Monday, October 16, 2006

Opinion: Islam and the West: The way forward

By Nihad Awad

(Note: This article was originally published September 23, 2003. To see it in its original context click here.)

The quest for world peace is a shared responsibility. No one can deny the fact that official relations between Western countries and the Muslim world have reached a heightened pitch.

It is not a "clash of civilizations" but reluctance on the part of the majority - on both sides - to be involved in honest discourse.

The result of this reluctance leaves the outcome of the relationship to the whims of a few; principally, those who desire to promote a "clash of civilizations".

'White elephant'

It is in the best interests of Western countries to recognize that there are unresolved problems in the Muslim world. Both East and West must actively participate in the resolution of these issues.

The major obstacles to this resolution include the lack of freedoms and independence in the Muslim world and the inability of Western powers to acknowledge and reform certain unjust foreign policies.

These obstacles manifest themselves most vividly in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which have become the proverbial elephant in the room that everyone tries to ignore.

Failures on both sides have allowed fringe elements in the East to manipulate and exploit the forgotten elephant.

After the tragic attacks of 9/11, the world's remaining superpower moved into action in an attempt to deal with the elephant's shadow, but not the elephant itself.

Reform in Islam

When we now cast our critical eye eastward, there are those in the Muslim world who have not come far enough in condemning some of their brethren who illegitimately use their faith to attack innocents.

Courage is needed in the Muslim world to stand up and declare that acts of political violence are completely antithetical to the teachings of Islam.

Such a stance is not a "reform" in Islam; it actually comes directly from the heart of the Koran.

The idea of mutual respect towards humanity is not a product of modern-day liberalism - it is a clear text from the Koran itself.

The Koran tells us that: "O mankind! We created you from a single pair of a male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other and not that you may despise each other." (49:13)

In sum, both the Western powers and the Muslim world have the obligation of addressing their own shortcomings.

America, my country, clearly sets the international agenda and must compel those within its sphere of influence to consistently adhere to basic human rights principles.

A brighter future?

As Americans, we must urge our country to act in our own self-interest and not succumb to the influence of special interest groups who negatively influence an otherwise even-handed approach to policymaking.

For the sake of humanity, we cannot surrender our destiny to those leaders and individuals who see only darkness ahead - those who see heroism only in the use of force; not in the power of reconciliation.

Only when we venture on the path towards cooperation and responsibility will we be able to offer ourselves and our posterity a brighter future.


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