"Oh how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together." Psalm 133
by Clifford F. Thies
The mosque at ground zero controversy gives us quite possibly a great opportunity to advance freedom in the world by dedicating ourselves to reciprocity. What we hope and pray for is respect for the religious freedom of Muslims, both Americans and visitors, in this country, in return for respect for the religious freedom of non-Muslims in Muslim countries.
Not that we expect all countries to immediately dis-establish religion or become secular. Indeed, it would be strange and somehow wrong to be in a Muslim country and not hear the call to prayer. But, social tolerance and civil liberties are marks of progress, and necessary for an open, global society. Besides, true religion comes from choice. The one, true God desires that we freely choose to accept his laws.
It is in this spirit that we, here at Libertarian Republican, share three images that we hope, represent the future of the Middle East both Israeli and Arab.
The first is Corporal Elinor Joseph of the Israeli Defense Force. Cpl Joseph, a combat medic, is the first female Arab to serve in the IDF. She is a Christian Arab. Her father served as a paratrooper in the IDF. Her hope is to bring a better and more peaceful life to all of her fellow Israelis. “I still believe that peace will come," she says, "and faith creates reality”
The second person is Houda Nonoo, the Ambassador of Bahrain to the United States, the first Jewish Ambassador from an Arab country. Bahrain has one of the world's oldest continuously-existing Jewish communities, although her own family moved to the country from Iraq about a hundred years ago.
The constitution of Bahrain proclaims Islam to be the offical religion of the country. However, Chrisitans, Jews, Hindus, and Sikhs practice their faith relatively free of government interference, own many places of worship, and enjoy social acceptance. On the negative side, some tensions exist between the minority Sunni and majority Shi'a of the country, but these tensions may be due more to disparities in income and priveledge than to religious differences.
The third person is Ishmael Khaldi, a Muslim and a Bedouin, and the first Muslim to rise to the rank of Consul in Israel's foreign service, being recently posted to San Francisco. Mr. Khaldi does not say everything is perfect in Israel. But, he believes the conflists are political and not really ethnic or religious. He is proud of his country and has dedicated his life to making things better. "The way is long." he says, "It's not easy."
Not easy indeed. But strive for peace we must.
Dr. Thies is a professor of economics and statistics at Shenandoah Univ. in Virginia