Protests in Pakistan
against US and Israel
Musharraf and Jews: A Dialogue
for Civilizations and Future of Mankind
Akbar Ahmed and Judea Pearl
September 17: Dialogue between Jews and Muslims is a necessary
step toward easing world tension, and we are therefore pleased
that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will address the American
Jewish Congress today in New York.
we have been actively involved in such dialogue over the last
two years, we believe that Musharraf can benefit from our findings
therefore offer several suggestions as co-explorers of the difficult
trails of Muslim-Jewish dialogue.
Reflecting the issues of deepest concern in our respective communities,
there are several points that Jews would like to hear about from
a Muslim leader and others they need to hear.
First, Jews would like an unambiguous statement condemning anti
semitism. Muslim leaders need to take a clear moral stand regarding
antisemitism whatever their feelings about the politics of the
Middle East. They likewise must ensure that the current surge
in antisemitism is acknowledged, checked and fought back at the
highest levels of government.
Second, Musharraf needs to convey to his Jewish audience that
the cultural and religious basis for such a fight is deeply entrenched
in the Islamic civilization. He needs to point out the many and
strong bonds that exist between the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism,
Christianity and Islam, as well as the respect Muslims have for
the great shared biblical figures such as Abraham, Isaac, Moses
and for many rituals and values.
Third, his Jewish audience would like to hear that Muslim education
and Muslim media are prepared to portray modern Jews as heirs
to, and equal carriers of, the Abrahamic tradition.
Fourth, Jews would like to hear an explanation of Islam's attitudes
toward and practice of democracy, human rights and civil liberties.
Here the example of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan
revered by Pakistanis as the Quaid-i-Azam, or great leader, would
be extremely illuminating. Jinnah was the embodiment of parliamentary
democracy and believed in human rights and respect for the law.
He achieved the creation of Pakistan in 1947, then the largest
Muslim nation on earth, without ever having broken the law or
going to jail.
Fifth, Muslim leaders need to give a clear direction to relations
with Israel. Reaction to Israel is complicated by the strong feeling
Muslims have for Palestinians, whom they see as a people oppressed.
Muslim leaders need to also understand and appreciate Jewish history
and the national aspirations of the Jewish people.
A double-narrative - of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples -
needs to be heard in both the Muslim and the Jewish media. Muslim
leaders need to work toward the creation of two states both living
in security, peace and hopefully harmony. Framing the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict as a clash between two legitimate national movements
is a crucial first step toward resolving the conflict. We hope
Musharraf takes this historical step in his September 17 address.
Sixth, Musharraf has to point out that there is a growing sense
of Islamophobia in the West which allows the prophet of Islam
and the religion itself to be attacked with impunity. This Islamophobia
encourages the perception that the loss of Muslim lives is of
little concern to the rest of the world, and further feeds into
the sense of anger, desperation and injustice which strengthens
people of violence.
Unfortunately, many Muslims perceive the Islamophobia as being
fomented by Jews and there is a conspiracy-theory mind set in
the Muslim world which tends to blame the Jews for the ills of
the Muslim world. Jewish leaders must be more active and visible
in the fight against Islamophobia, and Muslims leaders, in turn,
must help dispel unfounded conspiracy theories.
Seventh, on the issue of terrorism, Jewish audiences would like
to hear Muslim leaders take an unequivocal moral stance, not merely
against the perpetrators of terrorist acts, but also against the
ideologues and legitimizers of such acts - in particular, suicide
bombings against Israelis. The red lines against the targeting
of innocent lives cannot be crossed for any grievance.
Finally, in order to overcome the chasm of misunderstanding and
bad history which exists between our respective communities, an
active long-term, on-going public dialogue of the Abrahamic faiths
needs to be supported throughout the Muslim world. This dialogue
needs to include every shade of political opinion, religious leadership
and gender. It is a dialogue not only of civilizations, but for
the future of mankind.
Perhaps the most powerful gesture that Musharraf can make - both
for purposes of bridge-building and for pointing the direction
to the future - is to announce a meaningful memorial to the late
Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was so tragically
murdered in Pakistan. We believe that if Musharraf were to build
a Daniel Pearl Center for Abrahamic Dialogue in Karachi, where
Danny lost his life, he would be creating a spiritual and moral
campus that can bring people together and at the same time be
a strong gesture of healing and compassion.
Akbar Ahmed, a former high commissioner from Pakistan to the
United Kingdom, is Ibn Khaldun chair of Islamic studies at American
University. Judea Pearl, is president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation,
named after his murdered son, and a professor of artificial intelligence
at the University of California, Los Angeles.