The Religious Changes That Helped Bring about the New Era of Israeli-Arab Diplomatic Cooperation

April 5 2022

Last week, the senior diplomats of Morocco, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and the U.S. gathered in the Sde Boker kibbutz in the Negev—where David Ben-Gurion spent his final years—to discuss regional cooperation. Aryeh Tepper examines how this summit, which would have been unimaginable a decade ago, results not only from diplomatic and strategic shifts but also from theological ones:

A serious struggle is being waged by Islamic scholars from Morocco to the Gulf to cultivate and to advance a tolerant form of Islam that respects non-Muslims and that recognizes minority rights based upon Islamic principles. The efforts of Islamic scholars must of course be seen within larger political contexts. In the Middle East, religion and politics are rarely separable. Additionally, even if one identifies with these scholars’ aims, it’s possible to wonder about the effectiveness of scholarly-religious pronouncements and documents, in general.

But, . . . if you had been following the various forms of Islamic reform and their interaction with global Jewish communities over the past few years, meetings often spear-headed by the American Sephardi Federation, then you weren’t terribly surprised when the kingdom of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates established, and the kingdom of Morocco restored and upgraded, diplomatic relations with the Jewish state in 2020.

In 2013 and 2014, Morocco and the UAE were already working to change the Islamic discourse in the Muslim world. And in Marrakesh, in 2016, over 300 Muslim scholars, activists, and politicians came together to articulate a tolerant vision of Islam that can function as a constructive, humane force in a modern state. The result, the “Marrakesh Declaration,” is grounded in the belief that tolerance is deeply rooted in the Muslim past.

It’s clear on which side the Jewish people stands in this battle. It was on display in Sde Boker.

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Read more at Sephardi Ideas Monthly

More about: Abraham Accords, Israel diplomacy, Moderate Islam, Morocco

 

Salman Rushdie and the Western Apologists for Those Who Wish Him Dead

Aug. 17 2022

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued a fatwa (religious ruling) in 1989 calling for believers to murder the novelist Salman Rushdie due to the content of his novel, The Satanic Verses. Over the years, two of the book’s translators have been stabbed—one fatally—and numerous others have been injured or killed in attempts to follow the ayatollah’s writ. Last week, an American Shiite Muslim came closer than his many predecessors to killing Rushdie, stabbing him multiple times and leaving him in critical condition. Graeme Wood comments on those intellectuals in the West who have exuded sympathy for the stabbers:

In 1989, the reaction to the fatwa was split three ways: some supported it; some opposed it; and some opposed it, to be sure, but still wanted everyone to know how bad Rushdie and his novel were. This last faction, Team To Be Sure, took the West to task for elevating this troublesome man and his insulting book, whose devilry could have been averted had others been more attuned to the sensibilities of the offended.

The fumes are still rising off of this last group. The former president Jimmy Carter was, at the time of the original fatwa, the most prominent American to suggest that the crime of murder should be balanced against Rushdie’s crime of blasphemy. The ayatollah’s death sentence “caused writers and public officials in Western nations to become almost exclusively preoccupied with the author’s rights,” Carter wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. Well, yes. Carter did not only say that many Muslims were offended and wished violence on Rushdie; that was simply a matter of fact, reported frequently in the news pages. He took to the op-ed page to add his view that these fanatics had a point. “While Rushdie’s First Amendment freedoms are important,” he wrote, “we have tended to promote him and his book with little acknowledgment that it is a direct insult to those millions of Moslems whose sacred beliefs have been violated.” Never mind that millions of Muslims take no offense at all, and are insulted by the implication that they should.

Over the past two decades, our culture has been Carterized. We have conceded moral authority to howling mobs, and the louder the howls, the more we have agreed that the howls were worth heeding. The novelist Hanif Kureishi has said that “nobody would have the [courage]” to write The Satanic Verses today. More precisely, nobody would publish it, because sensitivity readers would notice the theological delicacy of the book’s title and plot. The ayatollahs have trained them well, and social-media disasters of recent years have reinforced the lesson: don’t publish books that get you criticized, either by semiliterate fanatics on the other side of the world or by semiliterate fanatics on this one.

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Read more at Atlantic

More about: Ayatollah Khomeini, Freedom of Speech, Iran, Islamism, Jimmy Carter