Commenting that Ahmed Yousef’s suggestion in the NY Times for a “hudna” (more than a cease fire, less than a permanent peace treaty) between the Palestinians and the Israelis makes sense, Gordon Johnson asks whether the extremists would be willing to consider it. He quotes a remark by the deposed prime minister of Somalia implying the impossibility of convincing extremists “Not to be extremists.”
Asking if you can talk an extremist out of being an extremist is dealing with labels instead of with realities. The reality of the hudna is (1) it was the practice of the Prophet and (2) the Qur’an commands “If the enemy inclines towards peace then do you incline towards peace and trust in God for He is the one that hears and knows all things (8:61). The extremists of the Prophet’s day didn’t like it when he established the hudna with the Quraish, but they had to accept it. Of course, some modern extremists may be more wiling to rebel against the Hamas leadership than 7th century extremists were willing to rebel against the Prophet, but wouldn’t their rebellion alienate them from the majority and wouldn’t that alienation be a good thing? I sincerely believe that we are not in a war between civilizations but in a war WITHIN civilizations. In that war those who propose a hudna are allied with us and those who would resist it are allied with those Western extremists who mistake prudence for treason.