Saturday, August 15, 2009

Reza Aslan's 2nd book - How to Win a Cosmic War

Reza Aslan's answer to How to Win a Cosmic War is not to fight it in the first place. Aslan's book is a great follow-up to his first, No God but God, particularly because it is likely to have greater popular appeal. How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the End of the War on Terror is also more directly related to the political, economic, and cultural times in which we live and is, therefore, very useful reading as we attempt to sort out what to do about Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other conflicted governments around the world.

The sad reality of the Bush administration was that it unwittingly (or manipulatively) was sucked into Osama Bin Laden's snare when it declared war on terrorism following the 9-11-01 attacks on New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. The war on terror was also peppered with derogatory reference to Islamic jihad. Unfortunately, the term "jihad" is one that for the majority of Muslims worldwide is a sacred struggle, or striving, to fulfill the way of God in one's life. Jihad is a struggle against our own passions, instincts and selfish narcissism that, left unchecked, has the potential to oppress our own souls as much as oppressing others (p.xvii). Letting the war on terrorism be perceived as a reaction to jihad reflects not only a fundamental misunderstanding of the idea but allows terrorism to claim a spiritual dimension that it clearly does not deserve.

As my blog commentary has gradually revealed, understanding the struggle against Bin Laden, against Al Quaeda, and the Taliban, requires understanding the historical evolution of the question and it requires a broader, and balanced perspective, of current political realities. Bin Laden's argument is based on the belief that the western world has been unjust in its treatment of the Arab and Islamic worlds. The origins of the injustice can be traced back centuries to the conflicts between the Hebrews and Phillistines in the ancient world. More recently (Paris, 1894), the emergence of anti-Semitism (more appropriately termed anti-Judaism) can be traced to the Dreyfus affair, one of the first moments in history when an innocent Jew was blamed for crimes against the state that exploited public opinion against Jews as a cultural group. The Dreyfus affair, coupled with marginalization and fear of Jews throughout Europe eventually gave rise to Hitler's diabolic scheme to elinate Jews and other minority groups as he marked them as the other, against which the Arians were to fight.

The persecution of Jews, and the complicity that Europeans and Americans felt after WWII, resulted in the Balfour Declaration and 1947 U.N. establishment of the State of Israel. Out of remorse, guilt, and frustration, Israel's borders were carved out of lands that had been shared by Christian, Muslim, and Jewish people for generations. In desparation for a solution and solitude, the new State of Israel committed atrocities against Arabs that the rest of the world had just seen imposed on European Jews and the rest of the "civilized" world stood by without comment. Under these circumstances, is it any surprise that the Arab and Islamic worlds would not accept, and would be deeply angered, by what had happened to them?

Overlay the injustice of external forces dictating national boundaries and the inhumanity heeped upon inhumanity and it is easy to understand why Bush's "war on terrorism" would be gasoline thrown on the fire of discontent. The war on terrorism immediately became an ignornant rallying cry for Americans in pursuit of retribution for 9-11-01 at the same time that it gave honor, recognition, and power to Bin Laden who had successfully picked a fight with the unequivocal leader of the western world. Could the scenario have been more advantageous to divisive, fanatical, and exploitive demagogues who wanted to discredit America?

The only way to counter the damage of the Iraq war that has now been proven to have nothing to do with 9-11-01, and the only way to diminish the impact of extremism on both sides, is to give voice to those who are reasonable. There are reasonable Americans, reasonable Arabs, and a growing number of educated people who can understand the complex environment in which we live. There are moderate Christians, Jews, and Muslims, who know that the search for spiritual meaning is one that we can all share rather than one that drives wedges among us.

Thank goodness that the "war on terror" is no longer part of American political rhetoric and thank God that we have the potential to reason with each other to explore past wrongs and find solutions that can bring us to peace. How to Win a Cosmic War provides a great, gripping, and relatively succinct description of how to move forward without it being about waging war.

1 comment:

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