Days of Awe… and Shock
by Stephen Suleyman Schwartz
The evening of Saturday, September 14, according to the common calendar, also marked the end of the Jewish religious observance of Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement, 10 Tishrei 5774 by its Hebrew date.
Yom Kippur concludes the Jewish High Holidays, beginning with Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) on 1 Tishrei (September 4, 2013). These 10 days are known to the Jewish believers as "the Days of Awe."
As traditional, moderate, conventional, conservative, spiritual, and contemplative Muslims, the Center for Islamic Pluralism extends "salaams" to the Jewish faith community on their sacred occasions. We honor the Jews and Christians as original "ahl ul-kitab" or "People of the Book" and recall always the words of Qur'an al-qerim guiding our attitude toward them (29:46) – "We believe in that which is revealed to us and which was revealed to you. Our God is one."
We share in the awe of the Jewish adherents regarding the power and works of Almighty God. We recognize the influence of Jewish fasting for Yom Kippur in the guidance imparted by our master, Prophet Muhammad, sallallahualeyhisalaam. This teaching is reflected not only in our fast during the Holy Month of Ramadan, but also by observance of the 10th of Muharram or Ashura, in the Islamic lunar calendar.
We pray for peace, understanding, cooperation, and mutual respect between our two different communities.
But if we share in the Jewish sense of awe of the Almighty in the past 10 days, we likewise partake of awe at the fortitude of those Muslims and non-Muslims who continue the ongoing combat against deviant, radical, terroristic Islamist ideology, and of all people who are compelled to recall the atrocities of September 11, 2001 – a coincidental date with the Jewish High Holidays this year.
As Muslims, we will begin our year at the first of Muharram 1435 – in November 2013 following the common count, given the appropriate moon-sighting.
Those of us engaged in the defense of global humanity against radical fanatics may have a supplemental, personal calendar, which begins each year on September 11, and includes March 11 (the anniversary of the Madrid Metro bombing of 2004), July 7 (the date of the London metro attacks in 2005), and, out of sequence but not context, the Mumbai terror assault of November 26-29, 2008. "Our" calendar, unfortunately, is not limited to these incidents.
Yet each of these was a day of "shock and awe" – to recall the stereotypical phrase used during the 2003 intervention in Iraq.
In the past 10 days we in CIP have experienced shock once again, at the unfortunate failure of Western diplomacy in acting to end the suffering of the martyred people of Syria.
We were shocked that the U.S. government promised significant measures against the dictatorship of the non-Muslim tyrant Bashar Al-Assad and then drew back from them.
We were shocked that the U.S. administration accepted in good faith the promises of Vladimir Putin – the vulgar police thug, the butcher of the Chechens, the despoiler of independent Georgia, the persecutor of his own people as an heir of the authoritarianism of the tsarist and communist regimes – to attain a "compromise" with the Syrian mass-murderer.
We remain shocked at the reduction of the international debate over Syria from outrage at continuing mass murder to technical ratiocination over the use of poison gas. Poison gas is but one weapon in the commission of the Al-Assad regime's crime – and the policy of the Damascus regime is a gross and gigantic transgression that will not be forgotten by the Sunni Muslims for generations. Even confiscation of poison gas – should Al-Assad permit it – will not remove the hideous threat to Syria or wipe out the memory of the bloody campaign to keep him in power.
CIP does not engage in political-party lobbying. But we cannot conceal our grief and sense of protest at the devastation of Syria, in the face of the world's indifference or complicity.
Let us pray in awe of almighty Allah, for his mercy and compassion toward the Syrian people.
Let us express our awe for the Jewish believers who have maintained their covenant during millennia.
Let us speak, write, and act in awe of the courage and commitment of the traditional, moderate, conventional, conservative, spiritual, and contemplative Muslims who, along with us, oppose both the evil of Bashar Al-Assad and the devious manipulations introduced into Syria by unscrupulous radicals.
Let us ponder with awe the freedom for which the Syrian people have sacrificed, and continue to surrender, their lives.
With awe and shock, in a time of great evil and greater courage.
And Allah knows best.
Stephen Suleyman Schwartz
Center for Islamic Pluralism