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The Rise of Professionalism in Moral Awareness

By Dr. Robert D. Crane (June 2001)

[Robert D. Crane has been a personal advisor to American presidents, cabinet officers, and congressional leaders during the past four decades. From the time of the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 until the beginning of Nixon’s victorious campaign for the presidency in 1967 Dr. Crane was his principal foreign policy advisor, responsible for preparing a “readers digest” of professional articles for him on the key foreign policy issues. During the campaign Dr. Crane collected his position papers into a book, Inescapable Rendevous: New Directions for American Foreign Policy, with a foreword by Congressman Gerald Ford, who succeeded Nixon as President. On January 20, 1969, Dr. Crane moved into the White House as Deputy Director (for Planning) of the National Security Council. The next day, the Director, Henry Kissinger, fired him, because they differed fundamentally on every single key foreign policy issue. Kissinger was determined to orchestrate power in order to preserve the status quo. Crane was equally determined to promote justice as the only source of dynamic and long-range stability.

In 1981, President Reagan appointed Dr. Crane to be U.S. ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, but this also was short-lived. President Reagan’s best friend, Judge William Clark, who became Director of the National Security Council, wanted Crane, as the first Muslim American ambassador, to pursue two-track diplomacy by developing relations with the various Islamist movements in the Middle East. The new Secretary of State, Alexander Haig, whose entire career was promoted by Henry Kissinger, wanted none of this.

Since then, Dr. Crane has worked full-time as a Muslim activist in America. He started as Director of Da’wa at the Islamic Center on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, D.C. In 1985 he joined the International Institute of Islamic Thought as its Director of Publications, and then helped to found the American Muslim Council, serving as Director of its Legal Division from 1992 to 1994. From 1994 until the present time he has headed his own research center, located in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Washington, D.C. Since 1996 he has also been a board member of the United Association for Studies and Research and Managing Editor of its Middle East Affairs Journal.]

The most striking change in Western public life is the rising awareness of morality as an important component of effective policy. This results from the relative decline of religious emphasis on sexual morality and from the corresponding rise in concern for holistic justice in all spheres of life. This shift from the narrow negative of personal behavior to the broader positive perspective of community and civilizational dynamics results from reaction to the globalization of materialism and selfishness. The resulting discontent has led a rapidly growing minority of people in America, both young and old, to experience a crisis in meaning. In the late twentieth century, they began to search for morality as a factor in policymaking, but in the present century this has grown into a hunger for an entire framework of meaning that can transcend the search for power, privilege, prestige, and wealth and instead connect them to some higher purpose for their lives.

The moral dilemma concerns the relationships of order, justice, and liberty. The traditionalist thought that produced the Great American Experiment, and the classical Islamic thought that emerged in development of the maqasid or universal purposes of the shari'ah, perceived that these higher purposes cannot be pursued independently because they are interdependent. When freedom is construed to be independent of responsibility, there can be no justice and the result will be anarchy. When order is thought to be possible without justice, there can be no order, because injustice is the principal cause of disorder. When justice is thought to be possible without order and freedom, then the pursuit of order, justice, and liberty are snares of the ignorant.

Both academics and think-tankers are mining the annals of American history for guidance. Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King are now being studied as American pioneers in preaching that ideas and morality, not governmental processes, define a society, and that dreams of the unseen future can be more powerful than ghosts of a Hobbesian past. In the penultimate decade of the 20th century, the intellectual guru, Christopher Lasch, depicted a society that had surrendered hopelessly to narcissism, and in the last decade John Patrick Duggins insisted, despite his praise of American traditionalist values, that in the end "sin, power, and corruption" are defining elements of all history.

Awareness of solutions inherent in the interdependence of order, justice, and liberty originated as spiritual and then intellectual challenges, before they entered the world of practical politics. Evangelical Protestantism started evolving during the radical alienation of the 1960's from an intellectual backwater still dominated by early twentieth-century fundamentalism to a powerful force, funded by the Pew and Lilly endowments, committed to creating a life of the mind in order to counter a post-modernist generation that was questioning whether a life of the mind is worth having.

The President of Princeton University, Harold Shapiro, writes that, "While millions, even billions, of people view so many different human concerns through the lens of religious faith, this critical subject remains one of the most understudied social phenomena of the twentieth century." The social sciences are being transformed. Religion is emerging from divinity schools to center stage as the new paradigm of "religion matters" in departments of sociology, political science, and international relations, and both in schools of law and business, as well as in technical courses on information management.

This transformation is most striking perhaps in the field of philosophy, where the major academic institutions, and now even the leading think-tanks, are approaching cutting-edge issues of conscience from the rigorously logical discipline of what used to be considered irrelevant philosophical pedagogy. The head of the philosophy department at George Washington University, R. Paul Churchill, recently held a symposium on NATO peacekeeping, arguing that peace should be seen in terms of justice and reconciliation, not simply as the absence of war.

One of the most striking expressions of this commitment to higher purpose has been the Jewish institute that publishes one of America's foremost journals, Tikkun ("to mend, repair, and transform the world"). Its editor, Rabbi Michael Lerner, a one-time guru of Hillary Clinton before she entered national politics, writes in the issue of November-December, 2000, that, "Israeli insistence on maintaining power and sovereignty over the Temple Mount is not based on some religious necessity, but on nationalist arrogance. … If Barak wanted to negotiate a peace agreement, he could have agreed to allow Palestinians interim sovereignty over the Temple Mount - interim until the Messiah comes."

Bill Galston, Director of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at the University of Maryland in College Park, notes that Socrates viewed philosophy as essential to public life and that his institute's mission in academia is to apply the wisdom of the great thinkers of the past, all of them spiritual in one way or another, to today's issues. He teaches a graduate course on the Moral Dimensions of Public Policy. Although his institute led the way in the mid-70's, there are now dozens of such centers all over America, with graduates that are entering all five of the governing estates of the American polity. Catholic universities are reviving philosophy as an essential part of religious understanding and applying such an informed view of moral theology throughout the curriculum.

Examples abound of respected intellectuals bringing a sophisticated framework of justice to bear on policy issues. The relative openness of establishment media to such new-comers as David Bosco, co-director of the Harvard Seminar on Ethics and International Policy, shows that an enlightened and sophisticated concept of justice can provide the lens through which both the media and policy advisers look, and that the impact on the policy process can be transformative.

Serious efforts to bring out the moral dimension of international relations have been undertaken for some years by some of America's leading think-tanks, most successfully by the bell-wether leader, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, but these are still burdened by various degrees of Orientalism. The fault lies partly in the absence of Islamic think-tanks with which they can interact in the pursuit of America's best interests.

As Professor John Esposito points out, the ignorance of Orientalism in understanding Islam and Muslims is exceeded only by the ignorance of Muslims about America and its policy process. A mirror-image Occidentalism flourishes on the assumption that a "strategy for America" automatically must mean a strategy to combat America, rather than to participate in exploring what America's truly enlightened interests are.

In the age of globalization, victimization is a self-fulfilling prophecy and renders Muslims, especially in America, simply irrelevant. One purpose of the Center for Civilizational Renewal and of its trilogy on Grand Strategy for America, as well as of its projected Journal of Transcendent Law, is to help remedy this continuing irrelevance of Islam and Muslims in the world. Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world for a divine purpose. It can help provide the paradigm of justice that others are seeking, as well as the spiritual depth and ecumenical wisdom to apply it.

The tectonic shift in Jewish-Catholic relations during the last decade of the second millennium could be matched by a similar shift in relations of both Christians and Jews with Islam, if only Muslims would follow their own Qur'anic guidelines on Abrahamic ecumenism. The Holy Father set the tone by visiting the major synagogue in Rome in order to signify his conviction that God dwells in every house of God, and, more specifically, that enlightened Christians, i.e. those with spiritual awareness and traditionalist values, respect the Jews as a people whose covenant, though often breeched, has never been revoked.

The Qur'an, in Surah al Baqarah 2:62, declares that, "Those who believe and those who are Jews and Christians and Sabians, whoever believe in Allah and the Last Day and do righteous deeds, shall have their reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve." Perhaps the greatest contemporary Qur'anic scholar, Muhammad Asad, explains: "The above passage - which occurs in the Qur'an several times - lays down a fundamental doctrine of Islam. 

With a breadth of vision unparalleled in any other religious faith, the idea of 'salvation' is here made conditional upon three elements only: belief in God, belief in the Day of Judgment, and righteous actions in life." The statement of this doctrine at this juncture - that is, in the midst of an appeal to the children of Israel - is warranted by the false Jewish belief that their descent from Abraham entitles them to be regarded as 'God's [only] chosen people'."

This same inclusive doctrine is expressed negatively in Surah Al-i 'Imran 3:85: "And whosoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter, he will be one of the losers." In other words, in Asad's words, "If one goes in search of a religion other than self-surrender to God, it will never be accepted from him, and in the life to come he shall be among the lost."

This contrasts with those who deliberately distort the Qur'an in order to support their own exclusivist hegemony, most notably by those who distribute the so-called Halali/Khan "translation," with a Saudi imprimatur, which proposes a bizarre interpretation of Surah Al-I 'Imran 3:110: "You are the best of peoples evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and believing in God. If only the People of the Book had faith, it would be best for them. Among them are some who have faith, but most of them are wayward transgressors." The Halali/Khan "Qur'an," which is available in hotel rooms throughout Saudi Arabia, like the Gideon Bible in America, mimics the worst distortions of the Orientalists by claiming that this "means the best for the people, as you bring them with chains on their necks till they embrace Islam (and thereby save them from the eternal punishment in the Hell-fire and make them enter Paradise in the Hereafter)."

Such Muslim extremists provide all the ammunition needed to provide credence for the concept of a "ring of fire" around an expanding Muslim civilization and of a "global intifada" against America, which Daniel Pipes invented a decade ago to warn against the coming violence of Islam in the world. Muslims, Christians, and Jews have always been their own worst enemies. Only enlightened followers of each religion can set the past record straight and lead an ecumenical movement of what the Qur'an calls the jihad al kabir, or intellectual jihad, to bring the wisdom of natural law and divine revelation to bear on our joint task of civilizational renewal. This is the task of professionalism in moral awareness.

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