Posts Tagged ‘dialogue’

Book Review: Perceptions of Islam in the Christendoms (Khan)

October 17, 2015

Editor’s Note: This is a recent  review by Jacob J. Prahlow of my book Perceptions of Islam in the Christendoms: A Historical Survey.

This book can be downloaded by clicking on the following link.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/b94nzes5l8ydub4/Perceptions%20of%20Islam.pdf?dl=0

— Nasir Khan, Editor

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Book Review: Perceptions of Islam in the Christendoms (Khan)

History is contested. Though far from a novel statement, we often need to be reminded that the past is not as clean and easy as our history textbooks make it out to be. This is especially true in matters of religious history and conflict, where seemingly everyone wants to contribute their two cents to hot button issues. Occasionally, however, someone will produce a historical narrative that—while outside the mainstream—remains valuable enough to warrant consideration. Nasir Khan’s Perceptions of Islam in the Christendoms may be one such book.

In Perceptions of Islam in the Christendoms: A Historical Survey (Oslo: Solum Forlag, 2006), Khan traces the history of Christianity and its interactions with Islam, admittedly writing from the perspective of a Muslim historian and political analyst. Weighing in at nearly five hundred pages, Khan’s tome-like work stands as one of the most thorough treatments of Islamic-Christian in recent decades. After three chapters on early Christianity and the pre-Islamic world, Khan devotes two sections to the rise of Islam and early doctrinal differences between Christianity and Islam and two chapters on political influence and spread of Islam. Next come two chapters on the Crusades, a section on Islamic interaction with the Mongol empire, and three chapters on “shifting perceptions” of Islam and then rise of Enlightenment perspectives. Perceptions of Islam closes with two chapters on late-nineteenth and twentieth century interactions between Islam and Christianity.

There is much of value in this volume. In the first place, it is well written and easy to follow, something that cannot be said of every attempt at a historical survey. Khan does an especially admirable job providing a Muslim perspective on the history of Christianity, world history, and Muslim-Christian relations. Books that provide other ways of engaging history—even if they are ultimately disagreeable—are integral to properly engaging the complexities of the past. In this vein, Khan provides a good sense of Muslim interpretations of important events—the Crusades in particular—and how these events continue to shape Muslim perceptions of the West. Finally, he offers some solid reading in the general history of Middle East. Overall, there is much that students of history will find useful in Khan’s presentation.

However, much here also stands in need to critique. Two primary issues loom large throughout this volume: the assumption of modernity and its harshest critiques of Christianity without reciprocity toward Islam and a fundamentally faulty understanding of early Christianity. In the first place, Khan takes a thoroughly modernist approach to history—Marxist it seems, both in term of approach and the laudatory citation of Marx and Lenin. This historiography relies heavily upon considerably older scholarship, especially when it comes to discussing the ills of Christianity. Khan’s primary authorities when considering the history of Christianity are Voltaire, Thomas Paine, and Gibbon. Further, he relies on ‘First Quest’ Historical Jesus scholars—Wrede and Renan primarily—when talking about the historical Jesus. This would be problematic in itself, but Khan also almost entirely avoids similarly dated and perspectival criticisms of Islam. This approach to scholarship is simply not acceptable for something published as recently as 2006. Second, Khan’s chapters on early Christianity are filled with numerous inaccuracies, the most troubling of which is a flawed understanding of the Trinity. For a writer who consistently criticizes Christians for not coming to a proper understanding of Islam,[1] this is disappointing.

Overall, Khan’s work stands as something of a mixed bag. The most valuable use of Perspectives of Islam may be that it offers a good indication of “where we’re at” in terms of Muslim-Christian dialogue. Whereas many interfaith-minded authors seem to put the best face possible on any given situation, Khan gives what appears to be his honest opinion, no holds barred. In that sense, this book may serve as a valuable source for where Christians and Muslims need to seek further clarification and understanding. This book comes recommended for those thinking about Muslim-Christian dialogue, and those who already possess a solid foundation in the history of Christianity. For other readers, Perceptions of Islam in the Christendoms should only serve as piecemeal source or an example of Muslim perspectives on the history of Christianity.

All opinions in this review belong solely to the reviewer.

[1] For one example of this, see page 329.

Oddbjørn Leirvik’s constructive role in Norway

June 8, 2014

 

Nasir Khan, June 8, 2014

In Norway one social activist and theologian within the Lutheran church  who has done much to advance the cause of religious dialogue  amongst  the believing communities is  Oddbjørn Leirvik. He has focused on creating bonds of understanding and toleration between diverse religious communities. He represents an enlightened perspective in matters of religion that traditionally have led to much conflict and acrimony  in history. Single-mindedly he has followed an open and all-inclusive approach in inter-religious dialogue instead of the more familiar practice where people beat the drums of their own faith being the best and repository of all the truth for the whole of humanity.

Professor Leirvik is one of those people who understand that in these times social and political conditions have changed fast. Many countries in Western Europe have become multi-ethnic,   muti-cultural and multi-religious.  Now we find an increasing number of people from different parts of the world, belonging to different religions, religious traditions and non-religious ideologies living and working in the same country. They are all part of the same society. To live and work together in a humane and peaceful way we need to understand and respect others. That does not mean that we have to accept the misuse and manipulation of religion by some groups or individuals or bow down before those traditions that violate basic human rights and relegate an inferior social status to women. In all such things, Professor Leirvik stands for a just and equitable society where basic human values take precedence over bigotry and crude anti-social indoctrination.

Kashmir dispute main cause of tension in South Asia

September 29, 2009

Kashmir Media Service,

New York, September 26 (KMS): The Chairman of All Parties Hurriyet Conference, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, has said that Kashmir dispute is the main cause of tension in South Asia and needs to be resolved without any further delay. Addressing the OIC Foreign Ministers’ Conference in New York, the APHC Chairman said, because of its impact on relations between Pakistan and India, the conflict over Kashmir directly affects the peace and stability in the entire region, which is home to millions of people.

Mirwaiz maintained that the APHC was committed to bring about a peaceful and political solution to the dispute through meaningful dialogue among Pakistan, India and Kashmiris’ genuine leadership. He demanded demilitarization of Jammu and Kashmir, complete withdrawal of Indian troops from town and villages of occupied Kashmir and repeal of all draconian laws including Disturbed Areas Act, Public Safety Act and Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

The APHC Chairman said that human rights violations should be stopped and the international rights organisations should be allowed to have access to the occupied territory. He also called for the restoration of the rights of peaceful association, assembly and demonstrations, unconditional release of all political prisoners, freedom of all political leaders to travel abroad and allowing people to people contact on either side of the Line of Control.

Mirwaiz appealed to the leaders of the Islamic countries to use their moral and political influence to help resume the peace process for a just and honourable settlement of the Kashmir dispute and to grant the people of Kashmir their inalienable right of self-determination.

Complete text of the APHC Chairman’s speech is as follows

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Secretary General, Excellencies, distinguished guest, ladies and gentlemen,
Assalam-u-Alaikum Warahmatula-e-Wabarakatuhu,
I am enormously grateful for the opportunity to address this highly esteemed gathering of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) on the subject of Kashmir.  I was also invited to participate in the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers in Damascus, Syria in May 2009. However, I could not attend that meeting because I was not given the travel document by the Government of India.

Excellencies, today, at this august body, I stand before you not just as a representative of the Kashmiri people struggling for their inalienable right of self-determination, but, more importantly as a ‘believer’. A believer who is urging the Ummah to reclaim its intellectual and spiritual glory.  A believer who is proud of the accomplishments of the Organization of Islamic Conference, yet, recognizes that there is much work still to do.

The Foreign Ministers in this annual coordination meeting aim to discuss various issues related to the United Nations’ agenda in order to enhance cooperation and coordination among the OIC Member States at the UN.  The importance of this initiative cannot be overstated. And, we need to be sure that our cooperation cannot be built on the hatred of anyone or anything, rather it should be undertaken with a love for ourselves and our traditions.

The present Charter of the Organization was adopted by the Eleventh Islamic Summit held in Dakar on 13-14 March 2008, which laid down the objectives and principles of the organization and fundamental purposes to strengthen the solidarity and cooperation among the Member States. The Organization has the singular honor to galvanize the Ummah into a unified body and have actively represented the Muslims by espousing all causes close to the hearts of over 1.5 billion Muslims of the world. The Organization has consultative and cooperative relations with the UN to protect the vital interests of the Muslims and to work for the settlement of conflicts and disputes involving Member States. One such conflict is that of the Jammu and Kashmir.

It bears no reiteration that the Kashmir conflict primarily involves the life and future of the people of the land. However, unresolved dispute is at the underlying cause of tension between two nuclear rival – India and Pakistan.  Because of its impact on relations between these two neighboring countries, it directly affects the peace and stability in an unstable region, which is home to more than 1.2 billion people, and the peace and security of many more nations beyond.

It has been a cause of two wars and numerous battles between the two neighbors, India and Pakistan.  The place has been aptly described by the former US President, Bill Clinton as the “most dangerous place” on earth. The situation has taken an ominous turn since the Mumbai attacks o November 26, 2008. With extremist threat growing in the region, the escalating turmoil in Kashmir promises to engulf the entire region extending from Afghanistan to Bangladesh.

Excellencies, the APHC is committed to a peaceful and political solution to the Kashmir dispute. We believe that for a meaningful dialogue between Pakistan, India and the Leadership of Jammu & Kashmir the following measures need to be taken.

1.  To demilitarize the arena of conflict – the State of Jammu and Kashmir – through a phased withdrawal of the troops;

2.  Complete withdrawal of India’s military presence from Kashmiri towns and villages;

3.  Immediate repeal of all draconian laws including Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act and Public Safety Act and Armed Forces Special Powers Act;

4.   End to violations of human rights and allowing the international human rights organisations to have access to Kashmir;

5. The restoration of the rights of peaceful association, assembly and demonstrations;

6.    The unconditional release of all political prisoners;

7.     Freedom of all political leaders to travel abroad; and

8.   To allow people to people contact on either side of the Line of Control.

Excellencies, we trust you will bring your immense moral and political influence to bear on initiating a peace process which will lead to a speedy, just an honourable settlement of the dispute and to restore the inalienable right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir.

I thank you, Excellencies for your patient hearing.

See also, Resolving the Kashmir Conflict

UK MPs urge the Quartet to bring Hamas into peace talks

July 24, 2008

A cross party group of MPs has called on the Quartet mediating in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to open a dialogue with Hamas, saying “until now there has been no engagement between the Quartet and Hamas, but now we think it is time”.

Publishing a report on the humanitarian and development situation in the occupied territories, the international development select committee said the international community should “seize the opportunity” of a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas to bring the Palestinian group into the peace process.

The chair of the committee, Liberal Democrat Malcolm Bruce told the Guardian that the MPs believed it was time for the Quartet – made up of the US, the EU, Russia and the United Nations – to “sound out Hamas”.

The committee heard evidence from former prime minister Tony Blair – the representative of the Quartet – whose session in front of the committee was a rare return to the House of Commons. The MPs found that Blair had made a “welcome first step” to reduce strategic checkpoints.

Although the MPs reported that the Hamas armed takeover of Gaza was “neither justified nor acceptable”, they also said that it was important to include Hamas in peace talks. They also urged the Quartet to use the opportunity provided by the truce to begin a reconciliation between rival Palestinian parties Hamas and Fatah.

The Quartet’s insistence that Hamas must first agree to three principles – to recognise Israel, renounce violence, and abide by previous agreements – before being involved in peace talks had “achieved very little” in the last two years, the committee said.

Bruce said that food, fuel and water were in short supply in Gaza, and the public health system was under severe pressure following the closure of borders. Though a six-month ceasefire was agreed between Hamas and Israel last month allowing food and aid through Gaza’s borders, the committee found that the effect of Israel’s blockades were still felt and the situation on the ground was far worse.

Bruce said: “Israel has obligations to ensure the health and welfare of the Palestinian population, which it has not met.

“We believe the situation was allowed to continue for too long, and that the Quartet did not exert sufficient pressure on Israel to open the crossings.”