Friday, September 17, 2010

Lesson from the events concerning the Holy Quran: Dialogue and Faithfulness

Some good might come out after the furor and outrage that erupted worldwide on the news of certain extremists attempting to burn the Holy Quran. After the initial condemnation, many religious leaders, world wide have called for dialogue and understanding among followers of divine religions and particularly Abrahamic faiths. In Florida alone, more than 20 religious leaders from Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim backgrounds around Gainesville had a Quran passage  on the oneness of God read - along with Christian and Hebrew scriptures–  at their congregations over the weekend.  
It was a sign of unity after weeks of talk by a Florida pastor who threatened to burn the Muslim holy book on 9-11 but who ultimately cancelled the event.  Some Christian leaders plan to continue connections with clergy from other faiths. A group of religious leaders will meet in October in Gainesville to try to improve interfaith relations.
A few years ago on the occasion of the World Environment Day(June 5), I was invited to speak in a large Church congregation, in Tromso , Norway.  The ceremony was broadcast live in many parts of Europe and worldwide. Many people later told me that they were surprised to learn that the Quran has spoken so clearly about nature and its diversity, about our responsible behavior  and about the negligence that will ultimately harm humans. They believed it was the first time a Muslim woman had delivered a sermon in a Christian Church in Europe. 
The common lines of Abrahamic Religions are so evident and bold that denying their common roots is only a sign of ignorance or prejudice. In fact, the Holy Quran  has   many references to the Abrahmic tradition and to the lives of the Prophets. There are more than 400 references to Moses in the Holy Quran and several references to Mary and Jesus . In reality, the only revelation that we have about Jesus is from the Quran, for what is said in the Bible are recollections from the disciples and the old Testament has nothing about him.  What comes in the Quran concerning other religions, is in fact a authentic account of what has passed in the original  Scriptures, in most respects it matches the current versions in Judaism and Christianity but in some respects there are differences. 
Many Christian women do not know that there is a whole Chapter in the Quran entitled Mariam and many verses in other Chapters on  her and her son Jesus.  Many followers of Christianity or Judaism are not aware of the respect and love that Muslims have for their Prophets and many do not know that the Quran has come not to deny the Abrahamic Tradition but to endorse it and to correct any distortions that might have occurred over the centuries. Many followers of other religions also are not aware of the fact that all Muslims regardless of sect or school, Shia or Sunni have only one version of the Quran and has been no dispute over the text in the Muslim world.
In Iran, during the past week there were many different reactions to the sad attitude of this radical minority of Americans. In addition to the official positions which condemned the event as part of a conspiracy in the usual anti -Zionist context , one religious leader made the point that even if they go to the stage to do so, we will announce that we still love Jesus and we will not insult their Bible.
Some people protested peacefully others with violent reactions. Many articles condemning the event were published. Some pointed to the long tradition of coexistence and peaceful cooperation between Muslim, Christian and Jewish societies in Iran and other parts of the world.  
Muhammad Nourizad , one of the political activists who has been detained ,along with many other reformist leaders, for several months now in the Evin prison, has sent a message condemning the event but also asking the authorities in Iran how people should believe their support for the Holy book? When in practice, the governing faction has undermined many Islamic edicts in dealing with their opponents and in suppressing the protests and the criticisms voiced by many innocent protesters, he has asked . Is the Book sacred only in its published form or are the teachings and the edicts and the moral standards of the Book also sacred ; he asked. Can we pretend to safeguard the Book but at the same time undermine its content and message? This is an important question not only for Iranian leaders but for Muslim leaders worldwide. 
If ultimately this event has led to more efforts for dialogue among followers of the Abrahamic Tradition and  more questions on the true faithfulness of the followers of the Quran, then we have lost some and have gained more. 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Eid and Rebellion

Islamic festivities and celebrations are termed Eid.  Eid e Fetr or the conclusion of Ramadan is one of the greatest celebrations of the Muslims. One month of fasting, prayers,piety and attending to the needs of others is actually a practice to transform our attitude and behavior.

There is a narration from Imam Sadegh the sixth descendant of the Prophet (SA) that reads as follows: The Eid is the day when there is no rebellion against God (or in other words no oppression against people).

We can celebrate when the root causes of oppression in its different forms including ;tyranny, aggression, slavery,colonialism, and war are uprooted and humankind can live in peace with one another and with nature.

Oppression in any form, in any place, in any time is a rebellion against God, since God has created humans and breathed His Spirit unto them and has appointed humankind  as His viceroy on earth. He has dignified the humans in their creation and for that reason human life is sacred and should be respected as such.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Qods and Blue Cheese

Over the years I have seen many international figures who have changed sides over the issue of Palestine. Their main incentive in this conversion to pro-resistance figures has been the extent and inhuman nature of Israeli crimes . Even while many Western media endeavored to downplay the extent of cruelty of Israelis in targeting ordinary Palestinians in the streets of the West Bank  during the first and second Intifada, or the wild bombing of residential areas and killing of civilians in Lebanon, and Gaza during the past years, the reality and  true nature of the Zionist regime was eventually exposed. These crimes and most recently the barbaric attack on the Gaza Flotilla  provided a realistic picture for the global public opinion who were searching for the truth.

Israel has occupied the Palestinian territories, exiled many of its residents, besieged Gaza and has created an apartheid wall separating the Palestinian cities and villages from the new settlements of the occupiers. Now, it perceives any verbal threat or any attempt to help Palestinians as an existential threat and takes unilateral action to thwart the move before it conceives. Many feel today that the policies and actions of the Israeli government are an outright  insult to humanity. Unconditional support stemming from a strong Zionist lobby in the American Senate and Congress has given Israel the confidence it needs to flout international regulations and laws and commit crimes against humanity without any remorse.
While fresh negotiations have just begun between Fatah and Israeli officials, many observers are skeptical . They refer to the history of these negotiations which have not only resulted in the ongoing despair of the Palestinian nation, but which have also facilitated the expansion of new settlements for the Israelis in occupied territories. I remember an international climate change conference in Marrakesh where on the sidelines of the session we sat together with some UN  officials and experts and discussed the Middle East crisis. They believed that the occupied territories have been transformed into what they called the Blue Cheese Phenomena . After all those settlements there is no land left for the Palestinians to build their State, and when the issue of the three million living in exile is always taken off the table, what is there to negotiate?

The late Yasser Arafat had understood this during his  final years . He resisted signing any treaty and that was probably why he suspiciously poisoned, to open way for new leaders who would sell their souls to the devil.

Tomorrow, Iran will celebrate Qods day. Particularly in recent years, the Iranian government has taken a radical and unblalanced approach on this matter thereby alienating many  intellectuals.  Nevertheless, Qods Day demonstrations are welcomed by all political factions. While leaders of the opposition and Green Movement have been under pressure to keep out of the streets,  riot police are already  on the streets in Tehran.