|From: AmericanVoter||9/2/2006 12:23:25 AM|
|Fascism glorifies the nation-state; Islam is transnational.|
August 29, 2006
Bigotry and Ignorance of Islam
by Charley Reese
President George Bush's ignorance of the Middle East and its people is well-known. So also is his habit of parroting words and sentences given to him by other people. He hit a new low when he referred to "Islamic fascists."
No two more opposite concepts are to be found. Fascism glorifies the nation-state; Islam is transnational. Fascism demands slavish devotion to a national leader; Muslims are far too independent-minded to be slavish followers of anybody. Virtually all the people Saddam Hussein murdered were people trying to overthrow him. Fascism is militaristic. Islam is not.
Mr. Bush, who has dubbed himself the "war president," has made a pathetic and absurd effort to picture himself as Winston Churchill facing off against evil. He is no Churchill. Most of the enemies he imagines, he has created himself.
The West faces no threat from Islam. Islam is one of the fastest-growing religions in the world, but it really is a religion of peace. More importantly, it is a religion that concentrates on individual salvation. There is no Muslim pope, no College of Cardinals, no bishops, no priesthood. Any five Muslims anywhere in the world can start their own mosque. Imams are teachers and, like Protestant preachers or Jewish rabbis, can be fired by their congregation. The Shi'ite version is slightly more organized.
A fatwa is a statement issued by an imam, usually explanatory. It is similar to statements issued by the pope, with this important difference: No Muslim is bound by any fatwa. Muslims are free to pay attention to it or to ignore it.
Islam, like Christianity, is a universal religion that ignores nationality, race or color. To become a Muslim, one must profess belief in one God, acknowledge Muhammad as his prophet, recognize the Quran as the word of God, pray five times a day, provide for the poor and, if possible, make a trip to Mecca once in your lifetime. The God Muslims worship is the same God Christians and Jews worship.
To dispose of some of the slanderous misstatements being floated about, Islam forbids forced conversions. People would do well to read some history rather than rely on ignorant and malicious radio and TV talk-show hosts. The oldest Christian communities in the world are all in Muslim countries. There have always been Christian and Jewish communities in the Muslim world. Muslims are commanded to treat Christians and Jews as they would treat themselves. They revere Jesus as a prophet and highly respect the Virgin Mary. The disputes you see in the modern Middle East are not religious; they are all about secular matters, principally Israeli occupation of Arab lands.
The Arabs see Israel as the last European colonialist state imposed on them by the European powers. That's true, in fact.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad are concerned only with ending Israeli occupation of Palestine. Hezbollah is concerned with ending Israeli occupation of Lebanon. Al-Qaeda wants to overthrow the Persian Gulf governments and is at war with us because we are the principal backers and supporters of those governments. Al-Qaeda alone is most un-Islamic and has been so labeled by a majority of Muslims. It is a small group.
If you wish to understand Islam, turn off your TV and go to the library. Introduce yourself to some of America's 6 million Muslims. You'll find them to be very decent and patriotic people. There are some fanatics among Muslims, just as there are among Jews and Christians. Most of the New England states were originally populated by people fleeing Puritan rule in Massachusetts.
The way to combat the fanatics is to extend the hand of friendship to ordinary Muslims and to protest the slander and libel of Muslims and Islam, just as you should protest the slander and libel of Jews and other groups. Bigotry should have no place in our public dialogue, regardless of the target.
It's obvious that President Bush will never understand the world into which he was born, but most Americans have more open minds – except, of course, those who prefer to click their heels and salute when their Fuehrer of choice speaks.
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|To: GROUND ZERO™ who wrote (752)||9/21/2006 6:02:09 AM|
|Majorities in every country polled say they would be concerned if Iran developed a nuclear bomb. |
Indeed in some nine countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom Australia, Israel, Canada, Brazil and Germany, a majority would be "very concerned" at such a development.
But concern is all very well - what do people think should be done?
And here there is far less comfort for those who back a tough line against Tehran.
Concern does not translate into a demand for firm international action.
There is little enthusiasm for military strikes against Iran if it refuses to halt its nuclear programme: on average only 11% back military action.
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|From: AmericanVoter||10/1/2006 1:44:03 AM|
|Muhammad's Sword |
by Uri Avnery
(Saturday September 23 2006)
Uri Avnery is a journalist, peace activist, former member of the Knesset, and leader of Gush Shalom. He is a regular contributor to Media Monitors Network (MMN).
"The story about "spreading the faith by the sword" is an evil legend, one of the myths that grew up in Europe during the great wars against the Muslims - the reconquista of Spain by the Christians, the Crusades and the repulsion of the Turks, who almost conquered Vienna. I suspect that the German Pope, too, honestly believes in these fables. That means that the leader of the Catholic world, who is a Christian theologian in his own right, did not make the effort to study the history of other religions."
Since the days when Roman Emperors threw Christians to the lions, the relations between the emperors and the heads of the church have undergone many changes.
Constantine the Great, who became Emperor in the year 306 - exactly 1700 years ago - encouraged the practice of Christianity in the empire, which included Palestine. Centuries later, the church split into an Eastern (Orthodox) and a Western (Catholic) part. In the West, the Bishop of Rome, who acquired the title of Pope, demanded that the Emperor accept his superiority.
The struggle between the Emperors and the Popes played a central role in European history and divided the peoples. It knew ups and downs. Some Emperors dismissed or expelled a Pope, some Popes dismissed or excommunicated an Emperor. One of the Emperors, Henry IV, "walked to Canossa", standing for three days barefoot in the snow in front of the Pope's castle, until the Pope deigned to annul his excommunication.
But there were times when Emperors and Popes lived in peace with each other. We are witnessing such a period today. Between the present Pope, Benedict XVI, and the present Emperor, George Bush II, there exists a wonderful harmony. Last week's speech by the Pope, which aroused a world-wide storm, went well with Bush's crusade against "Islamofascism", in the context of the "Clash of Civilizations".
In his lecture at a German university, the 265th Pope described what he sees as a huge difference between Christianity and Islam: while Christianity is based on reason, Islam denies it. While Christians see the logic of God's actions, Muslims deny that there is any such logic in the actions of Allah.
As a Jewish atheist, I do not intend to enter the fray of this debate. It is much beyond my humble abilities to understand the logic of the Pope. But I cannot overlook one passage, which concerns me too, as an Israeli living near the fault-line of this "war of civilizations".
In order to prove the lack of reason in Islam, the Pope asserts that the prophet Muhammad ordered his followers to spread their religion by the sword. According to the Pope, that is unreasonable, because faith is born of the soul, not of the body. How can the sword influence the soul?
To support his case, the Pope quoted - of all people - a Byzantine Emperor, who belonged, of course, to the competing Eastern Church. At the end of the 14th century, the Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus told of a debate he had - or so he said (its occurrence is in doubt) - with an unnamed Persian Muslim scholar. In the heat of the argument, the Emperor (according to himself) flung the following words at his adversary:
"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached".
These words give rise to three questions: (a) Why did the Emperor say them? (b) Are they true? (c) Why did the present Pope quote them?
When Manuel II wrote his treatise, he was the head of a dying empire. He assumed power in 1391, when only a few provinces of the once illustrious empire remained. These, too, were already under Turkish threat.
At that point in time, the Ottoman Turks had reached the banks of the Danube. They had conquered Bulgaria and the north of Greece, and had twice defeated relieving armies sent by Europe to save the Eastern Empire. On May 29, 1453, only a few years after Manuel's death, his capital, Constantinople (the present Istanbul) fell to the Turks, putting an end to the Empire that had lasted for more than a thousand years.
During his reign, Manuel made the rounds of the capitals of Europe in an attempt to drum up support. He promised to reunite the church. There is no doubt that he wrote his religious treatise in order to incite the Christian countries against the Turks and convince them to start a new crusade. The aim was practical, theology was serving politics.
In this sense, the quote serves exactly the requirements of the present Emperor, George Bush II. He, too, wants to unite the Christian world against the mainly Muslim "Axis of Evil". Moreover, the Turks are again knocking on the doors of Europe, this time peacefully. It is well known that the Pope supports the forces that object to the entry of Turkey into the European Union.
Is there any truth in Manuel's argument?
The pope himself threw in a word of caution. As a serious and renowned theologian, he could not afford to falsify written texts. Therefore, he admitted that the Qur'an specifically forbade the spreading of the faith by force. He quoted the second Sura, verse 256 (strangely fallible, for a pope, he meant verse 257) which says: "There must be no coercion in matters of faith".
How can one ignore such an unequivocal statement? The Pope simply argues that this commandment was laid down by the prophet when he was at the beginning of his career, still weak and powerless, but that later on he ordered the use of the sword in the service of the faith. Such an order does not exist in the Qur'an. True, Muhammad called for the use of the sword in his war against opposing tribes - Christian, Jewish and others - in Arabia, when he was building his state. But that was a political act, not a religious one; basically a fight for territory, not for the spreading of the faith.
Jesus said: "You will recognize them by their fruits." The treatment of other religions by Islam must be judged by a simple test: How did the Muslim rulers behave for more than a thousand years, when they had the power to "spread the faith by the sword"?
Well, they just did not.
For many centuries, the Muslims ruled Greece. Did the Greeks become Muslims? Did anyone even try to Islamize them? On the contrary, Christian Greeks held the highest positions in the Ottoman administration. The Bulgarians, Serbs, Romanians, Hungarians and other European nations lived at one time or another under Ottoman rule and clung to their Christian faith. Nobody compelled them to become Muslims and all of them remained devoutly Christian.
True, the Albanians did convert to Islam, and so did the Bosniaks. But nobody argues that they did this under duress. They adopted Islam in order to become favorites of the government and enjoy the fruits.
In 1099, the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem and massacred its Muslim and Jewish inhabitants indiscriminately, in the name of the gentle Jesus. At that time, 400 years into the occupation of Palestine by the Muslims, Christians were still the majority in the country. Throughout this long period, no effort was made to impose Islam on them. Only after the expulsion of the Crusaders from the country, did the majority of the inhabitants start to adopt the Arabic language and the Muslim faith - and they were the forefathers of most of today's Palestinians.
There is no evidence whatsoever of any attempt to impose Islam on the Jews. As is well known, under Muslim rule the Jews of Spain enjoyed a bloom the like of which the Jews did not enjoy anywhere else until almost our time. Poets like Yehuda Halevy wrote in Arabic, as did the great Maimonides. In Muslim Spain, Jews were ministers, poets, scientists. In Muslim Toledo, Christian, Jewish and Muslim scholars worked together and translated the ancient Greek philosophical and scientific texts. That was, indeed, the Golden Age. How would this have been possible, had the Prophet decreed the "spreading of the faith by the sword"?
What happened afterwards is even more telling. When the Catholics re-conquered Spain from the Muslims, they instituted a reign of religious terror. The Jews and the Muslims were presented with a cruel choice: to become Christians, to be massacred or to leave. And where did the hundreds of thousand of Jews, who refused to abandon their faith, escape? Almost all of them were received with open arms in the Muslim countries. The Sephardi ("Spanish") Jews settled all over the Muslim world, from Morocco in the west to Iraq in the east, from Bulgaria (then part of the Ottoman Empire) in the north to Sudan in the south. Nowhere were they persecuted. They knew nothing like the tortures of the Inquisition, the flames of the auto-da-fe, the pogroms, the terrible mass-expulsions that took place in almost all Christian countries, up to the Holocaust.
Why? Because Islam expressly prohibited any persecution of the "peoples of the book". In Islamic society, a special place was reserved for Jews and Christians. They did not enjoy completely equal rights, but almost. They had to pay a special poll-tax, but were exempted from military service - a trade-off that was quite welcome to many Jews. It has been said that Muslim rulers frowned upon any attempt to convert Jews to Islam even by gentle persuasion - because it entailed the loss of taxes.
Every honest Jew who knows the history of his people cannot but feel a deep sense of gratitude to Islam, which has protected the Jews for fifty generations, while the Christian world persecuted the Jews and tried many times "by the sword" to get them to abandon their faith.
The story about "spreading the faith by the sword" is an evil legend, one of the myths that grew up in Europe during the great wars against the Muslims - the reconquista of Spain by the Christians, the Crusades and the repulsion of the Turks, who almost conquered Vienna. I suspect that the German Pope, too, honestly believes in these fables. That means that the leader of the Catholic world, who is a Christian theologian in his own right, did not make the effort to study the history of other religions.
Why did he utter these words in public? And why now?
There is no escape from viewing them against the background of the new Crusade of Bush and his evangelist supporters, with his slogans of "Islamofascism" and the "Global War on Terrorism" - when "terrorism" has become a synonym for Muslims. For Bush's handlers, this is a cynical attempt to justify the domination of the world's oil resources. Not for the first time in history, a religious robe is spread to cover the nakedness of economic interests; not for the first time, a robbers' expedition becomes a Crusade.
The speech of the Pope blends into this effort. Who can foretell the dire consequences?
Uri Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is one of the writers featured in The Other Israel: Voices of Dissent and Refusal " amazon.com ". He is also a contributor to CounterPunch's hot new book The Politics of Anti-Semitism " amazon.com "
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|From: DeplorableIrredeemableRedneck||8/10/2013 9:37:20 AM|
|Judge Iran’s regime by its actions, not by empty words |
The Globe and Mail
Published Saturday, Aug. 10 2013, 6:00 AM EDT
Last updated Saturday, Aug. 10 2013, 8:18 AM EDT
This past weekend, the Islamic Republic of Iran inaugurated Hassan Rowhani as its seventh president. In the weeks and months ahead, the world will be watching to see if the hopes and aspirations of Iranians will be fulfilled.
Canada’s skepticism of the regime’s commitment to genuine reform stands. Despite the expression of the Iranian people on June 14, Iran’s nuclear non-compliance, its deliberate decision to ignore its human-rights obligations, its ongoing sponsorship of terrorist groups, its support for Syria’s Assad regime, and its own regular and inexcusable anti-Semitic rhetoric continues unabated and undeterred. Mr. Rowhani’s own tome of literature chronicling Iranian subterfuge and clever protraction of nuclear negotiations does little to enhance his own credibility.
I just have this feeling
Irrespective of these dubious confluences, after Mr. Rowhani’s inauguration, this regressive clerical military dictatorship appears to have yet another opportunity. The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has to decide whether he will continue to march Iran down its current path or whether he wants to allow Mr. Rowhani to roll back the apparatus of tyranny and fear, and place Iran within the community of nations committed to prosperity and freedom.
Maintaining the status quo will continue Iran’s isolation as international sanctions will remain in place. The status quo will also mean that Iran will continue its malevolent partnership with Hezbollah and Bashar al-Assad, and deploy the insidious Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. It will retain the same international standing and prestige as North Korea.
Alternatively, if the Supreme Leader allows Mr. Rowhani to immediately implement significant and deep changes in the regime’s irresponsible nuclear policies, its disregard for human rights and its destructive meddling in the Middle East, Iranians may yet see a brighter future.
Let us be clear about one irreducible fact: The choice is firmly the Supreme Leader’s to make. The Iranian President has historically been constrained and shaped by the Supreme Leader, which highlights the challenges facing Mr. Rowhani.
Some of these obstacles have already been underscored since the election in June. On July 31, Iran announced it was extending a $3.6-billion oil credit to the murderous Assad regime so it can continue butchering its own people. Iranians should be asking Mr. Rowhani why Iran is spending $3.6-billion to kill fellow Muslims in Syria, rather than investing in the economic prosperity of the Iranian people.
Human Rights Watch recently reported that executions in Iran have increased at an alarming rate since the election and that as many as 71 people have been executed since June 14. The real number is certain to be higher. Was this the change Iranians voted for?
The world cannot afford to take hints of moderation on key issues at face value while the regime continues to suffocate the aspirations of its people. Nor can we accept gestures that do not result in the systemic change Iranians demand and deserve. Serious change requires the regime to hold genuine nuclear talks with the P5+1 group, to fully co-operate with the International Atomic Energy Agency, to respect human rights, to stop supporting agents of death, destruction and chaos in the region, and to put the real interests of its citizens first.
Iranians deserve a future free of fear in which they can enjoy the benefits of hard work and build more prosperous lives for their children. Iranians deserve to have the institutions that allow them to debate and to determine their future in freedom. Iranians deserve to see the day that Iran takes its rightful place in international affairs as a respected regional power. These are the hopes that Iranians have told us they have invested in Mr. Rowhani.
Canada and the rest of the world will be looking to the regime to undertake deep reforms and to genuinely help Iranians realize their aspirations. The world will judge the regime by the actions it takes, not its empty platitudes or symbolic gestures.
John Baird is Foreign Affairs Minister.
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