Dr. Robert D. Crane
I. Outing Islamophobia
Outing the Islamophobes is a new dimension in the intra- and inter-civilizational conflicts in the world today. The cause of a world-wide flurry of concern and its possible reverberations was published by CBS News, http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/12/19/opinion/main7166626.shtml on December 19th, 2010, under the title “The Great Islamophobic Crusade”. The orginal title of Max Blumenthal’s article or “position paper” is “The Great Islamophobic Crusade: Inside the Bizarre Cabal of Secretive Donors, Demogogic Bloggers, Pseudo-Scholars, European Neo-Fascists, Violent Israeli Settlers, and Republican Presidential Hopefuls Behind the Crusade”.
Max Blumenthal’s article exposes the organizational linkages, but also uses the same techniques of guilt by association and circumstance that is so common among Islamophobes in trying to counter Muslim extremists by using the strategy of collective guilt.
This article has shocked those Muslims who have been too good-hearted to take seriously the threats to freedom of religion and to themselves. It has created panic about the possibility of an impending genocide against Muslims, without differentiating sufficiently between Jews and the threat itself.
Max’s article indeed should be read by everybody, especially by those with counter-terrorism responsibilities, but any appearance of attributing this to Jews as a form of collective guilt is precisely the extremism that threatens all people of faith.
For forty years, I have been making the point that NeoConservatism is not a tool of radical Zionism, especially since I spent a year as the first director of the Dialogue Commission of the IFC (Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington) in 1983-84 and was the first Muslim plenary speaker at the ICCJ (National Conference of Christians and Jews) in 1986, which then changed its name to The National Conference for Community and Justice. If anything, AIPAC is a tool of NeoConservatism, rather than the other way around. They are both quite independent movements, based on an existentialist fear of global chaos and civilizational destruction. Both recognize that the totalitarianism of Nazism and the unique phenomenon of The Holocaust in human history, which I studied at Nurnberg as the first American student at a German university after World War II, still represent the greatest generic threat not only to the Jews but to the entire human species. Religious and ethnic cleansing can emerge as a threat to Muslims and to any other minority, which is why Muslims and Jews, even more than Christians, have an equal responsibility to avoid the global paranoia that one sees all over the world.
A major requirement for the global future is universal recognition of Jews as a unique nation in the world with a universal mission to pursue spiritually based human rights, including their special right to live as a nation in the Holy Land, providing that this does not degrade into religious tribalism and thereby exclude the rights of others to live there as well. This is premise number one for all interfaith work. All the rest is commentary. There are promising solutions, especially long-range ones, for the current impasse in the Holy Land, but they all must proceed from their basic premise.
II. The State/Nation Conflict
What is a nation and what is a state? Can one build two nations into a single state, as imperial nation-builders have tried to do all over the world in pursuit of stability and their own economic “security”? Or can one nation encompass two states, or even fifty as in the United States of America under the “states’ rights” doctrine. Or are their other options?
The difference between a state and a nation is spelled out in one of my five fifty-page position papers written in 1968 for Richard Nixon’s presidential election, based on my work as his principal foreign policy adviser and long-range global forecaster from 1963 to 1967. This position paper, entitled, “New Directions for American Foreign Policy: Some Thoughts for Macromodeling”, was published in the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s Orbis: A Quarterly Journal of World Affairs, Summer 1969. The objective of all five position papers was to introduce new paradigms of thought for what Nixon and I agreed were the five central issues in world affairs. Nixon insisted, more than forty years ago, that one of the five must be on “The Global Environment and Ecology”.
The essence of this particular position paper involving the difference between a nation and a state is captured in the three following paragraphs from Section Two, entitled “Pluralism: A Key to Peace and Progress in the Third World”:
“The third important relationship in American foreign policy is between the United States and the forces for modernization and conflict among the peoples of the Third World. In a sense this one is the most important of the three, because American policymakers seem to have had a poorer understanding of Third World dynamics than they have had of developments in the Soviet Union and Europe. U.S. relations with the Third World take on added importance because the likelihood of serious policy errors is greater here than in any other region of the world. ...
“The third major cause of conflict in the Third World arises from the clash between the centralizing efforts of modernizing states and the upsurge of independence among ethnic and other subordinate communal groups which want to modernize in their own way and at their own speed. This conflict between State and Community has become the dominant source of disorder throughout most of Asia and Africa, where the new states have inherited large colonial administrative territories. The immediate goal of those who replaced European rulers was to hang on to their new power. When the European imperialists created their colonies, they paid scant attention to ethnic boundaries, carving up diverse peoples who formerly were largely independent. These same peoples today often reject their indigenous overlords as bitterly as they did the European imperialists. ...
“In Asia and Africa the loyalties of indigenous ethnic and cultural communities or nations often survived intact throughout the period of European control. During the past two post-independent decades, the spread of education and the advent of mass communications have served to make these peoples conscious of their own unique values and the comparative deficiencies of neighboring peoples who might claim jurisdiction over them. The individual and mass alienation that everywhere has accompanied the process of secular modernization has impelled them to seek individual identity and group solidarity in communal nationalism. This fact conflicts directly with the attempts of modernization theorists to achieve greater societal efficiency by assimilating peoples into large centralized states. Centralization, in turn, accelerates the drive toward communal nationalism, and in some areas has triggered even movements toward confederal regionalism among communal nationalists extending beyond the confines of any single state. In effect, modernization, if it implies the centralized assimilation of politically conscious communities, is not an elixor of order and security but a cause of the very instability that McNamara hopes it will cure.”
This conflict between nation and state, and especially when one state occupies another nation or is perceived to have done so, is the cause of 80% of all suicide bombings around the world, most of them not committed by Muslims, though Muslim perpetrators of crimes against humanity get all the news coverage simply because Islam is a global force vulnerable to distortions by desperate and hate-filled Muslims.
Defending one’s identity is the most powerful motivating force, often more powerful than love, sex, and even survival. The Orbis article quoted above puts this in psychological terms:
“The imposition of centralized state power as a method of modernization without the concept of community-based coherence and responsibility behind it, the propagation of atomistic individualism as a means to societal transformation without a moral recognition of the value of the individual, and the accompanying attempt to impose an omnivorous collectivity without an appreciation of the responsibility and value of free community, all combine to create a crisis in identity and authority that has profoundly unsettled the Afro-Asian peoples. The efforts of the mobilizing state to monopolize personal and group loyalties at the single level of the political spectrum, and to diffuse legitimacy downward from the corporate state rather than to permit loyalty and legitimacy to spread upward from the families and communities of individual persons, have tended to cause a radical contraction of the individual away from nature and from other people into the material boundaries of the calculating ego. The primordial loyalties of communal nationalism in some instances have become a fulcrum either for a passive longing not to belong to any group or for the blind aggression of defensive self-assertion.”
What then precisely is a nation? One can define a “nation” as a large community in which the members have a common sense of their past, a common sense of identity in the present, and common hopes for the future. A nation is the middle level of community between the human species and the three local levels of community, traditionally the family, clan, and tribe.
Since a “nation” is primarily an identity, one can belong to several different nations. I am a Cherokee, a Muslim (as well as a Christian), an American, and even a Westerner. And I might even defend Rappahannock County seventy miles west of Washington, D.C. against any horde of “fureners” trying to escape from nuclear-bombed Washington, D.C. in order to raid our homes and steal all the cows here for food. I might even defend the family of bears who live on top of my mountain, even though they steal the bird food until I chase the poor bears away.
As Jeremy Henzell Thomas suggests, a nation can even be based on the identity of an idea or an approach to life. Americans like to think that they are “exceptional” because their founding paradigm is set out in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, which in priority gives the five purposes of their union, namely “to establish justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the blessings of Liberty”. Pakistan tried something similar, but it has rarely served as a model and certainly is no better than the model Americans have been working on for almost a quarter of a millennium.
America is what Ibn Khaldun, writing almost eight hundred years ago, would have called asabiyah hasanah or in modern terms good nationalism, as distinct from bad asabiya or tribalism. Asabiya is good if it functions to promote cooperation with other nations for their common good. It would be a bad nationalism if it is based on glorification of oneself at the expense of everyone else.
The model for governance based on multiple identities is the Madinah Covenant overseen by the Prophet Muhammad, in which the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities were called a single community or ummah. Jeremy Henzell Thomas reminds us that Muhammad Asad in his Foreword to the Message of the Qur’an writes: “[The Qur’an] ... shook Arabia, and made a nation out of its perennially warring tribes; within a few decades, it spread its world-view far beyond the confines of Arabia and produced the first ideological society known to man.” Jeremy further interprets that the term “ideology” is used here in the sense of something based on “ideas” (derived in this case from revelation) and not in the debased sense in which the word is often used today.
In his email of December 28th, 2010, about President Obama’s official representative to Muslims, Jeremy writes, “In my lecture at the British Academy earlier this year on being British and Muslim, I referred to the recent interview with Dalia Mogehed (who was also present at the lecture, and later attended a dinner in her honour) in the New Statesman in which Mehdi Hasan asked her: ‘Do you see yourself as an American first, or a Muslim first?’ She replied: ‘Hah! My favourite question! The two are complementary. My national identity is first American. My religious identity is first Muslim’.”
III. The Abraham Federation
How does this all play out now in the era of Islamophobia and the seemingly irresolvable conflict between two nations in the Holy Land?
The most ambitious but most reliable way to secure the human and group rights of both Jews and Arabs in the Holy Land is neither two states nor one state, but a third way. This way is an Abraham Federation composed of two nations co-located in a single political entity with their future together dependent on developing new industries broadly owned either by the workers in them or by both nations jointly in the Holy Land. This is spelled out in various articles posted over the past few years at http://www.theamericanmuslim.org (click Abraham Federation in the internal search engine).
For example, the rich natural gas resources off the coast of Gaza and Israel should not be developed, as now is planned, by British companies hired by Israel, but by an indigenous enterprise wholly owned by every resident of what is now Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank as the basis for developing entire new industries throughout the Holy Land and even beyond.
The challenge is to develop this Abraham Federation, first advocated by Norman Kurland thirty years ago, as a means to lessen the wealth gap by removing the barriers to diffusion of both economic and political decision making power to the level of the individual person, from which the sacredness of all human community and legitimacy originates. One might say that this is a strategy to sublimate the intractable conflict between two groups claiming state sovereignty over the same territory into a federal, or preferably a confederal structure, based on cooperation rather than conflict.
The concept of state sovereignty was invented at the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 to end the thirty-year religious war in Europe and eliminate all moral considerations from human governance, so that the sole criterion for political legitimacy would be the power physically to control a given territory. This was and still is the basis for modern imperialism. Unfortunately, this concept of state sovereignty was adopted by Herzl in 1896 as the basis for an exclusivist Jewish state, and the rest is history.
The concept of religious tribalism as the basis for human affairs might have had some survival benefits a million years ago, but it is now self-destructive, especially for Jews and Muslims, in the 21st-century era of “loose nucs”. As I have written in my books and articles for so many years, the future of the Holy Land will be a microcosm of the future of humanity on earth.
If a model can be developed there, then there is hope for places like Central Asia, so that the Pushtuns can form a single entity straddling major parts of both Afghanistan and Pakistan, or for places like the British-created state of Iraq, so that the Kurds can develop autonomously as a nation and regain the recognition denied them after World War I, or for a place like Myanmar (Burma), in which I have long been a specialist, where the minority Burmans, after the British left, grabbed control of a vast area that was and is home to half a dozen ancient nations.
The problem with all of this is that the most elemental concept of human rights might call for many of the countries on earth to be either federations or parts of a federation. This federative concept could extend to the global level in order to forestall the imposition of any centralized world government. Such undue concentration of power could be prevented only if the current economic decision-making power is pulverized by broadening capital ownership, which would require fundamental change in the entire notions of money and credit, including the elimination of the interest burden for pure credit and investment in real goods, i.e., in real wealth.
The tactical issue is how to proceed incrementally without biting off more than one can chew, while at the same time recognizing that the global future of peace, prosperity, and freedom through justice is one big ball of wax, i.e. holistic, and cannot be cut into totally separate pieces.
My recommended strategy for the peace, prosperity, and freedom of the Jewish nation and every other nation unfortunately encounters opposition in a world where both individuals and countries pursue power, prestige, plutocracy, and rampant pleasure as false gods. It has always been that those who warn against false gods have an uphill battle. And it has always been that success in pursuing divinely ordained human responsibilities and the corresponding human rights has been possible only through reliance on God, which is why we need taqwa, tauba, and tawakkul, loving awe of God, repentence, and reliance on divine guidance.
III. The Bottom Line
The key to peace, prosperity,and freedom through interfaith, compassionate justice is to focus on the common bottom line by emphasizing the positive. Rabbi Michael Lerner’s Tikkun Olam (to mend, repair, and transform the world), does so by appealing to the goodness of human nature. Norman Kurland’s Just Third Way calls for transforming the institutions of society so that people of good will can make a difference.
This combination is somewhat a problem of the chicken and the egg (which comes first?). Either one by itself would appear to be naive, so how does one pursue both together. The solution is to create the rooster in the form of alliances among people like Rabbi Lerner, Rabbi Saperstein, Muhammad Ali Chaudry, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, H.R.H Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan, Safi Kaskas, John Kiser, the Dalai Lama, and Norm Kurland working together, plus well-organized movements like Common Word, the Parliament of the World Religions, and Kairos Europa.
The task of transformation and the tension between the incremental, go-slow, global reformers and the revolutionaries who want everything to be done yesterday is well shown by Ulrich Duchrow’s long article, “A European Revival of Liberation Theology”, in the Winter 2011 issue of Tikkun, which arrived in home mailboxes the day before Christmas, 2010. Duchrow is professor of systematic theology at the University of Heidelberg, specializing in ecumenical theology and issues of economics. He is the co-founder and moderator of Kairos Europa, “an ecumenical network striving for economic justice”.
Duchrow’s article focuses on the joint statement by twenty-six European initiatives and networks in preparation for the May 2011 International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in Kingston, Jamaica. His article makes some good points, such as that, “We reject an economic order that makes money and capital a commodity and an end in itself, [instead of] at the service of genuine economic activity”. It also emphasizes the importance of differing paradigms, such as the Christian paradigm of original sin, which can lead ironically to Hobbesian totalitarianism, versus the opposite reliance on the power of good, which, however, must come from the bottom up, not from the top down either economically or politically.
The latter paradigm concludes with the statement, “There is a great cultural shift in the making. More and more people realize that the present way of life and economic system has no future. ... The crisis we are in is not just a financial crisis, but a deep crisis of modernity that builds on a presupposition, formulated by the philosopher Descartes in the seventeenth century, ‘Man is the lord and owner of nature’.” In other words, human beings, who are created as stewards of creation, claim now to be the ultimate creators, who therefore determine truth and their own responsibilities and rights as false gods.
The missing dimension of this paradigmatic shift, perhaps the greatest since hunter gatherers started agriculture and eventually invented capital intensive economics, is the Just Third Way, http://www.cesj.org and http://www.americanrevolutionaryparty.us, as a strategy that both requires this great cultural shift and at the same time makes its success possible.