Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Peace with Islam is A Call to Democracy

Update, January 28th: I've been hearing about this for a few days now and heard about it for the first time months ago. Can Islamic terrorists be "rehabilitated"? Sounds like the idea is that you're treating them as if they'd been brainwashed by a cult (which I guess is more or less true) and the treatment is some form of "deprogramming". You can read all about it at Time.com and see if this seems like a viable solution. As it's presented, it will probably be most effective at the low-level jihadists who would be convinced to blow themselves up...what used to be called "cannon fodder". For the Bin Ladens of the world, all the therapy available since Freud smoked his first cigar wouldn't help.

Original post starts here: I've been following President Obama's efforts to keep this campaign promise with interest, and some trepidation. Under the Bush administration, it was a foregone conclusion that the vast majority of Muslim Arab nations were at least at odds with our national interests if not our outright enemies (read: Iran). Obama has been busy reversing just about every act Bush ever made as President, but can he really accomplish his goal of peace with Islam? Can there be peace between America and the Muslim nations? As far as establishing peace with Islam, it would be naive to assume that the Muslim Arab world would ever truly desire peace with the U.S. as long as we support the existence of Israel. If we advocated the total destruction of every last Jewish man, woman, and child in Israel and turning the entire land into "Palestine" for the "Palestinian Arabs", then they'd say they want peace with us. The issue of "Palestine" cannot be extracted from the entire debate, since every Arab nation, including our ally Saudi Arabia, supports the establishment of a Palestinian "homeland" within the borders of Israel (kind of like moving the fox into the back bedroom of the hen house). The irony in all this is that, whenever the Palestinian people have sought to establish their presence in any of the Arab nations, they were sent packing back to "Palestine". Even today, movement of Palestinian citizens to into Egypt, right next door to Gaza, is strictly controlled by the Egyptians. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has long expressed his heartfelt compassion for the Palestinian people, once suggested that, if the Europeans felt so guilty for the Holocaust, why didn't they establish a "Jewish homeland" in Europe, and leave 100% of Israel for the Palestinians? I'm sure that Iran has more than enough real estate for Ahmadinejad to annex some portion of it for "New Palestine". Why doesn't he follow his own best advice? The issue of "extremist" (as if they're just three guys in a garage somewhere in Montana building bombs) organizations is another potential roadblock. Islamic terrorist organizations act out the will of the mainstream Islamic hard liners. Many "average" Muslims support terrorist acts towards the US and Israel who they are told are the enemy. While these average people may never commit a terrorist act themselves, they at least emotionally and cognitively support terrorism, if not donate to terrorist causes. How will those people, who have already been convinced that we are the enemy, be "unconvinced"? While Obama says he wants to establish peaceful relations with Muslim countries like Iran but totally rejects Islamic Terrorist organizations, he doesn't acknowledge that Iran is the willing training ground for Al Queda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and so on. Did the CIA fail to brief the new President on these facts? How can we support peace on the one hand, and still ignore that our would be allies continue to support violence against us? What about the human rights violations committed on a daily basis in Iran and other Islamic nations? How can we close down "Gitmo" in order to wash our sins from our hands, yet ally ourselves to nations that employ the same (or worse) interrogation techniques on their political prisoners? Do we accept a superficial "peace" with these nations while turning a blind eye to the suffering of their prisoners and their citizens? We tried that with the Soviet Union and it didn't work. Even after the fall of Communism and establishment of relationships with the former Soviet states, many problems remain. Is our desire for "peace" stronger than standing up for our stated ideals of Justice and Freedom for all? Despite what I said earlier about "average" Muslims supporting terrorism, at least passively, I do think that most Muslims, here in the west and in the Arab nations, want to have peace. I believe that many Iranian citizens desire that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad be replaced by a more moderate leader. However, just as citizens in every nation run by a dictator have very little say as to the official policies of their country, the average Arab may have no control over implementing these desires. An excellent book that illustrates the plight of a subjegated people is Natan Sharansky's The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror. Sharansky himself was a Soviet Jewish dissident, living in Russia during the cold war period. He points out that, while some of the citizens truly supported the Soviet goals and were "partners" with the oppressive regime, most people wanted to at least have a greater dialogue with the west and at most, the freedom to leave the Communist state. Few people live in a dictatorship by choice. The same propaganda process existed for the Soviets then as it does for Islam now. If people in the Soviet Union believed the west was "evil", it was because their leaders told them so. Some chose to believe while others saw through the lies. The same is true today in Islamic dictatorships, except while the Soviets chose to "demonize" religion, Islam by definition, uses religion as the compelling tool to convince the people that Allah (not the same as the Jewish or Christian God) believes the west is "evil". This not only justifies violence against westerners and Jews, but demands it. Obama is not ignorant nor stupid, and I find it hard to believe that he's even naive. So what does he expect to gain out of extending the hand of friendship to a dictatorship that could not function attached to a democracy? As allies, wouldn't we be critical of their many human rights violations? The answer I see is that he gets to make good on his promise. No, I don't believe Obama is shallow, but I do believe he has a rationale. There have to be a set of "reasonable" conditions for us to accept a nation as a friend (at least if Obama really means he wants to run government without duplicity...a first, if he can pull it off) and new ally. That means, we couldn't reasonably accept friendship with countries such as Iran unless they ceased (not just "agreed" to cease, but actually ceased) all of their internal activities that violated the rights of their citizens and stopped 100% of their support for terrorist organizations. I frankly don't see that happening unless or until a revolution occurs in Iran, tossing out the old regime. There's nothing wrong with stating that we are not aggressors and desire to have peaceful relations with the nations of the world. That said, we must accept that, if we are true to the principles of democracy and freedom, we are not going to be friends will all of the nations of the earth. We can extend the olive branch to the Islamic world, but we need to not be afraid to say that there will be no peace while Islam supports injustice and violence. Source articles: The New York Times and CNN.com.

1 comment:

  1. My initial reaction to the appointment of Obama is that it has to be a positive step.

    I don't believe Obama is stupid or naive, and he has surrounded himself with people (the likes of George Mitchell) who have a wealth of experience.

    I think the way he's moving forward apace, taking the line that 'we will sit down and listen to your concerns' to all parties rather than take a stance that shows bias to one has to be the way forward.

    We don't need to be friends with all nations, we just have to talk to them and work with them to resolve issues.

    I appreciate that violence, against both Muslim and Jew continues, as it does against Christians as well. It saddens me to see death brought about by violence and destruction at any time, but death in the name of religion or for a piece of earth cannot be what God wanted... surely?

    I think the majority of Muslims do want peace, just as the majority of Jews do. There will always be those who do not want peace... the best way to marginalise those people is to work with the majority to build a consensus.

    If the groundwork that Obama puts in train can indeed stop the violence, and if that means that we have to accept that people will not be brought to account for what has gone before, then perhaps this is a price worth paying for the sake of peace.

    That may not be palatable to some; however, I believe that those who have sinned will be brought to account and pay for those sins by a Higher being than any of us.


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