To the Editor:
I have read Daniel Pipes's article ["Lessons from the Prophet Muhammad's Diplomacy," MEQ, Sept. 1999] with real interest. Obviously, I agree with him when he says that the Prophet Muhammad "was technically within his rights to abrogate the treaty, for the Quraysh, or at least their allies, had broken its terms."
As for the moral aspect of the question, I also think that it must be remembered that the Prophet and the first generation of Muslims suffered, under the Quraysh, every kind of oppression and persecution. In Mecca, they did not plan to create a state or undermine the power of the ruling clans; they asked only for the right peacefully to practice and preach their religion, a request that Quraysh completely rejected. In this situation, I cannot see any blame attaching to the Muslims looking for an opportunity to improve a poor situation. Remember also that Hudaybiya was not a permanent peace treaty or an agreement of friendship; it was just a temporary truce. Both parties were building alliances and getting ready to start fighting again.
At the same time, I wish to emphasize that the relevant point today is not the Treaty of Hudaybiya or the rise of Islam, but Yasir Arafat and his intentions. Arafat's gratuitous mention of Hudaybiya (along with much else he does) signals his real thinking. I wonder that anyone who follows these issues could believe for a minute that he is really interested in peace with Israel. I especially wonder how Israelis can believe that accepting Arafat's claims can bring them peace. Moreover, I do not understand how the Wye II deal of September 1999 can be called an "agreement" when the Arafatians are receiving land, money, and legitimization. Excuse me, but what is Israel getting in exchange? Absolutely nothing—not even promises this time. In my opinion, this is not an agreement but a declaration of surrender. The strange thing is, Israel is signing it without having been defeated. Israel is now losing by way of diplomacy what she earned on the field. It is also a sad day for Arabs, who lose the opportunity to live under a democratic government; instead, they become citizens of another feudal dictatorship.
Concerning the second part of the article, namely the Islamist attacks on anyone who disagrees with their views, I should like to point out the high irony that Jordan outlawed Hamas in August 1999 and the United States government permits the same organization under the name Council on American-Islamic Relations to launch hate campaigns. (CAIR was formed by professional members of the Muslim Brethren.) No less ironic is that the U.S. government lists Hamas as a terrorist organization but then permits its Washington branch to operate freely, to claim to represent American Muslims, and to launch campaigns against Muslims unwilling to submit to its diktat (such as Khalid Durán), against a U.S. congressman (Jim Saxton) and against a U.S. senator (Arlen Specter). However much Americans hold the First Amendment as a sacred legacy, in this case it seems to me that they have something to learn from Jordan.
Sheikh Prof. Abdul Hadi Palazzi
Istituto Culturale della
Comunità Islamica italiana
To the Editor:
Without disagreeing with what Daniel Pipes says in his article—since he is dealing with different matters—it seems extremely important to challenge what others have claimed: that Yasir Arafat, by citing the Prophet Muhammad's actions and the Hudaybiya, intends to break agreements with Israel.
First, in no statement by Arafat does he say or hint that he is highlighting the "treaty breaking" aspect of the historical event.
Second, since Muslims so vehemently deny that Muhammad broke the treaty, how can observers claim that Arafat is saying that he also intends to break the treaty? Muslims all say that Muhammad acted properly and did not violate his agreement; that is hardly a basis for believing that Arafat is winking to his audience and saying that he will break his word. If Muslims are extremely angry and some are ready to intimidate writers for saying Muhammad was dishonest, how does this make the case for using his example to justify being a liar?
From these points, the obvious conclusion is that Arafat brings up Hudaybiya to tell his followers: If Muhammad, the most respected man in all Islamic history—can make peace with his enemies, so can I. In other words, Arafat uses the peace agreement as a legitimizing instrument.