Academic journal article Journal of Ecumenical Studies

Religion and World Peace: A Muslim's View

Academic journal article Journal of Ecumenical Studies

Religion and World Peace: A Muslim's View

Article excerpt

Salaam Alekom, Shalom. These words of peace are woven into our cultures, a part of our everyday life in the Middle East. Yet, so many people view our homeland as one in which only hatred and violence and extremism prevail. For eleven years now, I have spoken many times about peace, especially about the possibility of peace in the Middle East. I am no political expert or soothsayer, but I believe with all my heart that some day a just and comprehensive peace will come. It will not be easy, and it will not be quick. There will be many bumps and curves, many starts and stops along the way, but there is no other way, no other alternative. Peace is the only way.

Whether in Cairo or Jerusalem, Oslo or Damascus, wherever they choose, the conflicting parties must talk to each other, negotiate and compromise, listen and understand, love and forgive. Whether on the White House lawn or in the Jordanian desert, the treaties must be signed and the promises kept. Enough mistakes have been made, enough speeches given, and enough time wasted. Anwar Sadat, Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin -- they have done all that they can do to bring about peace between the Arabs and the Jews. Now they are gone, and it is time for all of us as people of faith to raise our voices and be heard. We must let the world know that our leaders will not abandon the cause, that they will never forsake peace.

I can never speak of peace without speaking of my husband. The fact that he died for peace is a most bitter irony, especially for me and my family. Yet, I cannot live being bitter or regretting what he did. In the darkness of hatred, he chose the light of his faith. His courage and religious convictions directed his every action and were the force behind his every step. I will never be completely unbiased in judging his impact on history; only time can be the real judge of that.

It has been almost nineteen years since his visit to Jerusalem and almost fifteen years since he passed away. To me and my children that has been a long, long time. In terms of history, this time is very brief. Yet, historians have already begun to hail Anwar Sadat as one of the greatest leaders of the twentieth century. He deserved it because he was the one to start making peace at a time when it was so difficult even to talk about it. He was aware of the risk, aware of everything -- but he had chosen this way. It is said that his vision and willingness to work for peace changed the course of history.

Today I speak to you not only as Anwar's widow but also as a woman of Egypt and a woman of Islam. For a moment, forget that you know anything about Jehan Sadat. You have never seen me or even heard my name. Look at me and listen to my voice. What do you think? Am I a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim? Can you really answer that question simply by looking at me or hearing me speak? I do not think so. Yet, Islam has been judged by images ever since some Iranian students held American diplomats hostage. Many, many Americans and many Europeans wince at the word "Islam," as they imagine a green menace sowing the seeds of terror and waging jihad all over the world. I can excuse the feeling because, unfortunately, some of the fundamentalists and some others give such a bad image of Islam.

What, then, is Islam, and where does it fit in the dream of religion and peace? Islam is a religion based upon peace, love, and compassion. It abhors violence and killing; upholding the sanctity of life is an obligation of all Muslims. Forgiveness for personal injuries is enjoined. Therefore, revenge and blood-feuding are serious sins, and killing is one of the greatest sins. My husband was a devout Muslim who followed the teaching of Islam and lived by these words of the prophet Mohammed, by him in whose hands is my soul.

A true Muslim must be at peace in the universe with him or herself and with all people. Kindness, helpfulness, and cooperation are part of the Muslim's nature. …

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