A lesson from Easter
by Salim Mansur
During Easter the world is reminded of the most harrowing question, perhaps ever, posed by one man to another.
Pontius Pilate asked "what is truth," and even as he faced Jesus remained oblivious of the answer in front of him.
The enduring lesson of that encounter and the question asked is rulers in gilded palaces are blind and deaf to the truth before them.
And nowhere is this lesson more glaringly evident than among Muslim rulers, especially those of the Middle East, since the Qur'an – Islam's sacred text – speaks of Jesus as the spirit of Allah.
Muhammad was warned towards the end of his life about those approaching him in large numbers, the desert Arabs, to announce their acceptance of Islam. The Qur'an speaks of them derisively as people in whose hearts faith has not entered.
The truth of the Qur'an's warning was demonstrated when members of Muhammad's family were betrayed and slaughtered. Those responsible became rulers of the Arab-Muslim world, and since then their Islam – and of their followers – at ostentatious display is merely a poor copy of Pilate's paganism.
The test of faith is in conduct, or as Jesus preached unless "your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven."
When faith enters the human heart it brings peace, and the striving for peace where there is enmity.
We got reminded at this appropriate time of this essential truth demonstrated in the life of the late Anwar Sadat by his widower Jehan Sadat.
Mrs. Sadat reminisced recently about her husband on the 30th anniversary of the Camp David Accord signed on March 26, 1979, by President Sadat of Egypt and Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel .
Sadat's journey to Jerusalem in November 1977 set the political process in motion culminating in peace on the basis of the UN framework – Security Council resolution 242 – between the two enemies.
But Sadat would not have set forth on this journey and dismissed the risks, as Mrs. Sadat describes in her memoir A Woman of Egypt, if faith had not filled his heart.
Sadat urged Arab leaders, including Palestinian, to follow him in making peace with Jews and Israel, just as they had followed him earlier in making war. Instead, he was spurned.
When Sadat was killed in October 1981, Arab rulers stayed away from his state funeral while most of the world's leaders attended.
Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, and his followers cheered the murderers of Sadat just as they would two decades later dance with joy over the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
In the years since Sadat's journey to Jerusalem the world has become more anxious about the ways of the Middle East, and confused about how to engage with a people who glorify violence and death as religious duty.
There is need for alarm. As Arab-Muslim leaders and their followers reviled Sadat for walking in the path of peace, they displayed their hearts empty of faith in Abraham's God that Muhammad preached.
For them instead Islam is a cloak for the worshipping of pagan gods in the various modern forms of totalitarian ideology, and the lust for power. Such paganism the last time around precipitated a world war in 1939.