Leading PostsNovember December 2006

Misguided Pope: Conflict with Another Monotheistic Religion

Abbass Alkhafaji

It is unfortunate to see that a person like the Pope Benedict XVI, Head of the Catholic Church, who should have been a voice of reason and reconciliation, acted in a way that contradicted his position. His remarks showed ignorance about the great religion of Islam and the great Prophet Mohammed (P.B.U.H) The question that must be raised is whether the Pope is aware of the new world situation after the September 11 attacks and the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq.  There is no doubt that he has contributed negatively at aggravating the distrust and conflict between the west and the Islamic World. For the past five years we hear criticism to Islam because of the September 11 attacks. In reality the U.S. originally established those group, who attacked the world trade center during the 1980s.  President George Bush spoke of terrorist as “Islamic Fascist” while insulting the majority of Muslims who have nothing to do with this conflict.   It is therefore understood by the Muslims that there is a campaign against their religion lead by the US and other western countries. The US and some European countries are in the process of identifying a new enemy to replace the former Soviet Union and the Pope is given a role to play in this campaign. The late Pope John Paul II played a significant role in the collapsing of the Communism during the 1980s.  Remarks against one billion and five hundred million Muslims is not only unfair it will create more tension and chaise.

In 2001, the US President George W. Bush declared Crusade and started his campaign by attacking the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The next station in his agenda was Iraq. Recently, he described the Muslims as “fascists”.  On September 19, 2006, he told the Arab people not to believe what they hear about the intention of the US and some Western countries.  For the Muslims in general and the Arabs in particular, the issue become clearer now than ever, it is a series of irresponsible fallacies and misleading designed to put pressure on the Muslims all over the world and to widen the hatred and confusion. Western criticism of Islam has continued under the umbrella of freedom of expression ever since the start of the so-called ‘war on terror’. Danish newspaper dared to publish cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohamed, inflaming emotions and creating waves of wrath in the Arab and Muslim streets.  Under the umbrella of freedom of expression, American TV and Radio programs can spell their ignorance against Islam without any responsibility.

The Pope Benedict XVI, and President Bush, are not an ordinary people who passed judgments on such highly sensitive issues in a word full with conflict and confrontation. Those individuals are expected to act in higher moral and ethical standards.  We are in a world where people pass judgment without substantial knowledge and therefore create ill feelings. Ignorance about other people believe and more specifically about Islam in the way propagated by many politicians is being used as an excuse to provoke hate and animosity between people of the world. Politicians and other public figures provide rhetoric without being held responsible to present evidence to support their political interest, however we do not see any reasonable voice that call for restrain and understanding.

When such allegation comes from responsible individuals such as the Pope Benedict XVI and President George Bush, it has a far-reaching impact.  I hope that those responsible people realize this was a big mistake and courageously admit their sorrow followed by strategic steps to improve relationships.  It is time to promote dialogue and understanding in a world full of conflict and confusion.  Inter-religion dialogue and tolerance must be the message if we try to live in a global market where every one is only part that depends upon the others for their survivals and existence.  Short-term measures might be successful tactics, however the long-term effect of these tactics might be severe and detrimental.  We have tried the policy of hate and destructions and we failed measurably.  Let us try a policy of tolerance and understanding.  The few terrorists who cause chaos and fear, they have no religion and no good religion is proud to have them.  In order to defeat this destructive group, we should not only use power and military means.  We should simply use educational tools and encouragement.  If the United States government is serious about changing the situation and creating a better environment for all to live, they should declare a change of strategy.  This strategy should be built on peace and tolerance among the inhabitants of the world. We should promote peace in the Middle East, a serious peace that brings the whole region to a better co-existence. It is time to act as an honest broker to solve the Palestinian problem.

Our strategy in Iraq should be changed completely also.  We should bring the entire political and religious group to agree to a united country for at lest the next 50 years.  We should have them agree to share the resources based on their population proportion in that society.  (One of the major problems in Iraq is that the Sunni used to have about 70% of the resources and the entire power.  Now, we have to convince them to have about 20% of the resources and 20% of the government representation.  The government should use the strategy of encouraging the group to participate and at the same time respect the law.)  We should make public of our intention to leave Iraq in about two years time period. We should promote economic development where needed and encourage deluge and Technology transfer.

Those countries who promote terrorism should be encouraged to redesign their schooling curriculum and media programs to promote friendship and tolerance between different religions as well as within the same religion.  It is a fact that those terrorists groups are killing more Iraqi Shia than any other group.  Therefore the majority of Muslims should question the motive of these terrorist organizations and its association with Islam.  They could be very much conducting a foreign agenda to destroy Islam by promoting violence among the Muslim community.

There is little doubt that the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, the war in Lebanon, and developments in the Palestinian territories, has lead to increase tensions in the Middle East. Our interference was seen as an attack on Islam. The daily killing in Iraq was seen as a sectarian war between Sunni and Shia. The group who promote this Sectarian war in Iraq are the same September 11 attackers.

The reaction of the Muslims around the world was expected. If this continuo it will deepen hatred and animosity between the people of the globe. We live in a global world where we all complement each other. No one is immune. No country can live self sufficient without other countries support. We have to find a way to co-existent and work together.

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