The Proposal Itself

Proposal for Ending the Palestinian/Israeli Conflict

A FEDERATION OF ISRAEL/PALESTINE

FOUNDATION FOR OUR PROPOSAL

From the outset, we recognize that according to western democratic standards, the ideal and fairest solution would be for Israelis and Palestinians to live as citizens of one democratic country based on equality and justice that ignore religious affiliation, race or ethnicity. However, western ideals may not work for Israel/Palestine because the best solution is a solution that fits the particular needs of specific populations based on their history and circumstances. In the following model for Israel/Palestine, unity and self determination are our goals.

Currently, there are approximately four (4) million Palestinians who live in areas controlled by Israel, namely the West-Bank and Gaza, but are not citizens of Israel. There are also approximately 400,000 Jews who live in the West Bank who are citizens of Israel. These demographic statistics are at the core of the conflict. While Israel controls the borders of the West Bank and Gaza, the Palestinians living there have no rights in Israel and are unable to travel freely from their cities to Israeli cities while their Jewish neighbors are able to travel and have full rights in Israel. The Jews of the West Bank have full access to Israeli hospitals, universities, courts, public transportation while the Palestinians do not. Only Palestinians with a Jerusalem ID and Palestinians who are Israeli citizens have access to Israel’s hospitals and other institutions.

According to our contributors, the reason for the unequal treatment between Israelis and Palestinians is not necessarily caused by racism or hatred for non-Jews. It is because Israel has a dilemma that it has been unable to solve from day one of the creation of Israel. Israel was created with the intention of being a Jewish state or a national home for the Jews. The problem with this goal is that Israel is not 100% Jewish. The dilemma for Israel is how to have a Jewish, democratic state when a substantial number of non-Jews live in Israel and Palestine.

The second part of the dilemma is that Israel perceives the Palestinians as naturally hostile to Israel and does not trust them to be citizens. Without a doubt, the Palestinians have complicated the matter by using violence to achieve their goals. This must stop.

When Israel became a state many Israelis believed that the demographic dilemma was solved after a majority of the Palestinians in the new state either immigrated or were kicked out of Israel. While many Israelis dispute that the Palestinians were kicked out of their homes, there is no dispute that only a fraction of the Palestinians in modern day Israel remained after the founding of Israel. It is also undisputed that Israel gave the Palestinians in Israel (Israeli Arabs) citizenship five years after the founding of Israel.

The demographic dilemma remerged 29 years after Israel was created when it increased its territory by occupying the West Bank and Gaza which increased the number of Palestinians under Israel’s control. Currently, there are approximately six million Jews in Israel, four million Palestinians (Christians and Muslims) in the West Bank and Gaza and 1.5 million Palestinians with Israeli citizenship in Israel proper. Thus, there are 6 million Jews and 5.5 million Palestinians in Israel/Palestine. The number of Palestinians is expected to equal the number of Jews in a few years.

Currently many Jews on the left and right believe that if Israel gave equality to Palestinians in the form of citizenship and political rights then Israel as a Jewish state could be undermined or threatened. To deal with the demographic dilemma, Israel has isolated the Palestinians in an open prison by building huge walls to lock them in their cities and has deprived them of freedom of movement and most civil rights and freedoms enjoyed by Israelis.

Israel has justified its treatment of the Palestinians by referring to the Palestinian use of violence to end their inequality and suffering. Without a doubt the use of bombings and the targeting of Jewish civilians by Palestinians are morally wrong and unacceptable. The use of violence has hurt the Palestinian cause in every way imaginable and must stop. The Palestinians counter that during the first uprising (intifada), they did not use violence and Israel responded to their demonstrations with lethal weapons that killed thousands of Palestinians.

Currently, the Palestinians claim that their situation under Israeli control is worse than the situation of blacks in the United States prior to the civil rights movement and even worse than blacks in apartheid South Africa. Palestinians point to the irony of how Jews treat them considering that Jews have traditionally been leaders in global civil rights movements. American Jews were and continue to be leaders in demanding equality and justice for blacks in the United States. However, the same Jews who supported equality for blacks in the U.S. opposed equality for Palestinians. The Palestinians interpret this contradiction as being caused by the fear of the above mentioned demographic dilemma. Israelis respond by saying that they are a different nation from the Palestinians and have no obligation to allow Palestinians equality or freedom of movement in Israel. Palestinians respond that Israel cannot claim that they are a different nation since Israel controls the borders of Palestine and controls the movement of Palestinians.

Two State Solution

Over the last 30 years, the world has pursued the two state (two country) solution without much success. However, contrary to unanimous belief, neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis are to blame for the failure of the two state solution. The two state solution failed because the concept of creating two separate countries by dividing Israel/Palestine was and still is a difficult pill to swallow for Israelis and Palestinians. It is a fact that Israelis and Palestinians have religious, historical and emotional attachments to every square inch of the land that includes Israel and Palestine and neither side is eager to embrace permanent separation or “amputation” as described by Israeli novelist Amos Oz. Practically speaking, it should be obvious to anyone who takes an honest look at the map of Israel/Palestine that there is not enough room in such a small area to support two separate countries that are contiguous, and viable.

Historically, the Palestinians only requested an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza for strategic reasons or to end the misery associated with being stateless. The West Bank and Gaza are approximately 25% of the lands that Palestinians claim as original Palestine. For most of their recent history the Palestinians have wanted to return to all of Palestine which includes all of Israel. It was only in the 1980s that a significant number of Palestinians began asking for a state in the West Bank and Gaza. In fact, the split between Hamas and Fatah and between Fatah and other branches of the PLO is precisely over this point. Hamas and other branches of the PLO reject the notion of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

Not surprisingly, the leaders of Israel have also rejected the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. They argue that withdrawing from the West Bank and Gaza would leave Israel vulnerable while others argue that the West Bank and Gaza are integral parts of Israel and refer to the territories as Judea, Samaria and Azza. The attachment of many Jews to Israel/Palestine is so strong that many Jews claim that Jordan is Palestine and that Palestinians should move to Jordan.

The fact is most Israelis and Palestinians share in the belief that Israel/Palestine is indivisible. For many Palestinians, Palestine is not the West Bank and Gaza, it includes all of Israel. For many Israelis, Israel includes all of Palestine. And both claim Jerusalem. Thus, the two state solution requires compromises that neither side can ever make.

Recent history has shown that separation is not the answer for Israel/Palestine. Increasingly, more and more Israelis and Palestinians are turning to the idea of a shared country in the form of a federation or confederation or a European Union style of a union with a supranational government. The Task Force believes that the way forward is for a shared future as opposed to separation. This article outlines an initial roadmap for Palestinians and Israelis to share Israel/Palestine in light of their goals, aspirations and fears. We seek your input to help us create the best way forward.

ROADMAP

TWO STATES = ONE COUNTRY

The Roadmap envisions one country made up of a federation between Israel and Palestine where each state contributes 50% to the federal parliament regardless of population.

This road map envisions two people sharing one united country where each side is guaranteed equality, freedom, civil rights and security. The reference to “states” is not to two independent countries but rather two partially sovereign states similar to New York and New Jersey linked together to form one country similar to the United States of America.

The road map envisions several tiers of government: federal, state, municipal, and districts. The federal government will have specific powers that are given to it by the constitution.

Boundaries

The ideal and preferred solution is not to have boundaries and in many instances the roadmap envisions a future with no boundaries. However, practical administration of a modern federation may require legal or administrative boundaries without physical barriers. Among the purposes of administrative borders is for simplicity in determining the reach of state government and to give people the psychological satisfaction and security that comes from the perception that they are in a state of similarly situated people. The boundaries will not be apparent and the federal parliament will not be based on the number of people living in each state.

For example, for the federal parliament, each side will contribute 50% regardless of where the people live. Jewish settlers will be represented in the federal government by the 50% allocated for Jews and Arab Israelis will be represented by the 50% allocated for Palestinians.

The 50/50 split will never change. The purpose of the 50/50 split is to provide each side with security, equality and to make certain that only moderates on both sides are able to pass legislation because any legislation will probably need support from parliamentarians from the other side.

As to voting for federal candidates, Israelis living in Palestine or Palestinians living in Israel shall be able to vote for the Federal candidates that represent their district regardless of his/her religion.

The administrative borders may be based on the location of the people. Cities that are majority Jews may go to Israel and cities that are majority Palestinian may go to Palestine. If there is no agreement on the administrative boundaries, the administrative boundaries can be, as a default, based on the 1967 lines. An agreement on administrative boundaries should be easy since there is free movement of people and no permanent separation or exclusion from any jurisdiction.

To illustrate further, if the Boundaries are not based on 1967 boundaries, Jews and Palestinians may agree to adjust the state boundaries based on demographics. For example, the Jewish neighborhood of Gilo is in the West bank and by default will fall within the boundaries of the Palestinian state. Similarly, the town of Abu Ghosh is a Palestinian Israeli town and currently falls within the state boundaries of Israel. Both sides may agree to design the boundaries of Palestine to include Abu Ghosh because it is majority Palestinian and include Gilo into Israel because it is majority Jewish. Regardless of the legal boundaries, the formation of the federation is such that the boundaries are of no visible significance for the free movement of people or labor. There will be no physical barriers or check points. The boundaries are only relevant for choosing state representatives and the application of state law.

Moreover, cities may have a vote as to which state they want to belong to. For example, if the parties draw administrative boundaries based on demographics rather than 1967 lines then a particular town may object to being in the state made up of its people. For example, an Israeli Arab town may prefer to stay within the state boundaries of Israel rather than Palestine. The wishes of that town should at least be considered.

FEDERAL, STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS

The federal government shall be divided 50/50. The federal government will have specific authority that is given to it by the constitution. It will not interfere with state and municipal governments but will guarantee certain fundamental rights for all people. Where there is a contradiction between federal and state law, federal law must be supreme.

For state governments, each state must allow all its citizens the right to vote in state government regardless of religion. However, states shall have the right to limit the number of state parliamentarians from the minority population. For example, Israel may prefer to have 100% Jews in its state parliament. Israel shall have that right. Palestine may want to allow as much as 20% Jews in its parliament, Palestine shall have the right.

For further illustration, Palestine must allow Jewish settlers living in Palestine the right to vote in Palestine state elections. However, if Palestine wants 100% Palestinians in their state parliament, Palestine will have to allow the settlers to vote for the state candidates who cover their district but the settlers may not run for office.

Some members of the Task Force believe that it would not be healthy for Jews or Palestinians to have state parliaments that are either 100% Jewish or 100% Palestinians. However, the constitution will allow states to have 100% parliamentarians of a particular group to enhance the feeling of security and preserve the cultural identity and political power of a particular group in its own state. Nevertheless, the federation’s suggested policy is for the states to allow members of the minority population to run for office and hold as much as 10-20% of the seats.

As to municipal elections, the allocation of seats will be done on a system of one man one vote. There will be no limits on the number of any community in municipal parliaments. However, municipalities or districts may be created or designed around specific community concentrations. For example, the Har Homa settlement falls within the boundaries of Bethlehem and Beit Sahour. Har homa could become its own municipality since it is 100% Jewish and allow it to run itself.

Jerusalem

Jerusalem shall be the Capital of the federation and there shall be no restrictions on the number of people who travel, visit or reside in Jerusalem.

Police

There may be municipal police, state police, federal police, a national guard and a federal military.

The federal police will have specific federal jurisdiction and will enforce laws that are within the jurisdiction of the federal government. The federal government will recruit and train federal police from both communities, preferably in equally numbers.

There will also be state police and municipal police. The jurisdiction of the state police shall have general police powers and cover the entire state it belongs to and the municipal police shall have general police powers but limited to the municipality and subject to state restrictions.

Military and State National Guard

The ideal situation will be for the state to have one federal military. However, in light of decades of hostilities, the individual communities may want a state national guard to feel secure in the early years of the union.

For example, upon the creation of the union, the country of Israel may transfer most of its military to the state of Israel and call it the state national guard. The same goes for Palestine. The National Guard may limit its membership to all Jews or all Palestinians. The purpose of the National Guard is to provide real and psychological security to a specific state, especially in the early years of the union. As the years turn into decades and the states begin to function as one country, the goal is for the National Guard to be less significant and the federal military to be the dominant military force.

Federal military

If states choose to keep a national guard, then the states shall transfer 25% of their military hardware to the federal military, along with officers and other military professionals to assist in establishing the federal military. If the states choose not to have a national guard then the states shall transfer all of their military hardware to the federal military. The Federal military should be made of young new recruits, whereby the new recruits are developed into a professional army over the years and decades. To the extent possible, the federal government shall recruit military personnel on a one to one basis, with equal numbers of Palestinians and Jews.

MIGRATION AND RIGHT OF RETURN

Ideally, the new country shall accept the return of all Jews and Palestinians from all over the world. However, it is understood that some citizens may feel uneasy with the sudden movement of a large number of people into their state.

Thus, while the basis of the new country is the free movement of labor and people, a state may limit the number of people who migrate from one state to the other as permanent residents to no less than 50,000 per year for the first 15 years. The 50,000 limit shall NOT apply to labor or people traveling for anything other than permanent residency.

As to the right of return, both Jews and Palestinians shall have the right to return to the states of the federation at any time. There shall be no limit on the number of Jews who return to Israel or Palestinians who return to Palestine. The new returnees shall also have the right to free movement and employment anywhere in the new country. However, each state shall have the right to insist that the new returnees first reside in their respective state for five years before residing in the other state as permanent residents. For example, a Palestinian who is a resident of the United States may want to return to Israel/Palestine. The family of that Palestinian may have originated from Haifa in 1948. He shall have the right to return to Palestine at any time. He shall have the right to travel and stay in Haifa at any time. However, if he wants to reside in Haifa permanently, the state of Israel shall have the right to insist that he first reside in Palestine for five years before moving to Haifa as a permanent resident. The purpose of this reservation is to reduce the anxiety that certain people may have from sudden changes in demographics.

The limitations on residency in a particular state shall not apply to the free movement of people and labor. Any citizen of the federation may travel and work anywhere in the federation and at any time with no limitations.

Economy

There shall be NO restrictions on interstate commerce within the federation. This means that the federation shall act as one economy in every respect. No state may favor its industry to the detriment of the industry of the other state. No state may restrict the flow of goods from the other state or tax goods from the other state differently than it taxes goods of its own state.

Israel/Palestine shall have the same currency, no tariffs and complete free trade. The early days of the national government or confederation shall be to bring jobs and economic prosperity to both Israelis and Palestinians. This should be an easy task. A peaceful Israel and Palestine acting as one nation should be a gold mine the likes of which the world has never seen. A nation that is the birth place of western civilization and immensely revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims, religious tourism alone will guarantee a healthy economy in perpetuity.

However, the economy will have more than tourism to secure its prosperity. A nation of Palestinians and Israelis at peace with their neighbors shall have unlimited opportunities. The technical know-how of Israel, the available capital in the Arab world and a geography that is at the intersection of three continents can produce an economic power house that is second to none on a per capita basis.

Basic rights

The federation shall have the power to guarantee basic rights of all the citizens of the federation. For example, the federation may protect citizens from religious, racial or gender discrimination. No state may have the right to discriminate against a citizen of the federation because if his/her religion, race, national origin or the exercise of free speech.

Courts and state/federal law

The respective states shall have general governing powers to enact laws. The states may use religion as a basis for law in family matters or any other matter that the people of the state feel that religion plays a role. However, a state may not compel religion or religious based laws on any resident of the state. Each resident of each state shall have the right to opt out of religious based laws and rely on secular law by seeking the jurisdiction of the federal courts.

The federal courts shall have parallel jurisdiction to state courts but the federal courts shall only apply secular law which is the law of the federal government. The residents of the federation shall have the right to submit their legal matters to the state courts or the federal courts. For example, a Muslim who wants a divorce may apply to the state court which may apply Islamic law to determine her rights or obligations to her husband or children. However, if that Muslim woman is secular in ideology, she may submit her dispute to the federal court which will decide the case based on secular law.

Words of empathy and understanding

To summarize, this roadmap requests the Palestinians to reach out to their Israeli and Jewish partners and say:

“We understand why the state of Israel is important to you. We understand that the Jews – as a people- have a right to self-determination and to rule themselves under their own national institutions. We are fully aware of the persecution that Jews suffered throughout history and the necessity of having a safe haven for Jews. We also understand that Jews have historical and religious ties to the land of Israel/Palestine. We believe that every Jew shall have the right to move to Israel and become a citizen immediately. We also welcome Jews to live with us in our cities, towns and villages. We want the Palestinians and Israelis to live together as neighbors, friends and countrymen. In return, what we want is freedom, liberty and equality for the Palestinians. Will you meet us half way?”

The roadmap is also requesting Israelis and Jews to reach out to their Palestinians Partners and say:

“We understand why Palestine is important to you and we understand that the Palestinians – as a people- have a right to self-determination and to rule themselves under their own national institutions. We are fully aware of the suffering the Palestinians have experienced over the last 100 years and the necessity of having a safe haven for Palestinians. We also understand that Palestinians have historical and religious ties to the land of Israel/Palestine. We believe that every Palestinian shall have the right to move to Israel/Palestine and become a citizen immediately. We also welcome the Palestinians to visit and to reside in our cities, towns and villages. We want the Palestinians and Israelis to live together as neighbors, friends and countrymen. In return, we want permanent security, liberty, equality and total freedom for the Jewish people. Will you meet us half way?”

Task Force on Israel/Palestine

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Peace Conference in Jerusalem: Kamal Nawash & Doron Tzur

Join us for a Real Peace Conference in Jerusalem
September 15, 2011
Kamal Nawash & Doron Tzur

More than a year ago, the Free Muslims Coalition was contacted by Israelis and Palestinians who requested that we help them formulate a plan for establishing a federation between Israel and Palestine. We responded by creating the Task Force on Israel/Palestine. We joined forces with established partners such as Yehuda Schwartz and Doron Tzur. Kamal Nawash and Doron Tzur serve as co-chairs of the Task Force with many other prominent Israeli and Palestinian activists joining the Task Force.

After more than a year of hard work we have completed one proposal that we think could be a reasonable proposal for a shared future. The proposal is a skeletal starting piece that will evolve alongside other proposals based on constructive feedback from Israeli and Palestinian groups whose make up is representative of the larger population.

The proposal is being published to coincide with the Palestinian Authority’s plan to seek recognition for statehood from the United Nations and Israel’s opposition to such a move. Despite the heightened tensions between the governments, we witness an increasing number of Israelis and Palestinians who want to work together for a better future.

The Task Force includes Jews, Christians and Muslims from the left and the right, whether religious or secular. The next step is a conference in Jerusalem where a group of Israelis and Palestinians will discuss this proposal on equal footings with other submitted proposals for the way forward. Based on the feedback from the participants in the conference the proposals will improve and then be presented to larger audiences to empower Israelis and Palestinians to actively participate in resolving the 100 year conflict.

As we are organizing for the conference in Jerusalem this December, we need your support. We want to hire translators to translate from English, Arabic and Hebrew, a conference room, video broadcasting and recording, meals and travelling expenses for participants and a special web allowing people to participate online. We need your help. This effort is expensive so please donate at:http://www.freemuslims.org/support/donate.php. If the link does not work, go directly to the website: http://www.freemuslims.org.

Please read the proposal here http://www.freemuslims.org. Let us know if you support it and make detailed suggestions to improve it.

Give us your input on our website or become a member of our face book group: Free Muslims Coalition’s Task Force on Israel/Palestine: here: http://www.facebook.com/groups/israelpalestine/#!/groups/israelpalestine/?notif_t=group_activity

For More information, contact Kamal Nawash, 202-776-7190 (USA), media@freemuslims.org, http://www.freemuslims.org and Doron Tzur 011-972-544-287322 (Israel) ideonea@gmail.com

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Ten Years After 9/11: A Muslim Perspective

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Ten years after September 11

Ten years after September 11

A Muslim perspective

Kamal Nawash

I will never forget the morning of September 11, 2001. My sister was living with me and I had just walked into the living room after getting dressed. My sister was watching the news and she said it appears a plane hit one of the towers. I saw a fire from one of the towers but the event was yet to be dramatic. I walked to the kitchen to make coffee and seconds later I heard my sister scream “oh my God a plane just hit the second tower.” I immediately sat down as if I became paralyzed. Minutes later, my building shook. I live near the Pentagon in the tallest residential building in the Washington DC area. We were all scared. I remember climbing down 26 floors for fear of getting into the elevators. The shaking was the third plane striking the Pentagon.

At that time I was the first Muslim and Arab American to be nominated by the Republican Party to run for public office in Virginia. Initially, I was not sure who committed the terrorist act but I knew Muslim and Arab organization needed to respond immediately with condemnation.

After I got myself together, I ran over to the offices of one of the American Muslim organizations. I wanted them to contact the other Muslim organizations and ask them to come out with a strong condemnation of the terror attacks. I offered to write them a press release.

I started calling other Muslim organization to ask that they offer strong condemnation. They asked me why were I assuming that Muslims did the attack? Well, as it turned out, Muslims did perpetrate 9-11.

As to my political career, I suspected it was over and my suspicions were confirmed when all my volunteers quit and never showed up again. I was left by myself in my campaign office with campaign stickers and signs but no campaign.

Prior to September 11, my routine included going house to house knocking on doors asking people to vote for me. This was particularly difficult because I am naturally shy and I needed someone with me. I recall that two or three days after the attacks, a17 year girl named Aisha called me up saying she wanted to help me and after I explained my routine she said that she would knock on doors with me. I said Great, please come over. What showed up was an ultra orthodox Muslim girl from Pakistan who covered her hair and wore a black robe. When I saw her, I thought “oh my God, that is all I need.” I used every excuse in the book not to go with her and later she figured it out and even offered to take off her scarf.

By the third day, I said to myself “I can’t just sit here in fear feeling sorry for myself.” I decided to go out knocking on doors again. I was surprised when people treated me so kindly. They felt compassion for me. I remember receiving a call from the Speaker of the House of Delegates, Vance Wilkins, who offered to help me in any way he could and he did. I will always hold him in the highest regard.

Several days later, I was scheduled to attend an event for the Fairfax County Republican Committee where all the candidates were to be introduced. I became nervous while waiting for my turn as one candidate after the other was called to the podium. Finally the chairman said “from the 46th District, Kamal Nawash.” I began walking and for a few seconds there was absolute silence in the room. Suddenly one person started clapping and then the entire room of approximately 200 stood up and began clapping. On that day, I felt proud to be an American and I felt genuinely loved.

As to the Muslim leadership and their response to September 11, I watched in horror as one Muslim leader after the other went on TV and made an ass of himself and in the process gave the impression that Muslims were insensitive and cruel. The truth is, most Muslims don’t belong to any Muslim organization and are not even aware that most of the Muslim organizations exist. Most Muslims are busy paying their bills and raising their kids.

At the time of 9-11, most Muslim organizations in Washington, D.C. were managed by unsophisticated immigrants who simply did not understand American culture nor did they know how to communicate to the media. Prior to 9-11, most leaders of Muslim organizations in Washington belonged to the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood which seeks to establish utopian theocratic “Islamic” governments in the Muslim countries. They believe that such governments would eliminate most of the developmental problems in the Muslim world and help propel the Muslim world forward. The reality is they have accomplished nothing other than to convince women to cover their hair and men to grow beards. They are an unsophisticated bunch of ideologues who dream of the glory of the past rather than the possibilities of the future.

The Muslim organizations’ lack of sophistication did not matter before 911 because very few of them appeared in the news. Their ability to cause damage was limited to the people they communicated with personally. After 911, every news agency wanted to talk to them and the average Muslims paid the price for their “leaders'” ideology and lack of sophistication. For example, rather than condemn terrorism in no uncertain terms, they would say “well…we need to look at why those people committed the violent acts.” This standard response gave Americans the impression that Muslims justified the attacks or implied that the attacks were justifiable. The average Muslim paid a heavy price for their bearded “leaders'” stupidity.

As for me, 911 had a deep psychological impact. I was horrified to see people jump to a certain death in order to save themselves from the agony of being burned. I developed a fear of flying and I became extremely angry with all Islamist movements and their ideology. For two years I approached various Muslim organizations about changing their rhetoric and their response was that they knew better. Finally, two years after 9-11, I realized that a new Muslim organization was needed to say the right things, to represent average Muslims and to reduce the number of TV appearances made by the traditional Islamist organizations. The idea of creating the Free Muslims Coalition Against Terrorism was born in 2003 and formalized in 2004.

The plan worked. By 2004, the Free Muslims were making TV appearances every other day and showing Americans that Muslims were divers, sophisticated, patriotic and sensitive. Soon others followed with organizations such as the Islamic Forum for Democracy taking a leading role in challenging the archaic traditional Muslim organizations. Some traditional organizations went out of business and those who remained had to change their ways and became more sophisticated.

However, the damage was already done and many Americans now view common Muslims negatively or with suspicion. The Average Arab or Muslim became the target of attacks from hundreds of talk show hosts and politicians wanting to make a name for themselves. Arabs and Muslims became the untouchables of the United States.

Many Muslims became reclusive and refused to cooperate with law enforcement because of the perception that law enforcement was out to get them.

Nevertheless, many terrorist suspects, who were arrested in the United States, were arrested with the help of other Muslims who contacted the FBI. But Muslims continue to be demonized. Any Muslim who wants to achieve any position of prominence is usually attacked by groups who do nothing but attack Muslims and Arabs over unfounded allegations and paranoia.

The demonization of Muslims and Arabs must stop. The average Muslim and Arab does not support the Islamist organizations in Washington DC nor does he want to create an “Islamic state.” The Islamist message is dying out and the world is better off.

There is a new dawn and reason for hope. For years, the Islamists who supported the Muslim Brotherhood believed that if only the countries of the Muslim world became democracies, people would choose “Islamic” governments or religious based governments. Well, the world has watched as the “Arab Spring” replaced four long time leaders. In those countries where people have a choice no one has demonstrated for a Binladen or jihadist type government. And while it is premature to make a final conclusion on the outcome of the Arab Spring, there appears to be significant opposition to any government based on religion.

As to the role of the new Muslim organizations, they need to focus on countering the message that religion and state must be mixed. There is ample religious justification for arguing that Islam supports the separation of religion and state. Muslims are not extreme. It is the ideology that mixes government and religion that produces outrageous results. The same happened when Europe mixed religion and state and in fact that period is called the dark ages.

In the mean time, Americans should not view Arabs or Muslims with suspicion. Arabs and Muslims are good neighbors to have and are necessary to fighting and catching extremists.

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Christian/Muslim Dialogue Question # 5 – How can we be right before God?

                            SOLVING THE MID EAST CRISIS

 

This is the 5th and final question of the Christian/Muslim Dialogue prior to the Question/Answer session from the audience; this one dealing with how we can best be right in the sight of God

John Morine:

Okay, very good. And, our final question: What, in your religion, does God expect of us as human beings?

Howie:

Let me begin here by asking the audience to please not boo me before you have heard me out. Give me my 8 minutes and then, if you still feel like doing so, you can boo me off the platform. But, please hear me out, first. Now to begin with, as an Evangelical Christian, I do not believe that anyone ever enters Heaven except through Jesus Christ. (applause) That’s not me talking; He said it Himself.

Now, does this mean that everyone here who does not believe exactly as I do, then automatically goes to Hell? No, I don’t think so. No two individuals agree on everything and, of course, only God has all the answers. So, I’d be the only one up there and I’d get lonely.

Instead, if you will read Jesus’ two famous parables about salvation, the parable of the Prodigal Son and the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, I think you will find two common links that are vital to being accepted into the Kingdom of God – humility on the part of the believer and grace (underserved forgiveness) on the part of God.

In the parable of the Prodigal Son, a young man takes his share of the family inheritance and goes out into the world, living a very vile existence. He has plenty of money and plenty of friends. But, when the money runs out, his friends disappear. Anybody ever have friends like that? The boy takes a job feeding pigs and realizes that they are eating better than he is. He realizes that he has made a shambles of his life and doesn’t deserve anyone’s help. However, he decided to humble himself and go back to his father, asking to be taken on as a slave. But the father, who in this parable represents God, sees him coming and won’t even think of making him a slave. He is welcomed back with love because of the grace, or underserved forgiveness of the father. That is how God responds to each of us. All of us have sinned and gone our separate ways. But, if we humble ourselves and ask forgiveness, God responds with grace.

In the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, a haughty religious leader and a lowly publican, who likely hadn’t lived a very honest life, both enter the temple to pray. The religious leader prays a very boastful prayer exalting his own righteousness. The publican, instead, humbles himself and prays a very humble, but sincere, prayer: “Oh God, forgive me a sinner.” Jesus says that the publican, who humbled himself, went away forgiven, while the religious leader’s prayer only got as far as the ceiling. So here again, humility on the part of the believer – we must acknowledge ourselves as having fallen short of God’s love, followed by underserved forgiveness or grace on the part of God.

As to the actual penalty for the sin itself, we believe that Jesus Himself bore the penalty on the cross and in effect became our sacrificial lamb. This is what we call the atonement.

As I have said, with all the Psalms and the Qu’ran have to say about the mercy of God, I think there is room for mutual agreement here.

Kamal:

Maybe the best way to answer this is to consider the name of our religion. Islam is not named after a particular person. Islam means submission. The Qu’ran refers to these people as Muslims. Some would ask, “How can you refer to Jesus or His followers as Muslims when Islam didn’t even exist at the time? The answer is that Islam means submission to the will of God. It is a description. Since we believe in the Christian Scriptures as the Word of God, a Muslim is one who submits to the will of God. God’s Word tells us how to act. We believe that God introduced His Word in stages through the various prophets from Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Ishmael, and all the way to Muhammad. And, whatever these people told us, whether it is to not steal, not to lie, to be loving or compassionate, etc., this is what a true Muslim is. It is very hard to find consensus on this.

Now, I believe this is the last question and I told them when I first came to be free to ask whatever you want. Even questions like “Why do you all love terrorism? I’m cool with that. I am not here to impress you. I genuinely feel comfortable around you. If I had a kid, I would want him to be raised up among you. Why wouldn’t I? I felt comfortable from the first second I walked into this place. At the end of the day, if both people share the same values, what does it matter if they call themselves by a different religion? If you have a value of compassion or of loving others, or not stealing or lying, these are values I believe in, so why wouldn’t I want to hang out with you if we share these same values?

You know, in a way, we are all part of a minority. When I came into this Church and I started talking to some of these people, I realized that we all have so much in common. The values that we are trying to hold up, we are swimming against the stream. We really are. The things that we believe in, the majority does not believe in. They laugh at us. But, I want you to know that I enjoyed you tonight. I enjoyed being with you. And, I genuinely have love for you. And, when I have kids, I would want people like you to be my neighbor to help me raise the kids. And, I agree with Rev. Gardner that you certainly need good parenting and the love of God to raise a child. I am thankful the values system that my parents gave to me. So you know what? Thank you very much. I really don’t see that much of a difference between us. It’s not about what we call our religions; it’s about how we implement it. And, we choose to implement our religions in a way that’s not really that different. And, I truly hope that other Muslims and Christians will see the similarities more than the differences between us. Thank you very much. God bless you.

 (applause)

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Christian/Muslim Dialogue Question # 4: Government

Solving the Mid East Crisis

The following is part 4 of the transcript of the Christian/Muslim Dialogue between Howie Gardner and Kamal Nawash held in baltimore in August of 2010; moderated by Rev. John Morine.  This one dealing with the proper method of governing a society: 

 

John Morine:

Okay, question number 4: According to your religion, what are the proper methods of governing a nation of people? Six minutes, guys.

Howie:

First, let’s note that I Samuel, Chapter 8, recommends that government be as small as possible. There is always the danger that, if you place too much power into the hands of a few, they will abuse it.

Now, since the days of Sparta and Athens in ancient Greece, there has been a conflict between nations that emphasize the importance of individual freedom versus those who seek to maintain morality through force and discipline. The latter is a noble goal. The problem is that it doesn’t work. If I choose not to rob a bank simply because I am afraid of being caught, am I any more holy than the person who does rob one? No. Morality is something that cannot be legislated. Jesus told the Pharisees that, while they may have never committed murder or adultery, if they had harbored hatred or lust in their hearts, then they had already done so spiritually.

Now, there is a great concern among third world countries that the United States has become a major importer of industries that cause people, particularly children to stumble spiritually. They see Madonna, Britney Spears, and Burt Reynolds on our movie screens. They see attempts to import whiskey, pornography, and even abortion services into their backyards and they cry foul. “You are attempting to lead our children astray!” they shout. I didn’t know until just recently that Playboy magazine publishes special editions to be imported into foreign countries. Ayatolah Khomeini labeled us “The Great Satan” for this reason. You see, Satan is not a conqueror; he is a tempter. He places all sorts of temptations in our path to make us stumble. And people in other countries, many of them Muslim, are shouting, “Leave our children alone!”

Now, what is the solution, here? Many have insisted that legislation such as Sharia Law is the answer – a state enforced morality. Folks, it doesn’t work. A child does, in fact, need a certain degree of discipline. However, particularly as they grow older, they also need a degree of freedom and trust. If there is too much freedom, they grow up to be irresponsible. If there is too much discipline, they very often grow up to be rebellious. We saw this in the actions of the 9/11 terrorists during the time they were in the United States preparing for the attacks. Here were individuals who had been raised up under Sharia Law living in the midst of the so-called “Great Satan.” You would have thought that they, of all people, would have lived moral lives in our midst – but no. They relished the chance to live in a free society. And, they carried it to extreme. They sampled the very worst that harbors in the dark crevices of America. They spent most of their time in strip joints, bars, and in the company of prostitutes. WHY – because the strictness of Sharia Law had not made them morally strong, but had rather caused them to rebel and experience for themselves.

The best answer to producing moral children is not to surround them with a battalion of soldiers to make certain they behave. Rather, it is the parent’s duty to demonstrate love and consistently example before their children’s eyes everyday the sort of life they want their children to live. Now, every child has a free will, so there will be struggles along the way. But, the family, and not the government, is the best method of raising godly children. Hillary Clinton wrote the book entitled It Takes a Village. I disagree. Never mind the village and never mind the government. The ones best equipped to raise a godly child are a godly mother and a godly father.

(applause) And, the only one that can truly change hearts is the Spirit of God.(applause)

In the early 1900’s, Rex Humbard’s father, Dad Humbard, was a powerful revivalist. It was said that when Dad Humbard came to town the local bars and strip joints could expect to see a sizeable decrease in business. On one occasion, bartenders in Arkansas actually stood in his path armed with shotguns and dared him to enter their town. This all reminds me of a song that was popular in the 70’s entitled “The Baptism of Jesse Taylor.” I used to hear the World Action Singers do it. It went as follows:

Among the local taverns they’ll be a slack in business

‘Cause Jesse’s drinkin’ came before the groceries and the rent

Among the local women they’ll be a slack in cheatin’

‘Cause Jesse won’t be steppin’ out again.

They baptized Jesse Taylor in Cedar Creek last Sunday

Jesus gained a soul and Satan lost a good right arm

They all cried “Hallelujah” as Jesse’s head went under

‘Cause this time he went under for the Lord.

 

The scars on Jesse’s knuckles were more than just respected

The county courthouse records tell all there is to tell

The pockets of the gamblers will soon miss Jesse’s money

And the black eye of the law will soon be well.

 

Now Nancy Taylor can proudly speak to neighbors

And tell them how much Jesse took up with little Jim

Now Jimmy’s got a daddy and old Jesse, he’s got family

And Franklin County’s got a lot more man.

 

John Morine:

Okay, let’s hear from Kamal.

Kamal:

I don’t think you can find 2 Muslims that will agree on this issue. But, this is certainly a source of serious contention in much of the Arab/Muslim world. And, I might as well expand. After World War I, much of the Muslim world, and particularly in the Middle East, adopted basically the secular socialist nationhood type of government. And, at that time, the Muslim world was really presented with two concepts of government: the secular type of government based on the nation state, most of whom were socialist, or you could have the Islamic state in which you incorporate God’s rules. And, in the early part of the 20th century, the secular state won. They won handily and this continued for about 60 years.

The secular types of government made a lot of promises to the people. They gave them a certain vision as to industrialization, prosperity, basically anything good that they would deliver. By the 1980’s or late 70’s, it became apparent that, and I don’t think necessarily because they were secular, that these types of government didn’t produce what they promised. This opened the door for the religious establishment to say, “Hey, look. We tried capitalism and it didn’t work, we tried communism and it didn’t work, why don’t we try Islam?” That was their motto.

Their concept was that dictatorship is bad and democracy doesn’t work if the source of law is man. Instead of just man, the social law has to include God’s law, which comes from the scriptures. Man isn’t perfect enough to just rule himself. This is a substantial dispute throughout the Muslim world and it does cause violence.

That’s basically what the Bin Laden’s, the Hamas, and the Hezbollahs want. They believe that is the best form of government, not a dictatorship or a democracy, but rather the Sharia; basically, a group of people, wise men if you will, who have distinguished themselves through morality and education and doing good. So, there are basically a group of about 20 to 30 people and they rule the government. To me as a Muslim, I follow the trend that a government is a good government if it works for the basic good of the people, provides opportunity, provides safety, keeps crime down, provides an atmosphere where trade and economics are encouraged and not hindered by over-regulation, and provides an opportunity to raise children in a safe environment. If it does so, then it is a good government. Why would I care if the government is Muslim or Christian if it cannot provide me with the basics or if I am afraid to go outside because it cannot keep drugs dealers off the street? Why wouldn’t I choose the secular government if it can provide me with safety? What I am concerned about is if the secular government inhibits my ability to love God or if it tries to impose its own form of morality upon me. And, I think that’s probably one of the fears that people in the Muslim world have when they look at the West. Certainly, they see instances where the secular government has imposed their own morality upon the people. A major concern here is the tendency of government to impose its own morality on us.

The United States is often seen as a major importer of things which cause people to stumble spiritually and that causes concern. For parents and their children, husbands and their wives, they don’t believe the state should be involved in this. So, I guess to make a long story short, there is not one form of government that all of Islam would agree on. And, just like everything else, we will probably be talking about what the proper form of government is for the next thousand years.

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Christian/Muslim Dialogue Question # 3 – The Role of Women

This is the transcript of the third part of a dialogue held in August of 2010 in Baltimore between Howie Gardner, pastor of Bel Air Assembly of God and Kamal Nawash; President of the Free Muslim Coalition Against Terrorism.  Question # 3 invloves the proper place of women within our religions.  

John Morine (moderator):  Question number 3: What do you feel is the proper role for women within your religion? And, Howie, you’ll go first with this one.

Howie:

Let me first point out that whenever the Christian Gospel has been welcomed into a land, women have gained freedom. In the Greco Roman world, which dominated Israel at the time of Jesus’ birth, women were not even considered human. They were routinely flogged, could not attend school, or even learn to read. Many were thrown into the water and left to drown as infants. They could not even testify on their own behalf when a rape occurred. And, even in the Hebrew culture, they were routinely stoned for crimes such as adultery, while the men went free. When asked about this last law, Jesus responded to a woman’s accusers by asking which of them was without sin. Only that individual would be allowed to cast the first stone. He then proceeded to write on the ground. Many think He was writing down a list of their sins. Regardless, each of them went away in frustration.

Now, in regards to women’s rights, the only major area in which we would differ with feminists is in regards to abortion. We are firmly convinced and we believe that science has demonstrated that an unborn child is indeed entitled to the same rights as any human being.

Several years ago, I proposed a bill, which was ultimately tabled by the Maryland Senate, but has since been picked up on by other states. I proposed giving every woman seeking an abortion the option to view her sonogram, first. Statistics have shown that, if given this opportunity, 85% of women will conclude that it is indeed a human being and opt not to have the abortion. The pro-abortion crowd has challenged us on this and, we think, merely because it would cost them money. If they really view the right to an abortion as a service to humanity, as they claim, then why not give women the right to make an informed choice? Doing so would remove much of the guilt and suicidal tendencies of the women who have had abortions.

Now, in regards to family structure, psychologists have determined that women tend to function more out of the intuitive and caring right side of the brain, while men tend to favor the more logistical left side. We feel that the structure, which the Apostle Paul set forth, that of the man being the head of the household, but at the same time loving his wife as Christ loved the Church (which he died for) and thus placing more value on her opinion that his own, is the best pattern under normal circumstances.

We are mostly concerned by reports from Asian countries about women being routinely abused, about public stonings for the crime of adultery, and about so-called honor killings in which family members have reportedly killed a daughter or a sister because of such things as her manner of dress or even for keeping company with men who are Christian or Jew. We would request an urgent fatwa being issued by the Muslim Leadership in opposition to such things.

There is a story contained within the Hadith, which says that a woman by the name of Asma bint Marwan wrote a poem critical of Muhammad and that he in turn had her killed. This passage is often cited as proof that Muhammad approved of the abuse of women. However, its source seems to be a man by the name of Muhammad Ibn Al-Hajjaj. I don’t see any basis within the Muslim religion of treating women as anything but our equals, loved by God, and having the potential to be greatly used of Him, since I have a list of 14 individuals here that are on record as saying that Al-Hajjaj forged the story.

Kitab At-Tabaqat

Al-Kabir

Kinz-ul-‘Ummal

Ibn Sa’d

Ibn ‘Adiyy

Ibn ‘Asaker

Ja’far Ibn Ahmad

Ibn Muhammad

Ibn As-Sabah

Muhammad Ibn Ibrahim

Ash-Shami

Mujalid

Ash-Shu’abi

Ibn ‘Abbas

Now, there was a Muslim cleric on Bahrain TV by the name of Abdullah Aal Mahmud (June 20, 2005) who stated that the Qu’ran permits wife beating. And, he went into great detail on just how the man should strike the woman. What he was referring to was a passage in Surah 4:34, which reads: “As for those women on whose part you fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart,” (and last) . . . . and, the Arabic word here is “adribu,” which is frequently translated as “beat or strike them.” Now, I have gone throughout a number of Arabic commentaries and read the words of several Arabic translators and there seems to be unanimous agreement that the word is actually better translated as “to avoid contact with.” In other words, the passage would read that if a man has a wife who is rebellious or ungodly, then do not seek to have children by her, otherwise, you would be raising up the child in a home that is unequally yoked. This same word is found 58 other times in the Qu’ran itself and never is it translated as “to hit or to strike.” I don’t know just who or why someone elected to use such a translation here, but I’ll bet it was a man who did it. Such a translation is false.

But now, having said that, it still irks me that a Muslim cleric was giving out such advice on national television. This is my Pentecostal background showing through, but I think if someone told me that God said to go out and beat up a woman, I would still resist. I think the Holy Spirit would tug on me at this point and say, “There’s something wrong here.” And again, there is something wrong – they have mistranslated the verse. But the fact of a religious leader encouraging such abuse gnaws at me. This implies a cultic tendency.

We have a group of people here in the States known as Jehovah’s Witnesses who call themselves Christian. They maintain that the Bible teaches that it is evil to have a blood transfusion. Truth is, it doesn’t. There is a verse in the Book of Acts, which advises against eating the blood of strangled animals and this is good advice medically. But, it says nothing that would forbid a blood transfusion. Yet, great numbers of Jehovah Witnesses have refused the procedure at the risk of their own lives. Many have died needlessly. Still, others have denied the procedure to their own children and watched them die when a simple procedure could have saved them. Again, this is a cultic response and it has caused great harm.

But, back to what I was saying. The fact of a religious leader going on national television to encourage spouse abuse makes me shudder. So, I want to voice a bit of a rebuke to the Muslim clergy for not silencing this man and others who have done so.

John Morine:

Okay, let’s hear from Kamal.

Kamal:  Again, the Qu’ran and the Bible are subject to different interpretations. Until Jesus Christ comes to straighten us out, we can work toward good together. And, this would explain this guy you mentioned who thinks the Qu’ran instructs us to beat women.

I would bring your attention to a group known as “The Lord’s Resistance Army” in Uganda, a Christian group that wants to add an 11th or 12th commandment saying that it is okay to take kids, force them to become soldiers, force them to become sex slaves, and if they say no, then you chop their hands off, you chop their head off. They started in Uganda and now they’ve worked themselves up to southern Sudan, killing people all along the way, all in the name of Christianity.

So, how can we have two groups of Christians, one like Rev. Howie Gardner and the other like the Lord’s Resistance Army? How can they be so different? There are a lot of answers to this. When you listen to Rev. Gardner, he seems to know the Qu’ran better than I do. He has had a good education. He lives in a first world country and his attitude reflects his education and his background.

But, please don’t forget that the Islam of the 20th century is not the Islam of old. Islam has declined. We were wiped out and we started all over again. The Muslim world was swimming in ignorance like you couldn’t imagine. And, so the different beliefs in the different countries reflect their own circumstances. The first Muslim who graduated from Harvard and received a Law Degree might very well view the world differently from a Muslim in Africa who grew up having to fight for food everyday and didn’t get any education. So, I don’t think it’s really rocket science to understand why you have these diverse opinions in Islam.

I will be the first to admit Islam reached the top and then went to the bottom. Even in Christianity, you still talk about the medieval ages. By the 20th century, Islam was finished. Every Muslim country was occupied. We were swimming in ignorance and this produced the various results we see.

Again, how you feel about women depends upon your perspective, upon your environment. In the Qu’ran, it tells us that everything you read about men you also read about women in equal terms. For example, you read about men who married 9-year old girls in Yemen and other places. Well, our prophet, he was 20-something and his wife was 40-something. The woman he loved most was 25 years older than him. She was a merchant. He was unemployed. Our prophet was unemployed. He was a minister. She brought home the bacon – even though we don’t eat pork,

(laughter)

she brought home the bacon. So okay, someone like me looks at our prophet and says, “his wife earned the money, she was 20+ years older than him and till his deathbed, he loved her more than anybody else.”

Now, someone who grew up in the caves in Afghanistan may see things differently. His world is different. Again, I don’t think this is rocket science. There is something to be said for your education. There is something to be said for your sophistication. But, he may not even know how to read the book.

But just like Rev. Gardner mentioned his studies into the book of Ezekiel and some issues in the Qu’ran and about his looking into what the meaning was really about. So, some guy in Afghanistan who has not had any education and someone comes to him and says, hey, you need to beat your wife, he may not have the skills to be able to look into it and see whether this is true or not. So, there is a lot to be said for education.

And, quite frankly, the 20th century wasn’t a good century for us. But, things are improving. I’m a lawyer now. If you happen to get into a car accident, here’s my card.

(looks at audience and laughs at indiscernible comment) Okay. I’ll quit while I’m ahead. (laughter and applause)

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Christian/Muslim Dialogue: Question 2 – When is War Permissable?

The following is the transcript from the second question raised at a dialogue between Howie Gardner and Kamal Nawash in August of 2010; this one on the Christian and Muslim perspectives on the subject of just war.  

John Morine:

Okay, Question number 2: What, if anything according to your religion, would justify and sanction a nation going to war or retaliating to an attack? And, please incorporate into your answer any feeling that you may have on the current Middle East conflict.”

Kamal:

This is really asymmetrical. I think our answer is probably the same as in Christianity. Our religion only allows us to go to war in self-defense. Now, this may seem like a contradiction to you because you see what’s happening in the world today. But, if you want the basic answer, we are only allowed to go to war in self-defense. No other sanction has been allowed.

No, I mentioned earlier that I was on the radio show yesterday and they asked the question “Why do they hate us?” and the Muslims also ask “Why do they hate us?” And, I certainly don’t think it is because of religion. The people who are upset in the mountains of Afghanistan are not upset because you are Christians. I really don’t think so.

You see, Islam in the 20th century became a hybrid religion – a new type of Islam evolved. The Islam that you know today is what we refer to as “Political Islam.” This was a theory or a movement that started in the 1920’s with a guy from Egypt who was raised in the United States and went back. At that time, the entire Muslim world was occupied by some type of foreign power. And he said, “We were powerful at one time and we had more faith. So, let’s create an entire Muslim government.” And, he taught that we needed to get back to the way things were before. We had more faith then and we were more powerful. I think, and I am probably in the minority among Muslims here, but I think that was a disaster for us: the fact that religious parties ultimately became political parties. And, it went to extreme.

If you ultimately think you are doing God’s will you can justify anything. That would explain why probably even Bin Laden, who wouldn’t take a penny from you, justifies his actions. Now, Bi Laden has no religious training; I don’t know how many of you know that. But, he felt that, if you turn religion into a political party, you can justify political actions. Now, we cannot really blame you if you hate us in return. Yet, Islamists get all upset with this and respond, “Why do you blame us for everything?” And, I actually don’t sympathize with them, because you can’t combine politics and religion into some sort of theocracy and then, when someone complains that they see your religion in a bad way, complain that they are unfairly criticizing you when they see you do something wrong. You have to accept the consequences.

Now, I must tell you that, even if you were all to become Muslims, there is one issue that would prevent peace. One issue that the entire Muslim world is extremely angry about and they are not going to forget about it. It is the issue of Palestine and Israel. This is humongous for them. And, whether you agree or not, they believe that what happened to the Palestinians is just as big of an injustice as what happened to the Jews in World War II. Now, you may disagree with that, but the fact is that you have more than a billion people who believe that and they are watching on TV twenty-four hours a day with constant coverage.

Now, I’m not here to advocate for the destruction of Israel by any means. What I’m saying is that both people are claiming the same place and saying it’s theirs. So, for the last 20 years, they’ve been talking about separation and it hasn’t worked. Maybe that’s because separation is not the solution. I’m thinking that, if you want to find the solution to this, maybe we should look at the example of the United States. If blacks in this country had said, let’s go ahead and have segregation in this country, how many of you think there would be peace out there in the streets of the United States? I think it was the ‘backs versus Ferguson’ case where a black man was kicked out of the subway and he went to the courts and they told him that you do not have sufficient status to make such a case.

Well, guess what? I was born in what is now known as the nation of Israel. I am not a citizen there. I can never go back there as a citizen. I was born without citizenship because I’m not Jewish. You actually have a better chance of getting in there than me because I’m not Jewish. Now, I’m actually not talking against Israel. In fact, I think we could build a stronger Israel. But, I don’t think separation is the answer. Instead, give me equality. It has worked everywhere else. Give me the right to vote. Make me a citizen of the country and I might not want to destroy it. My solution would be, and you don’t have to agree with this but – make it one country. And, I’m advocating a stronger Israel. If you want a stronger United States, you cannot have a situation where 4 million people don’t have any rights. They can’t travel, they cannot vote, and they are not citizens. It didn’t work in the United States, it didn’t work in South Africa, and it isn’t working in the Middle East.

Now, this isn’t something that just the Palestinians are upset about. You’re talking about more than 50 countries that are upset about this. The entire Muslim populations and many of their allies, including many Christian nations, and most of Africa are upset about this. This is a constant issue and must be the focus of a search for peace.

Most people who take one side or the other, whether you are 100% pro-Israel or 100% pro-Palestinian, I think you are 100% wrong. I don’t want you to be on my side all the time. I want you to be an equal judge. When I do something stupid, tell me “you’re wrong.” But, if you side against me all the time, I’m probably going to be bitter. And, this is the basis behind Arab and Muslim disputes against the United States. That’s what is has been for the last 60 years and every time there has been a dispute it has been about that.

 

John Morine:

Howie, same question for you.

Howie:

Well, let’s first recognize that, with rare exception, the term anti-war refers to every one of us. None of us want war. The question is rather: Are there times when going to war is a necessity, which can ultimately save lives?

It seems to me that, in regards to the current war, whenever two individuals come together with different opinions, both of them must ultimately resort to speculation. Obviously, we can point to the 4000+ individuals who have lost their lives – those are the cold hard facts. But, beyond that we must speculate.

We know, for example, that Osama Bin Laden told his followers that there would be not one, but three major terrorist attacks on the United States, each one more deadly than the previous. And, here we must speculate: Did he have the ability and the will to carry out these threats? All I can say is that I am glad I am not the President of the United States.

In regards to Iraq, we know that Saddam Hussein was operating torture chambers and rape rooms. We also know that he was responsible for the holocaust over some 600,000 plus of the Kurdish people. And again, we must speculate: Would he have ceased this action if there had been a few more United Nations sanctions? Again, I am glad I am not the President.

Now, I have previously mentioned that Jesus’ initial approach to hostile opponents was to turn an enemy into a friend. He says that if they slap you on one cheek, to turn the other cheek, but He leaves open the question as to what to do if they slap that one, also. I believe that Muhammad followed this principle to the best of his ability. There is a tradition about Muhammad, which most Muslims seem to feel is historical. It seems the he initially encountered much opposition to his position that there is only one God. Each day as he would walk down a certain path, a lady would stand out throwing garbage at him. Muhammad never retaliated, but took her actions in stride. Then one day, the lady was not there and he inquired about her. Hearing that she was ill, he went to visit her. She was overtaken with shame and became a follower. Muhammad had indeed succeeded in turning an enemy into a friend.

Now, there are some Muslims who would say that this story is not historical. That is irrelevant. The real question here is this: Was Muhammad of the sort of noble character that such a reaction would indeed be feasible? Practically all Muslims will say that he was and, if so, then we need to look at the recent cartoons ridiculing Muhammad and the response to them. No one can deny that the cartoons were insulting and repulsive. But, from all indications, Muhammad himself would not have responded with violence, nor would he have encouraged his followers to do so. So, we must conclude, then, that the ensuing attacks upon newspapers carrying the cartoons only served to bring reproach upon Islam – another example of hijacking.

Please understand that we are not looking to affix the blame for these things upon the Muslim Leadership or upon Islam itself. We are more than willing to accept the assumption that Muhammad himself would have voiced disdain toward such teachings. However, for us to say that – carries little weight. It needs to come from the Muslim Leadership itself. Some years ago, the Muslim Leadership labeled the Ahmadiyya sect of Pakistan as being “Not Islam.” The end result was that followers of Islam shunned adherents to this bizarre movement. Such needs to happen with proponents of terrorism as well as the publishers of such hateful school literature.

Now, I must take exception here to something that the Chaplain of the Pentagon wrote me. He stated that the people carrying out terrorist attacks are not even religious – they are simply evil people who use religion to justify their actions. Regarding the terrorist leaders, he is right. They have, indeed, hijacked Islam. However, a great many of their followers, I think, simply have a fervent zeal to follow God, but have a misunderstanding as to His nature. Would God, indeed, reward His followers for blowing themselves up in an effort to kill others?

One theory says that they receive 72 virgin women in heaven as their reward for doing so. But, this is not the nature of God in either the Bible or the Qu’ran. Rather, it is a distortion of the Hadith. It reflects the teachings of Abu Hurayra; a very violent man who opposed the rights of women and claimed to have heard Muhammad speak the same. His contemporaries accused him of making up statements and pointed out that he falsely quoted Muhammad without benefit of a second witness.

I am pleased to announce tonight that, even as we speak, scholars in Turkey are in the process of properly interpreting the Hadith in such a manner that it will not be falsely understood to promote the abuse of women or of Christians or Jews. As previously noted, Muhammad never regarded either Christians or Jews to be infidels. And, we are extremely hopeful that such teachings will be removed from school literature being used in the Middle East.

Now, there are two other points to be made in regards to peace in the Middle East. First, much friction has centered on the question of who owns territorial rights to the Holy Land. Let’s, please, understand that both sides of this issue come from a Biblical perspective. Typically, Evangelical Christians have viewed the prophecies in Ezekiel 37 and 38 as being fulfilled by the Zionist movement and the Balfour Declaration, which assigned the land to Israel in 1948. However, we must be aware that alternate interpretations are possible.

For example, Ezekiel’s prophecy could have actually been fulfilled approximately 160 years later in 445 B.C. when the Persian King Artaxerxes granted the Hebrew people permission to reinhabit the land. Years later in Matthew 21:43, Jesus tells the Jewish religious leaders who are plotting to have Him killed that because of this, the kingdom of Jerusalem will be taken away from them and given to another who will bear its fruit. They, of course, were driven away again by Rome in 70 A.D. as Jesus prophesied and later the Arab people began to settle in the land.

Many centuries later, after World War I, the land came under British control and Jewish Zionists began launching a series of terrorist attacks on the inhabitants in a effort to persuade the British to hand the land over to them. They set off explosions at Deir Yassin and at the King David Motel, which killed hundreds of innocent people. Additionally, they orchestrated the assassination of the British Eastern Minister Lord Moyne. Ultimately, the British agreed to hand over the land to them as a result. But, please note that this is a far cry from the manner in which the ancient prophet Nehemiah got access to the land. He, in fact, was such a nice, friendly fellow that King Artaxerxes went out of his way to give him access to the land.

So, what are we to make of this? In God’s eyes, just who, in fact, does have a right to the land? Well, I know of no passage in either the Bible or the Qu’ran, which directly addresses that question. The only clue we are given is that they will bear its fruit – that is the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, faith, and meekness. There hasn’t been a whole lot of this sort of fruit produced from either side in recent years.

Perhaps the best answer, here, is to seek the face of God. Perhaps we need to stop putting this in the hands of the politicians and allow the people of faith to intervene. There is an old song that says, “There will never be any peace until God is seated at the conference table.” Let’s give that invitation to God. Let’s seek his face on this matter. It may be that He would most enjoy seeing brothers and sisters come together peacefully and share the fruit of the land. And, brothers and sisters are exactly what the Jews and Arabs are.

Consider something for a moment: The Jewish people have made tremendous contributions over the years in the fields of medicine and computer technology and, as previously mentioned, the Arab people have led the way in both science and mathematics. Imagine if you put the two of them together working side by side. The benefits to society as a whole are unfathomable. It staggers the imagination.

Still, one other point that needs to be made in regards to the war is the misunderstanding of the “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” principle in the Pentateuch. If I happen to yawn and hit you in the eye, are you just in hitting me back? Absolutely not! This particular command originated, not with the Law of Moses, but with the law code of the Pagan King Hammurabi. And, it happened that, while the Hebrews were traveling in the wilderness, they were passing through territory governed by this very code. What God is saying to the people of Israel is that, while you are in the other guy’s backyard, you are going to have to abide by his laws no matter how unjust they are.

We follow this same principle today. Anyone remember the young American boy a few years ago who was caught breaking car windows in Singapore? The judge sentenced him to be cained six times with a martial arts weapon. And do you remember his response? “You can’t have me cained. I’m an American. In America that is considered cruel and unusual punishment.” And do you remember the judge’s response? “This ain’t America, boy.” So you see, the eye for an eye principle applied only as long as the Hebrew people were in Hammurabi’s backyard. It ended the moment they entered Caanan. And, as God’s people, we need to stop living by it and realize that we answer to a higher law.

Kamal:

Now, you mentioned that there are two different views as to what the Bible says about the Middle East. And, that is just the point. The Qu’ran says just what you want it to say and the Bible says whatever you want it to say. These are books that are written in such a way that they are open to more than one interpretation. If that weren’t the case, you wouldn’t have all these different denominations of Christianity.

You told me earlier when I asked you “What are the Assemblies of God’ that it came about because of certain Christians in the early 19th century that said that the age of miracles was over, basically, since the time of Christ, whereas the Assemblies of God said, “No, we still have miracles.” Now, maybe someone else, maybe a Catholic or a Pentecostal may not share your opinion. And, that’s what we have in Islam. You can have someone who is moderate politically and, yet, is convinced that he is absolutely correct. Like that lady who wanted to give you that bone marrow, she and her mom probably didn’t look at you as a Christian. She probably just looked at you as a great man, as God’s child and knew that God would not discriminate against His own child.

As a lawyer, I see parents who still think their child is a great person even if he’s a criminal. They still love their own child. So, I think that, when God created us, he loved us all the same. I have to concede that I’m a Muslim because I was born a Muslim. You’re a Christian because you were born a Christian. So, we can strive to be good regardless of what we are. Until Jesus Christ comes back and straightens us out, we can work toward doing good together.

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