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The Saudi Religious Scholar Who Is Trying to Fix Islam’s Anti-Semitism Problem

March 1 2018

Since his appointment as head of the Muslim World League in 2016, Muhammad al-Issa has taken the organization—which has historically been used by the Saudi monarchy to spread fundamentalist, intolerant, and often anti-Semitic teachings around the globe—in a decidedly anti-Islamist direction. He has, in recent months, also been trying to offer a new attitude toward Jews. Having interviewed Issa, Ben Cohen writes:

[I]t is plain to see why, at this particular juncture, [Issa] is an asset to a Saudi government eager to convince the West that, finally, it stands resolute against both Sunni and Shiite variants of Islamism and is determined to establish Islam as a religion of peace and coexistence. Still, to reduce Issa’s own message to a strictly political calculation would be a grave mistake, if only because its theological content needs to be heard irrespective of the political machinations in Gulf capitals. . . .

Throughout our discussion, Issa was adamant that Muhammad’s faith was predicated on an appreciation for a divine order in which differences among religions and nations are a cause for peace, rather than conflict—the diametrical opposite of the vengeful teachings of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist organizations. . . . Moreover, Issa stressed that—in contrast to the long-standing Christian depiction of the Jews as eternally responsible for the death of Jesus—Islam did not approach Judaism from the vantage point of “original sin.” . . . A Muslim, then, faces no challenge to his faith when it comes to “respecting the Jewish religion and the right of the Jews to live in dignity.”

When that “dignity” includes an independent, sovereign state that is yet to exchange ambassadors with Saudi Arabia after 70 years of existence, what then? Again and again, Issa emphasized the political neutrality of the Muslim World League, and the need for a strict separation between religious faith and political orientation. At the same time, he gave no succor to historic Arab ambitions for Israel’s elimination. Peace begins, Issa said, by recognizing that all the nations of the region will remain exactly where they are.

Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Anti-Semitism, Islam, Islamism, Moderate Islam, Muslim-Jewish relations, Religion & Holidays, Saudi Arabia

The Future of a Free Iran May Lie with a Restoration of the Shah

June 25 2018

Examining the recent waves of protest and political unrest in the Islamic Republic—from women shunning the hijab to truckers going out on strike—Sohrab Ahmari considers what would happen in the event of an actual collapse of the regime. Through an analysis of Iranian history, he concludes that the country would best be served by placing Reza Pahlavi, the son and heir of its last shah, at the head of a constitutional monarchy:

The end of Islamist rule in Iran would be a world-historical event and an unalloyed good for the country and its neighbors, marking a return to normalcy four decades after the Ayatollah Khomeini founded his regime. . . . But what exactly is that normalcy? . . .

First, Iranian political culture demands a living source of authority to embody the will of the nation and stand above a fractious and ethnically heterogenous society. Put another way, Iranians need a “shah” of some sort. They have never lived collectively without one, and their political imagination has always been directed toward a throne. The constitutionalist experiment of the early 20th century coexisted (badly) with monarchic authority, and the current Islamic Republic has a supreme leader—which is to say, a shah by another name. It is the height of utopianism to imagine that a 2,500-year-old tradition can be wiped away. The presence of a shah, [however], needn’t mean the absence of rule of law, deliberative politics, or any of the other elements of ordered liberty that the West cherishes in its own systems. . . .

Second, Iranian political culture demands a source of continuity with Persian history. The anxieties associated with modernity and centuries of historical discontinuity drove Iranians into the arms of Khomeini and his bearded minions, who promised a connection to Shiite tradition. Khomeinism turned out to be a bloody failure, but there is scant reason to imagine the thirst for continuity has been quenched. . . . Iranian nationalism . . . could be the answer, and, to judge by the nationalist tone of the current upheaval, it is the one the people have already hit upon.

When protestors chant “We Will Die to Get Iran Back,” “Not Gaza, Not Lebanon, My Life Only for Iran,” and “Let Syria Be, Do Something for Me,” they are expressing a positive vision of Iranian nationhood: no longer do they wish to pay the price for the regime’s Shiite hegemonic ambitions. Iranian blood should be spilled for Iran, not Gaza, which for most Iranians is little more than a geographical abstraction. It is precisely its nationalist dimension that makes the current revolt the most potent the mullahs have yet faced. Nationalism, after all, is a much stronger force and in Iran the longing for historical continuity runs much deeper than liberal-democratic aspiration. Westerners who wish to see a replay of Central and Eastern Europe in 1989 in today’s Iran will find the lessons of Iranian history hard and distasteful, but Iranians and their friends who wish to see past the Islamic Republic must pay heed.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Iran, Nationalism, Politics & Current Affairs, Shah