12/06/2005

A Voice of Reason

I have written many posts about Islamists who target and kill non-Muslims. I have written many posts about the inequality and brutality that women face in an Islamic country and society. I have posted about the voices of reason amongst Muslims. Today, thanks to Gravelrash at DemocracyFrontLine, I have learned of another voice of reason. Below is an excerpt from his post on an article Tashbih Sayyed wrote. It is well worth reading the whole thing for it shows wonderfully how a democratic state such as Israel can be a guiding force. The part I've chosen exposes the myth that Israel is undemocratic toward it's Muslim population.

A Muslim In A Jewish Land: Tashbih Sayyed, Ph. D.

Israel is undemocratic: As a Muslim I am much more sensitive to the absence of democratic freedoms in any society. And I do not believe that anyone but a committed anti-Semite will deny that Israel is not a democracy. Democracy in Israel is proportional and representative, but democratic coalitions, necessary in order to effect any decision making also have its problems.

The very first day in Caesarea introduced us to the Israeli democracy. The air was full of political debate and discussion. Ariel Sharon’s decision to leave the Likud and form a new political party dominated the hotel halls and underlined the problems caused by the necessity of having democratic coalitions. “The object of a free and democratic Israeli society is to reach satisfactory compromise but often the conclusions are less than satisfactory - especially for the majority. It involves coalitions and unity which are also checks and balances on any potential abuse of minority rights. It is a better system than the American representative Republican system - which is really a representation of power and special interests. In the U.S. you get a democracy for the few. In Israel you have a democracy for everyone.”

I tried very hard to find any Muslim state that has true democracy and where religious minorities are accorded equal democratic rights, but failed. The map of the Muslim world is too crowded with kings, despots, dictators, sham democrats and theocratic autocrats and the persecution of minorities is an essential part of Islamist social behavior. But here, protected by Israel’s democratic principles, the Muslim Arab citizens of Israel are afforded all the rights and privileges of Israeli citizenship. When the first elections to the Knesset were held in February 1949, Israeli Arabs were given the right to vote and to be elected along with Israeli Jews. Today, Israel’s Arab citizens are accorded full civil and political rights entitled to complete participation in Israeli society. They are active in Israeli social, political and civic life and enjoy representation in Israel’s Parliament, Foreign Service and judicial system. The Israeli faith in democracy also explains their refusal to respond to Islamist terrorism in violent ways. Despite my being aware of the human weaknesses which allow anger to subjugate the best of intentions, I could not find Israelis acting in vengeance against their Arab compatriots.

My experience as a Muslim was also instrumental in expecting the worst in human behavior; Muslims under the influence of radical Islam have been unleashing their terror against non-Muslims even when the charges of anti-Muslim offenses were determined to be false. I thought that it requires a superhuman effort to ignore the atrocities meted out to you and remain free of vengeful emotions. In my experience of Muslim societies, minorities have never been allowed the benefit of the doubt. Hatred of non-Muslims and outbursts of violence against minority faiths among radical Islamists have remained a norm rather than an exception.

As a non-Wahhabi Muslim I have personally faced their barbarism and have watched Christians, Hindus and other minorities being persecuted on false pretenses. I thought that if Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia can sentence a teacher to 40 months in jail and 750 lashes just for praising Jews, it will not be unreasonable on the part of Israelis to punish Palestinians for throwing stones at worshippers at the Western Wall and burning down the tomb of Joseph. But even in this section, Israelis have proved the world wrong. Despite daily provocations, they have managed successfully not to descend to the same level of depravity as their Arab enemies.

The world is used to daily violence that is unleashed against religious minorities in the Muslim world. Only a couple of days ago the Muslim faithful in Pakistan had broken through the walls of a Church, torching and tearing open its doors. They were reacting to a rumor that a Christian had desecrated their holy book, the Quran. They smashed the marble altar of the Holy Spirit Church and shattered its stained glass windows. They torched a Christian residence and the neighboring St. Anthony’s Girls School. Within moments flames were licking the walls and black smoke filled the sky. For days the Wahhabi clerics kept on calling their Muslim followers to come out from their houses and defend their faith by unleashing a reign of terror against Christians.

I wondered if an Israeli may someday find it justified to copy what Wahhabis have been doing in Iraq and other places: abducting, murdering and beheading “infidels”. Most recently, the body of a Hindu driver, Maniappan Raman Kutty, was found with his throat slashed in southern Afghanistan for no evident reason but his faith. But there was nothing in history that could have substantiated my fears; Jews, despite being subjected to the most barbaric acts of terrorism have yet to react in vengeance against their perpetrators.

And I concluded that my first visit to Israel will help me in untangling the knot of Israel’s insistence on continuing to remain a target of Islamist terror.

Muslim Arab citizen of Israel do not have equal rights: As our air-conditioned bus negotiated the mountainous curves of the road to the heart of Galilee, I could not miss the rising minarets identifying a number of Palestinian Arab towns dotting the hillsides. The imposing domes of mosques underlined the freedoms that are enjoyed by the Muslims in the Jewish State. Large Arab residences, wide spread construction activity and big cars underlined the prosperity and affluence of Palestinians living under the Star of David. On my way from the city of David to the Royal Prima hotel in Jerusalem, I asked my Palestinian taxi driver how he feels about moving to the territories under Palestinian Authority. He said that he could never think of living outside Israel. His answer blasted the myth spread by anti-Semites that Israel’s Arab citizens are not happy there. Another Israeli Arab informed me that Arabs in Israel have equal voting rights. In fact, Israel is one of the few countries in the Middle East where Arab women can vote. In contrast to the non-Israeli Arab world, Arab women in Israel enjoy the same status as men. Muslim women have the right to vote and to be elected to public office. Muslim women, in fact are more liberated in Israel than in any Muslim country. Israeli law prohibits polygamy, child marriage, and the barbarity of female sexual mutilation.


We need to hear from more Muslims who have voices of reason. Instead of promulgating violence toward Israelis who struggle on a daily basis with the barbarity of terrorist attacks, more needs to be said on how Israel is truly a beacon of light and much can be learned from them on how to have a truly democratic state.

8 Comments:

Blogger MissingLink said...

Good one Seawitch.

1:42 PM  
Blogger SEAWITCH said...

Thanks. My hats off to gravel for posting about it first.

1:47 PM  
Blogger Esther said...

Definitely a terrific article. Hope to see many more like it.

2:16 PM  
Blogger SEAWITCH said...

esther,

Thanks and I'll try!

3:54 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

"will deny that Israel is not a democracy."

This is a double-negative and means that Israel is NOT a democracy. Is this how the original was written????

8:43 PM  
Blogger SEAWITCH said...

And I do not believe that anyone but a committed anti-Semite will deny that Israel is not a democracy.

They way I read it is that only a committed anti-Semite would deny that Israel is a democracy.

9:29 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Jesus, what a fucked-up sentence, but I think you are in fact right. But I had to read it several times.

9:29 PM  
Blogger SEAWITCH said...

I also had to read it several times.

1:19 AM  

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