We heard from Professor John L. Esposito, a leading researcher of Islamic Studies from Georgetown University, for ways to realize peace in the Middle East.
Dr. John Esposito: University Professor, Professor of Religion and International Affairs and of Islamic Studies at Georgetown University, John L. Esposito is Founding Director of the Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding in the Walsh School of Foreign Service. Esposito has served as consultant to the U.S. Department of State and other agencies. Esposito's more than 50 books include: The Future of Islam, Islamophobia and the Challenge of Pluralism in the 21st Century, Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think (with Dalia Mogahed), Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam, The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality?, Islam and Politics; Makers of Contemporary Islam and Islam and Democracy (with John O. Voll), What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam, Asian Islam in the 21st Century (John Voll & Osman Bakar), World Religions Today and Religion and Globalization (with D. Fasching & T. Lewis), Geography of Religion: Where God Lives, Where Pilgrims Walk (with S. Hitchcock), Islam: The Straight Path; Islam and Democracy and Makers of Contemporary Islam (with J. Voll); Modernizing Islam (with F. Burgat) Political Islam: Revolution, Radicalism or Reform?, Religion and Global Order (with M. Watson), Islam and Secularism in the Middle East (with A. Tamimi), Iran at the Crossroads (with R.K. Ramazani), Islam, Gender, and Social Change and Muslims on the Americanization Path and Daughters of Abraham (with Y. Haddad), and Women in Muslim Family Law. Esposito's books and articles have been translated into more than 45 languages. Esposito's interviews and articles with newspapers, magazines, and the media in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and the Middle East: The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, The Guardian, The Times of London, CNN, ABC Nightline, CBS, NBC, and the BBC. A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., he currently resides in Washington, D.C. with his wife, Dr. Jeanette P. Esposito.
(Interviewer: Hanako Cho)
Claim 1: Reject Military Attack
The resolution of problems in the Middle East, whether it be about Iran or Palestine, needs to be one that is based on diplomacy and negotiation.
The Trump administration claims that Iran is dangerously rejecting the nuclear agreement and uranium enrichment limits to develop its nuclear capability. The U.S. is threatening punishment and a military intervention. I think that claim is incorrect.
As the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports, Iran has abided by the nuclear agreement.
It's also a matter of Iranian national pride and interests to not simply accepting U.S. position and charges. This is a direct challenge from the U.S. and I think this would be true of almost any nation put into the kind of situation Iran's been put in.
I think John Bolton's advocacy for regime change or Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's hostile statements are worsening the situation and risk driving Iran closer to China and Russia.
I don't think that U.S. has the grounds to justify attacking Iran. It would be very dangerous and would backfire in terms of the reputation of the U.S. and feeding civil unrest in the Middle East due to refugees.
Claim 2: Duty to Prevent Israel's Expansionism
If the U.S. president wishes to be reelected, they must show support for the State of Israel.
There is a very strong Israel lobby, American Israel Public Affairs (AIPAC), that has reinforced and assured an American policy that is unbalanced. Many politicians believe that if they take a more balanced approach regarding Israel's policies towards the Palestinians and its role in the Middle East, they will not be elected or re-elected.
Under the Trump administration, US policy regarding Israel and the Palestinians has been one-sided. Even with the lack of balance of some American administrations in the past, we've had Republican as well as Democratic presidents that have stayed with the idea that the American Embassy should not be moved to Jerusalem.
In fact, the Trump administration seems to be uncritically supportive of not only Netanyahu's policy, but also a further expansion of Israel's control of land in the West Bank. Israeli settlements in Palestine are seen as illegal by the international community, but the Trump administration and the American Ambassador to Israel seem to approve that kind of move.
Claim 3: Foster Education that Supports Pluralism
I think the major challenge that we have is the need for a very strong sense of pluralism, both political and religious.
The Bridge Initiative has been playing its role since 1993 in promoting religious pluralism and with its Bridge initiative (Bridge: Protecting Pluralism—Ending Islamophobia (bridge.georgetown.edu). Based on past statements, a number of officials in the Trump administration, including the president, fail to significantly distinguish between the very strong danger from terrorists and the vast majority of Muslims and Islam itself.
The center has worked on writing and speaking internationally to foster Muslim-Christian Understanding so that Islam and the vast majority of Muslims are distinguished from terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS. Over the years, our people have been involved in public forums nationally and internationally, published many books and encyclopedias, and in advising government experts in the US and abroad on Muslim-Christian relations.
The tendency in the past was that people would grow up in their religion, and that their religion was the only religion that represented truth. We still have very conservative groups like evangelicals who see other faiths as wrong and even dangerous. They cannot bring themselves to say, "We worship the same God as Muslims and Jewish do. Even though we also have our differences with regard to our faith and the way they see or describe God, we worship the same God."
We're beginning to see change in order to promote a more pluralistic world in which ethnic religious diversity is not simply seen as a problem or threat, but rather, as a richness that should be pursued.
We need to see this outlook significantly implemented in education and institutions. It also means that a really important area would be the training of religious leaders in all faiths. It is imperative that we promote a more globalized religious and political worldview.