Wednesday, June 9, 2010

" No More Crusades" found in Harvard Intl. Review

This painting was found without artist's name at this link and file here

NOTE: Right after the last item posted here -- a condensation of an interview about Zionism -- I discovered an article filed in the search engine under the same name I use for my blogsite: "No More Crusades" The full article has this copywright notice
© 2003-2008 The Harvard International Review. All rights reserved. The article is:
"Rethinking Islam in the West" by Bruce B. Lawrence
Religion, Vol. 25 (4) - Winter 2004 Issue

(Bruce B. Lawrence is the Nancy and Jeffrey Marcus Humanities Professor of Religion at Duke University.)

This academic opinion piece is introduces as from "Harvard's premier journal of international affairs" which according to the introduction features "incisive analysis from the world's leading academics..." yet perhaps like me you will find the wording to be much less "off-putting" than many works from this genre -- a type of writing which is often too erudite to appeal to either lay reader or expert.

Having found this theological/philosophocal/historical "thesis" compelling, refreshing and providing pertinent and fertile discussion material for our present world affairs, I'm posting select sections here:

No More Crusades
Rethinking Islam in the West by Bruce B. Lawrence
Religion, Vol. 25 (4) - Winter 2004 Issue

Bruce B. Lawrence is the Nancy and Jeffrey Marcus Humanities Professor of Religion at Duke University.

No enmity is natural. Each arises from a specific set of historical circumstances. We in the West have fallen prey to the idea that Islam was not just a historical foe but also a natural enemy of Europe and later of the West...

By the mid-90s there was no longer a red menace; instead, there was a green enemy: Islam. Always lurking in the shadows, it emerged as a real foe during the Iranian Revolution of the late 70s. The band of bearded ayatollahs and their leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, became the clerical counterweight to a secular, pro-Western, capitalist world order. Yet neither Iranians, Libyans, Lebanese, Sudanese, nor Iraqis proved to be the real menace. When September 11, 2001 brought the green enemy out of the shadows and into the headlines, it was (allegedly?*) a non-state Saudi related group that attacked the United States in the name of Allah. Al-Qaeda seemed to justify the worst fears of crisis managers and civilization watchdogs. There was an Islamic enemy, with a Saudi face and modern weapons that was real and determined. September 11 seemed to confirm the major theories proffered in the aftermath of the Gulf War: Samuel Huntington's clash between civilizations, Bernard Lewis's replay of the Crusades, and Francis Fukuyama's reemergence of fascism with an Islamic face.

(*the word 'allegedly' added by blogger here)

Since September 11, the "Clash of Civilizations" theory has dominated and incorporated all others. It seems to explain Muslim-Western hostility as both ancient and irreversible. It is neither. This enmity is made by humans and thus can be unmade by humans. The historical events over the past millennium can and must be retold from a broader perspective that includes multiple interpretations of the same events and their sequels. There is no single Christian view and no single Muslim counterpart; both exhibit an internal variety.

What is needed to advance beyond pseudo-dialectics and interminable warfare is a double critique -- internal and external -- that must begin with the symbolic event that haunts the memory of Christians and Muslims alike: the Crusades. The Crusades began over 900 years ago and still continue today. Pope Urban II's call for Crusaders in 1095 was not an isolated message from the European Middle Ages, but an awakening of Christendom to the threat of Islam. To quote Pope Urban II, "In our days God has fought through Christian men in Asia against the Turks and in Europe against the Moors." By Crusader logic, Christians must fight on and on, in every continent and in every age, against Turks, Moors, Saracens or their 21st century collective successors: the Muslims.

Protestant and Catholic Crusaders
Who are today's Crusaders? They are both Protestant and Catholic. News headlines have featured the raw provocations of evangelicals, from the Southern Baptist President who derided Muhammad as a pedophile to Franklin Graham lampooning Islam as an evil, misguided religion. Until 1995 the Californian Baptist minister Tim LaHaye was best known for his leadership of the Christian Family movement. He has now become the bestselling author of a whole line of apocalyptic fiction, including Left Behind brigade. LaHaye, of course, does not project Left Behind as fiction but as fact that the end will come...

...By comparison to Protestant doomsday sayers, Catholic sabre rattlers may seem almost anodyne in their view of both the last days and Arab adversaries. But are they? Consider the Vatican. It has often been suggested that the current Pope is well disposed to Muslims in general and to Palestinians in particular. But Papal pronouncements also include beatifications; one recent beatification, announced in April 2003, elevated an obscure Capuchin monk/priest named Marco d'Aviano. Brother Marco is alleged to have inspired the now famous cappuccino coffee, but he was also a seventeenth century Capuchin monk, and he helped to defend Vienna against a Turkish assault in the 1680s. The Turks were Muslims and they were allegedly defeated because Brother Marco rallied both Protestants and Catholics to oppose the Muslim invaders. The Turks, defeated in the 1683 Battle of Vienna, never again besieged Western Europe. In his April pronouncement Pope John Paul II celebrated that moment as a Christian victory. He lauded Brother Marco as a true Crusader, asserting that he had helped defend the "freedom and unity of Christian Europe," reminding today's Catholics that the continent is founded on "common Christian roots." The Holy Father's commendation had an unspoken trailer: "Muslims are not welcome; go home, to Asia or to Africa, but depart from Christian Europe!"

Beyond papal pronouncements there are Catholic polemicists at large. William F. Buckley leads the pack. No sooner had the U.S. completed its invasion of Iraq than Buckley wrote a provocative article for The National Review (27 May 2003). It was entitled "Onward, Christian Missionaries!" echoing the words of the 19th century Anglican hymn, "Onward, Christian Soldiers!" ...

...If the real battle is the battle of ideas, then surely there must be Muslim warriors who also join in this combat. To fight a war to end war, the contestants must gather like-minded Muslims, Christians, Jews and Buddhists together against other religionists equally drawn to divine guidance but mistakenly intent on apocalyptic doomsday brands of scriptural truth.

In this anti-Armageddon battle a formidable Muslim warrior is the Shi'i activist and university professor, Abdul Aziz Sachedina. For Sachedina, as for a growing number of Muslim pluralists, the Qur'an must be read as a whole book of coherent intent and not as a scrapbook of conflicting messages. The largest intent is inclusive: to marshal all humankind on the path to peace, and that message prevails despite the contexts of aggression that evoked Chapters 8 and 9. The Qur'an presents Islam as the affirmation and the summation, not the denial, of earlier religions. Even later Medinan Chapters declare that Muslims have no monopoly on divine grace, either in this world or the next (2:62, 5:69); they also invite Jews and Christians to join Muslims in emphasizing the essential similarities in their beliefs (e.g., 3:64).

In his most recent book, The Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism (Oxford 2002), Sachedina shows how Qur'anic ideals are formulated and also how historical developments rather than initial intent has limited their application. Again and again, the key interpretive move is not to dwell on individual verses but to read and understand all verses in their full context. To counter the verses used by medieval jurists to rationalize discrimination against non-Muslims, Sachedina discloses how the Qur'an projects an overriding concern with justice, as in the following passage:

God does not forbid you, with regard to those who do not fight you because of your faith, nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them, for God loves those who are just (60:8).

The linchpin of Qur'anic logic is the universal scope of humanity. There may be separate tribes and languages, races and polities, yet all humankind was created to be one community, linked together and sustained by prophecy:

The people were one community (umma), then God sent forth the Prophets, good tidings to bear and warning, and He sent down with them the Book with the truth, that He might decide among them touching their difference. (2:213)

Difference is therefore not social waywardness, but divine prescription. Within the overarching notion of a common community, above all marked through Abraham, the Transcendent intended there to be differences among the children of Abraham, Jews, Christians and Muslims. Those who could have been one united community are instead destined to be linked communities, each with its own law and its own way, in order that God might be the judge. In the meantime, believers are instructed not to fight each other, but to compete with one another in good works...



  1. Connie, its really brilliant. Thank you for searching it and posting for our knowledge.

  2. Urooj,

    So glad you took the time to look the item over. If brilliant (and I find it at least resonates deeply with my current beliefs at least upon first discovery) - the article is matched by your own capacity to understand such deep truth and dynamics. (And to be such an early age as well.)

    More and more I am so inspired and amazed at the depth, creativity, faith and dedication coming out of your work, study and insight.

    Help keep the discussion on this piece and related going - only if you have the time.