Towards the end of Ramadan, (October 11th, 2007), a group of 138 Muslim clerics released a Letter which called for peace between Muslims and Christians. Jews, (my people), Hindus, Buddhists, other non-Christian denominations, secularists, and atheists were not included in this theologically-based appeal.
Already, I’m worrying. Why are they only talking to Christians? Although Jews represent less than 1% (.003%) of the world’s population, (there are perhaps 14 million of us), why not talk to Jews–since Jewish scripture is cited in the Letter; and because we are also viewed as so very powerful?
But, what’s wrong with approaching Buddhists and Hindus who number 360 million and 900 million, respectively? What about Chinese traditionalists who number 225 million, or primal-indigenous worshippers who number 190 million? Secularists and atheists number 850 million; that’s a lot of people. (Yoruba, Juche, and Sikhs number 20 million, 19 million, and 18 million, respectively.)
The reason for excluding these other groups is quite obvious–and chilling. Historically, Muslims have been taught to sue for (a temporary or a false) “peace” only when they are in the weaker, not stronger position, as a way of buying time to better prepare for a military-religious triumph.
Demographically, the only group that outmatches the Muslims is Christians. Therefore, although all the other denominations add up to one billion, thirty three million, their combined number is still smaller than the number of Muslims in the world, who number 1.2 billion. Christians number 2 billion. (I am also counting secularism and atheism as religious denominations – they often have fundamentalists among them too.)
As someone who has gone on record calling for Judao-Christian alliances with dissident, moderate, secular, and “peace” oriented Muslims and ex-Muslims, I do not think that this Letter or its signatories are serious about finding “common” ground.
I fear that the Letter’s purpose was to dis-inform and disarm uninformed Westerners who have been led to believe that their own concepts of “peace” are the same as Muslim concepts.
Indeed, The Letter has already been received very positively in the western mainstream media: the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, International Herald Tribune, the Times of London, the London Guardian, Ecumenical News International, and the BBC did not challenge the Letter’s motives or signatories or place the Letter in historical or theological context.
However, both the Times of London and the Washington Post quote Anglican bishop Michael Nazir-Ali who noted that “the two faiths’ understanding of the oneness of God is not the same. One partner cannot dictate the terms on which dialogue must be conducted.”
Last year, I debated a number of people on Al-Hurrah about the Islamic Veil. Yvonne Ridley, a British convert to Islam, was one of the debaters. She characterized the plight of Muslims in the West as being oppressed and attacked; she said that her people’s blood was flowing in the streets of London and on the West Bank. She threatened a lawsuit in The Hague on behalf of Muslim religious freedom in the West. Knowing that people were watching this debate all over the Arab Middle East and Muslim world I politely and diplomatically appealed to those living in Saudi Arabia and on the West Bank.
I did not call for an international lawsuit on behalf of the rights of all those non-Muslim religions that are savagely persecuted in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan, and in Gaza and on the West Bank. But I pointed out that religious intolerance did not exist in the West but in the Muslim world. Rather than bring such a lawsuit, I called upon Saudi Arabia to start practicing some version of Western Judao-Christian religious tolerance.
Ridley went ballistic.
One more personal example: When I was interviewed in the London Guardian and in the Chicago Tribune (in 2006), both interviewers were very respectful and even friendly. However, when the interviews appeared, the questions suddenly contained negative critiques that were never presented to me. In one instance, a Muslim religious feminist rebutted what I was about to–but had not yet said. In another instance, the interviewer told me that “the new material had been imposed” from on high.
I doubt that Jewish, Christian, non-Christian, and secular and atheist views are this carefully preserved and protected in the Arab Muslim world.
In my view, the West is not at war with Islam: Count up the number of Muslim immigrants and mosques in the West. But Islam is certainly at war with the West. Count how few churches, temples, shrines and synagogues exist in the Arab and Muslim world and how endangered infidels are in the Islamic world.
I will have more to say about this Letter.
And send me your comments–even your votes–as to whether you believe this Letter is a genuine bid for peace or is part of a massive dis-information campaign.
My statistics about religious and atheist demographics were obtained from Buddha Net HERE.