What Can We Talk about with the Arab-Muslim World?

I attended a fascinating seminar yesterday at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies  (JIIS) on the topic of “What Can We Talk about with the Arab-Muslim World?” It was based on a new book in English by Prof. Yizhak Reiter, an old friend, called War, Peace and International Relations in Islam: Muslim Scholars on Peace Accords with Israel, published jointly now in English by the JIIS and the  Shasha Center for Strategic Studies of the Hebrew University and Sussex Academic Press.

 Professor Reiter, of JIIS and the Ashkelon Academic College, spoke first. He told us that there are many Muslim religious leaders who have issued fatwas in favor of peace agreements. This is because some ideologies actually change sometimes, he said, as a result of changing political and security situations. In fact, Prof. Reiter said that religious interpretations are changing all the time, according to new circumstances, and Muslim religious leaders can go back to the prophet Muhammad who made agreements with non-Muslims!

In his research, Prof. Reiter found fatwas of different muftis which actually supported peace agreements withIsrael! In the world of “real-politik”, under certain circumstances, one can sign a peace agreement withIsrael!

Moreover, these new fatwas can help secular leaders with their people who are in the middle of the political spectrum—what we might called “traditional” (as opposed to “secular” or “religious”)—in their struggle for public opinion. Also, we who work in civil society programs should know about these modern religious Muslim initiatives!

In addition to Prof. Reiter, Ephraim Halevy, Head of the Shasha Center for Strategic Studies at the Hebrew University, who wrote a preface to the book, also spoke. He too emphasized how important it is for us to be aware the Muslim religious law—as well as Jewish religious Law—can have moderate views!

I would like to congratulate Yitzhak Reiter on this excellent publication and to thank the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies for translating it into English. I understand that the next step will be for the book to be translated into Arabic, which ought to lead to a fascinating dialogue with scholars and practitioners in the Arab world.

Rabbi Dr. Ron Kronish
Director, ICCI
rkronish@icci.org.il

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