Posts Tagged ‘Middle East’

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.

Causing genocide to protect us from terror

April 18, 2015

Neil Clark is a journalist, writer and broadcaster. His award winning blog can be found at www.neilclark66.blogspot.com. Follow him on Twitter

Published time: March 30, 2015 12:52

An Iraqi family watches U.S. soldiers in in Baquba early June 28, 2007.  (Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)

An Iraqi family watches U.S. soldiers in in Baquba early June 28, 2007. (Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)

A report called Body Count has revealed that at least 1.3 million people have lost their lives as a result of the US-led “war on terror” in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. It’s a report which should have made front page news across the world.

In the comprehensive 101 pagedocument ‘Body Count,’

Physicians for Social Responsibility, Physicians for Global Survival and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, have produced figures for the number of people killed from September 11, 2001 until the end of 2013.

The findings are devastating: the in-depth investigation concludes that the ‘war on terror‘ has, directly or indirectly, killed around 1 million people in Iraq, 220,000 in Afghanistan and 80,000 in Pakistan. As awful as that sounds, the total of 1.3 million deaths does not take into account casualties in other war zones, such as Yemen – and the authors stress that the figure is a “conservative estimate”.

“The total number of deaths in the three countries named above could also be in excess of 2 million, whereas a figure below 1 million is extremely unlikely,” the executive summary says.

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Richard Falk: Whose ‘Two State’ Solution? End game or Intermission?

June 7, 2013

Richard Falk, 6 June, 2013

 From many sources there is a widespread effort to resume a peace process that has in the past led to failure, frustration, and anger, and often to renewed violence. The newly appointed American Secretary of State, John Kerry, is about to make his fifth trip to Israel since the beginning of 2013, insisting that the two sides try once more to seek peace, and warning if this doesn’t happen very soon, the prospects for an agreed upon solution will be postponed not for just a year or two, but for decades. Kerry says if this current effort does not succeed, he will turn his attention elsewhere, and that the United States will make no further effort. So far, aside from logging the air miles, seems perversely to be responsive to Tel Aviv’s demands for land swaps to allow settlement blocs to be incorporated into Israel and to promote further Palestinian concessions in relation to security arrangements, and totally unresponsive to Ramallah’s demands for some tangible signs from the Israeli government that resumed negotiations will not be another slammed door. In this vein, Kerry’s most ardent recent plea was at the Global Forum, an annual event organized under the auspices of the American Jewish Committee. Kerry told this audience that they possessed the influence to make the peace talks happen.

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Israel’s Buffoon: The UN Nakba

May 14, 2012

By Vacy Vlazna, uruknet.info, May 13, 2012

On May 15, 1948 the unilateral proclamation of the State of Israel which erupted into the brutal Palestinian Nakba or Catastrophe was also catastrophic for United Nations (UN) ringing the death knell for its stature and authority.

Like medieval kings, the US and Israel employed the UN to be its fool running around with a cap o’ bells and sceptre (rendered useless by US veto) beginning with the 1947 Resolution 181, passed on 29 February by members (under coercion) recommending the partition of the British Mandate of Palestine into Jewish and Palestinian states which was understandably rejected by Palestine but accepted by Israel as a step toward its Zionist expansionist goal for the full realisation of a Jewish Eretz Israel.

Ironically, on 30th February Menachem Begin, head of the terrorist gang, Irgun, brazenly announced the Zionist immutable dogma, “The partition of Palestine is illegal. It will never be recognised… Jerusalem was and forever will be our capital. Eretz Israel will be restored to the people of Israel. All of it. And forever.”

Continues >>

Israel’s Buffoon: The UN Nakba

May 14, 2012

By Vacy Vlazna, uruknet.info, May 13, 2012

On May 15, 1948 the unilateral proclamation of the State of Israel which erupted into the brutal Palestinian Nakba or Catastrophe was also catastrophic for United Nations (UN) ringing the death knell for its stature and authority.

Like medieval kings, the US and Israel employed the UN to be its fool running around with a cap o’ bells and sceptre (rendered useless by US veto) beginning with the 1947 Resolution 181, passed on 29 February by members (under coercion) recommending the partition of the British Mandate of Palestine into Jewish and Palestinian states which was understandably rejected by Palestine but accepted by Israel as a step toward its Zionist expansionist goal for the full realisation of a Jewish Eretz Israel.

Ironically, on 30th February Menachem Begin, head of the terrorist gang, Irgun, brazenly announced the Zionist immutable dogma, “The partition of Palestine is illegal. It will never be recognised… Jerusalem was and forever will be our capital. Eretz Israel will be restored to the people of Israel. All of it. And forever.”

Continues >>

What Must Be Said by Gunter Grass

April 10, 2012

What Must Be Said

by Gunter Grass

HARDNEWS, April 2012

The controversial poem published in the Süddeutsche Zeitung has raised a storm across the world 

Why do I stay silent, conceal for too long

What clearly is and has been

Practiced in war games, at the end of which we as survivors

Are at best footnotes.

 

It is the alleged right to first strike

That could annihilate the Iranian people–

Enslaved by a loud-mouth

And guided to organized jubilation–

Because in their territory,

It is suspected, a bomb is being built.

 

Yet why do I forbid myself

To name that other country

In which, for years, even if secretly,

There has been a growing nuclear potential at hand

But beyond control, because no inspection is available?

 

The universal concealment of these facts,

To which my silence subordinated itself,

I sense as incriminating lies

And force–the punishment is promised

As soon as it is ignored;

The verdict of “anti-Semitism” is familiar.

 

Now, though, because in my country

Which from time to time has sought and confronted

Its very own crime

That is without compare

In turn on a purely commercial basis, if also

With nimble lips calling it a reparation, declares

A further U-boat should be delivered to Israel,

Whose specialty consists of guiding all-destroying warheads to where the existence

Of a single atomic bomb is unproven,

But as a fear wishes to be conclusive,

I say what must be said.

 

Why though have I stayed silent until now?

Because I thought my origin,

Afflicted by a stain never to be expunged

Kept the state of Israel, to which I am bound

And wish to stay bound,

From accepting this fact as pronounced truth.

 

Why do I say only now,

Aged and with my last ink,

That the nuclear power of Israel endangers

The already fragile world peace?

Because it must be said

What even tomorrow may be too late to say;

Also because we–as Germans burdened enough–

Could be the suppliers to a crime

That is foreseeable, wherefore our complicity

Could not be redeemed through any of the usual excuses.

 

And granted: I am silent no longer

Because I am tired of the hypocrisy

Of the West; in addition to which it is to be hoped

That this will free many from silence,

That they may prompt the perpetrator of the recognized danger

To renounce violence and

Likewise insist

That an unhindered and permanent control

Of the Israeli nuclear potential

And the Iranian nuclear sites

Be authorized through an international agency

By the governments of both countries.

 

Only this way are all, the Israelis and Palestinians,

Even more, all people, that in this

Region occupied by mania

Live cheek by jowl among enemies,

And also us, to be helped.

On Foreign Affairs – Remaking the Middle East

November 17, 2010
By Jim Miles, Foreign Policy Journal, Nov 17, 2010

The title from this issue of Foreign Affairs struck me as rather odd, in particular the subtitle “New Challenges Call for New Policies. Are the U.S. and Israel Ready to Change Course?” (September/October 2010) The U.S. has been trying to remake the Middle East for quite a few decades now as it gradually took over the role of the British and French as the local imperial power.

The first article “Beyond Moderates and Militants – How Obama can Chart a New Course in the Middle East” struck me as a non-starter as Obama has done nothing to do away with Bush’s heritage and has extended it further east with another surge into Afghanistan and incursions and covert actions into Pakistan. The authors introduce Obama with what I perceive as an error in that “the Obama administration has rejected…the worldview of the Bush administration.” Perhaps rhetorically with vague talk about change and hope, neither of which offer any practical solutions, leaving Obama’s actions to speak for themselves: unconditional support for Israel; kowtowing to AIPAC; supporting military occupation as a theoretical means to bring peace into the region; and basically not challenging any of the previous actions of the Bush administration. His appointees in a variety of positions within the executive are mainly from the previous Bush and Clinton administrations.

Continues >>

MidEast, Asia failing to protect domestic workers

April 29, 2010

Middle East Online, April 29, 2010



‘Reforms have been slow, incremental, and hard-fought’

HRW: reforms undertaken by governments fall far short of minimum protections needed.

KUALA LUMPUR – Middle East and Asian nations, which draw millions of foreign domestic workers, have failed to take action to tackle widespread abuse of the vulnerable women despite recent improvements. Human Rights Watch said.

“The reforms undertaken by Middle Eastern and Asian governments fall far short of the minimum protections needed to tackle abuses against migrant domestic workers,” the US-based group said in a report launched ahead of International Labour Day on May 1.

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The Firestorm Ahead

September 2, 2009

Immanuel Wallerstein, Agence Global, September 2, 2009

There is a firestorm ahead in the Middle East for which neither the U.S. government nor the U.S. public is prepared. They seem scarcely aware how close it is on the horizon or how ferocious it will be. The U.S. government (and therefore almost inevitably the U.S. public) is deluding itself massively about its capacity to handle the situation in terms of its stated objectives. The storm will go from Iraq to Afghanistan to Pakistan to Israel/Palestine, and in the classic expression “it will spread like wildfire.”

Continues >>

Death of a Myth: Israel’s Support of a Two-State Solution

August 29, 2009

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Page 7

Special Report

By Rachelle Marshall

ISRAEL’S actions from the beginning have directly contradicted the image it projects to the West. The founding of a country that was to be “a light among nations” required the forcible expulsion of most of its original inhabitants. The “Middle East’s only democracy” became the brutal oppressor of three million Palestinians. The nationhood that was to endow the Jewish people with “normality” gave them instead a garrison state in which military strength is the dominant value.

  • On the day of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s White House meeting with President Barack Obama, a Palestinian woman in the occupied city of Hebron stares at an Israeli soldier standing guard near a wall spraypainted by settlers with obscenities and the Star of David. Ultranationalist Israeli Knesset members were visiting the city to protest Netanyahu’s promotion of the easing of restrictions on Palestinians (AFP photo/Menahem Kahana).

The most enduring myth of all is that Israel would welcome peace with the Palestinians and the Arab nations if they agreed to recognize Israel’s legitimacy as a state. In 1955 then-Prime Minister Moshe Sharett recorded in his diary a statement by Israel Defense Minister Moshe Dayan that revealed Israel’s true policy: preserving the unity of an immigrant population by discouraging peace efforts and maintaining a sense of permanent beleaguerment.

Continues >>