At first glance, peace would seem to be one of those universal virtues that most decent human beings would aspire to:  to live in peace, and wish for fellow human beings to live in peace.  That would seem to be a corollary of the Golden Rule:   Want for your brother and sister what you would want for yourself.    Sadly, that seems not to be the case for some prominent members of many of our communities who passionately argue against peace in the Middle East.     These are the unblessed peace-breakers and warmongers.

There is no shortage of people who for religious or ideological reasons thrive on conflict.  Many of us are familiar with people who in their own interpersonal lives seem incapable of living in peace with others, and jump from one drama and trauma to another.     The same is true of some religious leaders and political agents who choose to seek and create conflict.   They need conflict to justify their own perception of a world perpetually in conflict. In fact, the notion of a peaceful and just world would seem to be an anathema to them, as they would have a hard time figuring out how to define themselves without doing so through conflict.    Being “clash-warriors” (who of course never see a day of battle in their own life), they seem unwilling or unable to be at peace and live at peace with others.

Bashar al-Assad Shutterstock

I want to feature three such prominent peace-breakers:  One Muslim, one Jewish, one Christian.

The Muslim—if we may even call him that—is Bashar al-Assad, the genocidal dictator who has been slaughtering his own people for two years.   Al-Assad has made it clear that he has no intention of stepping down, or reaching an agreement to end the bloodshed.

So far, at least some 75,000 human beings have been slaughtered in Syria, many more wounded, and over a million have been made into state-less and home-less refugees.    Every day, al-Assad’s armed forces engage in assaults on a civilian population, and the pace is escalating.    March 2013 was the bloodiest month since the two-year genocide started.
This is not to make paragons of virtue out of Assad’s opposition, who have engaged in atrocities of their own in Syria.   But it is Assad who took what could have been peaceful Arab Spring demonstrations (a la Tunisia), and turned into a bloodbath.    The United States, Saudi Arabia, Gulf regimes, Turkey, and Iran have now all become involved in this struggle, playing out their geopolitical chess-game at the expense of human life.

The second member the unholy trinity of peace-breakers and war-makers is Daniel Pipes, a secular American Jewish pundit whose hatred for Muslims and Arabs is well-established.  The Southern Poverty Law Center has already identified him as a anti-Muslim hate-monger.   What has Pipes said?   Well, Pipes has said a great many offensive and hateful things over the last few decades.   Well before 9/11, he was on record stating that Western Europe was unprepared for the immigration of “brown-skinned” people with “strange food.”
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Fears of a Muslim influx have more substance than the worry about jihad.
West European societies are unprepared for the massive immigration of brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and not exactly maintaining Germanic standards of hygiene.

This is the same Daniel Pipes who has argued for the disenfranchisement of American Muslims, who keeps spreading the rumors of Obama being Muslim.  This is the same Pipes who has stated:

I worry very much, from the Jewish point of view, that the presence,
and increased stature, and affluence, and enfranchisement of American Muslims…

Who argues against the “enfranchisement” of another group of Americans?
What would we say if a person was speaking against enfranchisement of African-Americans or women?
Why should it be any different if he is targeting Muslims?

This is the same Daniel Pipes who encouraged American college students to spy on their professors if they make comments deemed to be critical of Israel or American foreign policy—a real reminder of the Communist Red Scare days where people would be routinely branded as “Anti-Americans.”

So what has Pipes said today to make clear his disdain for peace in the Middle East?

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His comments were in the context of the human catastrophe in Syria, where at least 75,000 human beings have been slaughtered.   What would a decent human being say in confronting so much suffering, so much pain?   One would hope that almost any person with a real heart and soul would say something along the lines of:  “I hope and pray that the situation is brought to a swift closure.  I pray that there is no more blood shed, and I pray that those mourning loved ones are comforted, that the homeless are cared for.  I pray that a real life of peace and justice is established for all the people of the region.”

One could hope for that, but that is not what we are likely to hear from Mr. Pipes.    Daniel Pipes on the other hand hopes for the bloodshed to continue for as long as possible, because in his worldview, better the people of Syria kill each other than the conflict spill over.  He states explicitly:

I don’t want to see this end. I don’t want to see them turn their guns on us or our allies.

Speaking of Bashar al-Assad’s reign of terror, Pipes states that it isdoing more good than harm.”   On whatever planet the slaughter of 75,000 human beings and exile of 1,000,000 people can in any way be characterized as doing any bit of good whatsoever?   Whatever planet Mr. Pipes lives on, it must be a cold and miserable place, devoid of compassion and humanity.

Unstated but directly implied in Pipes’ statement is the racist assumption that the lives of American allies [read:  Israelis] are worth more than the lives of Syrians. But why would that be?  On what basis would a decent human being argue that the life of any of God’s children is worth more than the life of another child?      People of faith know that the same loving and merciful God has created all of humanity.     For many, they would express this as all of God’s children are created in the image of God, or they have had God’s breath breathed inside of them.

Pipes introduces his National Review piece by stating:  “When enemies of the West are in conflict, it is in our interest to aid the losing side.”  Yes, that is the same logic that led Donald Rumsfeld to Iraq in 1983 to shake the bloody hand of Saddam Hussein, because we in the United States were persuaded that the enemy of our enemy (Iran) was our friend, and that it was in our best interest to keep that conflict going.    How did that work out for Iraqis, for the region, for humanity?    This callous, cold-hearted, narrow-sighted perspective does nothing other than expose the policies (both domestic and international) of its advocates as lacking any fundamental basis in ethics.

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The third and last member of these peace-breakers, war-makers is the Christian one, and likely the most well-known:  Pat Robertson, the host of Christian Broadcast Network.    Pat Robertson is on record stating that he opposes peace in the Middle East, if that peace is to be achieved somehow through Palestinians and Israelis agreeing to share the land and homeland that they both love so deeply.   Robertson went so far as to position himself to the right of the most rightwing (Likud) Israeli politicians like Ariel Sharon.   Robertson, in fact, said that Sharon suffered a stroke because God punished him for having made a land-for-peace agreement in Gaza.    Many of course would disagree with characterizing what Sharon did as a land-for-peace arrangement, but simply one of partially rolling back an illegal occupation.  Others might have attributed the stroke to Sharon’s age, or uber-portly shape, but for Robertson it was the action of a vengeful God who was bringing down Sharon for having reached an agreement with Palestinians.

Pat Robertson is also on record as stating that America’s Middle East Peace initiative is “Asking For The Wrath Of Almighty God.
Here he is in his own words:

God says, “They divided my land … This is my land. I gave it to Abraham and his descendants, and I don’t want it taken away from them.” And Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel. And for the United States to get into a deal where they’re trying to split Jerusalem and take it away from the Israelis and split up their capital — huge mistake. You’re asking for the wrath of Almighty God to fall on this nation. And when it falls, it won’t be fun.

When someone like Pat Robertson argues against peace in the Middle East, I don’t just question his politics, I question his very understanding of a just and compassionate God.    One is here reminded of Dr. King’s statement in expressing his opposition to the war in Vietnam, when he was asked to relegate his concern to that of the civil rights conflict in America.    Martin passionately responded:

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To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men — for Communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the “Vietcong” or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this one? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?

Martin goes on to connect his understanding of God to his concern for peace and justice:

I believe that the Father is deeply concerned especially for his suffering and helpless and outcast children…

I wonder if Pat Robertson’s understand of God includes God’s deep and passionate concern for the suffering of the people in Syria.

I wonder about Robertson’s Christianity, I wonder about al-Assad’s genocidal delusion, and whatever hateful ideology is fueling Pipes.   [Though Pipes comes from a Jewish background, I wouldn’t want to impute the beautiful tradition of Judaism by associating it with Pipes’ venom.   No, his is an ideological formulation that is a combination of Neoconservative rancor and a rabid understanding of Zionism.].

Many of us remember Christ having taught us:   Blessed are the Peace-Makers.    If Blessed are the Peace-Makers, what do we say about those who not only do not make peace, nor pray for peace, but actually pray for conflict and seek to extend war?

The Prophet Muhammad was once asked to curse his enemies, and he refused, stating:  I was sent as a mercy to the whole cosmos, I was not sent to curse.   As a child of the Prophet, I too will not call Pipes, Robertson, and Bashar damned, but I will say they are unblessed.     How un-blessed are those who pray for war, and make peace impossible?     If they are not blessed, are they not the very opposite of that?

President John F. Kennedy once said:  Those who make peaceful revolutions impossible make violent revolution inevitable.  
what kind of a revolution are these peace-breakers and war makers making inevitable?

If the conflicts in the world today keep expanding more and more, claiming more and more innocent lives, we will look back not only at the terrorist groups and state agencies inflicting violence upon the world, but also upon these “respected” voices who are on national TV day in and day out, praying for war and conflict.

These are the unblessed Peace-breakers and the wretched Warmongers.

 

Images are courtesy of Shutterstock.

Categories: Beliefs

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Omid Safi

Omid Safi

Omid Safi is a Professor of Islamic Studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, specializing in contemporary Islamic thought and classical Islam. He leads educational tours to Turkey every summer, through Illuminated Tours: http://www.illuminatedtours.com

18 Comments

  1. It’s easy to wonder and contemplate about the current events around the world…. especially when you are living away from it… Our region is burning and we witness it every day. These days we watch TV just to track the number of casualties and dead people…
    Now most people in the Middle east are relieved because what is making the Americans shit in their pants (the threats of North Kuria) is like fireworks to them… just as what’s happening in Syria and Gaza is like the 4th of July to the American people.

    • no one cares about gaza because they bring it on themselves
      syria is sad…it sucks i dont enjoy it, no one does especially kids dying
      North Korea doesnt make us shit our pants as much as it makes me want to strike first with one of our 5 megaton nuclear warheads that we can shoot thru a window from 10,000 miles away….one of 4,000 that we have at our disposal….no one is worried about a .5kiliton warhead the size of hiroshima on a rocket that can barely hit sout korea……sometimes you guys are just little bitter shits…..like the Boston Marathon bombings….killing innocents is something you excel at…defending our country from Islamic nutbags is something we and the Isrealis excel at…..

  2. Unblessed are those who dehumanize others. Unblessed are those who applaud the oppressive, the tyrant. Unblessed are the Peace-breakers & the Warmongers.

  3. The prophets made it clear they were not talking about any Big Man in the Sky God–that has to be the most unhelpful metaphor mankind has ever come up with. Prophet Muhammed destroyed ALL the gods in the Ka’bah–he did not leave “One God.” Also, Arabic is not case sensitive, so where does the word God with the capital g come from? To make it even more clear, it was recorded in the Hadiths that he said not to refer to himself or Allah as The Father, eliminating the Christian and Jewish versions of God. In Sura Ikhlas, there is no mention of any God or god, just the word “one.” The people we respect for their message of love–caring for all mankind–were speaking of oneness, connectedness, inter-connectedness, action and reaction, what goes around comes around, the laws of physics in mother nature here on mother earth as well as anywhere else in existence. The one thing they most definitely were not speaking of was some Big Man in the Sky God, Father, Brother, or any other imaginary male entity. That idea only serves tyrants well.

    • if the Jewish version of God is eliminated then why do your people claim the Temple of Solomon as your own, when the Jews built it 1,000 yrs before Mohammed was born….to their God…the God of Moses….remember him? I think the egyptians do.

  4. Omid Safi is so full of himself – no surprise; anyone who calls himself “Ostadjaan” on twitter (i.e. “Dear Eminent Professor” in Persian) has some serious ego problems. The fact is that with all his whining and moaning, he has not been able to discount Daniel Pipes’ rational suggestion. The Iranian revolution is a prime example of replacing a puny dictator with an enormous behemoth of evil and destruction. Toppling Assad and giving the country to Crazy Islamists controlled from Qatar and Turkey is a recipe for disaster.

  5. Wow, are you drunk?
    1. ‘Ostadjaan’ does not mean that: it means st. like “sweet professor”.
    2. Iranian revolution: just spend 10 minutes to watch this to get information on key aspects of Iranian Revolution:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_AHJQiMxIw
    3. “Crazy Islamists controlled from Qatar and Turkey.” Come on, get real. Where is honor in dehumanizing people?

  6. It’s all very well for “Ostad jan” to wax poetic about God, and right and wrong.

    But someone like Daniel Pipes is concerned with the real world.

    In the real world, such decisions as who to support in a given conflict, have to be made.

    They have to be made with reason, with consideration for their consequences for the world at large, and in Mr Pipes’ case, for his country – the USA.

  7. Omid Safi

    Hello “Farhad”, If living in the real world means being as devoid of compassion for the lives of Syrians and other fellow human beings, I am glad I don’t live in that world.
    In my real world, we are called to live with one another, for another one, and to see all of humanity as God’s creation and equally precious.
    I for one will never stand letting “realism” be a shorthand for callous barbarism and disregard for human life and human dignity.

    • Well, congratulations. That is your right and your privilege.

      But it’s also why you don’t work in the fields of policy or international relations.

      I personally would not like to be a policeman, or a bouncer, or a politician. They’re all rather dirty jobs I feel.

      But someone has to do them.

      So it is with the realists you decry.

      If any government – especially one as powerful as the USA – disbanded their military and intelligence services, and started taking a strictly pacifist approach to foreign policy, they’d be eaten alive.

      If only it weren’t so.

  8. Omid Safi

    Farhad, i hope you can someday see the difference between international relations or public policy and what Daniel Pipes does. There is a reason why the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified him and people like him as hate-mongers.

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