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Peace Roadmap

Selling a Vision of Hope: A Refreshing Alternative to Armageddon

Look inside Nissim Dahan's book Selling a Vision of Hope with Google Books.

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Obama, Saudi king discuss strained alliance, Middle East conflicts

U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Saudi King Salman at Erga Palace upon his arrival for a summit meeting in Riyadh
By Roberta Rampton RIYADH (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama met Saudi Arabia's King Salman on Wednesday to seek joint action on security threats including Iran and Islamic State - and to talk through tensions between the two allies that have been laid bare in recent weeks. Obama's fourth and likely last visit to the world's top oil exporter has been overshadowed by Gulf Arab exasperation with his approach to the region, and doubts about Washington's commitment to their security. Most of the Gulf Arab monarchies have in private been sorely disappointed by Obama's presidency, regarding it as a period in which the United States has pulled back from the region, giving more space to their arch rival Iran to expand its influence.

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Vision of Hope
Archive >> October 2008
file under: terrorismreligionmoderate majorityextremism 16 Oct 2008 6:36 PM
Islam: A Religion of Peace? Posted by Nissim Dahan
I attended a debate recently. The issue: Is Islam a Religion of Peace, and is Shariah, or Islamic law, consistent with the U.S. Constitution? Arguing in the affirmative was Suhail, whom I would consider a moderate Muslim. Arguing in the negative was Frank, an American who considers Islam to be a threat to Western civilization. The following is an abridged version of the actual debate. See what you think.

 

Suhail: The U.S. Constitution protects us all from discrimination on the basis of religious belief. All faiths are American faiths, and are protected. There are no religious tests here, and American Muslims have integrated themselves into American life. They serve their country, even in the military. Muslims respect Jews and Christians as "people of the book," and all three religions worship the same God of Abraham. The vast majority of Muslims are peaceful, and play by the rules. Racists want hate, not the truth. They say that Islam is violent, but similar racist remarks were said about Catholics and Jews. Anti-Muslim is Anti-Semitism on training wheels. Many Muslims condemned 9/11. Racist rhetoric leads to violence, and we must not succumb to prejudice.

 

Frank: I look at this from a national security perspective. The U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Shariah law finds its roots in the Quran. There is a principle in the Quran called "abrogation" (Sura 2:106) by which earlier Quranic passages, which are more tolerant of other religions, are superseded by later passages. Therefore, the Medina passages, which are extreme and intolerant, are seen by the Islamic authorities as replacing previous passages. "Fight and slay the unbelievers where you find them." "Fight them, even the people of the book." "Take not the Jews or Christians for your friends..." The early, peaceful passages are superseded by these Medina passages, and are a part of the directive to assure the triumph of Islam. This is according to the 4 Sunni schools, and the Shia schools as well. It is God's will for Islam to rule the world and Jihad is the obligation of all Muslims. If you disagree, you are an apostate. Ultimately, Jihad will call for violence, but until that is possible, a "soft Jihad" is recommended, by which Muslim are to work from within to destroy Western civilization, so that Allah's religion is made supreme. Therefore, some Muslims are a 5th column which promotes the destruction of the Constitution in the form of Shariah law.

 

Suhail: "Abrogation" is generally not accepted, except by terrorists and racists. All religions contain perverse passages in Holy Scripture, exhorting people to violence. The Medina period was a time of war, which explains the Prophet's rhetoric. History proves that Islam was tolerant of other religions. Mainstream Muslims believe in peace. Shariah is interpretive law, and is not dogmatic. The word "Jihad" conflates Islam with politics, which is what Bin Laden wants. People who support terrorism do so for political reasons. People who oppose terrorism do so for religious reasons. We should not give our religion to the terrorists. We cannot allow the terrorists to set the agenda with regard to religious belief.

 

Frank: As part of its "soft Jihad" agenda, the Muslim Brotherhood seeks the following:

1. To dominate Muslims, to radicalize them, and to recruit them to Jihad.

2. To intimidate opponents.

3. To create parallel societies, with their own sets of laws, preferential arrangements, dress codes, etc., by which Shariah is used to subvert the U.S. Constitution.

 

Sahriah is a very strict regiment in 75% of U.S. mosques. The "stealth" or "soft" Jihad will eventually lead to violent Jihad.

 

Suhail: Terrorists are trying to co-opt Islam. I don't want to give them my religion. Mainstream Muslims are not extreme, and wearing a headscarf is no "soft Jihad." People should be able to practice their faith without being suspect.

 

Frank: Other religions, like Judaism and Christianity, acknowledge the national authority of the state. Shariah does not. All the recognized authoritative Islamic sources endorse using Shariah to displace secular law. Islam seeks to curb free speech in order to stop criticism.

 

Suhail: Islam is an interpretive law. You interpret it for the land you live in.

 

Frank: Shariah is not a matter on interpretation. Non-Muslims will have 3 choices: 1. Accept Islam, 2. Accept dhimmitude status, or 3. Die. It's not just Al Qaeda's whack interpretation. No. Al Qaeda reflects authoritative Islam.

 

Suhail: Is there a clash of civilizations? No. It's a clash between those who believe in civilization, and those, like the terrorists, who don't. Three Muslim countries elected women as heads of state. Most Muslims are comfortable with modernity. The terrorists are not manifesting Islam, and should not be allowed to set the agenda. When Jews were persecuted by the Christians, where did they go? To Muslim states. Many scholars interpret Shariah as consistent with the Constitution and with modernity.

 

Frank: Many moderate Muslims reject Shariah, but Wahabbis are winning in many areas. They will extinguish the moderate practice of Islam. Islam is waging Jihad against the civilized world. It's not just the extremists. The mainstream accepts this authoritative version of the faith. Just look at the authoritative texts. Our country is on the line.

 

Suhail: You see before you two worldviews, extreme and moderate. It's up to you to decide. Bin Laden, and other racists like him, foster hate. Terrorism is political, not religious. Faith brings strength to America, and all faiths should be allowed to participate in American democracy.

 

Frank: We are confronting a dangerous ideology bent on our destruction. A 5th column is working to do us in and we should fight back. This ideology wants to impose Shariah on the whole world. It's not just Bin Laden who says this. The authoritative interpretations of Islam concur. Our only hope is to mobilize the support of Muslim moderates against the supporters of Shariah.

 

Who do you think is right? Or could they both be right and wrong at the same time?

file under: vision of hopeextremismenvironmenteconomycommon sense 2 Oct 2008 8:29 AM
In Search of New Frontiers Posted by Nissim Dahan
America has always been a land of new frontiers. From the time that Columbus first set foot here, to the time that pioneers set out to settle the West, to the time that Americans set out for the moon, there has always been a sense here that there are new frontiers to explore. And yet, America now finds herself somewhat at a loss, and the promise of new frontiers is becoming illusory at best. Where do we go from here? The question lingers in the public mind.

 

America faces some grave threats in our time, and by implication, so does the world at large. The threats we face seem to fall into three general categories: the threats posed by Extremist ideologies, the threats to the Environment, and the threats to the Economy. I call these threats the 3-E's, for short.

 

Extremist thinking is not limited to groups like Al Qaeda, but exists wherever people put their personal beliefs above the needs of the people at large. It could well be argued, for example, that the meltdown in Wall Street was the result of personal greed trumping the needs of a healthy economy.

 

The threats to the Environment are beginning to loom large in the public mind. The Environment is quickly assuming the role of the ideological imperative. The decision, some 150 years ago, to run our economies on fossil fuels, may well have been the greatest mistake ever made, a mistake with dire consequences for the destiny of man.

 

The threats to our economy have been made quite clear in the last few days, with grave implications for the economic wellbeing of the entire world. The global economy, while it does hold the promise of great benefits for the world at large, also means that the downfall of one economy could trigger the downfall of others as well. What is clear is that the model embraced by Wall Street, and by other financial institutions, may need some fine tuning to say the least, if not a major overhaul.

 

Even to the cursory observer, the threats we face-Extremism, the Environment, and the Economy-are all inter-connected, and inter-related. They feed upon one another, and into one another. They are a package deal, of sorts. You literally can't solve one, without addressing the other two. And since they are so related to one another, it is possible that a solution can be found which solves all three in one shot.

 

The search for answers to the problems which we face may well mean a search for new frontiers, for new ways of thinking, and for new actions taken pursuant to new ideas. It is as if our problems are beginning to point to a new paradigm for organizing ourselves as we make our way into the 21st century. As John Gardner put it, we face "...a series of opportunities disguised as insoluble problems."

 

The cure for many of the ills which plague us may well be to usher in a Green Revolution, by which we use our technological and economic power to create jobs which are specifically designed to protect the Environment, which will help to curb the hold of extremist thinking, and which will help us to partner with nations around the world to grow our economies, but in a way that is sustainable for countless generations to come.

 

Think about it. If the threats we face are Environmental, Economic, and Extremist in nature, isn't the answer to grow our economies by producing green technology goods and services, and by using the jobs created in this regard to give everyone on earth a place at the table, a stake in his or her future, and by hoping that such an outcome will automatically help to neutralize extremist thinking?

 

It is as if the position that America finds herself cries out for a new frontier to be found and explored. However,  this frontier is not about embarking on a journey to a distant land. This frontier is about looking at our current situation, and fashioning a solution which addresses all that is wrong with our world, and with our nation.

 

Many around the world still look to America as the last remaining super-power, and as the last best hope for mankind. By all means of measure, America has much to be proud of: the most successful democracy, the guarantor of freedom and personal liberties, the strongest economy, the most powerful military, the most renowned academic institutions, the leader in technological advancement and research, the leader of the free world, the cultural trend setter of the world, the country that others look up to and depend on. But looking at America's many accomplishments, the question still remains: To what end did America achieve her greatness, and to what purpose will she put her strength?

 

In the past, even in the darkest of times, America has risen to the occasion, and has cast her light on the right path, for all to see, and for all to follow. Like the Statue of Liberty in the New York harbor, America has often been a beacon of hope for countless millions around the world. But having been a light unto the nations in the past, many now fear that America may have lost her way. And it is precisely at this time, and under these dire circumstances, that America is once again called upon to assume the mantle of leadership in the world, and to show by example the best way forward. Failure to do so could not only undo the fabric of our nation, but could well mean the undoing of the destiny of man.