PATHWAY TO GLOBAL PEACE

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TEXT OF LECTURE DELIVERED BY SAHEED OLUROTIMI TIMEHIN {PhD} AT THE ANNUAL NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF MAJLIS ANSARULLAH. NIGERIA HELD AT IDIA COLLEGE, BENIN CITY, EDO STATE ON SATURDAY 24TH AUGUST,  2013.

INTRODUCTION

Permit me to begin with an extract from a mysterious letter purportedly written by the Greek Philosopher, Aristotle in which he narrated a dream he had to the Athenian statesman, Cleon{d. 422BCE}, published as a prologue to Government and Politics in the Twentieth Century by M. Carter and John H. Herz:

“My dear Cleon,

Is life a dream? Is what we call our dreams our real life? The other day I had the strangest incident of my life. I prelived immortality. In my strangest dream, the gods showed me the future of the human race. When I awoke, they told me that I had been in torpor like sleep for almost forty hours. If every minute of my sleep corresponds to a year, I saw in that dream what happened to a man, and the star on which he lives, for more than two thousand years. And what I saw, even you, who are not among the incredulous, will have a hard time believing.

I shall dwell only briefly on what happened in the time closest to our own- tempting but thought this would be, for we are most curious about that which is close and familiar.

Familiar yet strange was what had happened to our Hellas. For the first time, I found it united but, alas, only under the rule of alien tyrants. Those barbarians from Graecia Magna, to whom our colonies had brought the light of reason, ruled us for centuries, but there was a triumph, too: in ruling us, they fell under the spell of our customs, our way of life, our arts, our thought, And, greater triumph still, the very word and concepts of our language entered their language and their minds and, from there, those of all generations in those millennia I witnessed. In the ultimate period I live through in my dream, men everywhere on the globe still spoke of “politics” as we speak of what happens in our poleis; and why they invented a new name for the political community, they still distinguished forms and types in familiar terms: democracy, aristocracy, oligarchy, monarchy. I am embarrassed to report that to the very science and method of thought, dialectic, and logic, they had given the attribute of my name….

I must tell you, my friend, that my impression of what they have achieved was strangely ambiguous. You remember I once wrote that slaves would become unnecessary if men should ever invent inanimate contraptions that could perform the work of slaves. Men, using what we discovered-science, the laws of nature-have fashioned them. They called them machines and the art of using them-again borrowing our terms-they call technology. Has this made them free to live a good life? I am afraid not; for, having freed the slaves by substituting machines. They toil without ends to make them do what they want, make them transport them hither and yon, make them even think for them, but it does not seem to me that they have freed themselves thereby for leisure and for contemplations-the only pursuits worthy of humans. Had they at least solved the problems of ruling themselves in freedom, of living as true citizens? Alas, no….

Men, in that faraway on, would boast interminably about the “progress” mankind had made since our times (about which, by the way, they were amazingly well informed). And, considering their having reached the stars, and all the other miracles they had accomplished, one might be tempted to agree with their boastful use of that strange term. But then I look more closely at their lives, whether under the Phalean system or whether on the huge continent of Atlantis that our descendants, the Europeans, had discovered and settled or on other continents. Their much vaunted “democracy” hardly came up to the standards I had set for the forms of government I had called politeia; it rather amounted to ochlocracy or plutocracy. And many did not even know they were ruled, as are so many of our states, by tyrants. It made me very sad to see our own dear Hellas so governed. True, it had become united and was no longer in the perennial state of discord and war has simply been transferred to the plane of the largest units. And the means of killing and maiming and destroying in war (again, thanks to technology) had become so refined that one major strife could wipe out entire countries and civilizations.

Living forever in the shadow of destruction, men could not be happy. They would seek to divert themselves from unhappiness by staring at the illuminated box, or by traveling in high speed from place to place, or by temporarily escaping reality by swallowing intoxicating substances. It seems to me that, in their intoxication with growth and expansions, with more and more in terms of production and people, with bigness, speed- in short, with “progress”-they had lost that which we Greeks had found to be an essence of humanity: Sophrosyne-{absolute justice} measure, moderation. I once suggested that the right size of a manageable political community was a few thousand human beings. More becomes, not only unmanageable but lifeless and mechanical, controllable only by a huge organization, with its inevitable machinery of coercion. But, as human beings, we cannot forego the intimacy of a personal relationship. We Greeks certainly had, still have, our goodly measure of strife and cruelty. But we are still at home with natures and our gods. Look at that green peninsula, our Attica, with its forest and glens, and the white temples shimmering in the sunlight. In that faraway era I dreamt of, I saw that the green of the wood had disappeared, an evil yellow fog covered Eleusis, and the brook and the rivers and even the purple sea had become discolored with slime. That Attica, the name of which they had seen fit to give to one of their most cruel prisons, had become a dream in the remembrance of times past. Would they, with all their ingenuity and inventiveness, be able to survive? They had become so many that they filled the last nook of the planet and were about to suffocate in their own wastes. Justice and measure- lost. No sophrosyne as the standard of behavior (although they would endlessly study behavior), only the hubris of the strong and despair of the weak. Although tired from my rush through so many centuries. I was extremely curious to know more. How would they extricate themselves from the danger of annihilating themselves and everything by applying the superweapon of which they told me, and which seems to be based on what appears of utmost illogic to a Greek: the splitting of the world’s basic substance, the atom?

At that point, I suddenly woke up. My servants have since told me that there had been the most terrible thunderstorm they ever witnessed and that I woke at that moment of the most terrifying thunderclap of all. They had believed it was the end of the world and were amazed not only to have survived but to see me come to life again.”

The above ‘dream’ of Aristotle sums up the modern man’s predicament. The world built by him and his fellows are on the brink of self-destruction.  Indeed, man’s world, despite its achievements and accomplishments, has been the unfortunate host of an avalanche of violence of different shades since the last century. Its large expanse has witnessed man’s display of unprecedented barbarism against his kind. Theatres of savagery are enacted on a daily basis as the “animal” in man dominates private and public life. Media reports of a plane hijack, guerrilla attacks, suicide bombing and all forms of terroristic activities have become the constant companion of the modern man. An absence of peace and security has never been felt in such manner before in human history and the quest for peace has become a global obsession.

Several attempts have been made by political and religious authorities to diagnose the problem and proffer solutions. Dr Hans Kung, Rev, Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama{ head of the Tibetan Buddhists}, as well as the last three Popes of the Catholic church, have all addressed the issue, each in his own way. All the Supreme Heads of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at have also addressed the issue of peace and security in the world at various times. In fact, the immediate past Supreme Head of the Jama’at, Hadrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad {r.a} spent the most part of his illustrious life working for the enthronement of peace at the global level.

Two of the most recent and momentous efforts in this regard are the historic addresses of the current Supreme Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at, Hadrat Mirza Masrur Ahmad{ a.t.b.a} at the heart of Western Civilization in 2012. His Holiness was at Capitol Hill, Washington D.C on 27th June, 2012 to address American congressmen, statesmen, media experts, academics and public analysts on the topic: The Path to Peace- Just Relations Between Nations.

Similarly, on the 3rd and 4th of December, 2012, his Holiness delivered a keynote address on the topic, The Key to Peace-Global Unity, at the European Parliament in Brussels in the presence of leading statesmen representing 30 countries.

In the light of the above, I do not need to raise new issues since all the fundamental areas have been touched in his Holiness’ addresses. I am therefore going to limit myself to an attempt at breaking down of some of the issues discussed in them. These issues include:

  1. Mutual love and respect among Nations
  2. Mutual inter-dependency of Nations
  3. Elimination of Racial Arrogance
  4. The Challenge of Mass Immigration
  5. Upholding the Standards of Justice
  6. Non-coveting of the wealth of others

Though his Holiness’ addresses contain several other issues, they can all be fused into the above list. Let us briefly reflect on these issues:

  1. Mutual Love and Respect among Nations: The challenge of national identity is often a major factor in contemporary global unrest. Every man sees himself as belonging to one nation or another and therefore feels compelled to give total allegiance to it and glorify it above others. He, therefore, supports his own ‘nation’ and derides others and claims that he is being patriotic. National consciousness is therefore seen as an exclusivist sentiment for the promotion of self-love. Islam maintains, however, that man must see himself as a member of a global family. His national or tribal affiliations are only for social identification and they do not confer on him any status of superiority. Allah says:

“O mankind, We have created you from a male and a female, and We have made you into tribes and sub-tribes that you may recognize one another. Verily, the most honorable among you in the sight of Allah is he who is the most righteous among you. Surely, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware”.Q49v14

Man must therefore love and respect others as members of the same human family.  The national identity is not more than, to borrow the words of Liah Greenfield, a cultural construction, an historically contingent phenomenon, and thus, in a certain sense, an accident.

  1. Mutual Inter-dependency of Nations: Because of the development of the human society and the ever-growing needs of man, no nation can live in an encased world. This is because the physical and geo-political diversity of the human race presupposes the existence of a similar diversity in personal skills as well as natural geographical endowments. No nation can therefore provide all it needs on its own. Scientific and technological advancements have also necessitated the search for ‘gifts of nature’ beyond national boundaries as raw materials for economic growth.
  2. Elimination of Racial Arrogance: One of the major challenges to peace in the world is racial arrogance. Despite the economic factors, the 1st and 2nd World Wars had their roots in the feeling of racial superiority by a section of the human race. The Nazi doctrine of Adolf Hitler as well as the idea of apartheid is an example of racial arrogance. When a nation looks down on other nations, it falls into the abyss of totalitarianism and perpetrates atrocities against them and seeks legitimacy in its superiority complex. Such a nation thus becomes a victim of its own insensitivities as its peace and security are continually threatened by the victims of its tyranny as well as the absence of goodwill of its neighbours.

Much of the unrest in the modern world came into being as a result of the racial arrogance of the western world. The United States of America in particular has a large share of the blame. The American psyche has not totally cast away the influence of the racist ideology it inherited from its founding fathers. Addressing the US senate in 1890, J. J. Ingalls declared:

“The race to which we belong is the most arrogant and rapacious, the most exclusive and indomitable in history. It is the conquering and unconquerable race, through which alone man has taken possession of the physical and moral world. All other races have been its enemies or its victims.”

Similarly, Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the American Declaration of Independence in 1776 and whose writings have had the greatest influence on several generations of American policy makers declared:

“I advance it, therefore, as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowment both of body and mind”.

A mindset such as this will no doubt breed hatred in the minds of the blacks and arrogance in the minds of the young Americans. This was what backfired during the American Civil unrests of the 1960s. In the report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders submitted to the US President in 1968 we have the following:

“What white Americans have never fully understood-but what the Negro can never forget-is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it and white society condones it.”

If there must be peace, nations must accept one another as equals. The United Nations must embrace this reality and back it with resolutions that have mandatory force. In this light, the inequalities associated with nuclear programmes, arms development and the exercise of veto power need to be addressed if truly the world wants peace. The developed nations must also be prepared to build bridges of benevolence by extending aids to under-developed nations with no strings attached. Writing in 1976, John Herz, in his ‘The Nation-State and the Crisis of World Politics’, quotes U. Thant as saying that:…the people of the world have perhaps ten years left in which to subordinate their ancient quarrels and launch global partnership to curb the arms race, improve the human environment, defuse population explosion and supply the required momentum to world development efforts.

Western powers must therefore rise up to the challenge. The EU in particular should realize that we cannot afford another world war. We crave peace but we build more weapons. During every disarmament programme, we destroy only the outdated weapons of destruction and build more sophisticated ones. European nations must remember the devastating effects of the first two world wars and move with urgency and utmost sincerity to put out the fires of hatred that have been kindled in hearts of the people of weaker nations.

  1. The challenge of Mass Immigration: One of the aftermaths of improved communication technology is the desire of peoples to seek greener pastures in other lands. It is well known fact that men hardly migrate from comfort zones. Very few people leave their homes out of curiousity. If nations attach importance to the welfare of their citizen and majority of the people live a life of fulfillment, the lure of migration reduces. The improvement in communication has opened up the secrets of the developed nations to eager explorers from the not-so-privileged nations. The natural instinct for survival is usually activated when people are oppressed in their homelands. If the developed nations truly desire peace, they must assist the under-developed clan of nations to grow rather than exploiting them. They must also educate their citizenry to tolerate immigrants who have settled among them while immigrants too must integrate themselves into their new societies. Governments of nations must also embrace the reality of transnationalism in the 21st Fifteen centuries ago, Islam has foreseen the need for global citizenship through immigration and transnational living experience. Allah says:

“Verily, those whom the angels cause to die while they are wronging their own souls, they will say to them: what were you after? They will reply: we were oppressed in the land; they will say: was not Allah’s earth vast enough for you to emigrate therein?” Q4v98

The above verse shows that Allah expects men to migrate in the land when they are oppressed, persecuted or denied the opportunities of life. The question, “was not Allah’s earth vast enough for you to emigrate therein?” closes the door of excuses against anybody who remains in a comfort zone and suffers thereby. Islam thus acknowledges the reality of super-national, super-cultural and super-ethnic dimensions of the 21st century world.

  1. Upholding the Standards of Justice: Justice and peace are two sides of a coin. The absence of one determines the absence of the other. Several of the crisis that have challenged global security have their roots in the injustice done by some nations against other nations. The hydra-headed Israeli/Palestinian conflict which may soon enter its first century has been the major excuse for many violent actors in the Middle East. The collective rejection of truth and justice and the adoption of duplicity in place of diplomacy by the world powers have further fanned the embers of the crisis. Bin Laden for instance declared:

“For over half a century, Muslims in Palestine have been slaughtered and assaulted and robbed of their honor and of their property. Their houses have been blasted, their crops destroyed.This is my message to the American people to look for a serious government that looks out for their interests and does not attack other people’s lands or other people’s honour. And my word to American journalists is not to ask why we did what but ask what their government has done that forced us to defend ourselves. So we tell the American people, and we tell the mothers of soldiers and American mothers in general that if they value their lives and the lives of their children, to find a patriotic government that will look after their interest and not the interests of the Jews.

I say to them that they have put themselves at the mercy of a disloyal government and this is most evident in Clinton’s administration. We believe that this administration represents Israel inside America. Take the sensitive ministries such as the offices of the Secretary of state, and the Secretary of Defence and the C.I.A, you will find that the Jews have the upper hand in them. They make use of America to further their plans for the world.”

Bin Laden’s declared mission is to avenge the defenceless Palestinians who have been victims of American and Israeli oppression for a long time. To support justice is to be an enemy of injustice wherever it may be and whoever may be involved. The injustice done to the Palestinians by the UN, its organs as well as international media organizations is not quantifiable. In the whole saga, the perpetrator of the crime has been extolled while the victim has always been castigated.

The teaching of Islam is very clear in this regard. Allah says:

‘O you who believe! Be strict in the observance of justice, and be witnesses for Allah, even though it be against yourselves or against parents and kindred. Whether he be rich or poor, Allah is more regardful of them both than you are. Therefore follow not low desires that you may be able to act equitably. And if you conceal the truth or evade it, then remember that Allah is well aware of what you do.” Q4v136

The prejudice and stereotypes which characterize the media report on Islam and the Arabs are also reflections of the injustice of the fourth estate of the realm to mankind’s well being. Some sections of the media have contributed to the negative reactions of some groups in the name of religion because of the unjust ways in which their activities are reported or analyzed. Similarly, innocent Muslims have been persecuted or branded for being Muslims simply because certain individuals have chosen to invoke Islam or its tenets in justification for violent actions that in reality have nothing to do with Islam.

Just as some Muslims have christened America the ‘great Satan’ out of petty spite and misinformed enthusiasm, some  media organizations have made use of such labels as ‘Islamic terrorism’ or ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ for reactions by groups whose objectives do not conform to the Islamic ideal.  Rajmohan Ghandi writes:

“It is true that the 9/11 attackers called themselves Muslims, and some of them may have conducted their attack in the name of Islam. Some of the killings in Rwanda in 1994 were conducted inside churches. All the killers{and the victims too} were Christians. Did that make the Rwandan killings a Christian crime? When Hindus and Buddhists are involved in terrible deeds in Sri Lanka, are we to blame Hinduism and Buddhism? Nazism and communism were enthroned, and the holocaust carried out in supposedly Christian lands. Are we therefore to impute a great flaw to Christianity?

Slavery was practiced and also apartheid in Christian societies, and often in the name of Christianity. Did the slaves blame Christianity? Were the spirituals anti-Christians? Did Nelson Mandela strive to alert his people in South Africa to an evil inherent in Christianity?

In September 2003, I saw on TV the conversation that Brit Hume of Fox News had with President Bush in the White House. In the oval office, Hume asked the President about the sources of his inspiration. President Bush named Lincoln and pointed to the Lincoln portrait in the room. When Hume asked how Lincoln inspired him, the President said that in the time of civil war Lincoln fought for American unity. After 9/11, the President continued, he too felt called, in the spirit of Lincoln, to invoke unity in the United States.

I think it is good to ask what Lincoln, if he were alive today, would have said. We can never know for certain, of course, yet it is perhaps useful to try. All know the timeless lines from the second inaugural. Referring to the two sides in the war, Lincoln said:

“Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged.”

  1. Non-coveting of the Wealth of Others: It is a known fact major crises have arisen as a result of the covetousness of Nations. Powerful nation often covet nature’s gifts to weaker nations and because they are too arrogant to trade with such nations. They therefore invade such weak nations directly or manipulate them through subterfuge activities to exploit their resources at minimal costs or at no cost at all. Allah says:

” Stretch not thy eyes towards what we have bestowed on some classes of them to enjoy for a short time, and grieve not over them; and lower thy wing of mercy for the believers”.Q15v89

It is covetousness that combined with racial arrogance to create slavery and apartheid. It is the malady that promotes injustice because it renders its victim blind to the right of others. It therefore goes by the name of ‘permanent or short term interest’ and brews conflicts of varying dimensions in the cauldron of man’s low desires.

 

Of all religions, Islam stands out in that its ethico-juridical system addresses the nature of man and asserts that the roots of violent actions are to be sought in the interplay of frustration and aggression. When a person or group is frustrated by unjust treatments, aggression sets in as the byproduct of the denial experienced. Islam therefore offers mankind a structure that can bring about a total emancipation by creating near ideal societies all over the world the features of which include:

 

–           God – consciousness and social responsibility;

–           Maximum personal freedom compatible with minimum interference in the freedom of others;

–           Minimum constraint compatible with maximum security;

–           Maximum equality compatible with a necessary minimum of rewards and incentives for achievement;

–           Maximum compassion and cooperation compatible with a necessary minimum of competition;

–           Maximum personal commitment to the welfare of society, compatible with maximum freedom of personal expression and fulfillment,

–           Lack of privileges by virtue of birth compatible with the desire of free people to bestow benefits on their offsprings.

This is the path patterned by Islam for the attainment of peace in the world.

 

 

 

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