Mosquée du 11/9: La paix comme arme contre les incroyants (Ground Zero mosque’s promoter spills out the beans on his peace as a weapon against the unbelievers)

9/11 Mosque cartoon
En tant que citoyen, en tant que président, je crois que les musulmans ont autant le droit de pratiquer leur religion que quiconque dans ce pays. Cela inclut le droit de construire un lieu de culte et un centre socio-culturel sur un terrain privé dans le lower Manhattan, en respect des lois et décrets locaux. Nous sommes en Amérique. Notre engagement en faveur de la liberté de religion doit être inébranlable. Barack Hussein Obama
.For my fellow Arabs I have the following special message: Learn from the example of the Prophet Mohammed, your greatest historical personality. After a state of war with the Meccan unbelievers that lasted for many years, he acceded, in the Treaty of Hudaybiyah, to demands that his closest companions considered utterly humiliating. Yet peace turned out to be a most effective weapon against the unbelievers. (…) In a true peace it is impossible that a purely Jewish state of Palestine can endure. . . . In a true peace, Israel will, in our lifetimes, become one more Arab country, with a Jewish minority. Feisel Abdul Rauf (letter to The NYT, November 27, 1977)
The revolution in Iran was inspired by the very principles of individual rights and freedom that Americans ardently believe in. Feisel Abdul Rauf (letter to The NYT, February 27, 1979)
President Obama (…) should say his administration respects many of the guiding principles of the 1979 revolution—to establish a government that expresses the will of the people; a just government, based on the idea of Vilayet-i-faquih, that establishes the rule of law. Feisel Abdul Rauf
It is amusing that journalists are combing through letters-to-the-editor that I wrote more than 30 years ago, when I was a young man, for clues to my evolution. As I re-read those letters now, I see that they express the same concerns—a desire for peaceful solutions in Israel, and for a humane understanding of Iran—that I have maintained, and worked hard on, in the years since those letters were published. Feisel Abdul Rauf
Normative Islam is inherently pluralist. It is supported by 1,000 years of Muslim history in which religious freedom was cherished. (…) The classical thinking within Islam was to let a thousand flowers bloom. Ours is not a centralized tradition, and Islam’s rich diversity is a legacy of our pluralist past. Normative Islam, from its early history to the present, is defined by its commitment to protecting religion, life, progeny, wealth and the human mind. (…) This is the heart of Islam. Ed Husain
A form of moderation has been a central part of Islam from the very beginning. True, Muslims are nowhere commanded to love their neighbors, as in the Old Testament, still less their enemies, as in the New Testament. But they are commanded to accept diversity, and this commandment was usually obeyed. (…) This principle created a level of tolerance among Muslims and coexistence between Muslims and others that was unknown in Christendom until after the triumph of secularism. Diversity was legitimate and accepted. Different juristic schools coexisted, often with significant divergences. Sectarian differences arose, and sometimes led to conflicts, but these were minor compared with the ferocious wars and persecutions of Christendom. Some events that were commonplace in medieval Europe— like the massacre and expulsion of Jews—were almost unknown in the Muslim world. That is, until modern times. Bernard Lewis
Tolerance among traditional Muslims is defined as Christian Europe first defined the idea: A superior creed agrees not to harass an inferior creed, so long as the practitioners of the latter don’t become too uppity. Tolerance emphatically does not mean equality of belief, as it now does in the West. Even in Turkey, where authoritarian secularism has changed the Muslim identity more profoundly than anywhere else in the Old World, a totally secularized Muslim would never call a non-Muslim citizen of the state a Turk. Reuel Marc Gerecht
We are wrong to talk as if the only subject was that of terrorism. As Western Europe has already found to its cost, local Muslim leaders have a habit, once they feel strong enough, of making demands of the most intolerant kind. Sometimes it will be calls for censorship of anything « offensive » to Islam. Sometimes it will be demands for sexual segregation in schools and swimming pools. The script is becoming a very familiar one. And those who make such demands are of course usually quite careful to avoid any association with violence. They merely hint that, if their demands are not taken seriously, there just might be a teeny smidgeon of violence from some other unnamed quarter …Christopher Hitchens
Muslims must do more than just talk about their great intellectual and cultural heritage. We must be at the forefront of those who reject violence and terrorism. And our activism must not end there. The tyrants and oppressive regimes that have been the real impediment to peace and progress in the Muslim world must hear our unanimous condemnation. The ball is in our court. Anwar Ibrahim
Radical Islam is not limited to the act of terrorism; it also includes the embrace of teachings within the religion that promote hatred and ultimately breed terrorism. Those who limit the definition of radical Islam to terrorism are ignoring—and indirectly approving of—the Shariah teachings that permit killing apostates, violence against women and gays, and anti-Semitism. (…) Ignoring, rather than confronting or contextualizing, the violent texts leaves young Muslims vulnerable to such teachings at a later stage in their lives.(…) Insisting that all acts in Islamic history and all current Shariah teachings are peaceful is a form of deception that makes things worse by failing to acknowledge the existence of the problem. Tawfik Hamid
In short, we have become too apologetic, too feeble, too inhibited, too imbued with doubt and too lacking in mission. Our way of life, our values, the things that made us great, remain not simply as a testament to us as nations but as harbingers of human progress. They are not relics of a once powerful politics; they are the living spirit of the optimistic view of human history. All we need to do is to understand that they have to be reapplied to changing circumstances, not relinquished as redundant.
if the Palestinian cause gave up violence emphatically and without ambiguity, there would be a peace agreement within the year. Not enough voices in the Muslim world are asking them to. 9…) Defeating the visible and terrifying manifestations of religious extremism is not enough. Indeed I would go further: This extremism won’t be defeated simply by focusing on the extremists alone. It is the narrative that has to be assailed. It has to be avowed, acknowledged; then taken on, inside and outside Islam. It should not be respected. It should be confronted, disagreed with, argued against on grounds of politics, security and religion.
If, in the 1950s, when faced with the threat of revolutionary Communism, I had asked you how long you expected us to fight it, you would have answered: As long as the threat exists. If I had said it may be for decades, you would have raised an eyebrow, as if to say: Well, if the threat remains for decades, what choice have we? In other words, you would have seen this as a clearly defined threat to our security that left us no alternative but to take it on and beat it. Tony Blair

La paix comme arme ultime contre les incroyants? Bon sang, mais c’est bien sur!

A l’heure ou, en cette veille du 9e anniversaire des attaques terroristes du 11/9, nos beaux-parleurs de la religion de paix et de tolerance et leurs idiots utiles redoublent d’arguties pour imposer aux New Yorkais et sur Ground Zero meme leur monument aux jihadistes qui y ont massacré quelque 3 000  de leurs compatriotes …

Quelle meilleure pédagogie que ses propres paroles, retrouvées par le WSJ, sur la novlangue et le type de tolérance a laquelle appelle le promoteur de ladite mosquée, l’imam égypto-américain Feisal Abdul Rauf apparemment a l’étroit dans la mosquée (Masjid al-Farah) dont il y dispose déja depuis 25 ans?

D’abord, une premiere lettre au NYT de novembre 1977 a l’occasion de l’accord de paix egypto-israelien dans laquelle, exemple coranique a l’appui, il rappelle a ses coreligionnaires a quel point la « paix » peut se réveler une « arme efficace contre les incroyants » et le type de paix qu’il envisage pour Israel, a savoir un « pays arabe de plus avec une minorité juive ».

Et ensuite une autre lettre de 1979 au lendemain de la volution islamique iranienne dont il vante les mérites, selon lui, « inspirées des principes memes de droits individuels et de liberté en lesquels les Américains croient ardemment », analyse qu’il confirmera il y a un peu plus d’un an au lendemain des dernieres elections iraniennes volées de juin 2009 lorsqu’il appellera le président Obama a « exprimer le soutien de son administration au principe du Vilayet-i-faquih », autrement dit celui de la dictature du mollatariat …

Letters From the Imam

Feisel Abdul Rauf on Israel and Iran.

WSJ

September 1, 2010

It isn’t often that a 1,400-year-old treaty and letters from the 1970s tell us something about current events. But since Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf, the force behind the so-called Ground Zero Mosque, has staked a political claim as a « moderate Muslim, » it’s worth taking note of some of his past writings.

Much has already been made of the imam’s comments on « 60 Minutes » following 9/11, when he called America an « accessory to the crime » and announced that « Osama bin Laden is made in the USA. » He has also refused to call Hamas a terrorist organization. We’ve now come across two letters to the New York Times that reveal more about the imam’s worldview.

In a letter published on November 27, 1977, Mr. Rauf commented on Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s historic trip to Israel and encouraged his fellow Muslims to « give peace a chance. » That John Lennon lyric sounds good. But he added: « For my fellow Arabs I have the following special message: Learn from the example of the Prophet Mohammed, your greatest historical personality. After a state of war with the Meccan unbelievers that lasted for many years, he acceded, in the Treaty of Hudaybiyah, to demands that his closest companions considered utterly humiliating. Yet peace turned out to be a most effective weapon against the unbelievers. »

He’s referring to a treaty in the year 628 that established a 10-year truce between the Prophet Muhammad and Meccan leaders and was viewed by Muslims at the time as a defeat. But Muhammad used that period to consolidate his ranks and re-arm, eventually leading to his conquest of Mecca. Imam Rauf seems to be saying that Muslims should understand Sadat’s olive branch in the same way, as a short-term respite leading to ultimate conquest. To drive that point home, he added in the same letter that « In a true peace it is impossible that a purely Jewish state of Palestine can endure. . . . In a true peace, Israel will, in our lifetimes, become one more Arab country, with a Jewish minority. »

Two years later, the imam weighed in on the Iranian revolution. In a February 27, 1979 letter, in which he scores Americans for failing to apologize to Iran for past misdeeds, he wrote, « The revolution in Iran was inspired by the very principles of individual rights and freedom that Americans ardently believe in. »

At the time, Iran’s revolution hadn’t revealed all of its violent, messianic character. Thirty years later it has, yet Mr. Rauf’s views seem little changed. Following Iran’s sham presidential election last year and the crackdown that followed, the imam urged President Obama to « say his administration respects many of the guiding principles of the 1979 revolution—to establish a government that expresses the will of the people; a just government, based on the idea of Vilayet-i-faquih, that establishes the rule of law. » That Persian phrase means Guardianship of the Jurist, which in practice means that all power resides with the mullahs. Vilayet-i-faquih is the religious justification for arresting protestors, forcing their confessions and letting them rot in jail.

Imam Rauf has said more moderate things, notably at a memorial service for our former colleague Daniel Pearl. But his calls for interfaith understanding are hard to square with his support for a strategy of « peace » in the service of Israel’s long-term destruction.

We asked Imam Rauf if his views had changed since the 1970s. His complete response: « It is amusing that journalists are combing through letters-to-the-editor that I wrote more than 30 years ago, when I was a young man, for clues to my evolution. As I re-read those letters now, I see that they express the same concerns—a desire for peaceful solutions in Israel, and for a humane understanding of Iran—that I have maintained, and worked hard on, in the years since those letters were published. »

Voir aussi:

A Symposium: What Is Moderate Islam?

WSJ

September 1, 2010

The controversy over a proposed mosque in lower Manhattan has spurred a wider debate about the nature of Islam. We asked six leading thinkers—Anwar Ibrahim, Bernard Lewis, Ed Husain, Reuel Marc Gerecht, Tawfik Hamid and Akbar Ahmed—to weigh in.

The Ball Is in Our Court

By Anwar Ibrahim

Skeptics and cynics alike have said that the quest for the moderate Muslim in the 21st century is akin to the search for the Holy Grail. It’s not hard to understand why. Terrorist attacks, suicide bombings and the jihadist call for Muslims « to rise up against the oppression of the West » are widespread.

The radical fringe carrying out such actions has sought to dominate the discourse between Islam and the West. In order to do so, they’ve set out to foment anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism. They’ve also advocated indiscriminate violence as a political strategy. To cap their victory, this abysmal lot uses the cataclysm of 9/11 as a lesson for the so-called enemies of Islam.

These dastardly acts have not only been tragedies of untold proportions for those who have suffered or perished. They have also delivered a calamitous blow to followers of the Muslim faith.

These are the Muslims who go about their lives like ordinary people—earning their livings, raising their families, celebrating reunions and praying for security and peace. These are the Muslims who have never carried a pocketknife, let alone explosives intended to destroy buildings. These Muslims are there for us to see, if only we can lift the veil cast on them by the shadowy figures in bomb-laden jackets hell-bent on destruction.

These are mainstream Muslims—no different from the moderate Christians, Jews and those of other faiths—whose identities have been drowned by events beyond their control. The upshot is a composite picture of Muslims as inherently intolerant, antidemocratic, inward-looking and simply unable to coexist with other communities in the modern world.

Some say there is only one solution: Discard your beliefs and your tradition, and embrace pluralism and modernity. This prescription is deeply flawed. The vast majority of Muslims already see themselves as part of a civilization that is heir to a noble tradition of science, philosophy and spirituality that places paramount importance on the sanctity of human life. Holding fast to the principles of democracy, freedom and human rights, these hundreds of millions of Muslims fervently reject fanaticism in all its varied guises.

Yet Muslims must do more than just talk about their great intellectual and cultural heritage. We must be at the forefront of those who reject violence and terrorism. And our activism must not end there. The tyrants and oppressive regimes that have been the real impediment to peace and progress in the Muslim world must hear our unanimous condemnation. The ball is in our court.

Mr. Ibrahim is Malaysia’s opposition leader.

A History of Tolerance

By Bernard Lewis

A form of moderation has been a central part of Islam from the very beginning. True, Muslims are nowhere commanded to love their neighbors, as in the Old Testament, still less their enemies, as in the New Testament. But they are commanded to accept diversity, and this commandment was usually obeyed. The Prophet Muhammad’s statement that « difference within my community is part of God’s mercy » expressed one of Islam’s central ideas, and it is enshrined both in law and usage from the earliest times.

This principle created a level of tolerance among Muslims and coexistence between Muslims and others that was unknown in Christendom until after the triumph of secularism. Diversity was legitimate and accepted. Different juristic schools coexisted, often with significant divergences.

Sectarian differences arose, and sometimes led to conflicts, but these were minor compared with the ferocious wars and persecutions of Christendom. Some events that were commonplace in medieval Europe— like the massacre and expulsion of Jews—were almost unknown in the Muslim world. That is, until modern times.

Occasionally more radical, more violent versions of Islam arose, but their impact was mostly limited. They did not become really important until the modern period when, thanks to a combination of circumstances, such versions of Islamic teachings obtained a massive following among both governments and peoples.

From the start, Muslims have always had a strong sense of their identity and history. Thanks to modern communication, they have become painfully aware of their present state. Some speak of defeat, some of failure. It is the latter who offer the best hope for change.

For the moment, there does not seem to be much prospect of a moderate Islam in the Muslim world. This is partly because in the prevailing atmosphere the expression of moderate ideas can be dangerous—even life-threatening. Radical groups like al Qaeda and the Taliban, the likes of which in earlier times were at most minor and marginal, have acquired a powerful and even a dominant position.

But for Muslims who seek it, the roots are there, both in the theory and practice of their faith and in their early sacred history.

Mr. Lewis, professor emeritus at Princeton, is the author of « From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East » (Oxford University Press, 2004).

Don’t Call Me Moderate, Call Me Normal

By Ed Husain

I am a moderate Muslim, yet I don’t like being termed a « moderate »—it somehow implies that I am less of a Muslim. We use the designation « moderate Islam » to differentiate it from « radical Islam. » But in so doing, we insinuate that while Islam in moderation is tolerable, real Islam—often perceived as radical Islam—is intolerable. This simplistic, flawed thinking hands our extremist enemies a propaganda victory: They are genuine Muslims. In this rubric, the majority, nonradical Muslim populace has somehow compromised Islam to become moderate.

What is moderate Christianity? Or moderate Judaism? Is Pastor Terry Jones’s commitment to burning the Quran authentic Christianity, by virtue of the fanaticism of his action? Or, is Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual head of the Shas Party in Israel, more Jewish because he calls on Jews to rain missiles on the Arabs and « annihilate them »? The pastor and the rabbi can, no doubt, find abstruse scriptural justifications for their angry actions. And so it is with Islam’s fringe: Our radicals find religious excuses for their political anger. But Muslim fanatics cannot be allowed to define Islam.

The Prophet Muhammad warned us against ghuluw, or extremism, in religion. The Quran reinforces the need for qist, or balance. For me, Islam at its essence is the middle way in all matters. This is normative Islam, adhered to by a billion normal Muslims across the globe. Normative Islam is inherently pluralist. It is supported by 1,000 years of Muslim history in which religious freedom was

cherished. The claim, made today by the governments of Iran and Saudi Arabia, that they represent God’s will expressed through their version of oppressive Shariah law is a modern innovation.

The classical thinking within Islam was to let a thousand flowers bloom. Ours is not a centralized tradition, and Islam’s rich diversity is a legacy of our pluralist past. Normative Islam, from its early history to the present, is defined by its commitment to protecting religion, life, progeny, wealth and the human mind. In the religious language of Muslim scholars, this is known as maqasid, or aims. This is the heart of Islam.

I am fully Muslim and fully Western. Don’t call me moderate—call me a normal Muslim.

Mr. Husain is author of « The Islamist » (Penguin, 2007) and co-founder of the Quilliam Foundation, a counterextremist think tank.

Putting Up With Infidels Like Me

By Reuel Marc Gerecht

Moderate Islam is the faith practiced by the parents of my Pakistani British roommate at the University of Edinburgh— and, no doubt, by the great majority of Muslim immigrants to Europe and the United States. Khalid’s mother and father were devout Muslims. His dad prayed five times a day and his mom, who hadn’t yet learned decent English after almost 20 years in the industrial towns of West Yorkshire, gladly gave me the impression that the only book she’d ever read was the Quran. I was always welcome in their home. Khalid’s mother regularly stuffed me with curry, peppering me with questions about how a non-Muslim who’d crossed the Atlantic to study Islam could resist the pull of the one true faith. Determined to keep their children Muslim in a sea of aggressive, alcohol-laden, sex-soaked disbelief, they happily practiced and preached peaceful coexistence—even with an infidel who was obviously leading their son down an unrighteous path.

That is the essence of moderation in any faith: the willingness to exist peacefully, if not exuberantly, alongside nonbelievers who hold repellant views on many sacred subjects. It is a dispensation that comes fairly easily to ordinary Muslims who have left their homelands to live among nonbelievers in Western democracies. It is harder for Muslims surrounded by their own kind, unaccustomed by politics and culture to giving up too much ground.

Tolerance among traditional Muslims is defined as Christian Europe first defined the idea: A superior creed agrees not to harass an inferior creed, so long as the practitioners of the latter don’t become too uppity. Tolerance emphatically does not mean equality of belief, as it now does in the West. Even in Turkey, where authoritarian secularism has changed the Muslim identity more profoundly than anywhere else in the Old World, a totally secularized Muslim would never call a non-Muslim citizen of the state a Turk. There is a certain pride of place that cannot be shared with a nonbeliever. Wounded pride also does the Devil’s work on ecumenicalism.

Adjusting to modernity, with its intellectually open borders and inevitable moral chaos, is brutally hard for monotheisms, especially for those accustomed to rule. But it happens.

When I told Khalid’s father that his children—especially his daughters—would not worship the faith as he and his wife had done, he told me: « They are living a better life than we have lived. That is enough. »

Mr. Gerecht, a former CIA operative, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Don’t Gloss Over The Violent Texts

By Tawfik Hamid

In regards to Islam, the words « moderate' » and « radical » are relative terms. Without defining them it is virtually impossible to defeat the latter or support the former. Radical Islam is not limited to the act of terrorism; it also includes the embrace of teachings within the religion that promote hatred and ultimately breed terrorism. Those who limit the definition of radical Islam to terrorism are ignoring—

and indirectly approving of—the Shariah teachings that permit killing apostates, violence against women and gays, and anti-Semitism.

Moderate Islam should be defined as a form of Islam that rejects these violent and discriminatory edicts. Furthermore, it must provide a strong theological refutation for the mainstream Islamic teaching that the Muslim umma (nation) must declare wars against non-Muslim nations, spreading the religion and giving non-Muslims the following options: convert, pay a humiliating tax, or be killed. This violent concept fuels jihadists, who take the teaching literally and accept responsibility for applying it to the modern world.

Moderate Islam must not be passive. It needs to actively reinterpret the violent parts of the religious text rather than simply cherry-picking the peaceful ones. Ignoring, rather than confronting or contextualizing, the violent texts leaves young Muslims vulnerable to such teachings at a later stage in their lives.

Finally, moderate Islam must powerfully reject the barbaric practices of jihadists. Ideally, this would mean Muslims demonstrating en masse all over the world against the violence carried out in the name of their religion.

Moderate Islam must be honest enough to admit that Islam has been used in a violent manner at several stages in history to seek domination over others. Insisting that all acts in Islamic history and all current Shariah teachings are peaceful is a form of deception that makes things worse by failing to acknowledge the existence of the problem.

Mr. Hamid, a former member of the Islamic radical group Jamma Islamiya, is an Islamic reformer and a senior fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.

Mystics, Modernists and Literalists

By Akbar Ahmed

In the intense discussion about Muslims today, non-Muslims often say to me: « You are a moderate, but are there others like you? » Clearly, the use of the term moderate here is meant as a compliment. But the application of the term creates more problems than it solves. The term is heavy with value judgment, smacking of « good guy » versus « bad guy » categories. And it implies that while a minority of Muslims are moderate, the rest are not.

Having studied the practices of Muslims around the world today, I’ve come up with three broad categories: mystic, modernist and literalist. Of course, I must add the caveat that these are analytic models and aren’t watertight.

Muslims in the mystic category reflect universal humanism, believing in « peace with all. » The 13th-century Sufi poet Rumi exemplifies this category. In his verses, he glorifies worshipping the same God in the synagogue, the church and the mosque.

The second category is the modernist Muslim who believes in trying to balance tradition and modernity. The modernist is proud of Islam and yet able to live comfortably in, and contribute to, Western society. Most Muslim leaders who led nationalist movements in the first half of the 20th century were modernists—from Sultan Mohammed V, the first king of independent Morocco, to M.A. Jinnah, who founded Pakistan in 1947. But as modernists failed over time, becoming increasingly incompetent and corrupt, the literalists stepped into the breach.

The literalists believe that Muslim behavior must approximate that of the Prophet in seventh-century Arabia. Their belief that Islam is under attack forces many of them to adopt a defensive posture. And while not all literalists advocate violence, many do. Movements like the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and the Taliban belong to this category.

In the Muslim world the divisions between the three categories I have delineated are real. The outcome of their struggle will define Islam’s fate. The West can help by understanding Muslim society in a more nuanced and sophisticated way in order to interact with it wisely and for mutual benefit. The first step is to categorize Muslims accurately.

Mr. Ahmed, the former Pakistani ambassador to Britain, is the chair of Islamic studies at American University and author of « Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam » (Brookings, 2010).

Voir enfin:

Tony Blair Takes on the World

The WSJ

Seeptember 4, 2010

The former prime minister argues the West has become too imbued with doubt and lacking in mission. On repairing the economy, combating Islamic extremism and restoring purpose.

Personally, I have never felt a greater sense of frustration or indeed a greater urge to leadership since leaving Downing Street. I enjoy my new life much more than my old one, and find in it huge purpose. I am fighting for my world view, but in a different manner from that of being in conventional office.

I have tried to gain a bigger and deeper understanding of the world. China is no longer such a mystery, though that is only a relative sentiment. The Middle East is endlessly fascinating and frightening. I see the economy from a broader and different perspective in business. In my two major charitable areas—Africa and faith—I find complete spiritual as well as political satisfaction.

I’m living life full tilt, but I find my old world in a state of despair and feel both shocked and galvanized by this. Perhaps that is because I am removed from it and so think I see it more clearly. (This could be an illusion.) Perhaps it is because some of the bouleversement is directed at precisely what I represented in office: liberal economic policies, market reforms in welfare and public services, and engagement and intervention abroad.

To summarize: I profoundly disagree with the statist, so-called Keynesian response to the economic crisis; I believe we should be projecting strength and determination abroad, not weakness or uncertainty; I think now is the moment for more government reform, not less; and I am convinced we have a huge opportunity for engagement with the new emerging and emerged powers in the world, particularly China, if we approach that task with confidence, not fear.

In short, we have become too apologetic, too feeble, too inhibited, too imbued with doubt and too lacking in mission. Our way of life, our values, the things that made us great, remain not simply as a testament to us as nations but as harbingers of human progress. They are not relics of a once powerful politics; they are the living spirit of the optimistic view of human history. All we need to do is to understand that they have to be reapplied to changing circumstances, not relinquished as redundant.

THE FINANCIAL CRISIS

First, « the market » did not fail. One part of one sector did. The way sub-prime debt was securitized, spliced and diced and sold on with no real appreciation of underlying risk or value was wrong, irresponsible and immensely damaging. Some of the rewards, the huge payouts for shuffling around securities, the bonuses, are not just presentationally awful; they can’t be justified and, at worst, have helped create a propensity to « do the deal » whatever the long-term merits for short-term gain, in a way that significantly contributed to the crisis. All this is correct and should be acted on. However, such practice should not define or represent the whole of the banking sector, let alone the whole financial sector, let alone « the market. »

Second, government also failed. Regulations failed. Politicians failed. Monetary policy failed. Debt became way too cheap. But that wasn’t a conspiracy of the banks; it was a consequence of the apparently benign confluence of loose money policy and low inflation. The responsibility for the crisis should be shared, not borne by the market alone or even by the banks alone.

Third, the failure was one of understanding. We didn’t spot it. You can argue we should have, but we didn’t. Furthermore—and this is vital for where we go now on regulation—it wasn’t that we were powerless to prevent it even if we had seen it coming; it wasn’t a failure of regulation in the sense that we lacked the power to intervene. Had regulators said to the leaders that a huge crisis was about to break, we wouldn’t have said: There’s nothing we can do about it until we get more regulation through. We would have acted. But they didn’t say that.

Fourth, financial innovation is not bad per se. Actually, very often it is good: it increases liquidity and boosts economic activity. The danger lies in innovation that has consequences we don’t understand, and effects which we therefore can’t track.

Fifth, when a crisis occurs—and I suspect this may be true of any significant economic crisis today—its consequences are magnified beyond any comparison with days of old by the supremely interconnected and interdependent nature of the modern global economy. It impacts in its own right; and then the impact is multiplied through that elusive but profoundly powerful force called « confidence. »

The role of government is to stabilize and then get out of the way as quickly as is economically sensible. Ultimately the recovery will be led not by governments but by industry, business and the creativity, ingenuity and enterprise of people. If the measures you take in responding to the crisis diminish their incentives, curb their entrepreneurship, make them feel unsure about the climate in which they are working, the recovery becomes uncertain.

This is even true of the financial sector, however heretical it sounds to say it. Of course there should be a regulatory overhaul, but most of all there should be systems of national and global supervision that enable us to understand this new financial world and to track it, so that we can intervene where the risk of systemic failure demands it. What there should not be is a wholesale attempt to predict every potential crisis and construct rigid rules in advance to prevent it. That way we risk flattening our financial system, squeezing the innovation out of it, trying to return it to the world of yesteryear, which is neither sensible nor economically productive. One result will be that as the banks do less, the state will have to do more. At present, we have gone from irresponsible lending to the other extreme whereby even worthy businesses and customers are refused credit. Indifference to risk should not be and need not be replaced by aversion to risk.

IRAQ, AFGHANISTAN AND ISLAM

What is the nature of the threat? It does not derive from something we have done; there was no sense in which the West sought a confrontation. This is essential to the argument. The attacks of Sept. 11 came to most of our citizens as a shock that was utterly unforeseen. Countries like America and Britain were not singling out Muslims for unfair treatment; and insofar as Muslims were caught up in generalized racism towards those of a different race or color, such attitudes were on the way out, not the way in.

The extremism we fear is a strain within Islam. It is wholly contrary to the proper teaching of Islam, but it can’t be denied that its practitioners act with reference to their religion. I feel we too often shy away from this assertion, as if it stigmatizes all Muslims. But if it is true—and it is—it has to be faced, not just because it is true, but because otherwise we don’t analyze the problem or attain the solution properly. If it is a strain within Islam, the answer lies, in part at the very least, also within Islam. The eradication of that strain can be affected by what we outside Islam do; but it can only be actually eliminated by those within Islam.

Here is where the root of the problem lies. The extremists are small in number, but their narrative—which sees Islam as the victim of a scornful West externally, and an insufficiently religious leadership internally—has a far bigger hold. Indeed, such is the hold that much of the current political leadership feels impelled to go along with this narrative for fear of losing support.

This is a situation with practical consequences. Iraq and Afghanistan are seen as the West’s battles. With a few notable distinctions, this is not perceived as a struggle for the heart and soul of Islam. Yet the outcome is surely vastly determinative of such a struggle.

I have my criticisms of Israel and my ideas of to how to make progress. But leave aside for a moment the details of the peace process. As I started to spend more time in Palestine, I was surprised to find it is often easier to raise money for the « resistance » than to fund the patient but essential process of Palestinian state-building. Israel can and should do more to push forward the necessary changes on the ground—the West Bank and Gaza—that can underpin the peace process. However, it is also true that if the Palestinian cause gave up violence emphatically and without ambiguity, there would be a peace agreement within the year. Not enough voices in the Muslim world are asking them to.

It is America today that leads the challenge to Iran and its nuclear ambitions. But let us be frank: Iran is a far more immediate threat to its Arab neighbors than it is to America. It is of course a threat to us, too, but this is partly because of what a nuclear-armed Iran would mean for the Middle East, rather than as a direct threat.

The problem is this: Defeating the visible and terrifying manifestations of religious extremism is not enough. Indeed I would go further: This extremism won’t be defeated simply by focusing on the extremists alone. It is the narrative that has to be assailed. It has to be avowed, acknowledged; then taken on, inside and outside Islam. It should not be respected. It should be confronted, disagreed with, argued against on grounds of politics, security and religion.

Our people say, « How long are you seriously saying we should hold out? » If, in the 1950s, when faced with the threat of revolutionary Communism, I had asked you how long you expected us to fight it, you would have answered: As long as the threat exists. If I had said it may be for decades, you would have raised an eyebrow, as if to say: Well, if the threat remains for decades, what choice have we? In other words, you would have seen this as a clearly defined threat to our security that left us no alternative but to take it on and beat it. Of course, there were those who said « Better red than dead, » but that was surely one of the least appealing slogans to the human spirit ever devised, and only a minority bought it. Most people realized the threat was real and had to be confronted, however long it took.

The difficulty with this present battle lies in defining what « it » is. After Sept. 11 the phrase « the war on terror » was used. People distrusted this, partly for its directness, partly because it seemed too limited. So we dropped it. Yet if what we are fighting is not a war, what is it?

EUROPE AND THE U.S.

I find the insouciance towards the decline of the trans-Atlantic relationship, on both sides of the ocean, a little shocking. There’s a feeling that it belongs to an era that has passed. This is to misunderstand the way the world is changing; or perhaps better put it is to look at the issue upside down.

It is said: New powers are emerging, therefore we should seek deeper relationships with them and there is less need for the old relationship. Yet it is precisely because the relative power of Europe and America is changing as new powers come on the stage that it is sensible for the two to combine. Just as the European Union is necessary to increase the power of the individual nations, so the U.S. and the European Union should work together.

My conclusion, strangely, is not that the power of politics is needed to liberate the people; but that the power of people is needed to liberate the politics. An odd thing for a politician to say; but then, it has never been entirely clear whether the journey I have taken is one of triumph of the person over the politics, or of the politics over the person.

Excerpted from « A Journey: My Political Life » by Tony Blair. Copyright © 2010 by Tony Blair. Published by arrangement with Alfred A. Knopf.

—Former Prime Minister Tony Blair is the Quartet Representative to the Middle East and patron of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative. This essay is excerpted from « A Journey: My Political Life. »

Un commentaire pour Mosquée du 11/9: La paix comme arme contre les incroyants (Ground Zero mosque’s promoter spills out the beans on his peace as a weapon against the unbelievers)

  1. Part of the problem is that there are no definitive records on how many people toiled at Ground Zero, or for how long. Religion Spirituality

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