In a recent interview with ex-Muslim Wafa Sultan on Arabic TV she expressed her belief that no-one could read the early biographies of Muhammad, with their emphasis on his military raids and his relationship with his many wives, and “believe” them in the Muslim sense of believing this was God’s ideal model for humanity to follow for all time, and emerge a mentally healthy person.
In the same interview, Wafa stated, "The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a religious conflict. I support the Palestinian cause. I support the Palestinian children. I lose sleep over the suffering of Palestinian women. I cannot even step on an ant, so how could I possibly be against them?"
Something grabbed me when she juxtaposed these two ideas. Some Western critics of Islam seem to have no sympathy for the Palestinians. It’s as if a critical view of the writings and teachings of Islam translates into a lack of compassion for their situation.
I agree with Wafa that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is primarily religious. It is also political, but I don't think we understand the religious element. As an undergraduate at Temple University, I audited a graduate seminar taught by the late Palestinian professor Dr. Ismail Al-Faruqi. I was the only Western non-Muslim among the small group of students who had come from all over the world to get their PhD's with Dr. Al-Faruqi. He spoke much more bluntly in this seminar than in his regular classes, stating that "of course we are all working and praying for the total demolition of Israel".
I only realized afterwards that he was not talking about Palestinian farmers being allowed back to the olive trees and villages they had left in 1948. He was talking about the existence of a non-Muslim entity on territory formerly controlled by Islam. It must be taken back, and Islam must again become dominant. This is why the Hamas charter states, "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it."
So what is the answer to the religious dimension? I think the only solution is a change in the religious presuppositions. Then the political aspects of the problem could be worked out, and there would be a real peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians that would be the envy of the entire Muslim world.