Review by David Shasha
Current models of human courage do not comport very well with older ideals. Today, courage is identified with cruelty and violence rather than with wisdom and morality. Contemporary civilization makes heroes of those who pillage and plunder rather than those who use their minds and their words to point the way to a better future. Classical ideas involving the absolute value of knowledge and humility have given way to the valorization of ignorance and brutality as a means of defining greatness. Such ideas are not lacking in classical culture which often pointed to military victors as paradigmatic of what it meant to be human. But classical civilizations, from West to East and back again, made certain that writers, poets and philosophers – men and women of spiritual leanings – were situated at the very epicenter of culture and would stand at the very apex of the human condition.
This sense of courage, the courage of speaking the Truth at whatever cost, a courage that may be gleaned from the Sacred Scriptures of the great world religions, of Buddha, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, Confucius and the rest of the great masters, is at its very root a courage that is borne by confronting the cruel and the wicked with the Holy Word of God. Continue reading
Reviewed by John W. Morehead.
Human beings are wired to be aware of difference. It is natural part of human nature to forge various social alliances that foster senses of “us,” the insiders, in distinction to “them,” the outsiders. Problems arise when the outsiders become the enemy, and they further function in such a way that one’s individual and collective identity is created by way of opposition to the other. This dynamic is found in our post-9/11 environment in regards to Islam, where a cottage industry portrays Islam as a monstrous entity, wholly a religion of violence, pursuing terrorism and the overthrow of the US Constitution to be replaced with “sharia law.” The result of this narrative is a frighteningly large number of people adopting “Islamophobia,” an irrational fear of Muslims and the Islamic religion.
Nathan Lean discusses the phenomenon of right-wing construction of Islamic monstrosity in his volume The Islamophobia Industry: How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims. The book reveals the astonishing success this industry has had in shaping negative public opinions about Islam. Continue reading
Review by Aaron D. Taylor
On the cover of Dr. David Liepert’s book, Muslim, Christian and Jew, renowned religion scholar Karen Armstrong writes, “An honest and wholehearted attempt to fulfill a task that is incumbent upon us all….make our traditions speak with compassion and respect to our dangerously polarized world.”
Throughout the pages of Muslim, Christian, and Jew, Dr. David Liepert attempts to do just that. As the subtitle of the book suggests, “finding a path to peace our faiths can share”, Liepert spares no rhetoric in declaring his ambitions. Liepert wants nothing less than to put an end to the centuries-old tradition of Muslims, Christians, and Jews killing each other in the name of God, and the manner in which Liepert attempts to achieve that in this book, is as unique and nuanced as the author himself. Continue reading
Cross-Posted from Mondoweiss
A review of Gilbert Achcar’s book, The Arabs and the Holocaust: the Arab-Israeli War of Narratives (Metropolitan Books; in England, from Saqi).
Gilbert Achcar is a Lebanese Professor based at SOAS (University of London) and writer of numerous books on geopolitical power relations and imperialism in the Arab world. His new book is a reasoned intervention that at once disputes anti-Arab racism and develops a strong set of arguments against the notion ‘Arab anti-Semitism’. It brings together sources from English, French and Arabic archives and engages with contemporary debates. Doing so, he both deepens and broadens the important contributions on this theme by Philip Matar and Joseph Massad. This book will undoubtedly become a basic reference both to activists and academics working on the Middle East. With more than 70 pages of notes and literary references, Achcar engages in an almost breathless historical and empirical untwisting of the massive body of counter-truths stemming from polemic writings in academia, such as Harkabi’s constantly recycled 1974 classic Arab Attitudes to Israel and in popular media, detritus from the pro-Israel watchdog MEMRI. The book is at its most relevant where it steps outside the ‘academic discourse’ and engages with Arab social movements. Continue reading
Review by David Shasha
Richard E. Rubenstein, Aristotle’s Children: How Christians, Muslims and Jews Rediscovered Ancient Wisdom and Illuminated the Dark Ages, Harcourt Publishers, 2003
In his recent article in Commentary Magazine, “Out of Andalusia,” the Ashkenazi Zionist polemicist Hillel Halkin put into question the use of Muslim Spain as a model for our own benighted and racially divided times. Assessing the thesis of our good friend Maria Rosa Menocal in her splendid work The Ornament of the World, Halkin seriously doubts whether Muslim Spain, a place where Jews, Muslims and Christians appeared to live in relative harmony and produced a progressive and humanistic culture, was actually all it was cracked up to be.
Halkin has intensified a trend among Zionists that began decades ago with Yitzhak Baer and Ben-Zion Dinur that plays out the current Arab/Israeli conflict on the very pages of works of “objective” historical research. Their demonization of Arab culture and society is a crucial part of this rhetorical strategy and Halkin’s article, whose thematic and ideological bias was echoed by another anti-Sephardic article in the Sunday New York Times, is clearly part of a Zionist ideological assault on the cultural past of the Middle East.
In trying to cast a polemical shadow over the culture and history of the Arabs and their civilization, partisan critics like Halkin also unwittingly throw into the mix the salience of the very Jewish culture that was produced under the aegis of Arab civilization. This critical approach, meant to lash out at the Arabs for their role in the current conflict over Israel/Palestine, has served to distort the realities not merely of Arabo-Islamic history, but to cut the legs out from under the Sephardic tradition itself.
Richard E. Rubenstein, a professor of conflict resolution and public affairs at George Mason University, has added more fuel to the fire of this debate. Continue reading
By John W. Morehead, October 22, 2012
Brian D. McLaren
Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World
New York: Jericho Books, 2012
Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America
Boston: Beacon Press, 2012
Two authors working in the area of interfaith relations need to be read by Evangelicals: Brian McLaren writing as a Progressive Evangelical, and Eboo Patel as a Muslim. Both men contribute important pieces of the puzzle that should be discussed and incorporated into an Evangelical response to religious pluralism and interreligious engagement. Continue reading
Review by Rick Love
Can a Christian learn anything from a Muslim?
I have learned a lot from my Muslim friends. For example, I have learned much more about hospitality from my Muslim friends than I have from my Christian friends. Hospitality is an important theme in Scripture, and Muslims have modeled for me what hospitality truly is.
I have also learned a lot from Eboo Patel’s latest book, Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice and the Promise of America. Sacred Ground is a profoundly refreshing look at how faith intersects with American ideals – or, more accurately, how American ideals should protect everyone’s faith. The term “sacred ground” refers to the fundamental American commitment to freedom of religion, and Patel describes the promise of America as pluralism – equal rights for a multicultural society. Continue reading
I remember a number of years ago being very struck by the Hungarian writer George Konrad’s book Antipolitics. The book that many claimed brought down the Berlin wall stood out because –in resisting the oppression of the Communist Regime – it openly refused to pander itself to American tastes. One of the early reviewers of that book commented poignantly;
In the Soviet-American match there are many who cheer for the American side, but I don’t know anyone here in Budapest who would be willing to see our city become a battleground, even if they knew that the Americans would be here afterward.
Konrad seemed to be saying something else; something different; something unusual and unexpected. He seemed to be saying that in order to resist oppression Hungarians needed to be Hungarian. Submitting yourself – even to the most apparently benign of cultural conquests – is not how freedom is peacefully won.
This insight that was so true for Eastern Europe in the era just before, during and after Glasnost and Perestroika feels powerfully true today in the Middle East. How can we emerge from the ideas and cultural biases that oppress freedom and perpetuate conflict without losing the cultural convictions that give us our enduring sense of meaning and purpose in the world? How can we respectfully and even lovingly allow Americans to be Americans, Europeans to be Europeans, Christians to be Christians, Muslims to be Muslims and Jews to be Jews while at the same time building international peaceful alliances in which people do not suffer under the oppression of their regimes but also do not feel compelled to purchase their freedom at the price of their cultural authenticity. This is a crucial question. As a Jew and a Zionist, I have been seeking the answer to it and it is with this question burning in my mind that I came to read Akyol’s book.
Review by Aaron D. Taylor
Alick Isaacs’s life reads like a script from a Hollywood movie. Isaacs, an Israeli-Jew, was raised in the U.K., made Aliyah to Israel in his early 20’s, was immediately drafted into the Israeli army where he participated in Israel’s crushing of the first Palestinian Intifada in 1987, spent the next 20 years working as a philosopher/scholar, and—most importantly for the book—fought in the Lebanon war of 2006, where he literally felt the hand of God pressing on his shoulders one night in a Lebanese village, a gesture that Isaacs interprets as an epiphany from God calling him to dedicate his life to peace.
The question is: How does a religious conservative Orthodox Zionist Israeli Jew draw upon the resources of his faith in order to develop a framework for peace in a conflict where religion seems to play an indelible role in perpetuating the conflict?
This is the question that Isaacs deals with in A Prophetic Peace. Continue reading