Monday, March 26, 2007

Americans and Israelis have their Jihad too

Arab, American and Israeli Jihad
Ghassan Rubeiz, March 23, 2007

Whenever I speak in the US about the Middle East I am inevitably asked “Why are Muslims hesitant to speak out against terrorism or Jihad”? I do not have a good answer to this challenging question and I am not sure there is one single answer.

Like Protestant Christianity and Judaism, Islam is a decentralized religion, particularly the (majority) Sunnis. Religious institutions do not have firm political control on their communities. There is no universal authority in the Muslim world to condemn and control irresponsible killing. Most of the indiscriminate killing is in the hands of thugs who easily assume leadership in civil war situations. Religious symbols are exploited by opportunists to recruit and mobilize young and unemployed fighters. Finally, the communities in which civil war crimes occur are too exhausted and too consumed by their own suffering to think of distant issues of morality.

Jihad is essentially a positive term (in Arabic) that means “taking on challenge boldly”. One of the derivatives of the root term “jihad” is “ijtihad”, which means “diligence”.
In a just war there is an application of jihad, in a positive sense.

Unfortunately jihad has become a dirty word in the Western world since it is associated with suicide bombing and other forms of indiscriminate violence. Regrettably, over the last three decades suicide bombing has become the preferred strategy of resistance for too many protest groups in the Muslim world. Wars of such asymmetry (between violent protest groups and conventional forces) maybe the trend of the future.

In fact, Muslim authorities have repeatedly condemned suicide bombing and all forms of violence against civilians by referring to the Koran, their Holy Book, 5:32: “..Whosoever killeth a human being... it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind..." But the spread of suicide bombing reinforces the public image that Islam is jihadist in the worst sense of the word.

Most Muslim authorities condemn acts of terror; yet universal rejection of indiscriminate violence is inhibited by intervening and overwhelming emotions as well as political sentiments. Muslims are angry with the colonialist West. They feel humiliated and deceived by expanding American and Israeli injustice in their homeland. They see this injustice at its worst in US policies in Iraq and in Palestine. The occupation which has destroyed Iraq, and America’s passionate support for oppressive Israeli practices, are unsettling to most Muslims and Arabs. This is not to say that Muslims are justified in continuing to use a war strategy that has proven morally questionable and counterproductive.

Many Muslims see the American Israeli assaults as a religious crusade. They consider their Jihad a response to a Judeo-Christian colonial partnership that has evolved and tightened between Israel and the US over the last six decades. The hard line character of the Israeli state has reawakened political Islam. A climate of competing religious identities affects the entire nature of political struggle in the region.

Muslims follow domestic Israeli-American politics closely. They observe that the US-Israeli political, economic and cultural symbiosis is partially fed by, among other constituencies, the extreme American evangelical right. Muslims observe the work of evangelists who disproportionably influence current US colonial policy in the Middle East: Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and John Hagee, to mention a few. Pastor Hagee is now one of the most powerful evangelical politicians in America. Last week he urged US Christians to “remain steadfast in the fight against Islamofascism”.

Muslims are aware that it has taken a long time for Americans to recognize Palestinian suffering. Americans realize that there are two sides to the Arab-Israeli conflict. But Americans are not yet sufficiently aware that their politicians are too often silenced by the Israeli Washington lobby. Democrats and Republicans debate all issues except Israel’s legislative privilege. The Israeli lobby intimidates even the most powerful legislators. There are few exceptions; even Senator Obama, a promising and fair minded presidential candidate, has already shown favoritism to Israel. His rival, Hilary Clinton, is almost pledged to Tel Aviv.

The alliance between the US and Israel is not simply political pragmatism. The God of the evangelicals is in the center of this alliance. The Christian right prays for continued expansion of Israel and eternal Israeli domination of Palestine. Is the politics of the Christian right a form of American Jihad? If Jihad is defined as mobilizing for war in the name of God then the right wing evangelical movement in America qualifies as Jihadist. Among the enthusiastic supporters of the Iraq occupation and a new US war with Iran are America’s conservative mega-church preachers, albeit not all.

Nowhere are the “Jihadists” of America more active than in Israeli politics. On March 16 Gary Bauer, President of the conservative and powerful non profit organization, American Values, and John Hagee, the CEO of John Hagee Ministries, invited several thousand Christian leaders to the second annual Washington Israel Summit, scheduled for July 16 to 19. The summit is sponsored by a new religious Christian Zionist movement: Christians United for Israel, CUFI. The invitation letter proudly reports that the previous week Hagee “delivered a rousing speech before 5000 attendees and prominent Jewish leaders at the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). His speech was interrupted by 13 standing ovations!”

Hagee leads American Christians to support Israeli politics unconditionally. His TV Ministry reaches 99 million homes in the US and abroad. He has his own “axis of evil”: Arabs, Muslims, Russians, the United Nations, the gay community, pro-choice voters and many more groups that do not agree with him on God, sex or Israel.

Many perceptive Jewish thinkers have recently warned that offering Israel near perfect immunity from criticism will eventually harm a state they dearly love. This clear headed elements argue that sobering the Israeli lobby, that appears to be drunk with power, would actually serve peace and the entire world Jewish community. If Israel is too protected for too long from pressure to engage in peace making it may become with time a new apartheid.

Today, the US and Israel stand alone in rejecting the newly formed Palestinian national unity government. While the European Union and the rest of the international community welcome recent Arab ( Saudi regional peace plan of normalization with Israel) and Palestinian gestures of compromise ( truce and respect of previous PLO agreements), the American-Israeli bilateral alliance continues to advocate for extending international measures of economic isolation of the Palestinian community. To be fair, very recently the US has slightly softened and made selective contacts (through minister of economics) with the Palestinian government. Is Washington getting nervous about its indulgent position towards Israel in face of deepening trouble in Iraq?

Americans wonder why Muslims do not control terrorism and Muslims wonder why Americans do not reform their foreign policy. Muslim and Judeo-Christian fundamentalisms provoke each other in a vicious cycle of hatred. Each side sees the evil on the outside through magnifying mirrors of ethnocentrism. Likewise, mainstream Christians, Jews and Muslims feel helpless in controlling their extremists. When Americans ask Muslims to stop their Jihad, are not Muslims justified in making the same request of Americans?


Blogger Larro said...

Finally! And I find you on Blogger.

I read this piece in Arabisto and Arab American News. I whole-heartedly agree that the Christian Right in the U.S. is a danger, not only to "Muslim" states and their sovereignty (meaning countries with predominantly Muslim populations) but also to anybody else in opposition to the views of this radical Christian ideology.

Namely me, as I am an atheist. That is why I have become a bit obsessed in following this political/religious juggernaut that has spawned some of the most powerful lobby groups in the history of this nation - AIPAC and CUFI to name a couple.

Anyway. I would make the case that the Christian Right has an agenda (however calculated could be argued) to literally "dumb-down" the American populace by creating an environment in which state and local governments are forced make cuts to "non-essential" education. So, who swoops in to fill that gap? Private schools; that have been empowered by Bushs' "No Child Left Behind Act" and "The Office of Faith-based Initiative".
What are these private schools (that are predominantly religious/Christian oriented) going to teach the coming generation? Christian ideals. A non-secular doctrine that instills a world view based on biblical scripture with Christian interpretation. How is that going to figure upon the future of humanity?

4:08 PM  
Blogger Larro said...

Sorry. There was more I wanted to say, but hey, I lost my train of thought because my mother called on the phone. LOL!

Anyway, I enjoy your take on this issue.

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