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02 June 2013

Can Muslims, Christians, and Jews Reconcile?

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By Ralph Lord Roy

Sometimes, in conversation, I hear the question: "Why do they hate us so?" The 'they', of course, refers to radical Islamists who were responsible for 9/11 and various other outrageous, violent acts, including the bombs at the Boston Marathon in April.

I suggest that an important part of the answer may be summed up quite concisely. These jihadists, who represent only a tiny minority of the world's 1.2 billion Muslims, have become convinced that Christians and Jews - "Crusaders and Zionists" - are out to crush Islam. The Quran, their sacrd book, generally calls for moderation, but it also encourages devout Muslims to defend their faith and even take revenge upon those who seek to demean or destroy it.

Some scholars trace this current conflict back at least a thousand years to the Crusades. Present-day terrorists may focus on how Christians from Europe captured Jerusalem in 1099 and ruthlessly slaughtered the population. They may remember. too, how western empires - especially those of England, France, Italy and Holland - occupied many Muslim nations, from Morocco all the way to Indonesia, until liberation movements expelled them after World War II. More recently, they have wondered how self-proclaimed democratic countries, including the United States, could pretend to champion freedom while cooperating with dictators like Mubarak in Egypt and the ruling family in Saudi Arabia.

After Osama bin Laden appeared on the scene as leader of al Qaeda, he issued two Fatwas, in 1996 and in 1998, a lengthy letter to the American people in 2002, and various other policy statements. Among his principal accusations were three that helped feed the paranoia that motivates Islamic extremists.

1. Bin Laden denounced the 1990 decision of the Saudi royal family to allow American troops on the Arabian peninsula, the holiest land of Islam, which, he claimed, permitted American control of its monarchy and the plundering of its riches. He charged that the United States has used Saudi Arabia as a base for "imperialist, anti-Islamic aggression" in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere in the Muslim Middle East..

2. For decades, bin Laden asserted, the United States has zealously supported the brazen and oppressive 'Zionist' government, providing an expansionist Israel with billions of dollars annually as well as the latest in military hardware, vetoing UN resolutions that sought minimal justice for the Arabs there, and continually proclaiming the unbreakable bond between the two countries.

3. The culture of the United States, according to bin Laden, which is vigorously promoted worldwide, is poisoned by rampant adultery, homosexuality, 'intoxicants' (alcohol and drugs), and gambling. These and other vices threaten traditional morality as expounded in the Quran.

How should we combat radicalized Muslims and their assertions? To begin with, those among our religious, political and media leaders who glibly, indiscriminately and publicly degrade Islam are providing them with persuasive ammunition. When Pat Robertson, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, even Frank Graham and others recklessly rant on about the Muslim faith they are aiding and abetting al Qaeda and other terrorist groups who seek to recruit earnest young Muslims. Jihadists quote such sweeping attacks on their religion as proof that it is under assault from powerful and aggressive 'infidels'.

So, how can we bring this horrendous and costly struggle against terrorism to an end? We are in a battle for the hearts and minds of Muslims. When devotees interrupt their activities five times every day to pray, their religion obviously makes a deep imprint upon them. They may resent fellow believers who pervert and exploit that faith to become crazed killers, while at the same time be angered by ugly bigotry that has led to careless vilification of their religion and even attacks on some mosques. Too many Christians and Jews share the ignorance and arrogance of militant Muslim fundamentalists.

One other thought. There should be louder demands for tolerance, for people of every faith to respect the beliefs and traditions of others. Why not an international convocation of religious leaders, held perhaps in Stockholm or Beirut or Istanbul, where key and conciliatory representatives of Islam, Christianity and Judaism, all three sharing a common Abrahamic heritage, issue a powerful, well-balanced clarion call for understanding, reconciliation and peace? Naive? Perhaps. But isn't it worth a try? It certainly is preferrable to future decades of escalating hatred, angst, and bloody violence. Better yet (but more unlikely, I fear), leaders of worldwide Islam should meet and issue a joint fatwa affirming their shared Muslim faith while simultaneously and forcefully condemning murderous terrorism which so seriously sullies the name of that faith.

Meanwhile, let us find inspiration in that poignant picture of Martin Richards, 8, who lost his life in the tragic Boston Marathon bombings. In it he is carrying his homemade poster which reads: "No more hurting people. Peace."

[Ralph Lord Roy of Southington is an author and a retired United Methodist minister. Email: Ralphlroy@aol.com]

(Courtesy: MyRecordJournal.com)

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