To The Daily Sun,
I had the privilege of listening to Mark Welton at a meeting the other day. In addition to being a retired JAG, he spent a good portion of his career as a professor of international law and a noted scholar of Islam. He taught at West Point for many years, as well as at Stanford University, Georgetown Law School and The Pentagon. He lived in the Middle East, married a Iranian Muslim woman who converted to his Episcopalian faith. He donated 1,100 books from his personal collection on the history of Islam and Muslims to West Point.
Professor Welton was able to give us an overview of how Muslim faith and lifestyles has evolved. Those of us at the meeting learned much about truths and myths concerning Muslims and Islam.
He gave enlightening and insightful straight forward explanations of Shari'a Law, Jihad and the Koran that dispel many of our false beliefs and prejudices. We were given insight into the spiritual and secular beliefs of the Muslim world. Welton defined the meaning of Shari'a Law. It means the path, and gives guidance to how people should live lives. Shari'a Law is not standardized; it is different in many countries where Muslims live. The Koran was compiled two hundred years after Mohamed died. The meaning of Jihad has evolved over time. There is no central person to interpret Islamic Law: there are many voices and scholars who provide the intent, significance and purpose of the law.
There are three main components of the Koran which are meant to guide Muslims:
1. Family Guidance — discussing marriage, divorce and family life;
2. Criminal Law — violations, murder and property;
3. Commercial Law — referring to religion and business. Islamic Commercial Law does not charge interest. This is a standard applied worldwide.
In Part Two of his discussion, Welton talked about radicals and terrorism. Of the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world 80 percent are very much like Americans in that they are democratic and moderate in their daily lives and how they practice their religion. Moderates can be part of public life as long as they do not violate traditional laws. The other 20 percent are known as the Puritans and Traditionalists. The Puritans are radical. They are the ones who have a major problem with Western culture. They practice the piety of their ancestors and want their religion to be pure, perfect and idealized. An idealization which never really existed except in myth. They want to go back to the "Golden Age" of Islam.
This group hates their colonial legacy because of the various ways they were mistreated by the British. It is well known that they were "treated worse than dogs". The British carved up their territories creating "false borders."
This group is referred to by various names:
1. Daesh, which is a very derogatory term;
The above mentioned basically meaning: Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Uprisings are nothing new: it happens in any civilization that lasts centuries. What do they want? Two things:
1. To make the Western world so disgusted as to leave them to fight their own wars;
2. Reaction against, and rejection of, Muslims in the West. They want the Western world to marginalize them and thus they can be recruited to fight against a perceived enemy.
Professor Welton has taught and strongly suggests that we NOT fight their type of war because that would be "playing right into their hands." Welton stressed "know your enemy" and their philosophy. Know that the Puritans are trying to turn this conflict into a worldwide fight. He suggests, "don't fight their type of war, do not play into their hands."
Iraq has been in existence for 2,500 years. Other Muslim countries in the area were created only 60 years ago. Their borders were artificially drawn by the British without consideration to the tribes in those areas.
During this meeting we were able to ask many questions. I can truly say that we came away from his talk with a new insight of Muslims and Islam and indeed much more free of ignorance and misunderstanding of our fellow human beings. The knowledge, background and experience that Mr. Welton shared was priceless. Maybe we should actually try to learn about others rather than blindly being stampeded by fear, ignorance, and hate. Maybe we should try something more useful than being rushed into counterproductive action being whipped up by those who are driven by their own personal political ambitions.
"When I look at everything going on in the world, my heart truly aches. Why can we not understand, we are ONE? Why do we continue to believe killing and war will lead to peace? How do we get fooled, into believing some lives are more valuable than others? Why would we consider anything other than providing refuge, to those in need? How can we be humans, without humanity?" — Anonymous