with “the implementation of its resolution 1402, without delay.”

1405 (2002) Israel
Calls for UN inspectors to investigate civilian deaths during an Israeli assault on the Jenin refugee camp.

1435 (2002) Israel
Calls on Israel to withdraw to positions of September 2000 and end its military activities in and around Ramallah, including the destruction of security and civilian infrastructure.

U.S. National Security Strategy 1992-2006

Why the five permanent members of UN Security Counsel has failed to implement all these resolutions?

Why all the resolutions against Muslim countries like Iraq and Lebanon are enforced with extreme forece?

Why only Isreal has the right to develop Nuclear Weapons in Middle East?

Why all Isreal’s aggressions are ignored?

Israel justify all their atrocities with Old Testament and still Muslims are blamed for all violence.

Think. Be fair judge.

Envoy Blair welcomes Palestinian 'progress' during first walkabout

By Donald Macintyre in Nablus
Friday, 8 February 2008

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/envoy-blair-welcomes-palestinian-progress-during-first-walkabout-779824.html

Having seen the British come and go once before in his long life, Hassan Sweid was unfazed by the sudden descent of an ex-prime minister of the United Kingdom into his tiny workshop in the heart of Nablus's old city yesterday. Lacking the immediate services of a translator, Mr Sweid, 75, politely told the international Middle East envoy Tony Blair only: "I am a tailor."

But as the Blair caravan walked on through the alley, Mr Sweid, who was a high school student when the Union Jack was lowered for the last time at the end of the British mandate 60 years ago, was uncompromising about what he might have said if there had been more opportunity.

"We have been under aggression from the time of the British until now. But then we were men fighting colonialism. Now we are women. They [Israel] rule us with fire and iron."

Mr Blair's visit to the old city – the past scene of near-nightly Israeli incursions and some of the most lethal fighting of the past seven years – was his first encounter with the Palestinian street in the raw since his appointment last year, and not everyone was as reticent with him as Mr Sweid had been.

Video stall owner, Saleh Taqtaq, 43, who also does a brisk trade in key rings bearing "martyr" portraits of Palestinians killed in the conflict, told him: "Look at these pictures. They were slaughtered by the Jews. Are there terrorists here, when you are walking freely down our streets?"

Unwittingly, Mr Taqtaqwas touching on a key reason for Mr Blair's visit yesterday – namely the deployment of hundreds of Palestinian security forces here late last year by the Ramallah-based Prime Minister Salam Fayad to reverse the modern reputation of Nablus – once the West Bank's flourishing economic capital – as one of its most lawless as well as militant cities.

After talks with the Nablus Governor Jamal Muheisein, Mr Blair pointed that his very presence was an indication of the improved security the Palestinians are obliged to provide under phase one of the road map.

"I think it is important to recognise that what has happened here in Nablus over these past few months is, of course, precisely what phase one of the road map asks for," he said.

It was therefore "important" for there to be a response by Israel "not only" in removing Jewish settlement outposts, as it is also obliged to do under the road map, but "in time" lifting restrictions on Palestinian movement and access.

Mr Blair, who made a point of seeing at first hand the Hawara checkpoint – one of the most hated in the West Bank by Palestinians – warned that this would not happen "overnight" but needed to do so "bit by bit".

As Israeli officials cited Monday's suicide bombing in Dimona, that produced a cool response from the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. His spokesman. Mark Regev said: "We agree that the PA (Palestinian Authority) has started to move on implementing obligations under the road map, but obviously much more still has to be done."

Mr Blair's view of the changes was strongly reinforced yesterday by shopkeepers in and around the casbah who said that security had considerably improved with gunmen no longer roaming the streets.

Menswear shop owner Hussein Masri said: "We don't have shooting all the time any more. The fighters have surrendered their arms so I don't know why the Israeli forces keep coming into the city at night. Maybe not all the fighters have given up their arms but I don't know."

But equally, most complained that while security had sharply improved, the economy – a key issue on Mr Blair's agenda – had not.

Hassan Akr, 32, whom Mr Masri pays $400 per month to sell clothes, said: "I can't afford to get married, I can't get a house.

"I would try to go to the United States but I can't leave my parents alone."

Like his boss, Mr Akr was sceptical about Mr Blair's capacity to bring change. "I don't believe there will be peace. I don't think Israel wants peace and I think the negotiations will fail."

At an olive oil soap factory – one of only two compared with 35 before the Six Day War – Mr Blair wrapped and glued a bar of the historically prized product with some efficiency. He was told by the manager Yael Qubbaj that "checkpoints, incursions and closures" had halved its annual production to 300 tons since the beginning of the intifada in 2000.

The 130-year-old factory, which employs 21 people, is only kept going by the generosity of its wealthy Abu Dhabi-based Palestinian owner, Farouk Tuqan. Mr Qubbaj said the closures had hit both imports of raw materials and exports of the finished product.

Doubts about the vital security role of the Hawara checkpoint were reinforced by the fact that it was possible to avoid it on the way out of the city yesterday by taking a lengthy 12-mile ride in a Palestinian taxi on country dirt roads.

Mr Blair's appearance before Nablus's small but proactive Palestinian press corps yesterday was preceded by a lengthy argument between the city's photographers over the ideal background against which to portray him.

Pictures of both Yasser Arafat and his successor Mahmoud Abbas were eventually hoisted on to the red curtain behind the podium. A suggestion by one pressman that a third portrait of the de facto Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, be added, was not taken up, sparing the envoy undoubted embarrassment.

And the widespread scepticism that Mr Blair could succeed where a queue of envoys had failed before him was tempered by traditional Palestinian hospitality.

Despite confessing later that business was "very bad", sweet shop owner Ghazi Sweilem, 67, was deeply reluctant to accept the 50 shekels pressed on him by an aide to Mr Blair for the kilo of halkom bought by the envoy.

"He is our guest," he said. "He should not be paying."

Would Mr Blair's mission succeed? "Inshallah," he replied. God willing.

The route that leads to Palestinian statehood

When Tony Blair talks about the "road map", he has a particular one in mind. For the past seven months he has been the envoy of the Middle East Quartet, the international coalition grouping the US, Russia, UN and EU – the guarantor of the so-called "road map" for peace.

Despite the fact that the strict timeline set by the group went out of the window soon after the Quartet's founding document was issued, in September 2002, the road map set out concrete steps by both Israelis and Palestinians in order to achieve a permanent two-state solution.

It remains the only strategy leading towards statehood for the Palestinians – the only formula fully endorsed by the international community, although it has evolved over time.

Even now, both sides have stumbled on the first step, with the Israelis calling on the Palestinians to heed the document's provisions on ending terrorism, while the Palestinians are urging the Israelis to halt Jewish settlement construction, in line with the Quartet demands.

Phase II provides for a transition to a Palestinian state with provisional borders, while Phase III crowns the process with permanent status agreement and a second international conference that would reach agreement on the most tricky core issues including the right of return of refugees and the status of Jerusalem. Mr Blair was given a strictly defined role by the Quartet, focusing on bolstering the Palestinian economy, governance and security. The Quartet has endorsed the results of last November's Annapolis meeting in which Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed to resume talks with a view to concluding a peace deal by the end of this year: before George Bush leaves office.  Anne Penketh

Appendix Six

AN OPEN LETTER to Jewish leadership: A Call to Dialogue and Understanding

Bismillah Ar Rahman Ar Raheem:

In the name of God the Beneficent, the Merciful

 

“They are not all alike. Among the People of the Book there is a staunch and just community who recite the revelations of God in the night season, falling prostrate (before Him). They believe in God and the Last Day; they enjoin what is right, and forbid what is wrong; and they hasten (in emulation) in (all) good works: They are in the ranks of the righteous. And whatever good they do, they will not be denied the reward thereof. God is aware of those who ward off (evil)”. (Thde Holy Qur’an 3: 113-115).

 

Shalom, Salaam – greetings

This letter is intended as a gesture of goodwill towards rabbinic leaders and the wider Jewish communities of the world. Our aim is to build upon existing relations in order to improve mutual understanding in places where required to further the positive work in building bridges between Muslims and Jews. In the face of the negative and destructive tensions in the Middle East, this letter is a call to positive and constructive action that aims to improve Muslim—Jewish relations.

Many Jews and Muslims today stand apart from each other due to feelings of anger, which, in some parts of the world, translate into violence. It is our contention that we are faced today not with ‘a clash of civilizations’ but with ‘a clash of misunderstandings’. Deep-seated stereotypes and prejudices have resulted in a distancing of the two communities and even a dehumanization of the ‘Other’. This has in turn led to a polarisation of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, and ’Us’ and ‘Them’. We urgently need to address this situation.

 

We must strive to turn ignorance into knowledge, intolerance into understanding, and pain into courage and sensitivity for the ‘Other’. For those of us who want to live peacefully and fruitfully and to leave a safe inheritance for our children and their communities this is not an option—it is an imperative!

 

This letter is potentially important for non-Muslims and Muslims because the letter will illustrate the following: that the Muslim world has diversity of opinion; that Muslims are willing to engage in a conversation with Jews that is not just dominated by the conflict in Israel-Palestine. Although many Muslims in the Middle East only know Jews through the Israeli-Palestinian encounter, there needs to be awareness of the diversity of the encounter both historically and also outside the Middle East which is a different encounter - with tension, yes, but also with richness and commonality and shared goals.

 

Muslim—Jewish differences and commonalities - should we continue to label and hate each other or is it time to talk and understand?

 

It was We who revealed the Torah; therein was guidance and light. By its standard the Jewish people have been judged by the Prophets who surrendered to God's will, as well as by the Rabbis and the doctors of Law, for to them the protection of God's book was entrusted (The Holy Qur’an  5:44).

 

The Holy Qur’an constantly reminds Muslims that ‘among’ the People of the Book are those who believe and do righteous deeds as in the first Quranic verse quoted in this document. Indeed, the word ‘among’ is an important modifier that has been forgotten and is overlooked by many readers of the the Holy Qur’an today, whether Muslim or non-Muslim.

 

“O mankind, truly We have created you male and female, and have made you

nations and tribes that ye may recognize one another (The Holy Qur’an 49:13).

 

It is easy to categorize or label Jews, Muslims or Christians with one sweeping brush stroke; but a careful and thoughtful reading of God’s message in the Holy Qur’an reveals a far more sophisticated approach of seeing, acknowledging and appreciating the variety of God’s creation in mankind.

 

The variety of our nature among individuals: our colour, shapes, and sizes, and among our various communities: our beliefs, rituals and practices all ultimately reflect the mastery of God’s skill in creating such an array of mankind with different ways and expressions of worship. For every community (of faith) We have appointed ways of worship, which they aught to observe (The Holy Qur’an 22:67).

And again:

To each community among you We have prescribed a Law and a way of life. If God had so willed He would have made you a single people, but His plan is to test you in what He has given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to God; it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which you differ (The Holy Qur’an 5:48).

 

Our differences add richness to the lived experience of this life; moreover, it helps those who think and reflect to perceive God through the language, expression and intensity of love of another. As well as the differences, Islam and Judaism also have commonalities. Judaism and

Islam are both monotheistic religions whose followers believe in the absolute unity of the

One and Only God as emphasized by Muslims in the Shahada, Qur’an 112:1-4, and by

Jews in the Shema, Deuteronomy 6:4; they share common patriarchs, such as Nuh/Noah and Ibrahim/Abraham; and Jews and Muslims, as well as Christians, are regarded, by Muslims, as ‘People of the Book’. We share core doctrinal beliefs and strive, in the ideal, to refer to the lives of the same key Biblical figures as inspirations in our own everyday

lives.

 

“Say [O Muslims!]: “We believe in God”, in that which has been revealed to us; in that which was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendents; in that which was given to Moses and Jesus; and in that which was given to the Prophets from their Lord; we do not make any distinction between any of them, and to Him we are Muslimun (those who submit to his will)” (The Holy Qur’an 2.136).

 

Learning is emphasized in both Muslim and Jewish sacred texts: the term “Torah” means “teaching” and “Qur’an” means “reading”. This, to us as Muslims and Jews, enforces the will of our Creator who urges us to read, understand and teach – can there be a more noble way in which to uphold this core message of the Creator than to learn more about each other? For it is only through the willingness to sit together that we can begin to engage in a dialogue in order to learn about each other, and then move to the second stage of understanding and finally to seeing from the perspective of the ‘Other’. Once we reach this third stage of knowledge, deep-seated prejudice, ignorance, intolerance and hate are inevitably replaced by knowing, understanding and sensitivity for the ‘Other’ - who is no longer a ‘stranger’ but rather a ‘brother’ or a ‘sister’.

Jews and Muslims both have elaborate and comparable codes of conduct, laws and jurisprudence, covering all aspects of life (the Sharia in Islam and the Halacha in Judaism).

 

The importance of charity (sadaka, tsedaka) is pertinent to the value system of each tradition. Even the dietary procedures (halal and kashrut/kosher) are comparable. Jews and

Muslims have contributed to a highly sophisticated form of art and architecture. Indeed, Islamic art has influenced the architecture of many synagogues and, in parts of the Muslim world where coexistence was once prevalent, Jewish symbols still decorate

Islamic buildings.

 

“Travel through the earth and see how God did originate creation; so will God produce

a later creation: for God has power over all things”. (The Holy Qur’an 29:20).

 

Jews and Muslims as One Umma: Reflecting briefly on Muslim—Jewish relations in seventh century Arabia:

 

Historically, Muslims and Jews have shared a common intellectual history with extraordinarily significant interchanges between scholars. This began with the dissemination of the Isra’iliyyat (authenticated Jewish sources employed by early classicalMuslim historians and commentators of the Holy Qur’an).

 

In the spirit of Islam’s emphasis on compassion and respect for all humanity, one vignette from the Prophet’s life reveals how a Jewish funeral procession passed before the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him), at which he stood up as a sign of respect. His Companions asked him, “Why did you stand up for a Jewish funeral?” The Prophet replied, “Is it not a human soul?” (Sahih al-Bukhari).

 

In the troubled year of 622, when the Prophet was exiled from Mecca his city of birth, he migrated to Yathrib (Medina). Upon his arrival in the city, the Prophet declared in the first-known Muslim constitution called ‘the Medina Charter’ that the Muslims of Medina together with the Jewish tribes who worked with the Prophet constituted a new nation or community (umma); here are a few examples from the 7th Century Charter:

 

1. This is a document from Muhammad the Prophet (may God bless him and grant him peace), governing relations between the Believers i.e. Muslims of Quraysh and Yathrib and those who followed them and worked hard with them. They form one nation—Ummah.

17. No Jew will be wronged for being a Jew.

18. The enemies of the Jews who follow us will not be helped.

30. The Jews of Bani Awf will be treated as one community with the Believers.

The Jews have their religion. This will also apply to their freedmen. The exception will be those who act unjustly and sinfully. By so doing they wrong themselves and their families.

 

The document refers to the Jews and Muslims as “one nation” or ummatun wahidatun, a

term that recurs in the Holy Qur’an a number of times to denote a people united by common values and beliefs. Certainly, depending on historical context, Muslim—Jewish encounters have had their moments of friendship, as well as tension.

 

“Goodness and Evil cannot be equal. Repel Evil with something better; then the one who hated you will become your friend!” (The Holy Qur’an 41:34)

 

Combating estrangements and negative perceptions of the ‘Other’

 

God commands justice, the doing of good, and liberality to kith and kin, and He forbids all shameful deeds, and injustice and oppression (The Holy Qur’an 16:90).

 

It is important to be honest about the level of anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim/anti-Arab sentiment that translates into conflict in the two communities. The need today is for us to see each other through a double narrative; we must feel each other’s pain, read each other’s history and appreciate each other’s cultures with a genuine attempt at understanding. For example, Muslims react with concern to expressions of Islamophobia; they are provoked by some such literature and commentary in a few sections of the media, both Jewish and general. Similarly many Jews are concerned about what they perceive as an anti-Jewish tone in specific Quranic verses. Yet, we want to clarify that God does not label an entire nation in such a simplistic and negative way; that is only a perception among both Jews and some Muslims themselves; but through these analogies God is only trying to encourage people to learn from the mistakes (as well as the good) of those who have passed before.

 

In contrast, Jews experience anti-Jewish statements by some Muslim leaders – this is

unfortunate and based in ignorance of the Other. By seeing these examples of negativity and prejudice in their specific historical or cultural context, we can allow for the beginning of the healing process. We are compelled to transcend the potential for hatred and violence that these narratives are seen to contain and respond to the basic humanism and goodness at the core of the Abrahamic message.

 

Sir Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, on the inauguration of the Centre for the Study of Muslim—Jewish Relations in Cambridge, pointed out that it was the intellectual world of Islam that brought to Europe in particular, and to the modern world in general, the lost tradition of the Greek Philosophers (for example, the works and ideas of Plato and Aristotle). Their teachings were first revived by Muslim scholars such as Ibn Rushd (or Averroes, 1126- 1198) and others, who passed the flame of knowledge to Jewish scholars such as Moses Maimonides (Musa ibn Maymun al-Qurtubi, 1135-1204) whose view of Islam was:

Be in no doubt whatsoever that Islam is a great monotheistic faith and that is how we

relate to them as brothers and sisters in faith.

 

Maimonides and his community thrived under Islamic aegis, and Maimonides himself held the position of chief physician to the legendary Sultan Salah-ud-din. With the example of Maimonides we observe a fruitful intellectual conversation through the passing on of ideas from Islam to Judaism and Christianity, and eventually influencing the development of secular Humanism and contemporary sciences.

 

In his concluding remarks, Sir Jonathan Sacks emphasized the importance of learning from each other:

 

Islam’s strength of faith is simply astonishing. We have to learn from Islam this strength of faith. And that is something incredibly positive. If I wanted to suggest what Muslims can learn from Jews today, I would say how to survive as a minority in a culture that does not share your values. We have to learn from one another.

 

European Jews and Muslims today share experiences as minority groups. With the increasing anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, Jews and Muslims need to develop joint strategies to tackle discrimination. They could also come together to support each other’s efforts to maintain a distinctive religious identity in an age that promotes conformity to the majority culture. It is, therefore, in the spirit of both religious and geo-political compulsions that we emphasize the process of bridge-building between the two communities. This process must go beyond dialogue and move towards genuine understanding and encounter, such as visiting each other’s homes and places of worship.

 

Real understanding coupled with sensitivity can change the world. Today, in the 21st Century, there is no challenge more pressing than to bring to a closure some of the historical and long lasting estrangements between the children of Abraham. Because of the unfortunate increasing polarisation of our stands, many feel forced to choose between dialogue and violence as a response. At the core of the Muslim—Jewish tension lies the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The loss of every single life is a loss to humanity and a bloody stain on the tapestry of history. We call for a peaceful solution that will assure mutual respect, prosperity and security to both Palestinians and Israelis, while allowing the Palestinian people their rights to self-determination without external interference.

 

Most Muslims would hope that the sufferings that Jews have experienced over many centuries would make them more sensitive to the sufferings of others, especially the Palestinian people. In the Hebrew Bible Jews read how they are commanded to love the stranger because they themselves were strangers in the land of Egypt (this is mentioned 36 times in the Torah).

This tragic conflict in the Middle East can only be resolved in the spirit of understanding, compassion and wisdom.

 

A Call for Dialogue between People of all Faiths

The children of Abraham must live as a family in harmony. For the sake of peace we, Jews, Muslims and Christians must keep talking—especially when we do not agree. While the purpose of this letter is to generate dialogue and understanding between Jews and Muslims, it reflects the need for a wider dialogue between all faiths and communities, including the non-Abrahamic ones.

This is, therefore, an appeal and a hand held out, based on the teachings of both the Holy

Quran and the Hebrew Bible, in a genuine desire for dialogue and mutual respect:

 

“Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians,

whoever believes in God and the Last Day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve”. (The Holy Qur’an 2:62).

“Turn from Evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it”. (Tehilim/Psalms 34:14).

“And the servants of the Infinitely Compassionate are those who walk on the earth in humility and when the ignorant accost them, they only reply "Peace!" (The Holy Qur’an 25:65).

 

May the peace and blessing of the Almighty Lord be upon you. And may this letter, of no pretension to encompass all aspects of this encounter, be accepted as a small step towards genuine dialogue and understanding. May this letter also lead the way towards concrete outcomes in Muslim—Jewish relations in different parts of our shared world. This ‘Call for Dialogue’ is supported by:

 

Professor Akbar S Ahmed

Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, American University Washington, DC

Shaykh Michael Mumisa

Lecturer, Centre for the Study of Muslim—Jewish Relations

Dr Amineh A Hoti, Stone Ashdown Director, Centre for the Study of Muslim—Jewish Relations, Wesley House, Jesus Lane, Cambridge CB5 8BJ, United Kingdom.

Dr Musharraf Hussain, Chief Imam and Director of Karimia, UK

Professor Tariq Ramadan, University of Oxford, UK

Professor Abdulaziz Sachedina, Frances Myers Ball Professor of Religious Studies

Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia, USA

Imam Dr Abduljalil Sajid Chairman Muslim Council for Religious and Racial Harmony UK

20 Wilberforce Close Tollgate Hill RH11 9TD – Tel: +44 (0) 1293 201359 Mobile: +44 (0) 7971 861972 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

And over 1500 more signatuers see website:

Some Press Coverage

The Sunday Programme - BBC RADIO 4 24/02/2008
Muslim letter to Jews Helen Grady producer
http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/programmes/sunday/prog_details.shtml

Muslim letter to Jews
The Times Online 24/02/2008
Muslim letter to Jews Ruth Gledhill
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article3426682.ece

Muslim letter to Jews
Islam Online 26/02/2008
Muslim letter to Jews
http://www.islamonline.com/news/newsfull.php?newid=93325

Muslim letter to Jews
Progressive Muslima News 24/02/2008
Muslim letter to Jews Ruth Gledhill
http://proggiemuslima.wordpress.com/2008/02/24/

Muslim letter to Jews
Rootly

Muslim letter to Jews

http://www.rootly.com/topics/world/Muslim_leaders_issue_letter_to_improve_relations_with_Jewish_community/

Muslim letter to Jews
Lucianne.com

Muslim letter to Jews Ruth Gledhill
http://www.lucianne.com/threads2.asp?artnum=387460

Muslim letter to Jews
The Telegraph 26/02/2008
Muslim letter to Jews Jonathan Petre
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/02/26/nmuslim126.xml

Muslim letter to Jews
Sky News 24/02/2008
Muslim letter to Jews
http://messageboards.sky.com/ThreadView.aspx?ThreadId=10523

Muslim letter to Jews
Religion News 26/02/2008
Muslim letter to Jews
http://pewforum.org/news/display.php?NewsID=15034

Muslim letter to Jews
The Economist 26/02/2008
Muslim letter to Jews Bruce Clark
http://www.economist.com/daily/news/displaystory.cfm?story_id=10754916&top_story=1

Muslim letter to Jews
somethingjewish.com 26/02/2008
Muslim letter to Jews Leslie Bunder
http://www.somethingjewish.co.uk/articles/2660_muslim_letter_to_jew.htm

Virtue Online
http://www.virtueonline.org/portal/modules/news/article.php?storyid=7800

The Sunday Programme - BBC RADIO 4

24/02/2008

 

Muslim letter to Jews

Helen Grady producer

http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/programmes/sunday/prog_details.shtml

 

 

Muslim letter to Jews

 

The Times Online

24/02/2008

 

Muslim letter to Jews

Ruth Gledhill

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article3426682.ece

 

 

Muslim letter to Jews

 

Islam Online

26/02/2008

 

Muslim letter to Jews

 

http://www.islamonline.com/news/newsfull.php?newid=93325

 

 

Muslim letter to Jews

 

Progressive Muslima News

24/02/2008

 

Muslim letter to Jews

Ruth Gledhill

http://proggiemuslima.wordpress.com/2008/02/24/

 

 

Muslim letter to Jews

 

Rootly

 

 

Muslim letter to Jews

 

http://www.rootly.com/topics/world/Muslim_leaders_issue_letter_to_improve_relations_with_Jewish_community/

 

 

Muslim letter to Jews

 

Lucianne.com

 

 

Muslim letter to Jews

Ruth Gledhill

http://www.lucianne.com/threads2.asp?artnum=387460

 

 

Muslim letter to Jews

 

The Telegraph

26/02/2008

 

Muslim letter to Jews

Jonathan Petre

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/02/26/nmuslim126.xml

 

 

Muslim letter to Jews

 

Sky News

24/02/2008

 

Muslim letter to Jews

 

http://messageboards.sky.com/ThreadView.aspx?ThreadId=10523

 

 

Muslim letter to Jews

 

Religion News

26/02/2008

 

Muslim letter to Jews

 

http://pewforum.org/news/display.php?NewsID=15034

 

 

Muslim letter to Jews

 

The Economist

26/02/2008

 

Muslim letter to Jews

Bruce Clark

http://www.economist.com/daily/news/displaystory.cfm?story_id=10754916&top_story=1

 

 

Muslim letter to Jews

 

somethingjewish.com

26/02/2008

 

Muslim letter to Jews

Leslie Bunder

http://www.somethingjewish.co.uk/articles/2660_muslim_letter_to_jew.htm

 

 

 

 

Virtue Online

 

 

 

 

http://www.virtueonline.org/portal/modules/news/article.php?storyid=7800

 

 

 

 

Appendix Seven

Reply to JC 18 March 2008

imam Sajid   hide details 09:49 (1 minute ago) toThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. date19 Mar 2008 09:49 subjectThere is no alternative to Dialogue

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Letter for publication

Letters Editor,
Jewish Chronicle,

19 March 2008

Sir,

There is no alternative to Dialogue

I am one of those Muslims who signed an open letter to the leaders of Jewish Community to step up our joint efforts for peace, dialogue and better understanding–story published in JC (The Muslim dialogue letter February 29).  I have vigrorsly working with Jewish community since 1973 at all levels. I work with all Jewish groups for peace and harmony. For my credentials one can talk to the Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks and the leader of Reform movement Rabbi Tony Bayfield. I was one of the founding member of various initiatives between Jewish and Muslims contacts, friendship and dialogue.  I was there when Sternberg Centre started Dilaogue btween Muslims. I was the main initiator asking Late Zaki Badawi to meet leaders of Jewish community for beter future of our both communities in 1977.  I was there when Three Faiths Forum and Alif-Alef stated their excellent work in building their good relations between our two communities.  However, I was little; disappointed in reading in JC dated 14/03/2008comments by Sir Sigmund Sternberg “The Muslim letter was not substantial” and Mehri Niknam comments on “naive and flawed”, February 29.

Our Open letter isan important initiative and it MUST be welcomed without cynicism because there is no alternative to Dialogue. Despite all difficulties on the ground only through Dialogue Muslims and Jewish community could resolve their differences and give their folks hope for better future. I wish and hope that by talking to each other we shall be creating joint projects for dealing with bigger issues such as the fight against Racism i.e Islamophobia and anti-Semitism as these evils are rising among our midst — and The fight against anti-Semitism and Islamophobia is a common fight which Jewish and Muslim communities should fight together, shoulder-to-shoulder.

I was little surprised that those who teach inter-faith need themselves to feel less threatened and argue about petty politics or style, lack of reference, name wrongly speeed,  but to look at the core message which is PEACE, DIALOGUE AND UNDERSTANDING why quibble over style look at the message!

Mehri Niknam comments need fuller analysis. However I would like to draw one point that it is well known that at the advent of Islam there were three Jewish tribes who lived in Yathrib (later known as Medina tu Nabi), as well as other Jewish settlements further to the north, the most important of which were Khaybar and Fadak. It is also generally accepted that at first the Prophet Muhammad hoped that the Jews of Yathrib, as followers of a divine religion, would show understanding of the new monotheistic religion, Islam. However, as soon as these tribes realised that Islam was being firmly established and gaining power, they adopted an actively hostile attitude, and the final result of the struggle was the disappearance of these Jewish communities from Arabia proper. This aspect can be further explored by academics. My main concern is that we have to look towards our common future and engage in dialogue for peace and harmony.

(Imam Dr) Abduljalil Sajid,

Muslim Council for Religious and Racial Harmony UK

20 Wilberforce Close Tollgate Hill RH11 9TD – Tel: +44 (0) 1293 201359 Mobile: +44 (0) 7971 861972 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Amineh  A. Hoti <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>, , Shaykh Michael Mumisa , Amineh <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>, Michael Mumisa <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>, Shahnaz Butt <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>, <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>, Edward Kessler <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.> , Esther Haworth <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.> , 

Letters   hide details 09:49 (0 minutes ago) toImam Sajid  date19 Mar 2008 09:49 subjectRE: There is no alternative to Dialogue

This is an automated response.

Thank you for your letter.  Please note that no letter will be considered for publication unless you supply a full postal address (which will not be published in full).  Please indicate whether you want this abbreviated postal address used, or your email address, should your letter be selected.  Letters must be unique to the JC, and may be edited for length and clarity.

 

Islamic view
02/07/2004

http://www.thejc.com/home.aspx?AId=31081&ATypeId=4&search=true2&srchstr=Imam%20Sajid%20&srchtxt=1&srchhead=1&srchauthor=1&srchsandp=1&scsrch=0

 

J. D. Norman (Letters, 25 June 2004) refers to my contention that the fight against Islamophobia and anti-Semi-tism is a common one that we should fight together, saying: “It would help if Islam did not entertain a colonialist view of Jews and Judaism and if some Muslims did not import… negative views of us generally, some of them culled from the Qur’an…”

In my view, the word “Islam” should be used exclusively for the “Way of Life” based upon such divine sources as the Qur’an. “Mus-lims” are human beings free to abide by or deviate from Divine guidance. Islam has never claimed to be a new faith. It confirms almost all biblical and Hebrew Prophets as the Prophets of Islam. A Muslim must do good deeds and work for the welfare of humanity in co-operation with others for common good.

I have not found anywhere in Islamic teachings any colonialist views of Jews or Judaism. Islam, through the Qur’an, commanded Muslims to treat Jews as brothers and sisters in faith and as people of the book.

(Imam Dr Mufti) Abduljalil Sajid,

Muslim Council for Religious and Racial Harmony Great Britain

20 Wilberforce Close Tollgate Hill RH11 9TD – Tel: +44 (0) 1293 201359 Mobile: +44 (0) 7971 861972 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Differences to overcome
25/06/2004

http://www.thejc.com/home.aspx?AId=31222&ATypeId=4&search=true2&srchstr=Imam%20Sajid%20&srchtxt=1&srchhead=1&srchauthor=1&srchsandp=1&scsrch=0

 

Richard Stone (Letters, 18 June 2004) appears to be placing Jewish refugees from Austria and Germany in the same category of maligned subjects as those alienated British Muslims who openly espouse anti-Western attitudes and frankly welcome conflict between the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds. 

This is a regrettable, clumsy and offensive comparison.

In his letter alongside Dr Stone’s, Imam Dr Abduljalil Sajid maintains that the fight against Islamophobia and anti-Semitism is a common one — and that it is one which we should fight together.

It would help if Islam did not entertain a colonialist view of Jews and Judaism and if some Muslims did not import to these shores negative views of us generally, some of them culled from the Koran, others absorbed from the political right and the political left.

One cannot expect public collaboration and co-operation from potential allies while privately excoriating them.

In the same context, I deplore the sheitel controversy raging in the Orthodox community.

This shames us all in its insult to Hindus, and fractures those links needed if racism is to be fought successfully.

J. D. Norman,

 

Islamophobia analysed
18/06/2004

http://www.thejc.com/home.aspx?AId=31049&ATypeId=4&search=true2&srchstr=Imam%20Sajid%20&srchtxt=1&srchhead=1&srchauthor=1&srchsandp=1&scsrch=0

 

 

Melanie Phillips writes: “how can one be an anti-Muslim racist when Islam is not a race but a religion?”

Anti-Muslim hatred — hostility and prejudice towards Islam, commonly now known as Islamophobia — is an evil face of racism and is on the rise. Racism relates both to colour and culture.

Cultural racism targets groups perceived to be assertively “different” by not trying to “fit in.” It uses cultural differences to vilify or marginalise, exclude or demand cultural assimilation from groups who may also suffer from colour racism. Distinct racial, cultural and religious communities suffer this kind of discrimination. Groups whose language, religion, customs, family structure, dietary habits and so on are most different from the majority norm will experience the most disadvantage and  social exclusion.

Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are both forms of cultural racism.  Recent BNP literature which refers to “Pakis” and “Arabs” is clearly an incitement to religious and racial hatred and an example of Islamo-phobia. The recent European elections (which saw the election of an Islamophobic MEP) show the cultural racism within our British society.

When institution after institution in Britain and Europe refuses to include Muslim communities in consultations and resources; when Mus-lim youths are excluded from society; when resources for community work are denied to British Muslims — this is institutionally Islamophobic.

The fight against anti-Semitism and Islamophobia is a common fight which Jewish and Muslim communities should fight together, shoulder-to-shoulder.

 

 

(Imam DrMufti) Abduljalil Sajid,

Muslim Council for Religious and Racial Harmony UK

20 Wilberforce Close Tollgate Hill RH11 9TD – Tel: +44 (0) 1293 201359 Mobile: +44 (0) 7971 861972 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

The Muslim letter was not substantial
14/03/2008

http://www.thejc.com/home.aspx?ParentId=m12s30&SecId=30&AId=58792&ATypeId=1http://www.thejc.com/home.aspx?ParentId=m12s30&SecId=30&AId=58792&ATypeId=1

Lord Kalms, with his skill in cutting through the verbiage to the heart of the matter — an attribute from which the community increasingly benefits — is right when he says that dialogue cannot be advanced through propaganda exercises (JC, March 7).

Although asked, I was not one of those who signed a Jewish letter of welcome in response to the Muslim letter to the Jews issuing from the Centre for the Study of Muslim-Jewish Relations in Cambridge. I did not do so because, while I welcome every statement which expresses sentiments of friendship, brotherhood and peace, I did not find among the signatories more than one or two with an international profile suggesting that this was a communication of significance which would be heeded throughout the Arab world.

For his own reason, the Chief Rabbi has not signed the letter, and we have been given cogent reason by Lord Kalms why he would have refused his signature.

I am sure that, in serving as launch pad for the Muslim letter, the Cambridge Centre acted from the very best of motives. It is a first-rate institution whose director I greatly admire and whose work I fully support. But I must express my own doubt that anything of substance can emerge from an exchange of declarations which, in order to gain signatories, must be imprecise and lacking in detail.

There is a tendency among some people to rush into print when often there is much more to be gained through private and carefully prepared dialogue. I hope that will be the way forward.

I am concerned that your headline Reform Backs the Orthodox View (JC, March 7) gives a misleading view of the Reform Movement’s attitude to JFS admissions policy. I hope you will permit me the space to quote from my evidence to the Treasury Solicitor.

Sir Sigmund Sternberg, Grafton Road, London NW5

 

Pressing issues for Muslims and Jews
10/11/2000
Simon Rocker

http://www.thejc.com/home.aspx?AId=25084&ATypeId=1&search=true2&srchstr=Mehri%20Niknam%20&srchtxt=1&srchhead=1&srchauthor=1&srchsandp=1&scsrch=0

 

DESPITE THE tension in the Middle East, a Muslim-Jewish meeting on the potentially divisive subject of the media passed off serenely in London last week.

The discussion, on coverage of "Israel and Islam," was part of the seventh lecture series on Muslim-Jewish relations organised by the Leo Baeck College and the Maimonides Foundation, a Jewish charity promoting dialogue with Muslims.

The topic was selected "months ago," co-ordinator Mehri Niknam explained to the audience of around 40 at London University's School of Oriental and African Studies. "We had no idea it would take place against what is happening today."

It was, in the event, an even-tempered affair, aside from one elderly man's rant about the "Zionist" BBC - a charge countered by two Muslim journalists among the audience who happen to work for the corporation.

Guest speaker Faisal Bodi - former editor of the Muslim English monthly magazine Q-News, and now a freelance journalist - highlighted the exclusion felt by Muslims from the mainstream media. He also criticised the undue prominence given to "extremist" Islamic views on screen.

Having just returned from a trip to Jerusalem, Mr Bodi said he had been denied access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque for Friday prayers as part of an Israeli ban on young Muslims entering the area. "I produced my British passport but to no avail," he said.

Fellow speaker Dr Winston Pickett, external and media relations director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, said that, as well as the violence, the media ought to cover Palestinians and Israelis endeavouring to reduce tensions and to maintain bridges.

We should be more open to the Muslim's gesture of friendship
06/03/2008

http://www.thejc.com/home.aspx?AId=58621&ATypeId=1&search=true2&srchstr=Mehri%20Niknam%20&srchtxt=1&srchhead=1&srchauthor=1&srchsandp=1&scsrch=0

 

What a pity that Mehri Niknam could not bring herself to welcome a brave invitation by a group of Muslim scholars for others to join them in dialogue with Jews (The Muslim dialogue letter is “naive and flawed”, February 29).

Worse is her breach of one of the cardinal rules of interfaith: avoid criticising the theology of other faiths. It is worth remembering Rabbi Hugo Gryn’s test of insensitivity. He turned remarks round the other way to see how we would feel about them.

So, just imagine our outcry if a Muslim scholar wrote in Muslim News that a leaflet by a group of eminent rabbis was “more appropriate as an RE essay by 15-year-old”, and followed this with a 1,000-word textual criticism of their rabbinic sources.

Dr Richard Stone

Founder President, Alif-Aleph UK, Finchley Road, London NW3

Mehri Niknam’s assessment of the letter is an insult to the Muslim leaders and scholars who signed it. Does she really suspect that such leading figures would add their name without having read, analysed, debated the document? The notion is ridiculous.

The reviewer, clearly not a scholar, accuses the authors of quoting verses out of context. Does she really think the signatories are unaware of the other verses? The verses have been selected to promote peace and dialogue. They demonstrate an enlightened reading of the Koran, which allows for improvement in relations with Jews.

The letter is intended to create a sense of goodwill, so that we can look at each other with hope — an intention the reviewer sets out to destroy in her criticism. I hope the JC’s readers will see her diatribe as an example of the enormity of the challenge facing those of us dedicated to Muslim-

Jewish relations, as well as the urgency of the issue. While she quibbles about footnotes and page references, political leaders are locked in a cycle of violence, thousands of people suffer, and an important part of the world lives in despair and uncertainty.

Professor Akbar Ahmed
Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, American University, Washington DC

The purpose of the Muslim letter is to reach out to Jews and to call for constructive dialogue and mutual understanding. It is a pity that Mehri Niknam rejects this offer of friendship with such vehemence.

Ms Niknam’s review demonstrates that even those who work in inter-faith relations urgently need academic training. Every point raised by Ms Niknam can be countered and we invite Ms Niknam to undertake some courses at the Centre for the Study of Muslim-Jewish Relations. This will help her to understand Muslims, Islam and Muslim-Jewish relations and develop a knowledge and empathy so lacking in her review.

We are all aware of the passages in our Holy texts that deal with the “Other” in a negative way. Jews, Christians and Muslims all have these difficult texts. Highlighting the positive opens the doors to dialogue.

Dr Edward Kessler, Executive Director,
Dr Amineh Hoti, Director,
Shaykh Michael Mumisa, Lecturer,

The Centre for the Study of Muslim–
Jewish Relations, Cambridge

 

Muslim peace offer? Don’t fall for it
06/03/2008
By Lord Kalms

http://www.thejc.com/home.aspx?AId=58574&ATypeId=1&search=true2&srchstr=Mehri%20Niknam%20&srchtxt=1&srchhead=1&srchauthor=1&srchsandp=1&scsrch=0

 

The open letter to the Jews drafted by Muslim scholars at the Centre for the Study of Muslim-Jewish Relations in Cambridge, released last week, is neither a peace offering nor even a step in the right direction.

As much as we aspire to harmony with our Muslim co-citizens, it cannot be achieved by subterfuge or at the expense of the state of Israel. The letter is a disingenuous camouflage to disguise the intractability of Islamic attitudes.

There were honourable exceptions among the
signatories, but many of them are on record as being antagonistic to Jews and Israel. Tariq Ramadam (who launched the initiative) has recently called for a boycott of the Turin and Paris book fairs this spring because they honour Israel. He has been forbidden entry into the United States because he has — by his own admission — donated to a group with ties to Hamas. His infamous “doublespeak” has now been exposed at book length by a French scholar.

The Grand Mufti of Bosnia, who also signed the letter, was recently caught by the BBC’s Newsnight praising the radical cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi and calling for the restoration of the Caliphate. Others on the list have totally unacceptable views. The secretary-general of the Islamic Sharia Council, for instance, Suhaib Hasan, has in recent weeks repeatedly publicly stated that his vision of a sharia Britain includes the stoning of adulterous women and the chopping off of the hands of thieves.

The theological arguments have already been dissected and dismissed in another article last week in the Jewish Chronicle by the renowned Mehri Niknam.

But it is against this deliberately misleading background that we come to the purpose of the letter: the proposition that the relationship between Jews and Muslims depends on the settlement of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

The letter suggests that if the Palestinians achieve their objectives in Israel, peace and harmony will prevail. It suggests that violent jihad against civilians and soldiers will cease, the dream of the return of the Caliphate will be renounced, calls for the introduction of sharia in the UK would be dropped, women will be given full legal rights, honour killings will cease, instigating hatred of Jews and Christians will stop, and the threat of death for apostates from Islam will end. All this if the Israeli/Palestinian problem is solved!

Yet Hizbollah, Hamas and the Iranian president

argue that self-determination for Palestinians can only be achieved if the Jews are to be totally driven from the land — preferably killed. The leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, has stated in interview that he rejects the concept of Israel as a Jewish state, which inter alia means that the law of return would be annulled. This is a cyanide pill that Israel can hardly be expected to swallow.

The fantastical illusion that Islamic fundamentalism will cease the moment Israel disappears is inconsistent with the unremitting growth of Islamism wherever the opportunity arises. What has Israel to do with the slaughter in Darfur, Iraq and Afghanistan or fomenting troubles in Lebanon, Holland or even Britain?

Let me, then, propose a Jewish letter to the Muslim community.

“Jews seek peace and harmony and friendship with you. We share with you the glories and benefits of living in this country. We believe totally in our western liberal democracy. We believe in a freely elected government which has the exclusive right to create laws. We welcome our freedom to pursue our religion, but also accept our total loyalty to the Queen (whom we pray for every Sabbath) and the primacy of English law.

“But we cannot accept the continuous harassment of our students on campuses or the vile literature that floods into this country from the Islamic world. We accept that the problem of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is of deep concern, but whatever the outcome we ask that you will cease to use that conflict as an excuse to foment hate and worse against Jews and other non-Muslims.”

Interfaith structures need strong agendas, and several leading members of our community have dedicated much effort to this purpose. At the communal level, it at least focuses where there are diverging views — democracy versus theocracy, for instance. At the political level, dialogue about the limitation of power-sharing can be clarified.

But at the propaganda level — the sole raison d’être of this letter — we must be vigilant. This initiative sets out to seduce the Jewish community into a sense of shared values, peace and harmony that depends solely on the fate of Israel.

It is disappointing that members of our community have endorsed this letter. In their efforts for peace they have rolled over and accepted without scrutiny or objectivity its implications and demands.

There is not a Jew who does not seek peace, understanding and harmony with his fellow citizens. Our only demand is that this is reciprocated.

Lord Kalms is life president and former chairman of DSG International plc. Letters, p30

The Muslim dialogue letter ‘is naive and flawed’
28/02/2008
by Mehri Niknam

http://www.thejc.com/home.aspx?AId=58477&ATypeId=1&search=true2&srchstr=Mehri%20Niknam%20&srchtxt=1&srchhead=1&srchauthor=1&srchsandp=1&scsrch=0

 

The Muslim dialogue letter ‘is naive and flawed’
28/02/2008
by Mehri Niknam

http://www.thejc.com/home.aspx?AId=58477&ATypeId=1&search=true2&srchstr=Mehri%20Niknam%20&srchtxt=1&srchhead=1&srchauthor=1&srchsandp=1&scsrch=0

Let me be clear from the start that this is not a criticism of the interfaith intentions of the letter from Muslim leaders covered in today’s news pages; rather, a critique of its inaccuracies, lack of sources and methodology, and the questionable overall efficacy of such a letter. I am fully aware of the several important Muslim names that are given as allegedly having written this letter (issued through the Centre for the Study of Muslim-Jewish Relations in Cambridge).

However, it is unclear whether these

“Muslim scholars throughout the world” are generally supporting good relations between Jews and Muslims, or this particular letter with its naïve and condescending approach.

Having spoken with several Muslim academics, it seems to me that this letter is more appropriate as an RE essay by a 15-year-old than a scholarly letter addressed to “rabbinic leaders and the wider Jewish communities of the world”. To assume that the problems of Muslim-Jewish relations worldwide can be resolved simply because we all worship a Unity, give charity and eat kosher and halal food is intellectually offensive equally to both sides.

There are a number of inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the letter. However, there is only room to deal with a few here. The letter quotes several passages in English from the Qur’an to show the positive and ecumenical approach of Islam towards Jews and Christians. However, the letter does not inform us which particular translation has been used, which, firstly, leads to confusion regarding the numbering of the verses in different editions; and, secondly, the translation at times seems to be a free translation.

More importantly, for a letter supposedly written by scholars, it quotes the verses out of context — historical, geo-political, theological, and hermeneutical. This means, regrettably, that almost all the verses quoted are from chapters 2, 3 and 5, which contain the majority of the strongest anti-Jewish verses in the Qur’an. Therefore, each quote, put in its correct context, is actually an admonition of the Jews or the Children of Israel.

One example is Qur’an 2:62, the verse that opens the letter. This verse, which is part of the narrative of the rebellion of the Israelites against God during their wanderings in the wilderness, was part of the verses revealed during the period of strife and animosity between the Muslims and Jews in Medina. It shows similarities between the actions of the Jewish tribes of Medina and their Israelite ancestors.

The verse is preceded by Q.2:61 “And so, ignominy and humiliation overshadowed them, and they earned the burden of God’s condemnation: all this because they persisted in denying the truth of God’s messages and in slaying the prophets against all right: all this because they rebelled [against God], and persisted in transgressing the bounds of what is right” (The Message of the Qur’an, Translated and Explained, by Muhammad Asad).

No one denies that any positive interaction at any level between Muslims and Jews should be appreciated and supported. But if we genuinely want to appeal to the religious leaders and academics, which this letter intends to do, we need to have the academic courage and rigour to be impartial. Only then can we move on.

The letter also refers to a few hadiths (traditional sayings of the Prophet). The only one quoted with the source reference is about the Prophet standing up respectfully when the bier of a Jew is passing. Once again the letter gives an imaginative punch line translation.

When the companions of the Prophet ask him why he stands up in respect for a dead Jew, the letter quotes: “Is he not a human being!” The Arabic text of al-Bukhari reads: “Whenever you see a funeral procession, you should stand up.” Again, I question the scholarly value of jazzing up of classical text for effect. It could be misunderstood and misleading.

There are no source references for the other iconoclastic hadiths — unusual for a scholarly letter. One in particular is astounding. The letter states that Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet worked for a Jew: “She would spin for him in return for grain.” No one I spoke with has ever heard of such an illogical hadith. She was married to Ali, the Prophet’s cousin. By that time the Prophet was a wealthy man. Why should his daughter perform such a menial task in return for food?

The letter refers to the Jewish wife of the Prophet. He married one of the captured women after the fall of Khaybar, the Jewish stronghold near Medina. The letter calls her “Sofia”. Sofia is a Greek name; her name was Safiyya. It is an Arabic name with a completely different root to that of Sofia. It beggars belief that a Muslim scholar would make such a mistake.

The paragraph on the Constitution of Medina — the agreement between Muhammad and the Jewish and Arab tribes— suffers from the familiar absence of sources, free translation and re-adjustments of phrases and sentences. Furthermore, it is academically imbalanced. It fails to make any mention of the confiscation of land and property and exile of the two Jewish tribes of Medina and the beheading of all the males of the third tribe of Banu Qurayza, whose women were sold into slavery. This evasive approach and lack of academic rigour does not encourage bilateral trust and genuine dialogue.

Finally, no Muslim-Jewish talk or article is complete without the vapid and superficial reference to Maimonides, and this letter is no exception. The usual claims for Maimonides being the physician to the great “Sultan Salah-ud-din” abound, but this letter also states “philosophical exchanges between Ibn Rushd and Maimonides” without giving any source reference.

This is not surprising since this is a complete fantasy; no such document has ever existed. It seems to me that the information on Maimonides was gathered more from a Google search than academic research.

There is no shortage of Islamic scholars in the UK, I have known and worked with many of them for almost two decades. There is also no doubt about the goodwill from the majority of British Muslims. This “open” letter and its timing do not sit comfortably with all of that. One wonders.
Mehri Niknam is executive director of the Joseph
Interfaith Foundation

Appendix Eight

Jewish Chronicle - article by Inayat Bunglawala

http://www.mcb.org.uk/library/article_16-03-07.php

Fri 16 Mar 2007

Let's try and get the most difficult issue out of the way first. I suspect that most British Muslims and British Jews are unlikely to agree any time soon about the fundamental reasons behind the continuation of the long-running Israel-Palestine conflict. For the record, the Muslim Council of Britain holds that the full implementation of all relevant UN Resolutions is key to securing a just and lasting peace in the Holy Land.

Too often though, a failure to agree on this admittedly important issue is used as an excuse to stop talking about other areas - areas in which both communities stand to benefit much through dialogue and cooperation.

Take the issue of faith schools. Currently, over 50% of Jewish schoolchildren in the UK attend Jewish faith schools, many of which are state-funded. The desire to see one's children educated in a faith-based environment where they will be taught to value their heritage is understandable and many of these Jewish schools are veritable centres of academic excellence.

Currently though, only 3% of Muslim children attend Islamic faith schools. There are only eight Muslim schools which have secured grant-maintained status and these - like their Jewish equivalents - have gone on to become beacon schools. The rest of the over 140 Islamic schools, however, are not supported by the state and run on often very meagre resources.

At a time when some secular groups are increasingly advocating the abolishment of faith-based schools, it surely makes sense for Muslims and Jews to work together to uphold the right of parents to send their children to faith schools if they so wish and that they should be properly resourced.

It was heartening, a couple of years ago, to see representatives from both communities working to ensure that the recommendation from the Farm and Animal Welfare Council to outlaw the ritual halal and schechita methods of slaughter did not become adopted by the government. What is less well known is that most Muslims believe that it is permitted Islamically to eat kosher meat. Indeed, from my regular visits to my local Sainsbury's in Newbury Park, I think it cannot belong before more Muslims buy Gilbert's kosher beef from them, than Jews.

Also, recent years have seen concerns in both communities that anti-semitism and Islamophobia are on the rise. Some Jewish groups believe that anti-Jewish prejudice is being incited by Muslim extremists, while some Muslim groups believe that some Jewish columnists and editors have been deliberately trying to foster an anti-Muslim climate in the UK.

For our part, Muslim communities must take more responsibility to ensure that criticism of some of Israel's policies does not slide into a kind of a casual anti-semitism. Perhaps the best way to encourage this vigilance is to ensure that grassroots ties prosper between our communities.

Mention must be made here of the dedicated work of my local Rabbi David Hulbert of the Bet Tikvah synagogue in Newbury Park, but there are also happily a growing number of other examples, including the Muslim Jewish Forum in Stoke Newington, 'Khawateen' a group of Muslim ladies who are in their 4th year of working with the 'Rimon Interfaith Group' in North London, and even a joint Muslim-Jewish radio station in Bristol.

The MCB's Secretary-General, Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, happens also to be the chair of the East London Mosque Trust in Whitechapel and the ELM has for many years enjoyed a very cordial working relationship with the Fieldgate Street synagogue.

I do accept that some actions, including the MCB's continuing absence from the annual Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony - it has asked that the name be changed to a more inclusive Genocide Memorial Day - have caused some misgivings and even distress among British Jews. It is worth noting here that the MCB has decided to undertake a wider consultation of British Muslims about this issue and the position is currently under review.

A few months ago, the chair of the Jewish Racial Equality Council, Richard Stone, expressed to me his wish that the great era of convivencia in Muslim Spain could be replicated here and that an improvement in ties between Muslims and Jews could perhaps one day lead to Britain also being remembered for its own 'Golden Age.'

It was a good wish and the MCB stands ready to work with others in the Jewish community to help make it a reality.

Inayat Bunglawala

Assistant Secretary General,, The Muslim Council of Britain

P.O.Box 57330 London E1 2WJ

Appendix Nine

Islam, Muslims and anti-Semitism

by IMAM DR Abduljalil Sajid

The Muslim Council for Religious and Racial Harmony

20 Wilberforce Close Tollgate Hill Broadfield Crawley RH11 9TD Tel : +44 (0) 1293 201359 Mobile: +44 (0) 7971 861972 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,


Prejudice against or hatred of Jews - known as anti-Semitism - has plagued the world for more than 2,000 years. Over the years, as a European Muslim I am very concerned with rise of anti-Semitism in Europe. I am also concerned that at some quarters Muslims are accused of cuase of Anti-Semitism.  Let me deal with this important issue honestly and openly from Islamic prespectives. In my humble opinion Anti-Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are two sides of the same coin of sharp end of Racism.  Some parts of this paper were presented as evidence to British "All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Anti-Semitism" which was published on 7 September 2006.

Anti-Semitism: A Defination:

Anti-Semitism means condemning and hating a people because of their Semitic race. Anti-Semitism is bigotry and racism. Like all racism it is wrong and it has no place in Islam or in Islamic scripture. The Qur'an does not allow hate against any race, nationality or color. God says in the Holy Qur'an: "O people, We have created you from a male and female and made you into races and tribes so that you may know each other. Indeed the noblest of you in the sight of God are those who are the most pious among you. And Allah knows every thing and is aware of every thing." (Holy Qur'an  49:13). Throughout the history of Islam, Muslims have never used passages from the Hole Qur'an to justify acts of anti-Semitism. The ill-effects of racism, including ethnic cleaning, genocide and Holocaust, which has been suffered by Jews and non-Jews alike over the past several centuries, has never been done under the banner of any passages from the Holy Qur'an. Jews were among the earliest converts to Islam (in Medina) and, throughout the middle ages, Jews found sanctuary to practice their own religion under Islamic rule. It is truly disappointing and naive to ignore more than 1400 years of history and learned discourse on the Holy Qur'an and argue that the current political situation in the Middle East has its roots in passages from the Holy Qur'an.

The Jewish people have long suffered various forms of hostility, particularly in Europe for many centuries. The Twentieth Century has seen these reach infamous heights with the treatment they received at the hands of the Nazis. Recent comments by leading Jewish figures have alleged that although European-led anti-Semitism is on the decline, a new form of anti-Semitism is on the rise with its strongest voices found in the Muslim world.

In the last few years attempts have been made to define this new form of anti-Semitism. The term "anti-Semitism" is generally understood to mean racism against Jews, but is now being redefined by a number of prominent Jewish personalities to identify "a new anti-Semitism" as being found in those opposing Israel and her policies. Any criticism of the state of Israel is attacked with the repugnant label of 'anti-Semitism '. Labelling Muslims and Islam implicitly and explicitly as racist and bigoted can and has had the effect of stoking the ignorant fires of Islamophobia. In dealing with this issue, we first need to understand what type of criticism of Israel can be seen as a new form of anti-Semitism and why. The recent United Nations World Conference against Racism (Durban, August 31 - September 7, 2001) indicated wide-spread sympathy with the view that Zionism was a racist movement. Are people around the world today, particularly Muslims, being "anti-Semitic" or just anti-Zionist?

The New anti-Semitism?

Hostility towards Jews in Europe has had numerous forms over history. The holocaust is etched powerfully in our memories. Prior to this, pogroms in Russia and elsewhere were a common tyranny, and going back further we find the inquisition in Spain and the expulsion of Jews from European countries including England in the 13th century. Until the arrival of secularist culture, the Jews as a whole were despised by Christians on religious grounds and were blamed for murdering Christ. After the French Revolution and the foundation of the United States of America, this religious persecution was limited and could no longer gain state sponsorship. Yet, it resurfaced again as race-based discrimination with the Nazis. After this ghost seemed to be put to rest, we now find Jews again being blamed, this time for their support of Israel and the injustices that are being done in the name of "the Jewish state". In his recent remarks to the Parliamentary Committee Against anti-Semitism, Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi in the United Kingdom, noted that "...we are wrong to see all criticism of the State of Israel as anti-Zionism let alone as anti-Semitism"

This point has to be kept in mind. Yet it begs the question, if not all criticism of the state of Israel can be construed as anti-Semitism then surely some can be seen as such. What kind of criticism of the state of Israel is anti-Semitic? By leaving this question unresolved, the Chief Rabbi is saying almost nothing in his remark. Any person, who raises the voice of criticism of Israel, therefore is open to the allegation of being anti-Semitic.

Professor Irwin Cotler, an MP in the Canadian House of Commons and the director of McGill University's human-rights programme, made his position clearer. He explained that "traditional anti-Semitism," directed against the rights of individual Jews, was "very much on the decline, but that "the new anti-Semitism" represented "the discrimination against and the denial of the rights of the Jewish people to live as equal members of the family of nations." Or to interpret his point, the new anti-Semitism is denying Jews the right to exist as a distinct sovereign nation state. This raises many questions. Where is the Christian sovereign nation state, or the Buddhist one, or the Islamic one? Does the existence of a state for the Jews allow them to expel hundreds of thousands of non-Jewish inhabitants and prevent their return?

In Israel, there are two recognised nationalities, Jewish and Arab. The implication is that these are two distinct races since there are Arab Christians and Arab Muslims within the 'Arab' nationality. Within this small-scale family of nations, these two are certainly not equal members. The Arab nation and the Jewish nation have quite different and unequal rights - and that doesn't even address the majority of Palestinians who have been forced off their land or had their land brutally occupied.

Which kind of nation is Professor Irwin Colter talking about here? The state of Israel, army and all, or perhaps the Jewish nation within a more complex, not particularly Jewish, state? If the latter, then we have the possibility that someone saying that the state of Israel has no right to exist is not denying that the Jews have the right to exist as a distinct nation state. It is just that the Jewish nation would be one one without an army.

Another attempt at drawing a distinction between legitimate criticism of Israel and anti-Semitic criticism has been given by Rabbi Michael Melchior, the Israeli Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs: "Criticism of Israel has its place. Israel is not perfect nor does it claim to be. But all fair-minded people must be vigilant in drawing the line between legitimate criticism and the manifestations of anti-Semitism now parading as such. The State of Israel is a central component of Jewish identity. When Israel is attacked in intentionally inflammatory terms, no one should kid themselves who the real target is. When Israeli occupation is likened to the wholesale Nazi extermination of Jews, this is not legitimate criticism; it is anti-Semitism. "

The difficulty this definition poses is just what is "intentionally inflammatory". It is fact that in recent years, the Israelis had a policy of breaking the bones of Palestinians, that use of torture was sanctioned by the Israeli courts and that according to a recent report in Ha'aretz newspaper, the IDF (Israeli Defence Force) has developed their techniques of controlling the Palestinian occupied territories though studying the way the Nazis controlled the ghettos in Warsaw. Is someone who raises these points being intentionally inflammatory? It really depends how it is done, and even who does it. But even if it is intentionally inflammatory, does that amount to anti-Semitism?

The Chief Rabbi's opening remarks gave a number of impressive anecdotes and a few statistics indicating a rise in hostility towards Jews (albeit the statistics only refer to France and it may be that issues about classification of attacks overshadow what appears to be an increase). He highlights the case of Daniel Pearl as someone kidnapped and killed by some Pakistani Muslims 'for being a Jew' and refers to the remarks of a London-based Muslim teacher apparently calling for a war against the Jews. In both cases there is, perhaps unavoidably, at the core, the issue of identifying Israel as the enemy state, opposing it and opposing the power behind it represented primarily by the Jews. You have to ask, if Israel was not stealing land from Palestinians and murdering and oppressing others, would these Muslims identify Jews as a whole as the enemy? Would Daniel Pearl be alive today? Yes, he probably would be. This, of course doesn't justify his killing simply on the grounds of being Jewish.

Is the hostility of some Muslims towards Jews in general motivated by opposition to the injustice they have brought to Palestine, which the Jews themselves could bring to a halt to by stopping the oppression or, is it racism founded in Islamic teachings which the Jews cannot bring a halt to and can therefore only be opposed? To answer this question, we need to look into the teachings of Islam and the history of non-Muslim minorities in the Muslim world.

Islamic teachings on unjust discrimination
In Islam we are instructed to judge with equity, not discriminating on any grounds other than the wrongful actions of the case. If the accuser and the defender changed place and the offence was the same, then the judgement should be the same:

O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for God can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily God is well-acquainted with all that ye do. (The Holy Qur'an 4:135)

This verse makes it clear that bias towards people on grounds of their wealth, closeness of family relationship, which implicitly includes race or even bias towards oneself amounts to injustice. Racism is however singled out specifically as unjustified:

O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things). (The Holy Qur'an 49:13)

These verses make clear that God judges people, not on their race or tribe but on the grounds of their religious beliefs and moral practice. However, we must not assume that we can simply pass judgement on other people on these grounds. In Islam, there is a clear distinction between the justice of mankind and the justice of God. In our implementation of Justice on Earth we have to judge according to the limited knowledge we have. God on the other hand knows everything. Although God may know one person as being better than another that does not automatically translate into our ability to show bias towards people on the basis of apparent righteousness. Apparent righteousness is not the same as actual righteousness. This is a vitally important teaching in Islam and is one of the first things students of Islam learn. According to Islam, all deeds are judged according to their intentions. Someone can be apparently a more pious person in every way, but their intentions are not pure and so their actions will not be accepted by God. With this in mind, when a Muslim feels the inclination to be judgemental towards others, he restrains himself with the knowledge that the true status of that person's righteousness is only known to God.

When it comes to legal matters where we must form our judgements of others, we must first recognise that Islam has an entire legal system which determines the treatment of people, Muslim and otherwise. The fact of implementing Islamic law, in itself, represents an assertion of one religion over others. However, this does not mean that the law favours Muslims over non-Muslims. Muslims are warned of such an approach in the following verse:

Among the People of the Book are some who, if entrusted with a hoard of gold, will (readily) pay it back; others, who, if entrusted with a single silver coin, will not repay it unless thou constantly stoodest demanding, because, they say, "there is no call on us (to keep faith) with these ignorant (Pagans)." but they tell a lie against God, and (well) they know it. (The Holy Qur'an 3:75)

Islamic law may be split into two categories. Some laws which concern basic human rights such as right to property, life, honour must not take the professed religion of the person into account for the sake of justice. We might call these 'the secular Islamic laws'. Other laws such as inheritance, marriage and divorce explicitly vary according to the professed religion of the parties concerned. Each recognised religious community has its own courts and laws. These sets of laws are part of each religious group's right to live according to their own religion. They in fact represent a much more profound level of freedom of religion than does the secularisation of all law where for example, people may be forced to accept a particular form of personal rights and responsibilities counter to their religious beliefs.

Freedom of religion is one of the basic essential ingredients in the Islamic system; this is demonstrated in the Qur'an in numerous places but also throughout the history of Islamic civilisation. Here are a few of the key verses on the freedom of religion.

Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in God hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And God heareth and knoweth all things. (The Holy Qur'an 2:256)

...To each among you have we prescribed a law and an open way. If God had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but (His plan is) to test you in what He hath given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to God; it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute; (The Holy Qur'an 5:48)

Say, "The truth is from your Lord": Let him who will believe, and let him who will, reject (it)... (The Holy Qur'an 18:29)

Freedom of religion is one of a number of essential universal human rights established by Islamic law. The very fact that Islamic law has always applied such rights and principles universally regardless of religion and regardless of race shows that any accusation that Islam could be a racist religion or a religion which others are forced to adopt is a lie. It is not only refuted by the quotations from the Holy Qur'an above but it is also refuted by the history and development of Islamic civilisation. Muslims around the world can now be found in the millions from every race, whites, blacks, Semites, Orientals etc. Any claim that Islam has a doctrine of racism is a nonsense. To claim that Islam could be anti-Semitic on racist grounds is doubly nonsense because the Arabs and the Jews are the same race - they are both Semites. Religious communities of Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and many more can be found throughout the Muslim world that have pre-existed the arrival of Islamic rule. These communities have always lived alongside Muslims. The same cannot be said about either the history of Judaism or Christianity. For example the Jewish community in Spain had what is widely recognised as the Golden Age of Judaism under Muslim rule. For example, in his book "Judaism, the way of Holiness" Professor Solomon Nigosian states :

"The Muslim arrival to Spain in AD 711 was welcomed by the Jews, and for the next seven centuries Spanish Jews were to become the leaders of worldwide Judaism. They entered the fields of government, science, medicine, philosophy, literature and architecture, making outstanding contributions. Little wonder that scholars identify this flowering of Jewish intellect in Muslim Spain as the Golden Age of Judaism.

The Spanish Jews (Sephardim) migrated to the centre of Muslim power in Turkey and to North Africa when they were kicked out of Spain for being Jewish by the resurgent Catholic church in the 15th century.

The very idea of universal rights only came into Western culture after interactions with the Muslim world. The earliest reference to the codification that Encyclopaedia Britannica can find, of course studiously ignoring Islamic sources, is a treaty made between a new Christian ruler in the Iberian Peninsula in 1188 and the nobles. The nobles demanded and got from the king a guarantee to rights for protection of life and limb, property and honour and a regular trial. It is interesting that this happened in the area of Europe with most experience of Muslim rule at the time. These rights match all but the last two rights that Muslims and non-Muslims had under Muslim rule in that area and that Muslims have have been taught as part of beginner courses in Islamic law for many centuries.

Specifically under Islamic law Muslim rulers must guarantee the following rights to all people: the right to life and limb, the right to property, the right to honour, the right to think (freedom of conscience) and the right to practice your religion. These rights are part of the overall aim identified for Islamic law as the general welfare of the people.

Truly universal rights which applied for both nobles and for the common man were not adopted by Western civilisation until well after these Iberian pacts.

Even though Islamic law does not represent unjust discrimination in favour of Muslims over non-Muslims, the very fact that the law is coming from Islam rather than some kind of secular lawmaking processes is to some people unjust discrimination in favour of Muslims by implementing "their laws". This argument however, is beyond the subject of this essay and is discussed elsewhere.

Perpetrators or Victims?

"As data collected by the Stephen Roth Institute at Tel Aviv University, and other research, makes clear, the rise in anti-Semitism in Europe coincided with the beginning of al-Aqsa intifada - and Israel's heavy-handed response - with most of these attacks limited to acts of vandalism on synagogues and cemeteries. As the institute also makes clear, the perpetrators of these attacks, like those who attacked rabbi Gigi, were largely disaffected Islamic youths, a group itself that is the victim of some of the worst race hate and discrimination in Europe. "

When injustice is allowed to stand, the inevitable consequence is that the victim will start to take matters into their own hands. Limited in resources, the danger of vigilantism is that in a keenness to punish the perpetrator, the wrong persons are targeted and punished thus producing more injustice. This process fuels a fire of escalating injustice. This is what we see happening in occupied Palestine today and in many other places. It is the process behind the rise in anti-Semitism seen in the statistics referred to by Peter Beaumont. The key to breaking this cycle is found in forgiveness:

The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree): but if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from God: for (God) loveth not those who do wrong. (The Holy Qur'an 42:40)

Nor can goodness and Evil be equal. Repel (Evil) with what is better: Then will he between whom and thee was hatred become as it were thy friend and intimate!  (The Holy Qur'an 41:34)

The general principle of ethics in Islam is to behave towards others the way you want God to behave towards you. Specifically, as is in the first of the two quotes above: forgive others for what they have done to you so that God forgives you what you have done wrong. Or as in the prayer taught by Jesus (peace be upon him) "forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us". In today's world there is still a great deal of racism and other forms of unjust discrimination, but although there is agreement that it is bad, controversies swirl around how people should be compensated for it. The UN conference on racism was a good example of the problems associated with the blame and compensation culture which is so dominant today. The Jewish race was recompensed for their suffering at the hands of the Nazis by being given a state in Palestine. But how should the Palestinians are being recompensed for their losses? Give them back Palestine? Black people wanted recompense for the generations of slavery they have suffered at the hands of Europeans. In the end the conference achieved no new substantive deal to recompense anyone. The fact of the matter is in almost all of these controversies that the guilty people have died and their children cannot be blamed for the sins of their parents. This kind of blaming is precisely the misidentification of the perpetrators that fuels the cycles of injustice. For peace and harmony to come about people need to move on - forgive and forget.

Forgiving and forgetting does not mean however, blinding ourselves to what is happening around the world. Naivety is not a virtue. It is essential that we reveal the injustices that are happening, not merely in an attempt to justify our own actions, but so that we can learn to avoid doing them ourselves. We are only responsible for what we have the authority to do and we must make sure that we ourselves do no injustice. If we can by our actions prevent injustice then we should also do so. This may involve fighting against an oppressor, but this shouldn't be due to wanting revenge. It should be purely in the interests of establishing justice. Where we can only speak out we must also make sure that we do so and that our speech does no injustice to anyone.

Racist attacks of all descriptions are to be condemned for their injustice. Identifying which group is suffering worst from such attacks cannot justify ignoring any of them. To say that there are twice as many attacks against Muslims as against Jews doesn't in any way justify failing to deal with the injustice done against the Jews. If the number of attacks were equal does that make everything fine? No, of course not. Two wrongs do not make a right. A Muslim attacking an innocent Jew does not justify a Jew attacking an innocent Muslim nor visa versa. Each attack must be treated as a separate injustice that needs our effort to rectify.

Since September 11, 2001 a concerted effort has been underway in some quarters to bring about a 'clash of civilisations" between Islam and the West. Part of this is through inflammatory articles and speeches some of which can be clearly and justly labelled as anti-Semitic or Islamophobic, (though little of which could be characterised as racist against Westerners). On the other side of the spectrum are efforts to bring about a dialogue of civilisations. In bringing about such dialogue we cannot start by pointing fingers and casting blame. Instead, we must recognise the areas of agreement and build on them.

Is There Anti-Semitism in the Holy Qur'an?

As with all scriptures, passages in the Holy Qur'an must be read within the proper context. The Holy Qur'an was not just revealed for Muslims, but for all people, including Jews and Christians. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was in the line of previous Prophets of God, including Prophets Abraham, Moses and Jesus, and the Holy Qur'an is in the line of previous scriptures revealed by God. The Holy Qur'an does not condemn the Semitic race and, in fact, accords Jews a special status given their shared prophetic traditions with Islam. The Holy Qur'an instead criticizes those Jews who turned away from God's authentic message and admonishes those who scorned and ridiculed Prophet Muhammad and the message of the Holy Qur'an. Such criticism is similar to the criticism against Jews found in other scriptures, including the Hebrew Bible, and should be taken by all people as a reminder and warning against forsaking and straying from the authentic message of God. Such specific criticism has never been interpreted by learned scholars of the Holy Qur'an to incite hatred against Jewish people and should not be confused with anti-Semitism.

"Taking a few passages from the Holy Qur'an out of proper historical and textual context will not give a proper understanding of the religious scripture."

The Holy Qur'an speaks extensively about the Children of Israel (Bani Isra'il) and recognizes that the Jews (al-Yahud) are, according to lineage, descendants of Prophet Abraham through his son Isaac and grandson Jacob. They were chosen by God for a mission (44:32) and God raised among them many Prophets and bestowed upon them what He had not bestowed upon many others (The Holy Qur'an5:20). He exalted them over other nations of the earth (2:47, 122) and granted them many favors.

Passages in the Holy Qur'an which criticize the Jews fall primarily into two categories. First, the Holy Qur'an speaks of how some of the Children of Israel turned away from the authentic message revealed to them. They disobeyed God and showed ingratitude for God's favors on them. They lost the original Tawrat and introduced their own words and interpretations in the divine books. They became arrogant and claimed that they were God's children and went about vaunting their position as His most chosen people (The Holy Qur'an4:155; 5:13, 18). They also brazenly committed sins and their rabbis and priests did not stop them from doing so (The Holy Qur'an5:63, 79). God raised His Prophet Jesus among them so that he might show them several miracles and thereby guide them to the right path, but they rejected him, attempted to kill him, and even claimed that they had indeed killed him although they had not been able to do so (The Holy Qur'an4:157, 158). God specifically addresses the Children of Israel in many of these passages. This is important, because it shows that the message of the Qur'an was intended for all people, including the Jews, and the criticism was directed against a specific group of people for their specific actions. This criticism should be distinguished from cursing a people merely because of their race.

The second type of criticism of the Jews is found in passages including those you referenced from Surah al-Ma'idah (The Holy Qur'an5:60-64). These verses criticize the Jews and Christians who ridiculed Prophet Muhammad and his message. They made mockery and sport of his call to prayer, and they rebuked him even though he was calling them to believe in what God revealed to him and to what was revealed before him through their own Prophets. They became spiteful towards him and rejected him since he did not belong to the Children of Israel (The Holy Qur'an2:109; 4:54).

The Holy Qur'an specifically notes that such criticism is not directed against all Jews. Even when the Holy Qur'an criticizes the Jews it always notes that "among them there are some..." who are pious and righteous people, who command what is right and forbid what is wrong and try to excel each other in acts of charity and goodness. The Holy Qur'an says that such people are assured that whatever good they will do will not be denied them and they shall receive their reward with God (The Holy Qur'an3:113-115). It further says, "Of the people of Moses there is a section who guide and do justice in the light of truth." (The Holy Qur'an7:159) "We broke them up into sections on this earth. There are among them some that are the righteous, and some that are the opposite. We have tried them with both prosperity and adversity: in order that they might turn (to Us)... As to those who hold fast by the Book and establish regular Prayer, never shall We suffer the reward of the righteous to perish." (The Holy Qur'an7:168-170)

Taking a few passages from the Holy Qur'an out of proper historical and textual context will not give a proper understanding of the religious scripture. This is not only true of the Qur'an but also of the Bible. Many passages from the Bible also criticize the Jews. Read the Hebrew Bible, particularly Micah (Chapter 3:1-12) and Hosea (Chapter 8:1-14), in which these prophets condemned the Jews "who abhor justice and pervert all equity" and who "build Zion with blood and Jerusalem with wrong." These prophets cursed Israel as a "useless vessel among nations," and called for the curse of God to "send a fire upon [Judah's] cities" and to make Jerusalem "a heap of ruins." Prophet Ezekiel called Israel, "the house of rebels and a rebellious nation." (Ezek. Chapter 2)  Similarly, in the Book of Deuteronomy (28:16-68), Moses warns the Jews that God "will send upon you curses, confusion, and frustration, in all that you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and perish quickly, on account of the evil of your doings, because you have forsaken me" (28:20). In the Gospel of Matthew (23:13-39), Jesus repeatedly admonishes the Jews for their hypocrisy and injustice, and condemns them for the killing of past prophets. Jesus says, "You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?" Further he says "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate."

It would indeed seem strange if, based on these passages, one were to argue that the Bible, the Hebrew Prophets and Jesus were anti-Semitic and called for the destruction of all Jews and present-day Israel. Yet, questioning passages from the Qur'an as anti-Semitic is similarly without merit.

Conclusion

Islam is about establishing justice between people, and through justice, peace. Islam stands clearly against all forms of racism. Islam protects the universal, God-given rights of humankind, while recognising that people have differing paths in religion which they are free to follow and which confer differing social and economic rights among people such as in marriage, divorce and inheritance. This freedom is at the heart of the tolerance of Islam.

In this world there are many injustices, among these are the rise of anti-Semitism especially that manifested in unjust attacks on innocent Jews, the Islamophobia and the attacks on innocent Muslims and the numerous other cases where human rights are violated across the world. In seeking to heal the world of these problems, we need to understand how victims become perpetrators and in our sympathy for the victims we must avoid becoming perpetrators ourselves. Key to this process is providing sincere and fair criticism, criticism that is clearly intended not to inflame but to help. Sometimes it may be harsh but it must always be factual and fair. To make our helpful intention clear we need to identify the good actions of those being criticised, as well as identifying their bad actions, and we need to avoid intending retribution by our criticism by forgiving those who have injured us or at least clearly being prepared to do so, should they ask for it. If it is done right, this will help to create, not inflamed argument, but sincere dialogue.

We need a dialogue of civilisations, not a monologue and not a clash of civilisations.

Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism in Europe is on rise, where some Christians widely believed that Jews were Christ-killers; they had betrayed Christ and so had to be punished. Crusaders against the Muslims often began their journey in Europe by slaughtering Jews and Muslim alike. Hitler's Glaubenskrieg, the war against Jews, was the culmination, the inexorable conclusion, of a millennium of anti-Semitism. It has become the symbol of evil, and the Holocaust one of the darkest stains on human conscience. Let us constantly remind ourselves that anti-Semitism is far from dead in Europe. As a Muslim, I note that whenever there is Islamophobia or hatred against Muslims, the signs of anti-Semitism are not far behind.

Let me make it clear that Islamophobia is a part of anti-Muslim racism as much as Anti-Semitism is racism against Jews. Islamophobia is a violation of Muslim communities' basic human rights. Muslim communities are a distinctive social group within our Society. Anti-Muslim hatred, hostility and prejudice towards Islam, which now represent the evil face of Racism, are on the rise. Racism is of two types - Colour and Cultural.

In contrast to Colour-Racism, Cultural-Racism is targeted towards groups perceived to be assertively "different" and not trying to "fit in". It is racism, which uses cultural differences to vilify or marginalize, exclude or demand cultural assimilation from groups who also suffer Colour-Racism. Distinct racial, religious and cultural communities who have distinctive cultural identities will suffer this additional dimension of prejudice and discrimination based on cultural racism. Cultural racial discrimination creates barriers, policies and practices, which unintentionally create disadvantages in some groups compared to others. Groups whose language, religion, customs, family structure, dietary habits and so on are most different from the majority norm will experience the most disadvantage and thus be excluded from the society in power and resource sharing

Cultural racism is a combination of prejudice and discrimination due to race and culture. Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism are part of Cultural Racism. Jews were never persecuted, harassed and discriminated because of colour of their skin. They were attacked because of their culture, religious practices of their community and distinct language. The extermination of Jews in the Holocaust and unfounded hostility against Islam and prejudice against Muslims are part of cultural racism

When institution after institution in Britain and Europe refuse to include Muslim communities in their consultations and resources, when Muslim youths are excluded from society deliberately, when resources for community work are denied to British Muslims - we should call that behaviour as Institutionally Islamophobic. British Society today is institutionally Islamophobic and anti-Muslim hostility is an evil plague of cultural Racism.

The fight against Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia is a common fight which Jewish and Muslims communities should fight together – shoulder to shoulder. Let us do it. The best way is what “Three Faiths Forum” and “Alif Aleph UK British Muslims and British Jews” are doing - talking to each other and working together for common projects within our own communities hand in hand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMAM Dr Abduljalil Sajid

Chairman Muslim Council for Religious and Racial Harmony UK

Member of Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia

20 Wilberforce Close Tollgate Hill Broadfield Crawley RH11 9TD Tel : +44 (0) 1293 201359 Mobile: +44 (0) 7971 861972 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,

17 February 2008

Appendix Ten

The Muslim Claim of Jerusalem by Daniel Pipes

Comparing Religious Claims

http://www.danielpipes.org/article/84

 

The Jewish connection to Jerusalem is an ancient and powerful one. Judaism made Jerusalem a holy city over three thousand years ago and through all that time Jews remained steadfast to it. Jews pray in its direction, mention its name constantly in prayers, close the Passover service with the wistful statement "Next year in Jerusalem," and recall the city in the blessing at the end of each meal. The destruction of the Temple looms very large in Jewish consciousness; remembrance takes such forms as a special day of mourning, houses left partially unfinished, a woman's makeup or jewelry left incomplete, and a glass smashed during the wedding ceremony. In addition, Jerusalem has had a prominent historical role, is the only capital of a Jewish state, and is the only city with a Jewish majority during the whole of the past century. In the words of its current mayor, Jerusalem represents "the purist expression of all that Jews prayed for, dreamed of, cried for, and died for in the two thousand years since the destruction of the Second Temple."

Where does Jerusalem fit in Islam and Muslim history? It is not the place to which they pray, is not once mentioned by name in prayers, and it is connected to no mundane events in Muhammad's life. The city never served as capital of a sovereign Muslim state, and it never became a cultural or scholarly center. Little of political import by Muslims was initiated there.

One comparison makes this point most clearly: Jerusalem appears in the Jewish Bible 669 times and Zion (which usually means Jerusalem, sometimes the Land of Israel) 154 times, or 823 times in all. The Christian Bible mentions Jerusalem 154 times and Zion 7 times. In contrast, the columnist Moshe Kohn notes, Jerusalem and Zion appear as frequently in the Qur'an "as they do in the Hindu Bhagavad-Gita, the Taoist Tao-Te Ching, the Buddhist Dhamapada and the Zoroastrian Zend Avesta"—which is to say, not once.

The city being of such evidently minor religious importance, why does it now loom so large for Muslims, to the point that a Muslim Zionism seems to be in the making across the Muslim world? Why do Palestinian demonstrators take to the streets shouting "We will sacrifice our blood and souls for you, Jerusalem" and their brethren in Jordan yell "We sacrifice our blood and soul for Al-Aqsa"? Why does King Fahd of Saudi Arabia call on Muslim states to protect "the holy city [that] belongs to all Muslims across the world"? Why did two surveys of American Muslims find Jerusalem their most pressing foreign policy issue?

Because of politics. An historical survey shows that the stature of the city, and the emotions surrounding it, inevitably rises for Muslims when Jerusalem has political significance. Conversely, when the utility of Jerusalem expires, so does its status and the passions about it. This pattern first emerged during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad in the early seventh century. Since then, it has been repeated on five occasions: in the late seventh century, in the twelfth century Countercrusade, in the thirteenth century Crusades, during the era of British rule (1917-48), and since Israel took the city in 1967. The consistency that emerges in such a long period provides an important perspective on the current confrontation.

I. The Prophet Muhammad

According to the Arabic literary sources, Muhammad in A.D. 622 fled his home town of Mecca for Medina, a city with a substantial Jewish population. On arrival in Medina, if not slightly earlier, the Qur'an adopted a number of practices friendly to Jews: a Yom Kippur-like fast, a synagogue-like place of prayer, permission to eat kosher food, and approval to marry Jewish women. Most important, the Qur'an repudiated the pre-Islamic practice of the Meccans to pray toward the Ka`ba, the small stone structure at the center of the main mosque in Mecca. Instead, it adopted the Judaic practice of facing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem during prayer. (Actually, the Qur'an only mentions the direction as "Syria"; other information makes it clear that Jerusalem is meant.)

This, the first qibla (direction of prayer) of Islam, did not last long. The Jews criticized the new faith and rejected the friendly Islamic gestures; not long after, the Qur'an broke with them, probably in early 624. The explanation of this change comes in a Qur'anic verse instructing the faithful no longer to pray toward Syria but instead toward Mecca. The passage (2:142-52) begins by anticipating questions about this abrupt change:

The Fools among the people will say: "What has turned them [the Muslims] from the qibla to which they were always used?"

God then provides the answer:

We appointed the qibla that to which you was used, only to test those who followed the Messenger [Muhammad] from those who would turn on their heels [on Islam].

In other words, the new qibla served as a way to distinguish Muslims from Jews. From now on, Mecca would be the direction of prayer: now shall we turn you to a qibla that shall please you. Then turn your face in the direction of the Sacred Mosque [in Mecca]. Wherever you are, turn your faces in that direction.The Qur'an then reiterates the point about no longer paying attention to Jews: Even if you were to bring all the signs to the people of the Book [i.e., Jews], they would not follow your qibla.

 

Muslims subsequently accepted the point implicit to the Qur'anic explanation, that the adoption of Jerusalem as qibla was a tactical move to win Jewish converts. "He chose the Holy House in Jerusalem in order that the People of the Book [i.e., Jews] would be conciliated," notes At-Tabari, an early Muslim commentator on the Qur'an, "and the Jews were glad." Modern historians agree: W. Montgomery Watt, a leading biographer of Muhammad, interprets the prophet's "far-reaching concessions to Jewish feeling" in the light of two motives, one of which was "the desire for a reconciliation with the Jews."

After the Qur'an repudiated Jerusalem, so did the Muslims: the first description of the town under Muslim rule comes from the visiting Bishop Arculf, a Gallic pilgrim, in 680, who reported seeing "an oblong house of prayer, which they [the Muslims] pieced together with upright plans and large beams over some ruined remains." Not for the last time, safely under Muslim control, Jerusalem became a backwater.

This episode set the mold that would be repeated many times over succeeding centuries: Muslims take interest religiously in Jerusalem because of pressing but temporary concerns. Then, when those concerns lapse, so does the focus on Jerusalem, and the city's standing greatly diminishes.

II. Umayyads

The second round of interest in Jerusalem occurred during the rule of the Damascus-based Umayyad dynasty (661-750). A dissident leader in Mecca, ‘Abdullah b. az-Zubayr began a revolt against the Umayyads in 680 that lasted until his death in 692; while fighting him, Umayyad rulers sought to aggrandize Syria at the expense of Arabia (and perhaps also to help recruit an army against the Byzantine Empire). They took some steps to sanctify Damascus, but mostly their campaign involved what Amikam Elad of the Hebrew University calls an "enormous" effort "to exalt and to glorify" Jerusalem. They may even have hoped to make it the equal of Mecca.

The first Umayyad ruler, Mu‘awiya, chose Jerusalem as the place where he ascended to the caliphate; he and his successors engaged in a construction program – religious edifices, a palace, and roads – in the city. The Umayyads possibly had plans to make Jerusalem their political and administrative capital; indeed, Elad finds that they in effect treated it as such. But Jerusalem is primarily a city of faith, and, as the Israeli scholar Izhak Hasson explains, the "Umayyad regime was interested in ascribing an Islamic aura to its stronghold and center." Toward this end (as well as to assert Islam's presence in its competition with Christianity), the Umayyad caliph built Islam's first grand structure, the Dome of the Rock, right on the spot of the Jewish Temple, in 688-91. This remarkable building is not just the first monumental sacred building of Islam but also the only one that still stands today in roughly its original form.

The next Umayyad step was subtle and complex, and requires a pause to note a passage of the Qur'an (17:1) describing the Prophet Muhammad's Night Journey to heaven (isra'):

Glory to He who took His servant by night from the Sacred Mosque to the furthest mosque. (Subhana allathina asra bi-‘abdihi laylatan min al-masjidi al-harami ila al-masjidi al-aqsa.)

When this Qur'anic passage was first revealed, in about 621, a place called the Sacred Mosque already existed in Mecca. In contrast, the "furthest mosque" was a turn of phrase, not a place. Some early Muslims understood it as metaphorical or as a place in heaven. And if the "furthest mosque" did exist on earth, Palestine would seem an unlikely location, for many reasons. Some of them:

Elsewhere in the Qur'an (30:1), Palestine is called "the closest land" (adna al-ard).

Palestine had not yet been conquered by the Muslims and contained not a single mosque.

The "furthest mosque" was apparently identified with places inside Arabia: either Medina or a town called Ji‘rana, about ten miles from Mecca, which the Prophet visited in 630.

The earliest Muslim accounts of Jerusalem, such as the description of Caliph ‘Umar's reported visit to the city just after the Muslims conquest in 638, nowhere identify the Temple Mount with the "furthest mosque" of the Qur'an.

The Qur'anic inscriptions that make up a 240-meter mosaic frieze inside the Dome of the Rock do not include Qur'an 17:1 and the story of the Night Journey, suggesting that as late as 692 the idea of Jerusalem as the lift-off for the Night Journey had not yet been established. (Indeed, the first extant inscriptions of Qur'an 17:1 in Jerusalem date from the eleventh century.)

Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiya (638-700), a close relative of the Prophet Muhammad, is quoted denigrating the notion that the prophet ever set foot on the Rock in Jerusalem; "these damned Syrians," by which he means the Umayyads, "pretend that God put His foot on the Rock in Jerusalem, though [only] one person ever put his foot on the rock, namely Abraham."

Then, in 715, to build up the prestige of their dominions, the Umayyads did a most clever thing: they built a second mosque in Jerusalem, again on the Temple Mount, and called this one the Furthest Mosque (al-masjid al-aqsa, Al-Aqsa Mosque). With this, the Umayyads retroactively gave the city a role in Muhammad's life. This association of Jerusalem with al-masjid al-aqsa fit into a wider Muslim tendency to identify place names found in the Qur'an: "wherever the Koran mentions a name of an event, stories were invented to give the impression that somehow, somewhere, someone, knew what they were about."

Despite all logic (how can a mosque built nearly a century after the Qur'an was received establish what the Qur'an meant?), building an actual Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Palestinian historian A. L. Tibawi writes, "gave reality to the figurative name used in the Koran." It also had the hugely important effect of inserting Jerusalem post hoc into the Qur'an and making it more central to Islam. Also, other changes resulted. Several Qur'anic passages were re-interpreted to refer to this city. Jerusalem came to be seen as the site of the Last Judgment. The Umayyads cast aside the non-religious Roman name for the city, Aelia Capitolina (in Arabic, Iliya) and replaced it with Jewish-style names, either Al-Quds (The Holy) or Bayt al-Maqdis (The Temple). They sponsored a form of literature praising the "virtues of Jerusalem," a genre one author is tempted to call "Zionist." Accounts of the prophet's sayings or doings (Arabic: hadiths, often translated into English as "Traditions") favorable to Jerusalem emerged at this time, some of them equating the city with Mecca. There was even an effort to move the pilgrimage (hajj) from Mecca to Jerusalem.

Scholars agree that the Umayyads' motivation to assert a Muslim presence in the sacred city had a strictly utilitarian purpose. The Iraqi historian Abdul Aziz Duri finds "political reasons" behind their actions. Hasson concurs:

The construction of the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosque, the rituals instituted by the Umayyads on the Temple Mount and the dissemination of Islamic-oriented Traditions regarding the sanctity of the site, all point to the political motives which underlay the glorification of Jerusalem among the Muslims.

Thus did a politically-inspired Umayyad building program lead to the Islamic sanctification of Jerusalem.

Abbasid Rule

Then, with the Umayyad demise in 750 and the move of the caliph's capital to Baghdad, "imperial patronage became negligible" and Jerusalem fell into near-obscurity. For the next three and a half centuries, books praising this city lost favor and the construction of glorious buildings not only came to an end but existing ones fell apart (the dome over the rock collapsed in 1016). Gold was stripped off the dome to pay for Al-Aqsa repair work. City walls collapsed. Worse, the rulers of the new dynasty bled Jerusalem and its region country through what F. E. Peters of New York University calls "their rapacity and their careless indifference." The city declined to the point of becoming a shambles. "Learned men are few, and the Christians numerous," bemoaned a tenth-century Muslim native of Jerusalem. Only mystics continued to visit the city.

In a typical put-down, another tenth-century author described the city as "a provincial town attached to Ramla," a reference to the tiny, insignificant town serving as Palestine's administrative center. Elad characterizes Jerusalem in the early centuries of Muslim rule as "an outlying city of diminished importance." The great historian S. D. Goitein notes that the geographical dictionary of al-Yaqut mentions Basra 170 times, Damascus 100 times, and Jerusalem only once, and that one time in passing. He concludes from this and other evidence that, in its first six centuries of Muslim rule, "Jerusalem mostly lived the life of an out-of-the-way provincial town, delivered to the exactions of rapacious officials and notables, often also to tribulations at the hands of seditious fellahin [peasants] or nomads. . . . Jerusalem certainly could not boast of excellence in the sciences of Islam or any other fields."

By the early tenth century, notes Peters, Muslim rule over Jerusalem had an "almost casual" quality with "no particular political significance." Later too: Al-Ghazali, sometimes called the "Thomas Aquinas of Islam," visited Jerusalem in 1096 but not once refers to the Crusaders heading his way.

III. Early Crusades

The Crusader conquest of Jerusalem in 1099 initially aroused a very mild Muslim response. The Franks did not rate much attention; Arabic literature written in Crusader-occupied towns tended not even to mention them . Thus, "calls to jihad at first fell upon deaf ears," writes Robert Irwin, formerly of the University of St Andrews in Scotland. Emmanuel Sivan of the Hebrew University adds that "one does not detect either shock or a sense of religious loss and humiliation."

Only as the effort to retake Jerusalem grew serious in about 1150 did Muslim leaders seek to rouse jihad sentiments through the heightening of emotions about Jerusalem. Using the means at their disposal (hadiths, "virtues of Jerusalem" books, poetry), their propagandists stressed the sanctity of Jerusalem and the urgency of its return to Muslim rule. Newly-minted hadiths made Jerusalem ever-more critical to the Islamic faith; one of them put words into the Prophet Muhammad's mouth saying that, after his own death, Jerusalem's falling to the infidels is the second greatest catastrophe facing Islam. Whereas not a single "virtues of Jerusalem" volume appeared in the period 1100-50, very many came out in the subsequent half century. In the 1160s, Sivan notes, "al-Quds propaganda blossomed"; and when Saladin (Salah ad-Din) led the Muslims to victory over Jerusalem in 1187, the "propaganda campaign . . . attained its paroxysm." In a letter to his Crusader opponent, Saladin wrote that the city "is to us as it is to you. It is even more important to us."

The glow of the reconquest remained bright for several decades thereafter; for example, Saladin's descendants (known as the Ayyubid dynasty, which ruled until 1250) went on a great building and restoration program in Jerusalem, thereby imbuing the city with a more Muslim character. Until this point, Islamic Jerusalem had consisted only of the shrines on the Temple Mount; now, for the first time, specifically Islamic buildings (Sufi convents, schools) were built in the surrounding city. Also, it was at this time, Oleg Grabar of Princeton's Institute of Advanced Study notes, that the Dome of the Rock came to be seen as the exact place where Muhammad's ascension to heaven (mi‘raj) took place during his Night Journey: if the "furthest mosque" is in Jerusalem, then Muhammad's Night Journey and his subsequent visit to heaven logically took place on the Temple Mount—indeed, on the very rock from which Jesus was thought to have ascended to heaven.

IV. Ayyubids

But once safely back in Muslim hands, interest in Jerusalem again dropped; "the simple fact soon emerged that al-Quds was not essential to the security of an empire based in Egypt or Syria. Accordingly, in times of political or military crisis, the city proved to be expendable," writes Donald P. Little of McGill University. In particular, in 1219, when the Europeans attacked Egypt in the Fifth Crusade, a grandson of Saladin named al-Mu‘azzam decided to raze the walls around Jerusalem, fearing that were the Franks to take the city with walls, "they will kill all whom they find there and will have the fate of Damascus and lands of Islam in their hands." Pulling down Jerusalem's fortifications had the effect of prompting a mass exodus from the city and its steep decline.

Also at this time, the Muslim ruler of Egypt and Palestine, al-Kamil (another of Saladin's grandsons and the brother of al-Mu‘azzam), offered to trade Jerusalem to the Europeans if only the latter would leave Egypt, but he had no takers. Ten years later, in 1229, just such a deal was reached when al-Kamil did cede Jerusalem to Emperor Friedrich II; in return, the German leader promised military aid to al-Kamil against al-Mu‘azzam, now a rival king. Al-Kamil insisted that the Temple Mount remain in Muslim hands and "all the practices of Islam" continued to be exercised there, a condition Friedrich complied with. Referring to his deal with Frederick, al-Kamil wrote in a remarkably revealing description of Jerusalem, "I conceded to the Franks only ruined churches and houses." In other words, the city that had been heroically regained by Saladin in 1187 was voluntarily traded away by his grandson just forty-two years later.

On learning that Jerusalem was back in Christian hands, Muslims felt predictably intense emotions. An Egyptian historian later wrote that the loss of the city "was a great misfortune for the Muslims, and much reproach was put upon al-Kamil, and many were the revilings of him in all the lands." By 1239, another Ayyubid ruler, an-Nasir Da'ud, managed to expel the Franks from the city.

But then he too ceded it right back to the Crusaders in return for help against one of his relatives. This time, the Christians were less respectful of the Islamic sanctuaries and turned the Temple Mount mosques into churches.

Their intrusion did not last long; by 1244 the invasion of Palestine by troops from Central Asia brought Jerusalem again under the rule of an Ayyubid; and henceforth the city remained safely under Muslim rule for nearly seven centuries. Jerusalem remained but a pawn in the Realpolitik of the times, as explained in a letter from a later Ayyubid ruler, as-Salih Ayyub, to his son: if the Crusaders threaten you in Cairo, he wrote, and they demand from you the coast of Palestine and Jerusalem, "give these places to them without delay on condition they have no foothold in Egypt."

The psychology at work here bears note: that Christian knights traveled from distant lands to make Jerusalem their capital made the city more valuable in Muslim eyes too. "It was a city strongly coveted by the enemies of the faith, and thus became, in a sort of mirror-image syndrome, dear to Muslim hearts," Sivan explains. And so fractured opinions coalesced into a powerful sensibility; political exigency caused Muslims ever after to see Jerusalem as the third most holy city of Islam (thalith al-masajid).

Mamluk and Ottoman Rule

During the Mamluk era (1250-1516), Jerusalem lapsed further into its usual obscurity – capital of no dynasty, economic laggard, cultural backwater—though its new-found prestige as an Islamic site remained intact. Also, Jerusalem became a favorite place to exile political leaders, due to its proximity to Egypt and its lack of walls, razed in 1219 and not rebuilt for over three centuries, making Jerusalem easy prey for marauders. These notables endowed religious institutions, especially religious schools, which in the aggregate had the effect of re-establishing Islam in the city. But a general lack of interest translated into decline and impoverishment. Many of the grand buildings, including the Temple Mount sanctuaries, were abandoned and became dilapidated as the city became depopulated. A fourteenth-century author bemoaned the paucity of Muslims visiting Jerusalem. The Mamluks so devastated Jerusalem that the town's entire population at the end of their rule amounted to a miserable 4,000 souls.

The Ottoman period (1516-1917) got off to an excellent start when Suleyman the Magnificent rebuilt the city walls in 1537-41 and lavished money in Jerusalem (for example, assuring its water supply), but things then quickly reverted to type. Jerusalem now suffered from the indignity of being treated as a tax farm for non-resident, one-year (and very rapacious) officials. "After having exhausted Jerusalem, the pasha left," observed the French traveler François-René Chateaubriand in 1806. At times, this rapaciousness prompted uprisings. The Turkish authorities also raised funds for themselves by gouging European visitors; in general, this allowed them to make fewer efforts in Jerusalem than in other cities to promote the city's economy. The tax rolls show soap as its only export. So insignificant was Jerusalem, it was sometimes a mere appendage to the governorship of Nablus or Gaza. Nor was scholarship cultivated: in 1670, a traveler reported that standards had dropped so low that even the preacher at Al-Aqsa Mosque spoke a low standard of literary Arabic. The many religious schools of an earlier era disappeared. By 1806, the population had again dropped, this time to under 9,000 residents.

Muslims during this long era could afford to ignore Jerusalem, writes the historian James Parkes, because the city "was something that was there, and it never occurred to a Muslim that it would not always be there," safely under Muslim rule. Innumerable reports during these centuries from Western pilgrims, tourists, and diplomats in Jerusalem told of the city's execrable condition. George Sandys in 1611 found that "Much lies waste; the old buildings (except a few) all ruined, the new contemptible." Constantin Volney, one of the most scientific of observers, noted in 1784 Jerusalem's "destroyed walls, its debris-filled moat, its city circuit choked with ruins." "What desolation and misery!" wrote Chateaubriand. Gustav Flaubert of Madame Bovary fame visited in 1850 and found "Ruins everywhere, and everywhere the odor of graves. It seems as if the Lord's curse hovers over the city. The Holy City of three religions is rotting away from boredom, desertion, and neglect." "Hapless are the favorites of heaven," commented Herman Melville in 1857. Mark Twain in 1867 found that Jerusalem "has lost all its ancient grandeur, and is become a pauper village."

The British government recognized the minimal Muslim interest in Jerusalem during World War I. In negotiations with Sharif Husayn of Mecca in 1915-16 over the terms of the Arab revolt against the Ottomans, London decided not to include Jerusalem in territories to be assigned to the Arabs because, as the chief British negotiator, Henry McMahon, put it, "there was no place … of sufficient importance … further south" of Damascus "to which the Arabs attached vital importance."

True to this spirit, the Turkish overlords of Jerusalem abandoned Jerusalem rather than fight for it in 1917, evacuating it just in advance of the British troops. One account indicates they were even prepared to destroy the holy city. Jamal Pasha, the Ottoman commander-in-chief, instructed his Austrian allies to "blow Jerusalem to hell" should the British enter the city. The Austrians therefore had their guns trained on the Dome of the Rock, with enough ammunition to keep up two full days of intensive bombardment. According to Pierre van Paasen, a journalist, that the dome still exists today is due to a Jewish artillery captain in the Austrian army, Marek Schwartz, who rather than respond to the approaching British troops with a barrage on the Islamic holy places, "quietly spiked his own guns and walked into the British lines."

V. British Rule

In modern times, notes the Israeli scholar Hava Lazarus-Yafeh, Jerusalem "became the focus of religious and political Arab activity only at the beginning of the [twentieth] century." She ascribes the change mainly to "the renewed Jewish activity in the city and Judaism's claims on the Western Wailing Wall." British rule over the city, lasting from 1917 to 1948, then galvanized a renewed passion for Jerusalem. Arab politicians made Jerusalem a prominent destination during the British Mandatory period. Iraqi leaders frequently turned up in Jerusalem, demonstrably praying at Al-Aqsa and giving emotional speeches. Most famously, King Faysal of Iraq visited the city and made a ceremonial entrance to the Temple Mount using the same gate as did Caliph ‘Umar when the city was first conquered in 638. Iraqi involvement also included raising funds for an Islamic university in Jerusalem, and setting up a consulate and an information office there.

The Palestinian leader (and mufti of Jerusalem) Hajj Amin al-Husayni made the Temple Mount central to his anti-Zionist political efforts. Husayni brought a contingent of Muslim notables to Jerusalem in 1931 for an international congress to mobilize global Muslim opinion on behalf of the Palestinians. He also exploited the draw of the Islamic holy places in Jerusalem to find international Muslim support for his campaign against Zionism. For example, he engaged in fundraising in several Arab countries to restore the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa, sometimes by sending out pictures of the Dome of the Rock under a Star of David; his efforts did succeed in procuring the funds to restore these monuments to their former glory.

Perhaps most indicative of the change in mood was the claim that the Prophet Muhammad had tethered his horse to the western wall of the Temple Mount. As established by Shmuel Berkowitz, Muslim scholars over the centuries had variously theorized about the prophet tying horse to the eastern or southern walls—but not one of them before the Muslim-Jewish clashes at the Western Wall in 1929 ever associated this incident with the western side. Once again, politics drove Muslim piousness regarding Jerusalem.

Jordanian Rule

Sandwiched between British and Israeli eras, Jordanian rule over Jerusalem in 1948-67 offers a useful control case; true to form, when Muslims took the Old City (which contains the sanctuaries) they noticeably lost interest in it. An initial excitement stirred when the Jordanian forces captured the walled city in 1948 -- as evidenced by the Coptic bishop's crowning King ‘Abdullah as "King of Jerusalem" in November of that year—but then the usual ennui set in. The Hashemites had little affection for Jerusalem, where some of their worst enemies lived and where ‘Abdullah was assassinated in 1951. In fact, the Hashemites made a concerted effort to diminish the holy city's importance in favor of their capital, Amman. Jerusalem had served as the British administrative capital, but now all government offices there (save tourism) were shut down; Jerusalem no longer had authority even over other parts of the West Bank. The Jordanians also closed some local institutions (e.g., the Arab Higher Committee, the Supreme Muslim Council) and moved others to Amman (the treasury of the waqf, or religious endowment).

Jordanian efforts succeeded: once again, Arab Jerusalem became an isolated provincial town, less important than Nablus. The economy so stagnated that many thousands of Arab Jerusalemites left the town: while the population of Amman increased five-fold in the period 1948-67, that of Jerusalem grew by just 50 percent. To take out a bank loan meant traveling to Amman. Amman had the privilege of hosting the country's first university and the royal family's many residences. Jerusalem Arabs knew full well what was going on, as evidenced by one notable's complaint about the royal residences: "those palaces should have been built in Jerusalem, but were removed from here, so that Jerusalem would remain not a city, but a kind of village." East Jerusalem's Municipal Council twice formally complained of the Jordanian authorities' discrimination against their city.

Perhaps most insulting of all was the decline in Jerusalem's religious standing. Mosques lacked sufficient funds. Jordanian radio broadcast the Friday prayers not from Al-Aqsa Mosque but from an upstart mosque in Amman. (Ironically, Radio Israel began broadcasting services from Al-Aqsa immediately after the Israel victory in 1967.) This was part of a larger pattern, as the Jordanian authorities sought to benefit from the prestige of controlling Jerusalem even as they put the city down: Marshall Breger and Thomas Idinopulos note that although King ‘Abdullah "styled himself a protector of the holy sites, he did little to promote the religious importance of Jerusalem to Muslims."

Nor were Jordan's rulers alone in ignoring Jerusalem; the city virtually disappeared from the Arab diplomatic map. Malcolm Kerr's well-known study on inter-Arab relations during this period (The Arab Cold War) appears not once to mention the city. No foreign Arab leader came to Jerusalem during the nineteen years when Jordan controlled East Jerusalem, and King Husayn (r. 1952-99) himself only rarely visited. King Faysal of Saudi Arabia spoke often after 1967 of his yearning to pray in Jerusalem, yet he appears never to have bothered to pray there when he had the chance. Perhaps most remarkable is that the PLO's founding document, the Palestinian National Covenant of 1964, does not once mention Jerusalem or even allude to it.

VI. Israeli Rule

This neglect came to an abrupt end after June 1967, when the Old City came under Israeli control. Palestinians again made Jerusalem the centerpiece of their political program. The Dome of the Rock turned up in pictures everywhere, from Yasir Arafat's office to the corner grocery. Slogans about Jerusalem proliferated and the city quickly became the single most emotional issue of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The PLO made up for its 1964 oversight by specifically mentioning Jerusalem in its 1968 constitution as "the seat of the Palestine Liberation Organization."

"As during the era of the Crusaders," Lazarus-Yafeh points out, Muslim leaders "began again to emphasize the sanctity of Jerusalem in Islamic tradition." In the process, they even relied on some of the same arguments (e.g., rejecting the occupying power's religious connections to the city) and some of the same hadiths to back up those allegations. Muslims began echoing the Jewish devotion to Jerusalem: Arafat declared that "Al-Quds is in the innermost of our feeling, the feeling of our people and the feeling of all Arabs, Muslims, and Christians in the world." Extravagant statements became the norm (Jerusalem was now said to be "comparable in holiness" to Mecca and Medina; or even "our most sacred place"). Jerusalem turned up regularly in Arab League and United Nations resolutions. The Jordanian and Saudi governments now gave as munificently to the Jerusalem religious trust as they had been stingy before 1967.

Nor were Palestinians alone in this emphasis on Jerusalem: the city again served as a powerful vehicle for mobilizing Muslim opinion internationally. This became especially clear in September 1969, when King Faysal parlayed a fire at Al-Aqsa Mosque into the impetus to convene twenty-five Muslim heads of state and establish the Organization of the Islamic Conference, a United Nations-style institution for Muslims. In Lebanon, the fundamentalist group Hizbullah depicts the Dome of the Rock on everything from wall posters to scarves and under the picture often repeats its slogan: "We are advancing." Lebanon's leading Shi‘i authority, Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah, regularly exploits the theme of liberating Jerusalem from Israeli control to inspire his own people; he does so, explains his biographer Martin Kramer, not for pie-in-the-sky reasons but "to mobilize a movement to liberate Lebanon for Islam."

Similarly, the Islamic Republic of Iran has made Jerusalem a central issue, following the dictate of its founder, Ayatollah Khomeini, who remarked that "Jerusalem is the property of Muslims and must return to them." Since shortly after the regime's founding, its 1-rial coin and 1000-rial banknote have featured the Dome of the Rock (though, embarrassingly, the latter initially was mislabeled "Al-Aqsa Mosque"). Iranian soldiers at war with Saddam Husayn's forces in the 1980s received simple maps showing their sweep through Iraq and on to Jerusalem. Ayatollah Khomeini decreed the last Friday of Ramadan as Jerusalem Day, and this commemoration has served as a major occasion for anti-Israel harangues in many countries, including Turkey, Tunisia, and Morocco. The Islamic Republic of Iran celebrates the holiday with stamps and posters featuring scenes of Jerusalem accompanied by exhortative slogans. In February 1997, a crowd of some 300,000 celebrated Jerusalem Day in the presence of dignitaries such as President Hashemi Rafsanjani. Jerusalem Day is celebrated (complete with a roster of speeches, an art exhibit, a folkloric show, and a youth program) as far off as Dearborn, Michigan.

As it has become common for Muslims to claim passionate attachment to Jerusalem, Muslim pilgrimages to the city have multiplied four-fold in recent years. A new "virtues of Jerusalem" literature has developed. So emotional has Jerusalem become to Muslims that they write books of poetry about it (especially in Western languages). And in the political realm, Jerusalem has become a uniquely unifying issue for Arabic-speakers. "Jerusalem is the only issue that seems to unite the Arabs. It is the rallying cry," a senior Arab diplomat noted in late 2000.

The fervor for Jerusalem at times challenges even the centrality of Mecca. No less a personage than Crown Prince ‘Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has been said repeatedly to say that for him, "Jerusalem is just like the holy city of Mecca." Hasan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbullah goes further yet, declaring in a major speech: "We won't give up on Palestine, all of Palestine, and Jerusalem will remain the place to which all jihad warriors will direct their prayers."

Dubious Claims

Along with these high emotions, four historically dubious claims promoting the Islamic claim to Jerusalem have emerged.

The Islamic connection to Jerusalem is older than the Jewish. The Palestinian "minister" of religious endowments asserts that Jerusalem has "always" been under Muslim sovereignty. Likewise, Ghada Talhami, a polemicist, asserts that "There are other holy cities in Islam, but Jerusalem holds a special place in the hearts and minds of Muslims because its fate has always been intertwined with theirs." Always? Jerusalem's founding antedated Islam by about two millennia, so how can that be? Ibrahim Hooper of the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations explains this anachronism: "the Muslim attachment to Jerusalem does not begin with the prophet Muhammad, it begins with the prophets Abraham, David, Solomon and Jesus, who are also prophets in Islam." In other words, the central figures of Judaism and Christianity were really proto-Muslims. This accounts for the Palestinian man-in-the-street declaring that "Jerusalem was Arab from the day of creation."

The Qur'an mentions Jerusalem. So complete is the identification of the Night Journey with Jerusalem that it is found in many publications of the Qur'an, and especially in translations. Some state in a footnote that the "furthest mosque" "must" refer to Jerusalem. Others take the (blasphemous?) step of inserting Jerusalem right into the text after "furthest mosque." This is done in a variety of ways. The Sale translation uses italics:

from the sacred temple of Mecca to the farther temple of Jerusalem the Asad translation relies on square brackets:

from the Inviolable House of Worship [at Mecca] to the Remote House of Worship [at Jerusalem] and the Behbudi-Turner version places it right in the text without any distinction at all:  from the Holy Mosque in Mecca to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Palestine. If the Qur'an in translation now has Jerusalem in its text, it cannot be surprising to find that those who rely on those translations believe that Jerusalem "is mentioned in the Qur'an"; and this is precisely what a consortium of American Muslim institutions claimed in 2000. One of their number went yet further; according to Hooper, "the Koran refers to Jerusalem by its Islamic centerpiece, al-Aqsa Mosque." This error has practical consequences: for example, Ahmad ‘Abd ar-Rahman, secretary-general of the PA "cabinet," rested his claim to Palestinian sovereignty on this basis: "Jerusalem is above tampering, it is inviolable, and nobody can tamper with it since it is a Qur'anic text."

Muhammad actually visited Jerusalem. The Islamic biography of the Prophet Muhammad's life is very complete and it very clearly does not mention his leaving the Arabian Peninsula, much less voyaging to Jerusalem. Therefore, when Karen Armstrong, a specialist on Islam, writes that "Muslim texts make it clear that … the story of Muhammad's mystical Night Journey to Jerusalem … was not a physical experience but a visionary one," she is merely stating the obvious. Indeed, this phrase is contained in an article titled, "Islam's Stake: Why Jerusalem Was Central to Muhammad" which posits that "Jerusalem was central to the spiritual identity of Muslims from the very beginning of their faith." Not good enough. Armstrong found herself under attack for a "shameless misrepresentation" of Islam and claiming that "Muslims themselves do not believe the miracle of their own prophet."

Jerusalem has no importance to Jews. The first step is to deny a Jewish connection to the Western (or Wailing) Wall, the only portion of the ancient Temple that still stands. In 1967, a top Islamic official of the Temple Mount portrayed Jewish attachment to the wall as an act of "aggression against al-Aqsa mosque." The late King Faysal of Saudi Arabia spoke on this subject with undisguised scorn: "The Wailing Wall is a structure they weep against, and they have no historic right to it. Another wall can be built for them to weep against." ‘Abd al-Malik Dahamsha, a Muslim member of Israel's parliament, has flatly stated that "the Western Wall is not associated with the remains of the Jewish Temple." The Palestinian Authority's website states about the Western Wall that "Some Orthodox religious Jews consider it as a holy place for them, and claim that the wall is part of their temple which all historic studies and archeological excavations have failed to find any proof for such a claim." The PA's mufti describes the Western Wall as "just a fence belonging to the Muslim holy site" and declares that "There is not a single stone in the Wailing-Wall relating to Jewish history." He also makes light of the Jewish connection, dismissively telling an Israeli interviewer, "I heard that your Temple was in Nablus or perhaps Bethlehem." Likewise, Arafat announced that Jews "consider Hebron to be holier than Jerusalem." There has even been some scholarship, from ‘Ayn Shams University in Egypt, alleging to show that Al-Aqsa Mosque predates the Jewish antiquities in Jerusalem – by no less than two thousand years.

In this spirit, Muslim institutions pressure the Western media to call the Temple Mount and the Western Wall by their Islamic names (Al-Haram ash-Sharif, Al-Buraq), and not their much older Jewish names. (Al-Haram ash-Sharif, for example, dates only from the Ottoman era.) When Western journalists do not comply, Arafat responds with outrage, with his news agency portraying this as part of a "constant conspiracy against our sanctities in Palestine" and his mufti deeming this contrary to Islamic law.

The second step is to deny Jews access to the wall. "It's prohibited for Jews to pray at the Western Wall," asserts an Islamist leader living in Israel. The director of the Al-Aqsa Mosque asserts that "This is a place for Muslims, only Muslims. There is no temple here, only Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock." The Voice of Palestine radio station demands that Israeli politicians not be allowed even to touch the wall. ‘Ikrima Sabri, the Palestinian Authority's mufti, prohibits Jews from making repairs to the wall and extends Islamic claims further: "All the buildings surrounding the Al-Aqsa mosque are an Islamic waqf."

The third step is to reject any form of Jewish control in Jerusalem, as Arafat did in mid-2000: "I will not agree to any Israeli sovereign presence in Jerusalem." He was echoed by Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah, who stated that "There is nothing to negotiate about and compromise on when it comes to Jerusalem." Even Oman's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Yusuf bin ‘Alawi bin ‘Abdullah told the Israeli prime minister that sovereignty in Jerusalem should be exclusively Palestinian "to ensure security and stability."

The final step is to deny Jews access to Jerusalem at all. Toward this end, a body of literature blossoms that insists on an exclusive Islamic claim to all of Jerusalem. School textbooks allude to the city's role in Christianity and Islam, but ignore Judaism. An American affiliate of Hamas claims Jerusalem as "an Arab, Palestinian and Islamic holy city." A banner carried in a street protest puts it succinctly: "Jerusalem is Arab." No place for Jews here.

Anti-Jerusalem Views

This Muslim love of Zion notwithstanding, Islam contains a recessive but persistent strain of anti-Jerusalem sentiment, premised on the idea that emphasizing Jerusalem is non-Islamic and can undermine the special sanctity of Mecca.

In the early period of Islam, the Princeton historian Bernard Lewis notes, "there was strong resistance among many theologians and jurists" to the notion of Jerusalem as a holy city. They viewed this as a "Judaizing error—as one more among many attempts by Jewish converts to infiltrate Jewish ideas into Islam." Anti-Jerusalem stalwarts circulated stories to show that the idea of Jerusalem's holiness is a Jewish practice. In the most important of them, a converted Jew, named Ka‘b al-Ahbar, suggested to Caliph ‘Umar that Al-Aqsa Mosque be built by the Dome of the Rock. The caliph responded by accusing him of reversion to his Jewish roots:

‘Umar asked him: "Where do you think we should put the place of prayer?"

"By the [Temple Mount] rock," answered Ka‘b.

By God, Ka‘b," said ‘Umar, "you are following after Judaism. I saw you take off your sandals [following Jewish practice]."

"I wanted to feel the touch of it with my bare feet," said Ka‘b.

"I saw you," said ‘Umar. "But no … Go along! We were not commanded concerning the Rock, but we were commanded concerning the Ka‘ba [in Mecca]."

Another version of this anecdote makes the Jewish content even more explicit: in this one, Ka‘b al-Ahbar tries to induce Caliph ‘Umar to pray north of the Holy Rock, pointing out the advantage of this: "Then the entire Al-Quds, that is, Al-Masjid al-Haram will be before you." In other words, the convert from Judaism is saying, the Rock and Mecca will be in a straight line and Muslims can pray toward both of them at the same time.

That Muslims for almost a year and a half during Muhammad's lifetime directed prayers toward Jerusalem has had a permanently contradictory effect on that city's standing in Islam. The incident partially imbued Jerusalem with prestige and sanctity, but it also made the city a place uniquely rejected by God. Some early hadiths have Muslims expressing this rejection by purposefully praying with their back sides to Jerusalem, a custom that still survives in vestigial form; he who prays in Al-Aqsa Mosque not coincidentally turns his back precisely to the Temple area toward which Jews pray. Or, in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's sharp formulation: when a Muslim prays in Al-Aqsa, "his back is to it. Also some of his lower parts."

Ibn Taymiya (1263-1328), one of Islam's strictest and most influential religious thinkers, is perhaps the outstanding spokesman of the anti-Jerusalem view. In his wide-ranging attempt to purify Islam of accretions and impieties, he dismissed the sacredness of Jerusalem as a notion deriving from Jews and Christians, and also from the long-ago Umayyad rivalry with Mecca. Ibn Taymiya's student, Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziya (1292-1350), went further and rejected hadiths about Jerusalem as false. More broadly, learned Muslims living after the Crusades knew that the great publicity given to hadiths extolling Jerusalem's sanctity resulted from the Countercrusade—from political exigency, that is—and therefore treated them warily.

There are other signs too of Jerusalem's relatively low standing in the ladder of sanctity: a historian of art finds that, "in contrast to representations of Mecca, Medina, and the Ka‘ba, depictions of Jerusalem are scanty." The belief that the Last Judgment would take place in Jerusalem was said by some medieval authors to be a forgery to induce Muslims to visit the city.

Modern writers sometimes take exception to the envelope of piety that has surrounded Jerusalem. Muhammad Abu Zayd wrote a book in Egypt in 1930 that was so radical that it was withdrawn from circulation and is no longer even extant. In it, among many other points, he dismissed the notion of the Prophet's heavenly journey via Jerusalem, claiming that the Qur'anic rendition actually refers to his Hijra from Mecca to Madina; "the more remote mosque" (al-masjid al-aqsa) thus had nothing to do with Jerusalem, but was in fact the mosque in Madina.

That this viewpoint is banned shows the nearly complete victory in Islam of the pro-Jerusalem viewpoint. Still, an occasional expression still filters through. At a summit meeting of Arab leaders in March 2001, Mu‘ammar al-Qadhdhafi made fun of his colleagues' obsession with Al-Aqsa Mosque. "The hell with it," delegates quoted him saying, "you solve it or you don't, it's just a mosque and I can pray anywhere."

Conclusion

Politics, not religious sensibility, has fueled the Muslim attachment to Jerusalem for nearly fourteen centuries; what the historian Bernard Wasserstein has written about the growth of Muslim feeling in the course of the Countercrusade applies through the centuries: "often in the history of Jerusalem, heightened religious fervour may be explained in large part by political necessity." This pattern has three main implications. First, Jerusalem will never be more than a secondary city for Muslims; "belief in the sanctity of Jerusalem," Sivan rightly concludes, "cannot be said to have been widely diffused nor deeply rooted in Islam." Second, the Muslim interest lies not so much in controlling Jerusalem as it does in denying control over the city to anyone else. Third, the Islamic connection to the city is weaker than the Jewish one because it arises as much from transitory and mundane considerations as from the immutable claims of faith.

Mecca, by contrast, is the eternal city of Islam, the place from which non-Muslims are strictly forbidden. Very roughly speaking, what Jerusalem is to Jews, Mecca is to Muslims – a point made in the Qur'an itself (2:145) in recognizing that Muslims have one qibla and "the people of the Book" another one. The parallel was noted by medieval Muslims; the geographer Yaqut (1179-1229) wrote, for example, that "Mecca is holy to Muslims and Jerusalem to the Jews." In modern times, some scholars have come to the same conclusion: "Jerusalem plays for the Jewish people the same role that Mecca has for Muslims," writes Abdul Hadi Palazzi, director of the Cultural Institute of the Italian Islamic Community.

The similarities are striking. Jews pray thrice to Jerusalem, Muslims five times daily to Mecca. Muslims see Mecca as the navel of the world, just as Jews see Jerusalem. Whereas Jews believe Abraham nearly sacrificed Ishmael's brother Isaac in Jerusalem, Muslims believe this episode took place in Mecca. The Ka‘ba in Mecca has similar functions for Muslims as the Temple in Jerusalem for Jews (such as serving as a destination for pilgrimage). The Temple and Ka‘ba are both said to be inimitable structures. The supplicant takes off his shoes and goes barefoot in both their precincts. Solomon's Temple was inaugurated on Yom Kippur, the tenth day of the year, and the Ka‘ba receives its new cover also on the tenth day of each year. If Jerusalem is for Jews a place so holy that not just its soil but even its air is deemed sacred, Mecca is the place whose "very mention reverberates awe in Muslims' hearts," according to Abad Ahmad of the Islamic Society of Central Jersey.

This parallelism of Mecca and Jerusalem offers the basis of a solution, as Sheikh Palazzi wisely writes:

separation in directions of prayer is a mean to decrease possible rivalries in management of Holy Places. For those who receive from Allah the gift of equilibrium and the attitude to reconciliation, it should not be difficult to conclude that, as no one is willing to deny Muslims a complete sovereignty over Mecca, from an Islamic point of view - notwithstanding opposite, groundless propagandistic claims - there is not any sound theological reason to deny an equal right of Jews over Jerusalem.

To back up this view, Palazzi notes several striking and oft-neglected passages in the Qur'an. One of them (5:22-23) quotes Moses instructing the Jews to "enter the Holy Land (al-ard al-muqaddisa) which God has assigned unto you." Another verse (17:104) has God Himself making the same point: "We said to the Children of Israel: ‘Dwell securely in the Land.'" Qur'an 2:145 states that the Jews "would not follow your qibla; nor are you going to follow their qibla," indicating a recognition of the Temple Mount as the Jews' direction of prayer. "God himself is saying that Jerusalem is as important to Jews as Mecca is to Moslems," Palazzi concludes.

His analysis has a clear and sensible implication: just as Muslims rule an undivided Mecca, Jews should rule an undivided Jerusalem.

Appendix Eleven

 

The Prophet's Night Journey to Jerusalem

September 3, 2003

http://www.danielpipes.org/blog/85

In "The Muslim Claim to Jerusalem," I argued that over the course of fourteen centuries, Muslim interest in Jerusalem has tended to be more political than religious in nature. One of my points concerned the complicated sleight-of-hand carried off by the Umayyads in the seventh century A.D., when, to aggrandize the importance of a town under their control, the caliph built a mosque in Jerusalem and called it Al-Aqsa. By doing this, he fulfilled a verse in the Qur'an which tells of the prophet going by night to Al-Aqsa mosque. The trick worked, generating the now-ancient belief that Muhammad's night journey took him to Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

Logically, of course, a mosque built 65 years after the Qur'an was delivered cannot tell us where Muhammad went on the night journey described in the Qur'an.

This history comes to mind because, in an article published in the weekly Al-Qahira (and translated by MEMRI), Columnist Ahmad Muhammad 'Arafa argues against the dogma that Muhammad traveled to Jerusalem. Recalling earlier interpretations, such as that of fellow Egyptian Muhammad Abu Zayd in the 1930s, 'Arafa instead argues that the miraculous journey took him to Medina. One wonders what sort of traction this argument will have; or what sort of price 'Arafa will pay for his dissent. (September 3, 2002)

Muslim Zionism

by Daniel Pipes
New York Sun June 6, 2006

[NY Sun title: "The Power of Muslim Zionism"]

http://www.danielpipes.org/article/3654

Might Muslim Zionism be stronger than Jewish Zionism?

Although the question may sound preposterous, it is not.

Jewish Zionism evolved out of a steadfast three-millennium-old love of Jerusalem that flourished despite a dispersion that settled Jews far from their holy city. This love of Zion inspired the most extraordinary nationalist movement of the 20th century, one that motivated a far-flung population to relocate to their ancient homeland, revive a dead language, and establish a new polity – and to do so against intense opposition.

Muslim Zionism, by contrast, has a conditional and erratic history, one based on an instrumental view of the city. Each time Jerusalem has emerged as a focal point of Muslim religious and political interest since the seventh century, it has been in response to specific utilitarian needs. When Jerusalem served Muslim theological or political purposes, the city grew in Muslim esteem and emotions. When those needs lapsed, Muslim interest promptly waned. This cyclical pattern has repeated itself six times over 14 centuries.

In the first such instance, an account in the Koran tells how God instructed Muhammad in 622 to pray toward Jerusalem and 17 months later redirected him to pray toward Mecca. The Arabic literary sources agree that the Jerusalem interlude constituted a failed effort to win over Jews to the new Islamic religion.

The same utilitarian pattern holds in modern times. Ottoman neglect of Jerusalem in the 19th century prompted the French novelist Gustav Flaubert to describe it as "Ruins everywhere, and everywhere the odor of graves. … The Holy City of three religions is rotting away from boredom, desertion, and neglect." Palestinian Arabs rediscovered Jerusalem only after the British conquered it in 1917, when they used it to rouse Muslim sentiments against imperial control. After Jordanian forces seized the city in 1948, however, interest again plummeted.

It revived only in 1967, when the whole city came under Israeli control. Muslim passion for Jerusalem has soared over the past four decades, to the point that Muslim Zionism closely imitates Jewish Zionism. Note two similarities:

Generalizing, the analyst Khalid Durán observed in 1999 that "there is an attempt to Islamize Zionism … in the sense that the importance of Jerusalem to Jews and their attachment to it is now usurped by Palestinian Muslims." (Interestingly, this follows a larger pattern of Palestinian Arab nationalism imitating Jewish nationalism.)

This effort is working, to the point that, as secular Israelis increasingly find themselves unmoved by Jerusalem, Muslim Zionism is emotionally and politically more fervid than its Jewish original. Note the example of rival Jerusalem Days.

Israel's Jerusalem Day commemorates the city's unification under its control in 1967. But, as Israel Harel writes in Ha'aretz, this tribute has declined from a national holiday to just "the holiday of the religious communities." By contrast, the Muslim version of Jerusalem Day – instituted 11 years later, by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979 – attracts crowds of as many as 300,000 people in distant Tehran, serves as a platform for rousing harangues, and is gaining support steadily around the Muslim world.

A 2001 poll found that 60% of Israelis are willing to divide Jerusalem; just last month, the Olmert government announced its plans to divide the city, to little outcry.

Therefore, I conclude that the Muslim use of Zion represents a more powerful force today than the Jewish love of Zion.

This text is excerpted from the Distinguished Rennert Lecture that Daniel Pipes delivered last week in Jerusalem for Bar-Ilan University.

 

Imam Sajid’s Speech at UNESCO can be seen at : 'Islamic Human Development of Science and the Better Understanding of the Environment' by IMAM Dr Mufti  Abduljalil Sajid spoke at UNESCO on 13 April 2012 www.uk.upf.org

Islamic culture is very rich, as it has made a very valuable contribution in human development in science and better understanding of our world. Read More at:

http://www.uk.upf.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=443%3Aislamic-human-development-of-science-and-better-understanding-of-others-with-environment-by-imam-dr-abduljalil-sajid&catid=36%3Apeace-and-development&Itemid=58

Human Rights in Islam By Imam Dr Abduljalil Sajid

http://www.uk.upf.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=404%3Ahuman-rights-in-islam-by-imam-dr-abduljalil-sajid-&catid=58%3Ainterfaith&Itemid=107 www.alatevisitorcalls.blogspot.com

Imam Dr Abduljalil Sajid JP Forgiveness and Reconciliation: An Islamic Prespective... www.uk.upf.org/index.php?...imam...abduljalil-sajid...7 Feb 2012 – The concept of forgiveness in the Holy Qur’an is expressed in three terms, (1) 'afw , (2) safhu, and (3) ghafara

http://www.uk.upf.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=426:imam-dr-abduljalil-sajid-jp-forgiveness-and-reconciliation-an-islamic perspective&catid=58:interfaith&Itemid=107

[PDF] http://www.osce.org/cio/15618

Final Text of Imam Dr Abduljalil Sajid's paper at OSCE Cordoba 9 ... www.osce.org/cio/15618 File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - Quick View http://www.osce.org/item/9735.html

Full Text of Paper By Imam Dr Abduljalil Sajid, Chairman Muslim Council for Religious and Racial Harmony UK, "Islamophobia: A new word for an old fear" - English (PDF)

http://www.osce.org/cio/15618

http://www.osce.org/documents/cio/2005/06/15198_en.pdf

Extremism, fanaticism and terrorism condemned by Islam:

Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism is on rise: As a Muslim, I note that whenever there is Islamophobia or hatred against Muslims, the signs of anti-Semitism are not far behind. Islamaphobia fuels extremism, says report

 

With Best Regards

Imam Dr Mufti Abduljalil Sajid

Faith based social entrepreneur and Spiritual Councilor based in the heart of Sussex United Kingdom;

Imam Brighton Islamic Mission since September 1976;

Muslim Chaplain – Imam, Brighton and Sussex Universities NHS Hospital Trust since 1977;

Muslim Chaplain – Imam Sussex University and Brighton University since 1978;

Muslim Chaplain – Imam Sussex Partnership Trust - Mill View Volunteer since 1994;

Chairman Muslim Council for Religious and Racial Harmony UK (MCRRH) since October 1980;

Vice Chair MCB Inter-faith Relations Committee and Adviser to the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) Europe and International Affairs Committee - (MCB EIAC) and founding member of MCB since 1997;

President National Association of British Pakistanis (NABPAK) since 2002;

President Religions for Peace UK and Deputy President of European WCRP -Religions for Peace and Adviser to European Council of Religious Leaders/Religions for Peace -(ECRL) since 2000;

Deputy President and International Secretary World Congress of Faiths -(WCF) since 2001;

Chairman Task-force for European year of Inter-cultural Dialogue since 2006;

European Representative of World Council of Muslims Inter-faithRelations (WCMIR) since 1999;

20 Wilberforce Close Tollgate Hill Broadfield Crawley RH11 9TD (UK) Tel: 01293 201359 Mobile: +44 (0) 7971 861972 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,

 

 

 

 


[1] The Holy Qur’an, 22:78

[2] The Holy Qur’an, 2:112

[3] The Holy Qur’an, 2:131

[4] The Holy Qur’an, 6:71

[5] The Holy Qur’an,16:127

[6] The Holy Qur’an, 10:25

[7] The Holy Qur’an, 59:23

[8] The Holy Qur’an, 8:62

[9] The Holy Qur’an, 4:94

[10] The Holy Qur’an, 2:197

[11] The Holy Qur’an, 19:17

[12] The Holy Qur’an, 2:251

[13] The Holy Qur’an, 22:40

[14] The Holy Qur’an, 8:65

[15] The Holy Qur’an, 6:66

[16] The Holy Qur’an, 2:192-194

[17] The Holy Qur’an, 5:16

[18] The Holy Qur’an, 10:25

[19] The Holy Qur’an, 6:54

[20] The Holy Qur’an, 2:191

[21] The Holy Qur’an, 2:217

[22] The Holy Qur’an, 8:39