This is America, the beacon of freedom

Islam is NOT the ENEMY

Kourosh Ziabari, 12 Sept 2010

The ninth anniversary of September 11 attacks coincided with the offensive insults of the Americans to the holiest book of 1.5 billion Muslims around the globe. According to reports by the Reuters, near Nashville, Tennessee, evangelical Pastor Bob Old and another preacher used lighter fluid and a lighter to burn at least two copies of the Quran. Old called Islam “a false religion.”

It was also reported that the American protesters objecting to the construction of an Islamic center and a mosque adjacent to the Ground Zero site tore pages from the Holy Quran and set them alight. Reuters also dispatched reports from the similar abuses to the Holy Quran in Lower Manhattan.

The terrifying plan of burning the holy book of Muslims was initially proposed by the pastor of an obscure, small, non-denominational church in Gainesville who had announced that he would be burning copies of the Holy Quran on the anniversary of 9/11 attacks. The plan was described by the global media as a publicity stunt by someone whose desire for gaining some reputation and attention by the international media propelled him towards thinking of such an evil action.

Although a global wave of protests which erupted immediately after Pastor Jones announced his plan for burning the Holy Quran on September 11 dissuaded the attention-seeking preacher from realizing his mischievous intention, he inspired other people to go ahead with the plan and abuse a Holy Book which is venerated and adored by millions of people in the four corners of the world.

Insulting the holy book of Muslims in the United States put an emphasis on the fact that those who consider themselves the harbingers of mutual understanding, religious toleration, peaceful coexistence and freedom of expression are merely making unfounded and baseless claims which they perpetually fail to adhere to in practice. These are only claims which are designed to portray an idealistic image of the United States and its culture. Burning a holy book is the clear manifestation of an uncivilized and barbaric action for which there can’t be any justification or explanation.

Muslims around the world are subject to the most unfair convictions and unjustifiable discriminations. They’re usually labeled as extremists, fundamentalists and radicals. They’re always judged with pessimism and negativity. Every terrorist operation is attributed to them and the most offensive charges are leveled against them as unjustly as possible. So, what’s the reality of Islam? Is it a religion of violence and barbarism, as the Americans claim? Does it further and spread terrorism and extremism? Is Islam a “false religion”, as the evangelical pastor has claimed? A general investigation of the Islamic scriptures and Quran can provide the response to all of these questions. There are numerous indications that Muslims are among the most pacifist and peace-lover people in the world. Islam has categorically rebuffed violence and aggression towards the people and condemned those who use force against others and undermine their esteem.

The most fundamental pillar of Islam is based on sociability, interaction with the other people and respecting their prestige and stature. The Holy Quran on several occasions has underlined the importance of revering the humankind as the most prestigious and valuable creature of the Almighty God. In the verse 70 of the chapter Al-Isra’, the Almighty God introduces the man as His most admirable and brilliant creature, saying that he is superior than all of the other beings on the Earth: “It is a favor that We have honored the sons of Adam and blessed them with conveyances on land and sea and provided them with good and pure things and exalted them above many of Our other creatures.”

As a vanguard ideology, Islam has always emphasized the essentiality of behaving with the followers of other religions with respect and admiration. It was once asked from Imam Reza, the eighth Twelver Shiite Imam and the seventh descendant of Prophet Muhammad that how should one pay tribute to the Jews and Christians who don’t follow the religion of Islam? He answered: “tell them may the Almighty God bless the world for you.”

Those who claim to be the guardians of human rights have so far killed more than 1 million innocent civilians in Iraq since they launched their so-called War on Terror. One may wonder whether these 1 million people have been human or not. Islam has never claimed to be a charter of human rights, but in actuality, it is the most comprehensive and all-inclusive declaration of human rights. It pays attention to each and every aspect of human’s dignity and disallows the destabilization of man’s decorum. In the verse 12 of the chapter Al-Hujuraat, the Almighty God prevents the believers from backbiting, being suspicious about the others and spying: “Believers, avoid being excessively suspicious, for some suspicion is a sin. Do not spy, nor backbite one another. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? (by backbiting) You would surely detest it. Have fear of Allah. Surely Allah is much prone to accept repentance, is Most Compassionate.”

In the verse 13 of the same chapter, the Almighty God has highlighted the fact that the most venerable and esteemed people are the ones who fear Him the most and do good deeds as a result of this fear. This shows that people, regardless of their religion, ethnicity, gender and language, are equal in Islam and their decency is the basis of judging their actions: “Verily the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most God-fearing of you.”

Islam has also stressed the importance of respecting the followers of other religions and called the holy books of Jews and Christians divine revelations which should be treated with esteem and respect. In the verse 46 of the chapter Al-Ma’idah, we read: “And We sent Jesus, the son of Mary, after those Prophets, confirming the truth of whatever there still remained of the Torah. And We gave him the Gospel, wherein is guidance and light, and which confirms the truth of whatever there still remained of the Torah, and a guidance and admonition for the God-fearing.”

With these descriptions, it will become clear that Islam is a religion of toleration, peace and friendship. It pays tribute to all of the religions which had preceded it and obliges the Muslims to live along with the followers of other religions peacefully. Islam confirms and verifies the authenticity of previous holy books and asks the Muslims to be benevolent and compassionate with the “people of faith”.

Burning a holy book which is full of instructions for a peaceful, serene, pure and happy life indicates nothing but ignorance and animosity. More than 1.5 billion people around the world read the Holy Quran to learn from its insights and teachings. Burning such a book simply indicates the lack of tolerance and freedom in a country which considers itself a beacon of freedom.

Thanks God, Muslims have always treated with the followers of other religions respectfully. They never drew insulting cartoons of Prophet Jesus nor did they desecrate the Bible and Torah. The mainstream media in the West portray the Muslims as terrorists and extremists, but the Muslims around the world have righteously demonstrated that they are worthy of praise and admiration for their excellent demeanor and their peaceful disposition.

  • Kourosh Ziabari is an Iranian freelance journalist, and  regular contributor to RamallahOnline.com

Arabs’ ties with Israel damages the Palestinian cause: Prof Gilbert Achcar

Jerusalem Entrance (Photo: Nick Marouf)

Kourosh Ziabari, 2 August 2010

Prof. Gilbert Achcar is a renowned Lebanese academician, writer, socialist and anti-war activist. He left Lebanon in 1983 and taught international relations and politics at the University of Paris VII for several years. Since 2007, Achcar has been Professor of Development Studies and International Relations at the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London. He is a frequent contributor to Le Monde Diplomatique and ZNet.

Prof. Gilbert Achcar

Prof. Gilbert Achcar

Prof. Achcar joined me in an interview to discuss the latest developments related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israel’s attack on the Freedom Flotilla and the prospect of Israel’s occupation of West Bank and Gaza.

Kourosh Ziabari: Dear Prof. Achcar, what’s your estimation of the prospect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

Gilbert Achcar: This is extremely difficult to answer because the situation of the Middle East is changing so quickly and frequently that any kind of prediction about the future is always very risky, so what I can say in reply to your question is that in the foreseeable future, there can’t be any serious and acceptable compromise leading to a peaceful coexistence between Israel and the Palestinians. The reason is that the Israeli society has been continuously shifting to the right so that more and more extreme branches of Zionism are governing Israel, and therefore it’s extremely difficult to imagine that governments like the present government of Israel would make all of the concessions that are required for a true peace with the Palestinians. There can’t be any beginning of peace actually without an end to the occupation of the territories that were occupied since 1967, the dismantlement of the separation wall which Israel has been building and the dismantlement of the settlements. These are basic conditions to which of course one should add the immediate lifting of the blockade of Gaza. So, there’s absolutely no indication at present that the Israeli government as it is, has any inclination to go in that direction.

KZ: Both of the Palestinians and the Israelis, from a religious viewpoint, claim that the land of Israel belongs to them. Both of them cite the historical evidences and religious implications in this regard. What’s your idea about that? How should this interminable conflict come to an end?

GA: This should be hardly debatable among serious people because it’s absolutely clear that when the United Nations voted on the partition of Palestine and voted on creating a Jewish state on Palestine which was the goal of the Zionists, it gave 56 percent of the land of Palestine to the Jewish population which constituted only one third of the whole population. Moreover, the majority of this one third were immigrants, the overwhelming majority of whom had been in Palestine less than 15 years, so there is no fair standard on earth by which this kind of resolution could be considered as legitimate and just; it was completely unjust and completely unfair. No people on earth would admit that recently arrived immigrants have a right to establish their own state in their country. However, I believe that a just solution to the problem is one that would not involve any new expulsion of population; it should be a solution based on democratic principles and peaceful coexistence of Muslims, Christians and Jews, Arabs and Israelis in the region. But, for this to happen, the very nature of Israel’s relationship with its environment should change whereas what we’re seeing now is more and more violence, barbarity and cruelty on the part of Israel.

KZ: Israelis believe and claim that they should have a state with its borders spanned from Nile to Euphrates. This is the “Promised Land” which they recurrently refer to. What do you think about that? Is it a reasonable and justifiable claim?

GA: Even in Israel, very few people subscribe to this view. Only some extremist branches of Zionism believe in this idea. It sounds so absurd that only crazy people can uphold such perspectives. Now, if we had to redraw the map of the world to go back to how the world was 2,000 years ago, we can imagine what a terrible mess would happen in the whole world. Besides, there’s much debate even on the fact that the European Jews who came to Palestine in the 20th century are descendants of the Jews who were in Palestine 2,000 years ago. But even if that were the case, and again, if we had to redraw the map of the world as it was 2,000 years ago, why not 3,000 years ago or 1,000 years ago? So the only legitimate claim to a land is that of the people who were living on it in recent centuries. But no Palestinian group among the main Palestinian forces is calling for the expulsion of Jews and Israelis from the Middle East. All of them call for coexistence, but coexistence based on democratic principles and on equal footing, not the present situation of very harsh oppression of the Palestinians and the Lebanese by Israel.

KZ: Some Arab nations are progressively taking steps to normalize their ties with Israel. We can name the United Arab Emirates which invited the Israel’s transport and infrastructure minister to an international summit held in Abu Dhabi. Other Arab states, in turn, are making efforts to establish new relations with Israel. Isn’t it going to be harmful and destructive for the cause of Palestinian people?

GA: Four countries have established relations with Israel among the Arab states and they are Egypt, Jordan, Qatar and Oman. This is damaging for the cause of the Palestinians, especially when the country betraying them is Egypt which is the largest Arab country. This is a result of the increasing hegemony of the United States over the Middle East, which pushes the Arab governments to establish relations with the state of Israel against the will of their own people. If you look at Jordan and Egypt, you’ll see that the overwhelming majority of their population is opposed to Israel and its policies, and this creates a wide gap between governmental policies and what the population wants.

KZ: What’s your view regarding the recent Israeli assault on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla? What would happen if another country rather than Israel, say Iran, had attacked the flotilla of 600 international peace activists? Would the international community’s response have been the same?

GA: You should ask me what would happen if the United States had attacked the flotilla, because they do such things quite often. But, you’re right in saying that Israel gets the least protest in comparison with other countries when it comes to the violation of international law and perpetration of war crimes and crimes against humanity. This judgment is in line with the reports of Judge Richard Goldstone who is a devout Jew and even a devout Zionist, but honest enough for acknowledging the fact that Israel committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza. So of course Israel gets much less condemnation than any countries that are opposed to the United States and to Western hegemony. One should say, however, that Israel started to lose even the support of Western public opinion recently, especially since the Gaza war of 2008-2009 which was a brutal and cruel attack on defenseless civilians and was criticized even by traditional friends of Israel. After the attack on Freedom Flotilla, the international condemnation of Israel reached an unprecedented level. A few countries cut their diplomatic relations with Israel in Latin America like Venezuela and Bolivia in the last year and Nicaragua in the current year. A number of countries recalled their ambassadors: we have seen a shift in the stance of public opinion and even a wave of protests has taken shape in the United States. So there’s been a real impact and this shows that the Israeli state by its cruelty and brutality is losing more and more ground in the global public opinion.

KZ: The Saudi King has recently made remarks in which he likened Iran’s government to the state of Israel and said that these two countries don’t deserve to exist. Is this a fair and rational statement? Doesn’t it damage the Islamic solidarity and integrity?

GA: First of all, this statement, if true, is a really infamous statement. Putting Iran and Israel on the same level is totally absurd. Israel is a state that has been created through a colonial process and is violently oppressing the original population of the land it seized. Iran is a country which has been there for a long period of history and there was no involvement of colonial powers in its creation. Its government is certainly more legitimate than that of the Saudi kingdom, which was established by armed conquest less than one century ago, and never elected since then. However, the Saudi King meant probably that both the Israeli government and the Iranian government are extremist to his taste. The truth is that the Saudi regime is the most reactionary and the most backward regime in the whole region. They’re closer to the Taliban than to anything else in terms of regime and society. Saudi rulers are better advised to change their own regime rather than trying to change the regimes in other countries.

  • Kourosh Ziabari is an Iranian freelance journalist. He has received the national medal of superior Iranian youth from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.