Post-American Century: The Emergence of a New World Order?
by Dr. Robert D. Crane
The subject of my talk is the Post-American Century: The Emergence of a New World Order. This fits well with my lifelong professional work as a long-range global
forecaster and as a student of the rise and fall of civilizations.
I want to introduce my talk by presenting three quotes from people who have studied the dynamics of civilizational rise and fall. These deal with the three issues that I want to discuss this evening.
The first quote is from Samuel P. Huntington, who invented the term Clash of Civilizations” almost twenty years ago. He made the following profound statement about the current “New World Order: “The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact; non-Westerners never do.”
The second quote is from Lord Josiah Stamp, Director of the Bank of England. Referring to the most important but least understood element of any world order, he stated, “The modern banking system manufacturers money out of nothing. The most astounding sleight of hand ever invented. If you want to be slaves of bankers and pay the costs of your own slavery, let the banks create money.”
The third quote is by Meyer Anschel Rothchild, the founding father of one of the world’s most powerful financial dynasties. Referring to the link between economic and political power,” he said, “Let me issue and control a nation’s money, and I care not who writes the laws.”
In my talk today I want to give some explanatory background on each of these three issues, because they are key to forecasting what kind of world may emerge in the 21st century. The first issue concerns the very concept of a New World Order. The second concerns the current financial and perhaps even economic meltdown that is undermining the sustainability of the current world order, such as it still exists.
The third is what may replace it. The question is whether a world dominated by the worship of order as an ultimate goal, together with all of its economic and political injustices, can be replaced by a new world of faith-based reconciliation devoted to the pursuit of compassionate justice.
II. The Concept of New World Order
My first thesis this evening is that world order as a paradigm or framework for thought is dangerous because it may compete with or even exclude justice as an ordering principle. Every effort to create a new world order starts off as a grand utopia and ends up as a grand system of economic and political oppression.
The simple reason for this is that any paradigm or grand strategy that seeks order as the ultimate goal becomes a false god. In practice, as well as theory, the pursuit of order has relied on the pursuit of material power as a substitute for justice. Order as the highest goal relegates justice to the status of a luxury by-product of hard power
with no inherent power of its own.
America’s founders borrowed this wisdom from Edmund Burke, who was the leader of the minority Whig Party during the latter half of the 1700s in England. This is why the Preamble to the American Constitution, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, who was a student of Islam, listed the five purposes of the new American federation in a thoroughly Islamic way.
This founding mission of America stated in the Preamble of its founding document reads as follows: “We, the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common Defense, promote the General Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our
Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
The first and seminal purpose was justice, followed by peace and security, and then by prosperity, and finally by freedom. The modern litany is “freedom and democracy,” which American military power is to give to the rest of the world. Entirely forgotten is that peace, prosperity, and freedom in the teachings of every religion come from
Justice, in turn, means nothing unless it is conceived as a product or expression of transcendent truth, which every person and community should always seek in the knowledge that truth is not created by man but by God and indeed constitutes the Will of God.
Jefferson taught that organized religion and organized political power, known as Church and State, must remain forever separated, so that faith and reason power unconstrained by organized power may always support each other in wise governance. The key to Thomas Jefferson’s thought may be found in his profound statement, “No nation can remain free unless the people are properly educated. Education consists primarily in teaching virtue. And no nation can remain virtuous unless all personal and public life is infused with awareness and love of Divine Providence.” This was his non-trinitarian way of referring to God.
This faith-based paradigm of thought provides the basis for the grand strategy of seeking justice as the source of order rather than as its product. This reasoning explains why any “new world order,” as distinct from a strategy for a “new world justice” by definition is both un-Islamic and un-American.
Now we need to consider the recent history of the term “New World Order” in order to explain why real, revolutionary change is needed to move from what was to what can be. The most influential modern American strategist and the real gray eminence behind the permanent foreign policy establishment, which normally governs policy behind the scenes, is Henry Kissinger.
Kissinger opposed any use of the term “new world order” when the first President Bush in 1990, after the collapse of Communism, called for a Pax America, referring to the most powerful world empire of recent times known as Pax Britannica. President Bush then neutralized the term by converting it to “pax universalis.” Others started to use the term “new world order” as a still more acceptable synonym, but Kissinger said the world was not yet ready for such a term. He used the term “new world order” for the first time on August 14, 2002, in a position paper published as an op-ed piece in the Washington Post in order to justify the need for an immediate invasion of Iraq. He listed what became the standard rationales, namely, weapons of mass destruction, freedom and democracy, and the stability of oil prices. He was unique in also listing the defense of Israel. He emphasized, however, that the real reason for invading Iraq was to institute a new international law that would legitimize unilateral pre-emption whenever necessary in order to avoid chaos and sustain world order.
Perhaps the first use of this term, novus orbis terrarum, I found forty years ago in a hidden room up in the attic of the old Library of Congress full of ancient books and incunabula. There in a pig-skin bound volume in Latin from the 1500s was a large tome with the title novus orbis terrarum and many books on Islam that presumably were not fit for public consumption.
The term “new world order” became a code-word for NeoConservatism. For almost half a century I have been a critic of this utopian movement and especially of its existential and pathological fear of global chaos as its driving force, because fear is the enemy of hope, and hope is the substance of both faith and justice.
Neo-Conservatism has had several mentors, but the two most influential founders were Leo Strauss and Robert Strausz Hupe, both exiles from Nazi Germany. Born in 1899 in Germany, he was deeply influenced by the Nazi takeover of Germany in 1933 from the Weimar Republic, which Strauss asserted “presented the spectacle of justice without power, or of a justice incapable of resorting to power.” The Straussians, based in his Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago, laid the foundation for the neo-conservatives’ near paranoia about the threat of universal chaos and for their conviction that peace is possible only by proactive projection of force to preempt the very possibility of attacks on America’s vital interests.
Strauss’s influence on neo-conservatism and its influence today is perhaps best shown by the impact on President Bush in March, 2001, before 9/11, by the former Israeli military man, Robert D. Kaplan, who briefed President Bush on his book, The Coming Anarchy: Shattering the Dreams of the Post Cold War. Kaplan presented his thesis that the world faces a “Lord of the Flies meltdown,” that America’s dominance is
tenuous, and that “the most important moral commitment for America is to preserve its power.”
Kaplan’s subsequent book, Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos, was required reading in the higher circles of Washington policymaking leading up to the attack on Iraq in March, 2003. Kaplan’s basic message is that, “Our moral values … represent our worst vulnerabilities,” and that the only realistic grand strategy for
America after 9/11 is to follow the enduring relevance of ancient principles represented by the great empires of antiquity.” He proclaimed that “the new element in the world after 9/11 is that barbarians have exploited a global ideology – Islam - to recruit ‘holy
warriors’ and allies in a global war that has now struck at the heart of the empire. The only adequate counter-strategy is to remake the map of the Middle East, and indeed of the world, not geographically but through regime change in order to eliminate the ideological infrastructure of terrorism.”
This is right out of Leo Strauss’s playbook, though Strauss was a master of the classical philosophy of the ancients and not a military strategist. Strauss saw an inherent tension between liberalism, which can lead to relativism, and the active defense of democracy by bold measures against forces that do not share American values. Although he was an atheist Jew, Strauss emphasized the necessity of superiority in principles, even if this required the ministrations of religion to
maintain the solidarity of the populace. He taught that the key to pro-active democracy against its enemies is the “superiority of the regime,” by which the younger or second-generation Straussians understand a quasi-religious exaltation of American values worldwide against the threat of both state and sub-state tyrannies of thought and action.
This new interpretation of Strauss’s basic concepts can embody utopian messianism on a par with that of modern Evangelicals. Both the first and second-generation followers of Leo Strauss call for the rule of law in the world but only after a new world order has been established by astute orchestration of America’s overwhelming military and economic power.
True to their philosophical god-father, the present-day neo-cons during their rule in Washington had had no qualms about constructing a working alliance among establishmentarians, religious devotees, and their own revolutionary vision. This vision calls for global acceptance of their own universal paradigm under the auspices of their own planetary regime.
The second principal mentor of the neo-conservatives, and the most profound of them all, was a former investment banker, Robert Strausz-Hupe, who fled Germany during the depression. In 1965, Strausz-Hupe brought me up from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, of which I was one of the four co-founders on September 4, 1962, in order to write a book on grand strategy and be groomed as his successor as head of the Foreign Policy Research Institute at the University of Pennsylvania. He considered himself to be a principled conservative (subsequently known as a
paleo-conservative) back when the only other choices were to be an American liberal, a European Social-Democrat, a Trotskyite Maoist, or a Soviet Stalinist. He was not outwardly religious, but was a deeply moral man who abhorred the reactionary conservatism that he thought played into the hands of the totalitarians of the left.
Dr. Strausz-Hupe was definitely not a neo-conservative in the sense of supporting Israel as an independent foreign policy goal or even sympathizing with secular Zionism, as distinct from the spiritual Zionism best reflected in the profound wisdom of the chief rabbi of Palestine from 1919 to 1935, Rebbe Abraham Isaac Kook.
Like all great thinkers and visionaries, Strausz-Hupe was controversial. For him all politics was moral crusade and he always knew the enemy. Communism was not a geopolitical force, as it was for Kissinger, but an evil empire. The only real power in the world for him was moral authority. He insisted that one can not exercise moral
authority while denying the authority of morality.
This conceptual emphasis on basing all foreign policy on absolute truth derivative from a transcendent source put Strausz-Hupe and Kissinger, as well as most of the present generation of neo-conservatives, at opposite ends of the metaphysical spectrum, as well as on opposite sides of the cultural warfare that has racked Euro-America and through it the entire world for more than a century.
Like Ronald Reagan, who appointed him in his old age as U.S. Ambassador to Sweden, Strausz-Hupe was open to see in Zionism, as well as in Islam, both bad and good based on performance. He saw both Zionism and Islam as potential allies against Communism and in building a new world order. He did not even exclude a new civilizational force, such as a revived Islam, as the “historical center of gravity” in the
The brilliance and European urbanity of Strausz-Hupe impressed every American president, and he was an honored member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Although Strausz-Hupe never attended the global strategy councils of the Bilderberg, Bohemian Grove, Renaissance Weekend, Davos, and other such groups, he was never far removed from the inner councils of the permanent foreign policy establishment. His thinking was incompatible with Kissinger’s leadership of the Bilderberg group, but he had much in common with the other principal Bilderberg leader, Under Secretary of State George Ball, who spent his entire career trying to infuse morality into American foreign policy. All three, Strausz-Hupe, Kissinger, and Ball, had as their common
methodology the orchestration of global power by intellectual control of elite thought in America. They knew where real power lies in any civilization, they saw the same threats to it, and they agreed on the same basic solutions.
Strausz-Hupe was a progenitor of neo-conservatism in the sense that he first presented coherently the concept of unilateral American leadership in the world. In his seminal article, “The Balance of Tomorrow,” published at the beginning of 1957 in the first issue of his journal, Orbis: A Quarterly Journal of World Affairs, he introduced the
founding paradigm of America’s first foreign policy think-tank, the Foreign Policy Research Institute. More than a third of a century before the demise of Communism and Francis Fukuyama’s paradigm of “the end of history,” Dr. Strausz-Hupe formulated what we might call the mother of all imperialist paradigms. He forecast not only that Communism was doomed to failure and extinction but that democracy would
succeed it as the world-ordering principle if the United States were prepared to seize the opportunity.
Strausz-Hupe’s paradigm was known as a forward strategy to win the protracted conflict against the forces of chaos. The following are quotes from his seminal articulation of this paradigm in his founding think-piece, “The Balance of Tomorrow”:
“The issue before the United States is the unification of the globe under its leadership within this generation. How effectively and rapidly the United States will accomplish this task will determine the survival of the United States as a leading power, probably the survival of Western culture, and conceivably the survival of mankind.
“This task must be accomplished within the near future because of two overriding considerations: 1) the political emergence of the Asian peoples, together with their tremendous population growth, is altering profoundly the international and regional balance of power and presages regional and international conflicts and war; and 2) within the foreseeable future, a number of nations, other than the United States,
the Soviet Union, and Britain, will acquire nuclear weapons and other means of mass destruction.
“There are many and convincing reasons why this earth should be politically one. But these reasons, namely, the explosive forces on the loose in Asia and the implications of a multiple balance of nuclear power, are sufficient to necessitate the establishment of unitary world rule. The collapse of ancient empires, the rise of population pressure, the disintegration of old cultures, and shifts in balance-of-power attended by radical changes in weapons techniques have always been followed by revolution and war. There is no reason to believe that the contemporary statecraft has succeeded in flattening out’ the great cycles of history. By the same token, upon all revolutionary ages followed the establishment of a universal order in the image and under the domination of one power. The establishment of such a universal order has become now the sole alternative to anarchy and the destruction of what man has wrought since his ancestors left their caves. The one and only question therefore is who will be the
people that will establish the universal order in their image and under their domination. … .
“The United States now meets with historical necessity. The United States remains as the sole holder of federative power. The one question to be answered is: will the United States do what must be done? …
“The United States is uniquely fitted for leadership in global unification. The immense military power of the United States is, of course, the first and indispensable attribute of leadership. …
“Will the coming world order be the American Universal empire? It must be that – to the extent that it will bear the stamp of the American spirit. Since the American spirit is that of an open society – open to all men and all cultures – and since the political genius of America is the federative idea, the distinction between rulers and ruled will fade into a continuous process of assimilation. The coming world order will
mark the last phase in a historical transition and cap the revolutionary epoch of this century. The mission of the American people is to bury the nation states, lead their bereaved peoples into larger unions, and overawe with its might the would-be saboteurs of the new world order who have nothing to offer mankind but putrefying
ideology and brute force.
“It is likely that the accomplishments of this mission will exhaust the energies of America and that the historical center of gravity will shift to another people. But this will matter little, for the opening of new horizons which we now faintly glimpse will usher in a new stage in human history; man will have found in cosmic ventures an equivalent for war. Man may destroy himself but then he will do so by means other
than war. This part of the human story is still mercifully veiled to anyone now living. For the next fifty years or so the future belongs to America. The American empire and mankind will not be opposites but merely two names for the universal order under peace and happiness. Novus orbis terrarum.”
An important acolyte and leader of Neo-Conservativism is the former House speaker, Newt Gingrich, who introduced the new element of Islamophobia to replace the Neo-Conservatives’ earlier selection of Communism as its existential threat. On February 8, 1995, at a conference of military and intelligence officers on developing global
strategy, Speaker Gingrich announced, “I have yet to see a coherent strategy for fighting Islamic totalitarianism.”
This neo-conservative attack on Islam as a religion reverses the normal distinction between Islam as a peaceful religion and Muslims as occasional totalitarian extremists. To attack the religion, as distinct from its misled followers, is a technique of mimetic warfare to control the terminology of public debate by introducing mimes or words as symbolic shorthand for entire visions, paradigms, and accompanying strategies.
The purpose ofsuch disinformation is to revive the concept of protracted conflict etween the old forces of the “totalitarian” Evil Empire or Axis of Evil and the white knights of the “free world” fighting for “freedom and democracy.” The emotive word “totalitarian” becomes an instrument of thought control designed to escalate the
battle against terrorism to the ideological level of grand strategy, because totalitarianism was the major global threat to Western civilization for most of the twentieth century.
The danger of such a self-fulfilling prophecy and action in accord with it is that Islam might no longer be able to function as an ally of America against fascism and every kind of tyranny, as both President Nixon and Strausz Hupe envisioned it, but, by association with the term “totalitarian,” must become an inexorable and mortal enemy.
By the mere turn of a phrase, Islam becomes not merely a religion that occasionally has been distorted to produce both private and state-sponsored terrorism, but a generic monster that must be fought wherever it raises its ugly head, because “Islamic totalitarianism” by definition threatens the survival of the free world.
This simple turn of terminology serves to short-circuit thought so that operational doctrine and specific military plans no longer have to be based on knowledge. The thinking has already been done and encapsulated in the new language, where symbolism becomes an unchallengeable reality. And by a process of self-fulfilling prophecy, the potential danger becomes real and thereby triggers a spiraling
confrontation of action and reaction with the zero-sum result of universal chaos.
The intended result of such mimetic warfare is the formation of an alliance among the formerly competing paradigms of status quo establishmentarianism, messianic evangelism, and neo-conservatism, all focused on the institution of a Pax America as a permanent new world order through bold policies of unilateral, military preemption.
III. America’s Financial Meltdown: The Beginning of the End of Pax America?
If this is the history of the so-called New World Order, what are the prospects for its replacement by a new paradigm of global governance based on justice? If the very concept of a New World Order is un-Islamic, what are the prospects for a new paradigm of peace, prosperity, and freedom through faith-based cooperation in the pursuit of faith-based, compassionate justice? What are the prospects nor for
New World Order but for New World Justice?
In the discipline of grand strategy, a distinction is made between the subjective factor and the objective factor. The subjective factor refers to the process of deliberately setting the agenda for policy, because whoever controls the agenda controls policy. The objective factor is the environment of policymaking that develops outside one’s
The prime example of radical change of the objective factor in recent history is America’s financial meltdown in the Year 2008, which may be more important for the global future than the mystery attack on America’s symbols of power on September 11, 2001.
The economic problems that have dominated the headlines in the final weeks of the American presidential election in the Year 2008 are not new. More than a decade ago, the world’s richest man, Warren Buffet, and one of the richest, George Soros, warned that the fundamental basis of the current system of money and credit was like a nuclear bomb waiting to explode.
Half a century ago, when I specialized as a student at Harvard Law School on legal problems of international investment, the very nature of money in Western finance as a commodity rather than merely as a medium of exchange convinced me that the World Bank and International Monetary Fund as instruments of justice in globalization were set up to fail both financially and as political instruments, because by their very nature they could serve only to promote the further concentration of wealth both within and among nations. Concentrated ownership of the means of production, either in a financial and economic elite or in a socialist politburo, is the most fundamental cause of both injustice and terrorism.
Twenty-five years later, I addressed this issue as Chairman of the Financial Markets Committee of President Reagan’s Presidential Task Force on Economic Justice in 1985, following the lead of the new breed of paradigm shapers, Louis Kelso and Norman Kurland. Our task was to introduce fundamental measures to perfect the existing institutions because it was clear that the sobering times of today would eventually come and that the superficial steps now being taken by Washington and
Wall Street would not be sufficient to permanently fix and avoid the financial and economic crises of the past few months in ways that would make a difference for Main Street.
The financial sector of America’s economy today may be saved temporarily at an enormous cost, so great that the new Administration in 2009 will have to set priorities by deferring our global power ambitions in order to pay for domestic programs designed to secure entitlement programs for health, education, and social security. The financial sector of our economy, until it started to dissolve this year, amounted to a third of the total, consisting in artificial wealth that did not exist, namely, the buying and selling of credit based on the creation of money at as much as a 30 to 1 leveraging - i.e., the capital requirement for banks, hedge funds, insurance derivatives, and
short sales to create money backed only by debt rather than by value in the bank’s real assets.
The rest of our economy, namely, the production and consumption of goods and services, is still strong, despite the stock market’s reflection of fear that it is not. As President Roosevelt famously said on March 4, 1933, ‘‘The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.’’ This, in fact, is an optimistic exaggeration.
Monday’s one-day drop on October 15th almost equaled the big one of a week earlier, and seems to show more of the dynamics that produced the greatest one-week percentage drop in the Dow Jones’ 112 year history, namely, 18 percent, ending on October 10, 2008. This is two percentage points worse than the second worst ending on July 22, 1933, and five points worse than the crash of November 9, 1929, which was only 13.5 percent. Americans can perhaps take invidious comfort in the fact,
however, that last week Japan’s Nikkei lost 24 percent and that both Germany’s Dax and Britain’s FTSE lost more than 21 percent. Furthermore, the four-year decline of the early 30’s wiped out 90 percent of the Dow, whereas by mid-October, 2008, it had lost a little less than half since the high point above 14,000 a year ago.
We have yet to see how much the real goods market will respond to promises of stricter regulation of the financial markets; to the shift of 250 billion of the 700 billion bailout intended initially for financials to partially nationalize the 5,000 banks in America - assuming that many of the 4991 smaller banks will agree to sell ownership; to federal insurance for these smaller banks in order to free up credit for America’s thousands of productive enterprises; and to a number of relatively peripheral add-ons. The big-nine banks have simply been ordered to sell stock to the government in order to get federal largesse, on the assumption that the smaller banks will follow suit. This assumption may be more dreamland stuff, since the smaller banks did not speculate in junk derivatives and see no reason why they should be penalized for the drying up of credit caused by the big banks’ decision not to serve as commercial banks and instead to indulge in speculative investment in order to create artificial profits from a giant ponzi scheme. The Fed merely assumes that competition will force the smaller banks to knuckle under to a partial takeover by the Fed as a preferred shareholder with first rights to dividends.
Eventually, we will get back to a semblance of stability and growth, but nowhere is there any evidence that the so-called “experts” have even considered the essential recommendations that we originally intended to make for Reagan’s Presidential Task Force on Economic Justice. Our recommendations, spelled out in entire books available at http://www.cesj.org but dropped early on in the Task Force as too ambitious at
that time, called for adoption of the real bills doctrine, whereby money would be created only in return for real value, that is, for investment in productive enterprises, in accordance with Article 13 of the legislation that created the Federal Reserve system as a private bank in 1913 but was never used. We also proposed a two-tier system of
money and credit providing that interest-free money would be made available through pure credit for those enterprises owned by the employees and by members of community investment corporations, so that consumer power would always match production and thereby avoid the boom-or-bust nature of the existing financial system.
The best presentation of such a revolution in money and banking may be found in Norman G. Kurland’s article, “A New Look at Prices and Money: The Kelsonian Model for Achieving Growth without Inflation,” © 1972, revised in 2002 and published in The Journal of Socio-Economics, vol. 30, pp. 495-515, which is available online at http://www.cesj.org.
These two primary pillars in the pursuit of economic democracy, namely, asset-backed money and pure interest-free credit, both designed to broaden capital ownership, would also make possible the real political democracy that would follow the broadening of capital ownership as a universal human right. This is the answer to Baron Rothchild’s
arrogant comment, “Let me issue and control a nation’s money and I care not who writes the laws.”
Instituting the real bills doctrine, which is the core of Islamic economics, and introducing pure credit without the burden of interest based on the credit of past savings, constitute the only real changes that can make a permanent difference in the world economy and, in turn, in the Fourth World War against Terrorism and in efforts to render unnecessary its unfortunate corollary of terroristic counter-terrorism.
We have been waiting now for a quarter century for the collapse that has been inevitable, because we figured that only in a crisis of unprecedented proportions would real change even be considered. Theoretically the Republicans should be the first to adopt the fundamental restructuring of the institutions of money and credit initially recommended by President Reagan’s pioneering task force, which was created by an act of Congress to close the wealth gap when we could not get past the opposition of the elite interest groups in the White House to our slogan, ‘‘Own or Be Owned.’‘
The Republicans should be more temperamentally disposed than Democrats to understand that the underlying error in Keynesian economics taught in almost all graduate schools in America is the fantasy that wealth is produced primarily by labor, which is the core of Communist economics and has been since the Great Crash of the early 1930s. My father, who taught economics at Harvard University during the ‘‘Crash,’’ tried to persuade his students not to become Communists. He called
himself a Republican Socialist, an oxymoron that now fits perhaps a whole new
generation of Republicans. He always advocated ‘‘normative economics’’ based on justice, but not until his old age would he even consider the teachings of ‘‘binary economics’‘, according to which real wealth, as much as 90 percent, in a capital intensive economy is created not by labor, as postulated by Karl Marx, but by capital, namely, the machines, infrastructure, and management expertise that produce the
wealth. Binary economics, which recognizes two factors of production, both capital and labor, teaches that citizens should work together in solidarity to perfect the institutions of society in order to remove the barriers to individual ownership of wealth producing assets beyond one’s own labor as a wage-slave.
Unfortunately, but perhaps predictably, neither of the major American political parties have called for real change in either domestic or foreign policy, perhaps because politicians have learned never to get out in front on anything that might be controversial.
Perhaps the transition team of whichever party wins the presidential election three weeks from now will feel free to consider real change as the only way to assure that it will remain competitive for the election of 2012. If not, the dilemma of guns versus butter will be overwhelming and might set the stage in America for the rise of a third
party, as advocated in http://www.americanrevolutionaryparty.us .
IV. Forecasting the Future: The End of Empire
through Compassionate Justice and Faith-Based Reconciliation
The future of the world will not be determined by continuation of the past, as exemplified by the Republican Administration during 2001-2008. It may be influenced by the financial bankruptcy of the New World Order in the meltdown of 2008. The future of the world will be determined in part by the success or failure of the growing movement known as Common Ground.
This movement started in response to Pope Benedict XVI’s Regensberg speech of October 12, 2005, which was widely perceived as an attack on Islam as a religion and as a radical change from the interfaith outreach of his predecessor, John Paul II. This helped to spark intra-faith conferences that year, following the Amman Message of July, 2005, at which the leading Islamic scholars of the world convened in Amman, Jordan, to condemn the growing practice of Muslim extremists, known as takfir, to condemn as apostates those who disagree with them.
This was the first such universal fatwa by all six of the Islamic schools of law in decades. This was designed to launch a global process of intra-faith dialogue and cooperation among Muslims. It was obvious that the first step in inter-faith understanding and cooperation must be intra-faith cooperation within each of the major world religions, based on understanding that the real clash of civilizations is not among civilizations but within each of them.
The first major initiative at the inter-faith level following this intra-faith opening was the Open Letter to the Pope, on October 12, 2006, in which thirty-eight authoritative Islamic scholars from every branch of Islam for the first time spoke comprehensively with one voice about the true teachings of Islam. This was followed by a letter of
September 13, 2007, from 138 authoritative Islamic scholars, entitled “A Common Word Between Us and You,” which was even more inclusive than the first one and for the first time since the days of Prophet Muhammad, salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa salam, declared the “common ground” between Christianity and Islam.
In November, 2007, a group of scholars at Yale Divinity School drafted a reply to A Common Word, entitled “Loving God and Neighbor Together: A Christian Response to ‘A Common Word Between Us and You’,” which was endorsed by more than 300 leading Christian scholars in an effort to reorient Muslim-Christian relations away from “a clash of civilizations.” This, in turn, led to the first of a series of conferences beginning at Yale University on July 24th-31st, 2008, to be followed by four more at Cambridge University, The Vatican, Georgetown, and the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute in Jordan.
This pioneering process has been enriched by parallel efforts, especially by the conference held by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in Madrid at the end of July, 2008, to bring Jewish scholars into the process for the first time. Although not part of the formal agenda, King Abdullah floated a trial balloon by recommending that Saudi Arabia promote freedom of religion by two very bold steps. The first is to develop a new international law within the jurisdiction of the World Criminal Court to criminalize all malicious attacks on religion, which have been mounting not only against Islam but against Judaism and to a lesser extent in some countries against Christianity. The second of these measures to promote freedom of religion is King Abdullah’s
recommendation that Saudi Arabia provide freedom for Christians to build churches in the Kingdom outside of the precincts of Makkah and Madina.
This process, which collectively has become known as the movement toward Common Ground, has faltered at times because of the Muslim emphasis on love as the essence of common ground, and because of the Vatican’s insistence that common ground must include justice, including freedom of religion in Saudi Arabia. This issue is to be discussed next weekend at Harvard’s Divinity School in my presentation on October
25th entitled “Transforming Interfaith Dialogue to Interreligious Solidarity for Justice.” My contention is that initiatives in interfaith understanding are sterile unless their result is interfaith cooperation in promoting transcendent justice.
The concept of transcendent justice is basic to every religion but has been cast into the outer political abyss by secular modernists for almost two hundred years. The Catholics began to bring it back to prime time attention in the late 1800s in response to the injustices of secularism and warlord capitalism. Muslims lagged behind and did not seriously begin to address justice as part of the essence of religion until the early and mid-twentieth century.
The major civilizational deficit in Islamdom for six hundred years has been the eclipse of justice as central to the faith, even though classical Islam of the third to seventh Islamic centuries, roughly 900 to 1400 A.C., excelled all other religions in the development of justice as a framework of thought. Only in Shi’a Islam did justice
survive as a central concept, because the Shi’a have always listed loving submission to God as their first article of faith and justice as second among the five articles in their creed or ‘aqida.
The frontier of Islamic renewal now throughout the Muslim world is the revival and further development of the system of normative law that developed over centuries during the classical period as the maqasid al shari’ah or basic purposes of Islamic law, also known as the kulliyat or universals and dururiyat or essentials.
These universal principles can provide for all religions and civilizations the framework for the pursuit of a new world of compassionate justice based on “right makes might” as the ultimate H-bomb in the world in order to replace the existing world of mutual
destruction based on “might makes right.” Last summer, scholars from around the world gathered for an intensive month of discussion at the International Institute of Islamic Thought in Herndon, Virginia, to revive and explore methodologies to derive guidance from the Qur’an and Sunnah for contemporary issues of conscience.
Two of the major methodologies upon which thought was focused were the maqasid al shari’ah and nazm or the coherence of the Qur’an. The IIIT has published several books both in translation from Arabic and in the original English on the maqasid and is developing a proposal for a twenty-year project to prepare an online Wikipedic-type encyclopedia of faith-based justice along the normative lines of Robert Maynard
Hutchins’ 15th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, which required forty years to complete.
The format of the maqasid that may be used in this encyclopedia is similar to that developed by the last of the great maqsudi scholars, Al Shatibi, toward the end of the Andalusian flowering of Islamic civilization before the advent of extreme corruption led to the defeat of the Muslim princedoms in Spain. It is to be influenced by the first
of the modern maqsudi scholars, the Grand Mufti of Tunisia, Shaykh Ibn Ashur, who published a major book on the subject in 1946 designed to revive and further develop Al Shatibi’s peak development of this science.
Very briefly, the architectonics of this system of thought consist of seven highest level purposes and two lower levels of specificity, all of them interdependent. The first is haqq al din, which the earlier scholars interpreted to mean the defense of Islam as a religion but Ibn Ashur refined to mean freedom of religion. The next two are haqq al
nafs or haqq al haya, which require respect for human identity and life, and haqq al nasl, which requires respect for the nuclear family and every level of community as derivative from the sacredness of the individual person. The next set of two consists of haqq al mal, which requires the institutionalization of respect for private property and its broad access by every member of society, and haqq al hurriya, which requires respect for self-determination of persons, communities, and nations through the institutionalization of political freedom. The last set consists of haqq al karama or respect for human dignity, especially for gender equity, and haqq al ‘ilm or respect for
knowledge, which requires freedom of thought, press, and assembly.
This differs fundamentally from the human rights advocated in some systems of secular ethics, which can be either relativistic and/or totalitarian, because the transcendent justice of traditionalist religions is a universal product of the three sources of knowledge, namely, haqq al yaqin or divine revelation, haqq al ‘ain or the
scientific study of the laws of the universe, including human psychology, and haqq al ‘ilm, or the use of human reason to understand the first two.
The emergence of a new world of justice does not need to end the American century, because this sophisticated code of human responsibilities and human rights is just as American as it is Islamic. Both civilizations contain the same wisdom at their core, but both have lost much of their heritage. The challenge for the twenty-first century is the same for all the world religions. Their scholars and popular leaders must join to explore and promote justice as their most essential common ground in order to revive the best of their unique pasts to guide the present and build a better global future.
The task of the scholars is to revive their common understandings of justice in the world religions and the holistic methodologies needed to produce a universal code of human responsibilities and rights rooted in faith-based compassionate justice and faith-based reconciliation. This cooperative undertaking can lead to solidarity in advancing a new perspective on interfaith dialogue and peacekeeping as a guide for the mobilization of a new generation of spiritual and religious scholars active in the public square on behalf of faith, pluralism, and cooperation in the pursuit of justice.
Copyright of In Focus, which is the Periodical Monograph Series of the Islamic Forum of Europe. This monograph was delivered in a talk at the London Muslim Centre on October 19, 2008, at a seminar convened by The Centre for the Study of Terrorism with the Islamic Forum for Europe.