The keys to defusing tensions between America and Muslims

The keys to defusing tensions between America and Muslims

There have been many reports on television, many statements by politicians, and many articles, columns and letters in newspapers regarding the location of the proposed Islamic Center in Manhattan near ground zero, and a pastor’s threat to burn copies of the Quran on the anniversary of 9/11.

These broadened into complaints, suggestions and questions about a wide range of related issues, about Islam, about the Quran, about Muslims, about terrorism, etc., all of which could not be addressed in even a full page of The Gazette.

Also evident in some of those letters was a desire for peace and wishes for resolution to the problems.

Muslims mourn with the families of the innocent victims of the diabolical attack on 9/11, and Muslims also mourn with the families of innocents in Muslim countries who have died in the aftermath of 9/11. Muslims are so ashamed of that misdeed by a few calling themselves Muslims that some are still in a state of denial, still refusing to believe that Muslims could have carried out such a horrific deed that is contrary to basic human values and to Islam. However, in spite their many evident shortcomings, Muslims are collectively not responsible for 9/11, while Al-Qaeda’s Osama Bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad have admitted publicly in videos or supposedly confessed during water-boarding to planning the 9/11 attack, and are unrepentant for the loss of innocent lives.

The Quran-burning pastor had titled his book “Islam is of the Devil”, without having read the Quran, and without knowing that Islam regards all human life, Muslim and non-Muslim, as sacred, and forbids not only terrorism but even forbids harming non-combatants on a battlefield, even in the heat of battle.

It is not Islam or Muslims, it is Al-Qaeda’s Osama Bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (now in American custody) who, by disregarding God’s commandments in the Quran and Sunnah, are “of the Devil”.

Some Americans seem to regard all Muslims as “the enemy,” and seem to not remember that during the Gulf War, many Muslim countries stood with America and some fought alongside America against Saddam Hussein. After 9/11, practically every Muslim leader and scholar spoke up against 9/11 and terrorism, and many of their statements can still be found on the Internet.

Muslim countries, even Iran, expressed sympathy with America and condemned the terrorist acts. President George W. Bush showed good leadership in his initial response to 9/11, and Muslim countries stood with America. Only after America invaded Iraq claiming WMDs did the general sympathy and support post-9/11 for America in the Muslim world evaporate.

There were suggestions in the letters, articles and columns on how to defuse the tensions and move towards peace, for example, for American Muslims to take out newspaper ads or build multi-faith cultural centers; however, these suggestions address only the symptoms, not the core of the problems. The key to defusing the tensions between America and the Muslims lies in a peaceful, fair and just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue, which is really a Jewish-Muslim issue. The dispute is not just over any land; it has a religious component to it since the Holy Lands are holy for both Muslims and Jews, and Jerusalem is sacred to both Muslims and Jews.  In this regard, there is a similarity to the “troubles” in Ireland which have gone on even longer, a dispute over land but with a religious component.

Military approaches have been tried by both sides and have been repeatedly proven to not be the solution. Political approaches earned Anwar al-Sadat and Menachem Begin the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize, and earned the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize for Yitzhak Rabin,Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat. But those approaches only led to the assassination of Anwar al-Sadat and Yitzhak Rabin by extremists of their own nationality and faith, without changing the status quo of repeated spirals of short-lived peace, attacks, terrorism, invasions, and deaths of many civilians on both sides for many decades.

Perhaps a fresh political approach brokered by the United States of America may again result in a period of peace in the near future.

However, if there is going to be a long-lasting peace, it has to be based on the brotherhood in Abraham of Jews and Arabs as descendants of Abraham through his sons, the half-brothers Ishmael and Isaac, who, despite Sara’s hostility towards Hagar, stood together at Abraham’s funeral as brothers, and whose descendants intermarried. At least one famous rabbi is named after Ishmael.

The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has moved in this direction by asking the Arab nations to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and some years ago the Saudis, on behalf of the League of Arab States, had offered formal recognition to Israel. If Netanyahu were to take this approach to its logical conclusion, if he were to ask the Arabs to acknowledge Jews as their brothers in Abraham and allow the Jews to live in the land of Israel in peace in the spirit of brotherhood, and the Arab nations were to reciprocate, this approach would establish the foundation of a permanent peace. Even the Iranians should be reminded of their ancient ties with the Israelites, who regarded the Persian King Cyrus as God’s anointed (Isaiah 45:1), who freed them from Babylonian captivity and helped them rebuild the Temple.

With this foundation, the other issues would still require the wisdom of Solomon to resolve, but since the land is divisible and shareable, unlike the baby which both harlots claimed to be their own when they came to Solomon for judgment, they are more tractable.

And it is not just the Israelis and Palestinians, but America and Americans, and Muslims, Jews and Christians, who have a responsibility and a role in moving the parties towards a peaceful, permanent and just peace in the Holy Lands, a peace that would signal defeat for the extremists and terrorists and bring peace to many a troubled region of our shared world.