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Islam: The Muslim World and the West
Occupation, Perpetual Jihad, Reverse-Violence, War, and Abuse –
or Mutual Restraint, Respect, and Fair Accommodation.
Push to immigrate but refusal to integrate
Bilateral Fundamentalism – or Gradual Evolution and Reform
Confrontation and Suffering – or Idea Exchange in Benevolence
What Future – Mental, Cultural, and Economic?
Analysis and a Proposal for an Approach
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The Muslim world and the West have been in competition for most of the last 1,400 years. In spite of the initially violent Muslim expansion, then the Crusades, then Ottoman aggression, then Western colonialism, there were times when the West admired Arab accomplishments, appreciating the preserving of Greek philosophy and progress in the sciences and arts in the early Muslim universities, and respected Islam as a benevolent religion. For a long time, Westerners and Jews were welcome in Muslim lands. Lately, however, violent confrontation has appeared again.
Small-scale friction existed for some time – between remaining Jewish populations in their once Holy Land and the Palestinians or their ancestors in a land where they had lived for almost 1,900 years (or much longer before). Consider that three Hebrew invasions occurred through historical times – first, Abraham’s immigration, then the return of the Jews from Egypt (possibly not as described in the story of Moses; see all the new archeological evidence and the important book by Shlomo Sand, “The Invention of the Jewish People”, ISBN-13-978-1-84467-623-1). Finally, and most recently, we witnessed the Zionist-led Jewish immigration (or their return) to their newly established home in Israel. On the other hand, the Jews suffered from three expulsions from their “Holy” land – the first possibly by a climate change, leading to the migration to Egypt, the second by the Assyrians (who destroyed the vast Northern Kingdom), the last by the Romans – and now are threatened by a fourth one, by the Palestinians, Arabs, Iran, or, now, by the ISIS caliphate.
In recent times, large-scale violence began with the expulsion, often violent and always without compensation (!), of most Palestinians from that part of their land which then became Israel and its “settlements” in the West Bank area. This expulsion was followed by Palestinian and general Muslim violence against Israel, accentuated by Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and now Iran.
This violence has reached a pervasive level to a degree that not only Israelis but Palestinians (mainly in the Gaza Strip) and, more importantly, Muslims in general have increasingly become identified with violent acts in the pursuit of their national and religious goals everywhere in the world – while Israeli settlement expansion and Gaza suppression are tolerated by the world.
The Kashmir struggle between Pakistan and India, including the Mumbai attack, the most violent struggle within Pakistan and more cruelly so within Syria, and the not decreasing violence within Iraq and Afghanistan or in many other parts of the Muslim world (including Northern Africa) and acts of Muslim terrorism in Europe and North America added to this perception. A nuclear Iran would become a new threat (especially when it supports other activist groups, such as Hezbollah – with its missile threat for Israel).
Many Muslims push for immigration to the West, but then refuse to integrate, too often living on public support – with some of their not-integrated youngsters or local converts becoming the most dangerous “terrorists” attacking the West, many offering themselves as suicide bombers for Al Qaeda or the Taliban.
From a Muslim point of view, Israel and, consequently, its main supporter, the U.S., have become identified with aggression in building illegal settlements in Palestine, onerous occupation, violent suppression, and pervasive anti-Islamic influences.
In this struggle, the “War on Terror”  became the ill-advised paradigm of American President George W. Bush and his allies (only lately modified by President Obama). This was a mainly military response to several Muslim acts of violent aggressiveness, especially after the attack on New York City and Washington, D.C., of September 11, 2001. But the relationship between the Muslim world and the West had already been burdened for too long by the Israel-Palestinian problem. Most Israeli governments (but by far not all Israelis) assumed the possibly equally ill-advised paradigm that military suppression of the Palestinians is necessary for the security, even survival, of their nation – which, however, may be less secure now than it was 10 years ago. These suppressive policies have largely been supported by all recent U.S. administrations. Some compensation to the Palestinians for their losses and the establishment of a viable economy for the Palestinians in their remaining land did not occur (only lately did Secretary of State John Kerry offer $4 billion for this purpose).
Some Palestinians, especially among the refugees, don’t want peace without a return to their land – not ever wanting to give up their homeland, especially without what they consider fair compensation – as the Jews and Israel to some degree received after the Holocaust.
The Muslim and Palestinian “terrorists”, considered as such from the Western perspective, fight, in their own minds, for freedom, dignity, and the teachings of the Qur’an, as well as for a “fundamentalist” cleansing of their lands – against Israel and America, which are perceived as centers of evil. Several violent Muslim groups, with different virulent philosophies, have emerged.
Additionally, the Sunni-Shiite “civil war” in Iraq, Pakistan, and Syria caused much suffering, further inflamed by Al Qaeda and Iran. The rebuilding of Iraq (at American expense or by the export of oil) and the rebuilding of Afghanistan are painfully slow. This rebuilding has moved forward in Iraq only at times when the Awakening Councils of the Sunni have supported law and order and the Shiite leaders Maliki and Al Sadr became more peaceful toward and tolerant of the Sunni. In Iraq one must suspect Al Qaeda, some Iraqi politicians, and neighboring Iran as the troublemakers.
The dangerous culprits in Afghanistan are not only religiously motivated subgroups of the Taliban, but the opium traders, mainly under the Haqqani clan and various Taliban sub-groups (along with the northern Gubuddin Hekmatyar) and remaining Al Qaeda – all deriving their main income from the drug trade and pursuing their money and power objectives more than the benefit of the Afghan people – now drawing Pakistan, their refuge and drug trade route, into a destructive spiral This problem must be addressed in order to bring peace and progress to Afghanistan!
As a consequence of these events, not only America’s reputation, but also the reputation of Islam and of all Muslims worldwide, has suffered greatly. The world now considers Islam a violence-prone religion, one given to the suppression of civil rights, especially those of women.
What can be done? Confrontation of Muslim violence, primarily by Western military force, does address the symptoms of the conflict. However, it will not lead to a resolution of the deeper causes of the conflict. As in other cases of fanatical radicalism, a better understanding – one based on more intelligent analysis and actions – is needed to address not only the causes and mindset of violent extremism and, mainly, the sometimes devious driving forces behind it – but also the insensitivity or merely militaristic mindset of the West.
In the above situations – in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria (also in Chechnya) – the true interests of the local populations were deplorably neglected. In either case, the vast majority of the world’s Muslims consider the violent ruthlessness and damage inflicted by Muslim jihadists to innocents – lately, mostly to other Muslims – as un-Islamic and, possibly, in violation of both the letter and the spirit of the Qur’an. One must consider that not only a large numbers of innocent Muslims are killed, but much larger numbers are wounded, leading often to a lifetime of cruel suffering!
However, there was, and still is, a surprising lack of forcefulness in exposing and confronting this deplorable situation by any internal forces in the Muslim world – by the people, by their political leaders, and especially by the all too often disappointing Muslim clergy. The clergy is often seen quite visibly as fomenting further violence against the West but hardly ever as condemning its own misguided violent direction and the vast misery it triggers. Selective reading of the Qur’an is used to justify every extreme view – with less than 10 of the 6,345 verses of the Qur’an being the most violent ones, abused to justify all the present cruelty.
Authoritative resolution of Qur’anic contradictions is difficult, especially in the Sunni part of the Muslim world, where no clear theological hierarchy exists. A short reading of the Qur’an, though, should indicate a different alternative. Doesn’t almost every one of the 114 Surahs commence with the description of Allah as “merciful and beneficent”? Should this not provide the principal guidance to all Muslims? Did the Muslim world forget that Muhammad was a benevolent reformer, quite modern within his time (see further detail below)?
This problem of a lack of religious guidance arose because Mohammad totally failed to establish an order of succession for leadership in the Muslim world after his death. The elite of Mecca (later of Bagdad) was anxious to inherit this political power, but without theological power – leading to the Sunni branch of Islam. Muhammad’s family, in contrast, claimed succession within the family as in dynastic hierarchies, leading ultimately to the Ayatollahs of the Shiite branch.
The world at large looks at this predicament in the Islamic world with compassion for all the innocent victims, but at the same time with considerable lack of understanding or, at times, with cynical criticism of Islam and the unbelievable counter-productivity of its functioning. Extreme Islamism – Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Salafis – has largely failed, while bringing unbelievable suffering to far too many Muslims – and benefit only to some extremist mullahs, managers of simple Islamic “madrassa” schools, warlords, and opium traders. That is not the generous compensation to all the righteous which the Qur’an promises from Allah!
The remaining leaders of Al Qaeda, specifically al-Zawahiri, Mullah Omar, and all the other Taliban leaders, specifically the Haqqani clan, and, now the ISIS leaders should be urged to consider the utterly destructive legacy they leave behind! (See the “Open Letter” addressed to them at the end of this essay.) They should reverse course, and become “merciful and beneficent” actors in this world – as many charitable organizations in this world already are (mainly in the West)! The Iranian Ayatollahs (and the most dangerous “Revolutionary Guards”, who actually hold all the power in Iran) should convince by merciful and beneficent leadership, not by violent and cruel suppression or nuclear threat – or they should finally now make room for religious or political competition. Bakr al-Baghdadi of ISIS should become a blessing, not a curse, to the world!
Basically, the visions and goals for the future of both cultures in the modern world, the West and the Muslim world, must be clarified and harmonized in order to reach a durable and fair peace in this world – for the benefit of all people and in the spirit of all major religions.
The quest for peace must include some mutual accommodation that focuses on facts. At the same time, this quest must include changing some parts of the mental culture on both sides.
The West, finally in the process of ending its military involvement in Afghanistan, may have to restrain its imposition of Western-style democracy on still tribal cultures, and reduce its economic aggressiveness. The building of local economies (a strong middle class), schools, and hospitals must be of the highest priority – and also the reduction of corruption. But how will the West defend itself against ongoing attacks from Al-Qaeda or other Muslim movements?
The West must now find, and insist on, a secure peace for Israel, as well as a promising future for Palestine and its refugees. Mutual recognition is mandatory!
In the Muslim world, internal forces (and only they can do this) must accomplish the necessary mental change and evolution in theology as mankind evolves – remembering that Muhammad had the mind of a modern reformer in his time – and move away from an often inhumane and counterproductive violence (in so many parts of the world where Muslims live) or a medieval and truly un-Islamic suppression (see, for example, the killing of arbitrarily designated “apostates”, of minority Muslim religious directions [such as the Sufis], of Christians, or the far too many “honor killings” of young women in the Muslim diaspora). A mental change of the Muslim world must lead to humanely peaceful solutions, to mental and to economic progress (see some specific thoughts below). Occasionally, the West may provide subtle encouragement and support.
The important question arises: Will Islam ever be capable of even subtle theological evolution, approaching a reformation, facilitating a better transition into the modern world?
A basic weakness of Islam is the fact that it does not understand nor accept the concept of natural evolution. In this modern world, not only America and Europe, but lately also China, India, and Russia dominate (after having gone through various reformations) and largely outperform the Muslim countries – and science progresses, leading to the critical “science-versus-religion” discussions – offering a wider cosmic view, an understanding of natural evolution and the human mind, progress in education, medical advances, worldwide communication, and exciting new products – but job opportunities occur in global competition. In addition, the structure of society changes (see the increasing role of women). Let Muslims not lag! Proposals are offered in the following chapters.
What could be the first steps? Some fair adjustment of important inequities or irritants must swiftly take place, on both sides. Israeli settlements must stop, even be reduced – or be compensated by corresponding settlements of Palestinians on land in Israel.
Mainly, idea transfer in both directions must be facilitated, as was once possible in more productive historical times. The Muslim universities in Spain once guided Europe out of the Middle Ages into the humanistic Renaissance (before the Muslim world reverted to fundamentalism)!
In such an approach, one must distinguish in the West between political leaders and the people at large – and in the Muslim world, between hard-core violent extremists, religious fundamentalists, sympathizers in the population at large, inert masses, Western-influenced elites, various power cliques, and the clergy. The West must reconsider its generous support of corrupt and authoritarian Muslim governments. The Saudis must stop supporting fundamentalism!
It is important to note that the problems between the Western and the Muslim worlds extend beyond accusations of “imperialism” on one side and “terrorism” on the other. Many parts of the Muslim world suffer from a failure to find a viable approach to the modern world and to participation in its benefits. Too many Muslims in the world greatly lag behind in economic, medical, and political progress or fair opportunities for their frustrated young generation!
Many Muslims are confused and upset by what the modern world brings – now penetrating their world irreversibly due to modern communication, the internet, and economic globalization. They seek a refuge and, mainly, a secure home in a strictly fundamental interpretation of Islam under a thoroughly dominating religious and political leadership – sparing them the need to think and decide by themselves or to seek a practical career.
Yet, many millions of Muslims have pushed for immigration into Western countries, seeking asylum from bad governments and lawlessness or merely for a better life. They compensate for their failure to climb the social ladder in their new home countries by huddling together and preserving their culture, importing fundamentalist mullahs, not educating their children adequately, and even “honor-killing” their daughters who try to find an approach to Western life.
Internal initiatives must be shown within the Muslim world, and assistance must be given, for reforms and actions that would allow the religion of Islam, its religious leaders, and the Islamic nations to find a positive path into the future and to a beneficial place in the world.
A path must be found – and may be found (see following chapters) – that will allow followers of the Qur’an to respect the civil liberties and human rights of all people, including those of women, followers of different interpretations of the Muslim faith, and those of different faiths – and, hopefully, to become shining lights to the world in education and altruistic, ethical behavior or action programs – in following Allah “the merciful and beneficent” – rather than merely in headscarf observation and narrow morality of merely appearance, ritual, and dietary laws.
A special problem posed by the Qur’an are certain specific verses in a few Surahs leading to behavior that is unacceptable in the West – even in contradiction to the constitutions of all modern countries. In focusing on this problem, all Muslim countries are in contradiction to international law, and no committed Muslim mullah or individual should be admitted to a Western country unless refuting by oath those specific verses. For example, Surah 4 “Al Nisa”, Verse 89/90 and 91/92, demand the killing of any Muslim leaving his or her religion by all other Muslims – thereby violating basic constitutional civil rights in freedom of thought, speech, and religion. A solution to some of these Qur’anic problems may lie in seeing the origin of the Surahs in their historic connection and Muhammad’s specific intent (see below).
Equally or even more cruel and universally unacceptable is Surah 8 “Al Anfal”, Verse 12/13, demanding that “the unbelievers … (be) hit above their necks and cut off their finger tips”. Islam must take a clear position regarding such statements in the Qur’an by controlling and then abolishing them. As a matter of principle, Islam must stop committing violence as a means of expanding dominance.
A solution to this problem may come from interpreting the Qur’an not simply verbatim, taking verses out of context. If consideration is given to the context in which Muhammad announced these verses and to their linguistic understanding of those days (Muhammad spoke an Arabic dialect), acceptable interpretations may be found – similar to a discussion with followers of the Jehova’s Witnesses and other fundamentalist Christian churches. For example, Muhammad, while in Medina, was, for a while, in a war of survival with non-Muslim Mecca. Military deserters in such a war had to be punished by death, as military deserters are in Western countries, too. In another example, the women of Muhammad’s time showed off their wealth with plenty of jewelry carried around their head. In a then modern way to accomplish some social balance, Muhammad demanded that all such jewelry be covered in public by the typical veils of those days (as veils were also typical for Europe at that time) – not expecting that many Bedouin tribes then had their women carry their jewelry attached outside on those veils. In the older Arabic and Bedouin culture, the rich hoarded large numbers of wives while the poor went without wives. Muhammad introduced the limit of a maximum of only four wives. Today, he would have limited that number further. Muhammad was most progressive in bringing a degree of freedom and almost equal rights to women – the right to divorce and to own and inherit property. But human society evolved further. In our times, women participate more actively – in politics; see Margot Thatcher or Angela Merkel, in business; see their many executive functions. With the high rate of divorce, women must often become the supporters of their families. Why can the Muslim world not catch the spirit of Muhammad’s laws instead of being severely restrained by the letter of those laws written 1,400 years ago? Islam once was a liberating religion, but by now, no longer in the hands of Muhammad, it has become oppressive.
The West, in turn, must find a way back to the “moral high ground” it always aspired to occupy. Military interference must be ended and, along with it, most political interference – respecting some of the beneficial traditional structures of different Muslim societies – some of which are not very different from Europe of only 200 years ago. The aggressive commercial distribution of images of indecency and violence emerging from Western entertainment producers, media, and the public behavior of its elite must be restrained.
Regarding peace in the Middle East, irresponsible Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli civilians, meant to call world attention to their plight in their concentration camp that is Gaza, must end. The devastating and inhumane Israeli counterattack on Gaza has not provided a solution. Compensation and reconstruction should be paid by both sides, by Hamas and Israel alike! Most urgently, a fair and constructive accommodation for Israel and the Palestinians must be found, providing a constructive, secure, and economically sound future for both. Iran’s nuclear ambitions must find an end and internal political freedoms be established under law and order. Iran must accept Israel and end its nuclear and missile threat. Finally, there is now the risk that Syria, specifically ISIS, will develop into a risk for the region – as Egypt almost did.
The Western countries’ problems with Muslim immigration appear unsolvable. One cannot return the not-integrating and support or privilege demanding Muslims to their countries of origin and they don’t integrate for reasons of religious fundamentalism. Islam has not had a true reform in 1,400 years – and the Qur’an has not allowed to ever have one. As a minor step, one must stop the importation of fundamentalist mullahs to Western countries, unless they swear under oath to renounce certain unacceptable Verses of the Qur’an – and one must also stop the importation of fundamentalist brides from remote Muslim home areas to the West. One must push much harder for very good education (and possibly force it on the Muslim immigrants under threat of returning them to their original home countries) and opportunities for the young generation to let them become successful in their new countries and cultures. Only a new “middle class” of engineers, medical professionals, lawyers, financiers, and public servants among the Muslims within their new countries may bring the mental outlook possibly leading to a positive future and harmony. One must expect all immigrants to accept the basic values of their new countries in equal liberty for all, human rights, and civic obligations, in accepting the laws and also the language of the land – and to possibly participate in public service or charitable activities. Otherwise, a return to their home countries should be expected.
An analysis of historical precedents can lead to an approach and specific action items, as described in the following chapters.
2. Historical precedents and developments
2.1. Regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict
2.2. Regarding the Muslim world and the West
2.3. The Haqqanis compared to the empire of the 12th century Assassins
2.4. Regarding pure Islam and the Western way of life
3. The present situation, Israel, and the present virulent Islamism
3.1. The present situation: Israel
3.2. The present situation: Palestine
3.3. The present situation: The Muslim world at large
4. An Approach to the future, possible solutions
4.1. The Israel-Palestine conflict
4.2. The causes of terrorism and the facilitation of Islamic reform
4.2.3. Initiation of reformation
5. Reform of the Muslim Faith
5.1. Theological reform
5.2. Emphasis on a change of mental cultures
6. Special Problem: Increasing Muslim immigration into the Western World
6.1. Different waves
6.2. Possible solutions
An Open Letter to al-Zawahiri, Mullah Omar, the Haqqanis (Maulvi Jalaluddin and his sons Sirajuddin and Nasiruddin), and Bakr al-Baghdadi of ISIS.
Footnote 1: On possible religious reform in the Muslim World
Footnote 2: On possibly redirecting the zeal of Muslim “terrorists” or would-be “martyrs” toward more benevolent activities.
The plight of the Palestinians and restricted access to East Jerusalem with the holy “Al-Aqsa Mosque” and the “Dome of the Rock” on the Temple Mount will always act as an irritant to all Muslims throughout the Islamic world, stimulating anti-Israeli, specifically also anti-American, and generally anti-Western violence – serving as justification for continuing Islamist activism and, thereby, solidification of its own power structure. It was the situation in the Middle East in consequence of the Palestinian problem that led to the attack on the U.S. Marines’ barracks in Lebanon, on the U.S. embassy in Kenya, and on the destroyer USS Cole – all before the attack of September 11, 2001, on New York City and the Pentagon – which finally led to the American attack against Taliban Afghanistan – merely because it had refused to expel or surrender Osama bin Laden with his training camps for Muslim fighters against the West.
Even if all other problems between the United States and the Muslim world were solved, anti-American terrorism in the name of Islam would continue until the Palestinian and Jerusalem problems are fairly resolved. The security of America and, equally important, the long-term security, even survival, of Israel in a changing world demand a solid solution of the Israel-Palestine conflict – soon! Postponing a solution will render the later finding of a solution that much more difficult.
Increasing problems of Western countries with fast-growing Muslim immigrant minorities and their demands may add another difficult-to-solve component to this conflict (there are already about 400,000 Muslims in Switzerland, which has a total population of merely 7.5 million – similar percentages are found in some other European countries).
In the general Western view, the Islamic world is in the midst of a shift toward virulent fundamentalism, with frequent, targeted massacres of innocent civilians. As seen by certain segments of the Islamic world, the West is on its way toward despicable decadence and is interfering in a variety of ways with the freedom of religion of Muslims – not only in the Middle East.
Religious Muslims assume that the Qur’an (supplemented in equally important ways by certain selections of the historic sayings collected in the “Hadith”) provides specific direction for almost all situations in everyday life (as orthodox Jews derive strict direction from the Torah and Talmud). Therefore, these scriptures appear to the faithful as a still-valid guide for all Muslims at all times, by now 1,400 years after Muhammad.
But, on the other hand, hardly any other religious text is as open to such selective reading and divergent interpretation, leading to such widely different consequences, as the Qur’an (so too is the Old Testament of the Bible).
Teachings of the greatest tolerance and mental openness can be found in the Qur’an, as well as admonitions to fight violently for Islam and for cruelty against the “infidel”, the “unbeliever”, or the “apostate” (see the opening words of each Surah – “in the name of Allah, the merciful and the beneficent” – and see Surah 2 “Al Baqarah”, Verses 190/191-193 – directing moderation in war and no fighting near mosques. Opposite to those, the Surah 4 ‘Al Nisa”, V 91/92, S 8 “Al Anfal”, V 12/13(!); S 9 “Al Tauba”, V 4/5; Surah 33 “Al Ahzab”, V 61/62; and more require the cruel killing and other cruelties versus opponents or merely unbelievers – where verse numbers differ by 1, depending upon published translation).
Obviously, some verses of the Qur’an are in clear contradiction to all modern Western constitutions and internationally recognized human rights. The Qur’an and the Hadith specifically suggest the killing of “apostates” (those who have left the correct path and community of Islam), see Surah 4 “Al Nisa”, V 91/92 – but leave open the way in which apostasy is delineated and who is entitled to determine the apostasy of other Muslims, thus leading to the widespread killing of Muslims among each other and the destabilization of society, as had occurred in Iraq where some Sunnis and, mainly, Al Qaeda leaders once summarily described as apostates all Shiites and all members of the forces of order of the present Iraqi government.
On the other hand, the Qur’an strongly suggests the study of nature as a way of reaching a better understanding of Allah; see Surah 29/30, “Al Rum”, from the beginning to Verse 30/31; or Surah 50, “Qaf”, Verses 7/8, mainly 8/9, and 9/10 (see also the short reference Jesus made to nature to understand God, Matthew 6, Verses 26 to 31).
Long after the inspiration of Muhammad and the writing of the Qur’an, the modern study of nature discovered that all aspects of this world and nature are in continuous evolution. But the mindset of the Qur’an (and that of the Bible) does not allow for the possibility of mankind going through a mental evolution, or that societies and their concerns change, or become “global”, or that new mental perspectives appear in our human society – including some very good ones, such as the United Nations, the International Court, the International Red Cross, foreign aid, “Doctors Without Borders”, or, most importantly, the drive for equal civil rights and tolerance for all human beings, men and women, of all races and religions – and other new mental perspectives, including those developed by modern psychology.
To appreciate the importance of human evolution, one should merely consider the historical changes in culture, thought, and problems of society in the 1,400 years prior to Muhammad (through the Assyrian, Persian, Greek, Roman, and Christian eras) and the 1,400 years then following him (through the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the industrial-scientific revolution) to our times of scientific and technical progress or globalization in communication – and increase in human rights for all and political democracy!
Similarly, there is no theological room for the possibility of other intelligent beings in the newly discovered vastness of the universe – as, for example, consequences for belief in the original sinfulness of mankind, redemption and salvation brought by the “only son” (murdered only on Earth?) or divine revelations to only one human, Muhammad, a “last and supreme prophet” of Allah (no later one anywhere?) – and what kind of Allah/God has created nature with its law of over-propagation, then struggle for survival – where every organism is attacked by diseases, parasites, and predators – many falling victim to accidents – all events believed by fundamentalist religions to occur in every detail by the specific will and action of Allah/God?
Such knowledge should necessarily lead to less emphasis on a life after death in a paradise that may not exist, less vision of Allah’s will in directing every event (as cruel as it may be), or less expectation of favorable interventions by Allah that may never come. But this knowledge should necessarily lead to greater emphasis on our own human responsibility for conditions here on evolving Earth, for mental growth (fulfilling the basic law and expectation of all of nature in this evolving existence), for assistance or service to all of our fellow beings and nature – mainly to reduce the still abundant suffering and to increase opportunities for self-improvement more fairly and in tolerance for all.
Religious emphasis should not exhaust itself in morality expressed merely in dress codes, constraints on women, sexuality, and the conduct of rituals – but, rather, should be directed toward altruistic ethical behavior in caring charity, fairness, and honesty in daily life, business, and politics – and stewardship of the natural environment entrusted to us.
Why are some conservative Muslim countries among the most corrupt on Earth?
What are the problems here on Earth as seen by the Muslims? In the minds of Muslims, it is specifically America that can be seen as the enemy of Islam – with its support for Israel’s occupation of Palestine, its invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and, especially, its highly “corrupting” influence on the morality (as defined by Islam’s mullahs, mainly in a strange fixation on sexual terms) of modern youths and families all over the world. From their viewpoint, Muslims fight only defensive wars against these evil forces.
Conventional military confrontation is beyond the means of Muslim countries; thus, the alternative is guerilla warfare. Guerilla war and “terrorism” have a long tradition in many national and ideological struggles – from the 19th-century Spanish freedom fighters against Napoleon to the anarchists of nineteenth-century Europe and Russia, to the various communist movements and numerous separatists seeking freedom throughout the modern world. Was the bombing of cities by both sides in WWII not also a form of most cruel terrorism?
Israel and America have reacted to “terrorism”, as they perceive it, with necessary military force and much counter-violence. In the minds of past American leaders, the ill-conceived paradigm of “war against terrorism” was formed – and this war must be won, at all cost! In the minds of some activists, however, Muslims’ persistent “struggle (jihad) for their freedom, ideas, and religion” will last longer and, in the end, will prevail over non-Islamic military force. Let us hope that a positive evolution of the human mind and society will prevail!
There are several errors on both sides in their approach to the conflict – and their one-sidedness has to be overcome on both sides. There also are some alternatives available to both sides that would bring better results.
Right from the outset, one must distinguish the four different but intertwined conflicts between the West and the Muslim world and among Muslims (including those between various ethnic minorities and the between nations where they dominate in several parts of the world):
- The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians for control of the same land
- The conflict between the Muslim world as a whole and the West (mainly America)
- The many internal conflicts between different Muslim directions or sects – including the conflict between pure Islam (as defined by, for example, the Saudi-financed Wahhabis) and more tolerant (Sufi) or more Western-influenced ways of life within their own society. Specifically, there is the conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, mainly in Iraq, but also in Pakistan and now most violently in Syria – and of both with the Kurds – and of the freedom-seeking Kurds within the Muslims of Turkey. There is the conflict between the Taliban and other forms of Islamic life in Afghanistan – where the Pashtun, the majority group in the population traditionally followed a Sufi-related, peaceful, and tolerant form of Islam – now, however, increasingly converting to the virulent Taliban doctrines (which originated in Deobandi, India, in the nineteenth century).
- Finally, there is the conflict between Western countries and ever more numerous Muslim immigrants in their midst who do not (and, for religious reasons, cannot) integrate.
Superimposed on these conflicts are the interests of warlords, tribal chiefs, and drug dealers and of Iran, Syria, Turkey, Pakistan, and other countries, including Russia and China, interested in expanding their respective spheres of power or in enjoying the weakening of certain Western powers – who, in turn, want to protect their security (mainly against the Taliban, the Haqqani clan, and the remaining al Qaeda wherever it appears), commerce, and sources of oil.
2. Historical Precedents and Developments:
2,1. historicAL precedents, Regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict:
- Sparta conquered the land of a neighboring tribe (the Helots) and kept it under military occupation, with the consequence that Sparta became a suppressive, militaristic society that did not participate in the cultural and mental development of ancient Greece. Ultimately, Sparta let itself become corrupted by the Persians and soon collapsed as a power base, still disdained by the world today.
- Colonialism, wherever it occurred in the world, was always based on the conquest of land and the subjugation, even displacement, of native populations. The colonialists did not foresee that all races on Earth, from time to time, produce great personalities and leaders (from Moses to Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King. Jr., or Nelson Mandela) who fight for and lead their people to dignity and freedom when the slightest weakness of their suppressors occurs – and it always does occur, sooner or later – at best within peaceful demographic changes.
- Apartheid in South Africa is an example of colonialism “from within”. It worked as long as British backing of the dominating minority existed; it collapsed as British support waned. This British support can be compared to the support by the Jewish diaspora (specifically the one in the U.S.) for Israel – which also cannot be guaranteed forever.
- Northern Ireland was forcibly settled by the British with Scottish Protestants. The Irish have never forgotten that this is their land. Now that British support is waning, the Irish are fighting for their perceived rights to the land. Has the struggle really come to an end? Can a peace settlement in Ireland set an example for how to solve such a problem in other parts of the world?
- China conquered and colonizes Tibet and the western Uigur lands – exploiting the natural resources, establishing advanced military lines of defense, and using new space for the settlement of excess population – but does not pacify those colonies, instead declaring them “provinces”.
In all cases, the suppression of people requires force; yet the constant use of force has a corrupting impact on the culture projecting the force. Because the availability of force is not permanent, it ultimately may lead to a “settling of scores”, even if the settling does not occur until centuries later.
If you raise a child with only a hammer as a toy – and an ever-larger hammer as it grows up – it will use the hammer to solve all its perceived problems. Good parents raise their children by teaching them social adjustment – hoping they will become leaders in the world by knowing how to lead people successfully. The Jewish lobby and U.S. leaders have done Israel a fatal disservice in supplying it with unlimited and superior military power at all times – without the principal emphasis being on solving the conflict with the Palestinians, including their immense refugee problem. Israel had no chance to learn accommodation with its neighbors (or the refugees) and establish any kind of leadership in the Middle East.
The nation of Israel, with its exceptional accumulation of intelligence, skill, and great humanitarian spirit, should have become the financial, industrial, educational, and cultural center of the region – not be blamed for, and perceived as the cause of, the conflict of the Arabic world with the West. 
The Palestinians, with their historic base in the Canaanites, arrived in their land thousands of years before the Jews and, actually, absorbed a large portion of the Jewish people after the destruction of the Northern Kingdom by the Assyrians. With their additional earlier connection to other people, including the Phoenicians and Jewish remnants of the Northern Kingdom, they should have been able to reach a higher cultural level through the ages and in modern times. 
Both people, the Jews and the Palestinians, suffered from repetitive occupations and devastations in their land on the border of or on transition routes between larger forces in all directions. One should think that, united, they could or should have been stronger than in tragic mutual destruction.
In more recent times, two events occurred that render a reasonable resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict more difficult. The former president of Iran, Ahmadinejad, openly declared the destruction of Israel the ultimate goal of his country, without being immediately and fully reprimanded by the supreme leader of Iran, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and his supreme council. The new president has yet to prove himself. Without such a clear position, and in a country and culture that permit deceit for religious and political objectives (as others do, too), one is led not to trust the intentions of such leadership in the future – which would render the reaching of peace in the Middle East that much more difficult. Additionally, the militaristic “Revolutionary Guards” – similar to the SS of Nazi Germany, increasingly strong and disciplined – seem to be in control of Iran.
Secondly, the very strong and almost un-suppressible missile launchings by Hezbollah deep into Israel during the recent Lebanon war of 2006 (along the lines of Ahmadinejad’s intentions) will prevent the Israelis from giving up military control over the Palestinian lands along its borders, whether in the West Bank or the Gaza areas, lest they became equally threatening bases for rocket attacks, reaching far deeper into Israel. Actually, this Iran-Hezbollah missile action was a very stupid and self-defeating initiative. It will make Israel stronger and cause the Palestinians to lose any hope they have for liberation from the occupation. If you attack an enemy and don’t defeat him, you make him stronger. In a way, the same is true for Israel’s reaction to that missile attack. In the future, Hezbollah – and, possibly, Palestinian missiles – will reach still farther, use better guidance systems, and be hidden even more effectively.
America and the rest of the world stood passively by as the above events in Lebanon broke out, whereas an immediate reprimand and separation of the combatants was called for.
2,2. historicAL precedents Regarding the Muslim world and the West:
The historical experience of the Muslim world:
Muslim animosity toward the “infidel” and “apostate” – based on some very harsh statements by Muhammad in the Qur’an (e.g., Surah #4, “Al-Nisah”, V. 89/90, or Surah 8, “Al-Anfal”, V. 12/13; verse numbers differ by 1, depending on the translation) – originally was not directed against the Christians or against the West, but instead against Arab enemies in Medina or Mecca. The concept of killing “apostates” originated in the very early phase of Muslim military expansion, when apostates were seen as deserters joining the enemy or were traitors who had only formally converted to Islam for temporary benefit.
In other words, the commandment to kill “apostates” corresponds directly to the death penalty for military deserters, especially in time of war, as equally accepted by many countries in the West.
Later in the evolution of the Muslim world, however, the death penalty for “apostates” was maintained as a convenient method of mind control (in today’s China, abandoning Communism to pursue another political direction is still persecuted, as was turning toward Communism by McCarthy in the United States) and in intra-Muslim conflicts.
In spite of providing detailed rules and regulations for all phases of life and society, Muhammad and the Qur’an inexplicably failed totally to provide for the succession of leadership in the Muslim world after Muhammad’s death (nor did Christ provide for succession to his leadership, except with a vague reference to Peter as the “rock” on which to build). Thus, the very early split of the Muslim world into different religious factions, as typical of all religions, could not be avoided. The Shiites close to Muhammad’s family insisted on a combined political and religious leadership as provided by Muhammad himself, which later led to the dominance of the clergy among the Shiites. The Sunni, originating from the political power struggle of earlier elite families in Mecca and Medina, saw a rather dynastic leadership, side by side with the clergy. Subsequently, the original Sunni political unity in a caliphate was dissolved into many independent nations, with Mecca remaining merely as their symbolic religious center. In our time, some modern Arab and Muslim political movements have attempted to reestablish a caliphate as a uniting structure of the Muslim world.
The Christian liberation (Reconquista) of Spain from the Muslims, beginning after AD 718, did not leave a major impression on the remaining (and, by then, very large and already fractured) Muslim world, whereas the mostly violent and occasionally quite cruel Crusades, directed toward Jerusalem and Egypt from 1095 to 1270, did, specifically as their memory has been revived in our time, possibly for political reasons.
The noteworthy exception and still an important model for our time, was the “Crusade” (if one can call it that) conducted by the German Emperor Frederic II in 1228 AD, under pressure from the Pope. This German emperor, whose empire included Sicily (where he had grown up), preferred living in multicultural Palermo, where remnants of this Roman colony of antiquity (important ruins), subsequent Muslim dominance, and a more recent Norman-Viking occupation (a Christian invasion) had formed a colorful and tolerant multicultural society. Frederic surrounded himself with learned individuals and artists from all those cultures, in tolerance of and respect for all. He had become acquainted with the then rulers of the Arab world in the Middle East. When the Pope’s demand was reinforced, insisting on once more conquering Jerusalem (the city had been conquered by earlier violent crusades and lost to the Muslims again), Frederic simply negotiated with the Arab ruler, Al Kamil (who had political and military problems of his own), and obtained an agreement to reestablish the former Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem – at least for a number of years, until the balance of power shifted back to the Muslims – all without fighting. What can today’s world learn from these historical personalities?
The Crusades, largely forgotten in the Muslim world through the centuries, have today been revived and skillfully exaggerated in the context of recent events in the Middle East. Actually, the Mongol and Turk invasions of the Middle East, after the Crusades, and the internal Muslim power struggles had far greater military, political, and cultural importance for the Muslim world of that region. (The Mongols under Hulagu Khan conquered Baghdad in 1258 and killed more than 250,000 people – the Turks invaded and conquered after 1400).
The turmoil and, mainly, renewed religious fundamentalist fervor of those times brought all Muslim intellectual and scientific progress to a standstill. But the eastern part of the Muslim world, reaching all the way through today’s Indonesia, to the Spice Islands, formerly connected only via the Silk Road, later also connected by Arab marine traders, sailing back and forth with the trade winds, began to enjoy a lucrative trade with the West.
The subsequent attack of Europe by the Muslim Turks (the Ottoman Empire) had religious undertones, but basically was of an imperialistic nature (and was politically supported by France in its struggle against the German-Austro-Hungarian Empire).
As the Turkish advance collapsed at Vienna and as the Portuguese, then the Spaniards, and finally the Dutch began direct trade with the East around Africa, displacing the Arabs and as the discovery of the Americas diverted European attention west, Muslim areas became a backwater of the world. The West experienced the Renaissance, Enlightenment, and Industrial Revolution – all unnoticed by the Muslim world.
Finally, the West reached such enormous superiority that Kemal Atatürk became the hero of his country when he began in 1924 to turn Turkey into a modern secular state by westernizing it, now being slowly reverted. Egypt and Iran haltingly attempted to follow – the recent dictator Hussein of Iraq (actually trying the same secular westernizing approach but under strict dictatorship!) unfortunately failed to build a wealthy, internationally important nation for the benefit of its people and the world – most unfortunately failing on account of his arrogance, nepotism, and lack of a modern worldview. The world would look different (and better) if he had done better.
In the meantime, and unexpectedly, oil brought the Arab world to the center of attention and to wealth. All this wealth, though, did not lead to much Muslim political power in the world.
The historical experience of Europe:
It was the early aggression by Turk invaders against the Byzantine Empire that drew the Pope’s attention to the Middle East. The Crusades followed (1095 to 1270 and beyond) and left a deep impression on Europe, further emphasized by the later Turkish invasion of the Balkans all the way to Vienna.
After this attack was repulsed, the Ottoman Empire settled for a quiet life of trade, the arts, and general well-being in its urban centers – until European colonialism began. In Europe, a romantic view of the Muslim world developed. It became fashionable to read “A Thousand and One Nights” and to add Arabic décor to palaces and the homes of the wealthy.
Independent of, and preceding, these events on Europe’s eastern border, in the West of Europe, from the 9th century on, the Arab universities and centers of intellectual life in Spain (Seville, Cordoba, and Toledo) attracted students from central Europe. These European students not only found ancient Greek philosophical and scientific texts being studied by the Arabs there, but they discovered an open-minded outlook on learning as a forerunner and initiator of the Renaissance (including the introduction into Europe of minstrels, the revival of Greek mythology, nudity in art, and, mainly, rationality) – leading in later centuries to all those presumed “typically European” intellectual, scientific, and industrial developments.
It should be noted that the Renaissance and Enlightenment evolved not in the geographic areas of the former Arab universities (no Silicon Valley effect there). Christian Spain became the center of strongly fundamentalist religious fervor (the Inquisition) and clerical or monarchic dominance. The Renaissance and Enlightenment did evolve in areas of greater tolerance toward mental and cultural evolution (Italy, France, Germany, and England) and, later, toward industrial progress.
The subsequent industrial/scientific revolution in northern Europe had nothing to do with democracy. Initially, this revolution relied on strong protective (and supportive) governments. The short interlude of the French Revolution did not lead to any real democracy or civil liberties until early in the 20th century, by which time the middle classes had gained more wealth, greater political weight, and the ability to travel widely – including to the newly democratic world in America. (The much older, but very small, Swiss democracy has long been overlooked by the world – even though the European Union looks like an attempted Super-Switzerland now, 700 years later).
China has become a modern model to many countries with undemocratic governments demonstrating that substantial practical, economic, and peaceful progress can be accomplished while maintaining very strict central, ideological (almost religious) control – directed mainly against internal political destabilization or turmoil, which was a problem of China throughout its history – and, possibly, will be in its future. Actually, Europe of the 19th and early 20th centuries had already followed the same model, with the pairing of a dominating monarchy with a liberal capitalism in the Industrial Revolution.
It is truly difficult to explain – and should lead to patience in the expectation of mental development in the Muslim world – how the humanistically educated West could then tumble – in criminal, national egocentricity, and shortsightedness of all its leaders – into two world wars, the Nazis and other ideological dictatorships – leading only very recently to a stronger commitment to peace, democracy, the rule of law, and civil rights for all.
One should also remember that voting rights for women or their freedom to attend universities, take jobs, and own property occurred only recently in the West. Historically, European dress codes for women were also very strict.
The West is still in the midst of a struggle between capitalism in unconstrained market economies and deeply felt social obligations within each country and internationally. There is still the need to be wary of corruption and the abuse of power in politics and industry, especially the latter with its additional problem of excessive executive salaries. Also remaining unresolved is the matter of full civil rights for everyone, as well as the possibility of abuse in publicly exhibited immorality in all forms of public entertainment.
The present, almost nostalgic return to Christian fundamentalism is an indication of these remaining, unresolved questions in the West – as is the renascent fundamentalism in the Muslim world, which arose as soon as the Muslim World began to participate in, and enjoy, Western ways of life.
2.3. The Haqqanis compared to the 12th century Assassins
Historically, the first potent terrorists were the Assassins of Persia and Syria, established as a Shia Ismaeli sect by Hassan-i-Sabbah (1050-1155) to support and expand his power and wealth.
Young men were systematically and religiously radicalized, then secretly sent out to commit spectacular suicide-murders of political enemies, believing thereby to gain instant access to Paradise.
They committed their first spectacular assassination in 1092, and many more thereafter. Only as the invading Mongols conquered the sect’s headquarters, the fortress Alamut, in 1256, and killed the then leading Imam, did the killings stop (except for lesser contract killings by remaining followers – which were stopped by the Inquisition.
First, Osama bin Laden and then the still very active Haqqanis copied exactly this approach from their North Waziristan base. They radicalized young men in the madrassa village schools of Pakistan, who became motivated to join the Taliban and fight in Afghanistan! The purpose was initially to hurt America. Very soon the Haqqani aim became to control the poppy cultivation in Afghanistan and the trade routes for opium from there to Russia and Europe.
More attention should be paid to this phenomenon!
2.4. Regarding Pure Islam and the Western way of life
In the Arab world, wealth resulting from crude oil and trade has brought local power and general Arab pride; more important, however, is the revitalization of Muslim religious fervor. Egyptian intellectuals (Hasan al-Banna, 1906-49, and Sayyid Qutb, 1906-66), influenced by the Marxist and post World-War I intellectual eras in Europe and the United States, have laid the foundation for activism in the young generation. Then, the Saudi-financed fundamentalist Wahhab sect appeared – initiated and amplified by a Muslim group in Deobandi, India, and their followers in Pakistan (the “students” = the “Taliban”), supported by the evolving Al-Qaeda. This has brought religious, anti-Western, and, specifically, anti-American violence – supported equally by the ayatollahs in Iran. They all justified not only their religious but mainly also their political power on the idea (or pretense) of returning to a religiously pure Islamic society (now designated as “Islamist”).
Only recently have some of the Muslim states followed the Chinese model: putting the greatest emphasis on political dominance and theological mind control while fostering general economic activity and well-being based on the Western model – then quickly converting newly gained resources into military might with nuclear capability.
In comparison, it is curious to note that the modern Muslim states (the oil-rich Arab states, Iran and Pakistan) appear more materialistically directed toward power and control of their population when compared to the supposedly materialistic West’s idealistic emphasis on freedom, social fairness, eminence of civil rights, and charity!
An important part of the controversy between the Muslim world and the West relates to questions of morality, ethics, and behavior. Although these concepts are not very clear, one can, somewhat arbitrarily, relate the term “morality” more to questions of sexuality, cultural taboos, dress code, or decency – while relating the term “ethics” more to charity, altruistic caring for others, and trustworthiness in business and politics. Considering these concepts, it is regrettable that religious leaders on both sides (Christian and Muslim) have placed their major emphasis in their selective interpretation of respective holy scriptures, their teachings, and their activities in society on questions of “morality” rather than putting the main emphasis on true “ethics” in this world, on the reduction of suffering and the improvement of opportunities fairly for all.
The Muslim states, like all totalitarian societies (as were the Nazis), are better at controlling (or policing) public morality in areas of sexual taboos and petty criminality than liberal Western societies can be, which depend more on personal restraint. Western societies clearly excel in individualistic, unselfish (ethical) volunteer work and charitable contributions to the needy or the public good, including the arts and the environment.
Muslim societies dream of a future leading back to the unified societies at the time of Muhammad or the early caliphs – in perceived total subordination to God and the Qur’an. Western societies strive for progress toward an open future in personal freedom and well-being, while trying to maintain basic human ethical values such as honesty – in perceived pursuit of science-indicated natural evolution in the higher (spiritual-transcendental?) order of the universe and of human values.
There were always three components in the confrontation between the Muslim world and the West: (1) military force or imperialistic changes in dominance; (2) trade or commercial interests; and (3) competition, or exchange, of ideas leading to cultural changes, the questioning of traditional values, and the offer of new approaches to the future.
3. The Present Situation: Israel, Palestine, and the Present Virulent Islamism
3.1. The present situation, ISRAEL:
- Israel is already facing, or may soon face, the very serious risk of becoming a failed state.
- Israel is not self-sufficient – neither militarily nor economically.
- The existence of Israel depends upon continued strong support by the United States and by the Jewish diaspora. The GDP of Israel is about US$ 240 billion. The U.S. supports Israel with anywhere between 3 and 6 billion US dollars per year (depending upon inclusion of military and other types of aid, mainly including advanced military technology developed at great cost by the US). The Jewish diaspora sends or directs yearly a comparable amount of funds or investments to Israel and its lobby. Are these two essential pillars of support reliable?
- In the United States, a demographic change of great magnitude is fast approaching. Already by 2050, it is expected that the white (non-Hispanic) population of the United States will be less than 50% of the total. If the political structure of the U.S. follows this pattern (which was already underway with the Obama administration), it is less likely that America will continue to feel the same moral obligation for the protection of Israel, and may be less willing to divert very large funds to Israel, away from the internal social needs or demands of a growing number of immigrants.
- A pessimistic prediction of world economic conditions sees a smaller role for the United States and Europe. In a declining economy, even a strong Jewish support group in the West may have substantially smaller funds available to send or direct to Israel.
- The increasing technological and economic competence of China and India may lead to less restraint on their side in the support of the source countries of their increasingly more important energy and mineral needs, including oil, with advanced weaponry.
- More advanced rockets in the hands of Israel’s neighbors multiply the danger experienced in the recent war with Lebanon, in 2006. Israel’s cities may become uninhabitable.
- Before that happens, the Israeli elite and intellectuals will emigrate to safe havens in Europe or Canada, thereby weakening Israel further. Many of the wealthy ones have already acquired mansions in London and more of the middle-class ones have dual passports.
- How can Israel survive? In present-day Middle East, until recently at least, only Turkey was an ally of Israel. Logic favors stronger economic and political contact between Israel and Europe; yet Europe will hesitate to become involved in Middle Eastern complexities, having had enough problems already with its Balkan troubles.
- In the long run, Israel’s only hope lies in a constructive position within its own region, the Middle East, as a commercial, financial, and cultural center, using the region as its hinterland, as Beirut once did. A durable peace in the Middle East is the only hope.
- The Palestinians are not very much liked by any of their neighboring countries. Most likely, they would also go under (perish) in Israel’s final, violent struggle for survival.
- Israel is a nation of greatest mental, cultural, and human gifts. Palestine is endowed with an ancient culture. What a most tragic prospect would it be to see these two historic brothers among the people of the world, Israel and the Palestinians, both succumb in a mutually murderous and suicidal embrace.
- Further, Israel may have to resolve its increasing internal conflicts – the contradiction between its faster-growing ultra-orthodox (and Palestinian) segment and its slower-growing, secular Jewish segment, each with its own concept of what Israel should be, what opportunities to use, and how to resolve its problems.
3.2. The present situation, Palestine:
- A historic mistake was made when the State of Israel was established in 1947-48. The famous homeland of the Jews – whatever was left after the early loss of the larger and wealthier Northern Kingdom of “Israel” in 722 BC to the Assyrians – remained as a rather restricted area on and around the hills centering on Jerusalem (see the important archeological record presented in “The Bible Unearthed”, by Finkelstein and Silberman, ISBN 0-684-86913-6, bringing evidence of the narrow limitations of that area). The homeland of the Palestinians or their ancestors was the agricultural coast. The founding of Israel, with the consent of the United Nations, reversed this arrangement. Now, the Palestinians are left without their potentially most valuable and densely populated land (with agricultural lands and, especially, the economically important ports). On the other hand, Israel longs (and always will) for the reoccupation of its historical sites on the ridge of hills – now doing so still under the pretext of God’s will and its need for space for additional settlements, more so in its desire to subjugate the Palestinians so as to create a military buffer against resentful neighboring Arab states and their rockets.
- Rich Israeli settlements with plenty of water on the hills above Palestinian misery do not offer a stable solution.
- A wall meandering through Palestine, and located on Palestinian land, is not a stable solution.
- The attempt to empty the land of the Palestinians by facilitating their emigration or expulsion to Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Europe, and America will not work either. Egypt does not want to assume even remote responsibility for Gaza.
- Ongoing control of the Palestinians, a policy that accepts a low level of ongoing hostilities in perpetuity (the present Israeli strategy), will require a form of occupation and occasional targeted interventions (killings), which in turn will require a permanent Sparta-like behavior – that will reflect unfavorably upon Israel. This will also render impractical a strong Palestinian government.
- Colonialism in the form of settlements has shown that there will always be a new generation among the suppressed that will take up arms – again and again – supported by Muslim idealism or hotheads (also from other Muslim countries) and other growing political powers (e.g., Iran) anxious to extend its own power.
- Any approach to peacemaking should start from the assumption that a certain fanatical group of Palestinians does not want a fair peace – at best, the continued presence of some Jews in a land that will be entirely Palestinian-controlled. Whenever a weak spot appears in the Israeli defense, they feel tempted to attack by small (but increasingly larger) missiles, suicide bombers, or worse and thus cause once more a massacre of as many Israeli civilians as possible.
- An approach to peacemaking should start from the assumption that some political parties and other groups in Israel actually do not want a fair peace either – at best, they want surrender by the Palestinians and their reduction to a permanent and strictly controlled insignificance. It appears that whenever the Palestinians are quiet for a while, a missile strike and the killing of some of their leaders is ordered by Israel to let them run wild in vain once more, only to be more demoralized afterward – a story well described in the method of taming a dog in Jack London’s novel, “Call of the Wild”. These episodes occur specifically when there is a perceived temporary weakness in the American leadership or distraction with national or other world problems (see the Gaza strike at the end of an American presidential campaign and the resumption of expanded settlement construction upon Obama’s mid-term election 2010).
- An approach to peacemaking should start from the assumption that a fanatic, partially calculating group of Israelis does not want a “fair” peace – but, at best, a peace based on Israelis remaining in most of the growing settlements that will become part of Israel. Whenever a weak spot appears in American attention to the Middle East, as during election years or periods of international turmoil, some of those Israelis feel tempted to progress with settlements, walls, and connecting roads.
- However, and most important, in spite of all the above, an approach to peacemaking should start from the assumption that a clear majority of the Palestinian, as well as the Israeli population, long for a fair and permanent peace – and are quite prepared to give up much of what the extremists among their respective populations want in order to reach that peace. Only a minority of the Palestinian refugees actually still wants to return to Israel.
3.3. The present situation, The Muslim world at large:
- Muslim anti-Americanism is only temporarily driven by demands for political and religious freedom in their own lands. Once the last American presence in Afghanistan has ended, only the Israeli (American-supported) occupation of Palestinian land will remain. This situation should be given the highest priority and resolved. (Russian occupation of Chechnya may also continue.)
- Consideration must be given to the Muslim claim to their important holy site just on top of the ancient Jewish Temple Mount, where, in accord with Surah 17 “Bani Israel”, Verse 2, Muhammad is believed to have been lifted by God during merely one night for the revelation of only this Surah – leading to the Palestinians’ desire to have their capital in that vicinity! (Muhammad’s ascent into heaven reported in another Surah did not have any clear connection with Jerusalem). (It should be noted that the holy Muslim site came about through the violent conquest of Jerusalem by the Muslims still under the personal guidance of Muhammad, the building of an important new, but possibly smallish, mosque very disrespectfully on top of the Jewish temple site, and Muhammad’s vision of that short nightly visit – while the present and much larger mosque was built and included in pilgrimages at a much later time for political reasons of local and Egyptian rulers.)
- Muslim anti-Americanism will still be driven by the perceived cultural impact of the modern “American” way of life (seen as economic and cultural imperialism) on traditional Islamic culture and values – too often intermingled with resentment of Western commercial influence – from Coca-Cola to the dominance of large corporations, franchise operations, international trade, and the building of oil pipelines by conglomerates – and resentment of American political/military power (see Iran’s irrational – only emotionally, but not rationally justifiable – effort to become a nuclear power – a fact that would fill all Muslims with pride – and is now leading several Sunni Arab countries also to want to develop nuclear power in balance or competition with Shiite Iran).
- Fundamentalist virulence will not change until the irritant of Western commercial superiority in their countries is balanced by some Muslim commercial or economic successes, and, mainly, not until decent openings to the modern world are presented for the increasing number of unemployed or underemployed in the young generation graduating from all the Muslim institutions of higher education.
- A certain “fundamentalist” anti-Americanism will not change while American TV, Hollywood and all other Western forms of entertainment continually project an image of violence and sexual licentiousness (while the same licentiousness is being pursued behind closed doors by too many Arabs, especially by males of the wealthy elites).
- Unfortunately, Muslims and their spiritual leaders (as is true also of Christians and their churches) often are more concerned with questions of sexual taboos than with strengthening true ethical values and the behavior of unselfishness for the benefit of the poor and needy, for efficiency of society in a fight for honesty and against corruption in all its forms, and for peacemaking.
- Hamas in Gaza and, to a lesser degree, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (and Syria) showed another development that can be found many times in history: Imposition of strict “law and order” in society combined with generous social services for the needy – but also combined with tyrannical mind control by a dominant group, lack of civil rights or freedoms, and dangerously virulent, often imperialistic external politics. The Incas offered this model of social care and militaristic expansion, as did the communists and Nazis (actually once called the “National-Socialist Workers Party”). The latter two started as labor movements promising to bring security and great benefits to blue-collar working families.
- There is a high risk that opium production in Afghanistan will lead to the country being permanently dominated by criminal and terrorist networks, supported by an always resurgent Taliban movement and by Al Qaeda or its successors profiting from the drug trade.
- There will be an ample supply of Muslim fighters as long as the Pakistani rural educational system consists mainly of religious madrassas and while there is no real chance to rise to middle-class status through available education. Ample subsidies should be provided to those mullahs and their present madrassas who would add verifiable training in practical skills to their curriculum (e.g., better farming; forestry; the care of animals; repair of modern cars, trucks, and agricultural equipment; construction trades, technologies, most importantly also basic medical care and the sciences).
- A variety of social service activities should be organized for the young in the Muslim world, as is commonly available in the West.
- The American taxpayer is tired of financially supporting an unruly Afghanistan, and American families no longer want to lose their loved ones for its self-destructive behavior.
4. An Approach to the Future, Possible Solutions
4.1. An ApproAch to the future, the Israel-Palestine Conflict:
Israel’s main concern must be its survival, its security. While threatened by Hezbollah, Hamas, and Iran, Israel must seek absolute military control over the Palestinian West Bank. As long as Israel is totally supported by the United States, Israel will follow a course of suppression and not accommodation. Only if, or when, an alternative, secure control of possible Palestinian violence can be found (the UN??) will Israel accommodate a more peaceful approach.
- An Israeli attitude of not accommodating “under the gun” the justified Palestinian human demands (e.g., elimination of most checkpoints, prisoner release), while still under threat of terrorism and Hamas extremism, is a very unwise attitude – whereas prompt adjustment would be fair and would build trust.
- To wait for the other side to be the first with steps toward security and peace, while continuing provocative or revenge action, is equally unwise – if not criminal.
- The thought that revenge for each act of violence will lead to less violence is totally wrong. Each act of revenge violence will lead to even more reverse-revenge violence.
- To irritate the other side with continually new violence is criminal – more so, when done intentionally to prolong the conflict – as is still being done by both sides.
- When two individuals beat each other up on the street (or, verbally, in a boardroom), you have to forcefully separate them first, let them cool down, then let them come to reason, all this before attempting to find a solution to their quarrel.
- Since the present Israeli government’s desire for a fair peace must be doubted just as much as is such a desire on the side of the Palestinian radicals, only strong intervention from the outside, from a neutral third party, could help – but this time preferably from the United Nations, not from the United States – without another veto by the latter! Forceful U.N. peacekeepers will be needed on the ground in Palestine for some time to come – specifically to prevent Palestinian missile attacks on Israel now or in the future!
- With the support of U.N. peacekeepers, a strong personality is needed to put the Palestinian house in order. Is there a recognized diplomat anywhere who could accomplish this task (Blair failed)? There still are too many Islamic iihad, Hamas, and leaders of other militant organizations – and there still are too many radical Israeli politicians, sects, and militarists.
- The well-published extra-governmental “Geneva Accord” and the “People’s Voice Initiative”, both of 2003, may be the best starting points for a permanent settlement of the conflict – which should include full recognition of “Israel” (without qualification) by all Arab nations, as well as a fair resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem (possibly through generous compensation) – which would be rather inexpensive when compared to the massive costs of all militaristic confrontations and their human consequences – since it is indicated that only 10 percent of the refugees actually want to return to land in Israel, all others wanting merely fair compensation and, possibly, attractive habitation in emptied Israeli settlements in the West Bank – with prospects for economic survival and growth.
- The Arab nations have given disappointingly little political or financial support to a peaceful and fair settlement of the Palestinian problem – neither in the United Nations, nor in international politics or by international economic means (after all, the Arab nations receive most of the now largely increased oil revenue). Constructive and more forceful support and financial contributions from them may be necessary in the future.
- In order to achieve a viable Palestine, the Gaza and West Bank areas must be safely and efficiently interconnected. Each one needs ready access to its own harbor (or a free trade zone in an Israeli harbor!) and to an airport for easy export of perishables and low-cost products. Could it be that Israel strives for the permanent separation of Gaza from the West Bank to further reduce potential Palestinian power?
- Israel should be held publicly responsible for all the Palestinian prisoners it holds – the same as America was held responsible by world opinion for the prisoners at Guantanamo. The U.N. should assume greater oversight over those situations.
- Israel (not the NGOs and the international community) should provide for the needs of all the Palestinians in the occupied lands, including rewards or punishments for their behavior under international law. The necessary American and international aid to Israel – and, correspondingly, to Palestine – should be decreased or increased in accordance with the lack of or progress on both sides toward a peaceful and mutually supportive cooperation, including the refugee problem.
- The Israeli settlements on Palestinian land must be transferred to the Palestinian authorities (possibly for the settlement of returning Palestinian refugees).
- The refugees, if not allowed to return, must be fairly compensated.
- All “revenge” actions from either side must be transformed into “compensation” measures along preestablished, mutually accepted, and internationally supervised formulas. 
- In general, there should be symmetry between concessions from one side to the other; for example, if there are remaining Israeli settlements with connecting roads on Palestinian territory, there should be corresponding Palestinian “settlements” on Israeli territory, also with connecting roads.
4.2. Causes of “Terrorism”, the Facilitation of Islamic Reform:
- 4.2.1. Political reform:
The imposing of Western democracy on all Muslim lands within a short time may not be wise. American democracy – with its recently shown great influence of lobbyists, money donations by interested parties, and the media being in the hands of interested parties – is not a convincing “democracy” and may actually be described as corrupt. The acrimonious mutual blocking of decisions between the two American major parties is another serious setback for democracy!
One should consider the following:
o Monarchism, along with following the guidance provided by the churches, was until recently seen as virtuous in Europe and remains thus seen by some Western countries.
o Some Founding Fathers of the American Revolution had a deep distrust of plebeian crowds.
o Mullahs are seen by Muslims as teachers and interpreters of the Qur’an and therefore as “moral” leaders; (but they are seldom seen as “ethical” leaders, see the above definitions of terms) – unrestrained democracy is seen as licentious.
o Determination of public positions by tribal meeting (as is typical in the jirgas among the Pashtun of Afghanistan or the shuras of the Arabs) is a true form of democracy.
o In other words, a mixed form of governance may offer transition into the modern world – with some elective democracy, mainly a free press to bring accountability, a trustworthy legal system and police, social services provided by the central government, common civil rights, and family laws – leaving some importance to traditional Islamic tribal consent and leadership in local governance – combined with true ethical leadership in charity and honesty by religious leaders (as is also always desirable but not always present in the West) – their rule being subject to public consent and not allowed to block political candidates (as in Iran).
- 4.2.2. Governance:
Governance is still a key problem of the Muslim world. Muhammad missed one point in his comprehensive regulations of life in society: who would succeed him, how future political successors and religious leaders were to be selected, how they were to conduct their governance, and, mainly, how they could be held accountable and, if necessary, deposed.
o While the functions of political and religious leadership were united in Muhammad, almost immediately after Muhammad’s death the Muslim world split into two segments – with the larger Sunni segment adopting political leadership as being paramount (leaving religious leadership subordinate and divided, without a guiding or controlling hierarchy), while the smaller Shiite segment (mainly that in Iran) ultimately insisted on combined political and religious leadership, leading to the governance of the hierarchically structured clergy (as was once attempted by the Vatican).
o It is deeply disappointing to find that in all exotic, erratic, or violent congregations of Muslims, an Imam, Mullah, or Ayatollah marches in front enticing the crowd to more fanaticism or violence (a danger that also once did and occasionally still exists in the Western world, but that is, for the most part, controlled by civil laws). The famous leader Omar of Afghanistan and some insurgency leaders of Iraq have used a religious mantle to exercise their leadership of suppression and violence – the latter by justifying the carnage of Shiites in Iraq merely by designating them as “apostates”. All the Sunni (and Shiite) mullahs remained silent (rather than designating Zawahri, Osama bin Laden’s successor as leader of Al Qaeda, as the most despicable “apostates” – to be eliminated).
o A better definition of the selection process of religious leaders, a definition of their rights, tasks, and also possibilities for their removal, and the introduction of some checks and balances to their power are badly needed.
4.2.3. Initiation of reforms:
A general analysis of the occurrence of “reformations” in history is presented in a special chapter at the end of this essay (see “A Footnote on Possible Reform in the Muslim World”).
o “Reformations” occur more forcefully if or when a larger or more influential segment of the population feels the demand for reformation. The Christian Reformation in northern Europe occurred after those cities with a large merchant class had gained a wider view of religious concerns and a more liberated mindset, feeling restrained and abused by the Catholic Church – followed by social revolutions by suppressed and impoverished farmers using the Reformation for their liberation movements.
o By theologian innovators – but they are often narrow-minded and excitable in pursuit of their own new dogma, which may itself become suppressive.
o By tolerance in the Muslim world versus other religions or different groups within their own religion (e.g., by the peaceful and tolerant Sufis, under their teacher Rumi (1207-1273), who once were a leading group in the area of today’s Turkey and Iran and other parts of Asia) – leading to increased competition in the mental-spiritual sphere.
o By scripture analysis (as has just recently begun for the Qur’an) – going back to historical and linguistic origins, veracity, and intended meaning of scriptures (as so actively conducted concerning the Bible by Christian historians, such as those of the University of Tübingen in Germany, and, lately, by several Jewish historians; see, for example, R. E. Friedman’s interesting book “Who Wrote The Bible?”, ISBN 0-06-097214-9).
o This process should also include correlation of historic Muslim scriptures to modern conditions and needs
5. Possile Reform of the Muslim Faith:
5.1. theological reform
5.1.1. Historical-linguistic, and psychological comment:
o Muhammad lived from 570 to 632. He began his religious mission in 613 and never learned to read or write. All his teachings of more than 19 years were transmitted verbally.
o Written documentation of his “revelations” may have started early but were not consolidated until 640, in average about 20 years after their proclamation – a similar time span to that of Christ’s teaching and the first Christian written documents, by which time many different interpretations already existed; see some recently discovered, very old scriptures.
o The first canonical definition of the Qur’an was accomplished under the rule of the third Caliph, Uthman bin Affan, a member of the Mecca elite with its own political and cultural priorities, leading to Uthman’s murder.
o Early Arabic writing did not include vowels or the consonant-defining dots, leading to conflicts of interpretation. Only around 714 AD were the clarifying symbols added to the Qur’an (more than 100 years after Muhammad’s death) and was the Qur’an finalized – and the burning of all older versions demanded.
o Not only matters of interpretation, but also uncertainties of word meanings persist. For example, the “virgins” expected in paradise by “martyrs” or terrorists may just be “white grapes”, a delicacy of the rich at Muhammad’s time and described by that same word in his time (as young women are addressed in modern English as “chicks” or as “honey”).
o Furthermore, one must note that the final Qur’an did not find its canonization in Muhammad’s own dialect (Quraish), but later, in the High Arabic of Mecca or Bagdad.
o The demand that women cover their heads with veils (a “Zina”) appears to be equally based on modern verbal and cultural misunderstandings of the original meaning; see the recent Muslim publication by Nahed Selim. In one interpretation of the original meaning, the Zina was meant to cover women’s jewelry in public, of which they used to have plenty hanging around their face – in order to reduce social tension in the community. In another interpretation, the Zina was supposed to disguise Muhammad’s wives while still threatened by enemies in the nascent Muslim community of Medina.
o A mystery remains regarding the so-called “Satanic Verses” Surah 53, V. 19/20 ff – which may actually be citations of earlier, sacred pagan texts as remembered by Muhammad from his younger years.
o In the most irreverent review of Muhammad’s teachings, his visions are seen merely as “audio-hallucinations” – showing all the typical aspects of this rather common phenomenon as it was occurring in his mind.
5.1.2. Theological change through contextual interpretation:
Muhammad presents the Qur’an as the final expression of God’s rules for mankind (together with at least the most commonly accepted Hadith), all in great detail! This appears to leave no room for further reform. As indicated above, some problems were caused by the initial written codification of verbal transmissions of Mohammad’s sayings. But many of the problems with Islam in the modern world result not simply from the text but from the way the Qur’an is read and interpreted! This leads to the proposal to provide clarification on how to properly read and interpret the Qur’an! Important changes in Muslim attitude could result.
What was Muhammad’s spirit, his basic attitude in building the Muslim society – first in Medina, then in Mecca and the whole world conquered by his forces?
Mohammad, in his own time, was a most modern thinker and teacher, bringing harmony, open-mindedness, and liberating progress to his world:
- As a first step after establishing his rule in Medina, Mohammad stopped all fratricidal wars between clans, tribes, or social groups, teaching that all men are equal and must live together in almost democratic equality, specifically in tolerance and in harmony.
- The rule of “4 wives” was a restriction on the out-of-bounds behavior of the rich and powerful who hoarded women in their “harems” (see also the later Ottoman sultans), leaving none for the poor.
- Additionally, Mohammad was a liberator of women, presenting them as equal human beings – with the right to divorce and inheritance – protecting them against abuse.
A problem resulted from the fact that the Surahs of the Qur’an occurred to Mohammad at different times over many years, often in response to specific situations. Furthermore, the Surahs are not well organized. All together, the Qur’an is not a codex of laws, organized by application areas and without contradiction. Some important thoughts are expressed almost out of context within one or a few verses only. This leads to the fact that Muslim groups or sects can use single verses taken out of context as total justification for extreme action.
For example, Muhammad, while in Medina, was, for a while, in a war of survival with non-Muslim Mecca. Military deserters in such a war, specifically those who joined the opposite side, were designated as “apostates” and had to be punished by death, as military deserters are in Western countries, too. This should not be equated to conversions to other sects, cults, or religions in peaceful times – as protected in all modern democratic countries as being part of basic human rights and freedom.
Suicidal jihadist self-sacrifice for religious benefit with many collateral innocent victims was not a phenomenon of Muhammad’s time – as “terrorism” became a typical Muslim behavior in our time. Reference to very few Qur’an verses out of context is a devastating misuse of religious freedom.
Only Surah 17, “Bani-Isra’il”, Verses 22 (or 23) to 37 (or 38), may be seen as an organized presentation of the fundamental commandments for all Muslims to follow, similar and even exceeding the Ten Commandments in the Bible in demanding charity, being against cheating in business and against arrogance (mainly demanding to have only Allah as God, to be humble with and care for parents, to help the needy – but be frugal, not to kill children when in poverty, to avoid adultery, not to kill, to protect orphans, not to cheat in business, not to pursue anything you don’t know anything about, against arrogance)!
There is no foundation for “terrorism” or all the violence in the Muslim world in this Surah!
Furthermore, Muhammad lived before the Renaissance, industrialization, and the leaving of agriculture and living in large cities so deeply changed human society. Furthermore, marriage became less binding and the divorce rate climbed. Women were increasingly drawn into this modern life and were motivated or forced to become additional or the principal income sources for their families, for the wellbeing of their family or to provide better education for their children. Some enjoyed the additional opportunities for self-development and action – and became successful! Women entered politics and succeeded – see Margaret Thatcher and Angela Merkel. Women started their own businesses and succeeded, many reaching management ranks. How would Muhammad have defined the role of women in our time? Would he not have taught more respect and equality for women – possibly even in matters of dress and freedom in public? (In Saudi Arabia women are still not allowed to drive cars.)
Additionally, Muhammad lived before the development of the vast amount of knowledge by means of the sciences beginning 900 years after his death! That progress of the sciences resulted in the critical “science-versus-religion” discussion – offering a wider cosmic view, an understanding of natural evolution and of the human mind, progress in education, medical progress, and worldwide communication – with consequences for all religions!
Consequently, directions for reading the Qur’an would demand the following:
o All verses of the Qur’an should be interpreted more by their context within the time and circumstances in Muhammad’s life and the totality of the Qur’an – by their spirit, rather than in isolation by their letters – mainly in context with the originating cause or conditions for their announcement by Muhammad – otherwise leading to severe distortion, even serious harm, when applied to different situations at our time.
o Consideration must be given to the fact that Muhammad spoke a specific dialect while the final codification of the Qur’an at a much later time at a different place occurred in the then prevalent main form of the language and writing. Differences of word meaning occurred. Modern linguists have discovered and unequivocally clarified some of those.
o Most importantly, the changes in human society, specifically in the most recent time, must be considered for the role of women and their treatment.
o Most importantly, by open discussion of the “science and theology” controversy – as presently so actively pursued in the West (including the discussion of “Intelligent Design”; see the essay “Intelligent Design: A Critical Analysis” – or the essay “Theology, Astrophysics, and the SETI Project” – both on the website www.schwab-writings.com in the section on “Philosophy and Theology”). As a consequence of recognizing natural evolution (see the essay, “Evolution: Understanding Our Physical and Mental Existence” on the same website), Muslims may also have to realize that their interpretation of the concept of “Allah”, of the human mind, and of paradise need revision based on the facts of scientific observation (as they equally have to be revised in the traditional Christian faith). This would hopefully result in greater emphasis on altruistic ethical values, charity, peace-making (tolerance), and responsible behavior by all humans here on Earth. After all, Muhammad encouraged the study of the natural world in order to learn more about God (see, for example, in the Qur’an Surah 30 and Surah 50, as mentioned before).
o Also included should be a debate on contradictions in the Qur’an and the Hadith (see the unusual website http://bibleprobe.com/corruptedquran.htm. This website provides interesting information on the history of a number of such early contradictions in the Qur’an).
o Specifically, Muslim tolerance must be developed toward Muslim reformist groups!
Tolerance is already developing underground in Iran and openly in the Muslim diaspora (e.g., among Muslims in England, Canada, the United States, and among the Turks and Kurds in Germany). Such groups openly demand the de-emphasis or outright abolition of certain Quranical commands that are in clear conflict with those values of the modern world (such as universal human rights) – as indicated above.
Ultimately, Islam must clearly abolish the demand for (or permission to) the killing of “apostates”. Furthermore, all forms of “honor killing” of Muslim girls by their brothers must be abolished, as still widely occurring in both Muslim countries and the Muslim diaspora in the West!
Reason and balance in modern religious and political behavior can come from:
o New ideas in the young generation – if not suppressed – including those advocating gender equality.
o The right to vote for women may add to progress, balance, and peace!
o Desire among the young for personal opportunities to develop and, often, from their travel experiences.
o The merchant class, due to their wider exposure to ideas and a practical mindset.
o The middle class, their wider mental horizon, their youngsters’ search for opportunities.
o Scientists, engineers, and psychologists as they gain a different view of the world and its laws.
o General economic well-being, ownership, and culture that do not want to be mentally suppressed.
The present violent conflict between the Muslim World and the West must be transformed into a competition for ideals of human life and behavior.
As long as the West is seen as an aggressor and an occupying force, there will be a closing of the ranks by Muslims around established leaders and doctrines of their own culture!
Only when the Muslim world again becomes more relaxed (feeling and being less threatened) will it be open to suggestions for change! The “Arab Human Development Report, 2003” provides excellent suggestions!
5.1.3. Specific actions to be taken (see the “Arab Human Development Report, 2003”):
o Substantially increased recognition of moderates and innovators of the Muslim world
o More prizes and awards with international prestige to moderate, innovating Muslims
o Mainly, a vast increase in the exchange of ideas between East and West
o Invitations for visits by individuals from Muslim countries to Western homes on all levels, from the White House to personal residences (and vice versa)
o Personal correspondence
o Student exchanges (not just engineers). For some Muslim individuals, exchanges may work better with Europe than with the United States. Visiting students should not be housed in groups of their own kind but should live with Westerners
o Sister-City programs
o Invitations to Muslim business partners to vacation in the West (and vice versa)
o Most important, culturally excellent and open-minded TV programs. internet websites, or blogs in Muslim languages! (Such programs should be on the level of the U.S. Public Broadcasting Service, or PBS, and could be sponsored by prominent charitable individuals or the government)
o Vast political and economic support for a demographic increase of the middle class or the merchant class with international connections. Their demands for freedom and order most commonly support democracy.
o Substantial emphasis on a modern school system in Muslim countries, modern curricula for boys and equally for all girls (see the outstanding school-building effort as once intended by Greg Mortenson in northern Afghanistan and as greatly accomplished by Dr. Eroes in eastern Afghanistan: www.aid-for-afghan-children.com).
o Madrassas should be tolerated only as a supplement to public schools and only where those public schools with an acceptable curriculum already exist.
o As an alternative, mullahs of madrassas could be given generous subsidies if and when they include a wider curriculum in their schools, including training in agriculture; forestry; animal-raising; repair and maintenance of trucks, cars, and agricultural equipment; practical trades in construction or product manufacturing; useful engineering skills; mainly also health care; and the various sciences – and if or when the results of such training are tested by public standards.
o Stabilization of true economic development in Afghanistan – away from opium production and by control of the drug trade by criminal or terrorist elements. Industrialization would provide income to the unemployed in the cities – but would not reduce opium production by the farmers. Only attractive markets for alternative crops providing higher income to the farmers would reduce opium poppy cultivation. There are very few such alternative crops for the dry climate of Afghanistan. The rebuilding of the war-destroyed underground water channels, the “karez”, would definitely help (or drive opium cultivation to higher ground). The import and free distribution of internationally donated wheat (rather than local purchase and sale, combined with financial assistance to the poor) was and remains highly counterproductive. As grain prices rise, grain cultivation would begin to replace opium cultivation – until its price also rises, which would reverse this initially desirable trend back to opium production. Ultimately, the restriction of opium consumption (or a chemical substitute) could be the only answer. The Taliban leader Omar accomplished the termination of opium cultivation in Afghanistan, after much urging, by means of a theologically based command. Where are the Mullahs now??
In order to stop terrorism and the killing of innocents, it is especially important to provide new and better ways to pursue a way into the future for idealistic and disenchanted young men (or women) who otherwise become victims of extremist preachers:
o A positive, peaceful program must be devised for idealistic Muslim youth that provides them with meaningful lives and honor in the pursuit of their religious goals. In the West, the Peace Corps was a great accomplishment.
o Could there be a similar movement in the Muslim world, call it “New Medina Corps”, reminiscent of Muhammad’s building of a new society in that city, directed toward economic, mental, and moral (anti-corruption) progress (now for building schools, hospitals, businesses, water supplies, security, civic administration and more in the many needy areas of Muslim villages, cities, and the world at large)? This could capture the enthusiasm and idealism of Muslim youth and direct them in a nonviolent, constructive direction – thus becoming an example for the world of what Islam also could or should bring. It should bring those youth greater honor than becoming so-called martyrs!
o It should be an embarrassment to the Muslim world that most of the charitable and beneficial activities in their suffering areas - including the building of schools, hospitals, and caring for the poor or children - are provided by idealistic Western individuals and Western organizations, most of them privately financed from the West, many from America!
In order to promote theological reform and tolerance, reform-minded Muslims should form and find support in groups of other like-minded Reform-Muslims. The formation of “reform congregations” provides the necessary critical reaffirmation and support to individuals, without which their effort will fade, as experienced by nascent religious movements in the past.
Beyond that, it would be important that all the Muslim reform groups become organized in a common reform association – to obtain better international protection, gain political influence, and, mainly, increase their activism and strength.
o The granting of recognition and honor can be offered to the important lower level among all participants – lapel pins with a common new logo, for example, “M+” (for advancement of Muslim reform in the modern world)!
o Following the proven approach of other recent movements or organizations, role models of famous and beneficial reformers can be established (as “saints” of the reform movement), prizes can be publicly distributed (see the yearly Templeton and Nobel Peace prizes), and M+ members attacked by their adversaries can be celebrated as M+ martyrs (as were the early Christians of late Roman times).
If the leaders of al Qaeda and the Taliban do not convert to such peaceful – and, possibly, reformist – developments, they may have to be eliminated, as history shows.
5.2. an approach to the future, A change of mental cultures
The term “mental cultures” shall describe the phenomenon that whole societies can assume certain ways to interpret life and set priorities for behavior. Essentially, this phenomenon is based on the human brain’s adaptive functioning in assuming valuations and preferences for thought patterns within groups of connected individuals (cultures).
Although patterns change slowly in the course of a society’s history; they can change for individuals within a very short time, as when people emigrate and become integrated in a different society or when new mental cultures take root in their environment. The virulent Vikings of centuries past became the pacifists of modern Norway and Sweden. Europeans have gone through much belligerent turmoil over the last three hundred years, while their American relatives lived more or less peacefully together. Europe of the early 19th century was emotionally romantic, then a hundred years later became militaristic and capitalist.
All these mental cultures were an expression of precisely the way large segments of the respective populations thought, felt, and behaved in those respective times. It is often the vociferous segment, whether the majority or not, whether tolerated by the silent segment or not, that appears to dictate the mental culture of the day.
In some parts of the present Muslim world, the vociferous segment of the populations seems to indicate a highly emotional, aggressive, self-sacrificing dedication to religious dominance mixed with nationalistic pride that often reaches a state of irrational frenzy, especially among young males. This selectivity in goals and behavior indicates a psychosomatic connection. Unscrupulous political leaders abuse this segment of the population, to their own advantage. The silent segment of the population – whether a majority or not – stays on the sidelines, either in fear, because they are blackmailed or terrorized, or by conversion to the new mental culture.
In hindsight, the world often wishes it had stopped aberrant mental cultures early in their development, as with the Nazi and some communist movements around the world, especially when they became dangerous to the rest of the world. We fear that some Muslim countries (such as Iran or, worse, North Korea) will acquire weapons of mass destruction. We also fear that they may make these weapons available to terrorist organizations worldwide, possibly as “dirty bombs” of radiant, toxic, or plague-inducing materials.
How can dangerous mental cultures be stopped or changed in their development?
More reasonable countercultures usually are too meek and civilized to prevail. Is there a more forceful approach?
Killing a Viking chieftain did not stop the broad Viking movement. But killing Hitler put a end to the Nazis, as did Stalin’s death to communist abuses or Pol Pot’s to those in Cambodia. The broad-based revolutionary and violent movements of the 1960s that raged in several Western countries did not come to an end until some of those cells were broken up and their general failure became apparent to the public. In other words, movements narrowly focused on a leader can be stopped by eliminating the leader; whereas broad-based mental cultures do not change until some of their most violent cells are eliminated - and, most importantly, not until the general public realizes the uselessness and danger of their objectives and methods, as may still be necessary in some parts of Iraq and, mainly, in Syria, and will, hopefully, occur one day in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, North Africa, and other Muslim countries where violent cells exist.
The violent movements of the Muslim world will not stop until their most obvious justification disappears (occupations in Afghanistan and Palestine), their most violent leaders are eliminated (Al Qaeda’s al-Zawahiri, the former Taliban leader Omar, some warlords or drug traders as the Haqqanis, al-Baghdadi of ISIS, and more productive approaches to the future for the Muslim people have proven themselves – see the recommendations above. Any one of those measures alone, such as the elimination of the most violent leaders, will not help and could make a broadly based mental culture even more violent – nor does providing a positive approach to the future help without, at the same time, eliminating the culture’s violent leaders.
Preferably, a positive reformer with a certain charisma will appear or will have to be found (unfortunately, Maliki and Al Sadr of Iraq or Karzai of Afghanistan did not qualify themselves for that). This person must then be strongly supported, which, in turn, can lead to a positive evolution. May the vast Muslim world finally accomplish this! Were there European leaders or American presidents as role models?
To bring about a change of the mental culture, a new leader must be able to generate enthusiasm for the new mental direction, for a moderate form of Islam open to the modern world and ready to accept reform. This person must be a good organizer, one capable of forming cells of activists (as the congregations of churches) for the new culture in many places in society.
A better future must become visibly credible to the people and must be reached step by step. (For some basic reading, see the older book by Gustave Le Bon, “La Psychologie des Foules”, and the somewhat newer and excellent description of the development of mass movements in the book by Eric Hoffer, “The True Believer”.)
6. Special Problem: Increasing Muslim Immigration to the Western World
6.1. The Different Migratory Waves
Muslim immigrants to France arrived in a large wave at the end of the colonial war in Algiers as those Algerians who had supported France were in danger of retribution by the new nationalist powers at home. Many had been soldiers or civil servants – leading them to lower-level jobs in the suburbs or small southern towns (e.g., Marseille, later Paris and Grasse) – where they lived peacefully, glad to have escaped, congregating in ghetto-like groups. Their youngsters, though, often poorly educated and unemployed, found themselves excluded from French society and often poorly educated and unemployed, then became unruly.
Muslim immigrants to Germany began arriving many decades ago when Volkswagen could not find enough workers for its German factories. They were brought in from Turkey – not from the Westernized area around Istanbul, but rather from the more remote and still fundamentalist eastern areas of Anatolia, where some were Kurds.
The Turks were supposed to return after one year of service in Germany; but Volkswagen insisted on keeping those workers it had trained. Soon a permanent group of Turks, Kurds, and their families had settled at various factory locations in Germany.
The Kurds were blamed for promoting the drug trade coming in by truck through the Balkans.
By now, entire areas of cities, mainly in their older centers, have appeared as the Turkish and Kurdish enclaves – with a total of more than 4 million inhabitants (some say 8 million), and are beginning to present demands. Young Turks prefer bringing old-fashioned wives from Anatolia rather than marry Westernized Turkish girls in Germany – who, at worst, are being murdered for leaving fundamentalist customs.
Switzerland’s more than 400,000 Muslims – as those of Scandinavia – arrived primarily as “asylum-seekers” from turbulent areas of the Middle East and Afghanistan. Some appear to have known very well where the best social services in Europe could be found. As in other countries, their demands begin to increase (see the “minaret problem” in Switzerland).
Muslim asylum-seekers are also crowding into Great Britain – although a more important Muslim wave consisted of middle-class or upper-class Pakistanis who arrived with British passports when Great Britain gave up India and were able to hang on to their British passports. This group is now well absorbed into British Society and appears to contribute as much as it receives.
Muslim immigration to the United States and Canada has gone largely unnoticed. The U.S. and Canada were already multicultural. For example, about 5,000 Turks live along the lower Delaware River, with several of their mosques and their own schools, unnoticed by others. They do not use the mosque near Princeton, because it is “Arabic” and not Turkish! Teachers for their school are coming in from Turkey and are open minded.
Australia took a determined stance toward their Muslims: “integrate or go back”.
One often hears that the mullahs of the mosques were sent in with Saudi financial support and represented the Saudi fundamentalist Islam derived from the Wahhabis. This was seen as especially true of those extremist mullahs who influenced younger Muslims to become fighters and turn to jihad or terrorism. They should be held legally responsible for all violent actions of their followers!
6.2. Problems with Muslim Immigration and their possible solutions
What is the pattern of success or problems with Muslim immigration into Western countries?
In general, the Muslim middle class and skilled labor in demand by local industry in the West had fewer problems with immigration and was more readily accepted as a contributor to their new country – unless they were seen as those demanding ever larger and more imposing and centrally located mosques, even in historic European cities – as leading to the Swiss law of 2009 banning minarets.
In the West most friction occurs with large groups of unskilled Muslims, who prefer to live in close-knit groups, which often require substantial social assistance, and do not support their youngsters’ education, bringing in ever more Muslims and propagating at a high rate, thus increasing their complaints and demands. Only a few individuals of such groups appear to integrate and become successful in their new country (some always do!), but then move out of these ethnic ghettos, leaving the problem group behind. (This pattern and these problems can also be observed in the United States among other ethnic groups in the major cities – even with “white” groups in areas where all job opportunities disappeared, as in former industrial areas where production went to China or in old mining towns.)
The solution for this problem appears simple: more education of the children and younger individuals among Muslim immigrants. Such education must have the goal of opening a way into the middle class by teaching marketable skills. Furthermore, in times or in geographic areas of declining economy, there are hardly any skills one can teach that will provide stable employment for many. In such cases, the jobless, newly educated younger ones, if not moving on, will be frustrated – and possibly lean toward more radical thought.
Education, furthermore, requires the full cooperation of parents. When this factor is missing, not much can be done by schoolteachers.
The remaining, and harshest, remedy is the return of unsupportive families to their home countries. This will be objected to by civil rights and other idealistic organizations – if not by law.
In other words, whenever or wherever one attempts to help or lift the Muslim immigrants, one finds oneself in a lose-lose situation.
At the very least, further influx of more Muslim immigrants must be stopped, even of family members or brides. And what about asylum-seekers??
An additional problem is presented by the import of fundamentalist mullahs and by the character of Islam, the teachings of the Qur’an itself.
As indicated earlier, the fundamental teachings of the Qur’an can be seen as very benevolent. Almost all of the Surahs begin with the verse: “In the Name of Allah, the Merciful and Beneficent”, presenting not only a positive image of Allah but also a basic and prevalent guideline for a positive life for all Muslims.
On the other hand, the Qur’an has too large a number of cruel and highly intolerant directives that are in clear contradiction to the fundamental values, constitutions, and laws of all Western countries (as specifically indicated before and in the following). If taken seriously, no strict Muslim, fully adhering to the Qur’an, could be accepted for settlement in the West or to become a citizen of a Western country. No fundamentalist mullah or Muslim preacher could be permitted to be active in a Western country. For example:
Surah 4 (AL-NISA), Verse 89/90, demands the killing of those who leave the Muslim faith – thereby denying any freedom of religion
Surah 8 (AL-ANFAL), Verse 12/13, demands that unbelievers be “cut above their necks and their finger tips be cut off” – thereby leading to a cruel denial of freedom of religion
Surah 9 (AL_TAUBA), Verse 4/5, demands the pursuit, ambush, and killing of idolaters (similar to what some early Biblical statements do) – thereby denying any freedom of religion
Surah 33 (AL-AHZAB), Verse 60/61-62, demanding that those who stir up trouble or revolt in the cities (including reform?) shall be caught and hacked into pieces – thereby denying any freedom of speech. (Verse numbers differ by 1, depending on the translation.)
All Muslim immigrants who do not renounce the above and other similar passages of the Qur’an could not be allowed to settle and must be urged, even forced, to return to their country of origin or another country willing to accept them, whether they had intended to be legal immigrants or whether they had arrived as asylum-seekers.
With the previously indicated objection of humanitarian groups, however, this problem also leads to a lose-lose situation.
- American security, world security, even Israel’s own security and survival, demand that no more time be lost in the fair settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – one equally demanded by a majority of both peoples. The ill-managed Gaza pullout and some reduction of settlements in the West Bank are not enough.
- The Israeli occupation of Palestinian land must be brought to an end as soon as possible – while securely protecting Israel against Palestinian (or Iranian) rockets and violence.
- In addition, a fair solution must be found for Palestinian access to a certain part of Jerusalem, to ports and airports, and to water. Otherwise, there will be no end to escalating international terrorism against America and its allies and against Israel. Only a certain well-being, adequate job opportunities, and a broad middle class among the Palestinians will bring them to accept Israel and their situation and to behave peacefully.
- The American military presence in Afghanistan must be brought to an end as soon as possible (possibly by first eliminating remaining Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders and then using security forces from other Arab states – both Sunni and Shiite). Otherwise, international terrorism against America and its allies will rage endlessly on; nor will there be readiness for a change of mental cultures or reform in the Muslim world.
- The suppression of opium production in Afghanistan must be given high priority (e.g., by subsidies for wheat, fruit tree, ethanol-production, and other useful plantations, as is done in the United States). Ultimately, demand for drugs must be reduced in the West.
- The Pakistani madrassas (and those in other countries) must be elevated to the level of proper skill-training schools in order for their students to succeed in practical life.
- Every effort must be made to improve the commercial, economic, and international success of a growing Muslim middle class, to offer a viable future to the unemployed young generation in the modern world, one with a wide international outlook.
- Every effort must be made to increase the exchange of ideas between the West and the Muslim world, possibly with preference given to contact between young Muslims and Europe and between established Muslims and America (and vice versa).
- Programs must be established that capture the idealism and sense of pride of Muslim youth and direct it in a nonviolent constructive direction – for example, a “New Medina” Corps (similar to the Peace Corps), as described above – providing not only practical, constructive progress to Muslim areas, but also great honor to its members.
- All the Muslim theological and cultural reform movements should unite in a mutually supportive association and increase their activism.
- A charismatic leader and good organizer must be found who can bring about a change of outlook in the Muslim world and possibly to initiate some theological reforms.
8. An Open Letter to al-Zawahiri, Mullah Omar, Gubuddin Hekmatyar, the Haqqanis (Maulvi Jalaluddin and his Son Sirajuddin – Nasiruddin and Badruddin were killed, Anas captured), and Bakr al-Baghdadi of ISIS
You appear to find your meaning of life and self-assurance in your dedication to a great and Allah-pleasing cause; the defense of the Muslim world, possibly its expansion, certainly its purification – and the standing of Islam in the world.
After your valiant and recognized struggle against the Russian invaders of Afghanistan, you turned your attention against America, the supporter of Israel’s actions against your Muslim brothers in Palestine – while you actually and surprisingly not conducted any struggle against Israel! American troops were attacked in Lebanon, the destroyer USS Cole was damaged, the US embassy in Kenya was attacked, and, finally, on September 11, 2001, the Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon were attacked.
The United States, supported by the United Nations, reacted violently in the form of the “war on terror”. Within months, you were chased from your proud positions in Afghanistan to some mountain caves, now to the underground of remote towns in Pakistan. You finance your life with support from the Saudis and, more importantly, with profits from the drug trade from Afghan poppy fields to Russia and Europe – with no regret! Now, you, Gubuddin Hekmatyar, who was first helped by the Americans in your struggle against the Russians, also turned against the Americans, also in the name of Islam (in your Hizb-e-Islam organization, preferring suicide bombings)!
More importantly, your newfound financial means, the structure of the rural madrassas, the general economic plight of Pakistan and the remaining misery in Afghanistan allowed you to easily recruit foot soldiers for your activities. You found further support from some intellectual and serious youths radicalized by the most outspoken and fundamentalist mullahs – who personally never fought but who always remained safely at home.
What followed? An ever more sophisticated, violent struggle, supposedly dedicated to harming the American enemy, has been causing a much higher number of killed individuals among the Muslim population – of Iraq, Afghanistan, also of Pakistan, now Syria and other countries.
Worst of all, The Sunni ISIS attempt to resurrect the historic Muslim caliphate actually concentrates on fighting violently against other Muslims, the Shiites or the Iraqi Kurds!
You may feel a bit sorry for the dead, but you reassure yourself through Muslim teaching that those “martyrs” will instantly reach paradise. But what about the much larger number of wounded people? Family fathers and mothers may have lost their ability to function. Boys lost limbs and became crippled for life. Girls may have lost “merely” their face and appearance, being condemned to a meaningless life of suffering – none received compensation – while you continued to live comfortably in the Pakistani or northern Afghan underground and in Syria.
All of this was your responsibility! Great shame on you!
Did you not read Surah 2, AL BAQARA, Verses 190/191, demanding restraint in warfare? Verses 191/192 of that Surah specifically forbids attacking your enemies in or near mosques! Those attacks have too often been the strategy of the Taliban in Pakistan – and none of you has loudly protested!
Read the first verse of almost every Surah in the Qur’an, placed there as the most important directive of Islam for its followers and the world? It says clearly: “In the Name of Allah, the merciful, the beneficent”.
Look at Muhammad’s life. Muhammad first built an ideal community in Medina, before converting Mecca. Only then did he pursue expansion of Islam’s sphere of influence, always attempting to please Allah, to bring a better life to the people, to be “merciful and beneficent”.
Don’t you realize in the late phase of your life that you have chosen the wrong direction: not serving Allah but acting against Allah, the merciful and beneficent? Repent and change!
What is left for you to do? It is not too late. Allah pardons a sinner who converts. You can still become “merciful and beneficent” during the remaining months or years of your life!
What could you do? Instead of employing the aimless among the searching ones and among the poor as foot soldiers in cruel fighting, you can begin to see the Muslim world first as your Medina, then the wider world. Support the formation of morally and economically sound societies – mainly, no more corruption, but the diligent learning of useful skills, the building of small economic enterprises leading to general well-being – all under the ethically guiding principles of the Qur’an.
Why is the West ahead of you in so many beneficent NGO organizations and with so many charitable individuals? Why don’t you found an organization you can call the “New Medina” to spread help in a positive direction, employing idealistic youngsters to go out into the suffering areas of the world and offer practical assistance?
That should be your legacy. That is what the world should recognize as essentially Muslim!
Don’t you see the enormous damage you have already done and still do almost daily to the standing or reputation of Islam in the world? Muslims may be 20 percent or a bit more of the world’s population. All others look at the Muslim world and wonder: why does all that killing of innocents occur mainly there, why the mutual slaughter, why all the corruption in Muslim governments, why the falling behind in modern development?
You contributed substantially to this negative view!
What will you do in the short time remaining in your lives to enhance the image of Islam in the world?
Please, become merciful and beneficent!
Footnote 1: On Possible Religious Reformation in the Muslim World:
Some comments on the subject of “reformation”:
In the Christian world, one mainly thinks of the reformation initiated by Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin – after Huss und other unsuccessful break-away groups. Reviewing history, one finds a much wider spectrum of reformations. What is a useful definition of a “reformation”? It possibly is a fundamental change in a religion, ideology, worldview, or mental state of a culture. Hence, a list of historic reformations would include:
o The change in Greek thought and world perception in the course of the 5th and 4th centuries B.C. – changing the way the world was seen and how the mind was applied.
o Stoic philosophy, founded by Zeno in the 3rd century B.C. – expanded by Seneca in Rome, leading to monotheism and offering high human ideals, with their great potential for European mental growth. It came too late, was not forceful enough, did not capture the masses, and was replaced by Christianity.
o The change of Roman culture to Christianity – possibly to fundamentalism.
o Finally, the advent of the Renaissance, which led to modern Western thought.
In more recent times, one can distinguish between two different forces causing reform and change: On the one hand, reformations may occur due to a groundswell of perceived shortcomings and new thought in the population at large. On the other hand, the impact of important historic personalities can lead to the reformation of society.
Further, one can differentiate between one-track, advancing reformation, and, quite often, bifurcated reformation – with reactionary or “fundamentalist” movements occurring simultaneously in response to advancing reformation.
o The Christian reformation in the early 16th century is linked to Luther and, in response, to the appearance of the fundamentalism of Ignatius of Loyola establishing the Jesuits
o The period of Enlightenment shows the impact of Voltaire and the reaction by Rousseau, both with their respective followers
o In our day, the increasingly modern sacral or scientific worldview – leading to rationality and diminished church attendance – linked to the names of Darwin and Einstein – with the consequent fundamentalist reaction by some recent popes and preachers in the American south, or “Bible Belt” (and the Tea Party in politics).
Numerous other major or minor reformers can be mentioned in modern times:
o The Czar Peter the Great in Russia, 1672 to 1725, attempted to convert stagnant Russia into a modern, European Society.
o The Founding Fathers of the United States initiated the democratic structure of modern Western societies. (The subsequent French Revolution failed, with Europe returning to possibly more fundamentalist monarchies. The socialist revolutions of 1848 failed. Only the revolutions after the end of the disastrous World War I succeeded).
o Wilhelm von Humboldt of Germany, 1767 to 1835, introduced research combined with teaching at modern universities, later accepted by the American universities. This established a new mental outlook and structure for the young elite in pursuing new insights through independent thought and a foundation in research – leading to our “modern” time.
o Karl Marx, 1818 - 1883 – later failed with his communist reformation – as did Hitler, Stalin, and others with theirs.
o Mahatma Gandhi, 1869 to 1943, pursued the peaceful reformation of India.
o Deng Xiaoping, 1904 to 1997, was the initiator of modern China.
o Mullah Omar, born 1959, leader of the Taliban, and Osama bin Laden, born in 1957 – both attempting a Muslim fundamentalist reformation – may also have failed
o Another groundswell reformation can be observed in the arts over the last 150 years.
o Very important is the modern reformation of society based on global internet communication – which does not have a single leading name (but a plurality of innovators) associated with it.
In other words, one can distinguish between slow reformations taking their course over longer periods of time in a society and pointed or peaked reformations breaking lose in a short time, some violently, often but not always related to specific personalities.
What could be a recipe for initiating and leading to a successful and benevolent reformation of Islam?
o Any modernizing reformation of Islam will be bifurcated – with modernization on one side being furiously countered by fundamentalism on the other – as can be observed already (as happened in Egypt). A counter-reformation is conducted by those who are anxious to maintain their positions of power and by powerful circles of supporters around them – mullahs, ayatollahs, the military, cabinet members, and others in the circle of nepotism, drug dealing, and corruption.
o An important groundswell in the population leading to a “better Muslim world” can already be discerned: in a search for peace, fair “law and order”, a decent life, and increasing mental freedom – see the Arab Spring and following events.
o One (or several) charismatic leader must be found. Maliki of Iraq has failed. Omar had too limited a mindset. Karzai sadly failed due to corruption and a lack of charisma. . Bhutto of Pakistan was murdered.
The definition of an important groundswell in the Muslim population (and the world) is given by:
- The demand for peace, law and order (no more corruption), and greater prosperity – along Western models – with enough food and medical care for all – with less corruption – with a motorcycle for every young man and a working air-conditioner in each home – while maintaining the useful emotional environment of the “old culture” – the administrative structure of village elders to resolve local problems – the call of the muezzin from the mosque – the rejection of indecency.
- The demand for more modern mental freedom, including some form of democracy and equality for women
- Strong emphasis on altruistic ethics, not merely superficial “morality”
- A need for a certain emotional enthusiasm – more than mere intellectual conviction
- The need for the formation of congregations of like-minded members – supporting each other and providing daily guidance
- The need for bringing positive results, attracting protection of the mighty supplementing the support of the masses
- Certain controls to guard against splitting into many new subgroups
The majority of the population (mainly, the women) totally reject Taliban dominance – and the presence of foreign armies in their land.
How can this lead to a Muslim reformation?
The Muslim world must recognize that the Qur’an contains violent verses that provide justification for the Taliban, al-Qaeda, ISIS, and all the warlords. Great leaders of a Muslim reform must be able to renounce such violent verses, possibly only 4 verses out of the total of 6,345 verses in the Qur’an, putting the greatest emphasis on a few positive verses only, as the opening of most Surahs that see Allah as “merciful and beneficent”!
The Qur’an presents itself as the final expression of God’s rules for mankind (together with at least the most commonly accepted Hadith) and is very detailed. This appears to leave no room for further reform. Yet the fact is, many Muslim countries have progressed to various forms of religious reform – from superficial habits such as giving up head scarves to more fundamental ones concerning the living and bringing up of families in the modern world of “infidels”, as in parts of modern Turkey and in the Muslim diaspora.
Thought must be given to how religious reforms may be accomplished in detailed steps – for example, through:
- Selectivity in emphasis on various statements of the sacred texts (as is common among Christians – just look at the old Christian “Confessions of Faith” in the Bible)
- New interpretation of word meanings in view of evolving language (including Arabic)
- Introduction of new concerns that were not addressed in the original texts
- Demonstrating how certain narrow scripture statements were abused in the past
- Leading certain narrow scripture statements “ad absurdum” under modern conditions
- From such a breach, arguing in the gray zone of life’s diversity toward a more liberal interpretation under “new conditions” in the modern world 
- Reinterpreting loyalty to Allah as not merely being submissive to the mullahs, but reading of Allah’s will through study and understanding of nature (as demanded by, for example, Surah #30 and #50) – leading to a “science and religion” debate as in the West, with possibly liberating consequences. What should a study of modern cosmology (from string theory to the discovery of exoplanets), Darwin’s and Wallace’s view of natural evolution, and a better understanding of the human mind (in terms of neurology and psychology) mean to a Muslim?
- Mainly, greater mental independence and the acceptance of personal responsibility in order to make this a better world – with less suffering and more opportunities fairly for all – in accordance with our emotional needs and to facilitate a better-functioning society.
The Muslim world should be ready for the following experiment in thought (as should the Christian and the Jewish parts of the world be ready for the same experiment in thought under their own terms):
What if Allah, together with Muhammad, were to look down from heaven and evaluate the Muslim world on Earth? They could be moved by deep concern, possibly anger and sadness. What has the revelation of Islam led to?
Assume that Allah, being the sovereign, were to change His mind – as reported several times in the scriptures, mostly out of compassion but occasionally in anger. What if Allah sent Muhammad or a messenger angel back to Earth once more – or even sent an address to another prophet (if the established priests would not promptly crucify him, too) with some more instructions?
What could these new instructions be that would lead not only Muslims but all of mankind into a more positive future?
Cleansing and praying five times per day (the Salaat, merely enforcing the total submission under Allah and acceptance of his Prophet) would certainly not be enough.
In order to become role models by being “merciful and beneficent” (as Allah is described at the beginning of almost each Surah of the Qur’an), in order to bring peace and to alleviate the poverty of large suffering segments of the world, the believers on Earth would have to put their house in order and work hard at medical, technical, agricultural, and sociological progress – requiring effective, and hence, tolerant cooperation of many cultures.
What would be some specific actions?
Would the spiritual and political leaders of present-day Muslim states be ready to get together and agree on the definition of these action items, then execute them?
Why not have such a convention now?
There have been four important Islam-related or Muslim conventions, or efforts, in recent years.
- The convention in Madrid of March 2004 wanted to address the roots of terrorism. The participants saw the need to first define “terrorism”, and did not even succeed in accomplishing that.
- Then, in July 2005, King Abdullah II of Jordan convened 180 clerics from 80 different directions of Islamic thought, including the four most important Sunni schools of religious thought and the four most important Shiite groups, and from 40 countries of the Muslim world – with two results: All eight schools recognized each other as true Muslims and agreed that none could designate an adherent of the other as “apostate”.
- Furthermore, at that meeting, the issuing of fatwas became defined and severely limited. This was an attempt to bring the fractionalized Muslim world and its clerical establishment (the Ulama) under a moderate, reasonable, and coordinated control – against the pseudo-Ulama of the radicals (including Zawahiri, Omar, al-Baghdadi, and others) using Arab television and the internet for their coordination.
- Finally, in September 2005, President Bush of the United States used the United Nations World Summit for a speech challenging the world to address international terrorism not only “on the battlefield”, but also “in a battle of ideas” – without elaborating and without much response in an organization that was not even able to define “terrorism”.
The need for improvement in the Muslim world is greater than ever. An attempt at reformation should be made!
Footnote 2: On possibly redirecting the zeal of Muslim “terrorists” and would-be “martyrs” toward more benevolent activities:
There were, at one time, possibly 20,000 prisoners suspected for being terrorists or their supporters in various prison camps of the Iraqui, Afghan, and U.S. forces. There are many hundreds (if not many more by now) of them in Pakistan. And there are about 8,000 imprisoned Palestinians in Israeli jails. Large numbers of new “terrorists” or would-be “martyrs” are on the way from their religious madrasa schools or from spiritual advisors to an act of violence.
What is the plan? Let the prisoners remain imprisoned forever (and let every new wave of terrorists or would-be martyrs go to prison)? Release those prisoners some day and let them run wild again?
Obviously, an attempt to lead all those individuals to a productive life in society should be the priority – as attempted in Saudi Arabia and as it is for reeducating or reforming criminal prisoners in all modern countries.
How can such redirecting be done – such saving of so many valuable lives for their own sake and for the benefit of their families and society at large? This problem should find top priority not only in the West, but also in the Muslim world. After all, those are their sons and husbands. The Muslim world does not want to have 10,000 potential suicide-bombers running around for years to come.
Some practical experience with successful methods could provide some suggestions.
 Competition between individuals, nations, and cultures is quite common and part of Darwinian Nature. Such competition can exist for the dominance of resources, territory, or merely for prevalence in thought and values (whether religious, moral, or environmental), for the control of minds and hearts. Frustrated individual activists, who cannot mentally convince their adversaries or who don’t find the support of the law and police, easily resort to violence. Such violence can cover a wide spectrum – from crowds forcing their way into government buildings to the most horrible acts of killing and war. “Terrorism” is a term used for the description of violence considered to be outside the law and leading to terror in target groups through the suffering from violence of innocent people.
 The verse count differs in different Qur’an translation by one, depending on whether the Surah introduction is counted as a verse or not.
 ) A “humanitarian” spirit, actually based on ethics as it had evolved naturally, was first recorded in the laws of the social activist ruler Urukagina (or Urukinimgina) of Lagash, Mesopotamia, in 2,800 BC – who, unfortunately, then failed. The Jewish prophet Isaiah, active 740 to 700 BC, strongly supported humanitarian ethical behavior. For all of the Western cultures, however, the preaching of Jesus initiated the humanitarian thought that is now so much a part of its values. In modern times, as Jews became emancipated to participate in Western society, they generally excelled in social and humanitarian thought and action, whether in public life, charities, or merely in their own circles.
 ) The Phoenicians can rightly be seen as the initiators of ancient Greek civilization and, thereby, Western thought. They not only brought the alphabet but, with Thales of Milet, a son of Phoenician parents, initiated scientific thought and rationality in Greek philosophy.
 “Revenge” is an aboriginal emotion, the negative of “reciprocity”, which is one among the basic natural ethical emotions, as genetically imprinted and already existing among some animals. In human cultures, “blood feuds” were the worst of the revenge behaviors. Early historical cultures found that “compensation” could dissolve the need for revenge. In today’s cultures, minor needs for revenge can be dissolved by “adequate apologies”. More severe needs for revenge can be resolved by payments (surrender of property or rights). Even in all the present violence in Iraq, compensation is accepted for killed family members. In the case of the Israel-Palestine conflict, a possible rate schedule for compensation could include many millions of dollars in penalty in the form of reduced external subvention for the inflicting side (double, when inflicted by governments), with a portion of this amount going to the suffering party or family. The mere launching of a missile from Gaza into Israel would have to result in a corresponding reduction of international material support for the Palestinians in Gaza. A targeted Israeli rocket killing of a Palestinian would be assessed against Israel. This method only works if there is a midpoint of external support against which the change of support occurs – and if this change hurts and is meticulously enforced. There yet remains the “deterrence” argument, as in criminal justice. But practical experience has demonstrated overwhelmingly that any revenge action that hurts innocents or bystanders – or that is seen as being unjustified – more often than not escalates the violence.
 For example, Surah 33, Al Ahzab, Verse 59/60, requires women to wear veils pulled far down over their face in order to be distinguished and not be molested. To lead this “ad absurdum”, a modern woman cannot have a veil over her face when driving a car, when working as a medical doctor in a hospital, or when being in the YWCA’s (or YMCA’s) swimming pool. Modern women look different from men anyway and are protected by civil laws against molestation. Wearing miniskirts and showing a bare midriff lead to greater risks for women than not having a veil over the face. Most Muslim women wear a headscarf just over their hair, anyway. Therefore, the true meaning of this Surah and Verse (and a modern version should indicate this) is that a proper and decent dress code for women and men in public must vary though the ages. This would put the question of Muslim headscarves to rest. Similar sequences of thought can be developed for other extreme rulings of the Qur’an, for example Surah 4, An Nisa, Verse 34/35, indicating that men should dominate and women obey. (Verse numbers differ by 1, depending on the translation).