214th Meeting – November 2001

What is the Alternative to Violence in our Multicultural World?

A panel discussion with Andrew Forbes, John Butt, and Dean Henderson

The panel noted the need for Al-Qaeda and its chief theoretician, to be hunted down in the aftermath of the attacks of September 11th 2001. By extension, the Taliban authorities in Afghanistan also deserved to be overthrown for their part in harbouring Al-Qaeda. However, this sort of ‘stick’ policy needed to be accompanied by an at least equivalent amount of ‘carrot’, with the West, especially the US, recognising that the Arab and Muslim World have genuine grievances to be considered, including: continuing Israeli occupation of what is left of Palestine; a cessation of the bombing and sanctions against Iraq; an equitable solution to the question of Chechen independence; and the withdrawal of US military forces from Saudi Arabia. It is incorrect to suggest Osama bin Laden was in some way un-Islamic. To the contrary, his beliefs are rooted in Wahabism, and more specifically in the Hanbali, or 4th school of orthodox Sunni Islam. To deny this is both misleading and wishful thinking. It is misleading and wrong for Blair and Bush to suggest otherwise.

Christian-Muslim relations were discussed, noting that almost from the beginning these have been characterized by mistrust, hatred, and enmity. In recent years this hostile attitude has led to violent acts of terrorism, such as those on September 11th. Past and present injustices and injuries inflicted by both sides continue to cause and fuel this pattern of enmity and violence. Many Muslims see the United States’ responses to the terrorist acts of September 11th, namely, the ‘War on Terror’ and the bombing of Afghanistan, as a further continuation of this pattern of hostility.

Some underlying causes for this pattern of resentment and violence were presented, principally religious misunderstanding and ignorance. Neither side knows very much about the other’s religion, and resulting actions are often an insult to the other.

In summing up, our "sinful and depraved human nature" – we are basically self-centered and self-serving – is a major cause of conflict. One speaker noted that perhaps the answer to violence and terrorism is “that we all need to become 'Islamic', in their true and literal meaning of becoming those who 'submit' and 'surrender' their lives to a 'Reality and Truth' that transcends our narrow definitions of self and community.”