Facebook Twitter

FOR LASTING PEACE, MUSLIM LEADERS MUST PUBLICLY DENOUNCE VIOLENCE

SHARE FOR LASTING PEACE, MUSLIM LEADERS MUST PUBLICLY DENOUNCE VIOLENCE

IN THE AFTERMATH of every terrorist attack against Israelis since the initiation of the Oslo accords, we hear Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin decry Islamic fundamentalism. The recent Ramat Gan attack was no exception.

Spokesmen for the various Islamic fundamentalist groups say their terror against Jews will continue. They maintain that Islam demands it. Israelis are the enemies of Islam."The failure to meet the July 1 deadline is a clear evidence of the intention of the Israeli occupation," said Islamic Jihad leader Sheik Abdullah Shami in a July interview from Gaza.

When asked if the attacks would resume, the sheik replied, "The Islamic Jihad will choose the appropriate time to achieve its goals. The situation can last for a long period of time, and it may not. The Israelis cannot sit quiet."

Last week, another bus was bombed, this time in Jerusalem; four people were killed and 100 others wounded.

Is the Islamic fundamentalist world-view vis-a-vis Israel a minority view in the Muslim world? Even more important, what is mainstream Islam's view? Is it true that Islam cannot tolerate Israelis in Palestine? Is violence legitimate when efficacious to this end? If the answers are "no," then a Ramat Gan bus rider is not an enemy of Islam. If the answers are "no," then why haven't we heard it loud and clear?

Clearly, Muslim religious leaders, not the politicians and security experts presently negotiating the peace, are the appropriate ones to address. Yet when Israel's Chief Rabbi Lau asked the head of the Jerusalem Waqf (Muslim Council) to declare that the murder of innocents in the name of Allah is unacceptable, his request fell on deaf ears. In fact, no Islamic leader of stature has come out clearly and unequivocally for amelioration.

Abdulazziz Sachendina, a professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia, notes that the Koran affirms, "War may legitimately be waged only with religious authorization." John Kelsey, author of "Just War and Jihad," asserts that "those who proclaim Islam is a religion of peace and has nothing to do with war mislead us."

Perhaps the individual Muslim religious leader who wishes to work toward peaceful coexistence needs support. A world-recognized body of Muslim clerics should convene and pronounce explicitly and unequivocally that a sovereign non-Islamic state can indeed be tolerated in the Middle East according to its understanding of the Koran.

In addition to alleviating Israeli suspicions, these clerics would reduce Muslim antagonism and terror toward Israel. Both outcomes would reduce tension and thereby promote peace.

This idea was first proposed as part of a 1992 peace initiative put forth by then-Secretary of State James Baker. It should be reconsidered now. Success or failure of the peace process could hinge on it. The blood of the many innocents that has been - and may yet be - spilled in the wake of the present peace process demands it now more than ever.