A Call For Unity
Chapter 3 : Uniting Against Radicalism
Radical tendencies, irrespective of their origin, are one of the most dangerous threats to world peace and security. Radicalism means to advocate fundamental and sudden changes by means of uncompromising and hard-line policies. Radicals seek such changes by employing cunning and often aggressive policies. One of radicalism's characteristic traits is the angry attitude visible in its adherents' speeches, books, and demonstrations.
Radical movements are dominated by blindly advocated taboos, instead of conscious behavior, and reflect amass psychology. This psychology, in turn, can get so out of control that people, who no longer know what they are doing or why, turn their aggression on others. In an environment where mutual acceptance and understanding have ceased to exist, people begin to feel animosity toward different ideologies or races without knowing what the other party really represents or believes.
Ignorance enables radicalism to find new recruits, even though it is a harmful and destructive movement. Misinformed or one-sidedly informed people are vulnerable to extremist movements, whose philosophical programs they adopt without careful reflection. This is why education is an essential aspect of the ideological fight against radicalism.
In our own time, radicalism has emerged among Muslims, Christians, and Jews. This situation is abused and taken advantage of by proponents of Samuel Huntington's proposed clash of civilizations theory. The scale of radicalism's threat to world peace has become apparent in the 9/11 attacks on the United States and its consequences. The fact that these attacks are widely believed to have been carried out in the name of Islam resulted in a great deal of prejudice against Muslims and misunderstanding of Islam.
Given the fact that Islam prohibits all acts of violence and aggression, most of the Islamic world condemned these terrorist attacks. Muslims prayed alongside Christians for the innocent lives lost, and American Muslims rushed to the aid of the victims. Despite this, prejudice against Muslims in the United States and some European countries has vastly increased, and incidences of violence have been reported. The arguments of those radicals who seek to divide the world into two warring factions have created an atmosphere of anxiety.
In order to eradicate radicalism and its damaging consequences, cultural and educational campaigns designed to reach all sections of society must be organized. We can list the topics and the responsibilities of various sections of society to be covered by this program, as follows:
An awareness that radicalism, an extremist tendency that is incompatible with true religious morality, must be defeated ideologically so that its claim to be acting in the name of religion can be exposed as false. People of all three divinely revealed religions must be told that they have a responsibility to be compassionate, patient, gentle, friendly, polite, and respectful. They have to be made aware that God forbids violence, aggression, and anything that harms innocent people. They must understand that it is wrong to go down that path. These efforts will ensure that all radicals will be recognized as misguided liars and thereby prevented from finding new recruits.
A program must be designed to give full and accurate information about all parties involved in the conflict, so that international dialogue becomes possible. An important step toward mutually friendly relations is the creation of an environment in which Jews, Christians, and Muslims can begin to know each other's beliefs, traditions, and rituals better. This can be done through cultural and educational programs. As people come to know each other better, they will realize that they have many things in common. This, in turn, will make reconciliation possible. Muslims, Christians, and Jews should tell one another about their respective worldviews in line with God's divine books of revelation, thereby preventing the mutual misunderstanding and radicalism caused by a lack of accurate knowledge.
The media must support the cultural activities necessary to create an environment conducive to international dialogue. They should refrain from sensationalism, which incites violence and segregation, and focus on broadcasts that encourage moderation and acceptance. Carefully prepared broadcasts by the western media will play an important role in eradicating the currently widespread anti-Muslim prejudice. Muslim media organizations, for their part, must refrain from broadcasts and opinions that incite hatred toward non-Muslims and concentrate instead on cultural and spiritual education in the Islamic world.
Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religious leaders and opinion makers must identify people who are bent on portraying myths and false beliefs as part of the religious code. They must teach people that God commands believers to be balanced and gentle, and that all extremism is contrary to religious morality. Political leaders must support this awareness campaign in order to prevent extremism in society and to prepare the ground for moderation. These and similar joint efforts will eradicate the conditions conducive to radicalism. In addition, believers must begin to show sincere respect for others' beliefs and values. In Qur'an 2:113, God reveals that the Jews claimed that the Christians "have nothing to stand on" and vice versa. In reality, God knows best who is right, which is why genuine believers must seek to draw closer to God instead of accusing one another.
They should concentrate on enhancing their sincerity and work to earn God's good pleasure and mercy. The following verse reveals that people who act otherwise are wrong:
The Jews say: "The Christians have nothing to stand on," and the Christians say: "The Jews have nothing to stand on," yet they both recite the Book. Those who do not know say the same as they say. God will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection regarding the things about which they differ. (Qur'an, 2:113)
Eradicating the harm caused by Jewish, Christian, and Muslim radicals is possible only if all moderate, peace-loving, civilized, and genuinely religious people cooperate and form an alliance. Such an alliance will defeat those who present war and conflict as the only option, and disprove the assertions of those who advocate a show of force as the only way to achieve security and prevent further bloodshed, tears, and material damage. Another important way to curb radicalism is to expose the movements and ideologies that promote extremism as false. In the coming pages, we will scrutinize the errors of radical Jewish and Christian movements. But first, we need to remind people in the Islamic world to be alert against radicalism.
Qur'anic Morality Forbids Extremism
As mentioned earlier, Islamic societies have been centers of mutual acceptance and goodwill toward non-Muslims throughout history, particularly in our Prophet's (may God bless him and grant him peace) time. Islamic history is full of examples of Christians and Jews seeking and finding refuge with Muslims. Bearing this reality in mind at a time when the world so desperately needs peace, Muslims must develop a model based on the Qur'an's morality and our Prophet's (may God bless him and grant him peace) life that will set the standards for the rest of the world.
Radicalism is wholly incompatible with God's prescribed way of life. God describes Muslims as those who speak nicely, refrain from conflict and fighting, are friendly and moderate toward even the fiercest opponents, and modest, patient, compassionate, and loving. The Qur'an reveals that all of the Prophets were moderate, gentle, and accepting of others. For example, God describes Abraham (pbuh) as: "tender-hearted and forbearing" (Qur'an, 9:114) and Prophet Mohammed (may God bless him and grant him peace) as:
It is a mercy from God that you were gentle with them. If you had been rough or hard of heart, they would have scattered from around you. (Qur'an, 3:159)
Since Muslims are only responsible for announcing the Qur'an's morality, and since they are prohibited from being bullies or enforcers and are required to be softly spoken to even the cruelest tyrant, they cannot be extremists or radicals, for such groups advocate that which violates the Qur'an's morality.
Radicalism is an ideological movement and political approach that is foreign to Islam. When radical groups are examined, it gradually becomes clear that they are, in reality, using a compilation of communist slogans and methods or that they have adopted the "fanatical rage of the Time of Ignorance" (Qur'an, 48:26). One of the common characteristics of such ideologies is their emotional force, an underlying cause of radicalism that is totally incompatible with God's commands. The Qur'an describes Muslims as people who control their anger and who are reasonable, moderate, and tolerant. They always prefer reconciliation in order to reach solutions within the framework of mutual acceptance and optimism. They show their calming and peaceful sides in all situations. One verse reveals these attributes:
Those who give in times of both ease and hardship, those who control their rage and pardon other people - God loves the good-doers. (Qur'an, 3:134) Muslims must be polite and respectful when interacting with people of different beliefs and ideologies. They never resort to force or threats, for their responsibility is limited to teaching others about the Qur'an's morality. The rest is up to the conscience of those people. The following verse describes this approach:
Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and fair admonition, and argue with them in the kindest way. Your Lord knows best who is misguided from His way. And He knows best who are guided. (Qur'an, 16:125)
God commanded Prophets Moses and Aaron (peace be upon them) to speak with Pharaoh, and to do so softly:
"Go to Pharaoh; he has overstepped the bounds. But speak to him with gentle words so that, hopefully, he will pay heed or show some fear." (Qur'an, 20:43-44) Pharaoh was the worst denier and tyrant of his time. He rejected God, claimed divinity, and was a despot who killed and oppressed the believers (Israelites). Yet, God commanded His Prophets to speak with gentle words when they visited him. Notice that God's ordained method is to establish a friendly dialogue. Agitating words, expressions of anger, and heated protest are incompatible with His code of preaching and morality.
Therefore, all Muslims must refrain from a harsh, angry, and challenging approach, for these are contrary to the Qur'an's method and essence. Instead, Muslims must adopt the accepting, moderate, calm, and rational approach described in the Qur'an. In other words, they must be role models for humanity and earn people's admiration for the morality of Islam and themselves. Muslims should also make great progress and produce superb works of science, culture, art, and aesthetics, as well as live Islam in the best way, and thus represent it to the world.
The Errors of Radical Christians
The vast majority of Christians approach members of other religions with the acceptance, love, and respect required by the Bible. This is a very important - and very recent - development. During the second half of the twentieth century, the Christian world's conviction that all other religions are completely wrong was largely abandoned, and the view that non-Christians should not be automatically condemned gained the upper hand. Christian writers, researchers, and officials expressed this view regularly. Organizations representing Christians decided to establish a dialogue and cooperate with other religions to find solutions to the world's problems. Fundamentalism made way for acceptance.
However, it is still possible - although not often - to encounter Christian intolerance and even aggressions toward non-Christians. Some religious figures make unfounded allegations against other religions and claim that their followers are destined for Hell. Such allegations create discomfort in the Islamic world. Some Christian leaders continue to make aggressive comments about Muslims, misinterpret the Old Testament, and claim that in the near future a Muslim-Christian war will occur. Or, even worse, they claim that such a war is both necessary and unavoidable.
The Old Testament relates stories from past nations, their wars, and the consequences thereof. Most of these are specific to those times and events. Therefore, such narratives must be considered in the context of those times, and one should refrain from reinterpreting those narratives to support war and conflict.
One of the most fundamental errors of Christian radicals is their belief in Armageddon, which they think will take place before the Messiah's arrival. This unfounded belief violates the morality that Jesus (pbuh) taught to his followers. Even a cursory reading of the New Testament shows that Jesus recommended love, peace, and friendship.
Christians should know that Muslims are also awaiting Jesus' (pbuh) second coming, for this miracle is foretold in the Qur'an and in Prophet Mohammed's (may God bless him and grant him peace) hadiths. Therefore, Muslims and Christians should make joint preparations for his arrival. The best preparation is to adopt the morality that pleases God.
After Jesus (pbuh) returns, he will defeat all atheist ideologies and idolatrous philosophies; such ideologies as fascism and racism will be eradicated; the world will be freed from ethnic violence, tyranny, and injustice; and humanity will experience peace, happiness, and tranquility. Therefore, genuinely religious people who are preparing for this great event should make the necessary preparations, try to prevent all kinds of conflict, and leave all disputes, divisions, and animosities behind.
No doubt, the Christians are the best placed to render invalid all of those opinions and attitudes that seek to prevent a dialogue based on mutual understanding and respect between the two communities. True Christians must reveal such people's errors to them, as well as to society, by reminding them that Jesus (pbuh) commanded his followers to treat all people well, love their enemies, and do good to those who hate them.
In other words, he does not call for intolerance toward non-Christians and does not support those self-proclaimed Christians who seek to turn the world into a great arena of warfare. Such a biased and hateful attitude toward non-Christians, especially Muslims, is the result of misinterpreted Christian teachings and certain irreligious ideologies. Moderate Christians must expose the radicals' views as contrary to Christian teachings so that the Christian community will not be led astray. As we stated earlier, radicalism feeds on ignorance, and Christians are morally obliged to prevent this danger. As the Bible says:
For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men... Show the proper respect to everyone. Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God... (1 Peter, 2:15-17)
All conscientious Christians must shoulder this responsibility, for the war and conflict demanded by radicals will bring great losses, tears, and suffering to both sides. It would be a grave mistake to refrain from taking the necessary steps, when an alliance of all believers could remove this probability. The tensions desired by radicals can be prevented by Muslims and Christians of common sense. Removing the prejudices and creating an alliance of believers will enable them to play a leading role in delivering world peace. In this way, Christians and Muslims will bring peace and happiness to the world, just as the morality ordained by God demands.
The Errors of Radical Jews
On 25 February 1994, Baruch Goldstein unleashed a vicious attack on the Abraham Mosque in al-Khalil (Hebron) in the West Bank. This settler, a member of a radical Jewish organization claiming to be following in the footsteps of Meir Kahane, entered the mosque and, under the protection of Israeli soldiers, walked to its center and opened fire with his M-16 assault rifle on the 500 Muslims performing their morning prayers, repeatedly changing magazines.
Sixty-seven Muslims died on the spot; a further 300 were wounded. The Israeli administration announced that this was a frenzied attack by an individual. However, the facts that he entered the mosque with his rifle, passed Israeli soldiers protecting the mosque, and fired on the worshippers for a long enough time to empty many clips prove that this statement was questionable. If nothing else, the Israeli soldiers had given him passive support.
In reality, this was only one of the many attacks carried out by radical Jewish groups. In 1980, the same groups tried to blow up Muslim places of worship in Jerusalem (e.g., al-Aqsa Mosque and the Qubbat as-Sakhrah) in order to rebuild the temple of Solomon. The radical Jewish settlers who walk around with their weapons and launch bloody attacks on Palestinians are members of these groups.
The most radical of them is the Kahane faction, to which Goldstein belonged. Founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane, this organization is well-organized in both Israel and America. It is totally committed to Rabbi Kahane's fanatical doctrines and operates in Israel under the name of Kach and in America under the name of the Jewish Defense League. Kahane believed that Jews are superior to all other races, which he considered to be some sort of animals (goyim), and that all Arabs in the occupied territories should be subjected to ethnic cleansing. This organization expressed its rationale as the only good Arab is a dead Arab. His organization survived his assassination in 1990 in New York, and reorganized, particularly in Israel, under such names as Kahane Chai (Kahane lives). Followers of Kahane are responsible for many more massacres besides the one mentioned above.
Another strange aspect of the al-Khalil massacre was the widespread support it received from certain sections of Israeli society. Israel Shahak, one of Israel's critical voices, wrote that Goldstein's attack received the support of "a disturbing level of approval" of Israelis.17 A poll conducted after the massacre revealed that 40 percent of Israelis supported the massacre or at least understood his motives. Among young people, 30 percent supported it and another 35 percent understood him.
Shahak also wrote that this support was not limited to the al-Khalil massacre, but that the group's doctrines received the support of a frighteningly large proportion of society. Polls revealed that 39 percent of young people totally shared Kahane's views. When his views were put to young people without mentioning his name, this number increased to a whopping 66 percent. This majority believed in forcing the Palestinians living in the occupied territories to migrate. As Shahak said, a considerable proportion of Israelis regarded the Arabs as Amalek, an Arab tribe mentioned in the Old Testament as a people who were ordered to be killed, including their women and children. It says:
This is what the LORD Almighty says: "I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys." (1 Samuel, 15:2-3)
All of these events and attitudes prove the existence of a real danger: Jewish radicalism. We have scrutinized this radical ideology and its consequences in earlier publications. We can summarize them as follows:
There is a radical tendency in the Jewish world to promote hate and animosity toward non-Jews and advocate the harshest and most unforgiving treatment of Palestinians. This tendency has strong support within Israel and plays an important role in forming and continuing its aggressive, uncompromising, and occupying 50-year attitude against Palestinians and its Arab neighbors. No doubt, the Kahane organization and such militants as Baruch Goldstein are a small minority within the Israeli Jewish community (also among all Jews around the world). However, there is a radical culture, albeit less radical, that provides ideological support and continues to threaten Middle Eastern and world peace.
Let us state here that these radical Jews are not part of a presumed global Jewish conspiracy and that the majority of Jews, especially those outside of Israel, oppose this movement and wish to live in peace with other religions and nations. It must also be remembered that many Jews who oppose these radical Jews and their views, often with religious content, are religious themselves or are even rabbis.
The sources of this Jewish radicalism must be analyzed in order to understand this issue correctly. There are two main sources: the hostility toward non-Jews within Jewish tradition based, in particular, on the misinterpretation of some fanatical views in the Talmud; and political Zionism, which was founded in the nineteenth century and inspired by the contemporaneous Social Darwinist and other imperialist ideologies.
The first source has been comprehensively studied in Israel Shahak's Jewish History, Jewish Religion. As Shahak clearly establishes, the Jewish diaspora, beginning in the first century AD, exposed the Jews to many centuries of Christian oppression and tyranny, and gradually caused certain circles to develop a deep hostility towards non-Jews. This misplaced hostility came to be reflected in the Talmud, part of the Jewish tradition. Talmud writers often misinterpreted or distorted Old Testament passages and decreed that it was legitimate to cheat or harm non-Jews. These erroneous decrees developed into traditions that even today cause certain Jewish groups to regard non-Jews with distrust or even hatred.
The second source consists of political Zionism, a movement founded at the end of the nineteenth century to create a Jewish nation-state in Palestine. This can be considered a perfectly legitimate project, for the Jews had no homeland, were mainly treated as second-class citizens, and suffered from anti-Semitic attacks and oppression. But Zionism went beyond this legitimate right, as it became a project of acquiring the whole of Palestine by driving out all of the Arabs. As stated above, this is a consequence of the influence exerted by the Social Darwinist and imperialistic ideologies that dominated Europe at the time. In the 1920s and 1930s, Revisionist Zionism appeared on the scene. This movement was led by the fascist ideologue Vladimir Jabotinsky, who was inspired by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy and thus brought an element of fascism into Zionism.
More dangerous than all of this, however, was how certain Zionist thinkers twisted ideas that sought complete world domination and support the oppression of non-Jews in the event that this came about. Again, it needs to be made clear that the Jews are perfectly justified in wishing to live in peace with Muslims and Christians in Palestine, the land of their ancestors. If, however, that justification turns into a despotic policy that takes away from Muslims and Christians their right to live and exist in the region, then it is natural that all sincere, devout Jews, Christians and Muslims should object and engage in intellectual moves to redress the situation.
We may set out what is necessary for the revision of Jewish radicalism as follows:
1- Jewish religious figures should cleanse Jewish tradition of the fanatical, superstitious teachings of certain circles that encourage hostility toward non-Jews and replace it with the Old Testament's moral approach of love, respect, justice, and compassion. Many Jewish religious figures are working toward this end. Those rabbis who criticize Israeli state terror on the grounds that it is incompatible with the Jewish moral code are a hope for the future.
2- Zionism must be moderated in a political sense. Of course Israel has the right to exist and protect itself, but it has no right to force a whole nation to live under occupation for over 50 years. It must not be forgotten that this land is the ancestral home of the Palestinians as well, who have lived there for centuries. There are as many sites sacred to Muslims and Christians in this land as there are to the Jews. This land is sufficiently large to allow all the peoples to live together in peace. For this reason, Israel must withdraw from all of the territories that it has occupied since 1967, recognize an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, and make peace with the Palestinians as well as the Arab world by entering a friendly and constructive dialogue with them.
In addition, it is very important that religious Jews follow God's advice and invite all Jews to abide by the moral conduct ordained by Him. For this, the claim of supremacy must be dropped. The Qur'an reveals that the Israelites were at one time rewarded by God and given rule over other nations. Some of the verses in this regard are as follows:
O Tribe of Israel! Remember the blessing I conferred on you, and that I preferred you over all other beings. (Qur'an, 2:47)
We gave the Book, Judgment, and Prophethood to the tribe of Israel; provided them with good things; and favored them over all other people. (Qur'an, 45:16) However, these verses do not speak of being preferred in the sense that the Jewish radicals understand it. Many Prophets have been chosen from the Jewish nation, who at one time reigned over a large geographic area. They were granted superiority, as they ruled the worlds. With the end of Prophets Solomon's (pbuh) and David's (pbuh) rule, however, this Jewish privilege came to an end.
Radical Jews read a racial attribute of superiority into various Old Testament passages. They then developed a misguided theory of Jewish superiority at birth, according to which the Israelites are eternally above all other races. This view led to even greater errors, for example, the above-mentioned massacre by Baruch Goldstein, who murdered Muslims while they were praying. In other words, radical Jews deduce from this claim of superiority that they should subject other nations to violence.
Often, they try to justify their views with passages from the Torah (as was the case with the Amalek tribe mentioned earlier). Accordingly, these Jews have no qualms about cheating non-Jews, plundering their property and possessions, or even killing their women and children. But God commands Jews, just like Christians and Muslims, to be just and honest, protect the rights of the vulnerable, and be loving and peaceful. Killing women, children, and the elderly is against the morality of the Qur'an, in which God reveals the promise of Jews to be virtuous and not to cause mischief:
Remember when We made a covenant with the tribe of Israel: "Worship none but God, and be good to your parents, relatives and orphans, and the very poor. Speak good words to people, perform prayer, and give alms." But then you turned away - except a few of you - you turned aside. And when We made a covenant with you not to shed your blood and not to expel one another from your homes, you agreed and were all witnesses. (Qur'an, 2:83-84)
It also must not be forgotten that radical Jewish fanaticism contradicts other passages from the Torah, such as: Who stops his ears against plots of murder and shuts his eyes against contemplating evil (Isaiah, 33:15). Fanatics have created a belief based on hate and aggression, disregarding all condemnations of violence and barbarism contained in the Torah in the belief that they will acquire world dominion in this way. In reality, no ideology that sanctions violence and aggression, and disrupts law and order, can succeed. Violence always brings only loss. Preventing such destructiveness necessitates the exposure of the fanatics' deceptions and errors, which also will prevent their influence over any other people as well as help them to see reason.
Jews who genuinely believe in God must abide by the Torah's true principles and advocate for peace in order to prevent others from embracing radicalism. Some of the Torah passages that recommend peace, love, compassion, and virtue are as follows:
Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly. Do not go about spreading slander among your people. Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor's life... Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself... (Leviticus, 19:15-18)
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. (Micah, 6:8) You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor's house... (Exodus, 20:13-17)
Peace-seeking citizens of Israel, as well as Jews living in other countries, must oppose radicalism and be fiercely critical of Israeli state terror. Jews of genuine faith must bear in mind that the Torah prohibits murder, committing injustice, taking revenge, and bloodshed, and should become leaders in the ideological and cultural struggle against fanaticism in solidarity with all conscientious Christians and Muslims. The ideological warfare against Jewish radicalism is one of the most important means of finding a lasting and peaceful solution to the Palestinian issue. Only then will Jews and Muslims - as well as Christians - be able to live with each other in peace.
Tranquility, love, and peace will only grace Palestine and Israel when true religious morality is practiced. It must be remembered that both Jews and Muslims have suffered the greatest damage in their history at the hands of irreligious ideologies. The Old Testament is full of accounts of the cruelty inflicted on Jews by idolaters. The genocide and tyranny against Jews by atheists is well documented (e.g., the Nazis and Stalin's officially encouraged anti-Semitic racists, and communists). These irreligious forces hated and terrorized Jews because of their faith in God. Muslims and Jews must join forces against these anti-religious entities and disregard the radical propaganda that could prevent such an alliance.