Review of Bishop Michael Nazir Ali’s Writings

· Christianity, Islam, Reviews
Authors

Conviction and Conflict: Islam, Christianity and World Order  by Bishop Michael Nazir Ali(First published 2006)

Review MBPLee 27 Sept. 2012
Bishop Michael Nazir Ali, a learned theologian, a person who has researched in depth into Islam and Hinduism, whose family background roots stem from Islam and Christianity, whose ethnicity and background allows him into insights into the different religious cultures that few other scholars are privileged to enjoy, has expressed some very insightful views. In addition to such and meaningful  background, Bishop Nazir Ali’s personal interest in wanting to find a solution to the impasse that exists between Islam and Christianity has led him to do some deep research into Islamic ideology, different schools of Islamic thought, Islamic literature, Islamic history, and Islamic traditions,  including the differences in interpretation of the different sects of Islam, like the different schools of thought of Sunni, Shi’ite, Sufi, Wahabbi, Deobandi, and other different Islamic causes like the Palestinian movement and the European Islamisation via the Euro-Arab Dialogue. The wide scope of his readings and his in-depth insights into the Islamic thought proves that Bishop Nazir Ali understands the Muslim psyche and ideologies better than most. This is why he is so highly regarded by both Muslims and Christians in his deliberations and writings. However, his studies and researches have not led him to a possible solutions from within the Islamic ideology, and the only possible peaceful solution that Bishop Nazir Ali can possibly pursue is dialogue. Bishop Nazir Ali’s hopes and aims are to influence and moderate Islam through dialogue.

So the only peaceful option open to Bishop Nazir Ali is dialogue. Presumably it was the only avenue left to discuss, exchange views, to debate and perhaps to negotiate some kind of compromise that would be amenable to all concerned. But understanding the ideology and scriptures of Islam, and the examples of history, I am surprised that Bishop Nazir Ali places much hope for a negotiable compromise acceptable to both Islam as well as the Christian culture.

(1) Because Muslim consider the Holy Qur’an as being the literal Word of Allah, no earthly being has the authority to negotiate on behalf of Allah. Islam/Muslims have been rigid on this aspect for the past 1400 years and I very much doubt that Islam would be willing to compromise today.

(2) The probability for Bishop Nazir Ali to be able to find the “key” to open “the ‘closing the gate of  ijtihad’ (in Arabic: ‘insidid bab al- ijtihad’), would be in itself miraculous.” Because the fundamental ideologies of Islam were frozen since around 900 AD by, “The closing the Gate of Ijtihad” and accepted by Muslims worldwide ever since.

(3) Besides these are the underlying philosophies of Islam concerning the honouring of Agreements or Treaties as prescribed in their Holy Texts and any other expectations would be asking for the impossible:

Qur’an 9:3 “Allah and His Messenger dissolve obligations.”

Qur’an 66:2 “Allah has already sanctioned for you the dissolution of your vows.”

Qur’an 4:142 “Surely the hypocrites strive to deceive Allah. He shall retaliate by deceiving them.”

Bukhari:V7B67N427 “The Prophet said, ‘If I take an oath and later find something else better than that, then I do what is better and expiate my oath.'”

Bukhari:V4B52N268 “Allah’s Apostle said, ‘War is deceit.'”

All the above has been borne out by Muslim behaviour since the time of Muhammad:

Bishop Nazir Ali cited the comprehensive inclusiveness of the Treaty of Medina (622 AD) drawn up by Muhammad to show that it was possible to maintain peace within a multi-faith and multi-racial community such as existed in Medina.

Among the people in Medina, there was a small community (three tribes) of Jews with Arab communities constituting the majority of the population. Because of wars going on for several generations, the resources of the Arabs were depleted and their influence in Medina was dwindling. The Jews were traders and many of them used to lend money at exorbitant interest. The continuing wars boosted their economy and personal wealth.

The immediate result of the Prophet’s migration to Medina was peace and unity between the communities of Aws and Khazraj. The Prophet, motivated by the general welfare of citizens of Medina, decided to offer his services to the remaining communities including the Jews. He had already laid down the basis for relationship between the Emigrants from Mecca (known as Muhajirin) and Medinites (known as the Ansar, the helpers).

The Treaty between Muslims, non-Muslim Arabs and Jews of Medina was put in writing and ratified by all parties. It has been preserved by the historians. The document referred Muhammad (pbuh) as the Prophet and Messenger of God but it was understood that the Jews did not have to recognize him as such for their own religious reasons. The major parts of the document were:

“In the name of Allah(The One True God) the Compassionate, the Merciful. This is a document from Muhammad, the Prophet, governing the relation between the Believers from among the Qurayshites (i.e., Emigrants from Mecca) and Yathribites (i.e., the residents of Medina) and those who followed them and joined them and strived with them. They form one and the same community as against the rest of men.“No Believer shall oppose the client of another Believer. Whosoever is rebellious, or seeks to spread injustice, enmity or sedition among the Believers, the hand of every man shall be against him, even if he be a son of one of them. A Believer shall not kill a Believer in retaliation of an unbeliever, nor shall he help an unbeliever against a Believer.

“Whosoever among the Jews follows us shall have help and equality; they shall not be injured nor shall any enemy be aided against them…. No separate peace will be made when the Believers are fighting in the way of Allah…. The Believers shall avenge the blood of one another shed in the way of Allah ….Whosoever kills a Believer wrongfully shall be liable to retaliation; all the Believers shall be against him as one man and they are bound to take action against him.

“The Jews shall contribute (to the cost of war) with the Believers so long as they are at war with a common enemy. The Jews of Banu Najjar, Banu al-Harith, Banu Sa’idah, Banu Jusham, Banu al-Aws, Banu Tha’labah, Jafnah, and Banu al-Shutaybah enjoy the same rights and privileges as the Jews of Banu Aws.

“The Jews shall maintain their own religion and the Muslims theirs. Loyalty is a protection against treachery. The close friends of Jews are as themselves. None of them shall go out on a military expedition except with the permission of Muhammad, but he shall not be prevented from taking revenge for a wound.

“The Jews shall be responsible for their expenses and the Believers for theirs. Each, if attacked, shall come to the assistance of the other.

“The valley of Yathrib (Medina) shall be sacred and inviolable for all that join this Treaty. Strangers, under protection, shall be treated on the same ground as their protectors; but no stranger shall be taken under protection except with consent of his tribe….No woman shall be taken under protection without the consent of her family.

Whatever difference or dispute between the parties to this covenant remains unsolved shall be referred to Allah and to Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah. Allah is the Guarantor of the piety and goodness that is embodied in this covenant. Neither the Quraysh nor their allies shall be given any protection.

“The contracting parties are bound to help one another against any attack on Yathrib. If they are called to cease hostilities and to enter into peace, they shall be bound to do so in the interest of peace; and if they make a similar demand on Muslims it must be carried out except when the war is agianst their religion.

“Allah approves the truth and goodwill of this covenant. This treaty shall not protect the unjust or the criminal. Whoever goes out to fight as well as whoever stays at home shall be safe and secure in this city unless he has perpetrated an injustice or commited a crime…. Allah is the protector of the good and God-fearing people.”

The first written constitution of a State ever promulgated by a sovereign in human history emanated from the Prophet of Islam. It was enacted from the first year of Hijrah (622 CE). The treaty stipulated a city state in Medina, allowing wide autonomy to communities. Private justice was to be banished. The head of the State had the prerogative to decide who should participate in an expedition, the war and peace being indivisible. Social insurance was to be instituted. [1]

That was a beautiful reassuring, peace maintaining, confidence building treaty for any community and admirable piece of legislation, but…… was that the true intent of the treaty? Or was Muhammad buying time? I will add the sequence of events to illustrate the unreliability of Muhammad’s treaties:

(1) When he found it convenient, Muhammad first expelled the Banu Qaynuqa Jewish tribe from Medina.

(2) Next he expelled the Banu Nadir Jewish tribe from Medina.

(3) Finally in 627 AD, Muhammad massacred 900 Jews of the Banu Qurayza tribe and enslaved the remainder. [This was 5 years after Muhammad signed the Treaty of Medina, 622 AD when he changed Medina from Dar al Harb to Dar al Islam. And to suggest that this was not part of the planned treachery would be idiocy.]

[Muhammad reneged on his “Treaty of Medina” and betrayed his promises and destroyed the Jews of Medina, thus he made Medina a “Dar al Islam” having broken his own Treaty and eliminated all the Jews. Muhammad set the precedent for all Muslims to follow his example for the cause of Allah.

Qur’an 33:21 “You have in (Muhammad) the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern of conduct for any one to follow.”

So in the 7th century Muhammad set the example for treachery in his dealings with his enemies.] But here are a few more illustrations:

Euro-Arab Dialogue after WWII

Under Charles De Gaulle’s leadership, Europe wooed the Arabs into an “equal partnership union” in order to counter America’s pre-imminence in world politics. But to do so the European Union had to made concessions and appease the Arab sensitivities, their politics and Arab ideology at the expense of their own European cultural philosophies. Today, the tail wags the dog, the Europeans are dancing to the tune of the Arabs.

[The European Union is clearly under the direct and constant influence of the Arabs in so many of their policies that Europe is clearly being Islamised.

Without going into greater detail this Euro-Arab Dialogue illustrates the total failure of an equal outcome of any treaty with the Arabs. This Euro-Arab Dialogue has forced Europe to appease  the Arabs to the detriment of their own European citizen. It is an illustration that Islam will not compromise their religious and political ideals and any dialogue would mean that the other party will have to make the concessions. Allah does not make concessions.]

Another example of the intransigence of the Arab mentality, ruled by Islam is:

“PALESTINIAN POLITICS

The claim that a “peace process” exists and might actually result in a diplomatic solution assumes that the Palestinian leadership desires a negotiated two-state agreement that would permanently end the conflict. This assumption actually has no real basis in fact, demonstrated precisely by the events since the 1993 Oslo agreement and the 2000 breakdown in that process due to Yasir Arafat’s rejection of any frame for negotiation except a total capitulation to all Palestinian demands.

If one examines every article in the Palestinian media over that 20-year period, every textbook, every radio and television program, every mosque sermon, and every speech of leaders in Arabic directed at their own people, it is virtually impossible to find a single one that calls for conciliation, compromise, or even a long-term acceptance of Israel’s existence.

There is virtually not a single example of a statement accepting the idea of negotiating a permanent end of the conflict, granting Israel’s existence any legitimacy and indeed viewing it as anything other than temporary, or accepting–what one would expect from a nationalist movement–the resettlement of Palestinian refugees in the state of Palestine.

In all analyses of the “peace process,” there is hardly ever any examination of Palestinian politics: the nature of the leadership and the state of the debate. For example, if one looks at the Fatah Central Committee, there are virtually no moderates. Once one gets beyond Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and, albeit using that term very loosely, “President” Mahmoud Abbas, it is almost impossible to discover someone who could be called “moderate” at all.

Palestinians, thus, have no “peace party” but merely a choice between two problematic leaderships: one that refuses in practice to make peace; the other that outspokenly declares its rejection of peace. While the former is nationalist (Fatah) and the latter is (Islamist), the basic arguments they use are quite similar.

Here are the basic themes of current Palestinian thinking, none of which is even under significant attack in the internal debate:

  • Israel is completely unjust and can never be accepted. Total victory is necessary since any outcome that involves Israel’s continued existence is against Islam and the needs of the Arab nation.
  • Israel is an impossibility since Jews are not a real nation. Therefore, it must eventually collapse.
  • Total victory is possible and indeed inevitable. Eventually, proper rule, mobilization, and population growth will allow Arabs/Muslims to wipe out Israel. Consequently, a compromise that locks them into a permanent peace and reduces their ability to stage a “second round” to eliminate Israel is treasonous. Even if the current generation cannot win, it has no right to take away the chance of future generations to do so.
  • Consequently, compromise with Israel is treason. Anyone who gives up an inch of Palestinian land is a traitor. Anyone who shows empathy for Israel is a traitor. Anyone who ties the hands of Palestinians in seeking future total victory is a traitor.

These are overwhelmingly dominant concepts in Palestinian politics, and virtually not a single person will speak against them. The public will not accept compromise or concessions, because it has been conditioned by years of political and religious indoctrination. Contrary to Western expectations, a politician cannot launch a “pragmatic” policy, as would happen in other polities, saying: “Let’s end the suffering, make peace, get a state, and raise living standards.”

Consequently, to advocate speedy negotiations, a flexible bargaining position, compromises, and a true two-state solution along with conciliation between the two nation-states is political suicide due to the beliefs of Palestinian leaders, public opinion, the willingness of rivals to outbid moderates, and the threat of destruction to one’s political career or even death.

The above points discourage any Palestinian leader from wanting to make peace with Israel or feeling that any conceivable compromise peace is possible to implement. Indeed, it makes more logical a PA/Fatah preference for such things as refusing to negotiate, slowing negotiations, raising more preconditions, and seeking unilateral independence through the UN and other international agencies.

One can add to all that the extremely high likelihood that any negotiated solution, even if it were to be implemented against all of these odds, would quickly break down in the face of interference by Islamist forces; other regional countries; public opinion; political rivalry; a revolution or coup sooner or later; and the inevitability of cross-border terrorism against Israel, which a Palestinian government would be unable and/or unwilling to curb.

THE AGE OF ISLAMISM

In addition to all of these factors, is the reality that one has now entered an era in which hardline revolutionary Islamism has become the hegemonic ideology in the region. As a result, any peace process faces three other obstacles:

  • The Palestinian Authority and Fatah now confront a situation even more antagonistic to negotiation or peace with Israel. To go in that direction would lead to a confrontation with a stronger Hamas rival that now enjoys considerable support from Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and Egypt. For its part, Fatah does not have a single regional ally.
  • A weakened United States either will not or cannot put pressure on the PA to move toward peace with Israel. Even if the PA wanted to follow U.S. preferences, Washington can offer it little or no protection for doing so.
  • Hamas is much stronger, therefore constituting a far more formidable rival or a more attractive ally. By choosing the path of alliance with Hamas–no matter how shaky or haunted by mistrust that relationship is–Fatah and the PA have chosen to reject any peace process with Israel.

The Islamist factor places more nails in an already hyper-sealed peace-process coffin.

THE WISHFUL THINKING FACTOR AND THE “WE MUST DO SOMETHING” COMPLEX

What serious responses are made to the above analysis? In general, there is none at all. The points made in this article are almost always ignored. The only evidence to the contrary are carefully selected quotes in English by PA leaders, usually exclusively from the “president” and prime minister aimed at Western audiences.

The other part of the response is based on abstract “logic.” It is in the objective interest of the Palestinians to seek a two-state solution and their own state as fast as possible. Therefore, this must be what they are doing. The actual facts and specific behavior involved is left out of the equation.

A third approach is to blame Israel. If only Israel had a different government or offered more, it is claimed, peace could be quickly achieved. This position requires ignoring the experience to the contrary since the beginning of the peace process with the 1993 Israel-PLO agreement. For example, the so-called increase in settlements is said to be at fault. Yet the simple fact is that if an agreement were reached, the settlements would quickly disappear from the territory of Palestine and there would be no more “occupation.’

The two final fallbacks, which ignore the actual situation in the Middle East altogether, are the wishful thinking factor and the “we must do something” complex. Since peace is definitely a good thing and a preferable situation, anyone who points out the reasons peace is not going to be achieved in the foreseeable future is said to be against peace. Yet successful policy, including policy on behalf of any good cause, has never benefitted from distorting the facts. Indeed, ignoring realities–in this case that the Palestinian leadership is neither interested nor capable of delivering a two-state negotiated solution–makes things worse for everyone concerned and actually increases risks, suffering, and violence, as well as the likelihood of defeat and failure.

As for the idea that “something” must be done, the question is always which policies or issues should be given priority and how governments should use resources. There are only so many hours in a day and only so much cash and political capital to be deployed. By devoting attention to an inevitably failed peace process, diplomats and policymakers detract attention from a number of other more urgent issues where they could have an effect.

In the 1990s, there was a reasonable belief that it would be possible to end the Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts through a negotiated effort called the peace process. It should now be clear that these issues have become proportionately less important and that the notion of a successful peace process is no longer applicable. Whether there was ever a window of opportunity that might have succeeded can be the subject of debate by historians. That there is no such window of opportunity now or in the foreseeable future should be obvious to policymakers.” [2]

[The Palestinian intransigence at the negotiating table is a modern example that Arabs cannot compromise their Islamic vision of Totalitarianism. Both sides of this negotiation understand this full well.

The two examples mentioned above show the futility of placing any hope in a satisfactory outcome in any dialogue with Islamic leaders on a compromise. The only compromise/negotiated agreements acceptable to Islam is a total subjugation of all peoples to Allah and to the Islamic rule.]

Triple Jeopardy for the West: Aggressive Secularism, Radical Islamism and Multiculturalism (Paperback) Bishop Michael Nazir Ali: TRIPLE JEOPARDY (Pub 13.09.12) 17.09.12

I consider Bishop Ali as one of a few men in this world who has acquired a true grasp of Christianity (Anglicanism), Hinduism, and Islam and appreciate the differences in the cultures that each of these philosophies have produced. Hence I was interested in his latest book, mentioned above. He has not only lived in the environments mentioned but he has also studied in great depths the ideologies that have and will make a difference to all our lives in the future. Yet, I feel that, because of his ecclesiastical training, he still has the tendency to couch much of his controversial views with ecclesiastical political correctness, but on the other hand is as forthright as any clergy or politician I have ever heard in public in recent years. Too may are either too ignorant of the topic to dare to utter an opinion or are too politically correct in order to ensure their career.

Bishop Ali has contributed much to the understanding of the current dilemma Europe faces today and has in many ways has pointed to the solution in this book. It has become evident that the problem that faces the West is, “The retreat of the Judeo-Christian culture, and the aggressive resurgence of the alien Islamic culture that threatens to overwhelm it.” He refers to the emergence of “aggressive secularism” accompanied with the aggressive indoctrination of “multiculturalism” and active and unrestricted emergence of “radical Islam.” [Yet all this began after WWII with the formation of the European Union and their determination to unite with the Arab nations in order to establish their place in the world order again. This was because the Euro-Arab Dialogue and its subsequent effects, i.e., “political correctness,” multiculturalism and “blatant appeasement” resulted. Thus the resurgence of Islam in Europe was brought on by the political, economic, and demographic planning and concurrence of the European Union in order to counter the pre-eminence of America dominance in world politics.]

But no one in the EU was aware of, or understood, the Islamic psyche of the Arabs who interpreted the withdrawal of opposition to religious, political, military or intellectual engagement as a willing capitulation of Western values to that of Islamic values, and so were emboldened to make greater demands as time passed. And that is exactly what has happened in Europe.

Bishop Ali has taken great pains to discuss Islamic ideology and their concept of Jihad and continues to stress that we should take cognisance of the differences between the meanings of “Muslims,” “Islam,” and “Islamism.” [Also the confusion of the definition of a Muslim, a cultural Muslim and a renegade Muslim.] That we should recognise that there is considerable overlap of all these definitions. “A devout and pietistic Muslim can be influenced by extremist ideology, and Islamism certainly uses much in the fundamentals of Islam to argue its case. [There is also much confusion in differentiating of what some consider “extremist Islam” from what most Muslims would consider, “Quranic Islam.”]

Despite Bishop Ali’s intimate and academic knowledge of Islam he deeply believes in the possibility of creating a successful “interfaith dialogue” with Islam and other faiths. This is exactly the same approach taken by the members if the European Union that they would be able to influence the Arabic (Islamic) views. But no one in Islam has the authority to alter a single word of Allah as found in the Quran thus compromise in Islam is an impossibility. The only compromise that is possible is for the non-Islamic parties to capitulate to Islam just as has happened in Europe. Bishop Ali also suggested that changes could be affected by changes in the reform of Islamic education in particular in the Madrassas. This certainly would make a change for future generations but Madrassas have used the same format since they were formed centuries ago, and to alter that format is to ask Islam to alter its basis of Islam or the teachings of the Qur’an. Islam is unfortunately inflexible by the very nature of its construct.

However I fully agree with Bishop Ali that the only course for the salvation of the Western culture is for the revival and proper teaching of the Christian faith in all educational institutions so that we know our roots and our values and what is dear to us, our culture. We have to be strong in ourselves and also to be taught of what Islam is about and their ideology so that we know what we are countering. At the moment, the West have lost their identity and their respect for their own cultural roots and are lost. We need leadership that can renew our souls and belief values and want to defend what we value, our Judeo-Christian roots.

Reference:

[1] Treaty of Medina: http://www.cyberistan.org/islamic/treaty22.html

[2] Palestinian Intransigence: http://www.gloria-center.org/2012/07/is-the-peace-process-dead/

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