A website called the Fikra Forum describes itself as “an online community that aims to generate ideas to support Arab democrats in their struggle with authoritarians and extremists.” In this post, we bring to readers’ attention two recent contributions by Palestinian writers.
“On the Significance of Dialogue,” by Mohammed S. Dajani Daoudi, an Islamic educator based in Jerusalem and a Fellow at the Washington Institute (the source of his photo), argues for moderation by correcting extremist views of Islam with thoughtful references to the Quran and related texts. He begins:
The principal gain yielded by the exchange of ideas between two adversaries is mutual understanding. Admittedly, at the conclusion of a dialogue it could turn out that the pair really do have irreconcilable views – but at least the discussion has allowed both participants to map out the other’s position. . . .
For example, a non-Muslim once argued with me that the Quran endorses anti-Semitism since it describes Jews as ‘apes and pigs.’ In response, I pointed out how the two verses he was referring to in the Quran actually stated that God punished the Sabbath breakers by turning them into apes and swine. . . .
Other Muslims and non-Muslims have probed further, contending that anti-Semitism is glaringly present in a famous quote, often attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, which states: “The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees and the stones and trees will say, ‘O Muslim, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’ …” But a comprehensive review of the Holy Quran, … demonstrates that no such hadith would exist since it openly contradicts Islamic faith. I have pointed to this, and have reminded those citing this quote that the Prophet instructed his followers to reject any hadith attributed to him which contradicts the text of the Holy Quran . . .
The same pattern of false assumptions being corrected through conversations took form during my interactions with Muslims. Most memorable among them, a fellow Muslim once asserted that those who leave Islam should be punished by death, after which I cited scripture that said that deserters should be judged by God alone. On another occasion, a Muslim cleric shared the general misconception among the Muslim community that those who follow Jesus are non-believers because they believe Jesus is the son of God and that he himself is a God; I cited a verse in the Quran affirming that God on the Day of Resurrection would judge regarding matters in which we differ. Once a Muslim sheik asserted that an adulteress woman should be stoned to death but when I gave him the Holy Quran to point out which verse states that message, he failed to find any verse supporting his claim. . . .
The other article, “International Peace Conference: Winners and Losers,” is by Dr. Adel Mohammed Ayesh Al-Astel, identified as a Palestinian academic. The writer is notably moderate and fair-minded in tone, as he succinctly recounts how France and the Palestinian Authority have attempted to allay US and Israeli concerns about an international peace conference:
. . . [O]ne of the most substantial Israeli gains has been France’s removal of their major precondition: recognition of the State of Palestine in the event the initiative fails. This shift in stance has been coupled by French guarantees that the French state understands Israeli needs, and that they are taking into account Israeli doubts that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would be willing to make any valuable compromises or even effectively represent the Palestinians, despite the notable lack of more credible alternatives.
. . . The Palestinian Authority (PA) has also offered concessions . . . . The PA has agreed to halt its efforts in presenting a draft resolution against settlements to the Security Council and freeze any draft resolutions against Israel with the UN. It has also suspended any mention of ceasing security coordination with Israel.
Nevertheless, it is unclear if French and Palestinian concessions are enough to bring Netanyahu to the negotiating table, since Netanyahu appear to continue to insist that while “Israel is ready immediately to begin direct negotiations with the Palestinians… Any other diplomatic initiative distances the Palestinians from the table of direct negotiations.” . . . Netanyahu’s current trepidation and the current Israeli mood might indicate that Israelis (as a whole) would be unwilling to fully commit to French-brokered negotiations in a manner that is consistent with the vision and understanding of its international participants. For now, the building tensions in the region have left a significant section of Israeli society more concerned with achieving gains and retribution than another jab at the peace process.
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