Creating a Judeo-Islamic Peace Movement
by Imaad Malik
Muslims today face two corrosive socio-political ideologies undermining the original peaceful message of Islam. Many Muslims are steeped in Islamofascism and anti-Semitism. Believers in both these evils seek dominance or the destruction of Western democracies — primarily America and its ally, Israel.
Much of this anti-Western and anti-Semitic bigotry is disseminated, subsidized financially and supported politically by Arab and Muslim governments. Extremists in Iran, Syria and Lebanon fuel the flames of hate and mistrust between Jews and Muslims, using the Palestinian conflict with Israel as a pretext for state-sponsored propaganda.
Iran and Syria openly finance radical groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas in permanent war against the democratic nation of Israel. In the summer of 2006, a major provocation by Hezbollah against Israel led to the deaths of many innocent Jews, Muslims, and Christians, while the cowardly terrorists hid among innocent civilians, women and children among the general Lebanese population.
Hezbollah and Hamas claim they are disfranchised. Moreover, they assert that they suffer from poverty and oppression at the hands of the United States and Israel. This is a thin attempt to give their hateful and deadly ideology legitimacy.
Furthermore, in Saudi Arabia textbooks have indoctrinated Muslim children in anti-Jewish beliefs from the beginning to the end of their education. Combined with mosque preaching, this results in conditioning so that for many Muslims, from birth to death, hatred of Jews is second nature, like breathing or eating.
Islamist bigotry has caused the deaths of countless innocents. It is time for Muslims to challenge anti-Semitic and anti-Western hatreds that infiltrate so much of the Islamic world. It is time for moderate Muslims who seek peace between Jews and Muslims to make substantial efforts for a new Muslim approach to the global Jewish community.
Muslims must initiate a process of conciliation, in which both Jews and Muslims can produce a new Judeo-Islamic movement. Muslims do exist who desire and will work for peace between Jews and Muslims. Nevertheless, many of the mainstream Islamic institutions in the West embody the anti-Semitic and anti-Western bigotry visible in groups like al-Qaeda.
For that reason, there is much apprehension among moderate Muslims about speaking out and challenging the Islamic establishment. Moreover, there is a fundamental lack of debate among moderate Muslims about the future of Islam and the need to restore meaningful dialogue with Jews and Christians as well as Hindus and other traditional faiths.
The global Muslim community must first recognize Israel's existence as a legal state. A new Judeo-Islamic movement must create exchanges and discussions based on shared religious values and individual human experience. A new Judeo-Islamic symbiosis would parallel the harmonious Judeo-Christian relationship and lead to a thorough reshaping of the Islamic global communion, with restoration of its vitality as a religion in the global society that emerged after September 11, 2001.
One of the greatest Jewish theologians, philosophers, and physicians was Moshe ben Maimon or Maimonides (1135-1204), known in Arabic as al-Hakim Ibn Maimun al-Qurtubi – "the wise doctor Ibn Maimun from Cordoba in Spain." Maimonides followed in the footsteps of the Persian Muslim polymath Ibn Sina or Avicenna (930-1087). Maimonides, as the most prominent figure in medieval Jewish philosophy, wrote extensively in Arabic and had a significant impact on the development of Judaism. Among his many works Maimonides wrote on the relationship between classical Greek philosophy and Jewish theology. He composed a code of Jewish law, the Mishnah Torah. His development of this code caused much controversy within Jewish society.
One of his great achievements, the Emet or Truth, also known as the 13 Principles of Faith, summarized Jewish belief. Several of these principles, such as God's unity, God alone is deserving of worship, Revelation through God's prophets and Rewarding of good and retribution of evil, have universal philosophical and theological significance.
These principles are also embodied in the Qur'an. Maimonides remains controversial but his 13 principles may be found in the Siddur (Jewish prayer book).
The modern global Jewish community contains many Jews coming from diverse societies and cultures. One example is that of the Bukharan Jews of Central Asia, from the legendary city of Bukhara. Bukharan Jews are one of the oldest ethno-religious groups living in Central Asia and created their own unique culture. Many have moved to Israel and the United States. This is primarily because of the collapse of the Soviet Union. While Soviet census data systematically undercounted Jews, in 1989 as many as 120,000 Jews lived in Uzbekistan. Today, estimates range up to 35,000.
There are other aspects of Jewish history relevant to Muslims, involving Ashkenazi Jews in Northern Europe, and the Sephardic Jews who went from Spain and Portugal to the Arab and Turkish lands. Each group also has a distinct history and culture which Muslims should research. Muslims should educate themselves about the history and diversity of Jews as a model for pluralism in their own community.
The common elements in Islam and Judaism will be rediscovered and reinforced when Muslims research Jewish religious history. Like Islam, Judaism places great theological emphasis on the role of prophets, such as Abraham and Moses. Abraham, in Islam as well as in Judaism, has an irreplaceable role in recognizing God's Divine Sovereignty.
In addition, the prophet Moses received the Decalogue from God and was lawgiver to Israel. Both faiths agree that Moses was the only prophet who saw and directly spoke to God. Furthermore, Moses is the most frequently-mentioned prophet in the Qur'an. Muslims should keep in mind that Abraham and Moses represent theological commonalities which Jews and Muslims can honor together.
Jews and Muslims represent two-thirds of the monotheistic, Abrahamic faith tradition. Along with Christians we are all descendants of Abraham. Muslims should therefore be natural partners for the Jewish community.
It is time for Muslims to think boldly in responding to Islamofascism and the anti-Jewish bigotry spreading in the Islamic global community like a cancer. It is time for Muslims to proclaim peace with the Jewish and Christian communities in America and throughout the world. Christians, Jews and Muslims must stand together and bridge our differences.
The world grows apathetic about the presence and law of God. Muslims, Christians and Jews must courageously address the significant differences among them, to defeat Islamofascism and extreme secularism in the global era. The continuing turmoil between Jews and Muslim must end.