Peace in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East
Small steps both sides could take towards reconciliation
Gottfried Hutter, Theologian, Psychotherapist, Author of this Peace Initiative, Founder and Chairman of the Temple-Project Association
Abstract: A purely secular approach will not lead to peace * Compassion instead of blaming the other * Jews need to feel the pain of the Muslims * The compassion of the Jews will move the Muslims * With newly awakened compassion Muslims will meet with other Muslim denominations * With Muslim compassion peace will be accomplished throughout the Middle East * The return to the roots of Islam * For 1300 years Jews lived together with Muslims in peace as protégés of the Muslim Umma * The persecution of Jews in the West and the end of the Ottoman Empire led to the State of Israel * A ceremony of reconciliation following the example of their father Jacob will clear the way for peace * Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders can sketch out that course
A purely secular approach will not lead to peace
Today wide areas of the Middle East are in turmoil, and what I am referring to in the paragraphs that follow may seem far removed from that reality. But on second thoughts you may find yourself reflecting on the very heart of the matter, the conflict which arose when an alien, non-Muslim entity was implanted into the heartland of the Muslim Umma: Israel.
Furthermore, neither that nor the suggested steps toward peace fit in with the strictly secular world view which is presented to us by the media and by politicians as the only one to be regarded as realistic. But is not that purely secular world view thoroughly alien to the people of the region? Is it thus not high time that we accept that reality and strife to rediscover and integrate the vast potential for peace of the great Abrahamic traditions of Bible and Qur’an so as to arrive at strategies that make real peace possible? Should not the Christians, too, recommend the Biblical way of reconciliation and not only use the Western secular view which is unable to penetrate to the deepest core of the conflict?
Compassion instead of blaming the other
Up until now, neither of the conflicting parties has seemed really interested in peace. Despite all the suffering, both parties have shown themselves to be mainly concerned with putting the blame for the conflict on the other – or a third party.
Peace will be possible only once both parties take responsibility.
In order to accomplish peace in the Holy Land both sides will need to show compassion.
Dear religious leaders of Jews and Muslims, your followers are listening to your voice. Please ask your followers to feel the pain of the other side!
Dear leaders of the Muslims, please ask your followers to exercise courage and magnanimity in the heroic tradition of Islam and to feel the pain the Jews were experiencing at the time when the League of Nations mandated the British to prepare a new Jewish homeland in Palestine. To do so would be an invaluable step towards peace.
Persecuted all over Europe long before the Holocaust the Jews dearly needed a place where they could live in safety. And present-day waves of anti-Semitism show that the danger is not over yet – it may never be over. Jews must therefore ask the Muslim Umma for understanding, they must ask for a welcome – in their ancient biblical homeland. To express this need would be one important step towards peace on the Jewish side.
Once the Muslims will be able to feel the pain of the Jews, the natural reaction for the Muslim Umma will be a compassionate welcome to their Jewish brothers and sisters – “in the name of God, the most Compassionate”, „Bismillâhirrahmânirrahîm“.
Jews need to feel the pain of the Muslims
Parallel to expressing their need for a place where they can live in safety the Jews need to feel the pain the Muslims felt when Jews forcefully settled on land which has once been their Biblical homeland, but which had – for more than a thousand years – been sacred to the Muslim Umma. Once the Jews are able to feel that pain, they too will know true compassion. And they will then understand the need to express that realization – in the name of their forefather “Israel”, who, in a magnanimous act of reconciliation, did justice to the calling that came down to him from Abraham.
When the State of Israel came into existence the Jews themselves were too much in turmoil to be able to take full account of the effects on others of their mass movement in search for refuge, but today they are in a position to be able to feel the offense the implantation of the State of Israel meant for the Muslim Umma.
The name they have given to their newly established State will remind them of a ceremony of reconciliation, one which thousands of years ago saved the life of their forefather Jacob.
The Bible (Genesis 32,23-33,4) tells us that Jacob received the name “Israel” on the night before, after many years in exile, he met again with his brother Esau. Jacob had to flee into exile because Esau wanted to kill him for having taken by deception the blessing his father had intended for Esau. After more than two decades Esau still intended to kill his brother. For that purpose he awaited Jacob with an armed band of 400 soldiers.
The night before he was to face his brother, Jacob spent in solitude and prayer. And in prayer God confronted Jacob. Anticipating the coming battle with his brother, God involved him in a battle with Himself. The fight grew so intense that Jacob’s hip was dislocated – and thereafter he could walk only with a limp. But, apparently, he also realized how he had to approach his brother.
For that realization God gave Jacob a new name. It was “Israel”, the one who fought with God, and prevailed.
When Jacob approached his brother Esau the next day he bowed down before him seven times.
And Esau was so much moved by this gesture that he forgot about his army. He bent down to his brother, he raised him up, he embraced him, he put his arms around him, and he caressed him.
This is the great Biblical prototype of what needs to happen today between the two brother people, the Jews and the Muslims.
The compassion of the Jews will move the Muslims
As in the Biblical example, the Jews need to show compassion towards the people of the land they occupied.
Their compassion will in turn arouse the compassion of the Muslims and that will enable the Muslim Umma to welcome the Jews.
The Umma cannot bow to Israel’s military might, but they can surely show mercy towards the Jews – who are still beset by fear for their very existence.
And Islamic compassion will prevail upon Muslims not to force the Jews to subordinate themselves to Muslim superiority; with Islamic compassion Muslims will share their space with the Jews – even in regard to al Haram ash Sharif!
With newly awakened compassion Muslims will meet with other Muslim denominations
And, with the renewal and flowering of Islamic compassion, avenues will open up for meetings between the other Islamic denominations. With Islamic compassion the diverse groups of Muslims will be able to welcome one another as an enrichment instead of perceiving the other as a threat. Muslims will then observe the Qur’anic commandment to compete in virtue (Sura 5,48). And, competing in virtue, each group can share its space with every other Islamic group – once the principle of compassion is restored to the theological supremacy accorded to it by its unique place framing the Qur’an.
With Muslim compassion peace will be accomplished throughout the Middle East
Thus, peace can be attained – peace with Israel, and peace, too, between Sunnis and Shiites and the diverse other groups of Muslims. With Islamic compassion peace becomes a realistic option all over the Middle East.
Dear religious leaders, please opt for peace, making it your choice and your overriding commitment!
If a peaceful coexistence of religions was possible in Al-Andalus and in the Ottoman Empire, and prevails now in Europe after centuries of strife, why should it not be possible in the Muslim States?
With Islamic compassion peace can be accomplished throughout the Middle East. The Muslim Kings can attain that once they make it a concern of their heart.
I very much hope I could discuss this with King Abdullah II of Jordan, with King Mohammed VI of Morocco and with King Salman of Saudi Arabia.
The return to the roots of Islam
Must not the Muslim Umma, for its own sake, return to the very essence of Islam, to Islamic compassion? Will not this be the long sought after return to the roots?
With Islamic compassion, peace will again become a realistic option, peace with Israel, and peace within Islam.
For 1300 years Jews lived together with Muslims in peace as protégés of the Muslim Umma
And please consider, too: for 1800 years there was no Jewish attempt to resettle the area around Jerusalem. There was simply no opportunity for such a move.
Until the advent of Zionism the Jews could live in peace among Muslims by accepting the status which Islamic law, Sharia, provided for them as Dhimmis, protégés of the Muslim Umma. But as protégés they could not reclaim their ancient Biblical territory as this territory was now in their protectors’ possession. And they could not rebuild their ancient sanctuary, the Temple, because the space of their former Temple was now occupied by one of the most holy places of Islam, al Haram ash Sharif, the Noble Sanctuary, the Al Aqsa mosque. Bearing this in mind, anyone will understand the hostile attitude of many Muslims towards Israel – even though today this attitude is being articulated clearly only by Iran.
The persecution of Jews in the West and the end of the Ottoman Empire led to the State of Israel
The opportunity for a State of their own opened up when the fall of the Ottoman Empire after WWI created a power vacuum in the area – at a time when the persecution of Jews in Europe had became increasingly unbearable.
In that historical niche the League of Nations mandated the British to prepare a home for the Jewish people and, after the Holocaust and WWII, the United Nations decreed that Palestine should be split and Jews should be given one part of the land thus partitioned. Prepared by Zionist ideas the Jews were now able to take the opportunity and declare their own State.
That, of course the Muslim Umma could not accept. Sharia law did not permit an independent Jewish State on Muslim territory. Thus the Umma saw no choice but to react with war.
Jews, on the other hand, would not and could not give up what they just had gained. On the contrary, in the 1948 war they not only consolidated the State of Israel, but were able to expand its territory – also by driving 750 000 Palestinians from their homes. Repeated Muslim attempts to undo that led in 1967 to defeat and occupation.
That again did nothing to motivate the Muslims to welcome the Jews and much cause for resentment. The enmity of both sides intensified. The two intifadas, which followed later, could not convince the Israelis to grant independence to the Palestinians but only moved their government to build a separating wall against them, thus greatly increasing Palestinian hardship. This, naturally enough, did nothing to make Israel any more welcome to them.
On the other hand Israel is still unwilling to take any risk. Guaranteed safety is their precondition for peace. But how could that ever be obtained?
A ceremony of reconciliation following the example of their father Jacob will clear the way for peace
I believe that only Islamic compassion could grant that safety! So how, then, could Islamic compassion be obtained?
I believe that after the initial recovery of Islamic compassion through feeling the pain of the Jews, Muslims could be greatly enabled to welcome the Jews by a Jewish ceremony of reconciliation, reminiscent of father Israel’s reconciliation with his brother.
The leaders of Muslims and Jews can sketch out that course
But in order for that to become possible, dear Muslim leaders, please ask your followers to feel the suffering of the Jews – for that suffering was the motive behind the entire Zionist project.
And then, dear Muslim leaders, please recommend Israel to commemorate its very name and to host a reconciliation ceremony in memory of their father Jacob’s return from his exile – even if this event is not mentioned in the Qur’an.
Please rely on the Biblical story which depicts the name “Israel” as a symbol for Israel’s capacity for supreme compassion. Please ask Israel to show that compassion today!
Please also recommend this approach to the Majesties of the world of Islam, to King Abdullah of Jordan, to King Mohammed of Morocco, and to King Salman of Saudi Arabia. Please recommend them to feel the pain of the Jews, for it was that which led to the establishment of this alien entity in the midst of the Muslim Umma.
Once this pain is fully understood there will be no enemies. There will only be arrangements to be made to relieve all past pain without creating new suffering.
(August 30, 2015)
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