President Musharraf at American Jewish Congress
(Full Text Of The President of Pakistan-Pervez Musharraf’s address to American Jewish Congress)
Honourable Mr. Jack Rosen, Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,
1. Let me start by expressing my personal and my Nation’s grief and condolences over the devastation, loss of lives and human suffering caused by Hurricane Katrina in the south eastern states specially New Orleans.
2. I thank Mr. Jack Rosen for inviting this distinguished gathering under the auspices of the American Jewish Congress. This is a unique occasion. It signifies an endeavour for mutual understanding in a time of uncertainty and fear. The unfortunate events of recent history have created division and tension between the followers of the three great monotheistic faiths — Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Your invitation card described this event as a historic occasion. For a leader of Pakistan, it is indeed so, and I feel privileged to be speaking to so many members of what is probably the most distinguished and influential community in the United States. I also deeply appreciate that, in arranging this event, the American Jewish Congress has invited members of other prominent organizations and associations representing the spectrum of American society.
3. I always speak my mind candidly. And I always do so with total sincerity. This is what I will do this evening. There is no longer any time for ambivalence or leisurely diplomacy.
4. The world has entered an era where a number of threats – terrorism, political conflicts, proliferation, poverty – have assumed global and catastrophic dimensions. They have to be resolved urgently and with finality. They cannot be merely managed in the hope that they can be resolved later. We can no longer leave these wounds festering. They pose a great danger to the world at large and our future generations.
5. Our world today has been transformed, by the revolutions in communications and information technology, into a global village. People move, interact and affect each other. The good or bad in one region transcend geopolitical boundaries and have a global impact. The homily: “the common heritage of mankind” is now a visible reality. We are jointly responsible for the well-being, progress and prosperity of our peoples – indeed of mankind at large. Each people, nation, and religion must live with each other, accommodate each other, and do no harm to each other. Today, truly, we are our “brother’s keeper”. This is a heavy responsibility – given that our world has great wealth, but also grave poverty; great achievements, but also grave injustice; unprecedented capacity for progress and prosperity, but also the awesome capability to destroy our planet.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
6. The major monotheistic religions of the world – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – share a common heritage and converge on a multiplicity of universal values. Yet, today, our great religions – which should be a source of hope, tolerance and peace – are seen to be pitted against each other. How and why did this happen? Is it possible to reshape the future for the common benefit of humanity – for all of us? These are the questions I would like to address this evening.
7. On this occasion, it is relevant to recall that Jews and Muslims have more similarities and few divergences in their faith and culture. The oneness of God (which Muslims call Tauheed), is common to both Islam and Judaism. The Muslim greeting, Salam O Alaikum (peace be upon you), is akin to the Jewish greeting, Shalom, which also means peace. When I watched the last scene in the famous movie “Schindler’s List”, it concludes with a quotation from the Talmud: “Killing one innocent person is like the murder of humanity and saving one innocent person is like saving humanity”. The identical words appear in the Holy Quran.
8. According to the Holy Quran and our Holy Prophet, Jews and Christians are the “People of the Book”, belonging to the same spiritual tradition. Abraham, Moses and Jesus are among the most revered prophets of Islam. Moses is the prophet who is most frequently referred to in the Holy Quran. Our experiences and histories intertwine in many regions of the old world and most significantly in the Holy Land.
9. The history of interaction between the Islamic and Jewish communities is rich and long. This includes the shining examples of Jewish communities coexisting in harmony within Islamic societies in Cordova, Baghdad, Istanbul and Bokhara, contributing to a rich mosaic of culture and traditions. Many Jewish historians have referred to the days of Muslim Spain as the “golden period”, when Jewish communities flourished intellectually, politically and economically in an environment of religious tolerance and scholarly inspiration. The subsequent wrath of the Inquisition was suffered jointly by Muslims and Jews. Indeed, over the centuries, Jewish communities and Islamic societies from Central Asia to Spain, have not only lived together and shared prosperity, but also suffered together.
10. The past six decades are, therefore, an aberration in the long history of Muslim-Jewish cooperation and coexistence. Many learned studies have been written about the reasons for the hostility and violence that has occurred. I do not wish to dwell on this. Each of us has his own understanding and perception. But, it is relevant to recall that the gulf between the Muslim and Jewish communities arose in what was the bloodiest century in human history, marked by world wars, genocide and mass deportations, in which millions perished. It was in this bloody century that the Jewish people suffered their greatest tragedy – the Holocaust – whose commemoration will be on the agenda of this year’s session of the United Nations General Assembly. It was also in this brutal century that other peoples suffered their greatest tragedies – Palestinians, Kashmiris, Bosnians, Rwandese. We must not forget; but we must forgive. Suffering often engenders anger; but this must be soon replaced by compassion. And, we have witnessed such compassion from the Jewish community. It was Jewish groups in the US who were in the forefront in opposing the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Bosnia. I am told that the largest contributor to the Bosnian cause was the Jewish-American businessman and philanthropist – George Soros. More recently, in the backlash against Muslims, including Pakistani immigrants, after 9/11, they received legal and other assistance from several Jewish groups. I wish to acknowledge and appreciate this.
11. These noble examples are a source of hope. Hope that we can convert this century into one which will see universal peace, progress and prosperity. This aspiration is achievable but only if we pursue reconciliation and cooperation.
12. There are a host of challenges we all face in common – political, social and environmental. One of the most pervasive threats we confront is international terrorism. The world today is in the grip of terror. Explosives, car bombs, suicide bombers have all added a new destructive dimension to terrorism. Terrorism threatens to destabilize all modern societies. It is anti-progress. It must be rejected. It cannot be condoned for any reason or cause.
13. The people of Pakistan have suffered from terrorism. We continue to suffer because of extremism in our region. We are making our contribution to the fight against terrorism. Our efforts have won international appreciation. Pakistan is participating in international action against international terrorism through police and military action, intelligence sharing and measures to curb terrorist financing.
14. But, I believe, we cannot limit ourselves to fire fighting and local actions against individuals and groups. We should also look for the deeper causes of this malaise and for the motivations that drive individuals to extreme irrational behaviour to commit acts of terrorism. The question that arises is: what pushes a human being to such extremes of desperation that he takes his own life to kill others? I have no doubt whatsoever that any attempt to shy away or ignore the root causes of terrorism is shutting ones eyes to reality and is a sure recipe for failure. Military action or use of force against the terrorists today is not, in itself, the ultimate solution to the malaise. It merely buys us time to implement profound policies to eliminate the phenomenon.
15. A parallel danger lies in fallacious theories and polemical campaigns motivated by prejudice. The postulated clash between civilizations, specifically between Islam and the West, has no basis in history. Civilizations have grown and prospered throughout history, influencing, interacting with and enriching each other. Regrettably, the theory has inspired attempts to turn it into a self-fulfilling prophecy. There are tendencies to associate Islam with terrorism and even suggestions that this great religion of tolerance, compassion and peace, somehow, denies espousal of these universal values. To my mind this is a hate campaign. In today’s dynamic world, we need, more than ever before, to foster understanding and harmony among societies. Should we tolerate such campaigns in our midst when we demand their rejection elsewhere? Therefore, I strongly support the endeavour to promote interfaith and inter-civilizational dialogue and harmony.
16. However, it is a fact that, today, most of those involved in terrorist acts, as well most of those who suffer the consequences of these acts, are Muslims. Obviously, there is a deep disturbance and malaise within Islamic societies, which has become specially acute in recent years. The reasons are plain to see. Since the end of the Cold War, almost every major festering problem and conflict affects and torments the Islamic world. Palestine has been at the heart of the troubles in the Middle East. In our region, Kashmir has been the source of tension and conflict. The unfortunate history of Afghanistan spawned extremism and terrorism. Turmoil in Iraq causes great concern in the Islamic world and the rest of the international community. These and other political issues, have given rise to a deep sense of anger, desperation and humiliation in the Arab and Muslim populations. It is this political and social environment which breeds terrorism and extremism.
17. At the same time, I do not shy away from pointing to the failure within the Islamic societies to embrace reform, progress and modernity. The Muslim world emerged from decades of colonization, politically, economically and socially stunted. Political independence did not always lead to good governance. Many of us have remained trapped in a time warp, still struggling to reconstruct our political, social and economic systems to respond to the challenges of our times. In Islamic societies, there is a divide between the outlook of the protagonists of modernity and the custodians of orthodoxy. The resultant economic deprivation and social backwardness are also the source of extremism. And extremism creates a fertile recruiting ground for terrorism.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
18. If we are to succeed against terrorism and end extremism, we must, therefore, address the root causes. The leaders of today must change the course of events instead of merely reacting to a series of catastrophic events – such as 9/11 and 7/7.
19. First of all, I feel we need to clearly understand that terrorism and extremism are two different phenomena. Each requires a different strategy. Lumping terrorism and extremism together, or behaving as if they are synonymous, is a fallacy. Terrorism has to be met head on with all the force required to suppress and eradicate it. In the case of extremism, the battle has to be won in the hearts and minds of people. It cannot be achieved through the use of force. We must adopt separate short term and long-term strategies to address terrorism and extremism. Such immediate and long-term strategies have to be implemented at three tiers: the global level, the Muslim world level and the national level in the concerned countries.
20. In the immediate context, terrorism, as I said, has to be confronted with force all over the world. Intimate cooperation and coordination of intelligence and squeezing the underworld funding of terrorists and extremists organizations will facilitate counter terrorism operations to a large degree.
21. At the same time, to ensure success, it is essential, together with the use of force, to promote the resolution of the political disputes, which are exploited by terrorists to justify their criminal actions. Among these political disputes, may I be allowed to say clearly that the Palestinian and Kashmir disputes are ripe for resolution. One can draw satisfaction from the fact that visible signs of movement are appearing towards an end to both these disputes. We ought to put our collective weight behind a push for their final solution. Secondly, for the long term, the socio economic revival of the Muslim world, focusing particularly on education and poverty alleviation, will also erode the core of terrorism and extremism.
22. I have strongly advocated reform, social and economic progress and rejection of extremism in Islamic societies. In parallel, I have emphasized that the international community, particularly the West, must facilitate the resolution of outstanding problems, in particular the problem of Palestine. I have described this two-pronged approach as Enlightened Moderation. Regardless of the nomenclature, this dual approach responds to the realities of our historical and political circumstances, which cannot be wished away.
23. The strategy of Enlightened Moderation, at the global and Muslim world level, will also help to end extremism. Domestically, religious bigotry, hate campaigns and confrontational tendencies have to be curbed. This has to be done through bold, determined, well thought out and indigenously applicable strategies. The misuse of religion to spread militancy, hatred and violence has to be suppressed. An international discourse as well as national debate in affected societies, on religious harmony must be initiated. In the Muslim world, I feel we need to initiate a serious discourse to promote an understanding of the true Islam. We must then project its real essence to the world.
24. I would like to say with pride that today Pakistan is perhaps the only country which is actively confronting and addressing the issue of terrorism and extremism through well-considered and comprehensive separate strategies. The results are already visible on the ground. We are determined to persist with and sustain this effort until we gain complete ascendancy over the terrorist and extremist segments within our national fabric.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
25. I would be remiss if, while addressing the American Jewish Congress, I did not express my views on the Israeli-Palestinian problem. I do not have an iota of doubt that this lies at the heart of terrorism in the Middle East and beyond. In view of its global impact, it is incumbent on the international community – specially the West and the US – to ensure a peaceful resolution of the dispute. Both parties involved – the Israelis and the Palestinians – must shun confrontation and pursue peace and reconciliation.
26. Israel rightly desires security. This will remain incomplete until the creation of an independent and viable Palestinian state is assured. Israel must come to terms with geopolitical realities and allow justice to prevail for the Palestinians. The Palestinians’ desire for freedom and nationhood is as intense as that of any other people. They want their own independent state.
27. We see hope in recent events. We have welcomed the Israeli decision to pull out of Gaza. The peace process, as set out in the “Road Map”, must be pursued as agreed. We hope Israel will also soon withdraw from the West Bank. This will set the stage for the establishment of the independent state in Palestine. By respecting Palestinian aspirations, Israel will attain its legitimate desire for assured security. I am convinced that peace in Palestine, that does justice to both the Israelis and the Palestinians will bring to a close the sad chapter in the history of the Middle East. It will revive the historical ties between Islam and Judaism. It will extinguish the anger and frustration that motivates resort to violence and extremism. What better signal for peace could there be than the opening of Embassies in Israel by Islamic countries like Pakistan?
28. There will remain the difficult “final status” issues to be resolved. None is more sensitive than the fate of the Holy City of Jerusalem (which we call Al-Quds al-Sharif). It is a city that is sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims. It was the first Qibla of Islam. The first edict of Caliph Omar when he entered Jerusalem, over fourteen centuries ago, was to annul the five hundred years of exile of the Jewish people. He invited them to return and build their homes in the Holy City. For durable peace and harmony between Israelis and Palestinians – indeed between Israel and the Muslim world – it is such a gesture of reconciliation and realism that is required of Israel. Any final settlement should respect the international character of Jerusalem as well as international law and the resolutions of the Security Council.
29. I have always believed that the courage required to compromise and reconcile is far greater than that required to confront. I appeal to Israel to show that courage. I appeal to the American Jewish Congress, and the entire Jewish Community, to use their considerable influence to put an end to the Palestinian dispute once and for all and to usher in a period of peace and tranquility in the Middle East and perhaps the whole world. Failure is no longer an option.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
30. Let me conclude with a word about the prospects of Pakistan’s relations with Israel. Pakistan has no direct conflict or dispute with Israel. We pose no threat to Israel’s security. We trust that Israel poses no threat to Pakistan’s national security. But, our people have a deep sense of sympathy for the Palestinian people and their legitimate aspirations for statehood. In response to the bold step taken by Prime Minister Sharon to withdraw from the Gaza, Pakistan decided to initiate an official contact with Israel. Our Foreign Ministers met in Istanbul through the good offices of our Turkish friends. As the peace process progresses towards the establishment of an independent Palestinian State, we will take further steps towards normalization and cooperation, looking to full diplomatic relations.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
31. We can remain mired in old prejudices and keep the world hostage to the politics of perennially defining and redefining the enemy, or we can move forward with courage and reach out to work for the rebirth of history and a new future of peace, harmony, mutual respect, dignity and shared prosperity. We can lose this opportunity to narrow vision and a failure to see humanity in each other. The responsibility to make the right choice is in our hands. May
God guide us all to make the right choice.