Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Abraham's Children

Abraham's Children: Liberty and Tolerance in an Age of Religious Conflict

Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 288
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Abraham's Children
    Book Description:

    Scarcely any country in today's world can claim to be free of intolerance. Israel and Palestine, Northern Ireland, the Sudan, the Balkans, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, and the Caucasus are just some of the areas of intractable conflict, apparently inspired or exacerbated by religious differences. Can devoted Jews, Christians, or Muslims remain true to their own fundamental beliefs and practices, yet also find paths toward liberty, tolerance, and respect for those of other faiths?

    In this vitally important book, fifteen influential practitioners of the Abrahamic religions address religious liberty and tolerance from the perspectives of their own faith traditions. Former President Jimmy Carter, Rabbi Arik Ascherman, Indonesia's first democratically elected president, Abdurrahman Wahid, and the other writers draw on their personal experiences and on the sacred writings that are central in their own religious lives. Rather than relying on "pure reason," as secularists might prefer, the contributors celebrate religious traditions and find within them a way toward mutual peace, uncompromised liberty, and principled tolerance. Offering a counterbalance to incendiary religious leaders who cite Holy Writ to justify intolerance and violence, the contributors reveal how tolerance and respect for believers in other faiths stands at the core of the Abrahamic traditions.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-18333-7
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. 1 Calling Abraham’s Children
    (pp. 1-18)

    There is a familiar narrative of religiously motivated violence. It claims a long and unbroken chain from antiquity to the present of the intolerance on the part of religious groups, especially the Abrahamic religions, toward members of other religious groups. It is a narrative of violence, oppression, torture, and war. This highly selective narrative omits any of the goods that religions have brought to the world and is deeply caricatured. Many of its claims are blatantly false. Sadly, because of its influence, it needs to be retold, reconsidered, and reevaluated.

    Caricature #I. The early Hebrews, under strict orders from their...

  5. Abraham’s Jewish Children

    • 2 The Peoples of the Earth and the Tents of Jacob: Humanity in the Image of God
      (pp. 21-39)

      The Ramon (Weissberg)-Alpern family, from which I come and whose members live today in various locations in Israel, has always considered Zionism, Judaism, and human solidarity to be deeply intertwined. Zionism provided us with the framework for hope that we, as Jews, would live a life of dignity, together, in our own land after 2,000 years of exile, enduring contempt in various countries and under various regimes—Christian, Muslim, and secular (Communist). And though engraved in our minds were the memories of “righteous gentiles” (non-Jews who were our grandparents’ friends from the old countries and non-Jews who had sometimes helped...

    • 3 Dance of the Spirit: The Land of Israel and the Jewish Soul
      (pp. 40-61)

      I grew up in Boston and in the suburbs of Chicago savoring the sweet tastes of America—the then twenty-eight ice cream flavors of Howard Johnson’s, a baseball doubleheader on Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park, bike rides in the forest preserves outside Chicago, the never-ending horizons of the Great Plains, family trips to Jamestown and Washington, and the dream of a life of freedom and opportunity. My parents were thrown out of Nazi Germany in late 1938. Thank God. As presiding rabbi of a synagogue in Berlin, where he had obtained rabbinic ordination and a PhD in philosophy, my father...

    • 4 Revisiting the Holy Rebellion
      (pp. 62-80)

      When my father died, my oldest sister composed the following text for his tombstone:

      R. Moshe-Tzvi,of blessed memory,

      Son of R. Aharon-Yossef


      Torah scholar and pure of heart

      Dedicated his life with endless love

      For the establishment of a faithful generation

      An honest servant of the public

      Persistent at helping all people in modesty

      While still in Exile, converted many to Zionism

      And all his years on the Land he spent working for National-Religious schooling.

      Born in Poland 1905

      Came up to the Land with the Pioneers 1934

      Took his leave in Jerusalem 1957.

      May his soul be gathered...

    • 5 Does Judaism Teach Universal Human Rights?
      (pp. 81-101)

      I have a confession to make. There are days when I wake up and think to myself, “Maybe John Lennon was right. Maybe the world really would be a better place without countries or religion. ”When one thinks of all the blood spilled in the name of religion and nationalism, it is easy to dream of a world without borders in which we all speak Esperanto.

      For some of us, though, faith is not something we can turn off like a light switch. It is the core of our being. It is what nourishes and sustains us. Furthermore, from everything...

    • 6 The Intolerance of Israeli Education
      (pp. 102-130)

      On a Tuesday afternoon, January 16, 2007, an Israeli soldier shot nineyear-old Abir Aramin in the head as she was buying a lollipop after school in Anata, a neighborhood north of Jerusalem. She was killed by a rubber bullet that was allegedly fired from the rifle of a member of the Israeli border police who was allegedly sitting in an armored jeep, allegedly thrust the barrel of his rifle through the opening that was allegedly designed for that purpose, and allegedly aimed and fired at the head of the girl who was standing beside her sister at a kiosk, allegedly...

  6. Abraham’s Christian Children

    • 7 Religious Tolerance
      (pp. 133-140)

      During my time in the presidency, I prayed a lot—more than ever before in my life—asking God to give me a clear mind, sound judgment, and wisdom in dealing with affairs that could affect the lives of so many people in our own country and around the world. Although I cannot claim that my decisions were always the best ones, prayer was a great help to me.

      When I announced my candidacy in December 1974, I expressed a dream: “That this country set a standard within the community of nations of courage, compassion, integrity, and dedication to basic...

    • 8 Religious Intolerance and the Wounds of God
      (pp. 141-159)

      They spoke of their ancestral lands being expropriated. They spoke of their ancient olive orchards being bulldozed. They spoke of their houses being dynamited after the family was given one hour to remove its belongings. They spoke of humiliating searches at airports and at checkpoints scattered around their country. They cried out for justice. And they asked why no one heard their cry.

      This was my first contact with Palestinians. It happened at a conference on Palestinian rights on the west side of Chicago in May 1978. About 150 Palestinians were in attendance. The reason these evils had befallen them...

    • 9 Caring for the “Other” as One of “Us”: Religious Freedom for All
      (pp. 160-168)

      The young man who was speaking boldly about standing for freedom, democracy, and a better future for his country had all of a sudden grown quiet and looked troubled. His posture, which had previously relfected the youthful courage and confidence captured in the iconic poster of Che Guevara hanging on the wall behind him, was now that of a vulnerable person, haunted by memories of his past and fears of tomorrow.

      His posture changed as soon as I asked him about his detention. He had been arrested for converting from Islam to Christianity. He was never taken to a judge...

    • 10 A Minority with a Majority Opinion
      (pp. 169-185)

      In Palestine, I am a minority within a minority. I am a Christian Arab in a primarily Muslim land. I am Roman Catholic within a Christian community that is overwhelmingly Greek, Syrian, and Armenian Orthodox, and I am within a community that has shrunk more than 80 percent in my life-time. Yet my minority status has not given me, as some would surmise, the proverbial “chip” on the shoulder. Instead, I feel a greater sense of responsibility to serve justly the communities in which I have lived my life as well as the larger international communities with clear ties to...

    • 11 “Honor Everyone!” Christian Faith and the Culture of Universal Respect
      (pp. 186-208)

      I grew up under an antireligious regime of intolerance. Mild intolerance it was, compared with what many, especially religious groups, suffered in the twentieth century and continue to suffer in many places around the world today. But I know from firsthand experience what it means to live in bugged quarters, receive surreptitiously opened mail, and talk on tapped phone lines; “security agents” have threatened and interrogated me for months running.¹ I have also many times heard the story of my father’s horrendous trials. An innocent man, he was, literally, nearly starved to death during months of detainment in a concentration-camp...

  7. Abraham’s Muslim Children

    • 12 God Needs No Defense
      (pp. 211-217)

      As K. H. Mustofa Bisri1 wrote in his poemAllahu Akbar: “If all of the 6 billion human inhabitants of this earth, which is no greater than a speck of dust, were blasphemous … or pious … it would not have the slightest effect upon His greatness.”

      Omnipotent, and existing as absolute and eternal Truth, nothing could possibly threaten God. And as ar-Rahman (the Merciful) and ar-Rahim (the Compassionate), God has no enemies. Those who claim to defend God, Islam, or the Prophet are thus either deluding themselves or manipulating religion for their own mundane and political purposes, as we...

    • 13 The Middle Way
      (pp. 218-237)

      When I think about the universal principle of “accepting the other,” I am reminded of a story we are taught in Islam about Prophet Abraham and the Zoroastrian. It is a wonderful example of how faith teaches us to love one another, regardless of our individual religious paths.

      The Prophet Abraham never liked to eat alone. He felt that food was a divine blessing and, as such, should be shared with others, particularly those in need. Therefore, he made it his constant practice that before a meal he would invite someone to eat with him. One day, Abraham invited a...

    • 14 Islam as the Embodiment of Divine Mercy and Tolerance
      (pp. 238-258)

      A religion, philosophy, or ideology should be viewed from the perspective of its sources, basic nature, and principles. Just as it is not possible to understand Marxism without knowing Karl Marx or Hinduism without knowing the Vedas and Upanishads, neither can any Divine religion— whether it be Judaism, Christianity, or Islam—be known without knowing its basic sources and foundations: God, the reality of Divine revelation, and the sacred books, such as the Torah, the Gospel, and the Qur’an, which were formed from Divine revelations. The main source of Judaism and the Torah is God, the main source of Christianity...

    • 15 The Historical and Religious Seeds of “Honor”
      (pp. 259-277)

      When I began advocating against the brutal murder of women in the name of “honor” almost seventeen years ago in Jordan, I never imagined that this cause, among many other causes, would be used by the West to attack the Islamic religion. Of course, the abuse and the use of Islam increased following 9/11. All of a sudden, I sensed that it was an issue of East versus West and that the West believed that only “evil Muslims and Arabs” were responsible for the bad things that happen in the world, and specifically in “our” part of the world. One...

    • 16 An Islamic Treatise on Tolerance
      (pp. 278-290)

      When my book Tolerance and Governance was being put forward for publication (1995), Iran was experiencing its most severe period of political asphyxiation since the revolution. I was forced to leave the country, having been subjected to savage physical assaults at universities and public venues, as well as fierce written attacks in newspapers. I lost my job and security and—far away from my family—spent my time fleeing from country to country (Germany to Britain to Canada). The Iranian Culture Ministry had fallen into the hands of a minister who came from the ranks of extremist conservatives—a minister...

  8. Index
    (pp. 291-300)