| Meru Foundation eTORUS(tm)
Special Edition -- 12 June 2003
ESSAY BY DR. MENAHEM ALEXENBERG:
NEW ISLAMIC MAP FOR PEACE
Dr. Menahem Alexenberg
-- sculptor, artist, and a long-term member of Meru Foundation's Advisory
Board (see his bio at www.meru.org/adviboard.html)
-- sent us the essay below from his home in Israel. This essay is an insightful
example of "out of the box" thinking. It offers a new perspective
on an "impossible" problem. Dr. Alexenberg's re-framing of the relationship
among the Abrahamic faiths is similar to our geometric "take" on the same
subject -- The Tree of Abraham: An Organic Model of Western Civilization,
We also include a response to Dr. Alexenberg from Abu Ibraham Kalim, assistant
to Shaykh Abdul Hadi Palazzi of Italy.
We welcome your comments, and will pass them along to Dr. Alexenberg.
Cynthia and Stan Tenen
NEW ISLAMIC MAP FOR PEACE
(c)2003 Mel Alexenberg
June 12, 2003
The Road Map to Peace in the Middle East is too small. It needs to be
enlarged to include the entire Islamic world surrounding the State of Israel.
The major obstacle to peace between Israelis and Palestinians is the
Islamic world's rejection of Israel as a Jewish state. The 55-year-old
State of Israel still does not exist on maps produced in Islamic countries.
President Bush's attempt at peace making at Sharm el-Sheikh was rejected
by Arab leaders who refused to accept Israel's right to exist. The next
day in Aqaba, these leaders were incensed when the U.S. President publicly
declared America's commitment to Israel as "a vibrant Jewish state." The
Arab leaders' anti-Semitic incitement of the Arab street was confirmed by
the Pew Global Attitudes Project released the same day as the Aqaba summit
where no Israeli flag was allowed to fly. The Pew research found that the
large majority of Arabs agreed with the statement: "The rights and needs
of the Palestinian people cannot be taken care of as long as the State of
Israel exists." According to the survey, 80% of Palestinians and 90% of
Moroccans support the extermination of the Jewish state.
All road maps to peace in the Middle East will come to a dead end until
the sovereign State of Israel is included on Arab world maps.
This obstacle to peace can be overcome, however, by drawing a new Islamic
map derived from Islamic art and thought. The Arab conflict with Israel
is an aesthetic problem that calls for a shift in perception. Historian
of Islamic art, Elisabeth Siddiqui, writes in the Arabic Al-Madrashah Al-Ula,
that art is the mirror of a culture and its worldview. She emphasizes that
there is no case to which this statement more directly applies than to
the art of the Islamic world. "Not only does its art reflect its cultural
values, but even more importantly, the way in which its adherents, the Muslims,
view the spiritual realm, the universe, life, and the relationships of the
parts to the whole."
Islamic art teaches Arabs to see their world as a continuous geometric
pattern that extends across North Africa and the Middle East. They see
Israel as a blemish that disrupts the pattern. It is viewed as an alien
presence that they have continually tried to eliminate through war, terrorism,
and political action. Palestinian Authority television labels Israel as
a "cancer in the body of the Arab nation." Its emblems, publications, and
web sites show the map of Israel labeled Palestine. Israel does not exist.
Former Iranian president Rafsanjani expressed his longing for a day when
an Islamic nuclear weapon could remove the "extraneous matter" called Israel
from the midst of the Islamic world.
A perceptual shift that can lead to a genuine peace can be found in Islamic
art and thought. In Islamic art, a uniform geometric pattern is purposely
disrupted by the introduction of a counter-pattern that demonstrates that
human creation is less than perfect. Only Allah creates perfection. Rug
weavers from Islamic lands intentionally weave a patch of dissimilar pattern
to break the symmetry of their rugs. Sheikh Abdul Hadi Palazzi, Iman of
the Italian Muslim community who holds a Ph.D. in Islamic Sciences by decree
of the Saudi Grand Mufti, writes, "The idea of underlying the Divine infinitude
and the human fallacy by including some 'voluntary defects' in works of
art is common in Islamic art, and extends to tapestry, painting, music,
Israel can be drawn on Islamic maps as a small patch of blue and white
on a large green rug running from the Atlantic Ocean to the borders of
India. If the contiguous Islamic world from Morocco to Pakistan were the
size of a football field, Israel would be a football placed in the middle
of the field.
Sheikh Palazzi quotes from the Koran, Sura 5:22-23, to support the Arab
world's need to switch their viewpoint to recognize the sovereign right of
the Jews over the Land of Israel as the will of Allah: "Remember when Moses
said to his people: 'O my people, call in remembrance the favor of God unto
you, when he produced prophets among you, made you kings, and gave to you
what He had not given to any other among the people. O my people, enter
the Holy Land which God has assigned unto you, and then turn not back ignominiously,
for then will ye be overthrown, to your own ruin.'"
Islam's holiest book confirms what every Jew and Christian who honors
the Bible knows: The Land of Israel was divinely deeded to the People of
Peace will come from a fresh metaphor in which the Arabs see Israel's
existence as Allah's will. A shift in viewpoint where Israel is perceived
as the necessary counter-pattern in the overall pattern of the Islamic world
will usher in an era of peace. The Islamic world needs to recognize Israel
as the realization of its own values. Only after it draws new maps that include
Israel can peace be achieved.
On 12 June 2003, Dr. Alexenberg received
the following response to his essay:
From: "Istituto Culturale della Comunita' Islamica Italiana" <email@example.com>
Date: Thu, 12 Jun 2003 22:24:25 +0200
Dear Mr. Alexenberg,
We highly appreciate your article and completely agree on its contents.
Thank you very much for mentioning our director, Shaykh Abdul Hadi Palazzi.
With best greetings and blessings,
Abu Ibrahim Kalim
Cultural Institute of the Italian Islamic Community
Mel Alexenberg is former Professor of Art and Education at Columbia
University and Research Fellow at MIT's Center for Advanced Visual Studies.