April 06, 2009 edition - http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0406/p09s01-coop.html
A stark question for
By Asma Afsaruddin
If Iranian leaders do not come to grips with reality soon,
they will have missed an historic opportunity to make a deal for peace with the
Regrettably, the Iranian response has been unreflective, pugnacious – and most important – unIslamic.
A verse in the Koran states: "If they [the unbelievers] incline to peace, you should also incline to peace." Because believing Muslims revere the Koran as sacred scripture containing the very words of God, it is not unreasonable to expect that professed Muslims should take these words to heart.
Inclining to peace should manifest itself in a willingness to negotiate through diplomacy, especially when the an adversary indicates a preference for it. When the pagan Meccans sought arbitration with the Prophet Muhammad and his followers in 628, he concluded the treaty of Hudaybiyya with them. The treaty included provisions not entirely favorable to the Muslims, but the Prophet did not waver in his resolve to sign this agreement. Some of his companions grumbled about the unequal treatment of Muslims in this accord and a few were even opposed to the whole idea of peacemaking.
The arguments were familiar – the Meccans had driven the Muslims out of their homes, looted their belongings, and persecuted them for their beliefs. As far as one could tell, the Meccans remained committed to destroying the nascent faith and its adherents. How could one sit down with such trenchant enemies, whose intentions were suspect? The Koran answers those objections in the very next verse: "And if they intend to deceive you – then surely God is sufficient for you." Scripture had made it clear that Muslims should take a risk for peace, and if the opposing side should desist from hostilities, Muslims should reciprocate in kind.
The treaty was signed and was meant to guarantee 10 years of
peace. As it turned out, the worst fears of Muhammad's followers proved to be
true. The Meccans soon violated the agreement and fighting loomed. Further
negotiations, however, brought about the peaceful surrender of
Muhammad and his immediate successors implemented a principle known as "the joining of hearts," according to which the erstwhile enemies of Islam were to become reconciled with Muslims through charity and inclusion within the new community. The fact that Muslims throughout time have not always implemented these principles in no way makes them less normative for contemporary Muslims.
Both Sunnis and Shiites read the same Koran and both agree
that its ideals were perfectly realized by their prophet. Thus
After eight years of relentlessly hawkish
Why then has
From a realpolitik perspective, risking political capital
for peace may appear to be a foolhardy venture and Mr. Khamenei will certainly
be criticized by
But morally speaking, he and other Iranian leaders owe it to their people and to the world to sit down at the negotiating table in view of the fact that the Islamic Republic of Iran has been a principal actor in some of the major conflicts of our time.
It is not enough for Muslims to repeatedly affirm that Islam stands for peace; they need to demonstrate that Islam means peace. When valuable opportunities for peacemaking occur and it is Muslim leaders who fritter them away, they should expect scorn to be directed at them and at their hollow rhetoric.
In the popular American imagination, Muslims after Sept. 11 have become tarred by the brush of violence. Now we can add to this image an unholy lack of moral courage and intransigence in the face of a singular opportunity to put an end to a nuclear standoff that could engulf the whole world.
If Iranian leaders adhere to the faith for which they claim to have launched a revolution 30 years ago, they will put aside bellicose rhetoric and take up the work of peace.
Asma Afsaruddin is a professor of Arabic & Islamic Studies at the University of Notre Dame and is the author of "The First Muslims: History and Memory."
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