Based on the e-mails we are receiving, the primary concern with a One-State Union among Israelis is that Palestinians will ultimately overpopulate them, gain control of the government, and bring about a system of revenge similar to the Nazi Holocaust. This is acknowledged as a legitimate concern. However, the plan being put forward (that of One-State ~ Two-Nations) makes such a scenario impossible. We had planned to publish the following article, written by Kamal, on week five (May 9th), but have decided to present portions at this time.
“…During the Clinton Administration, the Palestinians and Israelis spent nearly ten years trying to hammer out a deal based on the two-state solution. That peace process ended in total failure…. What caused the failure of the peace talks may be the solution itself, rather than the parties. The consequences of creating two separate nations by dividing Israel and Palestine were, and still are, difficult pills to swallow for both Israelis and Palestinians…. In light of these facts, some may think that a solution to this conflict is impossible. Not true…. [T]he solution is not in separating, but in coming closer together. Many Israelis and Palestinians seem to agree that the land they call Israel/Palestine is indivisible. Thus, the solution lies in keeping the land that Israelis and Palestinians call home as one nation, while at the same time, providing each side with the security and the individuality the parties would have if they had their own separate nations.
“What is being proposed here is a Two-State ~ One-Nation solution based on equality, freedom, and civil rights for both Israelis and Palestinians. The idea behind this solution is that there will be two sovereign states similar to New York and New Jersey that together make one nation similar to the United States of America. However, rather than being a federation, it would be a confederation. The essential difference between a federation and a confederation is that the states in a confederacy have much more sovereignty than in a federation.
“[This] is not entirely new. What is new about the Two-State ~ One Nation solution is that is achieves the benefits of being one united nation while reserving for both Israelis and Palestinians, the security and independence of being two separate nations…. Israelis were afraid of a demographic problem. The Israelis feared that if they gave the Palestinians equality and political and civil rights that the Palestinians may one day outnumber the Israelis and vote Israel out of existence…. [T]hose Israelis who fear giving the Palestinians equality and civil rights assume that they cannot give the Palestinians equality and, at the same time, have a Jewish state. This is a false assumption. The territory that includes Israel and Palestine can be one nation, where the Palestinians have equality, political and civil rights and, at the same time, be a safe haven for Jews from all over the world.
“Creating a confederation of two-states united by a federal-type government with limited powers can do this…. [W]e can avoid the demographic consequences of the migration by having their [individual] votes count in their respective state, regardless of where they live. This approach will totally avoid the demographic fear that Israelis have by making certain that migration of people does not dilute the political power of Jews or Palestinians in their local and state politics.
“As to the national government, Israel and Palestine shall each contribute 50% to the national parliament, regardless of their populations. With this solution, the Israelis do not have to fear political dilution from potential demographic changes and the Palestinians do not have to fear political dilution from the Israelis.
“… [T]he President or Prime Minister of the national government of the United States of Israel and Palestine … should be elected by the national parliament. Being that the parliament is divided 50/50, no Palestinian or Israeli can win without support from parliamentarians of the other side. This will guarantee that no Palestinian or Israeli extremist can become President of the United States of Israel and Palestine.
“Initially, the national government should have limited powers similar to the United States government in the early days of the Union…. On economic matters, Israel and Palestine shall act as one nation, with no exception. They 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 would be a goldmine the likes of which the world has never seen. A nation that is the birthplace of western civilization and immensely revered by Jews, Christians, and Muslims; religious tourism, alone, will guarantee a healthy economy in perpetuity.
“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 geography that is at the intersection of three continents can produce an economic powerhouse that is second to none on a per capita basis. Moreover, a peaceful nation made up of Palestine and Israel at peace with their neighbors, will not only bring economic prosperity to that nation, but also to the entire Middle East….
“This solution will basically take Israelis and Palestinians back to the time before the first intifada [uprising] began in 1987, with the only difference being that the Palestinians will have rights and equality that they never had under the occupation. As proof that this solution can work is the fact that ISRAEL HAS ONE MILLION PALESTINIANS WITH ISRAELI CITIZENSHIP AND THEY ARE NOT DEMONSTRATING, THROWING ROCKS, OR BLOWING THEMSELVES UP. WHY IS THIS? The only difference between Palestinians who are citizens of Israel and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza is that one group has freedom, political and civil rights, while the other has nothing….”
– also consider the following article from Israeli official Reuven Rivlin :
“Accepting Palestinians into Israel better than two states”
By Zvi Zrahuya
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said Thursday that he would rather accept Palestinians as Israeli citizens than divide Israel and the West Bank in a future two-state peace solution.
Speaking during a meeting with Greece’s ambassador to Israel Kyriakos Loukakis, Rivlin said that he did not see any point of Israel signing a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority as he did not believe PA President Mahmoud Abbas “could deliver the goods.”
Referring to the possibility that such an agreement could be reached, Rivlin said: “I would rather Palestinians as citizens of this country over dividing the land up.”
Late last year, Rivlin said in a Jerusalem address that Israel’s Arab population was “an inseparable part of this country. It is a group with a highly defined shared national identity, and which will forever be, as a collective, an important and integral part of Israeli society.”
In a speech given in the president’s residence, the Knesset speaker called for a fundamental change in relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel, urging the foundation of a “true partnership” between the two sectors, based on mutual respect, absolute equality and the addressing of “the special needs and unique character of each of the sides.”
Rivlin also said that “the establishment of Israel was accompanied by much pain and suffering and a real trauma for the Palestinians,” adding that “many of Israel’s Arabs, which see themselves as part of the Palestinian population, feel the pain of their brothers across the green line – a pain they feel the state of Israel is responsible for.”
“Many of them,” Rivlin says, “encounter racism and arrogance from Israel’s Jews; the inequality in the allocation of state funds also does not contribute to any extra love.”
THE EXPERIENCE THAT INSPIRED THE OPEN LETTER
On a sunny morning in January of 2001, I was driving a Medical Adult Day Care Van up to the home of a young woman named Linda. I made this trip daily to pick up Linda’s mother who was crippled and required the assistance of a walker. Occasionally, on particularly cold days, I would be invited into the living room to wait while her mother finished getting ready. Each time, I would look curiously around at the symbol of a crescent moon properly hung by Linda on the wall. It had become obvious from this that Linda was a practicing Muslim. It appeared to me, though, that her mother was Hindu. Regardless of the fact that I was a Christian, we developed a close friendship, probably most attributable to my caring for Linda’s mother as we walked out to the van and she made her way on board each day.
On this particular day, I was making plans to take a temporary leave of absence in preparation for a bone marrow transplant. Back in July of 1999, I had been diagnosed with Mantel Cell Lymphoma, an often-fatal form of cancer. In fact, I had not been expected to live. My spleen had swollen to between 30 and 35 times its original size and was projected to burst if chemotherapy did not shrink it. The chemo did not produce the required shrinkage. A doctor at that time told me that I might live to see the Bicentennial celebration in 2000, but that 2001 was out of the question. My experience with this is described more fully in my previous book The Church and Terri Schiavo.
For now, let’s just note that on September 4, 1999, I collapsed and looked up to see my father’s aunt and uncle coming toward me with a large man off to their right. Up above, I could see a blinding Light behind an incline and there, on the incline, was my father running toward me. They began to lead me toward the Light, but I screamed, “No! I can’t go! My kids aren’t grown!” All attention was directed toward the man on my left who finally said, “All right, then.” The next thing I knew I was back in my body wedged between the bathroom commode and the wall. As I stood up, I realized that my spleen was, so far as I could tell, no longer enlarged. I felt that I was healed, but as it would turn out, the healing was not complete. By September of 2000, my spleen had again begun to enlarge. It was at this point that the bone marrow transplant was prescribed. The big hurdle, now, was that I had no donor. My sister, Kim, did not match and there was little likelihood that anyone else would.
Now, Linda did not know all of these details. All she knew was I was going to die if I didn’t have the transplant. So on that morning, Linda came out to the van ahead of her mother. I thought at first that her mother may be ill and that I was going to be sent on my way. But instead, Linda just wanted to talk.
“Pastor Howie,” she said, “my mother and I talked it over last night and we have decided that we cannot let you die. I want to go to the hospital with you. I’ll give you half of the bone marrow in my body, half for you and half for me. That way, we both have a fighting chance.”
Linda, now, had no way of knowing that all that was needed was a small amount of marrow, nor did she know that the likelihood of a bone marrow match from a dark-skinned Asian woman to a light-skinned Bavarian man was probably one in a billion times a billion – but, her offer was genuine. Here was a Muslim woman who was willing to have her guts ripped out and (so far as she knew) endanger her own life in an effort to save the life of a Christian man, whom she knew only from a few minutes each morning for the past several months. I was brought to tears.
Nine months later, after I had gone through an “analogous” transplant (meaning I was my own donor), I was still recovering. My hospital stay had ended and I was in my bedroom riding an exercise bike to build my strength. Shortly, I was due to open the Emmorton Snowball Stand. Our friend Chris Covington, the owner of the stand, had offered me a part-time job during the progression through my recovery process. This was a great help to our family. The snowball stand was just a couple blocks away within walking distance. I was initially not allowed to drive a car since my recovery was not complete. Only in the prior week or so had I been allowed to begin driving. As I sat there on the exercise bike, my mother called me from the downstairs phone.
“Have you got the television on?” she asked.
“No, I’m just riding the bike and listening to music,” I said.
“Well, you better turn it on. There’s something going on out there,” she replied.
Flipping the TV on, I watched as the picture filled the screen, and the first thing that hooked my gaze was a huge ball of fire coming from both towers of the World Trade Center in New York. The first voice I heard was that of Fox News commentator, Tony Snow, who assured his audience that, “This is not the end of our country. We will get through this.”
Obviously, something was desperately wrong. As you must know by now, it was September 11, 2001, when 19 Muslim terrorists had hijacked four airliners, crashing them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. At this point, there was no accounting for the fourth plane. I reasoned that enough time had lapsed for relatives of these passengers to alert them via cell phone.
As I started out of the house toward the snowball stand, I looked up in the sky and said to myself, “There’s a battle going on up there. Lord, please, help the passengers to survive.” As you probably know by now, the fourth plane also crashed in Pennsylvania, killing all onboard. As I was heading up the walkway, one of our neighbors walked by.
“Hi, Howie. How are you coming along?” He asked.
“Oh, okay I guess. But, I understand we’re under attack,” I replied.
“What do you mean?” was his puzzled reply.
I explained to him what I had just seen on TV and the man stood there in stunned silence for a few seconds. Without a word, he U-turned and hastened back into his house.
Not long after arriving at the snowball stand, Chris called. “Close up the stand and go get your children,” she said. “It looks like this country is under attack!”
Driving over to the school, I listened to reports on radio station WCBM in Baltimore, Maryland. The commentator was already surmising the events saying, “This whole thing smells like Osama Bin Laden. Now, maybe the liberals in our government will take my advice and do something about this killer cult and that Muslim religion of hate.”
Upon arriving at the school, other parents and myself were herded into the gymnasium, while the students were summoned. From among the crowd, I could hear murmurings similar to those of the radio announcer: “a killer cult,” “a religion of death,” “a fanatical hate group.” My mind immediately went to Linda, the Muslim woman who had wanted so much to save my life at the risk of her own. Surely, this woman was anything but hateful.
I also knew, though, that there was much hatred toward the United States and its support of Israel in the Middle East by the Islamic Extremists. I remembered the Munich Olympic killings, the bombing of the USS Coal, and other terrorist attacks. However, it had never dawned on me that the hatred might be so extreme that terrorists would crash airliners, knowing that it would result in their own deaths as well.
Before returning home, we stopped off at Southampton Middle School and left word for my wife Angie, who was working in the cafeteria, that I had picked up the kids. On the way back to the car, the kids were understandably inquisitive.
“Dad, tell us. What’s going on?”
I paused and looked at them. I then choked up at the sound of hearing those same words come from my own mouth. “The United States is under attack,” I told them.
“Under attack? Who’d be crazy enough to attack us? We could clobber them!” came the response.
“Well, apparently it was Muslim terrorists,” I told them. “Probably some nutcase by the name of Osama Bin Laden.”
A week or so later, I listened to a radio program where a guest espoused his view that Arabs were “subhuman killer apes” and needed to be taken to the Antarctic and abandoned until they had killed off each other. Some callers to the show echoed the man’s sentiments, while Muslim Americans called in trying to counter this point of view.
“Islam is a religion of peace,” one man said.
“Oh, yeah? Well if 9/11 is your idea of peace, then I feel sorry for anyone who goes to war with you! You guys are nothing but a bunch of blood sucking vampire bats!” the man responded.
Again, I thought of Linda, who wouldn’t hurt a fly.
Countless thoughts have coursed through my mind since that horrible day. I have heard stories of how Bin Laden and his aids had brainwashed young men into believing that committing mass murder and suicide would land them in heaven with 72 virgin women as their servants (a Wahabbist concept incorporated into obscure and generally rejected passages in the Shiite Hadith). What a rude awakening that must have been as they entered the afterlife!
I knew well of the brainwashing that took place among cultic groups such as those of Jim Jones’ “People’s Temple” and David Koresh’s “Branch Davidian Cult,” both of which had resulted in the mass deaths of their followers. I also knew of the slaughter of thousands of innocent settlers during the Mountain Meadows Massacre of Mormon leader Brigham Young as well as numerous members of Jehovah’s Witnesses who went to meaningless deaths rather than accept a blood transfusion and who even allowed their own children to die. However, I have reasoned, that somewhere beyond the dark, dense forest of all the brainwashing are a sea of people of self-sacrificing love and innocence, like Linda.
It dawned on me that religious fervor, very much like electricity, can be channeled in positive ways, such as lighting up an entire city or it can be misdirected in such a manner as to bring disastrous results by burning down that same city. I have known thousands of family-oriented evangelical Christians who live in such a harmonious way that the aforementioned cult tragedies are almost unthinkable.
Now, it would be tempting here to just conclude that we live in peace because we are either superior individuals or simply because we believe the truth. However, I began to reject such notions after hearing the teachings on “Natural Law” by Dr. William Lane Craig. Dr. Craig maintains that every human being has the capacity to discern good from evil and that those moral absolutes exist simply because a moral Creator exists. That was it. This explained Linda. Here was a good moral person directed by religious fervor that was not ‘out of control.’
I began to wonder if it was too late to redirect the religious fervor of other Muslims in such a way as to bring about peace instead of death. I observed Pope Benedict’s meeting with high Muslim clerics from the Muslim World League (MWL). Sure, these people held some doctrines different from my own, but I observed in them a desire to seek truth and to see love triumph over hate.
I also knew that the Muslim Leadership has tremendous influence over 1.2 billion people. I remembered back in 1980 when I had met a leader from among the Ahmadiyya Muslims. This man and his followers had espoused radical teachings to the extent that the World Leadership had declared them “Not Islam”. As a result, millions of Muslim people were directed away from this group. In the days after 9/11, Christian leaders Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Franklin Graham had chastised the Muslim World Leadership for being hesitant about applying the “Not Islam” designation to terrorists. This very well may have been a possibility, except that the Christian leadership began employing derogatory comments in an effort to draw the MWL into open debate. Muslims are quite sensitive (some say too sensitive) about statements that seem to cast their prophet Muhammad in a bad light. Phrases such as “Muhammad was nothing more than a terrorist himself;” “Bin Laden is simply a clone of Muhammad;” and “Islam is a wicked religion” only served to widen the gap.
In September of 2006, I reached the conclusion that, if the subject was approached from a manner that could not be perceived as sarcastic or derogatory, we could appeal to the “natural law” that is within each of us and that a dialogue between Christian and Muslim leaders might be both possible and fruitful.
Ultimately Linda had made me aware that, as the Apostle Paul said, the laws of God are imprinted in the hearts of each human being (Romans 2:14-15).
HE OPEN LETTER
(as forwarded to the Islamic leadership – September 2006)
To The Reader
Throughout the text of this blog, I make frequent reference to an “Open Letter” that was sent out to the Muslim Leadership in 2006 through the internet, radio and television broadcasts, and through various press releases by my publicist, Helen Cook.
Prior to forwarding the “Letter,” I submitted it for review to various theologians and missionaries from Catholic and a variety of Protestant denominations. I would gladly list them here, but have been asked by several not to mention them by name as it may jeopardize their outreach into various countries. I should note that various points from the Open Letter are repeated throughout this text. I apologize for the repetition but have wanted to avoid any changes in a text that gained initial support from much of the Muslim leadership. Following is “The Open Letter.”
Dear Fellow Religious Leaders,
I am a Christian pastor with the Assemblies of God, and numerous leaders within the Christian community have approved the following letter.
It is to be recognized that both of our faiths have much in common. We both recognize the existence of one God, Who created the universe. We acknowledge that God is holy and that all of His ways are just and perfect. We stress the importance of worshipping God above all else. We acknowledge the importance of loving one another, of caring for the poor, the elderly, the sick or injured, and those who are wrongfully outcast. We have an inward desire for peace and acknowledge and that it can only be attained by seeking this God of peace. Also, we eagerly await the ultimate return of Jesus Christ (Isa).
We also acknowledge that our own faiths have, throughout history, fallen short of these ideals on numerous occasions. One such extreme occasion would involve the horrible treatment of the Islamic people during the medieval crusades. Enough cannot be said about these atrocities. For these actions, committed by our ancestors, we, the Church, are repentant and seek forgiveness not only from God, but also from the descendants of those who were persecuted.
That being said, there is another matter of extreme importance before us in the present day. It concerns terrorist acts being committed against people around the globe and the response of the Islamic leadership concerning it.
As you know, much of the secular press has labeled these actions as the result of “a religious war” being carried on in our midst. This fact we find unconscionable, as we, the Christian leadership, have no recollection of having declared war on you. Nor, has the Islamic leadership given us any formal declaration that they consider themselves at war with us. It is most unfortunate that the secular press often takes it upon itself to represent or misrepresent our positions.
With this fact in mind, we must place a number of questions before the Islamic leadership. There are a number of reasons why your response is so important. Foremost, as Leaders within the faiths of Islam and Christianity, each of us has tremendous influence on those who are followers of such faith.
Since the division between Muslims and Jews seems far greater than that between Muslims and Christians, we have been hesitant to include Jews in our correspondence with you. Nonetheless, the path towards peace could not ever be complete without dealing with the friction between Islam and Judaism; so, at least for the present, we will not include Jews in our discussion, but will attempt to, particularly in point #9, fairly represent their position.
Again, the point of this “Letter” is not to justify actions from either side, but rather to establish a peaceful dialogue between the Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities and to, as much as possible, bring an end to hostility and to establish peace for future generations as we anticipate the return of Christ.
We would request a formal and public reply to the questions below.
Are we in fact at war? Have the Christian and Jewish faiths, in some way, alienated themselves from Islam to the point that you advocate our destruction?
Certainly, we must acknowledge the existence of many Christian missionaries, evangelists, and apologists from both within the clergy and the laity who seek to convert Muslims to the Christian faith through persuasion. However, there is a vast difference between converting through persuasion and being forced to convert.
Recently, two FOX News journalists verbally became converts to Islam when a knife was pressed against their throats and their lives were threatened if they did not do so. So again, this question: Are we, in fact, at war to the point that you advocate our murder?
There exists a story, whether historic or legendary, concerning the prophet Muhammad. It is said that, during the early days of his ministry, his teaching that there is only one God was strongly rejected by his own Quraish tribe as well as many other local tribes. Each day, Muhammad would walk down a certain pathway past the house of a woman who greatly despised his teaching. One tradition, at least, says that the woman was Jewish. Anyway, the woman would openly ridicule him and pelt him with garbage. Muhammad never retaliated. Instead, he took the persecution in a humble manner and walked on.
One day, Muhammad walked down that same road, but the woman was not there. He wondered what had happened to her and began to inquire. Learning that she had become ill, Muhammad went to visit her at her bedside. The woman was both stunned and humbled to see him. She inquired as to why he would have such compassion upon one who had so unjustly persecuted him and was told, “If throwing garbage at me brings you happiness, then you are welcome to do so everyday.”
The woman was so overcome by this that she repented and became a follower of the true God.
Now, many Islamic people accept the above story as historic and many others reject it as fable, primarily because it runs contrary to the idea that Muhammad would have accepted terrorist attacks as an acceptable method of spreading Islam.
Whether the story is historical or fictional, we do not know. However, our main question is this: Does this story run contrary to the true nature of Muhammad? Or, is it conceivable that he would have reacted in such a way? Our Bible records the words of Jesus as telling his own followers to “turn the other cheek” and to “carry the Roman soldier’s bag a second mile” and literally to turn your enemy into a friend (Matthew, chapter 5). Such actions, by our definition, reflect godly qualities and would be characteristic of a prophet.
So, our question is this: Was the character of Muhammad of the nature that the above story would at least be feasible? And, if so, were not the 9/11 terrorist attacks on our country worthy of being condemned by the Islamic leadership as blasphemy?
It has been widely reported that, in many Islamic countries; primarily Saudi Arabia, school children are taught to despise both Christians and Jews. In fact, it is reported that the children are taught that Jews are actually apes who have been designed to look human and that Christians are actually pigs.
NPR author, Vicki O’Hara, reports the following.
The Center for Religious Freedom at Freedom House has studied some of the textbooks currently in use in Saudi public schools, from grades one through 12. Nina Shea, the center’s director, says the texts do not comport with what Saudi officials have been saying. The textbooks “reflect an ideology of hatred against Christians, Jews … and others who do not subscribe to the Wahhabi doctrine,” Shea says. The center’s report cites numerous examples. It quotes a fourth-grade text as telling students to “love for the sake of God and to hate for the sake of God.” The report says that textbooks instruct students that Christians and Jews are “apes and pigs” and warns students not to “greet,” “befriend,” or “respect” non-believers.
Saudi officials have told Washington that their reformed curriculum encourages tolerance and understanding of other religions and cultures. Shea says any changes in that direction are miniscule. “They have made some changes,” she says. “Sometimes though, the changes aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. For example, they will say, ‘You have to hate the unbeliever, but to treat them justly.’ That’s supposed to be an improvement.” In its defense, the Saudi embassy in Washington issued a statement saying that curriculum reform is a massive undertaking and that the process in Saudi Arabia is ongoing. Shea is skeptical; she notes that the oil-rich Saudis began the reform process five years ago. “They certainly have the money to change all the textbooks for next semester,” she says, “Or, last semester for that matter.”
Our question, then, is this: Does the Islamic leadership, in fact, advocate teaching this sort of hatred to children. Would it actually be acceptable to hate someone for the sake of God? If so, then are we not endorsing blasphemy against a holy God? And finally, will the Islamic leadership openly rebuke school officials who print such material? Please, understand that we are not blaming the Leadership of Islam, or Islam itself for these teachings. We are more than willing to accept the assumption that Muhammad, himself, would have voiced disdain toward children being taught these things. However, it is meaningless for us to take such a stand. Such a proclamation needs to come from the Muslim Leadership itself.
Years ago, the Muslim Leadership issued a proclamation regarding the Ahmadiyya sect in Pakistan as “Not Islam.” Whether right or wrong, such a designation resulted in the Ahmadiyya being shunned by millions. So, you obviously have great authority and influence over the Islamic community. We are, therefore, asking that such a proclamation be made in regards to terrorist attacks as well as the aforementioned school literature.
Within the pages of the Qu’ran, Muhammad himself describes the Bible as a good book. Please consider the following quote:
ALLAH is HE besides Whom there is none worthy of worship, the Living, the Self-Subsisting and All-Sustaining. HE has sent down to thee the Book containing the truth and fulfilling that which precedes it; and HE has sent down the Torah (Law of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this, as a guidance to the people; and HE has sent down the Discrimination (judgment between right and wrong)” – (Surah 3:3-4)
Now, it must be noted that some Muslims have claimed that the Bible was corrupted after the time of Muhammad. This is plainly false, as we currently have copies of the Bible, which date centuries prior to the birth of Muhammad with no such evidence of corruption. That being said, we are left to wonder why there was no report of outrage on May 15, 2002, when the Washington Times reported that “there was little outcry when Islamic terrorists, holed up in Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, reportedly used the Bible as toilet paper. Catholic priests in the church marking the spot where Jesus was believed to have been born said that during the five-week siege, Palestinians tore up some bibles for toilet paper and removed many valuable sacramental objects.”
Should we not, then, conclude that these Palestinians committed blasphemy by desecrating a book that Muhammad endorsed?
We are quite concerned that the horrible abuses committed by representatives of the Christian Church during the medieval crusades have caused the Muslim people to discard two cardinal principles of both our faiths; namely the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Picture if you will, the demented tyrant, Raymond of Toulouse, robbing the homes of innocent Muslims, having them bound and placed inside their dwellings while the structure was burned to the ground. And now, picture all of this being done in the shadow of a large crucifix. Small wonder that the Muslim people began to view the cross as a symbol of evil. And, we greatly fear that they removed the crucifixion and the resurrection from their belief system as a result.
We are disgraced by these shameful actions of our ancestors and can only say that they falsely represent the Gospel message. We do, however, ask that the Muslim community reexamine the words of Muhammad himself, before dismissing the actions of Jesus on the cross. The following verse in the Qu’ran seems to imply the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave:
Thereupon she pointed to him. They said, “How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle?” Jesus said, “I am a servant of ALLAH. HE has given me the Book, and has made me a Prophet; And HE has made me blessed wheresoever I may be, and has enjoined upon me Prayer and Almsgiving so long as I live; And HE has made me dutiful towards my mother, and has not made me arrogant and graceless; And peace was on me the day I was born, and peace will be on me the day I shall die, and the day I shall be raised up to life again.”
That was Jesus, son of Mary, as quoted in Surah 19:30-35.
Yet, our understanding of Islam is that you teach that Jesus never went to the cross. We understand that this interpretation is derived from Surah 4:157: “And for claiming that they killed the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the messenger of GOD. In fact, they never killed him – they were made to think that they did … for certain they never killed him.”
Whereas, the substitution theory could be derived from the previous verse by itself, Arabic linguists have informed us that the verse is actually a paraphrase of Jesus’ statement, “You would have no power over me if it were not given you from above” (John 19:11). This interpretation would seem logical, since it complies with Surah 4:158 (“Instead God raised him to him”) and avoids an apparent contradiction.
The above understanding seems logical to us. Would maintaining the substitution theory not then put you in contradiction to Muhammad?
It is our understanding that Muhammad taught men to treat women as their equals. Indeed, Muhammad’s wife, Aisha, and his daughters are said to have supplied spiritual leadership for the Islamic community after his death.
However, today in many Muslim communities, we see Islamic women with limited access to education, employment, and equal rights in the family. Their own perspectives are seen as worthless and never sought. We are most 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.
Recently, we have become concerned about a young Iranian woman by the name of Nazanin Mahabad Fatehi. This 18-year-old woman stabbed one of three men who attempted to rape her and her 16-year-old niece. For that, she has been sentenced to death. We are informed that such actions are common in several Islamic countries and we find the practice horrific.
One of the unique aspects of Jesus’ ministry was that he counted women among his closest followers and was always respectful of them. Is it not contrary to the will of God for men to do otherwise?
Various individuals within both the Christian and Muslim communities have pointed to passages in the Qu’ran, which, at first glance, seem to encourage violence between the two movements. Passages such as Surah 2:193 & 216, 5:33 & 51, 8:39 & 65, 9: 5 & 29 are seen by many Muslims, as a call to arms against Christians. Christians, in turn, see them as reasons to retaliate. However, both groups seem ignorant of the historical setting in which the passages were written.
History tells of heretical groups known as the Quraish and the Collyridians, who existed in Asia at the time. This latter group taught that three gods existed in the heavens. In the beginning, a father god was said to have impregnated a goddess named, Mary, and their ensuing offspring was named, Jesus. Muhammad is almost certainly describing these people in Surah 5:73, 75, and 116; passages often mistakenly seen as being directed to the Christian concept of the Trinity. It is known that the Quraish practiced human sacrifice in their worship and, because the Collyridian practice of offering cakes to Mary in worship seems to have evolved from the worship of Artemis, and since the latter religion was also characterized by human sacrifice, it seems likely that the Collyridians sacrificed human beings as well. With this in mind, it would have seemed quite reasonable for Muhammad to have decreed war upon them. However, by contrast, he seems to have been at peace with the Christian community.
When the above facts are taken into account, does it not seem likely that the devil himself has used confusion between both groups to promote violence, when we should instead be working together in harmony?
One of the 9/11 terrorists imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay made the following statement. “Our religion is a religion of fear and terror to the enemies of God: the Jews, Christians, and pagans. With God willing, we are terrorists to the bone. So, many thanks to God.” Despite our differences, we, in fact, are willing to believe that Islam is NOT, in fact, a religion of fear, terrorism, or hate. However, this needs to be made plain to your adherents and not taught in your school systems.
Some years ago, the Islamic leadership declared the small Ahmadiyya splinter group as being “Not Islam.” Whether right or wrong, such a designation resulted in their being shunned by the Muslim world. However, when dealing with terrorism, the Muslim Leadership has been strangely silent; be it through intimidation or whatever. This needs to stop. Unless terrorism is truly compatible with Islam (which we assume it is not), then such action needs to be taken.
A teaching, which we understand to have originated from both the plagiarisms of Abu Hurayra (whom Omar Ibn Al-Kittab, the 2nd guilded Khalifa accused of falsely reporting what Muhammad had spoken) and from within the Wahabbi movement more than a millennium after the Qu’ran, says that those who commit acts of terror and kill non-Muslims are guaranteed a place in heaven with 72 virgin women as their servants. (As we understand it, the original Arabic meaning was not “virgins”, but “white raisins.”) Here, then, is a vital point: Does the Leadership of the Islamic religion thus encourage the murder of those who subscribe to Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc., and promise such eternal rewards or does it discourage such practice? Does the Wahabbi teaching not contract verses in the Qu’ran such as 5:82?
. . . and nearest among them in love to the believers will you find those who say, “We are Christians,” because amongst these are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant (5:82).
We have come across a quote from Osama Bin Laden in which he declares the United States government to be an enemy of Islam and then declares that anyone who pays taxes to the U.S. is, therefore, an enemy to be killed. Now, please understand that our paying taxes does not constitute an endorsement of all that goes on in our government. For example, we strongly oppose the Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion and are seeking to have it abolished. We do, however, pay taxes in obedience to the words of Jesus. When asked about paying taxes to the corrupt Roman government, Jesus observed Caesar’s image on a coin and stated, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21).
Secondly, please note another principle in our Bible from the following verses: Numbers 31:7-8, Deuteronomy 7, and I Samuel 15:3. It is here that the Hebrews are given instructions on how to deal with certain corrupt tribes; namely the Midianites, the Caananites, and the Amalakites. These groups not only advocated the extermination of the Jews themselves, but also the murder of their own firstborn child as a sacrifice to the pagan god, Baal. The solution that God gives to the Hebrews concerning these tribes of people is to wipe them out—kill them—remove them from the face of the earth.
Now, it pains us to say this, but just recently an Islamic woman was apprehended at an airport in England, together with her baby. It seems that the woman had stored an explosive in the baby’s bottle and had plans of detonating it over a populous American city, thus killing each passenger, including her own baby as well as thousands on the ground. Now, we have not heard any words of condemnation from the Islamic Leadership in regards to this woman. We are asking you, right now, “Will you condemn this woman’s actions as contrary to Islamic law?”
Still further, we must ask if you will condemn the actions of extremists who recently shot Leonella Sqorbati, a Christian worker at a children’s hospital in Mogadishu? This lady died from three gunshots to her chest. Will you condemn the intentional killing of Ali Mustaf Maka’il, a 22-year-old college student, also in Mogadishu? He was shot in the back for having become a Christian.
Will you condemn the words of Sheikh Abubukar Hassn Malin, one of your own clergy, who called for the murder of Pope Benedict XVI?
Will you condemn the beheadings of Daniel Pearl, Nick Berg, Kim Sun II, Paul Johnson, and others; each of which took place while the assassins shouted, “Allah is great!”? And, will you tell your people that imitating such actions are blasphemous and place them in danger of the wrath of God?
Additionally, we must point out that the Biblical response toward the Midianites, Caananites, and Amalakites was to destroy them. Please, we do not want our society to denigrate into such a state. As representatives of Jesus Christ, we want to be envoys for peace and not destruction. Please, also bear in mind that, unlike in most Muslim nations, the Leadership of the Christian Church has only limited influence among our government’s policymakers. And, we have no authority to establish political or military policy at all.
As previously noted, we have elected to exclude the Jewish community from our dialogue for the present time, as we are not sure that the Islamic Leadership would give approval to such a meeting. However, the question of Israel and the occupation of the Holy Land is a constant source of agitation and certainly cannot be overlooked.
Nor, can we totally obtain our goal of peace, until the Jews are included. In the meantime, however, there is much that the Muslim community can do to educate us.
A large portion of the Christian community has traditionally understood verses such as Isaiah 51:11 and Ezekiel 37:12 to be forecasting the Balfour Declaration and the Jews return to the land in 1948, as well as their subsequent capture of Jerusalem in 1967. However, we must recognize that alternate interpretations are feasible; for example, Isaiah and Ezekiel could be referring to the decree of the Persian king, Artaxerxes, which gave the Jews the right to return from exile in 446 B.C. By this view, the term “everlasting” in Isaiah 51:11 would be conditional upon their obedience as shown in Deuteronomy 28:58-68 and 29:24-28. That such obedience did not occur is implied by Jeremiah, chapters 2 and 3 and by Mark 11:20.
In addition to this, it must be noted that the Roman Emperor, Julian II, did in fact, approve the reconstruction of the Temple and the rebuilding of Jerusalem as homeland in 363 A.D. However, as Julian’s historian Ammianus Marcellinus records, the rebuilding was interrupted when “horrible balls of fire” came from underneath the earth:
… Then they began to dig the new foundation, in which work many thousands were employed. But what they had thrown up in the day was, by related earthquakes, the night following cast back again into the trench. “And when Alypius the next day earnestly pressed on the work, with the assistance of the governor of the province, there issued,” says Ammianus, “such horrible balls of fire out of the earth near the foundations, which rendered the place, from time to time, inaccessible to the scorched and blasted workmen. And the victorious element continuing in this manner obstinately and resolutely bent as it were to drive them to a distance, Alypius thought proper to give over the enterprise.”
The above disturbance may have resulted from the Ark of the Covenant (which all but the Levitical priesthood were forbidden to touch) still being within the foundation. It is our understanding that the present Mosque of Omar was simply built overtop without disturbing the foundation and with the entrance to the Holy of Holies simply sealed over. However, whether or not that is the case, it could well be that this was a sign that Jesus’ cursing of the fig tree and its ensuing death in Mark 11, indicated an end to the Abrahamic covenant and an end to the Jewish community’s right to the land.
We have also noted that many in the Islamic community point to the actions of Zionist groups, such as the Irgun or the Stern Gang and their alleged bombing of the King David Hotel in 1946 (which killed 91 innocent men, women, and children), or the brutal massacre of 260 Arab people at Deir Yassin, that these groups committed on April 9, 1948 – incidents that no doubt fueled the fires of future hostilities. Certainly, there is much dispute as to whether or not these incidents were accurately reported. Nonetheless, we are offering a listening ear to the Muslim Leadership on these subjects.
However, even if accurate, these actions do not justify the later attacks upon Israel and her supporters (such as those on 9/11 and the recent rocket attacks from Gaza). To say that they do is to thoroughly misinterpret the “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” concept stated in Exodus 21:23. This passage is a quote from the Law Code of Hammurabi, which was in effect when the Hebrews traveled through the wilderness on the way to Caanan. The concept being stated here is that, when in the other guy’s backyard, you will need to abide by his laws. We practice this same thing in the United States and elsewhere. Several years ago, a young American boy was apprehended in Singapore for breaking car windows. He was sentenced to be cained six times with a marshal arts weapon and promptly told the judge, “Your Honor, you can’t have me cained. I am an American, and in America, that is considered cruel and unusual punishment.” The judge’s response: “This ain’t America, boy.”
Just as being an American did not prevent the young boy from being subject to Malaysian law, so the Hebrews were not prevented from being under Hammurabi’s law when in his land. However, once they crossed over into the land of Caanan, Hammurabi’s law code was no longer in effect. Similarly, the “eye for an eye” principle does not apply to the people of God. We are under a higher standard, which requires us to be imitators of God and to extend His mercy and forgiveness to others.
We must also point out that the term “Palestinian,” given to those who are making claim to the land, is a misnomer. While it is true that the ancient Philistines (or Palestinians) could make a claim to the Gaza Strip, these people were entirely wiped out in 1270 by the Mamluk Sultan Baybars and do not exist as a people anymore (an apparent fulfillment of Jeremiah 47:2-5 and Zephaniah 2:5).
Additionally, it has been asserted that the modern day nation of Israel consists not of descendants of the Biblical Hebrews, but rather of the ancient Turkish people known as the Khazars. While the vast majority of Khazars did indeed opt for conversion to Judaism, recent DNA testing indicates that no more than 12% of the present-day Israelis bear any genealogical relation to the Khazars. A 2005 study concluded “if the R-M17 chromosomes in Ashkenazi Jews do indeed represent the vestiges of the mysterious Khazars then, according to our data, this contribution was limited to either a single founder or a few closely related men, and does not exceed 12% of the present-day Ashkenazim. (Nebel, Filon, Brinkmann, Majumber, Faerman & Oppenheim The Y Chromosome Pool of Jews as part of the Genetic Landscape of the Middle East; “The American Journal of Human Genetics 2001, Volume 69, #5, pp. 1095-1112.” See, also, Nebel, Filon, Faerman, Soodyall & Oppenheim Y Chromosome For A Founder Effect in Ashkenazi Jews, “European Journal of Human Genetics 2005, #13, pp. 388-391)
While the present disagreements over the land are regrettable, it would seem unwise for the Christian community to become directly involved at all. However, we would suggest that the dispute be resolved by a coming together of people of faith, rather than those of the secular community who would likely tend to take whatever position is politically favorable. Also, we believe that people of faith would be more likely to resolve the matter peacefully by seeking God’s will on the subject. An old song contained the words “There will never be any peace until God is seated at the conference table.” Let’s extend that invitation to God. It may very well be that He would establish a spirit of unity and love between both sides to the point that they could live together harmoniously in the land.
Now, we must also draw attention to recent words of Iranian leader, Akmadinejad. He stated that all tension could be brought to a halt if America would just convert to Islam. We would request an explanation as to just what this means. There are so many different versions of Islam throughout the world that we are not even able to interpret the statement. The only thing that we can think of in this regard is to break down the term “Islam” into its simplest form; that being “submission or surrender to God.” The vast majority of the Christian and Jewish communities have made an effort to do just that – to submit and surrender our lives to God. It is for this reason that we see so much conflict between the Judeo/Christian community and the secular world in America. We cannot approve of their endorsement of such things as abortion, pornography, or homosexual lifestyle and, as a result, they both hate and ridicule us.
We, then, ask the question, “Should those within the Christian and Jewish communities, who have surrendered their lives to God, then be considered Islamic? Would it, for example, be possible for someone to believe in the Deity and resurrection of Jesus Christ and salvation by grace and, yet, still be a Muslim?
Either way, there would seem to be a tremendous opportunity for us to work together for world peace. Now, we recognize the likelihood that there would be great disagreement over just how we could accomplish these goals. For example, some might conclude that the best way to remove pornography from a society is to kill the pornographer. This would run contrary to Christian teachings, as we would instead seek to change the pornographer’s heart with the Good News that God loves him. This may or may not run contrary to Muslim practice, but with all that the Qu’ran has to say about the mercy of God it seems unlikely. Nonetheless, we see an incredible opportunity for both groups to come together as a force for good.
This is why your response to these questions is so important. Many throughout the world do not even believe in God and much of that disbelief stems from their having seen violence and terror committed in the name of God. To the contrary, despite our differences, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism can be a force for good and for peace in the world and the clergy can lead the way.
Update: September 2008
We at CM Dialogue are extremely excited by the announcements that (1) King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has announced an upcoming dialogue between representatives of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, (2) the announcement that Saudi Arabia will allow the opening of between 5 and 10 Christian Church congregations within their borders, and (3) the announcement that Muslim scholars in Ankara, Turkey have begun a massive revision of passages in the Hadith – those which are likely not attributable to Muhammad himself and which inspire violence and the abuse of women.
Regardless of how one regards the individuals who have carried out suicide terrorist attacks over the past decade, the charge cannot be made that these people were non-religious. Rather, they had a fervent belief in God, but we believe, a distorted understanding as to His true nature. From all indications, the 9/11 terrorists actually expected to wake up in Heaven receiving the praise of a vengeful god who appreciated seeing his children carry out acts of terror upon one another, as he was apparently too weak to carry them out himself. This vengeful deity was then expected to reward the terrorist with 72 virgin women, who would be his servants for eternity.
This, however, is NOT the true nature of God as portrayed in either the Qu’ran or in the bible. Recently, leading Muslim clerics have recognized this fact and have gathered in Ankara, Turkey, to begin a massive revision of the Hadith – a collection of the writings of post-Qu’ranic authors, who previously offered their own interpretations, often erroneously, as to the true intent of Muhammad in regards to specific passages in the Qu’ran. Of particular interest are those of Abu Hurayra, a proponent of terrorism and an opponent of women’s rights, who compiled more than 5000 Hadiths without benefit of a second witness. Omar Ibn Al-Khattab, the second guided Khalifa and a contemporary of both men, accused Hurayra of making up stories about Muhammad.
This is an incredible effort which the British press has compared to the Protestant Reformation within Christianity. We at CM Dialogue applaud such an effort and are hopeful that our readers will encourage the following revisions to be made in the Hadith.
– Howie Gardner
(Next Week: The Statement That Inspired the Open Letter)