Thursday, June 12, 2008

Criticizing Islam and Supporting the Palestinians

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.

2 comments:

serpatico said...

In watching the Wafa Sultan video, I immediately thought it odd that she said she felt sympathy for them, but then I thought, wait, yah, I chose to not have sympathy on them b/c they are of a different religion; in turn breaking a shallow opinion. But not one too shallow I think, especially when you have Hamas laboring for the destruction of Israel and other such comments.

Also, when you say change in religious presuppositions, on whose part? I am of course biased to say that I understand parts of Islam, enough to know that most of my presuppositions are right. For example, as you stated in the most recent blog, the founder of the entire religion ordained the use of violence in order to spread Islam. How am I supposed to change that presupposition, and if Israel and Palestine were to change their presupositions, how do you envision that happening?

Looking From the Balcony said...

Serpatico, when you meet ordinary Palestinians and realize how difficult their lives are, you can have sympathy for them. At the same time you can believe, as I do, that the ultimate and only possible solution for peace is for Palestinian Muslims to deal with the religious presupposition that any territory once controlled by Islam must always be controlled by Islam. Many Palestinians might not personally believe this, but groups such as Hamas and Hizbullah definitely do.

As far as the how, the only idea I have is to try to put out my impressions of Muhammad and Islam and hope that it will have some impact. Mine is only a small voice in comparison to books such as Ali Sina's "Understanding Muhammad", but every voice counts.