This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/1787

Jihad for peace conference at the (anti) American University 1998

March 26, 2006

MIM :The two quotes below appear as the quintessential 'double edged sword' which epitomises agenda of this conference :

Excerpts:

Muqtader Khan (Dept. of Government, Georgetown University) spoke for many present by stating that "...Peace is an instrumental value, a means rather than an end in itself; Values are more important than peace.."

"...One note was struck early on by the noted Sudanese scholar Dr. Abdullahi Ahmed an-Na'im (School of Law, Emory University, Atlanta): "Let us take our responsibility as Muslims and stop hiding behind an 'ideal' Islam; Let us stop lamenting, and look for the concrete logistics and mechanics for peace; Let us stop exalting an ideal, and search for an underlying culture of diversity and tolerance!" He later stressed the global context of the legitimacy of Force: "By legitimizing violence as an Islamic imperative, we lessen the possibility of collective action by Muslim states; when we fail to act, that's when we invite others to act on our behalf..."

"We must ask specific questions concerning the use of force; is violence more particular to the Islamic situation than to other human areas?"

Later in the Third Sitting, Ambassador Sulaiman offered five points of consensus forming an Islamic perspective on Peace and nonviolence: 1) Peace is universally desirable and essential for development; 2) Islam is essentially peaceful; 3) Islam distinguishes between legitimate & illegitimate use of force; 4) the Islamic conception of Peace is holistic: within the family " community " globally & environmentally.; 5) Islam does distinguish between 'sacred-struggle' (jihad) as a life long struggle with peaceable means, and warfare (qital) to stop aggression, defend rights, and end unlawful disorders.

He pointed to the need to "define the Islamic parameters on the use of Force," asking "What safeguards exist in Islam to prevent the eruption of violence?" This question was treated throughout all three sessions by a number of the participants from their own perspective and experience.

"...Perhaps the most crucial idea raised was the role - rather the lack of a role - to be played by the Ummah as a Trans-national reality which may provide a bridging function from what 'Is' to what 'Ought' to be. .."

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http://www.american.edu/academic.depts/acainst/cgp/conf.html

The American University's Center for Global Peace and Nonviolence International hosted a symposium entitled ISLAM AND PEACE IN THE 15TH/21ST CENTURY on February 6-7th, 1998, held on the campus of the American University. The twenty-five participants represented the wide variety of Islamic thinking and contemporary trends from different corners of the Muslim world, including Europe and North America. This diverse group shared in a high level of discussion over the course of the two-day conference.

It is necessary to understand the context in which this meeting was held. An important feature within contemporary Islamic societies undergoing profound economic and social changes is the competition among differing groups over who possesses the 'authority' to speak for Islam.

Changing demographic, educational, and communication conditions have led to the fragmentation of Islamic 'authority' among contesting sections within Muslim societies - the ulama or religious scholars, the State, and radical activists (the Islamists). The past several decades have witnessed the emergence of new religious intellectuals speaking to the ills of Muslim societies with fresh voices. This Symposium succeeded in bringing together Muslims from differing intellectual trends and ideological commitments, to share in the effort of clarifying and comprehending essential issues connected to peaceful change in Islamic societies.

The primary questions the participants were asked to address were:

"How can Muslims express intensified religious identity and renewed commitment to social and political activism for Peace Building, without violence or dissension? What may Islam contribute to facilitate growing efforts at Peace, both within Muslim societies and globally?" The discussions were structured around three two-hour sessions of open exchange and debate, initiated by several 'working papers' distributed to all participants beforehand. This was not a formal academic conference; rather there was an informed exchange of views and a mutual search for understanding the challenges facing Islam.

The Keynote address "What is Peace? The Islamic Viewpoint" was delivered by Seyyid Hossein Nasr, the eminent University Professor of Islamic Studies at The George Washington University. Professor Nasr set the tone for discussion with his image of four concentric circles comprising Islamic peace: 1) the origin of all Peace is being at peace with oneself through surrender to God; 2) then to make peace within our different selves; 3) to make peace with our immediate community - family, kinfolk, neighborhood ...; and 4) to be at peace with our wider community, with all Muslims, with our natural environment and the rest of God's creation. "God will never allow humanity to live in a peaceful forgetfulness of God," Professor Nasr reminded us, for ultimately "Peace is the remembrance of God." With exquisite pieces of classical Islamic music (Turkish 'Ud, & Persian Tar) inducing an inner sensation of peace, and against the backdrop of master artworks of Islamic calligraphy by Ustadh Mohamed Zakariya & Agha A. H. Tabnak, an aura of dignity and beauty was maintained throughout.

The First Sitting was devoted to examining inherent strengths and supports for Peace and peaceful social & political change 'built into' Muslim societies, which offer paths for overcoming violence and building peace. Maulana Wahiduddin Khan (President, The Islamic Centre, New Delhi) presented his views on "Nonviolence and Islam," affirming that "peace does not intend to establish justice, it only opens the way to struggle for justice; ... peace is the outcome of 'long-suffering' (sabr), not of justice."

Several persons objected seriously to his devaluation of the role of justice in relation to peace. Ambassador Sadek J. Sulaiman (former Omani ambassador to Iran & the U.S.) raised the question of the distinction between violence and the use of Force sanctioned in Islam. "We must ask specific questions concerning the use of force; is violence more particular to the Islamic situation than to other human areas?" Later in the Third Sitting, Ambassador Sulaiman offered five points of consensus forming an Islamic perspective on Peace and nonviolence:

1) Peace is universally desirable and essential for development; 2) Islam is essentially peaceful; 3) Islam distinguishes between legitimate & illegitimate use of force; 4) the Islamic conception of Peace is holistic: within the family " community " globally & environmentally.; 5) Islam does distinguish between 'sacred-struggle' (jihad) as a life long struggle with peaceable means, and warfare (qital) to stop aggression, defend rights, and end unlawful disorders. He pointed to the need to "define the Islamic parameters on the use of Force," asking "What safeguards exist in Islam to prevent the eruption of violence?" This question was treated throughout all three sessions by a number of the participants from their own perspective and experience.

The independent thinker & author Ustadh Jawdat Sa'id (Golan, Syrian Arab Republic) gave an overview of his vision for 'paths of social order' (sunan al-mujtama'),), based on his written works over the past thirty-five years treating Islam and violence. "Democracy cannot exist in a violent society, and 'political maturity' (rushd) cannot be achieved by coercion," Ustadh Jawdat affirmed, calling upon Muslims to heed the lessons of history and accept responsibility.

Many persons echoed this theme: Dr. Laith Kubba (International Forum for Islamic Dialogue, London) stated that Muslims need to look at the causes of violence in their society;

Dr. Azizah al-Hibri (School of Law, University of Richmond) condemned the lack of resistance of injustice among Muslims, both historically and in the present;

Professor Mahmoud Ayoub (Islamic Studies, Temple University, Philadelphia) stressed that "Islam is a religion of society, ... and a religion of balance," and that Muslims are stopped from participation in their world.

Professor Su'ad al-Hakim (Islamic Philosophy, Lebanese University, Beirut) made the point that in Islam every member of society is responsible for every other member, and in this may lie the solution to the problem of violence. She underlined the problems of relationships: "repairing relationships is more difficult than creating new relationships;" and emphasized the model of the Qur'an for "unity of discourse" and the pattern of the Prophet as the human ideal.

Professor al-Hakim outlined the path for building an Islamic civil society open to pluralism and harmony: "the familial social unit as the building block of human communal and individual peaceful relations, is capable of Peace Building."

The Guest of Honor, Sayyida Rabab Sadr Charafeddine (Director, Imam Al Sadr Foundation, Beirut & Tyre), was prevented from attending due to illness; her keynote address was delivered in Arabic, then in English by her son Raed Charafeddine (Byblos Bank & The Lebanese American University). The importance of education, charitable works, exhorting to good and warning from reprehensible deeds was stressed, as well as lessons from the lives of Imam 'Ali (cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet), and the martyred Lebanese Imam Musa al-Sadr.

Both Sayyida Rabab Sadr and Seyyid Hossein Nasr are direct descendants of the Prophet Muhammad.

The Second Sitting dealt with removing obstacles to peace in the reassertion of religious identity among Muslims; and the Third Sitting dwelt upon identifying paths of change within the renewal of Islamic religious identity and values in meeting the various human needs for the coming period. In between these two sessions came a series of Country Reports or "current realities" where the prime questions of the Symposium were taken up in local contexts:

Sakena Yacoobi (Afghan Institute of Education) reported on her remarkable educational work in Peshawar; Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai (Kashmiri American Council) on the Muslim community in Indian controlled Kashmir;

Dr. Mahnaz Afkhami (Sisterhood is Global Institute & Foundation for Iranian Studies) offered an optimistic picture of Iranian society; Dr. Muhammed Abu-Nimer (SIS, The American University) gave an overview of Palestinian society

; Dr. Michael Salla (SIS, The American University) on Kosovo as one model for Muslim nonviolent action;

and Dr. Mary-Jane Deeb (The Middle East Institute & The American University) presented an update on Algeria. Closing every session were questions posed by invited guests and observers, including officials from the Egyptian, Indonesian, and Saudi Arabian embassies, international peace organizations, media publications, and interested academics.

Several themes were evoked during the course of discussion, which rarely descended from an elevated level of gravity and informed intelligence. One note was struck early on by the noted Sudanese scholar Dr. Abdullahi Ahmed an-Na'im (School of Law, Emory University, Atlanta): "Let us take our responsibility as Muslims and stop hiding behind an 'ideal' Islam; Let us stop lamenting, and look for the concrete logistics and mechanics for peace; Let us stop exalting an ideal, and search for an underlying culture of diversity and tolerance!" He later stressed the global context of the legitimacy of Force: "By legitimizing violence as an Islamic imperative, we lessen the possibility of collective action by Muslim states; when we fail to act, that's when we invite others to act on our behalf."

Muqtader Khan (Dept. of Government, Georgetown University) spoke for many present by stating that "Peace is an instrumental value, a means rather than an end in itself; Values are more important than peace."

Laith Kubba reiterated that Muslims must tackle the problem of violence as a practical issue, not solely as a moral - religious issue, and urged them to "adapt your culture in order to make it function!"

Dr. Muhammad Kamal Hasan (Deputy Director for Academic Affairs, International Islamic University, Kuala Lumpur) noted the trend in S.E. Asian nations toward nonviolence in resolving disputes during the last decade, and pointed to Muslim minority countries such as Thailand & Malaysia where Muslims have lived with pluralism, power-sharing, and wealth-sharing with non-Muslims - as a possible model for the rest of Islam.

Dr. Sohail Hashmi (International Relations, Mt. Holyoke College, MA) made a significant contribution by summarizing a paper of Haji Abdurrahman Wahid (Chairman, Nahdatul Ulama, Jakarta; unable to attend from illness) treating the key notion of 'Community' or Ummah as a universal community of humans engaged in a moral mission - "Islamic movements are failing to realize what the Ummah concept means, by imitating what the 'nation-states' employed as the techniques for power; Muslims have abrogated their responsibility to act for the Ummah ." Sohail Hashmi also summarized his own paper on "Intervention," arguing cogently that there exists an obligation upon the Muslim community to intervene for reconciliation between two groups of Muslims in conflict.

Professor Ayoub stated his view that Muslim states should not ally with non-Muslim states against other Muslim states.

Ambassador Mokhtar Lamani (Permanent Observer at the U.N., Organization of the Islamic Conference) confirmed many aspects of Dr. Hashmi's argument, while pointing out obstacles to inter-state cooperation in the Muslim world.

Several persons underlined the need for more regional cooperation among Muslim states in the form of inter-Islamic trade, self-reliance on one's own resources, and putting an end to waste in the purchase of armaments.

The importance of education, and of adopting community work which empowers people was also mentioned.

In his concluding remarks, Mubarak Awad offered an exemplary account of direct nonviolent action by Palestinian villagers boldly removing Israeli fences and fearlessly facing consequences. "We must have the courage to act on our convictions," Awad insisted.

Karim Crow drew together some major themes by repeating Abdullahi an-Na'im's call to "Stop lamenting, Stop Exalting!" so that Muslims may take responsibility for their current condition; and the need to deal concretely with the question of specific limitations on the use of Force in Islamic terms - first raised cogently by Ambassador Sulaiman.

The lessons of history are both a burden and a treasure, as Jawdat Sa'id emphasized, and Muslims have not advanced far on the road of self-scrutiny and shouldering their responsibility. They must break the Idols of 'power', 'nationalism', and of claiming 'victim' status. Perhaps the most crucial idea raised was the role - rather the lack of a role - to be played by the Ummah as a Trans-national reality which may provide a bridging function from what 'Is' to what 'Ought' to be.

Abdarrahman Wahid's stress on the central ethical notion of the Muslim 'Community'?" eloquently restated by Sohail Hashmi - opens the door to the task of shouldering responsibility, and helping create a space for the humane, cooperative, non-coercive pursuit of common interests of Muslims everywhere.

This requires a form of deliberative association transcending parochial hatreds, identity politics, or the pinning of blame and exacting revenge. By giving life and voice to the 'Community', Muslims may become empowered more effectively than through states or governments. In this way they may begin to meet the social and political demands of responsibility for civil liberties, social and economic justice, consciously creating a common purpose, and the collective human order under the guidance of law. These goals are in harmony with essential Islamic Values ideally embodied in the Ummah. Karim Crow asked all those present to work together for establishing a Transnational Muslim association or Islamic Peace Forum.

This will be a global network of Muslim individuals, groups, and organizations supporting a variety of activities aiming to revivify authentic Islamic religious and cultural resources, and to employing Islamic Values in peaceful paths of social change. It would be non-political, independent, and seek material and spiritual support from Muslims and Islamic organizations.

A short 'highlight' Video of this Symposium will be distributed suggesting the level and content of discussion. NI shall publish the edited proceedings of the Symposium, including the texts of seven 'working papers,' in our series 'Islam & Peace.' The first monograph in this series is due to appear in Fall 1998, entitled Nonviolence In Islam " the results of a one-day workshop held on February 14, 1997.

To learn more about the project 'Islam and Peace' and the Islamic Peace Forum, contact: Dr. Karim Crow, Nonviolence International, 4545 42nd St. NW, Suite #209 Washington DC 20016. (202- 244-0951 Fax - 244-6396. : nonviolence@igc.apc.org

This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/1787