An Islamic Defense of Israel
by Stephen Schwartz
Israel, to me, is the historic, sacred land of the Jews. Neither more nor less. It was given to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob by the Almighty as their eternal home.
In making this affirmation, I offer no opinions on the legal or political system that exists within Israel . It is up to the Israelis themselves to define their constitutional and other arrangements. That said, I support the maintenance of halacha as the fundamental law of the land, and of aid to the religious educational institutions and norms supported by the pious. Were I Jewish, I would most likely be Haredi.
This latter statement requires some explanation, as does my entire position on this matter. My father was Jewish, but my mother was Christian, and I was brought up without a religious education of any kind. My parents were of the radical left, and extremely antireligious. I was never once taken to a religious service or inside a synagogue or church, except during tourist trips to the Spanish missions in California and the American Southwest, where I lived most of my life. I am now 56, and left California at age 50.
Nevertheless, I have been a believer in the Almighty since childhood. And I have contributed extensively to Jewish periodicals, especially the Forward but also including The Jerusalem Post.
In religion, I am an American Sufi. I became a formal adherent of the Islamic way of spirituality while working as a journalist and writing on the Balkan wars of the 1990s. From 1999 to 2001 I resided in Sarajevo, Bosnia -Hercegovina. I am closely associated with Balkan Sufi traditions. But I have also worked extensively on interfaith projects with Catholics, and while in the Balkans did extensive research on, and contributed to efforts at preservation of, Jewish sacred sites: synagogues and cemeteries that had often been neglected since the Holocaust.
I argue for the legitimacy of Israel on the basis of Qur'an, the Islamic Holy Book. While Jerusalem is never mentioned as a holy city in Qur'an, therein we read the following unequivocal statements:
I believe it is necessary for traditional Muslims around the world to free their global community, or ummah, from the grip of radicalism, fostered above all by Saudi Arabia and its cult of Wahhabism, and to restore pluralism and moderation among Islamic believers. The Prophet Muhammad himself said, "I want my ummah to be a community of moderation."
A necessary step toward cleansing Islam of the taint of extremism and terrorism, a purification that is inevitable, is represented by recognition of the state of Israel as the home of the Jews, and advocacy of true, lasting peace between the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian faithful, all of whom worship the same Creator, and all of whom are children of Abraham.