tv Democracy Now LINKTV November 4, 2013 9:00am-10:01am PST
welcome to another session of beliefs and believers. we've been talking about the ethical dimension and literally wrestling- well, i don't know if anyone was wrestling back there, maybe just about to- but i think we've got a sense of how difficult it is to discuss ethical challenges even in a very civilized setting
like this. you can imagine what happens in a less than civilized situation because it's just very frustrating when you have so many visions of what proper patterns of action are. particularly when we get to the social dimension, we're going to talk about religious diversity in the united states, and we'll see that maybe one of the things that creates a sense of peacefulness in the social environment is that we have so many different religions and a first amendment that protects religious freedom that we don't have one religion rising to the surface or competing or two or three. well, one thing we wanted to do with our new version of beliefs and believers is to go to a part of the world where we do see more of the tensions between religion, and the spot we picked on, dare i say, was israel and then to some extent egypt. and we wanted to go to israel in particular because there isn't such a diverse cultural environment in terms of religion, so that the tensions are, in some senses, watered down. as we all know,
unless you've been meditating in a cave for the past 20 years, israel and the social environment in israel is very tense in terms of the relationship between the three great faiths that actually share something of a cultural tradition- judaism, christianity, and islam. and so what we- we have an extraordinary opportunity, and something like a great risk. i'm surprised david ainsworth, our executive producer, hasn't come out and read this e-mail message i sent to him about three days before we're ready to go on this journey. we planned it of course for several months. we're talking about a crew of at least six people- a lot of preparation, and of course, at the time when we were set to go was one of the worst possible times in terms of the tension; you know, again, another flare-up between the united states and iraq. and i had just heard on cnn, which i finally stopped watching that the state department
said, "americans, don't go here- do not go." and i wrote david this teary, ethical letter, actually saying, "my responsibility as a parent seems to keep me from taking this journey." but i was serious. i mean, i really wrestled in terms of responsibility, ethical patterns of action, because we were hearing some very frightening things about the animosity over there. when we got there- i mean, the tendency, even though you've heard about it, is to think, you know, i'm just a humble religious studies professor from burrell, illinois- you know, i'm no threat to the islamic community. but you come over there, as we'll see, and you realize that you become a symbol for something way larger. and since we're talking about the ethical dimension and its impact on the social dimension, i can't stress enough what we discovered in our conversations, that while saddam hussein is seen as a brute and as an unethical person,
really, within the islamic community, they'll still take his side over a much more detrimental ethical force, which they look at as the secularization, the image of globalization that comes from the west- they see it as a potential to take over their environment- and we were certainly an outcast. as i mentioned in the last class, i'm real glad i didn't know that as i was wandering around the environs of israel in particular, but there was an edict- wrong word; i don't know the muslim word for it- but an edict that had come from a regional imam that said if the united states did in fact go to war in terms of the bombing of iraq, which was expected to happen the monday after we arrived, then it was in fact justified ethical patterns of action again for muslims to attack american civilians within those environs.
now we had some really, really unusual experiences, because we're very well organized- we were in a bus, which is a great idea. we had an arab guide who was magnificent and saved us mucho dollars- or shekels, i should say- over there, and may have saved our lives in a couple of instances by knowing where to go. when we were moved through- he knew through networking within his own community where the hot spots are. for instance, one week it was possible to go to bethlehem, which is in palestinian areas, but certain things were happening and he would know a couple days later, "not safe; don't go there." just some really- we got so over into the west bank that we could actually see jordan, and yet we were able to move through communities in the palestinian territories with all the machine guns and those things you've seen- you know, the towers and the places where the palestinians are stopping- we managed to move through those kinds
of tense situations with minimum hassle. so i'm very glad to be back and alive. but the key thing is what we were able to accomplish. with our incredible contacts, we went directly to nazareth. and actually, networking is an amazing thing, because the local episcopal priest in mccomb, of all places, mccomb, illinois, has an amazing international reputation- amnesty international, these kinds of organizations that work for justice- and he set us up with some key people in the arab christian community where we started out in nazareth, and in fact, our guide, as i said, was an arab christian, which is an interesting story in its own right, you know, how those people put up with some of the tensions. but we were able to meet real authentic people and place our questions to them. what we want to look at in terms of this class, and we have some extraordinary roll-in material of these interviews is we have several pieces.
the first is simply going out into the community and exploring those ethical conflicts. what happens when you have three great religions that share many of the same similarities, but they live in a tightly bound community, where obviously, one group has more political power? so we want to look at the political power, but in our second major roll-in piece, we learn very quickly about land- i mentioned that in the previous class- but the land becomes a very important issue. obviously, as you well know, the whole question of the creation of the state of israel in 1948 out of palestinian land, the arguments there that go back and forth, are just mind boggling- you know, talking about our ethical conflicts. you know, should the israelis have been in that particular spot? why not a spot in africa? why not give them mcdonough county in illinois?
you know, the question of land and sovereignty. or is it this place? and as we'll find out in the interview, there's no consensus within the jewish community. you know, we have zionists and anti-zionists, we have religious zionists, we have religious jews who are anti-zionists, and so that tension goes on. so we'll look at the land issue. then we'll also look at issues in egypt involving kind of intrareligious struggle. and finally, a remarkable interview that i- i'll save explaining that till i set it up, but with a young muslim student, actually, who we ran into in cairo and had a very, very up front, real, and personal discussion about what it's like to be a young person in a predominantly muslim country. yeah, helen? >> did you see any tension between the ashkenazi and the sephardic populations? >> did not see it but heard about it. >> and between the secular and the religious views, did you see that?
>> that, definitely. yeah, we definitely saw that. so let me get the ball rolling here, because these are actually well longer than our normal roll-ins, but i think it's appropriate when we have such an unusual setting. as we go through this, though, let's keep in mind our previous lessons from the previous class about ethics, patterns of action, how people try to conduct themselves, and see how there's these inevitable conflicts with- good comments we had in the last class about how yes, we're speaking about religion, but we're speaking about land and nationalism and politics, and just human frailty, you know, human complexity. so with no further adieu, let's go to our first roll-in on ethical conflicts in israel. >> the motivational heart of the ethical dimension is the quest for the good life. how are we to live as human beings in a way that is good, aesthetically pleasing, and enduring? in the bustling commercial centers of the middle east,
people turn to religion to find answers to the all-important question: how should we then live? jews, christians, and muslims shape their communities according to ethical precepts drawn from religion. day-to-day activities such as shopping for food, eating, working, sharing time with friends, or praying are guided by the ethical dimension. but what happens when people of different faiths living in the same social environment differ as to what constitutes the good life? our visit to israel and egypt, where religion is the controlling factor, revealed that ethical conflicts are widespread- life is not so good. religious doctrines, or beliefs, define ethical patterns of action, which in turn have enormous impact on the social dimension. as jews, christians, and muslims sort out the tangled web of daily interactions, it is often political power that plays the primary role
in dermining whose proper patterns of action take precedence in the social arena. as we speak with everyday citizens as well as prominent religious and political leaders, notice once again the powerful relationship between the doctrinal, ethical, and social dimensions. >> here in israel, everything is interweaved. as one of my friends says, politics is religion; religion is politics- you can't get away from the politics. but we do try, to some extent, conduct an interfaith dialogue similar to you would do in other places in the world, and in that way, we sort of check our politics at the door and say we agree to disagree, and we're not here to solve our political issues- other people can try to do that- and we try to get to know each other first as human beings, and secondly, to learn about each others' traditions. so much of our dialogue has been, in a way, apolitical
or nonpolitical, and it's enabled us to do things we couldn't do otherwise. >> it seems that the division between muslim, jew, and christian is pretty extreme. what kind of commonalities can you find in your interfaith dialogues? >> well, we did a project two years ago, which we called "common values, different sources." the idea was to take basic values that we thought we all shared- the search for peace and justice, tolerance, the value of education in itself- and to learn some of each others' sources- a text study on these things. and we did that for a year, with five different meetings, and now we're publishing a book on that subject- common values, different sources- and it was kind of amazing to see how much we in fact did have in common. some of the people who've never been involved in this kind of dialogue before said that it seemed we were stealing eaeach others' texts, because they weren't aware of influence during the ages
of other peoples' text. but that kind of thing, when you look at some core values that the three faiths share was very instructive to a number of a people. >> [speaking in islamic] >> [translated] we treat our brothers, the christians, as one society. >> [speaking in islamic] in this holy city of nazareth. >> [speaking in islamic] >> since trying to- because we were born here. >> [speaking in islamic] >> we live together as neighbors, as brothers, in both sad events and happy events. >> [speaking in islamic]
>> and we believe that love still reveals between us. >> [speaking in islamic] >> for this, we are always happy. >> lately, we have been, you know, i can say united for the right of the palestinians. the christians are no less nationalistic than muslims are- maybe to the contrary. we don't show it, we don't use force. and you know why? we cannot use force because then we are not christians. we fight with love, and i think we succeed- succeed more than fighting and struggling with arms. so we are feeling the consequences because too many christians are leaving the country. and when it's possible, if the americans were- when they open the gates,
too many, and very few will stay here. >> i don't have - like from one side, the arab people, the muslim people, and for the other side, the jewish people, and we are in between that, you know. the christian people are a christian people that are in the middle. if you're going to a lot muslim people, so they would say, okay, you are christian, and it's a big problem for you. and if you go into the jewish side, they would say the same, you are christian, you are arab. and you are in the middle, you know, like pulling off - and it's very bad for us. and i'm thinking to go out from here, it's better than staying here. >> because you just made a really good point. i mean, there's no country- you know, you don't have a country here. >> exactly. >> even if they did eventually divide up palestine and israel, the two states, you still have no country.
>> we are still without country, yeah. even if there is palestine and arab government and everything is arab, it will stay like their religion, and i don't belong here and i'm very sure of that, you know. >> well, you mentioned that you have three daughters. we've obviously seen some tensions between the arabs and jews. for instance, if one of your daughters wanted to date an arab boy, would that be acceptable in your eyes? >> it's one of those questions that you hope doesn't happen, and in my case, i doubt very much it would happen. but if you want to be very hypothetical or theoretical, it would not be acceptable in my eyes. one of the reasons that we moved to live in a jewish society in a jewish state was to live in a place where the threat of intermarriage is very, very small. and besides the fact that my kids all got very strong jewish and zionist upbringings, it would be the furthest thing from any of their minds in any event. that's not to say
that in their social life or in their academic life or in their sports life they wouldn't associate with arab teenagers. my youngest daughter, who's now in twelfth grade, plays basketball, and she was on a mixed arab-jewish team earlier this year and got along fine with the kids there and has been to encounters with arab and jewish kids in israel and is very interested in that kind of activity. but to jump from that to marrying or even entertaining would be a big leap. >> she's an oppressor, very especially to the brothers, palestinians living in the occupied zones. we are better off and we live good here- i mean, we have to admit. but we still feel with others- you must feel with others- far from where we live in america. we are all brothers, and we have to feel with each other, and we feel very much with these people
who will know no peace. not one single day passes without trouble in these areas. and i think being a christian, i cannot side with an oppressor. >> let's get to the point. this behavior- in a good behavior, in good conduct, to keep in touch with others is our challenge all the time to build a new world, a new, nice village, to live together in peace and harmony and love for each others. we aren't satisfied on what happened all the time. i am 68 years old. i have not seen even one good day in my life.
i'm struggling always day and night. searching for a good day. >> that was one of the most poignant interviews- >> i was just going to say, that was a tearjerker. >> oh, i- let me tell you about mr. fahoum. he was so polite and had us in and we had a whole lot of caffeine and a whole lot of sugar. but nevertheless, we had gone through an interview, and you know, it was rather perfunctory and we were getting some stuff down, and that actually was- we said, "the interview is over," and then he picked up, and we just got to talking like, you know, a couple of human beings, and other people were in the conversation, and he says, "i'm 68 years old and i've never had one good day," and you know, he's getting tears in his eyes and we're all getting tears in our eyes. and this is the challenge of it, as you heard from christian speakers. sam, the young fellow that you might have seen there, he was actually our guide-
21 years old, handsome, talented, facility with languages- he grew up there. he's a christian arab- he can't figure out how to find ethical patterns of action; he can't find a place in the social dimension. and the fellow's leaving, he's going to italy. i think as dr. farrar, our host in nazareth, said, "you know, if the united states were to open the gates, the arab christians would just leave." you know, they were leaving their homeland, and it's a beautiful land. but that's the kind of, you know, the difficulty, the challenge that you see there. it almost makes you feel, well, as bad as things are in the united states from time to time, wow, what pressure. yeah, janet? >> i was really inspired by mr. fahoum's comments about everyone living together gather in peace. don't they routinely kill people who try to do that in the middle east? the leaders who try to work with that?
it seems to me i remember that they get killed. >> and threats all the time. the people that we met, it had to be handled very, very carefully. and we had things that weren't on the tape, but mr. farrar, the gentleman with the beard and the gray hair, said that he fully expected because of a certain issue of a conflict with a mundane nature within the community of nazareth, he expected within the next couple of months for some christians to be killed. and they were killed- we heard from our connection. and this happens all the time- that's what they mean by not one good day. but the other thing that may have gone by a little quickly is all these people, for the most part, that we talked to were on, you know, this side of palestinian territory. in the territories, it's even more oppressive, it's even more difficult, where the land is separate. it's such a challenging issue on how people-
and you could sense my frustration, and this is what always happens when i get to the ethical dimension, because i wouldn't be in this business of teaching religion if i didn't love the subject area, and i tend to appreciate the beauty and the good in religion, and yet you go into an environment like this- and we've already mentioned in the previous class, several other around the world- and you find that people- i mean, what is it? is it identity and relationship is such a fundamental impulse that it's injected with political feeling and you find yourself in conflict that this inevitably happens? i mean, it's just- it's so frustrating that religions can't see their way out. as dr. fahoum said- you know, the 68-year-old gentleman who hasn't had one day- he's not unlike in the previous class professor robert moore with his institute for world spirituality- he says, "we've got to make a new heaven and a new earth. we've got to create a society that overcomes ese differences." for them, the survival is
obvious on a day-to-day basis when their friends- as you say, janet- leaders, people who speak out like this, can be killed. as a matter of fact, we had to be very careful to have representatives from each group- and this is something that was beyond our comprehension. they said, "well, if you're going to talk to this person, you make sure he's on camera, and this person's on camera," and we just said, "fine, okay. just give us your directions." so that's the kind of thing we experienced there. yeah, virginia? >> i was thinking as i was watching these different people how hard it is for americans who are maybe diversified but we are isolated from the majority of these things to understand the tension in which they live. if they say hi to somebody and that person says, "i'll slit your throat- what do you mean?" or if somebody says, "he was fraternizing- get him."
i mean, you don't know, the tensions of simple living, where you don't have people who are wearing a badge saying, "i'm not your friend," or, "it's okay to talk to me." how do you know who you can talk to? >> i mean, it must be so oppressive, yeah. >> yes, and how do you know in raising your children that one of these children might not be the victim, and there you are. do you retaliate? do you start a whole situation because of your own personal loss? i responded so to the man who said, "i have not had one happy day," because he was thinking just of himself- his whole family, you know. he could be happy if somebody in his family was happy, but how do you know? >> and you think back to bob moore's comments about creating a sustainable environment for our children's children. and how do you- you know, we see the children on the streets, and you know, that's what got me. the first place we stayed was in a seminary, an eastern orthodox seminary-
a rather spartan setting, to say the least. the bar didn't stay open very late. no. but i remember it also served as a school. and so i was looking out my window in the morning, and i saw the parents in their cars bringing their children to school, and i said, "if i was home, that's exactly what i would be doing, i would be dropping lilly and sophie off at school, and here they're doing the same thing." it was the fact that the elements we experience in this culture are the same- it's what we tried to do in the roll-in. people need to shop, people have children, people have friends, people want leisure time, people want to have one good day. but what is going on here when the source that we're studying- religion, which is, you know, the guiding force, hopefully, towards harmony and peace- plays such a strong role in tormenting the people in this environment? i mean, it's a kicker.
jeff? >> is there a parallel here? i mean, in terms of studies? just because of the terrible conflicts- i mean, it's obvious that the people in the roll-ins have suffered and are suffering- between an individual ego state and the religious identity, and is there a religious ego, as a community of the same believers? or is that even a right term to use? >> no. i think what you just hit on is another one of- you've articulated one of my key frustrations. or maybe it's a dilemma with religion. most certainly there is a religious ego, and i think that's exactly what we're seeing here. i think this is a strange peculiarity, but we're only human.
you know, remember religion is ideally about the transcended- it's about going beyond boundaries, it's going to another place. and yet the only way we know is from our sense of self, which is filled with its own individuality- it's that a part and apart thing that we talked about very early in the semester. religion is a force for transcending these kinds of restrictive boundaries. at the same time, you bring in the doctrinal dimension, which makes those boundaries more rigid, so that you can know who you are. so i think what you have here is very much a religious- a set of religious egos that are very large that people have plugged into- you know, their individuality plugs into it collectively, and it's that much more powerful and that much more volatile. it's really true. how you get out of that- you know, we're talking about the social dimension- once you say, "i have this set
of answers to profound life questions. i'm going to call it this, be it jew, muslim, or christian. i belong; they don't agree," then we're already into bumping up against each other. and i think the question that these people are reaching for in each of the traditions and that we've seen in other instances is, you know, how can you be a christian or jew or muslim or buddhist, but also have more than just appreciation but some interconnection, some true dialogue with someone who's different? very difficult. very difficult. to keep the ball rolling, we have another longish roll-in that adds an important piece to the puzzle, and i think it adds to what jeff got me talking about here, which is the land issue. this was a lesson you had to learn, it's a lesson that people down through history have
struggled with. it's not something that you grow up in this country, at least if you are a person who grew up the way i grew up, you just don't even think of this thing about land and identity. you know, we've got private property here and in my quest to find running room out in the wilderness out in mccomb, i've been run off by hunters on plenty of private property, so i know that. but that's not what we're talking about here. we're talking about land, sovereignty, identity, and the religious ego, to use your good term. land fuels this religious ego, and as we well know, it's a real problem here. so what we wanted to do is then try to- in terms of ethics again in the social dimension- how do proper patterns of action get skewed or turned on their hand or in some way misrepresented over another equally intense quest. you know, you've got the religious quest for god, the divine, the good life, but you have the land quest for something along the same way, and can the two-
how can the two ever be sorted out? and some very interesting comments here. so if we could, let's go to our roll-in on land and the ethical dimension in israel. >> down through history, all people have struggled for land. in israel, however, the struggle takes on yet another dimension. somehow, the land is infused with the holy, and the quest for sovereignty, for political peace, is wrapped up in identity and relationship. in fact, as we talk to religious leaders, political leaders, and the average person on the street, we'll find out that sorting out this difficult and tangled issue over land is really the key to pce in israel in the future. in order to get a better understanding of land issues in israel, we were very fortunate to speak with dr. menachem lorberbaum at the hartman institute, where he's director of the center for jewish political thought. this center provides a voice of reason and passionate understanding in a society
that is increasingly polarized by issues over land, religion, the ethical dimension, and its impact on society. >> well, the issue of land has been an issue for a century also in the zionist movement. first of all, sovereignty needs territory. sovereignty presumes territory. and therefore, the question of territory was one that came hand in hand with the zionists' dream of creating a sovereign state. now the question of the- "which land? how much land?" is a question that's been going on for a century, and it should be put in perspective, because what we're seeing now is the latest chapter following the six day war of an ongoing discussion of the century. the discussion began a century ago when theodore herzl proposed his uganda plan, which was to say if the idea
of zionism is basically to alleviate the situation of jews in europe, which already people felt a century ago to be untenable, then any land would do- uganda as well as palestine- of the time. and this provoked the first great debate within the zionist movement between those who are for seeking sovereignty in the land of israel, and those who said, well, sovereignty can be achieved elsewhere too. this was the first big territorial debate. then the next phase was in the thirties when the british proposed their first division of what was then palestine, which included both banks of the jordan river, the east bank and the west bank of the jordan river, and to divide it into two- the east bank, which will be what we now call jordan, and the west bank, which would be palestine-
would be some kind of joint jewish and arab state. this provoked again another big argument within the settlement then in the land of israel among those who said, "only the entirety of the land," and those who said, "well, better some of it rather than the entire bit." and then the six day war is just another phase in this ongoing argument. the same argument went on also in 1948, and the decision to the partition the land again into two states- a jewish state and a palestinian state. and in 1967, following the six day war, when israel occupied the west bank, the issue became an issue again. do we see the west bank as part of the state of israel, or not? this is of course speaking from the israeli point of view. so this has been an ongoing debate within zionism. now its unique religious flavor
is really a matter of the past 25 years, where the question of the status of the west bank was viewed also by some groups in religious terms- that is to say, some of the religious zionists saw the project- the zionists said, "it's not only the creation of a state and sovereignty, but also redemption of land." and for them, the return to the land, the redemption of the land, was seen as part of a larger messianic scheme. now here, on the other hand, you have two other religious voices- the ultra-orthodox and anti-zionists- which do not, at least initially, did not see any messianic significance in the state of israel, nor in the redemption
of the land. but they said, "that time will come, and we will know when it does come. but it hasn't arrived yet." most of them view themselves as living in exile within the land of israel. as a footnote, it's important to say that there are, though, maybe changes in their worldview, and they have shifted on the issue when- some of them have shifted much closer to the religious zionists. and then you have groups of religious zionists who are completely against- or completely reject a messianic interpretation of the significance of the state of israel- the significance of the state of israel is worldly, not religious. and the jews have a problem with existence anywhere else in the world, and the only place where we can have the dignity of self-defense and the freedom and liberty of running our lives as we believe to be,
the way is here in a state of our own. so this is a deep argument going on for many years within the religious world of israel. >> i work with jews and christians. and there is no problem to live with jews and problems to live with political policy aside and to live together. christian and muslims never had problem to live together. in syria, live and learn. in iraq, they live together, so it's not a problem. the problem is when one is wanting to reign and to control- that's a problem. if the jews can trust to share with us the holy land, it's okay. but not to control, not to reign, not to occupy, not to, you know,
humiliate people, like what's going on in the west bank. >> and it's hard to believe that when somebody will take his land to give up and to say, "okay, let's have peace, and our land is with them," it's so difficult to believe, and if we look here, and the mountains that is our land here, and israel. they take and give to the jews, from our land. it's difficult to have peace in that situation. how could i trust them when they just all the time try constantly to humiliate and to expand, and just in that point of view, how can we trust them and have peace? >> but this is a central problem of our life here, there's no doubt, and i'll answer for myself and not as a spokesperson for the institute right now. in my opinion, the only basis
for a solution in relations between palestinians and jews in the land of israel is a partition into two states, and let me explain. originally, in 1947, the united nations called upon a division, or called for a division of the land of israel into two states. the tragedy of our situation in the land here is that we have two people, both of whom have just claims for sovereignty. it's a tragedy because both claims are just. and therefore, it seems to me that the only way out is to allow for both peoples to have the expression of their sovereignty- that is the only way around. and i think it's not only a matter of justice, i believe it's also a matter
of israel's political interest to pursue this path. it's been a path that's all too often been rejected by both sides. it was rejected in 1947 by the palestinians. it was rejected after 1967 by many israelis. but i think today there are enough palestinians and enough israelis that realize that this is the only path in which to go, in which each people has its right. >> he said one thing. i'm sorry. >> go ahead. fire away, virginia. >> the dignity of self-defense. do i or any of us realize how people who are not allowed to say, "no, that's not right," must feel about this chance to say, "wait, i have my rights," which they don't feel they have now. >> and they don't, and that takes us to the heart
of this ethical dilemma. i mean, i don't know how many of you are old enough to remember the "the twilight zone," you know, but i almost feel like, you know, if god wanted to take humans and say, "i'm going to give you the ethical challenge of your life. bam!" right into israel into this situation. now figure this one out"- did you catch the complexity, even with judaism? you know, the religious zionists, the religious anti-zionists, the secular nationalists, the religious secular anti-zionist zionists. it's like i don't know, it's out of monty python. yeah, go ahead. >> so if they decided that they should be two separate states, then i guess the idea is they're both fighting over the same little bit of land- they all want jerusalem or something? >> well, it's very complex, but in a nutshell, to kind of give you the overview, you know, what we have here, and this came out of the- one of the things that i really love about this profession and at least the freedom i have at western to teach,
is that i can create or resurrect classes- and i wanted to know more about judaism, so i put together a semester-length class on judaism and much of this comes out. well, of course, everyone is familiar with the holocaust, but the history of the jews is just enormous irony and suffering, and it's just overwhelming. but to come back here quickly to the situation, the zionist movement, as dr. lorberbaum says, you know, starts roughly around 1897 and works in many different facets. the one most interesting, i think, is there was a strong group that wanted no part of israel, particularly- "let's just get some land!" and they were looking in africa and other places, south america. what happens, though, is with lots of complex pressures- the holocaust, the end of world war ii, political struggles all over the world, and struggles on the part of the people already in israel, the jews- well, we get a state in 1948. now the struggle continues.
i love dr. lorberbaum's word- "well, the argument continues." well, you know, there's a lot of bullets and blood and bombs flying through this argument. but what we experienced, to whisk it up to the present- we had the '67 war, you know, the war in the early '70s- to whisk it into the present, what we find is it comes down to human beings. many jews we met who obviously have the power, and from the muslim perspective, are seen as being supported and propped up by the united states, which makes us part of the enemy in that thing. but nevertheless, many jews like lorberbaum are very open to dialogue, and even what he said is extremely controversial- coming out in favor of partitioning of the land. but what you see on a day-to-day basis- and we experienced this; we walked around with arab christians and muslim arabs- still, there's a nasty habit, because the israelis have the power of saying, "no, we're not taking any more land. but oh, this group from russia has come in,
or this group of jews have come in. i'm sorry, but we're taking this mountain." i mean, we heard over and over, "you see that community up there on that hill? well, a year ago, that was arab territory." there's still this business of, "sorry, you have to move on." and when you think about the situation of the indigenous peoples of this continent and how, "well, here's your reservation. no, i'm going to move further"- they're still getting pushed around, and that's messing with their mind, ethically. yeah, janet? >> right now what they're doing, i think, is they're refusing construction permits for palestinian houses, so you can't add a room addition on to your house while they're building those new subdivisions for the other people. so they're squeezing them that way- they're saying, "well, we don't care if your son or daughter got married and now you need more- no, you can't build onto your house." >> and as virginia said, it's not having rights, and without rights, you can't obey your obligations, you can't obey your responsibilities, and it puts you in ethical conflict right there.
now to get in this extraordinary material we have, hold onto the questions. i want to kind of shift ground somewhat ethically but geographically over to egypt, because as you know, we went there. now we have a unique situation in israel that, as we've said, creates all kinds of fascinating but somewhat negative issues regarding ethics. egypt was a different story, because here, we have a predominantly muslim country. now you know, i'm sure you're well aware of that. in egypt- i mean, in israel, the political power is held by the jews; as we heard, the christians are a minority, even christian arabs, and they don't know what they're doing even with a partition. but in egypt, obviously, we have a muslim majority. now what happens here is we had a fascinating interview with reverend noor. we've already seen coptic christians that have for centuries well beyond the
muslims, before the muslims enjoyed something of a, you know, left alone for the most part, allowed to exist. but we have protestant christians actually in egypt, and we had a chance to chat with reverend noor who heads up an evangelical protestant church there- a world renowned figure on the level of billy graham in that part of the country, and to hear his struggle. i'll tell you- well, let me set it up this way, to show you that, again, how the conflicts exist in a place where you have one dominant religion and then minority religions. we walked in to meet this fellow and it was the end of our trip, and we were not aware of what a prestigious person this was, what a major world religious leader this was. and so we stumble into his office, we're nice enough, he's very polite, he allows us to set up, and we're just getting ready for the interview, and this man, this religious leader, this author of hundreds of books, suddenly breaks down into tears-
he starts crying right there. and we're going, you know, "what? what's going on?" well, it turns out he'd just received a phone call, and a muslim who had converted to christianity- and as many of you may know, that can call, in some instances, for a death sentence- a muslim who was trying to leave the country, one of his follows had just been picked up at the cairo airport and the police had him. and the man, this powerful religious leader is crying- no power again, you know, to go back to it. so let's hear a couple of words from reverend noor, a protestant christian in cairo, egypt. >> egypt is obviously a predominantly muslim country, but within egypt is a smaller christian minority in the coptic church, but even a smaller minority in the protestant evangelical church of reverend menes abdul noor. reverend noor is a world-famous spokesperson for protestant christianity, and he heads the kasr el-doubara evangelical church. >> you know, to be a christian and a minority group,
this is something americans cannot understand. but to be always a second-class citizen, always to lose your job because you are a christian, always you are not promoted simply because you are a christian- your faith costs you something- so you cling to christ. so the catholics of egypt and orthodox of egypt as well as the protestants of egypt being under pressure all the time, discriminated against because of their faith, their faith must mean something to them- they are willing to pay for it. and those who are willing to pay for it and not to convert to islam under the pressure of poverty or lack of promotion, they must have a personal relationship with god- sacrament first or agent first- there is that living experience. the coptic church always puts emphasis on repentance, and repentance is in your life- one turns his back to sin
and his face to god. so i think that they have that beautiful link between a person and christ under the pressure, and with the teaching, even if it is not as clear as protestants bring up justification by faith. >> see, that's a very remarkable spin on being a minority in a country with a dominant religion. as our conversation went on, he was saying something along the lines of, "you americans who are christian, you don't appreciate your christianity because it comes so easy." here- and he went on and on about this in a wonderful talk after we were off camera- there's a huge pressure, and has been since the entrance of islam into egypt. you know, here in the seventh century, there's incredible pressure to convert to islam. you could still be a second-class citizen, but you don't have the power- you are second class.
and the problem here is- i mean, it's a somewhat cheery spin on it because he says, "well, that makes our religion more intense for us." but at the same time, this is a man, you saw him composed, but when we walked in, he was a man in tears from an experience that brought out that second-class citizenship. to put it in terms of, you know, our ethical conflicts, well, you know, how, in a world of religion that, once again, is trying to support the ideals, how do you go about realizing those ideals if politically you are pressured into a negative situation? i don't know. but one last roll-in that is, again, one of the more remarkable ones. reverend noor is a christian. he is challenged in his conception and his quest for the christian life by a role that limits his possibilities, but he struggles against it. but what of a muslim? what of a muslim in cairo?
is there ethical struggles? is there ethical dilemmas that a young muslim has to go through in trying to realize- in this case his- his own proper patterns of action? what's the good life for him? now, to some extent, this happens in all cultures, because he's a young person trying to make sense of life. but what akmad- who we interviewed- what he brings out is that even within islam- i mean, you may be well familiar with this- but even within islam in egypt, there is major conflicts. and to put a little bit of a background on it, when we were in egypt, there were very, very few tourists there because not shortly before, the tourists in luxor had been mowed down by machine guns. and what's fueling this, of course, is the quest by fundamentalist, traditionalist muslims to overthrew what they perceive as the secular regime of mombaric.
and more and more, akmad, this young person, is feeling that pressure- the pressure of the old, the old traditional, those very rigid ethical patterns of action that come out and are guided by the sharia and define the social dimension, he feels that pressure. so let's hear here from akmad, a young student we interviewed in cairo. >> we've explored interfaith tensions between jews, christians, and muslims in the middle east, but there are also intrafaith tensions- that means tensions within a single faith; in this case, islam. we spoke with a young student, akmad, who describes his frustrations being a young person- a muslim- living in a decidedly religious society. could you give us just a couple of examples of things you'd like to do on your own time in cairo that you can't do because islamic doctrine prevents you from doing it? >> [speaking in arabic]
>> maybe i intend to have one of my friend's cars and we go together and smoke cigarettes and have a girl with us in the car and have some wine. this is all strictly forbidden in islam. >> [speaking in arabic] >> rich people, they don't think, so they don't have these problems, because they can go without anybody, their cars and their houses and so. but he's talking about the poor people, the poor population. >> the poor people don't have as much freedom. you know, all they have is islam. >> they have no freedom at all. >> that's a very interesting comment that cuts through all cultures- the poor are more interested in protecting the faith, while the rich are free to do what they want. >> [speaking in arabic] >> no, it's never-
it's not right. always the rich person is less concerned about religion like the poor one, for some psychological reasons. >> [speaking in arabic] >> the rich person doesn't have to worry because he has a lot of money. but the poor, he doesn't have a car, he doesn't have a house, he doesn't have food, so he's not living at all. so he looks for life in the hereafter. but the rich person is already living here. >> now if by chance you were to go home and say to your father that, "i'm going to convert to christianity," what would he say? >> [speaking arabic] >> he won't say- he will do.
>> and we don't want to know what. [laughter] >> yeah, that definitely was a remarkable piece of footage. and you never knew, he was very afraid to do that. we actually did it out on the balcony in the hotel, and there was somebody up on the higher balconies looking down, and i just hope everything's okay for him, because he was obviously under a lot of pressure. sure, virginia? >> you asked a very interesting question, because it is my understanding, and from the observations i made from contacts, even at 75 years of age, if his father's still alive, the father will tell him what to do and he'll do it. muslims, it's the father who has power, and the child does not go against it. i rode over on british air and the man next to me was in his forties- he's a doctor
in england, had been sent over to get educated and stayed because it was so much better than going back to pakistan. he was going home. his father had called him home- he gave up his practice and he went back, because that's what you do. and it doesn't matter if you're in the united states or if you're in great britain, it doesn't matter- your parent, ur oldest parent is your authority. >> and i don't want to takes us too far afield, but you reminded me of something- a student who took many of my religious studies classes who was from peoria, but indian, and it seemed very, very modern. well, i found out by running into a student later that she still abided by an arranged marriage, you know, in that country. but you know, in terms of our- this is almost time to hit the advil, or worse, when you're thinking about what we're developing here in terms of ethical conflicts
when you have religion in conflict in a social situation, because we've talked about land, we've talked about religious ethical patterns of action, and akmad just threw in yet another one, which is the socioeconomic level- you know, that wealth; those who have not here look to there- and i think that is fueling much of the tension. yeah, anita? >> in the roll-ins, many of the speakers speak christians, muslims, and jews. now i would put the christians with the followers of jesus, of the christ, which would make them christian with christ, and the muslim are with islam, or allah. i don't know what the jews are connected to. >> the jews in terms of an overall leader? idea? looking to moses in particular, yahweh being lord. i mean, they all consider that they worship the same god, just slightly different names. it's a good question, though, because islam coming- you know, judaism first, then christianity- islam considers itself
to be the seal of the prophets, the final revelation. in other words, they said the jews- yeah, were connected to god, but they messed it up. the christians were connected with god- jesus is a great prophet and revered in islam- they messed it up. but the muslims have the final say, and that is added to an extraordinary rigidity when you have a predominant islamic society. and what makes egypt such an interesting twist in comparison to israel, of course, is that you've got islam, which- well, i guess i can share what reverend noor, from his perspective said. we were talking about having met moderate muslims- and i'm sure he's speaking from emotions and pain perhaps of that morning- but he says to us, "there are no moderate muslims." like that. now we have to take that in the context of a believer, but he's saying is that intensity of feeling that you have the final statement, and you have the final say on the ethical
patterns of action in a given society. well, i think that's what comes down and makes it such an intense situation. and i can't believe it, we've come to the end of the class, but hopefully, all we've done is open a pandora's box in a way, but it gets us to see the power of the ethical dimension when it's combined with other kinds of institutions and dimensions in society.
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