Saturday, November 04, 2006

JPost: Judea Pearl: "differences of historical narratives" is the problem

An interesting article from the Jerusalem Post:

Link to article

Daniel Pearl's father identifies historical narrative as a threat to civil society

At a dinner in aid of the Council of Christians and Jews, Judea Pearl, father of murdered journalist Daniel Pearl, spoke on Monday in London about how Daniel's tragic death compelled him to call for people of all faiths to recognize the dangers that threaten civilized society.

Speaking at the event at Crosby Hall, a restored Tudor palace on the Thames River in Chelsea and home of CCJ senior executive trustee Christopher Moran, Pearl said that tackling the "hard questions" needed to be the core of dialogue between faiths and identified historical narrative as the greatest danger.

"It is easy for us to bask in our Abrahamic tradition... and it is not hard even to reconcile theological contradictions," Pearl said. "The hard issues lie in recognizing contemporary worshipers of these biblical figures as legitimate heirs to, and equal carriers of the teachings of, those revered figures."

"Theological questions have been discussed and rehashed…but something has gone wrong with these efforts and we must be honest to admit it," he said.

Pearl proceeded to list examples of the failure of these efforts. "If Mein Kampf becomes the most popular book in Turkey, then something is wrong," he said. "If an eight-year-old girl tells Egyptian TV that Jews are apes and monkeys because the Koran says so, something has gone wrong with her teachers. If 50 percent of Britons think that Muslims should be stripped of some civil rights, then something definitely has gone wrong. If a British all-party Parliamentary committee concludes that classical anti-Semitism is on the rise again in Britain, then something has gone very wrong indeed."

Pearl blamed the anger between Jews and Muslims on "differences of historical narratives."

"Muslims are angry at Jews for supporting a state which they perceive as an outpost of European imperialism and Jews are angry that, after 60 years of struggle and bloodshed, Muslims still deny Jewish claims to an historical homeland on any part of Palestine," he said.

"[Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] and the Muslim world which he tries to court and which cheers his proposal [are] simply ignorant of the historical fact that Jews were born in Mount Sinai, on the banks of the River Jordan and on the slopes of Masada," Pearl said, responding to Ahmadinejad's recent proclamation that Israeli Jews should be sent back to Germany.

"When I explain how my grandfather came to Israel in 1924 to rebuild the biblical town of Bnei Brak, how my wife came from Iraq, not Germany... I see sparks of understanding and accommodation in the Muslim audience," Pearl said.

He spoke candidly about the last moments of his son's life and about the "amazing capacity of the human spirit to weave together the dignity of being different within the sanctity of being one."

Pearl said that his son's murderers made a critical miscalculation, as his son's last words proclaiming his faith became "iconic personal reminders to principled people around the planet that the current tide of violence and hatred is not an expression of an ordinary conflict between tribes, countries or religions but threatens to erode the very fabric of civilized society."

Daniel Pearl was killed in Karachi, Pakistan in 2002. Speaking before his captors' video camera, Daniel said: "My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish... Back in the town of Bnei Brak there is a street named after my great-grandfather, Chaim Pearl, who was one of the founders of the town."

Prof Pearl, a computer scientist and statistician best known for his work on a probabilistic approach to artificial intelligence, set up the Daniel Pearl Foundation in 2002 to encourage faith dialogue and fight the culture of global hatred and intolerance.
Speaking about the work of the foundation, he said: "We do not have the resources to move armies or conquer territories, but we do have the goodwill of millions of principled people around the world - Christians, Jews and Muslims, Pakistanis, Europeans, Americans, Israelis and Palestinians, journalists and musicians - who are determined to form a coalition of the decent and restore this planet to an orbit of sanity."

Founded in 1942, and currently with over 4,000 members in the UK, the CCJ works closely with Christian and Jewish communities to provide understanding and combat intolerance, prejudice and anti-Semitism. Its primary focus is Christian-Jewish relations but it seeks to engage with all faith communities in the UK. Monday's dinner was attended by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and former Conservative leader Michael Howard.
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