Will Pres. Duterte’s War against ASG Backfire…?

Will Duterte’s offensive against Islamist militants in the Philippines backfire?
 Marines soldiers patrol a community in Zamboanga City. One year after a deadly Muslim rebel siege on the city, the area remains insecure. Jason Gutierrez/IRIN
By David Doyle


At dusk, the blue-grey peaks of Basilan look serene, rising out of the tranquil sea that separates them from the Philippine city of Zamboanga on the southernmost tip of the large main island of Mindanao.

But the peaceful scene is a mirage. In reality, Basilan and the remote islands of Sulu, further south but still part of the Mindanao group, are home to Abu Sayyaf. 

 The Islamist militant group has been active since 1991 and had early ties to al-Qaeda. More recently, Abu Sayyaf members have pledged allegiance to so-called Islamic State. But mostly, the group is feared for its beheadings and frequent kidnap for ransom operations, which occur mainly in the maritime junction between the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

 Rodrigo Duterte, the recently elected strongman president of the Philippines, has ordered the army to “destroy” Abu Sayyaf. During a 17 September speech to soldiers, he said the group is “hungry to establish a caliphate”. 

 The first three months of Duterte’s presidency have been characterised by a toxic mix of blood and bluster. In his latest gaffe, responding to criticisms of his war on drugs, which has seen more than 3,000 people killed by police and vigilantes, he likened himself to Hitler and said he’d be happy to “slaughter” three million drug addicts.

 Some of Duterte’s remarks about the ramped-up war against Abu Sayyaf have been similarly off-colour. In an angry outburst during a recent regional summit in Laos, Duterte warned Abu Sayyaf: “I will open your body – just pass me the vinegar and salt and I will eat you.” 

 Strong words have been followed by strong actions: 10,000 troops were deployed to Sulu and Basilan along with the country’s newest and biggest warship, the BRP Tarlac.

 But will the new offensive succeed in defeating Abu Sayyaf or might it actually help foster more militancy?

 Critics accuse the campaign, which has largely consisted of shelling Abu Sayyaf locations, of having limited impact on militants, who flee into the jungle, whilst displacing tens of thousands of civilians. 

David Doyle/IRIN

Basilan island looms in the distance from the seawall in Zamboanga

If the military continues to use such tactics, it could actually drive young men to join the group, said Sheikh Loderson Gustham, a religious leader from Sulu.

“Most of the people in the province work in either fishing or agriculture,” he said in an interview in Zamboanga. “People are not being allowed back onto their land, because military operations are there.

“It will even contribute to the violence, because if people are without jobs and Abu Sayyaf has its own money, they can just recruit,” said Gustham.

As of 19 September, the campaign against Abu Sayyaf had displaced 18,783 people on Basilan and 23,920 people on Sulu, according to the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Cycle of displacement 

The Philippines is an overwhelmingly Catholic country, but Muslims make up the majority population in some parts of Mindanao, which has been wracked by conflict since the late 1960s. The government is still battling communist insurgents, as well as an array of Islamist groups. It is all too common throughout Mindanao that civilians have to flee their homes. 

Three years ago, fighting broke out in Zamboanga between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and a splinter group of the Moro National Liberation Force rebel group: 100,000 people were displaced and several civilians killed. Thousands of civilians remain in camps like the Mampang Transitory Site on the outskirts of the city.

“We don’t want it to happen again. The conflict is there in Sulu, and we just want it to stay in Sulu,” said Alfonso Hassan, a 30-year-old pedicab driver who lives in Mampang. “People here are already in trauma.”

David Doyle/IRIN

The Mampang camp on the outskirts of Zamboanga for people displaced by 2013 fighting between government troops and Islamist rebels

The Mampang camp is run by a local NGO, Integrated Resource Development for Tri-People, which has partnered up with international NGOs including Action Against Hunger.

Kalma Isnain, executive director at IRDT, says the continual cycle of violence in Mindanao, and particularly on Sulu and Basilan, means recruitment by Abu Sayyaf has become normalised.

“The tension is already there and the children are the ones most affected,” she said. “These children, they have nothing to do with their lives, so they will join.”

Peace on the rocks 

The government is in the process of negotiating an end to the conflict with the MNLF, and is in similar discussions with another rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. But there appears to be little chance that peace will be negotiated with Abu Sayyaf. 

After the MNLF asked the government to include the group in the current talks, President Duterte responded unequivocally: “I will not, I will never.”

 “There will be no amnesty for so much killing,” he added, speaking to Marines on Tuesday.

 There may be little public support among residents of Mindanao for Abu Sayyaf, which is notorious for beheading prisoners and carrying out bombings like the 2004 SuperFerry 14 attack, which killed 116 people. But there is also a lot of distrust towards the military, especially in places like Basilan and Sulu.

 Zamboanga, Philippines – Black smoke from burning houses rises in the background as a military cargo plane bearing relief goods arrives in the besieged city of Zamboanga in Mindanao, where troops are locked in a battle with Muslim rebels opposed to peace 


Smoke from burning houses in Zamboanga rises behind a military aircraft delivering supplies during fighting between government troops and Islamist rebels in 2013

 Sheikh Gustham said some young people see the military operation as “Christian soldiers coming to Muslim lands – a kind of crusade”.

 That plays into a narrative that favours Islamist militant groups like Abu Sayyaf.

 Underdevelopment and widespread poverty in Mindanao may also be factors in radicalising youth.

(Source: IRIN News)

The Challenge of the Abu Sayyaf and Islamic Fundamentalism

The Challenge of Abu Sayyaf and Islamic Fundamentalism

The Abu Sayyaf Groups or ASG like any Islamic Extremist Groups are NOT accepted by mainstream Muslims. This fact alone and the many varying differences in the Islamic Movements preclude a single or monolithic fundamentalist belief.

Is there any possibility of understanding the militant and often violent Islamic Extremist groups when the leaders of these groups in the name of Islam are preaching fire and damnation against the government, Christianity, and the West? The names of Janjalani, Qaddafi, Angeles, Robot, Abu Sabaya, Marwan, Bassit, etc. are synonymous to violence, kidnappings and terrorism.

Since the early 1990s until their deaths, both Janjalani and Angeles and their successors in the Abu Sayyaf had been promoting the use of violence and acts of lawlessness, particularly kidnapping. People ask what kind of relationship these groups can foresee with Islam and other Islamic fronts in light of the lawlessness and criminality that the Abu Sayyaf is a prime example. The apprehension of extremist Islamic groups is widespread among Christians living in Southern Philippines and in other Muslim-dominated societies in the Middle East and in other parts of Asia and Africa.

This small publication is a sort of giving assistance to people to be able to wrestle with the many questions people entertain as they search for a comprehension of the terrible phenomenon as the Abu Sayyaf Groups. In this regard the cautionary advice may help orientate our perspective: “Contemporary people stereotype of Islamization reflect three tendencies which militate against understanding: sensationalism particularly in the mass media which oversimplifies complex realities; essentialism which tends to cast Islam as a monolithic religion and view all Muslims as the same; and extremism which regards all Muslims as fundamentalist with the implication that they are dogmatic, reactionary, and anti-modernist.”

An early example of prediction that Islamic fundamentalists are poised to take over the Muslim world is found in Militant Islam by the Indian-born British journalist Godfrey Jansen. Writing in the shadow of the Iranian revolution, he portrayed fundamentalism as the most potent force within the contemporary Muslim world, rooted in its Islamic past, successful in Iran, Sudan and Afghanistan and Pakistan, and “well placed to come to power in Algeria, Egypt and the Sudan in the near future, and in Indonesia in the not too distant future.”

Fundamentalism is often expressed as Islam’s ‘Wrath against the West’. Anger against the West – its imperial history, its monopoly of resources, its political manipulations ensuring that Muslims’ “half-made societies are doomed to remain half-made”–is Fundamentalism’s recurrent theme.

Fundamentalism is also often associated or identified with terrorism. Beginning with Khomeini’s revolution, Islamic Fundamentalism has become a sort of a sacred rage yes a sort of the Wrath of Militant Islam. The focus is on terrorism as a particular manifestation of anger. This portrayal of fundamentalism that is almost entirely in militant terms falls back on the cliché of fanaticism.

The reductionist interpretations of Islamic fundamentalism are misleading in that they adhere to a single account of fundamentalism that, upon closer analysis, is shown to be untenable as a total explanation. They address symptoms more than causes. Does this suggest that fundamentalism is more deeply rooted in the very nature of Islam as a historic religious experience?

With greater discrimination, however, we need caution to assess Islam as fundamentalist by nature. This is to disregard the wide variety of religious, social, and political manifestation of Islamic identity throughout history. It is, in fact, to play to the fundamentalists’ own methodology and rhetoric, which seek to impose a particular view of Islam upon Muslims as a whole. Muslim and non-Muslim alike need to rectify this violent image by honoring the rich diversity of Islam’s historic and contemporary experience.

The concept of fundamentals certainly exists in Islamic thought, and centrally so in the importance of the ‘usul (“roots,” or “foundations”) of religion. The roots of Islam lie in the Qur’an, the Hadith, and the Shari’a. The Qur’an is held to be the very Word of God (kalam Allah). The Hadith, embodying the sunna, or inspired example of the Prophet Muhammad, serves to interpret and amplify the meaning of God’s Word. Together, the Qur’an and Hadith constitute the sources of shari’s, which, by a process of juristic discernment (figh), provides ethical instruction and guidance for Muslim communities and individuals. Traditional Islamic theology gives first place to these three fundamentals of religion, distinguishing them from everything else, which is derivative and therefore classified as “branches” (furu’).

Of the several Arabic terms that designate renewal, one that has enjoyed wide currency through the past century is islah–a word that has no precise English equivalent but that conveys the idea of making righteous. It was used particularly by Muslims from the second half of the nineteenth century who wanted to restore the identity of Islamic society (at the time largely controlled by European empires) by returning to the precedent of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions (salaf). Known as the Salafiya movement, (17) it eschewed anachronistic historicism by advocating a renewed use of reason ‘aql) as the means of interpreting the fundamentals of religion over against centuries of imitative tradition (taqlid).

Generally considered to be the first “fundamentalist” movement in the Muslim world, the Muslim Brotherhood enables us to identify the phenomenon (1) as the social application of Islamic principles, (2) as a counter-ideology to the ruling elite, (3) with leaders emerging form outside the rank of religious professionals (‘ulama), and (4) as attractive to people who feel themselves alienated from both traditional Islamic authority and secular rulers.

Central to Social Transformation is the concept of jihad, the Arabic word for “striving,” in which it is the duty of all Muslims to engage. The Prophet Muhammad taught that jihad is engaged at four levels: in the heart, as the place of spiritual striving; by the tongue, as the means of preaching and teaching the message of Islam; by the hand, as the means of its social application; and finally by the sword, as the implement of its defense and confrontation against ungodly forces. This last meaning of militant struggle was exemplified in the Prophet Muhammad’s strategy against pagan forces of Mecca from his home base in Medina. Sayyid Qutb drew an analogy between this and the situation in Egypt under the cold war pressures of Soviet and American influences. He declared Egypt to be in a state of pagan ignorance; thus he justified the use of force to bring about change.

Analysts of the Iranian revolution question the degree to which it was purely Islamic in the sense of being motivated solely by religious factors. A potent variety of political and economic elements were involved. As the only major institution during the Pahlavi monarchy that successfully resisted state control, it was the clergy, under Khomeini’s uncompromising leadership, who were able to articulate popular grievances against the Westernizing trends of the shah’s Iranian nationalism, eventually to the point of directing and “Islamizing” the forces of opposition.

Now into its second decade, and deprived of Ayatollah Khomeini’s leadership, the Islamic Republic is moving into a new phase colored by ideological compromise, internal power sharing, and reconciliation with the United States. In terms of a descriptive definition of fundamentalism, this current status underlines two features: the strength of the fundamentalists lies in their defining, through religious symbols, the opposition to a ruling regime; the problem facing the fundamentalists is the difficulty of translating their religious generalizations into sustainable governmental programs.

The debates on the Abu Sayyaf and Fundamentalism will help us develop a descriptive profile of the phenomenon of Islamic fundamentalism in the Philippines. It becomes clear that no simple definitions, as have been offered in much of the literature of the 1980s, are sufficient. The phenomenon is not monolithic. There are striking differences between and among Fundamentalist groups where the phenomenon has a longer history than anywhere else in the Muslim World, we find a broad spectrum of theory and praxis.

This is why many scholars refuse to use the term “fundamentalism,” deeming it too imprecise to identify the complexity of trends that are actually involved. If we choose to retain the term, we need to think of fundamentalisms in the plural and to avoid generalization from the perspective of any one of them. (Prof. Eliseo ‘Jun’ Mercado, OMI – Notre Dame University, Graduate School)

(Updated from my original publication of there ASG Primer. 1998: NDU)

Aging is a Gift!

Aging, I decided, is a gift.

I am now, probably for the first time in my life, the person I have always wanted to be. Oh, not my body! I sometime despair over my body, the wrinkles, the baggy eyes, and the sagging butt. And often I am taken aback by that aging person that lives in my mirror, but I don’t agonize over those things for long.

I would never trade my amazing friends, my wonderful life, and my loving family for less gray hair or a flatter belly. As I’ve aged, I’ve become kinder to myself, and less critical of myself. I’ve become my own friend.

I don’t chide myself for eating that extra serving, or for not making my bed, or for buying that silly cement gecko that I didn’t need, but looks so avante garde on my patio. I am entitled to a treat, to be messy, to be extravagant.

I have seen too many dear friends leave this world too soon; before they understood the great freedom that comes with aging.

Whose business is it if I choose to read or play on the computer until 4 AM and sleep until noon?

I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the 60 &70’s, and if I, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love … I will.

I will walk the beach in a swim suit that is stretched over a bulging body, and will dive into the waves with abandon if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the jet set.
They, too, will get old.

I know I am sometimes forgetful. But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten. And I eventually remember the important things.

Sure, over the years my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when somebody’s beloved pet gets hit by a car? But broken hearts are what give us strength and understanding and compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being imperfect.

I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turning gray, and to have my youthful laughs be forever etched into deep grooves on my face. So many have never laughed, and so many have died before their hair could turn silver.

As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don’t question myself anymore. I’ve even earned the right to be wrong.

So, to answer your question, I like aging… It has set me free. I like the person I have become. I am not going to live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be. And I shall eat dessert every single day. (If I feel like it)




(Note: I took note of the piece above and I no longer remember the provenance of it…)

St. Francis of Assisi – Badal

Badal: St. Francis of Assisi

1. It is enough to utter his name and everyone knows who he is. St. Francis was a man of God. And because he was a man of God, he always lived what was essential. So he was a simple, courteous and gentle to everyone, like God in his mercy.

2. The Phenomenological Manifestations of our epoch…

• Emptiness. It is born of a feeling of impotence. There is very little we can do to change our life, our community and society. Finally there is really nothing important…

• Loneliness. It is an experience of lass of contact with nature and others in terms of friendship and gentleness. There is the lack of courage to commit oneself.

• Fear. It is the fruit of objective threats to life, to employment, to collective survival of humanity in general.

• Anxiety. It has its origin in imagined fear, ignorance as to what one ought to do, in whom to trust, and what to expect. When anxiety grips an entire society it means that the whole society feels threatened and senses its approaching end.

• Aggressiveness without objectives. It reveals a rupture with the norms of relationship without which a society cannot be built or defended. What results is anonymity and the loss of the meaning of the self, that is, the worth and sacredness of human person.

From the above, Two consequences ensue… first is Emptiness and second is Loss. It is the loss of language of everyday communication, the loss of meaningful relationship and the lack of vital relationship with nature and habitat.

3. The New Ethos… It is a new way of life with many and varied relationship to nature, to others, to religion and to God. In St. Francis, it was through Pathos (Sympathy) and Eros (fraternal communication and tenderness). Manifestations are:
• His Innocence
• His enthusiasm for nature
• His gentleness to all beings
• His capacity for compassion with the poor and “confraternization” with all elements and even death itself.

4. To Be Saint … in the case of Francis…
• To be Saint, it is necessary to be human.
• To be human, it is necessary to be sensitive and gentle.

“A person knows as much as he/she does.” Francis’s gentleness was demonstrated, especially in his human relationship. He broke the rigidity of the feudal hierarchy and called all persons as brothers and sisters. He himself was called “little brother” (fratello). He wanted to unite great and small, to treat the wise and simple with brotherly affection, to bind with tie of love those who were held at a distance. He treated everyone with outmost courtesy, even Saracens, Infidels and thieves.

5. Francis of Assisi and Islam

In 1219 a meeting took place between Francis and Sultan al0Malik-al-Kamil of Egypt at Damietta (a Northern City in Egypt). It took place over a period of three week during the fifth Crusade. The encounter had deep impact on both (Francis and the Sultan and his Vizier.

The original call of then 5th Crusade in 1213 came with the Encyclical – Letter, Quia Maior. The letter established a comprehensive practical as well as religious framework for the new crusade – support the crusade material and spiritually. The Letter and 4th Lateran Council and the Crusade presented Islam as the enemy of God; enemy of the faith and it was evil. This was in keeping with then approach taken by Bernard of Clairvaux in his call for the 2nd Crusade. Francis arrived at the Crusaders’ Camp and he tried to dissuade the soldiers to engage in combat. He foretold their defeat at Damietta.

There are two strands in the desire of Francis to meet the Sultan. First was Francis’ FERVOUR OF CHARITY and 2nd was his DESIRE FOR MARTYRDOM. The Sultan and his Vizier recognized in Francis the HOLINESS akin to the Muslim Sufi. The Vizier of the Sultan was a well-known and respected Sufi – Fakr-el-Din-Farsi (in his tomb were written these words: “this man’s virtue is know to all. His adventure with al-Malik al-Kamil and what happened to him because of the monk, all that is very famous”). They listened to him as Francis proposed to undertake the test of faith by fire to which Francis, the Sultan and his Vizier would endure. The Sultan refused the challenge and but continued to respect Francis who eventually returned to the Crusaders’ Camp. In the final farewell, the Sultan asked Francis to pray that he might receive from God a revelation as to which faith is most pleasing in God’s sight.

6. The Impact of the Encounter on Francis, the Sultan and the Vizier? The encounter between Francis, the Sultan and his Vizier was a powerful foundational experience that FREEs both of them from the limits of one’s vision and understanding of life. This foundational experience allows the possibility of movement from one horizon to another. And movement into a new horizon may involve what Fr. Lonergan speaks of as an “about face” – a new sequence that can keep revealing ever greater depth and breadth and wealth. Such an “about face” and new beginning is what is meant by a conversion. Fr. Lonergan describes Conversion in Method in Theology as a “process of sublation that keeps all the essential features of what is sublated but carries these forward to find FULLER REALIZATION WITHIN A WIDER AND RICHER CONTEXT”.
• The meeting or encounter between and among the ‘friends’ of God;
• Appreciating the value each represents and criticizing their defects, yet allowing one’s living to be challenged at its very roots by their words and deeds;
• Such an encounter is a way in which self-understanding n and horizon can be put to test.

Francis was never the same again after the encounter at Damietta…This found expression when he re-wrote Chapter 16 of the Rule. He did NOT speak anymore of martyrdom but told his brothers who wished to go as missionaries to the Muslims “to heal the violence of the world; testify to their Christian faith by a simple, peaceable presence and a disposition to service”. He left respectful of Muslims to the point that he encouraged Christians to emulate them in prayer and prostration, and to join Muslms — and others — in service to all despite their different religions, and he specifically told his followers not to try and convert them.

Having seen Muslim prayers while in Egypt he declared for his followers: “You should manifest such honour to the Lord among the people entrusted to you that every evening an announcement be made by a town crier or some other signal that praise and thanks may be given by all people to the all-powerful Lord God.”

And, “At the mention of His name you must adore Him with fear and reverence, prostrate on the ground … so that in word and deed you may give witness to his voice and bring everyone to know that there is no one who is all-powerful but Him.” And instead of seeking converts among Muslims, in missionary work he charged his followers: “[The brothers] are not to engage in arguments or disputes, but to be subject to (serve) every human creature for God’s sake.” Those words calling us all — Christian and non-Christian alike for the sake of our shared humanity under God-Most-High — to service Him alone. Based on all that, I think it’s pretty obvious that in those three weeks St. Francis learned that Muslims were God’s people too.

And what did knowing St. Francis of Assisi do to Sultan al Malik al Kamel? Ten years later, in 1229, by diplomacy alone and by no act of warfare, he ceded control of Jerusalem, Bethlehem and a corridor from there to the sea to the Christians, saving only the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque for the Muslims, and the temple area for the Jews.

7. Peace… One of the global values lived by Francis was Peace.

• The World is the “regio dissimilitudinis” and behind these dissimilarities are camouflaged injustices and violence.
• Every time Francis began his preaching, he invoked Peace… saying: “the Lord gives you peace.” It is Peace and all good (Pax et Bonun). His group carries out a true mission of peace – “Legatio Pacis”.
• The peace that is proclaimed in word ought always to be present in the heart. Let no one be provoked by us to anger or scandal, but rather let all through your gentleness, be led to Peace, Tranquility and agreement. “BE KINDER WITH YOUR NEIGHBORS.”

8. The Role of Mediation… During the Crusades, Francis had a profound impact on the Sultan and owing to his sympathy, tolerance and respect and love for peace. Francis gave a vote of confidence to the liberating capacity of kindness, gentleness, patience and understanding. Peace in his own PERSON manifested in his words, poetry and song.


Final Note: Francis was able to transform enmity to friendship; revulsion to love. The stigmata was also intimately tied to his experience at Damietta. When Francis heard of all the preparations for yet another Crusade y the mighty army of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in 1224, Francis with few close companions went to La Verna to do a ‘Lent of St. Michael’ –an intense prayer and fasting on behalf of his brother al-Malik al-Kamil. The mystical experience of Francis at La Verna is called the ‘Soul’s journey into God’. The Stigmata of Francis was his identification of what signified in the Cross of Jesus. St. Paul’s writing to the Ephesians says: “for he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility… that he may create in himself one new man in lace of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. (Ephesians 2: 14 – 17)

Bapa Eliseo “Jun” Mercado, OMI
Badaliyya – Philippines
September 14, 2016

Note: Sublation may refer to:
• Sublation, a translation of the German term aufheben
• Ritual purification, the purification or exaltation of matter by its negation or redirection
(Source: Wikipedia)

Tragic Legacies, yet Called to Work Together to Save the Earth.

Tragic Legacies yet Called to Work Together to Save the Earth!

In these troubled times, especially post September 11, 2001 or 9/11, more than ever, we urgently need people of can see far beyond the tragic legacies that have continued to mar Muslim-Christian relations. Part of this tragedy is the fact that even highly educated and professionals, sadly including men and women of religion are no longer exempted from the prevailing bigotry and biases that exercise tyranny over our spirit. Often enough we hear admonitions to the effect that, no matter, what deep down in our hearts and psyche ‘we still cannot trust each other’. These same words we hear in our communities and land. For almost every violence, kidnapping and killing in our community, they see these violence as if with the “eyes of faith” pointing to the Muslim or the Christian perpetrators. We interpret the events along the natural fault lines of religion and ethnicity, the legacy that continues to haunt Christian and Muslim relations.

A) The Tragic Legacies…

Tragic legacies… there are aplenty!

First, there is the painful memory of historical supercession of Christian faith in the Middle East – the birth of Christendom & North Africa by the expansion of Islam in the 7th & 8th Centuries. Part of this long and painful memory is the 8 centuries of Muslim occupation and “reconquista” of the Iberian Peninsula. Then there was the Ottoman assault and occupation of some strategic areas in the Balkans, the former Yugoslavia, Hungary and other parts of Eastern Europe that concluded in the much celebrated Europen Victory in the Battle of Vienna in 1592.

In Southern Mindanao, we have the three centuries of Moro Wars under Spain and the more than 10 years of US Pacification of Muslim Mindanao that ended with the abolition of the Sultanates and the complete incorporation of the Muslim dominions to the US Philippine Colony. Then in the 50’s. we have the revolt of Kamlon. And in our own time we were witnesses to the cruel wars between the Blackshirts (Muslims) and the Ilagas (Christians) – the forerunners of the War waged by the the Moro National Liberation Front of MNLF in the early 70’s to the 1976 Tripoli Peace Agreement. The struggles of the MNLF and the MILF and other Moro Fronts, albeit the Peace Agreements (19976: Tripoli Agreement; 1996 the Final Peace Agreement with the MNLF; and the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on th Bangsamoro with the MILF) continue and they are all part of this painful memory.

Second, there is the fact that the long tradition of Islamic tolerance of the church and its faith is true only in terms of a freedom to remain only & not the freedom to recruit. The dhimmi status of the Christian minorities (the status of the protected people) is both resented and hated. Freedom of movement of belief within the Islamic Empire was only into Islam.

Third, the painful memory of the Crusades is still alive. More recently the situation has been more embittered by the Christian involvement in that Western dominance of Muslim peoples politically & economically – which Islam sees as a kind of aberration from the true course of Islamic history where power must always be in the hands of Muslims.

The lingering resentments & injustices are deep in the psyche of relationship. With few exceptions, there was no mutual openness between faiths, but only survival within supercession, conquest, colonialism and cultural domination. There is only the steady accumulation of the instinct by which both faiths developed a sort of exclusivism of culture & identity around their inner focus of faith & rite drawing all things into a calculated otherness and exclusivism from which we now struggle so hardly to escape.

All those legacies are familiar enough and part of our problem. Is it simply escaping from their tyranny over our spirits? Is there a way out for us – caught in this tragic human drama? It is akin to an experience of finding ourselves locked in a room with no exit? Has education shown the way to break down the barriers that separate us? Thus, EDUCATION becomes and experience of steadily schooling ourselves to resist and reject our habit of preferring suspicion to trust, to reject the instinct to prefer familiar confrontation to new relationship of partners and common “stakeholdership”.

Why? Because despite these tragic legacies of enmity and otherness, we have to wake up to the reality that we inhabit the same threatened planet, we breathe the same air, and cultivate the same land we considered our own, and we are co-workers in the same work places and more, there are fascinating areas of common spiritual territory within our simple religious ancestry. For better or for worse, our lives, liberation and development are bound to each other.

B) The Call to Go beyond the Limits of Ethnicity and Religion…

Today we hear the urgent call for greater involvement and participation in peacebuilding and reconsttruction of our ravaged communities and threatened earth.. The call to go beyond the confines of our ethnicity, nationality and religion, in different languages and tongues, is being launched and heard from the mountains to the plains, from big cities and small alike, from the Vatican to Cairo, from the smallest ‘pesantren’ and madrasah (Islamic School) in an Indonesian or Southern Philippines village to a small basic ecclesial community or BEC. People of different faiths and ethnicities are struggling to grapple with our diversities and embrace the challenges and demands of working for the common good, the survival of all species and the very survival of the planet earth.

Why have the issues of common survival and the common good become paramount issues in an era of possible extinction of all life forms including the planet earth?

Few years back, people believed, especially the ‘prophets’ of modernization and secularization, that religion and ethnicity would be the first casualties of globalization. It did not happen. Instead, the world was shocked and continued to be shocked by the increasing religious and ethnic intolerance. The ethnic war in Rwanda and Burundi with its accompanying tragedy of “genocides” is a classic example in Africa. The partition of former Yugoslavia and the ensuing ethnic and religious war, again, with the ugly face of “ethnic cleansing” has shocked the world in this so-called era of globalization. The same thing can be said in East Timor, Indonesia and Southern Philippines. Yes, the world is experiencing the malady of religious and ethnic intolerance and killing.

Then the terrorists’ attacks both in New York and Washington happened and the world is no longer the same again. Terrorism has acquired a new face and notoriety. Rightly or wrongly, “Fundamentalism” in religion, ideology and ethnicity and political policies that perpetuate injustices and inequity, perceived or real, are seen as the seedbeds of “terrorism” that have held the world hostage since September 11, 2001. No doubt, the surge of fundamentalism and the present paranoia over terrorism contribute to the urgency of religious and cultural dialogue. The manifestations of fundamentalism have not only shown intolerance, but also have made dialogue very difficult. For one, the narrow, inflexible and exclusive worldview of fundamentalism admits no compromise or dialogue.

The truth is the fact that we are peoples of many and diverse faiths, cultures and political ideologies. Though many and different, the relationships need not be hostile or indifferent. The diversities invite us to make a shift in our paradigm from hostility to partnership; from indifference to involvement; from being closed to being opened to one another, and from being exclusive to inclusive in our outlook. Our diversities need NOT LEAD to that famous slogan of “CLASH of civilizations. What we need today is partnership between and among our diverse cultures and civilizations.

We have to believe and hold that our life and future are bound to each other. Our path needs not be characterized by war or by clash of civilizations. We are together in the journey through life. For better or worse, we are neighbors and as neighbors, we can be partners in building not only of a better world but more so of a friendlier community where you and I, and our children can live as brothers and sisters.

There are three basic steps that will help us walk this new path of partnershipmor alliance of civilizations.

• First is the recognition that our life, future and destiny are bound up with each other. No, we cannot espouse a politics of exclusivism in whatever forms; or politics of separatism, or culture of exclusivism. Neither can any ony nation or religion or ethnicity can act as sole proprietors of the land or of the earth.

• Second is to be open, that is, Eph’pheta/Iftah, to each other – learning not only from each other but more so to live and work as partners in shaping our common lives and destiny in peace, justice and care of the earth. Yes, we must not be afraid or hesitate to accept, to trust and to work with each other as partners.
• Third is our commitment and involvement in the promotion and guarantee of the rights and dignity of every person regardless of faith, ethnicity, gender, culture and color within our society/community.

The basis of this commitment is our belief that all peoples even though they belong to different religions, nations, etc. all form ONE human family, created by the ONE and same God, living in the same world/community, and destined for a common end.

Few years back (October 2007), 138 Muslim Scholars and Religious leaders wrote a letter to all Christian Leaders of the World. The letter is now known as the “Common Word between You and Us”. At the beginning, the letter reminds all sundry that Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world. The survival of all species and of the planet earth depends on collective work for the common good of Muslims and Christians.

The Letter states that the basis for this peace and understanding already exists. It is part of the very foundational principles of both faiths: “love of the One God, and love of the neighbor”. These principles are found over and over again in the sacred texts of Islam and Christianity.

The Prophet Muhammad said: “None of you has faith until you love for your brother what you love for yourself.” And: “None of you has faith until you love for your neighbour what you love for yourself.”

However, empathy and sympathy for the neighbour and even formal prayers are not enough. They must be accompanied by generosity and self-sacrifice. God says in the Holy Qur’an:

It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces to the East and the West; but righteous is he who believeth in God and the Last Day and the angels and the Scripture and the prophets; and giveth wealth, for love of Him, to kinsfolk and to orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask, and to set slaves free; and observeth proper worship and payeth the
poor-due. And those who keep their treaty when they make one, and the patient in tribulation and adversity and time of stress. Such are they who are sincere. Such are the pious. (Al-Baqarah 2:177)

The Letter continues to exhort all people of goodwill to “let our differences not cause hatred and strife between us. Rather, let us vie with each other only in righteousness and good works. Let us respect each other, be fair, just and kind to another and live in sincere peace, harmony and mutual goodwill. God says in the Holy Qur’an:

And unto thee have We revealed the Scripture with the truth, confirming whatever Scripture was before it, and a watcher over it. So judge between them by that which God hath revealed, and follow not their desires away from the truth which hath come unto thee. For each we have appointed a law and a way. Had God willed He could have made you one community? But that He may try you by that which He hath given you (He hath made you as ye are). So vie one with another in good works. Unto God ye will all return, and He will then inform you of that wherein ye differ. (Al-Ma’idah, 5:48)

Accepting and living with our differences is NOT a universal element in human relations. It has to be slowly, patiently and sometimes painfully built through time. Here I echo the words of Saint John Paul II in his address at Casablanca:

“People do not accept their differences.
They do not know each other sufficiently.
They reject those who have not the same civilization.
They refuse to help each other.
They are unable to free themselves from egoism and from self-conceit.
But God created all equal in dignity,
Though different with regard to gifts and talents,
Mankind is a whole where each one has his/her part to play.
The worth of the various peoples and of the diverse cultures must be recognized.
The world is as it were a living organism.
Each one has something to receive from the others and has something to give to
(John Paul II, Address at Casablanca Morocco on 18 August 1985.)

Again during the papal visit in Damascus, John Paul II presented to the world his dream and hope for Christianity and Islam as we journey together into the new millennium.

“It is my ardent hope that Muslim and Christian religious leaders and teachers will present our two great religious communities as COMMUNITIES IN RESPECTFUL DIALOGUE, NEVER MORE AS COMMUNITIES IN CONFLICT”. It is crucial for the young to be taught the ways of respect and understanding, so that they will not be led to misuse religion itself to promote or justify hatred and violence. Violence destroys the image of the Creator in his creatures, and should never be considered as the fruit of religious conviction.”

“Better mutual understanding will surely lead to a more objective and comprehensive knowledge of each other’s religious beliefs at the practical level, to a new way of presenting our two religions NOT IN OPPOSITION, as it happened too often in the past, BUT IN PARTNERSHIP FOR THE GOOD OF THE HUMAN FAMILY.”

“May the hearts of Christians and Muslims turn to one another with feelings of brotherhood and friendship, so that the Almighty may bless us with the peace which heaven alone can give. To the One, Merciful God be praise and Glory forever. Amen.” (John Paul II the Great Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, 6 May 2001).

I appeal once more to all the peoples of goodwill and all political leaders, to recognize that confrontation has failed and will always fail. Only by working together can we bring the conditions needed for the economic, cultural and social development to which the people of the world have a right.”

(Fr. Eliseo Mercado, OMI – Badaliyya – Philippines)

Terrorism 101: Study on al-Qaida

Al Qa’ida – Origin and Objectives
Compiled by Prof. Eliseo Mercado, OMI

Graduate School – Notre Dame University
Cotabato City

1. Meaning of the word
In Arabic, al-Qaeda has four syllables, and is pronounced [alˈqɑːʕɪda]. However, since two of the Arabic consonants in the name (the voiceless uvular plosive [q] and the voiced pharyngeal fricative [ʕ]) are not phones found in the English language, the closest naturalized English pronunciation is IPA: /ælˈkɑːiːdəә//. More commonly, /ælˈkaɪdəә/ and /ælˈkeɪdəә/ are heard. Al-Qaeda’s name can also be transliterated as al- Qaida, al-Qa’ida, el-Qaida, or al Qaeda.[24]
The name of the organization comes from the Arabic noun qā’idah, which means “foundation, basis” and can also refer to a military “base”. The initial al- is the Arabic definite article “the”, hence “the base”.
Al-Qaeda’s objectives include the end of foreign influence in Muslim countries and the creation of a new Islamic caliphate.
Al-Qaeda has been labeled a terrorist organization by the United Nations Security Council,[5] the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary General,[6][7] the Commission of the European Communities of the European Union,[8] the United States Department of State,[9] the Australian Government,[10] Public Safety Canada,[11] the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs,[12] Japan’s Diplomatic Bluebook,[13] South Korean Foreign Ministry,[14] the Dutch Military Intelligence and Security Service,[15] the United Kingdom Home Office,[16] Russia,[17] the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs,[18] and the Swiss Government.[19]

2. Origin of the Name
What exactly al-Qaeda is, or was, remains in dispute. In the BBC documentary The Power of Nightmares, writer and journalist Adam Curtis contends that the idea of al- Qaeda as a formal organization is primarily an American invention. Curtis contends the name “al-Qaeda” was first brought to the attention of the public in the 2001 trial of Osama bin Laden and the four men accused of the 1998 United States embassy bombings in East Africa. As a matter of law, the U.S. Department of Justice needed to show that Osama bin Laden was the leader of a criminal organization in order to charge him in absentia under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, also known as the RICO statutes. The name of the organization and details of its structure were provided in the testimony of Jamal al-Fadl, who claimed to be a founding member of the organization and a former employee of Osama bin Laden.[26]

The reality was that bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri had become the focus of a loose association of disillusioned Islamist militants who were attracted by the new strategy. But there was no organization. These were militants who mostly planned their own operations and looked to bin Laden for funding and assistance. He was not their commander. There is also no evidence that bin Laden used the term “al-Qaeda” to refer to the name of a group until after September the 11th, when he realized that this was the term the Americans had given it.[27]
In April 2002, the group assumed the name Qa’idat al-Jihad, which means “the base of Jihad”. According to Diaa Rashwan, this was “…apparently as a result of the merger of the overseas branch of Egypt’s al-Jihad (EIJ) group, led by Ayman El-Zawahiri, with the groups Bin Laden brought under his control after his return to Afghanistan in the mid- 1990s.”[38]

3. Background

3.1 Sayyid al-Qutub
The radical Islamist movement in general and al-Qaeda in particular developed during the Islamic revival and Islamist movement of the last three decades of the 20th century along with less extreme movements.
Some have argued that “without the writings” of Islamic author and thinker Sayyid Qutb “al-Qaeda would not have existed.”[39] Qutb preached that because of the lack of sharia law the Muslim world was no longer Muslim, having reverted to pre-Islamic ignorance known as jahiliyyah. To restore Islam, a vanguard movement of righteous Muslims was needed to implement Sharia and rid the Muslim world of any non-Muslim influences, such as concepts like socialism or nationalism. Enemies of Islam included “treacherous Orientalists!” [40] and “world Jewry”, who plotted “conspiracies” and “wicked[ly]” opposed Islam.

In the words of Mohammed Jamal Khalia, a close college friend of Osama bin Laden: “Islam is different from any other religion; it’s a way of life. We [Khalia and bin Laden] were trying to understand what Islam has to say about how we eat, who we marry, how we talk. We read Sayyid Qutb. He was the one who most affected our generation.[41] Qutb had an even greater influence on Osama bin Laden’s mentor and another leading member of al-Qaeda,[42] Ayman al-Zawahiri. Zawahiri’s uncle and maternal family patriarch, Mafouz Azzam, was Qutb’s student, then protégé, then personal lawyer and finally executor of his estate – one of the last people to see Qutb before his execution. “Young Ayman al-Zawahiri heard again and again from his beloved uncle Mahfouz about the purity of Qutb’s character and the torment he had endured in prison.”[43] Zawahiri paid homage to Qutb in his work Knights under the Prophet’s Banner. [44]

One of the most powerful effects of Qutb’s ideas was the idea that many who said they were Muslims were not, i.e. they were apostates. These included leaders of Muslims countries since they failed to enforce sharia law.[45]

3.2. War in Afghanistan
The origins of the group can be traced to the Soviet war in Afghanistan. The United States viewed the conflict in Afghanistan, with the Afghan Marxists and allied Soviet troops on one side and the native Afghan mujahedeen on the other, as a blatant case of Soviet expansionism and aggression. The U.S. channelled funds through Pakistan’s Inter- Services Intelligence agency to the native Afghan mujahedeen fighting the Soviet occupation in a CIA program called Operation Cyclone.[46][47]

At the same time, a growing number of foreign Arab mujahedeen (also called Afghan Arabs) joined the jihad against the Afghan Marxist regime, facilitated by international Muslim organizations, particularly the Maktab al-Khidamat,[48] whose funds came from some of the $600 million a year donated to the jihad by the Saudi Arabia government and individual Muslims – particularly wealthy Saudis who were approached by Osama bin Laden.[49]

The Afghan mujahideen of the 1980s have been alleged to be the inspiration for terrorist groups in nations such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Chechnya, and the former Yugoslavia.[50] According to Russian sources, the perpetrators of the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 allegedly used a manual allegedly written by the CIA for the mujahideen fighters in Afghanistan on how to make explosives.[51]

Alleged CIA involvement

Allegations of CIA assistance to Osama bin Laden
Whether the al-Qaeda attacks are “blowback” from the American CIA’s Operation Cyclone to help the Afghan mujahideen is a matter of some debate. Robin Cook, former member of the British House of Commons and Foreign Secretary from 1997-2001, has written that al-Qaeda and Bin Laden were, “a product of a monumental miscalculation by western security agencies” and that the mujahideen that formed al-Qaeda were “originally recruited and trained with help from the CIA”.[52]
However, CNN journalist Peter Bergen, known for conducting the first television interview with Osama bin Laden in 1997, calls the idea “that the CIA funded bin Laden or trained bin Laden … a folk myth.

There’s no evidence of this. … Bin Laden had his own money, he was anti-American and he was operating secretly and independently. … The real story here is the CIA didn’t really have a clue about who this guy was until 1996 when they set up a unit to really start tracking him.”[53] Bergen and others maintain the U.S. aid was given out by the Pakistan government, that it went to Afghan not foreign mujahideen, and that there was no contact between the Afghan Arabs (foreign mujahideen) and the CIA or other American officials, let alone, arming, training, coaching or indoctrination.

3.3. Maktab al-Khadamat
Al-Qaeda evolved from the Maktab al-Khadamat (Services Office), a Muslim organization founded in 1980 to raise and channel funds and recruit foreign mujahideen for the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. It was founded by Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, a Palestinian Islamic scholar and member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Maktab al- Khadamat organized guest houses in Peshawar, in Pakistan, near the Afghan border, and paramilitary training camps in Afghanistan to prepare international non-Afghan recruits for the Afghan war front. Azzam persuaded Bin Laden to join MAK, to use his own money and use his connections with “the Saudi royal family and the petro-billionaires of the Gulf” to raise more to help the mujahideen.[54]

The role played by MAK and foreign Muslim volunteers, or “Afghan Arabs”, in the war was not a major one. While 250,000 Afghan Mujahideen fought the Soviets and Marxist Afghan government, it is estimated that were never more than 2000 foreign mujahideen in the field at any one time.[55] Nonetheless, foreign mujahedeen volunteers came from 43 countries and the number that participated in the Afghan movement between 1982 and 1992 is reported to have been 35,000.[56]
The Soviet Union finally withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989. To the surprise of many, Mohammed Najibullah’s Marxist Afghan government hung on for three more years before being overrun by elements of the mujahedeen. With mujahedeen leaders unable to agree on a structure for governance, chaos ensued, with constantly reorganizing alliances fighting for control of ill-defined territories, leaving the country devastated.

The CIA was watching Osama bin Laden at least as early as 1995, due to the discovery of the Oplan Bojinka plot, which in part involved a suicide airplane attack on CIA Headquarters.[citation needed]

3.4. The Gulf War
Following the Soviet Union’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden returned to Saudi Arabia. The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 had put the country of Saudi Arabia and its ruling House of Saud at risk as Saudi’s most valuable oil fields (Hama) were within easy striking distance of Iraqi forces in Kuwait,[61] and Saddam’s call to pan- Arab/Islamism could potentially rally internal dissent. In the face of a seemingly massive Iraqi military presence, Saudi Arabia’s own forces were well armed but far outnumbered. Bin Laden offered the services of his mujahedeen to King Fahd to protect Saudi Arabia from the Iraqi army. The Saudi monarch refused bin Laden’s offer, opting instead to allow U.S. and allied forces to deploy on Saudi territory[62].

The deployment angered Bin Laden, as he believed the presence of foreign troops in the “land of the two mosques” (Mecca and Medina) profaned sacred soil. After speaking publicly against the Saudi government for harboring American troops, he was quickly forced into exile to Sudan and on April 9, 1994 his Saudi citizenship was revoked.[63] His family publicly disowned him. There is controversy over whether and to what extent he continued to garner support from members of his family and/or the Saudi government.[64]

3.5. The Sudan Connection
From approximately 1992 to 1996, al-Qaeda and bin Laden were located in Sudan, coming at the invitation of Islamist theoritician Hassan al Turabi following an Islamist coup d’etat, and leaving after being expelled by the Sudanese government. During this time bin Laden assisted the Sudanese government, bought or set up various business enterprises, and established training camps where insurgents trained. But in Sudan bin Laden lost his Saudi passport and source of income in response to his verbal attacks on the Saudi king. [65]

Zawahiri and the EIJ, who served as the core of al-Qaeda but also engaged in separate operations against the Egyptian government, had even worse luck in Sudan. In 1993, a young schoolgirl was killed in an unsuccessful EIJ attempt on the life of the Egyptian Interior Minister, Hasan al-Alfi. Egyptian public opinion turned against Islamist bombings and [66] the police arrested 280 more of al-Jihad’s members and executed six. In 1995 an even more ill-fated attempt to assassinate Egyptian president Mubarak led to the expulsion of EIJ and not long after of bin Laden by the Sudanese government.

3.5. Back in Afghanistan
After the Soviet withdrawal, Afghanistan was effectively ungoverned for seven years and plagued by constant infighting between former allies and various mujahedeen groups.

Throughout the 1990s, a new force began to emerge. The origins of the Taliban (literally “students”) lay in the children of Afghanistan, many of them orphaned by the war, and many of whom had been educated in the rapidly expanding network of Islamic schools (madrassas) either in Kandahar or in the refugee camps on the Afghan-Pakistani border.

According to Ahmed Rashid, five leaders of the Taliban were graduates of a single madrassa, Darul Uloom Haqqania (also known as “the University of Jihad”,)[67] in the small town of Akora Khattak near Peshawar, situated in Pakistan but largely attended by Afghan refugees.[68] This institution reflected Salafi beliefs in its teachings, and much of its funding came from private donations from wealthy Arabs, for whom bin Laden provided conduit. A further four leading figures (including the perceived Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar Mujahed) attended a similarly funded and influenced madrassa in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Many of the mujahedeen who later joined the Taliban fought alongside Afghan warlord Mohammad Nabi Mohammadi’s Harkat i Inqilabi group at the time of the Russian invasion. This group also enjoyed the loyalty of most Afghan Arab fighters.

The continuing internecine strife between various factions, and accompanying lawlessness following the Soviet withdrawal, enabled the growing and well-disciplined Taliban to expand their control over territory in Afghanistan, and they came to establish an enclave which it called the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. In 1994, they captured the regional center of Kandahar, and after making rapid territorial gains thereafter, conquered the capital city Kabul in September 1996.

After Sudan made it clear that bin Laden and his group were no longer welcome that year, Taliban-controlled Afghanistan — with previously established connections between the groups, a similar outlook on world affairs and largely isolated from American political influence and military power — provided a perfect location for al-Qaeda to establish its headquarters. Al-Qaeda enjoyed the Taliban’s protection and a measure of legitimacy as part of their Ministry of Defense, although only Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates recognized the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.

Al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and the Pakistani border regions are alleged to have trained militant Muslims from around the world. Despite the perception of some people, al-Qaeda members are ethnically diverse and connected by their radical version of Islam.

An ever-expanding network of supporters thus enjoyed a safe haven in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan until the Taliban were defeated by a combination of local forces and United States air power in 2001 (see section September 11, attacks and the United States response). Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders are still believed to be located in areas where the population is sympathetic to the Taliban in Afghanistan or the border Tribal Areas of Pakistan.

4. The Jihad
4.1. Aden, Yemen
On December 29, 1992, al-Qaeda’s first terrorist attack took place as two bombs were detonated in Aden, Yemen. The first target was the Movenpick Hotel and the second was the parking lot of the Goldmohur Hotel. The bombings were an attempt to eliminate American soldiers on their way to Somalia to take part in the international famine relief effort, Operation Restore Hope. Internally, al-Qaeda considered the bombing a victory that frightened the Americans away, but in the United States the attack was barely noticed. No Americans were killed because the soldiers were staying in a different hotel altogether, and they went on to Somalia as scheduled. However, little noticed, the attack was pivotal as it was the beginning of al-Qaeda’s change in direction, from fighting armies to killing civilians.[69] Two people were killed in the bombing, an Australian tourist and a Yemeni hotel worker. Seven other mostly Yemenis, were severely injured.

Two fatwa are said to have been appointed by the most theologically knowledgable of al- Qaeda’s members, Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, aka Abu Hajer al Iraqi, to justify the killings according to Islamic law. Mamdouh Mahmud Salim referred to the thirteenth- century scholar Ibn Taymiyyah, much admired by Wahhabis. In a famous fatwa, Ibn Tamiyyah had ruled that Muslims should kill the invading Mongols, and so too Salim said al-Qaeda should kill American soldiers. The second fatwa followed another of Ibn Tamiyyah’s, that Muslims should not only kill Mongols but anyone who aided the Mongols, who bought goods from them or sold to them. In addition the killing of someone merely standing near a Mongol was justified as well. He ruled these killings just because any innocent bystander, like the Yemenite hotel worker, would find their proper reward in death, going to Paradise if they were good Muslims and to hell if they were bad.[70] This became al-Qaeda’s justification for killing civilians.[71]

4.2. First World Trade Center Attack
In 1993, Ramzi Yousef used a truck bomb to attack the World Trade Center in New York City. The attack was intended to break the foundation of Tower One knocking it into Tower Two, bringing the entire complex down. Yousef hoped this would kill 250,000 people. The towers shook and swayed but the foundation held and he succeeded in killing only six people (although he injured 1,042 others and caused nearly $300 million in property damage).[72][73][74]

After the attack, Yousef fled to Pakistan and later moved to Manila. There he began developing the Bojinka Plot plans to blow up a dozen American airliners simultaneously, to assassinate Pope John Paul II and President Bill Clinton, and to crash a private plane into CIA headquarters. He was later captured in Pakistan.[75][76]

None of the U.S. government’s indictments against Osama bin Laden have suggested that he had any connection with this bombing, but Ramzi Yousef is known to have attended a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan. After his capture, Yousef declared that his primary justification for the attack was to punish the United States for its support for the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and made no mention of any religious motivations.[77]

4.3. 1995-2000 Jihad Fatwas
On November 13 1995 a van containing a hundred pounds of Semtex explosive blew up near the communications center for the Saudi National Guard in downtown Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where some American military contractors and Army officers had been training the Saudi National Guard. Seven people were killed, and sixty people were injured. The Saudi government arrested four men, “torturing confessions” out of them that they had been inspired by bin Laden’s speeches and trained at al-Qaeda’s camp in Afghanistan, and quickly executed them. It is unclear if they had anything to do with the crime. As with many bombings suspected to be the work of al-Qaeda, bin Laden praised the attacks but denied authorizing the attack or training the bombers.[78]

In 1996, al-Qaeda announced its jihad to expel foreign troops and interests from what they felt were Islamic lands. Bin Laden issued a fatwa,[79] which amounted to a public declaration of war against the United States and any of its allies, and began to focus al- Qaeda’s resources towards attacking the United States and its interests. Also occurring on June 25th, 1996 was the bombing of the Khobar towers, located in Khobar, Saudi Arabia.

On February 23, 1998, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, a leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, along with three other Islamist leaders, co-signed and issued a fatwa (binding religious edict) under the banner of the World Islamic Front for Combat Against the Jews and Crusaders (al-Jabhah al-Islamiyya al-‘Alamiyya li-Qital al- Yahud wal-Salibiyyin) declaring:

[T]he ruling to kill the Americans and their allies – civilians and military — is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it, in order to liberate the al-Aqsa Mosque (in Jerusalem) and the holy mosque (in Makka) from their grip, and in order for their armies to move out of all the lands of Islam, defeated and unable to threaten any Muslim.

This is in accordance with the words of Almighty Allah, ‘and fight the pagans all together as they fight you all together,’ and ‘fight them until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah’.[80]
Neither bin Laden nor al-Zawahiri possessed the traditional Islamic scholarly qualifications to issue a fatwa of any kind; however, they rejected the authority of the contemporary ulema (seen as the paid servants of jahiliyya rulers) and took it upon themselves.[81] 1998 was also the year of the first major terrorist attack reliably attributed to al-Qaeda- the U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa, resulting in upward of 300 deaths, mostly locals.

A barrage of cruise missiles launched by the U.S. military in response devastated an al-Qaeda base in Khost, Afghanistan, but the network’s capacity was unharmed. Bin Laden then turned his sights towards the United States Navy. In October 2000, al- Qaeda militants in Yemen bombed the missile destroyer U.S.S. Cole in a suicide attack, killing 17 U.S. servicemen and damaging the vessel while it lay offshore. Inspired by the success of such a brazen attack, al-Qaeda’s command core began to prepare for an attack on the United States itself.

4.4. September 11, 2001 Attacks
The attacks were the most devastating terrorist acts in American history, killing nearly 3,000 people, destroying four commercial airliners, leveling the World Trade Center towers, and damaging The Pentagon, the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense.

The September 11, 2001, attacks were conducted by al-Qaeda, acting in accord with the 1998 fatwa issued against the United States and its allies by military forces under the command of bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, and others.[82] Evidence points to suicide squads led by al-Qaeda military commander Mohammed Atta as the culprits of the attacks, with bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and Hambali as the key planners and part of the political and military command. Messages issued by bin Laden after September 11, 2001 praised the attacks, and explained their motivation while denying any involvement.[83]

Bin Laden legitimized the attacks by identifying grievances felt by both mainstream and Islamist Muslims, such as the general perception that the United States was actively oppressing Muslims.[84] Bin Laden asserted that America was massacring Muslims in ‘Palestine, Chechnya, Kashmir and Iraq’ and that Muslims should retain the ‘right to attack in reprisal’. He also claimed the 9/11 attacks were not targeted at women and children, but ‘America’s icons of military and economic power’.[85]

Evidence has since come to light that the original targets for the attack may have been nuclear power stations on the east coast of the U.S. The targets were later altered by al- Qaeda, as it was thought that the US retaliation would be too great.[86][87]

In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, the United States government decided to respond militarily, and began to prepare its armed forces to overthrow the Taliban regime it believed was harboring al-Qaeda. Before the United States attacked, it offered Taliban leader Mullah Omar a chance to surrender bin Laden and his top associates. The Taliban offered to turn over bin Laden to a neutral country for trial if the United States would provide evidence of bin Laden’s complicity in the attacks. U.S. President George W. Bush responded by saying: “We know he’s guilty. Turn him over”,[88] and British Prime Minister Tony Blair warned the Taliban regime: “Surrender bin Laden, or surrender power”. Soon thereafter the United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan, and together with the Afghan Northern Alliance removed the Taliban government in the war in Afghanistan.

As a result of the United States using its special forces and providing air support for the Northern Alliance ground forces, both Taliban and al-Qaeda training camps were destroyed, and much of the operating structure of al-Qaeda is believed to have been disrupted. After being driven from their key positions in the Tora Bora area of Afghanistan, many al-Qaeda fighters tried to regroup in the rugged Gardez region of the nation. Again, under the cover of intense aerial bombardment, U.S. infantry and local Afghan forces attacked, shattering the al-Qaeda position and killing or capturing many of the militants. By early 2002, al-Qaeda had been dealt a serious blow to its operational capacity, and the Afghan invasion appeared an initial success. Nevertheless, a significant Taliban insurgency remains in Afghanistan, and al-Qaeda’s top two leaders, bin Laden and al-Zawahiri, evaded capture.

Debate raged about the exact nature of al-Qaeda’s role in the 9/11 attacks, and after the U.S. invasion began, the U.S. State Department also released a videotape showing bin Laden speaking with a small group of associates somewhere in Afghanistan shortly before the Taliban was removed from power.[89] Although its authenticity has been questioned by some,[90] the tape appears to implicate bin Laden and al-Qaeda in the September 11 attacks and was aired on many television channels all over the world, with an accompanying English translation provided by the United States Defense Department.

In September 2004, the U.S. government commission investigating the September 11 attacks officially concluded that the attacks were conceived and implemented by al Qaeda operatives.[91] In October 2004, bin Laden appeared to claim responsibility for the attacks in a videotape released through Al Jazeera, saying he was inspired by Israeli attacks on high-rises in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon: “As I looked at those demolished towers in Lebanon, it entered my mind that we should punish the oppressor in kind and that we should destroy towers in America in order that they taste some of what we tasted and so that they be deterred from killing our women and children.”[92]

By the end of 2004, the U.S. government claimed that two-thirds of the top leaders of al- Qaeda from 2001 were in custody (including Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, Saif al Islam el Masry, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri) or dead (including Mohammed Atef). Despite the capture or death of many senior al-Qaeda operatives, the U.S. government continues to warn that the organization is not yet defeated, and battles between U.S. forces and al-Qaeda-related groups continue.

(All footnotes are in separate pages…)

Terrorism/Fanaticism 101: Fractured Fundamentalism

Subject: Fractured FUNDAMENTALISM
By Karen Armstrong

How do Christian, Jewish and Islamic fundamentalism differ? What kind of Muslim is Osama bin Laden? Does fundamentalism inevitably cause violence? What does the Qu’ran say about violence? Why don’t top Muslims reprimand terrorists?

How is Islamic fundamentalism different from the fundamentalism of Christianity and Judaism? The militant form of piety we call fundamentalism erupted in every major religion during the 20th century, and constitutes a widespread revolt against modernity and secular society. The first of these movements emerged in the United States at the turn of the 20th century; Jewish fundamentalism came to the fore after the Nazi Holocaust and the creation of the State of Israel; and Islamic fundamentalism erupted in the late 1960s, after a degree of modernization had been accomplished and after secularist ideologies, such as nationalism and socialism, seemed to have failed. In all three faiths, there had been proto-fundamentalist movements before these dates, but this is the general pattern.

Jews and Muslims often object to the use of the term “fundamentalism,” and in truth it is not a very satisfactory term. It was coined by American Protestants to describe their reform movement led by William Bell Riley, A.C. Dixon, J. Gresham Machem and others. Anxious about Darwinism and harboring apocalyptic beliefs, their followers wanted to go back to the “fundamentals” of the tradition. But, like it or not, the term is here to stay and the widespread series of movements do bear a strong family resemblance.

Obviously there are differences. Christians tend to be more concerned with dogma (particularly with the inerrancy of Scripture and such issues as how the Darwinian theory of evolution conflicts with Genesis) than either Jews or Muslims, who are more concerned with the practicalities of being religious in the modern world. But in all three faiths of Abraham, fundamentalism is highly political. Fundamentalists are determined to drag God and religion from the sidelines, where they’ve been relegated in secular culture, back to center stage.

And in this they have achieved a degree of success. In the mid-20th century, it was widely believed that secularism was the coming ideology and that religion would never again play a major role in world events, but that is clearly not the case today.

In all three faiths, fundamentalists see themselves engaged in a “battle for God.” Every single fundamentalist group I have studied is convinced that secular or liberal society wants to wipe out religion. All are rooted in a profound fear of annihilation. The movements begin by opposing members of their own faith and their own people; it is only at a later stage that they turn their attention to foreigners.

Because they believe that they are fighting for survival, fundamentalists tend to militancy, ignoring the more compassionate elements of the faith in favor of more ferocious theologies. In all three religions, including American Protestantism, fundamentalism seems to be becoming more extreme.

Fundamentalist groups and ideologies all tend to follow a similar pattern of behavior. First, they withdraw from mainstream society to form sacred enclaves of pure faith. Obvious examples are Bob Jones University; the ultra-Orthodox communities in New York; and Osama bin Laden’s training camps. These fundamentalist churches, colleges, yeshivas, communes, settlements, study groups are fortresses where the “faithful” can live what they regard as a true religious life. They create a counter-culture, in conscious reaction against the modern society, which fills them with such dread.

But from these bastions, fundamentalists sometimes plan a political, military or social offensive. This was very clear at the end of the 1970s, when we saw the Iranian revolution, the emergence of the Moral Majority in the USA, and an upsurge of Islamic and Jewish groups in the Middle East.

Christian fundamentalists in the United States have committed fewer acts of terror than the others for two main reasons: they live in a more peaceful society, which, until last week, was not at war or engaged in a deadly political conflict. Second: the more extreme Protestant groups believe that the democratic federal government of the United States will collapse without their needing to take action: God will see to it. The Christian Identity Groups, a very loose and small network (which seems to have influenced Timothy McVeigh) do sally out of their survival communities in such states as Montana and commit what they regard as acts of war against the godless government and society of the United States: abortion clinics and personnel are often targets.

Jewish fundamentalists have committed acts of terror: the plot to blow up the Dome of the Rock, the Hebron massacre, and the assassination of President Rabin are examples. And Muslim fundamentalists have committed the suicide bombings that culminated in the appalling action of the 11th September.

It must be emphasized, however, that the vast majority of fundamentalists in all three religions do not take part in acts of terror, but are simply struggling to live a religious life in a world that they feel is inimical to faith.
In all three faiths, history has shown that suppression tends to make fundamentalists more extreme, providing them with more proof that society wants to destroy religion. And these movements all distort the faith and tend to the kind of nihilism we saw in New York and Washington last week.

What kind of Muslim is Osama bin Laden? What is the background of his movement? Osama bin Laden is from Saudi Arabia, where a particular form of Islam, Wahhabism, is practiced. Wahhabism was an 18th century Muslim reform movement, not unlike Puritanism in Christianity. It wanted to get back to the sources of the faith, get rid of accretions and additions, and all foreign influence.

Thus Wahhabis wanted to eliminate the practice of Sufism, the mysticism of Islam, which developed after Muhammad’s time; it was deeply opposed to Shiite Islam, another later development. And Wahhabis wanted to rid Islam of all foreign influence. Instead, they wanted to go back the bedrock message of the Quran, and renew the faith by going back to the sources. Bin Laden believes that the Saudi rulers are corrupt and that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is not living up to the purity of the Islamic ideal. Like most Sunni fundamentalists, he has been influenced by the Egyptian ideologue Sayyid Qutb, who was executed by President Jamal Abdul Nasser in 1966.

Qutb’s story shows why so many fundamentalists believe that secularism is aggressive and inimical to faith. Nasser paid lip service to Islam and used the rhetoric of religion when it suited him. But he was a secularist, committed to a form of socialism and nationalism. The vast majority of Egyptians, who had not had a modern education, found his secularism alien and baffling; they responded far more warmly to the Muslim Brotherhood, which thus constituted a rival. After an attempt on his life, Nasser imprisoned hundreds of the Brothers without trial. Many of them had done nothing more incriminating than attending meetings or handing out leaflets.

Qutb went into the concentration camp as a liberal, but after 15 years of physical and mental torture, he came to the conclusion that Muslims had a duty to conduct a jihad against their secular rulers. He developed a form of liberation theology: because God alone was sovereign, no Muslim had any obligation to obey any authority–religious or secular. Egyptian society was evil: it was like the jahiliyyah, a term Muslims use to describe the “Age of Ignorance” in Arabia before the coming of Islam. Muhammad had fought the jahiliyyah of his own day, and now Muslims must continue this struggle, even against their own people, who were only Muslims in name.

Qutb devised a program of action, which included a withdrawal from the world, a period of preparation and finally an offensive against the enemies of Islam. This program completely distorts the meaning of the life of the Prophet Muhammad, who was forced to engage in war but who achieved victory by an ingenious and inspiring policy of non-violence. Bin Laden roughly subscribes to this kind of Sunni fundamentalism. His quarrel with the United States is not, however, over theological differences. He resents what he regard as its

partisan and one-sided support for Israel, its support of such unpopular leaders as the Saudi kings and President Mubarak; and the continued bombing and sanctions against Iraq, which have deprived the Iraqi people (though not Saddam and his cronies) of food and drugs, as a result of which thousands of Iraqi children have died of cancer. All this Bin Laden regards as an act of war against the Arab peoples. All this seems to him, and to many people in the Middle East, an American war against Islam.

He is not simply concerned with fighting the United States. He also wants to get rid of regimes that he regards as apostate in the Muslim world: his targets include Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Shiite Iran. He is not fighting democracy or freedom per se. He simply wants the United States out of the region, and is fighting a war against what he regards as American imperialism.

Only a small minority of Muslims would support Osama’s full program, but most of the middle classes would share his dislike of “American Imperialism” There are many business people and professionals, who believe the United States now controls the region, economically and politically, and they deeply resent this. Because much of this opposition is mainstream, this creates conditions sympathetic to the radicals. People in the mainstream do not like American foreign policy, and even though they utterly deplore the events of September 11th, they continue to believe that America and the West has no concern for their welfare or their views. They believe, rightly or wrongly, that the United States regards their needs and concerns as unimportant.

Fundamentalism, I said earlier, is nihilistic because it denies crucial and sacred values of the faith. The ideology of Qutb and bin Laden is unIslamic, because Islam condemns violence, aggression and killing, and, like Judaism, holds that to kill even one person is in a sense to kill the whole world. The Quran will permit only a war of self-defense. It holds that killing is always a great evil, but that sometimes it is necessary to fight in order to preserve decent values. This is similar to the mains-tream Western ideal of the just war: in World War II the allies deemed it necessary to fight Hitler.

Does fundamentalism inevitably cause violence? No, it does not. Fundamentalism is most likely to tip over into violence in a society at war or in conflict. The Middle East, which has seen violent conflict for many years, is an obvious example. But even some Muslim fundamentalists have confined themselves to welfare campaigns. They have opened clinics, taught the people about labor laws, built their own factories where workers have better conditions, and offered free education. Their aim has been to bring some of the benefits of modernity to the people in an Islamic context that makes sense to them.

In Egypt, student groups have tried to better the lot of women students, guard them from sexual harassment. Because the universities are often hopelessly overcrowded and ill equipped, they have provided lecture hand-outs and study sessions in the mosques, where people can read quietly, which they cannot always do in the noisy and overcrowded halls of residence. They will take over a lawn or a shady spot on campus and use it as an impromptu mosque, for prayer.

The focus for the most groups has been making Islam more of a presence in the secular world. They have held Islamic study camps, where people study the Quran, pray, and renew themselves spiritually. The ultra- Orthodox Jewish fundamentalists devote their attention to studying Torah and Talmud and preserving true values in a Godless world. Sometimes in Israel they may stone the cars of Israelis who ignoring the Sabbath rules or attack one of their own number whose behavior seems lax. But in general, they are not violent. And the vast majority of American Protestant fundamentalists, as I said above, do not commit acts of violence: they confine their “battle for God” to amending text books, which teach evolution or liberal values, or for school prayer.

What responsibility does Islam bear for these acts? What does the Qu’ran say about violence? The word Islam, which means “surrender,” is related to the Arabic salam, “peace.” When the Prophet Muhammad brought the revealed scripture called the Qu’ran (“recitation”) to the Arabs in the early 7th century C.E., one of his main purposes was precisely to stop the kind of indiscriminate killing we saw on September 11th.

At the time the Arabian Peninsula was in crisis. The tribal system was breaking down, and the various tribes were locked into a murderous cycle of vendetta and counter vendetta. For a weak tribe, or a man who lacked powerful protection, survival was nearly impossible. The Prophet himself suffered several
assassination attempts, and when his religious and social message ran him afoul of the establishment of Mecca, the small Muslim community was persecuted. Things got so bad that the Muslims had to migrate to Medina, some 250 miles to the north, and there they were subject to attack by the Meccan army, the greatest power in Arabia.

For about five years, there was war and the Muslims narrowly escaped extermination. Terrible things were done on both sides. But when Muhammad sensed that the tide had just begun turn in his favor, he completely changed tack. He concentrated on building a peaceful coalition of tribes, and initiated an inspired, brave and ingenious policy of non-violence. This proved so successful that eventually Mecca opened its gates to the Muslims voluntarily, without a single drop of blood being shed.

Because the Qu’ran was revealed in the context of an all-out war, several passages deal with the conduct of armed conflict. Warfare was a desperate business in Arabia. An Arab chieftain was not expected to take prisoners; it was a given that he would simply kill everybody he could get his hands on. Muhammad knew that if the Muslims were defeated they would all be slaughtered to the last man or woman.

Sometimes the Qu’ran seems to have imbibed this spirit. Muslims are ordered by God to “slay [the enemy] wherever you find them. (4:89). Muslim extremists like Bin Laden like to quote these verses, but they do so selectively, never quoting the exhortations to peace and forbearance that in almost every case mitigate these ferocious injunctions in the verses immediately following. Thus “If they leave you alone and offer to make peace with you, God does not allow you to harm them.” (4:90)

Therefore the only war condoned by the Qu’ran is a war of self-defense. “Warfare is an awesome evil” (2:217), but sometimes it is necessary to fight in order to bring the kind of persecution suffered by the Muslims to an end [2:217] or to preserve decent values [22:40]. But Muslims may never initiate hostilities, and aggression is forbidden by God [2:190] While the fighting continues, Muslims must dedicate themselves wholly to the war in order to bring things back to normal as quickly as possible, but the second the enemy sues for peace, hostilities must cease. [2:192]

The word jihad is much misunderstood. It is rarely used as a noun in the Qu’ran, but in a verbal form, meaning striving, struggle or effort. This jihad denotes the determined effort that Muslims must make to put God’s commands into practice in a terrible and evil world. Sometimes this will mean armed struggle, but the jihad also refers to a spiritual, moral, intellectual, social, domestic or purely personal effort.

There is a very famous and much quoted hadith or “tradition” about the Prophet Muhammad, which describes him returning home after a battle and saying to his Companions; “We are returning from the Lesser Jihad [the battle] to the Greater Jihad,” which is the far more important and urgent struggle to reform one’s own heart and one’s own society. Consequently, the Qu’ran is quite clear that warfare is not the best way of dealing with difficulties.

It is much better to sit down and reason with people who disagree with us, and to “argue [with unbelievers] in the most kindly manner, with wisdom and goodly exhortation.” If Muslims are forced to respond to an attack, their retaliation must be appropriate and proportionate to the wrong suffered, but forbearance is preferable: “To bear yourselves with patience is far better for you, since God is with those who are patient in adversity.” (16:125-127]

The Quran also quotes the Jewish Torah, which permits the lex talionis—an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth–but adds that it is a meritorious act to be charitable and to refrain from retaliation. [5;45]

Muslims must be realistic. If God had wanted all peoples to be the same and have identical opinions and policies, then he would have made them into one nation and made them all Muslims. But God has not chosen to do this, so Muslims must accept his will. [10:99;11:118]. If there is an irreconcilable difference, Muslims must simply go their own way, as the Prophet himself did when he found that he could not agree with the Meccan establishment, saying: “Unto you your moral law, and unto me, mine.” [109:6] You go your way, and I’ll go mine.

Above all “There must be no coercion in matters of faith.” {2:256]. The grammar here is very strong, very absolute. (La ikra fi’l-din) It is similar in form to the Shehadah, the Muslim profession of Faith: “There is no God but Allah!” (“La illaha ‘l Allah!” The Unity of God is the basis of all Muslim morality and
spirituality. The principle of tawhid [“making one”] is the Muslim task par excellence. Nothing must rival God ~ no ideology, material goods, or personal ambitions.

A Muslim must try to integrate his entire personality and his whole life to ensure that God is his top priority, and in the unity that she will discover within herself when this is achieved, she will have intimations of that Unity which is God. It is, therefore, significant that in the Quran, the prohibition of force and compulsion in religious matters is made as emphatically as the assertion of the Unity of God. The principle is as sacred as that.

Muhammad did not intend to found a new world religion to which everybody had to subscribe. The Qu’ran makes it clear that he considered that he was simply bringing the religion of the One God to the Arabs, who had not had a prophet before and had no scriptures in their own language. The Qu’ran insists that its revelation does not cancel out the revelations made to previous prophets: to Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Enoch, or Jesus. Every nation on the face of the earth has been sent some kind of revelation, which it expresses in its own cultural idiom. So every rightly guided religion comes from God.

In the Qu’ran, Muslims are commanded to speak with great courtesy to Jews and Christians, “the People of the Book,” who believe in the same God as they do. [29:46] These were the world faiths that Muslims were familiar with; today, Muslim scholars argue that had the Prophet known about Buddhists, Hindus, the Native Americans or Australian Aborigines, the Qu’ran would have endorsed their religious leaders too. Muhammad simply thought that he was bringing the Arabs, who seemed to have been left out of the divine plan, into the religious family founded by the other great prophets.

This is reflected in the symbolic story of the Prophet’s spiritual flight from Mecca to Jerusalem, where he is welcomed by all the great prophets of the past on the Temple Mount, preaches to them there, and then ascends to the Divine Throne, greeting and sometimes taking advice from Moses, Aaron, Jesus, John the Baptist and Abraham on the way. It is a story of religious pluralism: the prophets all affirm one another’s visions and teachings; they gain help from one another. And it also shows the Prophet’s yearning to bring the Arabs in far-off Arabia into the heart of the monotheistic faith.

So when Osama bin Laden declared a jihad against Christians and Jews, he was acting against basic tenets of the Qu’ran. It goes without saying that any form of indiscriminate “killing” [qital], which is strongly condemned in the Qu’ran, is also unIslamic.

So too is suicide, which is forbidden in Islamic Law. True the Qu’ran promises that those who fall in battle while fighting for their lives against Mecca will surely go to Paradise. It was certainly not encouraging Muslims to rush out and expose themselves to the danger of certain death .

It is perhaps important to note that the suicide bombers are not simply trying to achieve a first-class ticket to Heaven, as Westerners sometimes imagine. The Greek word from which we derive our “martyr,” means “witness.” So does the Arabic for martyr: shahid. When Christians were being persecuted by the Roman Empire, they believed that in their deaths they were witnessing to values that were higher than those of the coercive, ersecuting state. It was a way of giving dignity and meaning to their terrible deaths. Muslims have the same ideal. They all honor the Prophet’s grandson, Husain, a special hero of Shiite Muslims.

Husain and his band of loyal followers were killed by the powerful armies of the Umayyad Caliph Yazid. Husain’s martyrdom was a very powerful motif in the Iranian revolution, when Iranians exposed themselves to the guns of the Shah’s army to witness to the Islamic values of social justice, which they believed the Shah was violating.

But what we saw on September 11th and on previously in Israel/Palestine and in the Lebanon is evil, because no martyr may take other people with him. To turn the vulnerability and lonely courage of the martyr into an act of aggression is a great and wicked perversion, and there is nothing in Islam that can sanction that.

Since the terrorists follow a distorted version of Islam, have they ever been reprimanded by top Muslims? Strictly speaking, there are no top Muslims equivalent to the Pope, the Chief Rabbi or the Archbishop of Canterbury. Islam is a very egalitarian religion and at least in principle doesn’t believe in authority figures that tell other Muslims what to do.

However, Muslim ulama [religious scholars] and heads of Muslim states have condemned the atrocity of September 11th. After the fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini against Salman Rushdie, a meeting of the Congress of Islamic States, which met the following month, unanimously condemned the fatwa as unIslamic -though this did not often make it into the Western press. Last April, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia said that suicide killings were simply suicide and therefore wrong.

I would like to see ulama and ordinary Muslims all over the world coming out against all acts of unIslamic violence more strongly, and without equivocation. I wish, in fact, that a Muslim were manning this Belief net Q and A, instead of a non-Muslim like me. American and British Muslims, whose remarks are often too timid, must join the debate in a more public manner.

In the current climate, it is understandable that they are afraid to speak out. Also, while Muslims may abhor the wickedness of terrorism, they have grave and painful reservations about American foreign policy in the Middle East. And because Muslims all over the world feel generally threatened in a Western-dominated world, they naturally feel it important to stick together.

As their countries make the painful rite of passage to modernity, the ulama themselves have not been able to address the difficulties Muslims are experiencing. The Sheikhs of Al-Azhar, probably the most prestigious Madrasah in the Sunni world, were so cowed by some Egyptian leaders’ modernizing policies that they simply retreated to their studies, and withdrew.

In their absence, people turned to such laymen as Hasan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood who was assassinated by the Egyptian government in 1949. Or Sayyid Qutb, about whom we spoke yesterday. For many Muslims–including the terrorists–the conventional ulama are part of the problem.#

(British writer Karen Armstrong, a former Catholic nun, is the author of a celebrated account of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, “A History of God,” and “The Battle for God,” on fundamentalism in the major religions. She teaches at Leo Baeck College, a seminary for reform Judaism in London.)

A Response to the Muslim Letter: A Common Word between You and Us

Response to the Muslim Letter: A Common Word between You and Us…
By Fr. Eliseo “Jun” Mercado, OMI
(Delivered at Georgetown University, Washington, DC: 2008)

The interreligious gap and misunderstanding in the Southern Philippines has a long history. It dates back from the period of colonialism when the Philippines was annexed by Spain in the 16th century and later by the US at the turn of the 1900.

The encounter with Spanish forces was characterized by continuous war, except for intermittent truces that resulted to alienation and opposition between the Christianized Filipinos and the Islamized Filipinos now known as the “Bangsamoro peoples”.

The period during the American period was also characterized by war, only this time, by decisive military victory that put an end to the once powerful Sultanates in Mindanao and their annexation to the Philippines. The Americans were able to abolish the powerful Sultanates and the Royal Titles (these titles were only recognized by President Marcos during the height of rebellion to counteract the influence and sway of the Rebel Commanders (MNLF) on the Muslim populace. The abolition of the governance structures and royal titles paved the way for the annexation Southern Mindanao. And one of the programs of pacification and assimilation included among others the opening of Southern Mindanao for massive migration from the Luzon and the Visayas.

These historical facts have given rise to three significant realities that continue to haunt Muslim-Christian relations in the Philippines, even today. To wit:

1. The lingering suspicion and lack of trust that continue to characterize the relations between Christians and Muslims;
2. The sense of injustice on the part of the Moro and the Indigenous peoples for their lost ancestral domain. After years of migration, they have found themselves a minority in their traditional homeland. The Muslims are now majority only in five provinces out of the original 13 provinces in Southern Mindanao;
3. The Indigenous peoples who were once “masters” of the highlands of Mindanao (their traditional ancestral domains) were completely minoritized and marginalized even the in the mountains as they were given as timber concessions to big business; and
4. Poverty and neglect that led to, among others, the highest in mortality, illiteracy rate, lowest in access to basic services, especially health and education.

The above four are few of the causes of the renewed rebellion in the Southern Philippines. The peace process in the Southern Mindanao follows the ever changing tide and wind of the government in Manila.

This is the context that has made urgent the interface of Christianity and Islam in the Philippines.

First, there is an urgent need to distance the face of our faith traditions from the stereotypes of rebels/terrorists, on the one hand and oppressors and the army of occupation, on the other.

Christians and Muslims of goodwill, specifically bishops, ulama, priests, ustadzes and lay leaders beginning in early 70’s stood for justice and respect for human rights even during the height of battles between the Philippine regular army and the Moro National liberation Front. The provinces of Cotabato and Sulu – the lands of many battles have witnessed examples of solidarity of people of goodwill from Christianity and Islam who continued to stand for justice and human rights. The first association of Christian-Muslim Religious Leaders in Mindanao began in 1973 few months after the declaration of Martial law. Then following the Peace Agreement in 1976, a more formal national conference involving leaders of Catholics, Protestants and Muslims began to address the problems of the South and to bring these issues to the attention of the National government.

Again, following the 1996 Final Peace between the Philippine Government and the Moro national Liberation, the Bishop-Ulama Forum was formed to support the peace process in the Southern Mindanao and the implementation of the said accord.

Both associations contributed, through conferences and consultations, to a formation of yet another ‘thread’ beyond the familiar stereotypes and slogans in Southern Mindanao. This is a partnership, albeit still a minority, that work for peace, reconciliation and partnership in building a more inclusive communities and governance.

The second is interreligious dialogue. Interreligious dialogue has a particular and peculiar history in the Philippines both in the local and national level given the situation of the war in Southern Mindanao. Simply to name a few:

• A partnership to stand for justice and defense of human rights;
• A support to the peace process in Southern Mindanao that continues from 1976
to the present;
• An attempt of mutual accompaniment in celebrations of festivals like Duyog
Ramadhan for the Muslims and Christmas for Christians;
• A pressure on the protagonists of the war to go back to the peace table to
settle their differences;
• Involvement of the religious from both sides of the divide in Tract II of the
peace process in Southern Mindanao.
• Adopting Peace Education in schools and institutions of higher learning to
imbibe a culture of peace in campuses; and
• Assistance to the victims of war, specifically to the internally displaced.

In a similar vein, the religious both Muslims and Christians (Catholics and Protestants) are active in various consultations and fora that seek to impact policies affecting the Southern Mindanao, in particular and the whole country, in general. These attempts to influence official policy formulation range from peacebuilding to the shape of peace agreement that will be acceptable to all major stakeholder in Mindanao.

There is now the urgency for dialogue both inter and intra faiths given the concrete context of the Southern Mindanao, particularly with the recent surge of ISIS and ASG and other extremists that threaten the years of building of friendship and commitment to the Common Good. n Mindanao. There is, no doubt, that the continued and patient attempts of leaders from the faith divides have greatly influenced the Philippine government to adopt interreligious dialogue as a priority in seeking a just and sustainable peace the Philippines. This has become an official policy that has marked the Philippines’ strong intervention and support to interreligious dialogue at the international bodies like UN and the Alliance of Civilizations, and of late in the Non Aligned Movement.

New Wind blowing and shaping…

Peacemaking is at the heart of our faith tradition. ”Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons and daughters of God.” Peacemaking demands for a new relationship – a new solidarity for all peoples across political and ideological boundaries, across cultures and religions.

I wish to echo Saint Pope John Paul II’s message in Damascus at the Great Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, 6 May 2001.

“It is my ardent hope that Muslim and Christian religious leaders and teachers will present our two great religious communities as COMMUNITIES IN RESPECTFUL DIALOGUE, NEVER MORE AS COMMUNITIES IN CONFLICT”. It is crucial for the young to be taught the ways of respect and understanding, so that they will not be led to misuse religion itself to promote or justify hatred and violence. Violence destroys the image of the Creator in his creatures, and should never be considered as the fruit of religious conviction.”

“Better mutual understanding will surely lead to a more objective and comprehensive knowledge of each other’s religious beliefs at the practical level, to a new way of presenting our two religions NOT IN OPPOSITION, as it happened too often in the past, BUT IN PARTNERSHIP FOR THE GOOD OF THE HUMAN FAMILY.”

In the same vein, I read the Common Word, with 138 signatories that speak of weight, influence and scholarship. I personally consider the letter something historical with long enduring impact-

In the letter the Qur’an verse on tolerance is quoted: “Had God willed He could have made you one community. But that He may try you by that which He hath given you (He hath made you as ye are). So vie one with another in good works. Unto God ye will all return, and He will then inform you of that wherein ye differ” (Al-Ma’idah, S. 5:48).

This Letter is a very important step in raising, yet, to another level the friendship between Christians and Muslims. Often Christians have taken the initiative regarding dialogue, and they have so done well. It is important that this first step continues in this direction with increased clarity, even showing differences and the need for correction.

I believe that with time this Letter can create an opening and a greater convergence on the more delicate issues of religious freedom, the absolute value of human rights, the relationship between religion and society, the use of violence, etc.., in short current issues that worry all believers in our world today.

People, institution, nation, communities, in fact, individuals endure and are recognized by their fidelity to values and traditions they stand for. And to us, the three values that stand are family, joyful hard work and our faith & traditions. Today people admire Mother Theresa or Oscar Romero or Martin Luther King Jr. or Desmond Tutu or Nelson Mandela, not because of their achievements but for the values and beliefs they stood for. They believed and lived with integrity and with no embarrassment.

The need to provide the Story line…

Where do we locate ourselves within this flux and how do we view our confusion to say the least and deep crisis at worst in that new wind that blows and shapes a new world?

More than ever before, there is a need to “re-appreciate” and perhaps even “re-construct” the stories of successes and failures, of power and wealth in the present age now labeled as both “post modernism” and “post ideologies”. I turn to Gil Bailie (cf. Violence Unveiled: Humanity at the Crossroads: 1996) for the apt description of this age. He takes the person of Bernard (a character in Virginia Woolf’s novel, The Waves) to depict the modern person. In the novel, Bernard says: “I have made up thousand stories. I have filled up innumerable notebooks with phrases to be used when I have found the true story, the one story to which all the phrases refer, but I have never yet found that story.”

I believe that Christians and Muslims, notwithstanding the difficulties, have found the way to the writing of the needed story line… it is there in the story of our family, tribe and clan. It is a “kindredness” shaped not only by blood, but also by our community and eco-system. And our story line rooted in faith and traditions that form our values that lay the foundational set of virtues to move together forward in achieving our goals for ourselves and for humankind. We are darn proud of our story and we share it with the world with smile in our faces and joy in our hearts.

In Conclusion

I will end this presentation with a quote from the martyred President of Egypt Anwar Sadat (yet another Nobel Peace laureate) expressed at the Knesset during his historic visit of the Holy City of Jerusalem in 1977.

“… Yet, there remains another wall. This wall continues and constitutes a psychological barrier between us, a barrier of suspicion, a barrier of rejection, a barrier of fear, of deception, a barrier of hallucination without any action, deeds or decision. A barrier of distorted and eroded interpretation of every event and statement… It is this official statement as constituting 70% of the whole process. Today, through my visit to you, I ask why don’t we stretch out our hands with faith and sincerity so that together we might destroy this barrier?”

No doubt, we can lead the way by stretching our hands with faith and sincerity so that together we may build a new world with no borders and barriers yet preserving our identity as we tell and re-tell our story line with smile in our faces and joy in our hearts.

A final quote: “The age of nations is past. It remains for us now, if we do not wish to perish, to set aside the ancient prejudice, and build the earth.” (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ)

President Anwar Sadat at the Knesset 1977

Anwar Sadat before the Knesset

In the name of God, the Gracious and Merciful.

Mr. Speaker, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Peace and the mercy of God Almighty be upon you and may peace be for us all, God willing. Peace for us all on the Arab land, and in Israel as well, as in every part of this big world, which is so complexed by its sanguinary conflicts, disturbed by its sharp contradictions, menaced now and then by destructive wars launched by man to annihilate his fellow man. Finally, amidst the ruins of what man has built and the remains of the victims of Mankind, there emerges neither victor nor vanquished. The only vanquished remains man, God’s most sublime creation, man whom God has created – as Ghandi the apostle of peace puts it: to forge ahead to mould the way of life and worship God Almighty.

I come to you today on solid ground, to shape a new life, to establish peace. We all, on this land, the land of God; we all, Muslims, Christians and Jews, worship God and no one but God. God’s teachings and commandments are love, sincerity, purity and peace.

I do not blame all those who received my decision – when I announced it to the entire world before the Egyptian People’s Assembly – with surprise and amazement. Some, gripped by the violent surprise, believed that my decision was no more than verbal juggling to cater for world public opinion. Others, still, interpreted it as political tactics to camouflage my intention of launching a new war. I would go as far as to tell you that one of my aides at the Presidential Office contacted me at a late hour following my return home from the People’s Assembly and sounded worried as he asked me: “Mr. President, what would be our reaction if Israel should actually extend an invitation to you?” I replied calmly, I will accept it immediately. I have declared that I will go to the end of the world; I will go to Israel, for I want to put before the People of Israel all the facts.

I can see the point of all those who were astounded by my decision or those who had any doubts as to the sincerity of the intentions behind the declaration of my decision. No one would have ever conceived that the President of the biggest Arab State, which bears the heaviest burden and the top responsibility pertaining to the cause of war and peace in the Middle East, could declare his readiness to go to the land of the adversary while we were still in a state of war. Rather, we all are still bearing the consequences of four fierce wars waged within thirty years. The families of the 1973 October War are still moaning under the cruel pains of widowhood and bereavement of sons, fathers and brothers.

As I have already declared, I have not consulted, as far as this decision is concerned, with any of my colleagues and brothers, the Arab Heads of State or the confrontation States. Those of them who contacted me, following the declaration of this decision, expressed their objection, because the feeling of utter suspicion and absolute lack of confidence between the Arab States and the Palestinian People on the one hand, and Israel on the other, still surges in us all. It is sufficient to say that many months in which peace could have been brought about had been wasted over differences and fruitless discussions on the procedure for the convocation of the Geneva Conference, all showing utter suspicion and absolute lack of confidence.

But, to be absolutely frank with you, I took this decision after long thinking, knowing that it constitutes a grave risk for, if God Almighty has made it my fate to assume the responsibility on behalf of the Egyptian People and to share in the fate-determining responsibility of the Arab Nation and the Palestinian People, the main duty dictated by this responsibility is to exhaust all and every means in a bid to save my Egyptian Arab People and the entire Arab Nation the horrors of new, shocking and destructive wars, the dimensions of which are foreseen by no other than God himself.

After long thinking, I was convinced that the obligation of responsibility before God, and before the people, make it incumbent on me that I should go to the farthest corner of the world, even to Jerusalem, to address Members of the Knesset, the representatives of the People of Israel, and acquaint them with all the facts surging in me. Then, I would leave you to decide for yourselves. Following this, may God Almighty determine our fate.

Ladies and Gentlemen, there are moments in the life of nations and peoples when it is incumbent on those known for their wisdom and clarity of vision to overlook the past, with all its complexities and weighing memories, in a bold drive towards new horizons. Those who, like us, are shouldering the same responsibility entrusted to us, are the first who should have the courage to take fate-determining decisions which are in consonance with the circumstances. We must all rise above all forms of fanaticism, self-deception and obsolete theories of superiority. The most important thing is never to forget that infallibility is the prerogative of God alone.

If I said that I wanted to save all the Arab People the horrors of shocking and destructive wars, I most sincerely declare before you that I have the same feelings and bear the same responsibility towards all and every man on earth, and certainly towards the Israeli People.

Any life lost in war is a human life, irrespective of its being that of an Israeli or an Arab. A wife who becomes a widow is a human being entitled to a happy family life, whether she be an Arab or an Israeli. Innocent children who are deprived of the care and compassion of their parents are ours, be they living on Arab or Israeli land. They command our top responsibility to afford them a comfortable life today and tomorrow.

For the sake of them all, for the safeguard of the lives of all our sons and brothers, for affording our communities the opportunity to work for the progress and happiness of man and his right to a dignified life, for our responsibilities before the generations to come, for a smile on the face of every child born on our land – for all that, I have taken my decision to come to you, despite all hazards, to deliver my address.

I have shouldered the prerequisites of the historical responsibility and, therefore, I declared – on 4 February 1971, to be precise – that I was willing to sign a peace agreement with Israel. This was the first declaration made by a responsible Arab official since, the outbreak of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Motivated by all these factors dictated by the responsibilities of leadership, I called, on 16 October 1973, before the Egyptian People’s Assembly, for an international conference to establish permanent peace based on justice. I was not in the position of he who was pleading for peace or asking for a ceasefire.

Motivated by all these factors dictated by duties of history and leadership, we signed the first disengagement agreement, followed by the second disengagement agreement in Sinai. Then we proceeded trying both open and closed doors in a bid to find a certain path leading to a durable and just peace. We opened our hearts to the peoples of the entire world to make them understand our motivations and objectives, and to leave them actually convinced of the fact that we are advocates of justice and peace-makers.

Motivated by all these factors, I decided to come to you with an open mind and an open heart, and with a conscious determination, so that we might establish permanent peace based on justice.

It is so fated that my trip to you, the trip of peace, should coincide with the Islamic feast, the holy Feast of Courban Bairam, the Feast of Sacrifice when Abraham – peace be upon him – great-grandfather of the Arabs and Jews, submitted to God; I say when God Almighty ordered him, and to Him Abraham went, with dedicated sentiments, not out of weakness, but through a giant spiritual force and by a free will, to sacrifice his very own son, prompted by a firm and unshakable belief in ideals that lend life a profound significance.

This coincidence may carry a new meaning to us all, which may become a genuine aspiration heralding security and peace.

Ladies and Gentlemen, let us be frank with each other, using straight-forward words and a clear conception, with no ambiguity. Let us be frank with each other today while the entire world, both East and West, follows these unparalleled moments which could prove to be a radical turning point in the history of this part of the world, if not in the history of the world as a whole. Let us be frank with each other as we answer this important question: how can we achieve permanent peace based on justice?

I have come to you carrying my clear and frank answer to this big question, so that the people in Israel as well as the whole world might hear it, and so that all those whose devoted prayers ring in my ears, pleading to God Almighty that this historic meeting may eventually lead to the results aspired to by millions, might also hear it.

Before I proclaim my answer, I wish to assure you that, in my clear and frank answer, I am basing myself on a number of facts which no one can deny.

The first fact: no one can build his happiness at the expense of the misery of others.

The second fact: never have I spoken or will ever speak in two languages. Never have I adopted or will adopt two policies. I never deal with anyone except in one language, one policy, and with one face.

The third fact: direct confrontation and a straight line are the nearest and most successful methods to reach a clear objective.

The fourth fact: the call for permanent and just peace, based on respect for the United Nations resolutions, has now become the call of the whole world. It has become a clear expression of the will of the international community, whether in official capitals, where policies are made and decisions taken, or at the level of world public opinion which influences policy-making and decision-taking.

The fifth fact: and this is probably the clearest and most prominent, is that the Arab Nation, in its drive for permanent peace based on justice, does not proceed from a position of weakness or hesitation, but it has the potential of power and stability which tells of a sincere will for peace. The Arab-declared intention stems from an awareness prompted by a heritage of civilization that, to avoid an inevitable disaster that will befall us, you and the entire world, there is no alternative to the establishment of permanent peace based on justice – peace that is not shaken by storms, swayed by suspicion, or jeopardized by ill intentions.

In the light of these facts which I meant to place before you the way I see them, I would also wish to warn you in all sincerity; I warn you against some thoughts that could cross your minds; frankness makes it incumbent upon me to tell you the following:

First: I have not come here for a separate agreement between Egypt and Israel. This is not part of the policy of Egypt. The problem is not that of Egypt and Israel. Any separate peace between Egypt and Israel, or between any Arab confrontation State and Israel, will not bring permanent peace based on justice in the entire region. Rather, even if peace between all the confrontation States and Israel were achieved, in the absence of a just solution to the Palestinian problem, never will there be that durable and just peace upon which the entire world insists today.

Second: I have not come to you to seek a partial peace, namely to terminate the state of belligerency at this stage, and put off the entire problem to a subsequent stage. This is not the radical solution that would steer us to permanent peace.

Equally, I have not come to you for a third disengagement agreement in Sinai, or in the Golan and the West Bank. For this would mean that we are merely delaying the ignition of the fuse; it would mean that we are lacking the courage to confront peace, that we are too weak to shoulder the burdens and responsibilities of a durable peace based on justice.

I have come to you so that together we might build a durable peace based on justice, to avoid the shedding of one single drop of blood from an Arab or an Israeli. It is for this reason that I have proclaimed my readiness to go to the farthest corner of the world.

Here, I would go back to the answer to the big question: how can we achieve a durable peace based on justice?

In my opinion, and I declare it to the whole world from this forum, the answer is neither difficult nor impossible, despite long years of feud, blood vengeance, spite and hatred, and breeding generations on concepts of total rift and deep-rooted animosity. The answer is not difficult, nor is it impossible, if we sincerely and faithfully follow a straight line.

You want to live with us in this part of the world. In all sincerity, I tell you, we welcome you among us, with full security and safety. This, in itself, is a tremendous turning point; one of the landmarks of a decisive historical change.

We used to reject you. We had our reasons and our claims, yes. We used to brand you as “so-called” Israel, yes. We were together in international conferences and organizations and our representatives did not, and still do not, exchange greetings, yes. This has happened and is still happening.

It is also true that we used to set, as a precondition for any negotiations with you, a mediator who would meet separately with each party. Through this procedure, the talks of the first and second disengagement agreements took place.

Our delegates met in the first Geneva Conference without exchanging a direct word. Yes, this has happened.

Yet, today I tell you, and declare it to the whole world, that we accept to live with you in permanent peace based on justice. We do not want to encircle you or be encircled ourselves by destructive missiles ready for launching, nor by the shells of grudges and hatred. I have announced on more than one occasion that Israel has become a fait accompli, recognized by the world, and that the two super powers have undertaken the responsibility of its security and the defence of its existence.

As we really and truly seek peace, we really and truly welcome you to live among us in peace and security.

There was a huge wall between us which you tried to build up over a quarter of a century, but it was destroyed in 1973. It was a wall of a continuously inflammable and escalating psychological warfare. It was a wall of fear of the force that could sweep the entire Arab Nation. It was a wall of propaganda, that we were a Nation reduced to a motionless corpse. Rather, some of you had gone as far as to say that, even after 50 years, the Arabs would not regain any strength. It was a wall that threatened always with the long arm that could reach and strike anywhere. It was a wall that warned us against extermination and annihilation if we tried to use our legitimate right to liberate the occupied territories. Together we have to admit that that wall fell and collapsed in 1973.

Yet, there remained another wall. This wall constitutes a psychological barrier between us. A barrier of suspicion. A barrier of rejection. A barrier of fear of deception. A barrier of hallucinations around any action, deed or decision. A barrier of cautious and erroneous interpretations of all and every event or statement. It is this psychological barrier which I described in official statements as representing 70 percent of the whole problem.

Today, through my visit to you, I ask you: why don’t we stretch our hands with faith and sincerity so that, together, we might destroy this barrier? Why shouldn’t ours and your will meet with faith and sincerity, so that together we might remove all suspicion of fear, betrayal and ill intentions? Why don’t we stand together with the bravery of men and the boldness of heroes who dedicate themselves to a sublime objective? Why don’t we stand together with the same courage and boldness to erect a huge edifice of peace that builds and does not destroy? An edifice that is a beacon for generations to come – the human message for construction, development and the dignity of man? Why should we bequeath to the coming generations the plight of bloodshed, death, orphans, widowhood, family disintegration, and the wailing of victims?

Why don’t we believe in the wisdom of God conveyed to us by the Proverbs of Solomon:

“Deceit is in the heart of them that imagine evil; but to the counsellors of peace is joy. Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than a house full of sacrifices with strife.”

Why don’t we repeat together from the Psalms of David:

“Hear the voice of my supplications, when I cry unto thee, when I lift up my hands toward they holy oracle. Draw me not away with the wicked, and with the workers of iniquity, which speak peace to their neighbours, but mischief is in their hearts. Give them according to their deeds, and according to the wickedness of their endeavours.”

To tell you the truth, peace cannot be worth its name unless it is based on justice, and not on the occupation of the land of others. It would not be appropriate for you to demand for yourselves what you deny others. With all frankness, and with the spirit that has prompted me to come to you today, I tell you: you have to give up, once and for all, the dreams of conquest, and give up the belief that force is the best method for dealing with the Arabs. You should clearly understand and assimilate the lesson of confrontation between you and us.

Expansion does not pay. To speak frankly, our land does not yield itself to bargaining. It is not even open to argument. To us, the national soil is equal to the holy valley where God Almighty spoke to Moses – peace be upon him. None of us can, or accept to, cede one inch of it, or accept the principle of debating or bargaining over it.

I sincerely tell you that before us today lies the appropriate chance for peace, if we are really serious in our endeavours for peace. It is a chance that time cannot afford once again. It is a chance that, if lost or wasted, the plotter against it will bear the curse of humanity and the curse of history.

What is peace for Israel? It means that Israel lives in the region with her Arab neighbours, in security and safety. To such logic, I say yes. It means that Israel lives within her borders, secure against any aggression. To such logic, I say yes. It means that Israel obtains all kinds of guarantees that ensure those two factors. To this demand, I say yes. More than that: we declare that we accept all the international guarantees you envisage and accept. We declare that we accept all the guarantees you want from the two super powers or from either of them, or from the Big Five, or some of them.

Once again, I declare clearly and unequivocally that we agree to any guarantees you accept because, in return, we shall obtain the same guarantees.

In short, then, when we ask: what is peace for Israel, the answer would be: it is that Israel live within her borders with her Arab neighbours, in safety and security within the framework of all the guarantees she accepts and which are offered to the other party. But how can this be achieved? How can we reach this conclusion which would lead us to permanent peace based on justice?

There are facts that should be faced with all courage and clarity. There are Arab territories which Israel has occupied by armed force. We insist on complete withdrawal from these territories, including Arab Jerusalem.

I have come to Jerusalem, as the City of Peace, which will always remain as a living embodiment of coexistence among believers of the three religions. It is inadmissible that anyone should conceive the special status of the City of Jerusalem within the framework of annexation or expansionism, but it should be a free and open city for all believers.

Above all, the city should not be severed from those who have made it their abode for centuries. Instead of awakening the prejudices of the Crusaders, we should revive the spirit of Ornar ibn el-Khattab and Saladdin, namely the spirit of tolerance and respect for rights. The holy shrines of Islam and Christianity are not only places of worship, but a living testimony of our uninterrupted presence here politically, spiritually and intellectually. Let us make no mistake about the importance and reverence we Christians and Muslims attach to Jerusalem.

Let me tell you, without the slightest hesitation, that I did not come to you under this dome to make a request that your troops evacuate the occupied territories. Complete withdrawal from the Arab territories occupied in 1967 is a logical and undisputed fact. Nobody should plead for that. Any talk about permanent peace based on justice, and any move to ensure our coexistence in peace and security in this part of the world, would become meaningless, while you occupy Arab territories by force of arms. For there is no peace that could be in consonance with, or be built on, the occupation of the land of others. Otherwise, it would not be a serious peace.

Yes, this is a foregone conclusion which is not open to discussion or debate – if intentions are sincere and if endeavours to establish a just and durable peace for ours and the generations to come are genuine.

As for the Palestinians cause, nobody could deny that it is the crux of the entire problem. Nobody in the world could accept, today, slogans propagated here in Israel, ignoring the existence of the Palestinian People, and questioning their whereabouts. The cause of the Palestinian People and their legitimate rights are no longer ignored or denied today by anybody. Rather, nobody who has the ability of judgement can deny or ignore it.

It is an acknowledged fact received by the world community, both in the East and in the West, with support and recognition in international documents and official statements. It is of no use to anybody to turn deaf ears to its resounding voice which is being heard day and night, or to overlook its historical reality. Even the United States, your first ally which is absolutely committed to safeguard Israel’s security and existence, and which offered and still offers Israel every moral, material and military support – I say – even the United States has opted to face up to reality and facts, and admit that the Palestinian People are entitled to legitimate rights and that the Palestinian problem is the core and essence of the conflict and that, so long as it continues to be unresolved, the conflict will continue to aggravate, reaching new dimensions. In all sincerity, I tell you that there can be no peace without the Palestinians. It is a grave error of unpredictable consequences to overlook or brush aside this cause.

I shall not indulge in past events since the Balfour Declaration sixty years ago. You are well acquainted with the relevant facts. If you have found the legal and moral justification to set up a national home on a land that did not all belong to you, it is incumbent upon you to show understanding of the insistence of the People of Palestine on establishing, once again (sic) a state on their land. When some extremists ask the Palestinians to give up this sublime objective, this, in fact, means asking them to renounce their identity and every hope for the future.

I hail the Israeli voices that called for the recognition of the Palestinian People’s rights to achieve and safeguard peace. Here I tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that it is no use to refrain from recognizing the Palestinian People and their rights to statehood and rights of return.

We, the Arabs, have faced this experience before, with you and with the reality of Israeli existence. The struggle took us from war to war, from victims to more victims, until you and we have today reached the edge of a horrifying abyss and a terrifying disaster, unless, together, we seize the opportunity, today, of a durable peace based on justice.

You have to face reality bravely as I have done. There can never be any solution to a problem by evading it or turning a deaf ear to it. Peace cannot last if attempts are made to impose fantasy concepts on which the world has turned its back and announced its unanimous call for the respect of rights and facts. There is no need to enter a vicious circle as to Palestinian rights. It is useless to create obstacles. Otherwise the march of peace will be impeded or peace will be blown up.

As I have told you, there is no happiness to the detriment of others. Direct confrontation and straight-forwardness are the short-cut and the most successful way to reach a clear objective. Direct confrontation concerning the Palestinian problem, and tackling it in one single language with a view to achieving a durable and just peace, lie in the establishment of their state. With all the guarantees you demand, there should be no fear of a newly-born state that needs the assistance of all countries of the world. When the bells of peace ring, there will be no hands to beat the drums of war. Even if they existed, they would be soundless.

Conceive with me a peace agreement in Geneva that we would herald to a world thirsty for peace, a peace agreement based on the following points:

First: ending the Israeli occupation of the Arab territories occupied in 1967.

Second: achievement of the fundamental rights of the Palestinian People and their right to self-determination, including their right to establish their own state.

Third: the right of all states in the area to live in peace within their boundaries, which will be secure and guaranteed through procedures to be agreed upon, which provide appropriate security to international boundaries, in addition to appropriate international guarantees.

Fourth: commitment of all states in the region to administer the relations among them in accordance with the objectives and principles of the United Nations Charter, particularly the principles concerning the non-resort to force and the solution of differences among them by peaceful means.

Fifth: ending the state of belligerency in the region.

Ladies and Gentlemen, peace is not the mere endorsement of written lines; rather, it is a rewriting of history. Peace is not a game of calling for peace to defend certain whims or hide certain ambitions. Peace is a giant struggle against all and every ambition and whim. Perhaps the examples taken from ancient and modern history teach us all that missiles, warships and nuclear weapons cannot establish security. Rather, they destroy what peace and security build. For the sake of our peoples, and for the sake of the civilizations made by man, we have to defend man everywhere against the rule of the force of arms, so that we may endow the rule of humanity with all the power of the values and principles that promote the sublime position of Mankind.

Allow me to address my call from this rostrum to the People of Israel. I address myself with true and sincere words to every man, woman and child in Israel.

From the Egyptian People who bless this sacred mission of peace, I convey to you the message of peace, the message of the Egyptian People who do not know fanaticism, and whose sons, Muslims, Christians, and Jews, live together in a spirit of cordiality, love and tolerance. This is Egypt whose people have entrusted me with that sacred message, the message of security, safety and peace. To every man, woman and child in Israel, I say: encourage your leadership to struggle for peace. Let all endeavours be channelled towards building a huge edifice for peace, instead of strongholds and hideouts defended by destructive rockets. Introduce to the entire world the image of the new man in this area, so that he might set an example to the man of our age, the man of peace everywhere.

Be the heralds to your sons. Tell them that past wars were the last of wars and the end of sorrows. Tell them that we are in for a new beginning to a new life – the life of love, prosperity, freedom and peace.

You, bewailing mother; you, widowed wife; you, the son who lost a brother or a father; you, all victims of wars – fill the earth and space with recitals of peace. Fill bosoms and hearts with the aspirations of peace. Turn the song into a reality that blossoms and lives. Make hope a code of conduct and endeavour. The will of peoples is part of the will of God.

Ladies and Gentlemen, before I came to this place, with every beat of my heart and with every sentiment, I prayed to God Almighty, while performing the Curban Bairarn prayers, and while visiting the Holy Sepulchre, to give me strength and to confirm my belief that this visit may achieve the objectives I look forward to, for a happy present and a happier future.

I have chosen to set aside all precedents and traditions known by warring countries, in spite of the fact that occupation of the Arab territories is still there. Rather, the declaration of my readiness to proceed to Israel came as a great surprise that stirred many feelings and astounded many minds. Some opinions even doubted its intent. Despite that, the decision was inspired by all the clarity and purity of belief, and with all the true expression of my People’s will and intentions.

And I have chosen this difficult road which is considered, in the opinion of many, the most difficult road. I have chosen to come to you with an open heart and an open mind. I have chosen to give this great impetus to all international efforts exerted for peace. I have chosen to present to you, and in your own home, the realities devoid of any schemes or whims, not to manoeuver or to win a round, but for us to win together, the most dangerous of rounds and battles in modern history – the battle of permanent peace based on justice.

It is not my battle alone, nor is it the battle of the leadership in Israel alone. It is the battle of all and every citizen in all our territories whose right it is to live in peace. It is the commitment of conscience and responsibility in the hearts of millions.

When I put forward this initiative, many asked what is it that I conceived as possible to achieve during this visit, and what my expectations were. And, as I answered the questioners, I announce before you that I have not thought of carrying out this initiative from the concept of what could be achieved during this visit, but I have come here to deliver a message. I have delivered the message, and may God be my witness.

I repeat with Zechariah, “Love right and justice.”

I quote the following verses from the holy Koran:

“We believe in God and in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the tribes and in the books given to Moses, Jesus, and the prophets from their lord. We make no distinction between one and another among them and to God we submit.”

November 14, 1977

Sources: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “73 Statement to the Knesset by President Sadat- 20 November 1977, MFA, November 20, 1977.


South Sudan Women Vulnenable in Refugees’ Camps

Sudan Women

Mahasa (not her real name) sits in the dust outside the hut she built herself, holding her youngest son in her arms.

The 29-year-old mother of four knows how vulnerable she is. “I’m scared,” she said.

Mahasa is one of many women who have fled, unaccompanied by their husbands, to Maban County in South Sudan’s Upper Nile State, escaping the fighting in Sudan’s Blue Nile State between government forces and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North. Mahasa’s husband is still in Blue Nile, fighting alongside the rebels.

She now lives in Doro camp, which houses more than 44,000 refugees. There, she – like other female refugees – faces daily threats of harassment, exploitation and violence, and the persistent fear that, as a woman, she will be unable to provide for her family.


In fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, which started in June 2011, has so far displaced more than 112,000 civilians to South Sudan. Humanitarians say they were “overwhelmed” during the rainy season in the second half of 2012, as tens of thousands of refugees, most of them women and children, came pouring across the border from Blue Nile State. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and its partners scrambled to meet the basic needs of the new arrivals, who initially slept under trees and survived on fruit and stagnant groundwater.

Now, six months later, fighting continues across the border, but the rate of arrivals has eased and aid agencies are transitioning from emergency response mode to meeting the longer-term needs of the refugee population.

More than 80 percent of the refugees are women and children, says Myrat Muradov, a protection officer with UNHCR. The agency has begun to look at the particular vulnerabilities of this group, many of whom are completely dependent on food rations.

“Widows and pregnant women need much help,” he said.

Because the camps are spread out across large areas, women often have to walk very long distances to reach food distributions points, and then they must carry the heavy ration bags back with them.

Mahasa, for example, walks half an hour in each direction to collect the food she needs to feed her children.

Aid workers say that on these collection journeys, single women and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to exploitation, sometimes being forced to part with a portion of their ration in exchange for assistance transporting it.

However, this is not the crime Mahasa fears most. One of the most difficult things she and other women must do is collect firewood from the bush surrounding the camp; not only is it hard work, it is also “dangerous,” she says, because members of the host community often approach and harass female refugees. “They hit us,” Mahasa says. “They also take the axe from us.”

South Sudan Camp

Tensions between the refugees and the host community have been mounting, largely over increasingly limited resources.

Maple*, an older woman in the camp, and Talitha*, her adult daughter, express similar fears, reporting that both men and women from the host community have hit them with sticks and chased them away as they tried to collect firewood.

“The only way to get the firewood is to hide yourself in order to protect yourself from the host community,” Maple said.

Sexual violence

The issue is of growing concern for protection officers working in the four refugees camps of Maban County. Firewood collection “exposes women to humungous risks in terms of sexual violence,” one officer working in the camps told IRIN. (Source: IRIN)