That Muslims and Jews Coexist Is Not an Option - It Is An Imperative

Dr. Abdul Cader Asmal

Posted Feb 8, 2007      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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Dr. Abdul Cader Asmal

What started as a local political conflict between Arabs and Israelis in the Middle East now threatens to become a worldwide confrontation between Jews and Muslims. Unless this situation is contained it imperils the future well-being of all humanity. The current antipathy is in stark contrast to the harmony that existed between Muslims and Jews for centuries and presided over the burgeoning of their respective civilizations. 

Since the time of their historic accord, the scriptures of Islam and Judaism have not changed, but life for Muslims and Jews has. From the pinnacle of their civilization Muslims have plummeted into a nadir and see themselves as the victims of post-colonialism.  Once the pariah of society, Jews have now become a powerful and influential global community that has staked a claim in ancient Israel.  Thus has arisen a political struggle between Israel and the Palestinians for the inalienable right to live in if not own the Holy Land.  The harmony of yesteryear has been replaced by the acrimony of war, the exchange of propagandist Muslim anti-Semitism and Jewish anti-Islamism, and a permissive media reductionism.

The support of Palestinian rights or aspirations for independence is often construed as synonymous with espousing terrorism as a tactic to achieve this, or as an ‘anti-Semitic’ scheme to negate the legitimacy or existence of Israel. Such reductionism is as much of an affront to Muslims as it is to Jews to have their unqualified support of Israel be interpreted as ‘anti-Islamic’. Against this backdrop, circumstances have evolved to catapult the confrontation onto its current ominous trajectory. First was the growing perception of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as a religious one, pitting Muslims against Jews, rather than one based on international law, human rights and nationalism. Second was Sharon’s provocative march across the Noble Sanctuary that threw down the gauntlet at the Muslim world and polarized Muslim opinion. Third, was the assault by Bin Laden on 911 on innocent civilians for which he claimed religious justification; this act injected heresy into Islam and envenomated global ecumenical relations. The heresy has served as the inspiration for mindless fanatics to brand each other and all who disagree with them as ‘enemies of God’ thereby helping to transform the mantra in the so-called ‘global war on terror’ from ‘our enemies are Muslims’ to that ‘Muslims are our enemies’. Finally,  Bin Laden gave to the neo-cons the pretext they needed to deracinate Islam. 

While still bogged down in the neo-con quagmire of Iraq, can anything be done to avert the apocalyptic future that would begin with the neo-con-driven deployment of so-called ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons against Iran? From the Muslim perspective, condemnation of ‘terrorism’ is not enough: certainly not when so many innocent lives have been sacrificed to an ideology (Binladenism) that promotes the slaughter of innocents as Islamically acceptable. Only Muslims can expurgate the heresy that terrorizes Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and undermines the very essence of their spirituality. But they cannot do it alone, certainly not with the neo-cons’ relentless demonization of Islam. They need the help of all fair-minded people to repudiate bigotry. Islamophobia and anti-Islamism are expressions of hate, no less so than anti-Semitism, and civil society has a responsibility to display zero tolerance toward all. As the quintessential victims of bigotry the Jews have learned to deal with the hate-mongers in society. Perhaps they can reach out to Muslims in their hour of need. It could even be considered as ‘payback’ for the magnanimity with which Muslims had protected Jews from the pogroms of the ‘Dark Ages’. The confrontational neo-con agenda, which masquerades as though it were in the ‘national interest’ of the US, and as if it serves the purpose of a path to peace for Israel,  should be exposed as the ultimate threat to both.

The Iraq Study Group report has placed the Israel/Palestinian peace process issue center stage and the resolution of the conflict the key to stabilizing the entire region. If a new policy of rapprochement toward the Muslim countries, currently depicted as implacable enemies by neo-cons, is developed, there is hope for the prospect of peace. If on the other hand the neo-con agenda prevails, and Iran is ‘nuked’ pre-emptively,  literally all hell will be let loose with unforeseeable ramifications. With instability and mayhem on all its fronts, Israel will be a lost dream. It would face an endless army of people with no hope. No power on earth can stop those who must believe that salvation in death is the only solution to a life of endless oppression.

The time to ratchet down hostilities is now. The coming together of typecast foes may not be easy. On the other hand allowing fascists to chart the future of humanity is not a viable option. Rapprochement is the only answer to Isreal’s survival and Islam’s renaissance. There is nothing incompatible between Islam and Judaism that prevents Muslims and Jews from living together again. They have a moral imperative to do so, resting on the Muslim belief of a divinely-assigned stewardship of God’s creation, and the Jewish belief of ‘Tikkun’ or healing of God’s creation. With these credentials Muslims and Jews should not only be able to coexist but respond to the call, ‘peace on earth and goodwill to all men’, a timeless message with a universal appeal, we can all live with.