09 January 2009

Perhaps Art Can Succeed Where Politics Has Failed

Framed with a pattern from a Damascus mosque is a quotation from the Koran stating that the ingathering of the Jewish people into its historic homeland realizes Mohammed's prophecy
Aesethic Peace Facebook Group
Hundreds of Jews, Muslims, and Christians worldwide are joining together in an “Aesthetic Peace” Facebook group to promote a new metaphor for peace to end the sixty-year war aimed at destroying the State of Israel. This metaphor derived from Islamic art invites a perceptual shift through which Muslims see the State of Israel as a blessing expressing Allah’s will rather than as an alien presence in the midst of the Islamic world. Perhaps thinking out of the box from a fresh aesthetic viewpoint can succeed in bringing peace where politics has failed.

Misguided Peace-Making Efforts
All diplomatic processes and road maps from Oslo to Annapolis are doomed to failure because the conflict is not political but rather aesthetic. The misguided peace-making efforts of the Americas and Europeans have not stopped Iran in its race to develop weapons of mass destruction while its proxy armies Hamas and Hezbollah rain murderous rockets on Israel’s towns and cities as part of their stated aim of wiping Israel off the map.

Israel Seen as an Ugly Stain
The repetitive geometric patterns in Islamic art teach Muslims to see their world as a continuous uninterrupted pattern that extends across North Africa and the Middle East. Unfortunately, they see Israel as a blemish that disrupts the pattern. From this perspective, Israel 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.

Perceptual Shift Can Bring Peace
Fortunately, the perceptual shift needed to lead to 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 human creation as less than perfect. Based upon the belief that only Allah creates perfection, rug weavers from Islamic lands intentionally weave a small patch of dissimilar pattern to break the symmetry of their rugs. Sheikh Abdul Hadi Palazzi, Imam of the Italian Muslim community who holds a Ph.D. in Islamic Sciences by decree of the Saudi Grand Mufti, proposes that the idea of underlying the Divine infinitude and the human fallacy by including some voluntary counter-pattern in works of art is common in Islamic art, and extends to tapestry, painting, music, and architecture. The Islamic artisan does not want to be perceived as competing with the perfection of Allah.

In “Islamic Textile Art: Anomalies in Kilims,” Muhammad Thompson and Nasima Begum write that the weavers of kilim rugs, “devout Muslim women, would not be so arrogant as to even attempt a ‘perfect kilim’ since such perfection belonged only to Allah. Consequently, they would deliberately break the kilim’s patterning as a mark of their humility.”

Islamic Art Relects Islamic Values
Historian of Islamic art, Elisabeth Siddiqui, writes in the Arabic journal 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.”

Peace can be achieved when the Islamic world recognizes that they need Israel to realize their own religious and aesthetic values. Israel provides the break in the contiguous Islamic world extending from Morocco to Pakistan. Accepting the Jewish State as the necessary counter-pattern demonstrates humility and abrogates arrogance before Allah and honors the diversity evident in all of God’s creations. The ingathering of the Jewish people into its historic homeland in the midst of the Islamic world is the fulfillment of Mohammed’s prophecy in the Koran (Sura 17:104): “And we said to the Children of Israel, ‘scatter and live all over the world…and when the end of the world is near we will gather you again into the Promised Land.’”

Welcoming Tiny Israel in the Huge Islamic World
Instead of dreaming of wiping Israel off the map, the State of Israel needs to be drawn on Islamic maps as a small counter-pattern in the continuous design running from the Atlantic Ocean to the borders of India. If the contiguous Islamic world were the size of a football field, Israel would be smaller than a football placed in the middle of the field.

Sheikh Palazzi quotes from the Koran (Sura 5:20-21) 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.’”

Jews Are the Indigious People of the Land of Israel
According to the Imam, Islam’s holiest book confirms what every Jew and Christian who honors the Bible knows: The Land of Israel was divinely deeded to the Children of Israel. The Jews are the indigenous people of the Land of Israel who have continuously lived there for more three millennia despite the conquests of numerous imperialist empires. Jews are from Judea. Arabs are from Arabia. The Arabs are blessed with 21 other countries.

A paradigm shift can transform the perception of Israel as a blemish to seeing it as a tiny golden seed from which a lush green Islamic tree has germinated and spread its roots and branches across North Africa and the Middle East.
The Jewish State as a Blessing for Muslims
Professor Khaleed Mohammed, expert in Islamic law, explains: “As a Muslim, when I read 5:21 and 17:104 in the Quran, I can only say that I support that there must be an Israel. The Quran adumbrates the fight against tyranny and oppression, using the Children of Israel as an example, indeed as the prime example.” Tashibih Sayyed, Editor-in-Chief of Muslim World Today writes: “I consider the creation of the Jewish State as a blessing for the Muslims. Israel has provided us an opportunity to show the world the Jewish state of mind in action, a mind that yearns to be free…. The Jewish traditions and culture of pluralism, debate, acceptance of dissension and difference of opinion have manifest themselves in the shape of the State of Israel to present the oppressed Muslim world with a paradigm to emulate.”

The “Aesthetic Peace” Facebook group http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=7590742794
and the “Aesthetic Peace” blog http://www.aestheticpeace.com/ promote the innovative paradigm that peace will emerge from a fresh metaphor in which the Islamic world sees Israel’s existence as Allah’s will. A shift in viewpoint where Israel is perceived as a blessing, as the necessary counter-pattern in the overall pattern of the Islamic world, will usher in an era of peace. Peace will come when the Islamic world recognizes Israel as the realization of its own values.

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