Previous posts in this discussion:
PostPenal Code and Apostasy; on Targeted Killing (Cameron Sawyer, Russia, 10/04/11 4:29 pm)
Not to put words in Alan Levine's mouth (3 October), but I think that it is worth explaining what I think he meant--that he found it frightening that courts in Iran can sentence people to death for crimes which are not even on the books.
It is a fairly fundamental aspect of any more or less civilized system of justice that criminal laws are codified and published, so that (a) citizens know what they are not supposed to do, and what punishment they can expect if they do it; and (b) citizens can influence how the state uses power to punish people, through democratic changes to laws; and (c) courts are specifically limited by laws as to the basis of punishing people. If it is possible to sentence people to death for crimes which are not included in a criminal code, then judges might have an arbitrary power of life and death over citizens--a situation which is not just, according to any reasonable concept of justice. That is what Alan was talking about, I think.
However, I actually doubt that it is true, that Iranian courts can punish people for anything they feel like. I would guess--maybe Soraya can dig into it and let us know--that the courts have authority from the state to prosecute people either under the Penal Code, or, in the case of citizens who are Muslims or former Muslims, under principles of Sharia law. And it might very well be that there is even a clause in the Penal Code which refers to other principles of Sharia law. This would be roughly equivalent to law courts and ecclesiastical courts in medieval Europe (and England, there were also courts of equity)--parallel systems of justice. That is not, by itself, particularly uncivilized. Because all Iranian citizens would be subject to the Penal Code--which they can read, understand, be forewarned about, and probably influence through their legislators since Iran does have some kind of democracy. And Iranian citizens who are Muslims or former Muslims would be subject to general principles of Sharia law, besides the provisions of the Penal Code. And if general principles of Sharia law provide that you may be subject to the death penalty for apostasy, then you had better be careful.
Of course the application of the death penalty for exercising a free choice of religion will seem barbaric to most people. It does to me. But--this is not that problem which Alan was talking about, which I doubt exists. Maybe Soraya can enlighten us.
To Soraya's question: "Under what authority can the USA bomb a US citizen to death in another country without due process?" The legal basis is that the bombing is an act of war, and the victim is an enemy combatant. As a general principle, I don't think that while a war is going on, there is anything wrong with US soldiers killing a US citizen on the battlefield, a US citizen who is engaged in war against the US. There is no due process on the battlefield. War is an awful thing, but it exists and has always existed, and soldiers killing each other on the battlefield is a basic fact of human life. Now the trouble begins when "war" becomes a generalized conflict like the so-called War on Terror, and the "battlefield" becomes any old place where one can reach the so-called enemy combatant with a robotic drone. I am very deeply troubled by the issues raised by drone warfare and targeted assassinations. I don't think that a targeted assassination is the same thing as killing an enemy soldier on the battlefield. But there are weighty arguments on both sides of the issue; I do not have a definite opinion. There is a very extensive and very good article on Wikipedia about it:
For anyone who cares to delve deeper into the subject, this looks like a very good, balanced book:
In any case, however, it is not true that targeted assassinations by the military are simply extralegal killing. We may accept or we may not accept the legal basis for targeted assassination, but it definitely exists and is pretty well established. And targeted assassinations are carried out not only by the US, but by other countries involved in conflicts with terrorists or insurgents, including Colombia, Russia, Israel, UK, Switzerland, and perhaps even Germany. The attraction of targeted assassinations when dealing with terrorists should be obvious--terrorists don't appear on battlefields where they can be engaged by regular soldiers. So how else do you make war on them? Nevertheless, I find the practice troubling.
Denial of Higher Education to "Apostates"
(Vincent Littrell, USA
10/05/11 1:48 AM)
I have been following the WAIS discussion on Iran and the legalities associated with apostasy with some interest.
I note no mention thus far of the ultimate supposed apostates in Iran, the Baha'is, whose persecution by the government of Iran is ongoing precisely for their being "apostates" in much Twelver Shi'a orthodox clerical thought.
Iran's government has learned how to use the Shari'a legalities of apostasy to persecute Baha'is, but find other methods now. Reza Afshari in his latest 2011 edition of Human Rights in Iran: The Abuse of Cultural Relativism, comments on this phenomenon of converting religious enmity to a political cause: "This channeling of religious enmity to a political cause, expressed in a language that resembles the discourses of the Third World's nation-states, took place in the clerical anti-Baha'i activities during the 1960s. They have constructed the anti-Baha'i rhetoric in political, conspiratorial terms in order to prevent any discussion taking place in religious terms which would give recognition to the Baha'i Faith." (p. 120)
Thus the Baha'is, it seems, might not be discussed as apostates in international analysis of Iranian court treatment of them, though they are the most systematically persecuted religious minority in Iran. They'll be charged with other crimes, though the underlying foundation to all of the Baha'is persecution is the apostasy issue. Issues associated with orthodox ulamic interpretations of Surah 33:40, stating the Prophet Muhammad is the "seal of the prophets" are still critical, as they relate to questions of apostasy in Iran, WAIS analysis aside.
I should note that Iranian government persecution of a Christian minister isn't done yet. It seems an Iranian Christian pastor is getting similar treatment to Baha'is, in that trumped-up charges other than apostasy are being levied against him.
A sad aspect of the persecution of Iran's Baha'is (and others who the Iranian government persecute for differences in belief) is the denial of higher education to college age youth.
The following is a link to a 25 September letter in the Huffington Post by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and East Timor's President Jose Ramos-Horta, regarding Iran's "War Against Knowledge."
A key passage in the letter states:
"In 1987, after being barred by their government from Iranian universities because of their faith, the resourceful Baha'i community in Iran organized the Baha'i Institute for Higher Learning (BIHE), a decentralized network of teachers delivering college-level classes in kitchens and living rooms across Iran. Baha'i professors and administrators who had also been banned from their universities for their faith were joined by courageous Muslim academics who would risk their careers and even imprisonment to support the network and teach the youth.
"Taught by accredited professors, the quality of the coursework has been recognized and accepted for credit by more than fifty universities outside of Iran, allowing the BIHE students to continue with graduate work abroad. This creative solution has lifted the lives of thousands of Baha'i students who would otherwise have been denied meaningful careers.
"On May 21, 2011, the BIHE came under attack when Iranian officials raided thirty Baha'i homes and arrested over a dozen of its teachers and administrators. Those arrested were neither political nor religious leaders. They were lecturers in subjects that included accounting and dentistry, who today face the prospect of decades in prison. The crime with which they are charged--delivering higher education to Baha'i youth."
The two Nobel Peace Prize winners go on to say:
"We believe it is important to recognize that these actions are neither the result of or dictated by the Islamic faith. One need only look at the Dark Ages of Europe or the Spanish Inquisition to see that Iranian Ayatollahs are certainly not the first to use religion as the cloak to attempt to forcibly suppress ideas and knowledge that they fear could threaten their power. The rich philosophical and artistic Iranian traditions, the contributions of Iranian scholars worldwide, and the actions of the Muslim community members who have aided and supported the BIHE, are testament to the fact that the actions of their leaders are no reflection of the Muslim faith or the many good-willed Muslims in Iranian communities."
They make the following recommendations:
"We call on the international academic community to come to the aid of those whose lives are being subjected to these oppressive laws.
"Specifically we, the undersigned, ask that the international academic community:
"1. Call on the government of the Iranian Republic to release unconditionally and drop charges against the BIHE educators currently under arrest and facing charges related to their educational activities.
"2. As academic leaders, administrators and professors, register through any possible channels in the Iranian academic community their disagreement with and disapproval of any policy which would bar individuals from higher education based on their religious background or political persuasion, or which would remove or corrupt any established fields of study from a university curricula for religious or political reasons.
"3. Encourage their own universities to review the educational quality of the BIHE coursework for possible acceptance of its credits, so that those who have had the benefit of its programs can continue at higher levels of study.
"4. As possible, offer available online university level curricula, through scholarships if needed, to students in Iran who would otherwise be deprived of the right to higher education or who, due to government limitation on social sciences, would not have a full array of educational options available to them in their own county."
JE comments: I'd like to discuss further the BIHE (Baha'i Institute for Higher Learning). Clandestine universities are a fascinating phenomenon on many levels, from the political to the pedagogical to the logistical. The Iranian government no doubt views the BIHE as subversive, if for no other reason than it prepares students for graduate study abroad. Yet the government could obviate the need for BIHE by granting easier access to Baha'is in the regular university system.
If the BIHE has been in existence since 1987, why is the crackdown going on now, 24 years later?
To be sure, other countries don't tolerate "kitchen colleges" either, but they don't arrest the teachers and administrators. They simply deny them accreditation.
- Apostasy and the Law, Continued (Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, USA 10/05/11 1:54 PM)
I thank Cameron Sawyer for his clarification of October 4 in response to my failure to understand Alan Levine's post of October 3.
I would like to go on the record, again, that I am not an Iran expert. My area of research is US foreign policy in the Middle East, Iran specifically, and the influence of lobby groups in shaping US foreign policy. That said, given my interest in the policies adopted towards Iran, I have also had to consider Iranian actions/reactions. I feel fortunate in that because of my interest in Iran, my family and friends there, and my interaction with various Iranian groups, I am able to look at the two countries (US and Iran) in a comparative way. In other words, it gives me a better understanding of life and rules in each country as they pertain to the relevant society of each. I do not look at rules in Iran from an isolated, inexperienced, American perspective, I look at it in relative terms. The same is true about rules here in America. I do not evaluate them from a purely Persian perspective, but in relative terms. I do confess that since America was introduced to me in my early years as "the greatest country on earth," and given that America attempts to impose its values on other nations, regardless of the cost, I do have much higher expectations of American laws and values than for any other nation.
Cameron is right in stating that judges cannot just punish people for crimes not in the books. But I also know that in Iran, like elsewhere (and I am not in a position to know whether to a greater or lesser degree), charges can be trumped up and often there is gross miscarriage of justice. In Iran, when a complaint has been filed, I think it is probably harder to prove one's innocence (depending on the alleged crime--often a fine lets you off the hook, especially for drinking).
In America, one is innocent until proven guilty--at least, domestically that has been the case. Though regrettably, since 9/11, this too has changed. It is worthwhile reading the following excerpt from a report by Phillips and Huff (Peter Phillips is a Professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University and President of the Media Freedom Foundation and recent past director of Project Censored. Mickey Huff is an Associate Professor of History and Social Science at Diablo Valley College and serves on the executive committee of the Media Freedom Foundation and is recent past associate director of Project Censored):
"With the approval of Congress, the Military Commissions Act (MCA) of 2006, signed by Bush on October 17, 2006, allows for the suspension of habeas corpus for US citizens and non-citizens alike. While media, including a lead editorial in The New York Times October 19, 2006, have offered false comfort that American citizens will not be the victims, the Act is quite clear that ‘any person' can be targeted. Additionally, under the code-name Operation FALCON (Federal and Local Cops Organized Nationally), federally coordinated mass arrests have been occurring since April 2005 and netted over 54,000 arrests, a majority of whom were not violent criminals as was initially suggested."
I cited the above to demonstrate that laws are broken just as laws are made to suit political ends at a given time in a country's history. Iran is no different.
Cameron asked if I could find if "...courts have authority from the state to prosecute people either under the Penal Code, or, in the case of citizens who are Muslims or former Muslims, under principles of Sharia law." I think a non-Iranian (or even an Iranian who lives outside the country) would be surprised at what one is able to get away with in Iran--whether it is breaking the law, or the law breaking the rules. There is one big difference between the two countries (US and Iran). In Iran, it is demanded of the people, implicitly or written in laws, that everything be kept private (such as homosexuality, drinking, adultery, etc.) whereas in the US, everyone wants to have the right to do things publicly.
During the Shah's regime, those who wanted to bring the private life in to the open, were considered "modern," "Western," "elite." They looked down at those who did not share their values. They had, in effect, become the (cultural) colonizers of their fellow countrymen.
In Iran, people have walls around their homes. This is a tradition that dates back ages. Even the less affluent have walls. This is for privacy (and security of course). Inside these walls, many spend hours tending to beautiful gardens which will not be seen by passers-by, only by those who live in the house or are invited as guests. In America (and parts of Europe), there are no walls. The front lawn is painstakingly kept beautiful for the admiration of the passer-by. A man can have his male lover at home and they can engage in all kinds of activities, a married woman may give herself willingly to another man, but none of this can be public for it will have consequences. The opposite side of the coin is that in Iran people in general are meticulous housekeepers. They are clean and tidy. If only they would take care to respect public property.
Someone I know very well, has become Christian and goes to church on a regular basis. In gatherings, he blasts the government. He is a successful businessman. Another person, a woman who attempted to "show me the way to Jesus," goes around preaching and passing out Bibles. This woman also asked me to look up Nejat TV among the many other Christian sites. These cables promote the overthrow of the regime in Iran, speak ill of Islam, consider Jews to be God's exceptional people and the land of Israel as the place God will reappear and so it must be protected at all cost. I am surprised this woman is still doing well in Iran. I have not seen her or spoken to her in over two years, but know that she is "preaching." I believe she would be prosecuted if caught--not because she has become a Christian, but because she is promoting the overthrow of the regime, and her views on Israel and Islam. I believe the State would consider her an enemy. I consider her as a nut and do not tolerate her.
Countries are different. People and societies around the world are not the same, though certainly some are more similar than others. Because of this difference, the laws vary--often to reflect the will and disposition of the people. Any change will hopefully come about as the people themselves demand it.
These are simply my views and assumptions based on my experiences in both countries and in speaking with people. Some may not agree with my perspective.
JE comments: My thanks to Soraya for this interesting response. I am particularly intrigued by what people get away with in Iran--these are the facets of Iranian life that don't get reported, precisely because they are kept private.
Apostasy and the Law, Continued
(Alan Levine, USA
10/06/11 4:13 AM)
My thanks to Cameron Sawyer (4 October) for beautifully elaborating and articulating my prior post to Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich. Cameron got my meaning just right.
For the record I would like to state I agree with Soraya that it is legitimate to ask questions about the application of law everywhere--and on her particular questions about the US I come out pretty close to where Cameron did and for the reasons he did.
Additionally, as Alain de Benoist recurringly reminds us, every polity in times of emergency sidestep their laws (and he who gets to decide when and how is the sovereign, in Carl Schmitt's sense). And whether that "someone" who gets to decide is an elected legal body (a congress), an elected executive, a dictator, or a religious or some other figure is what characterizes the nature of the regime.
My main comment was simply to note the extraordinary case where the top (I presume) legal authority, the Iranian Supreme Court, acknowledges extra legal, i.e., not legal, but factors outside the law--that can be used to punish. It's one thing to note a country not living up to its laws. It strikes me as another thing altogether when the laws admit something outside of beyond themselves that could either trump the laws or bind and punish individuals.
Now, some American jurists advocate exactly such things, for example that the principles of the Declaration of Independence must inform the interpretation of the Constitution, and others that "natural law" must do so. Martin Luther King and many others have made these kinds of claims. I would guess that many people in every country do so, such as philosophers and religious thinkers. But when people in positions of power, especially legal authorities, such as Supreme Court judges, do so, then the spectre is raised of decisions and real punishments based not on civil law, and this opens up the possibility of the arbitrary application of whatever that extra-legal authority is said to be based on.
Law in US and Iran
(Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, USA
10/07/11 1:44 AM)
In response to Alan Levine (6 October), I am always left speechless when some tend to be more concerned about laws in far-away lands than the dismal state of affairs in their own backyard. I suggest those with a disdainful attitude towards Iran, first open their eyes to what is going on in their country and attempt to protect life and liberty at home first. Not only does charity begin at home, but so should justice.
It is far too tedious a task to go into detail about every ugly incident for which the American government has been responsible for towards its own citizens (we know full well how they treat non-US citizens), most specifically in the past several years, but perhaps the statement by White House spokesman Tommy Vietor in which he confirmed that a "secret panel" exists which can order American citizens assassinated with no judicial oversight (http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/05/us-cia-killlist-idUSTRE79475C20111005 ) should concern these sympathizers and prompt them to speak up, if not act. Unless of course, these same WAISers love Iranians more than Americans. Judging by the reaction shown towards the deaths of Iranian Neda Agha-Sultan versus American Rachel Corrie, this well could be the case. Then again, Iranians have a hard time understanding why with so much love for Iranian individuals, the country is threatened with annihilation. Curiously, for a starter, the very people WAISers and Americans wish to defend (the pastor and homosexuals, etc.) could well have been in one of the planes that fall from the skies, thanks to the violation of the Geneva Conventions.
I hope my confusion is understandable.
JE comments: WAIS did discuss the Corrie case at some length, in September 2007 and again in March 2009.
- Iran and Human Rights (Sardar Haddad, USA 10/09/11 5:02 AM)
Some WAISers have expressed concern about violations of the rights of the Iranian people. Vincent Littrell, Alan Levine, Nigel Jones, Richard Hancock, Randy Black, and others have discussed the crimes of the Islamic republic against the Iranian people. Their concern about these issues is greatly appreciated.
Of course, the regime and its supporters are unhappy about any discussion of crimes of the regime, and they resort to various schemes to muddy the water, obfuscate, and misinform. Some supporters of the regime have a tendency to make the feeble argument that another country also violated human rights, and they hope that by making such arguments they can divert attention from the horrible record of the regime.
Supporters of the regime also make the false argument that people of other countries should not be concerned about the crimes of the Islamic republic against the Iranian people. The issue that supporters of the regime have not understood is that just as enlightened people in many countries actively supported the efforts against the apartheid regime in South Africa, Pol Pot's regime in Cambodia, and criminal regimes in other countries, it is absolutely correct for enlightened individuals in any country to discuss the crimes of the Islamic republic against the Iranian people.
Iranian poets, mathematicians, scientists, and thinkers have made great contributions to the world for thousands of years. Iranian culture includes the contributions of Sa'adi, Hafez, Ferdowsi, Rumi, Rudaki, Khayyam, Zoroaster, Avicenna, Razi (Rhazes), Kharazmi, Nezami, and many others. The Iranian people honor these great thinkers, and they will end the current horrible chapter in Iranian history, so that their rights will be respected.
The great Iranian poet Sa'adi said:
Human beings are members of a whole,
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you've no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you cannot retain!
Reporters Without Borders recently expressed great concern about violations of the rights of Iranian journalists:
Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns a new wave of arrests of Iranian journalists in recent weeks. The following journalists were arrested between 1 August and 27 September without any official reason being given:
• Hamid Moazeni, a blogger and journalist who works for several local newspapers in the south-coast city of Bushehr;
• Ali Dini Torkamani, a writer and economist who contributes to the online magazine Alborznet;
• Hadi Ahmadi, a journalist who works for the news agency ISNA in Karaj, a city 20 km northwest of Tehran;
• Mehrdad Sarjoui, a Tehran-based journalist who writes for several English-language newspapers;
• Amir Ali Alamehzadeh, a journalist who works for the news agency ILNA in Tehran;
• Ebrahim Rashidi, a journalist with the weekly Bayram in the northwestern city of Ardabil;
• Faranak Farid, a writer and translator who contributes to the Feminist School website. She was arrested on 3 September in the northwestern city of Tabriz.
According to Agence France-Presse, the Islamic republic has executed 219 Iranians in 2011.
In a report (14 March 2011), UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his concern about violations of the rights of the Iranian people.
"The secretary-general has been deeply troubled by reports of increased executions, amputations, arbitrary arrest and detention, unfair trials and possible torture and ill-treatment of human rights activists, lawyers, journalists and opposition activists," the UN report said.
Brave Iranian men and women have courageously continued their efforts for freedom despite the repressive actions of the Islamic republic, and they deserve the active support of enlightened people around the world. Supporters of freedom will prevail.
JE comments: Sardar Haddad's list of arrested journalists leads me to a question about Internet censorship in Iran. All websites and blogs must be registered (and presumably monitored) by the government, yet according to Wikipedia, Iran has the second-highest percentage of Internet users in the Middle East, following only Israel. This is just another example of the enigma of today's Iran for us outsiders.
I occasionally hear from WAIS readers within Iran, although now that I
think about it, it's been at least a year since my last e-mail. Is this a coincidence or something more?
Iran and Human Rights
(John Heelan, UK
10/09/11 7:09 AM)
Sardar Haddad (9 October) rightly commented: "Of course, the (...) regime and its supporters are unhappy about any discussion of crimes of the (...) regime, and they resort to various schemes to muddy the water, obfuscate, and misinform. Some supporters of the (...) regime have a tendency to make the feeble argument that another country also violated human rights, and they hope that by making such arguments they can divert attention from the horrible record of the (...) regime" (my brackets).
Of course, that is the hypocritical excuse of all chauvinist politicians and rulers, national and international, i.e. "We might have faults but it is far worse elsewhere." I invite WAISers to complete the brackets with names of countries that regularly adopt that PR tactic. As a start, I could suggest the US, UK, Israel, Palestine, Pakistan, China, Burma and so on. This is not to excuse Iran its despicable human rights, but to point out that many of its accusers "cannot throw the first stone" without a strong whiff of hypocrisy accompanying it.
JE comments: Few things satisfy more than pointing out someone else's hypocrisy. Yet only the most enlightened souls on the receiving end of such accusations will respond: "You're right. I'm a hypocrite. I thank you for making me aware of it and will do everything I can to change."
Hypocrisy and Human Rights
(Jon Kofas, Greece
10/10/11 1:33 AM)
First, the hypocrisy issue is a good one to point out, especially when it comes to human rights, but all other issues for that matter, even if hypocrisy may be as innate to human nature and most definitely learned behavior as lying.
Second, Iran has been a part of the US-Western-designated "evil axis" for such a long time that it makes an easy target. Iran's critics see nothing but evil, while its apologists are at best reluctant to criticize it at any level, fearing that any criticism necessarily strengthens the country's enemies.
Third, no society is Shangri La, no society is above committing human rights violations, but finger-pointing is a vicious circle that adds nothing to the edification of society and more broadly to humanity. Such a vicious circle is the domain of politicians and other propagandists.
Fourth, unless each country engages in self-criticism and tries to address its own shortcomings and propose solutions, then there will be no progress for that society and in the long run it only harms itself. Those who use a single country or a group of countries for propaganda purposes by pointing out their shortcomings, as well as those who deflect attention from the shortcomings of country (-ies) they are defending by pointing out there are other societies even worse off, are engaged in a futile rhetorical and/or propaganda campaign that does not promote progress. For example, Iran's human rights violations, documented and incontrovertible as they are no matter how defenders wish to deny this reality, cannot be excused simply because Saudi Arabia, Israel, US, etc. also violates human rights. Saudi Arabia, Israel and US have citizens who need to focus and solve their own problems. The outside world can criticize, but it cannot and must not solve the internal affairs of another country for that is a violation of national sovereignty.
The question is how can dialogue, domestic and global, be constructive to help alleviate societal evils wherever they exist, not to compete on who has the most or the least evils. Anything short of this ultimate goal, is either propaganda or inane rhetoric. What is so wrong with propaganda and inane rhetoric, considering it is the stuff of which the media in all forms, from print to electronic, is engaged? The question is whether there is a trace of any edifying elements in the dialogue intended to further the cause of social justice universally and not selectively.
JE comments: Some excellent WAIS wisdom for this fine Monday.
Hypocrisy and Human Rights
(Vincent Littrell, USA
10/11/11 4:19 AM)
Jon Kofas stated on 10 October: "Iran's human rights violations, documented and incontrovertible as they are no matter how defenders wish to deny this reality, cannot be excused simply because Saudi Arabia, Israel, US, etc. also violates human rights. Saudi Arabia, Israel and US have citizens who need to focus and solve their own problems. The outside world can criticize, but it cannot and must not solve the internal affairs of another country, for that is a violation of national sovereignty."
Though we've covered this ground before in WAIS, what is sacred about national sovereignty? We live in a world where economic interdependence is a reality, where massive cross-political border transhumance is a reality, where increasing numbers of responsible thinkers are recognizing the need for a global ethic are reality, where notions of sovereignty in their various interpretations interfere with the realization of reduction of human oppression and upliftment of human rights. I disagree with John Eipper's characterization of the wisdom of Mr. Kofas's post. I believe the post upholds that which mankind must break away from to further develop this global and unitary (though not politically unified) civilization. Current interpretations of state-centric sovereignty are a shibboleth that in the fullness of time must be superseded for the well-being of all humans. Until this nascent global civilization politically matures, of course state-powers and coalitions thereof will have to break sovereignty to alleviate oppression...despite variations of hypocrisy vis-à-vis human rights.
The "dirty-hands" argument isn't enough to cause governments to not rise up and strike down egregious oppressors of human beings. The disconnect of ethics from "realists" and "sovereignists" is a problem of horrific magnitude in my view. The poor of the world are paying the price for the prevalence of such thought in our academe and high governing circles of nation-states. I am increasingly of the mind that "realism," though useful as a tool in certain circumstances in geo-political interaction, is in itself a scourge in mainstream thinking regarding international interaction that has in itself contributed to untold suffering of human beings. New paradigms of thought about the blend of ethics, spirituality and governance on a global scale must emerge into the mainstream. Until then, this already unitary civilization will spiral downward with only half-answers and band-aids for seemingly intractable problems that current paradigms of thought amongst en-vogue writers and practitioners of international relations theory in governance cannot find real answers for. I confess to finding the secularized, technocratic, and near scientistic international relations writings of some in WAIS to be sterile and in terms of solutions for humanity deeply impoverished.
JE comments: This is a true idealist position, which I agree with in principle. The devil lies in the details: what too often happens when outside powers "break" a nation's sovereignty?
Hypocrisy, Human Rights, and a Single World-Wide Ethic
(John Heelan, UK
10/11/11 11:28 AM)
Vincent Littrell wrote on 11 October: "We live in a world where economic interdependence is a reality, where massive cross-political border transhumance is a reality, where increasing numbers of responsible thinkers are recognizing the need for a global ethic are reality, where notions of sovereignty in their various interpretations interfere with the realization of reduction of human oppression and upliftment of human rights."
Of course this is an argument for a single world-wide ethic, encompassed by a single world-wide religion such as Bah'ai, Islam, Christianity, etc. Yet it is a little unrealistic to expect that the scale of political differences will decline: they with just change from being nation-state politics to inter- and intra-religious politics. The Protestant/Catholic schism still exerts strong political power globally, as does the Sunni/Shi'a schism, perhaps even greater, while even within Baha'i it appears to be disquiet about whether Shoghi Effendi was the true representative of Baha'ullah and Abdul Baha. See "A Fraudulent Testament Devalues the Bahai Religion Into Political Shoghism":
Religion provides a no better a solution than does the nation-states paradigm.
"Politics" is the cost of human socialization and will persist as long as humans live in groups.
Hypocrisy, Human Rights, and a Single World-Wide Ethic
(Vincent Littrell, USA
10/12/11 1:43 AM)
John Heelan (11 October) commented regarding my statement on a global ethic: "Of course this is an argument for a single world-wide ethic, encompassed by a single world-wide religion such as Baha'i, Islam, Christianity, etc."
I didn't say that. However I do support the notion of a global ethic as discussed by the World Parliament of Religions and Catholic Theologian Hans Kung, who has been given approval by the World Parliament of religions to draft a document regarding a global ethic.
The above website well argues (in my view) the whys for a global ethic.
Regarding schism in religion, I view that as a separate issue. However within Christendom, ecumenism is on the rise, and despite schism, branches of the same major religions do communicate peaceably and with mutual respect--to include within Sunni and Shi'a Islam. There have been productive interactions between Sunni/Shi'a clergy (say Al-Azhar clergy and Shi'a clerics), not to mention countless such efforts amongst laity (or Islamic equivalent thereof, i.e. the average citizen believer: see many instances of intermarriage and intra-tribe friendly interactions in Iraq, where some tribes are both Shi'a and Sunni. Granted the recent violence between Shi'a and Sunni in Iraq has been a tragic problem).
The Baha'i view towards schism is different than other religions in some respects, due to what Baha'is refer to as "the Covenant of Baha'u'llah," which in Baha'i belief, as it relates to the relationship of a religion's prophetic founder with declared believers, has no precedence in the history of revealed religion. Baha'is believe that schism in what they term "past dispensations" (eras of past revelation) was allowed in the site of God because no administrative structure was explicitly set forth in the authoritative revealed writings of the religion's founder. In the Baha'i view Jesus didn't Himself explicitly through his revelation establish in detail an order for governance of the church nor succession; that came later (the Pauline/Petrine debate is a case in point regarding the lack of clarity regarding the real successor to Jesus or the Shi'a/Sunni split in Islam, regarding succession to the Prophet Muhammad). Thus the "spirit of revelation" despite schism was still present in the past dispensations, allowing for continued individual spiritual and overarching civilizational advancement in those areas where schism eroded at the edifice of unity in religion. Keep in mind that Baha'is believe the revelations of the Manifestations/Messengers/Prophets of God impact everything both material and spiritual; thus in the Baha'i theology "the creative Word of God" is all-encompassing and all civilization for advancement depends upon it, whether humans consciously acknowledge that or not. In the Baha'i belief, revelation impacts all creation. Baha'is now believe that with their founder Baha'u'llah and his explicit, what Baha'is believe to be, divinely revealed administrative order, that the nature of schism is altered in the plan of God. The Baha'i covenant, Baha'is believe, alters the relationship of the spirit of revelation, and its benefits vis-à-vis the formal structure of faith compared to the past revelations. In other words, the spirit allowed to pass through governing institutions of past religions, despite their many times schismatic nature, is not present in schismatics from the directives of the latest revelation. This ties into Baha'i scholarly discussions regarding what constitutes "established" religion, which I have discussed in the past in this Forum.
Declared Baha'is are required to adhere to the Baha'i covenant to be Baha'is. This is explicit to the directives of the personage whom Baha'is believe is the latest Manifestation of God for today's day and age, Baha'u'llah. Schism from the root of the Baha'i revelation will, in Baha'i belief, have results that differ from past revelations. As I understand it, in Baha'i belief, schisms from the new tree of revelation cannot flourish unlike past dispensations. Unlike the past, they will not become "established." Establishment of religion as Baha'is define it (as I best understand it) requires that divine support. Now for the first time in the history of revealed religion, in Baha'i belief, schismatics from the actual revealer of the word of God and His explicitly established institutions lose that ecclesiological spiritual thread that upholds institutional religion as it has numerous branches of Christendom, etc.
JE comments: Any global ethic, however well intentioned, will inevitably encounter resistance to that ethic. Ultimately it boils down to who has the power to impose, or attempt to impose, such an ethic.
- Universalism and Sovereignty (Alain de Benoist, France 10/11/11 11:41 AM)
In the wishful-thinking universalist/one-worldist project exposed by Vincent Littrell on 11 October, who will decide on the dismantling of the national sovereignties?
Those who will decide that will be the new sovereigns.
Footnote: What about the US showing the example of dismantling its own national sovereignty?
JE comments: At least since the League of Nations, which the US dreamed up but didn't join, this country hasn't been fond of others encroaching on its sovereignty.
- "New Paradigms" and the Nation-State (Jon Kofas, Greece 10/12/11 2:15 AM)
If regional blocs--until recently the EU, which was the most exemplary of them all--cannot function when a financial crisis hits, what makes Vincent Littrell (11 October) think that the nation-state model is obsolete? If regional blocs like NAFTA are assumed to be a good model, then just ask Mexican workers what they think about it.
A second question for Vincent is what will replace the nation-state? Exactly what are these "new paradigms of thought about the blend of ethics, spirituality and governance on a global scale must emerge into the mainstream?" Will it be an imperial system where the economically strongest nations enjoy hegemony over others? Is the solution multinational corporations enjoying transnational power over nation-states? Can we please have some specifics? Can we have the "detailed devil" exposed in full force, so that we know what we are talking about here?
JE comments: Vincent Littrell may have answered some of Jon Kofas's questions in his post from earlier today (12 October). I am quite certain that Vincent wasn't talking about an imperial system or multi-national corporate government. His ideal is more of an ecumenical consensus based on accepted standards of ethics and human rights.
"New Paradigms" and the Nation-State
(Alain de Benoist, France
10/15/11 10:17 AM)
A propos the exchange between John Heelan (11 October), Vincent Littrell (11 and 12 October), and Jon Kofas (12 October) about "New Paradigms," Universalism, and the Nation-State:
My impression is that Vincent does not criticize at all the principle of sovereignty. What he criticizes is the existence of frontiers, which explains the existence of the different nations and/or cultures, and therefore the historical reality of national sovereignties.
Vincent has clearly nothing against the growing sovereignty of the financial markets, which make the traditional national (and political) sovereignties more powerless every day. Above all, as he advocates a universalist one-world, he would have nothing to object to a world sovereignty.
The problem is of course to know who would be the holders of such a world sovereignty, what would be their legitimacy to hold it, what would be the criteria of their supposed legitimacy, how they would be selected and controlled, where their powers would come from, and so on.
Vincent gave the references to a Website called global-ethic-now. What is very interesting on that site is that it is clearly explained that global ethic relies only on the teachings of universalist religions. Not a single non-universalist religion (some of the native European religions, for example) is even mentioned. This show the intrinsic limits of an ethic having the purpose of being "global": even universalism is not universal. It is just ethnocentric.
What would be the fate of the enemies of universalism in the one-world system Vincent is so fond of? As the universalist sovereigns would of course regard themselves as defenders of the Good (the "global ethic"), the enemies would be treated as figures of Evil and treated as such.
In a one-world system, there would not be any national wars anymore. The national wars would be replaced by endless civil wars, which are the worst of all the possible wars. These civil wars would be even more frequent than traditional wars, because the abolition of frontiers is by itself a recognized major cause of wars.
On the importance of frontiers for peaceful coexistence see:
JE comments: Good fences making good neighbors, anyone?
"New Paradigms" and the Nation-State
(Vincent Littrell, USA
10/23/11 4:31 AM)
On 15 October Alain de Benoist wrote that I criticize "the existence of frontiers, which explains the existence of the different nations and/or cultures, and therefore the historical reality of national sovereignties."
I recognize the need for borders, and believe in respect for borders for many reasons. What I criticize is action, under the auspices of "sovereignty" in the name of "national interest," that erodes or undermines in terms of perception the ontological reality of mankind's "oneness."
Alain (AdB) wrote: "Vincent has clearly nothing against the growing sovereignty of the financial markets, which make the traditional national (and political) sovereignties more powerless every day."
I do recognize that global financial currents erode at the political borders within the Westphalian system. With that being said, the financial markets are not in my view spiritually based and care little for the despicable conditions most human beings live in. What percentage of the world population lives in abject poverty? The Westphalian system is inadequate to deal with this reality, nor can it deal in holistic fashion with the reality of the spiritual poverty that underlies much in international financial transactions.
AdB: "Above all, as [Vincent] advocates a universalist one-world, he would have nothing to object to a world sovereignty."
No, I advocate the unity of mankind, though not necessarily in the sense of the "universalism" Alain might think. I recognize that the inevitablility for human political evolution won't occur in my lifetime. Nor, most likely, in the lifetime of my children. It is amazing the shifts in thinking that terrible cataclysm causes, though I hope cataclysm doesn't happen despite my increasing belief that mankind may be headed that way because of its obsession with state-centric sovereignty. I think mankind has no choice but to politically evolve towards unity. (I'm seeing discussions of the necessity of European financial management centralization of a sort that transcends sovereignty in the face of the current Euro crisis, as sovereign state decentralized management of the unifying Euro is according to some creating an unworkable tension).
AdB: "The problem is of course to know who would be the holders of such a world sovereignty, what would be their legitimacy to hold it, what would be the criteria of their supposed legitimacy, how they would be selected and controlled, where their powers would come from, and so on."
Good questions. Big minds have to chew on those to be sure. Why not a federation of autonomous states (as opposed to sovereign) that collectively cede certain powers normally held by the sovereign states, necessary for the peaceable interactions of those states, to a central, democratically elected authority that gets guidance from the world's legitimated teachers of morality? In other words, a strengthened and reformed United Nations (for example with a more balanced and democratically run Security Council) that is advised by a formally recognized World Parliament of Religions? I still believe in formal separation of established religion and state. I do accept religion in an advisory capacity to secular leadership, though as long as ethics and morality are kept separate from exoteric practice and exoteric dogma (in other words, general recognition of differences between the essential and accidental aspects of religionm, although this is another issue).
AdB: "What would be the fate of the enemies of universalism in the one-world system Vincent is so fond of? As the universalist sovereigns would of course regard themselves as defenders of the Good (the 'global ethic'), the enemies would be treated as figures of Evil and treated as such. In a one-world system, there would not be any national wars anymore. The national wars would be replaced by endless civil wars, which are the worst of all the possible wars. These civil wars would be even more frequent than traditional wars, because the abolition of frontiers is by itself a recognized major cause of wars."
I disagree with Alain. Enemies of such a system, provided they themselves weren't violent and obeyed the civil law, would be left unto themselves to say what they like. There of course might be violent upheaval that a legitimated government of the future would have to suppress. Legitimate governments have the right to suppress insurgency even now.
In the history of the Baha'i Faith, Baha'i leader Abdu'l-Baha actually supported both financially and physically the "covenant breakers" of his experience. An interesting history of this is in the book Memories of Nine Years in Akka by Dr. Youness Afroukhteh. The author was the physician of Abdu'l-Baha for a period and discusses at depth Abdu'l-Baha's dealings with the enemies of the nascent Baha'i Faith. He maintained their support even though they caused him such trouble. It's an interesting read to be sure, and from one perspective, indicative of the future of how enemies are to be dealt with non-violently.
In a remark in a recent post of Jon Kofas's in this thread, John Eipper stated about my thinking, "[Vincent's] ideal is more of an ecumenical consensus based on accepted standards of ethics and human rights." Along those lines I'd like to share the following, because it has relevance to my thinking regarding the impoverishment of modern international relations thinking, especially much of what I see reflected in WAIS as well as what I think of as the necessity for global-level interfaith dialogue and finding intersections between that and secularized international relations thought.
Great Britain's Prince Charles, despite past WAISer comments to the contrary, is an intellectual whom I admire. I've been perusing Selected Speeches And Articles by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, ed. David Cadman and Soheil Bushrui from The Center for Hertitage Resource Studies at The University of Maryland (2006). This collection of Prince Charles's writings, sayings, and speeches is in my view impressive, covers many different issues, and is reflective of a powerfully intellectual man. In a speech given by Prince Charles in 1996 titled "A Sense of the Sacred: Building Bridges Between Islam and The West," the Prince criticizes the Western penchant for separating the spiritual and sacred from the scientific. He talks about the consequences for humanity of his increasing tendency towards scientism and materialism. He states, "Modern materialism in my humble opinion is unbalanced and increasingly damaging in its long-term consequences. Yet nearly all the great religions of the world have held an integral view of the sanctity of the world. But during the last three centuries, in the Western world at least, a dangerous division has come into being in the way we perceive the world around us. Science has tried to assume a monopoly--even a tyranny--over our understanding." (p. 83)
I fully concur with this. The balance and essential agreement between science and religion is eroded and the ramifications for international relations and attendant human suffering are clear.
The Prince goes onto make a statement that is in my view proving itself, "In those instances where Islam chooses to reject Western materialism [and reverberations therof to be found in sterile scientism/metrics orientation in foreign policy--VL], this is not, in my view, only a political affectation or the result of envy or a sense of inferiority. Quite the opposite. And the danger that the gulf between the worlds of Islam and the other major Eastern religions on the one hand, and the West on the other, will grow ever wider and more unbridgeable is real, unless we can explore together practical ways of integrating the sacred and the secular in both our cultures in order to provide a true inspiration for the next century." (p. 85) The Prince's 1996 speech absolutely rings true to me right now.
JE comments: "Legitimated teachers of morality," when given political power, quickly lose their morality, and eventually their legitimacy. Is a theocratic super-state, no matter how inclusive and ecumenical, a workable idea? Theocracies don't have an admirable track record throughout history. Many would argue that what is needed (pace Prince Charles) is more secularism and science, not less.
Vincent Littrell here offers a good synthesis of positions he's been developing on WAIS over the last few years. I look forward to WAISer comments in response.
(Vincent Littrell, USA
10/24/11 5:58 AM)
At the end of my 23 October post, John Eipper wrote: "'legitimated teachers of morality,' when given political power, quickly lose their morality, and eventually their legitimacy."
VL: Yes, I would also contend the exact same thing happens to secular power holders. I don't think any group holds a monopoly on moral corruption once high power is achieved.
JE: "Is a theocratic super-state, no matter how inclusive and ecumenical, a workable idea? Theocracies don't have an admirable track record throughout history."
VL: I'm not thinking in terms of "a theocratic super-state" for this time. I'm thinking in terms of secular government evolved from a strengthened United Nations, that is advised by a World Parliament of Religions. I do think at this time in human political and moral evolution, that the world isn't ready for established religion having coercive power. But advisory power? Regarding the World Parliament of Religions, the joint statements of that collective body of religions on various issues would be advisory, though given weight in the deliberations of the secular representatives of nations in a reformed and strengthened United Nations. It might be that statements of the World Parliament of Religions on various issues might have majority and minority opinions. This all ties into a stated global ethic approved by such an interreligious body and the United Nations, maybe in tandem with a a strengthened version of the secular Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
On another but related note: the next World Parliament of Religions is to be held in Brussels in 2014.
From the above Website of the Council For a Parliament of World Religions:
"Mr. Miquel Mesquita da Cunha, chair of the bid committee noted that "...although the established name of Parliament of the World's Religions is to be cherished, the process involves not just religions but also in a wider sense spiritualities and convictions. Similarly, although senior leaders and thinkers from diverse traditions will speak at the event, the Parliament is very much for people from all walks of life--a feast for everyone!
"In the three years ahead, the 2014 Parliament program will be developed in close consultation with religious and convictional leaders and communities in Brussels itself, across Europe, and from around the world, so that the event reflects the perspectives and priorities of all faiths and persuasions.
"The Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium, the Government of the Brussels Capital Region and the Brussels City Hall, as well as a number of religious, social and academic leaders and communities in the country, supported the Brussels bid."
JE comments: I overstated my case when I termed Vincent Littrell's ecumenical vision a "theocratic super-state"; I already wrote Vince off-Forum to express my regret with this choice of words. For now, I'd like to ask WAISer thoughts on the following: can the cause of human rights and world peace be advanced through ecumenical activism? Won't there always be a religious tradition (or non-religious tradition) that will feel excluded...and resist?
Ecumenical Activism and World Peace
(Vincent Littrell, USA
10/27/11 5:19 PM)
At the end of my 24 October post John Eipper asked, "can the cause of human rights and world peace be advanced through ecumenical activism?"
It is my understanding that WAIS founder Professor Ronald Hilton was very interested in ecumenism and religious discussion as an integral part of WAIS. I think Professor Hilton fully recognized the reality of the mighty presence of the religious element on the world stage, despite the public wall of separation of church and state. Yet, in WAIS, aside from occasional polemics or defense of religion or some excellent pieces on specific aspects of a religion (Ernie Hunt's writing from a Christian perspective in WAIS almost always are outstanding to read), I've seen only rarely actual dialogical approaches to religion as being a factor in international diplomacy and working towards peace.
It appears to me the weight of discussion as it relates to international events and international relations in WAIS heavily leans towards the purely secular, despite the huge percentage of the world's population that adheres to religious belief that acknowledges the spiritual condition of man. I am hopeful that serious religionists in WAIS talk of their views of the place of interfaith dialogue and religion in general in international politics and decision making.
The US 2nd President John Adams, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson stated, "[it] would be the best of all possible worlds if there were no religion in it! But in this exclamation I would have been fanatical... Without religion this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company, I mean hell." (Letter to Thomas Jefferson, April 19, 1817) I agree with the late president.
Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, in her thought-provoking 2006 book The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs, states:
"I am encouraged by the fact that intercultural and interfaith efforts have become growth industries at many think tanks and universities. Almost everywhere you look, Christians, Muslims, and Jews--and often people of other faiths--are conferring, signing declarations, strategizing." (p. 279)
Madeline Albright's book is unique in that a former US Secretary of State fully acknowledges the importance of secular government policy makers' need to fully engage the religious dimension of international relations. In the introduction to the book, Bill Clinton quotes Walt Whitman, "The core of democracy is the religious element. All the religions old and new are there." (p. x) I think Whitman's statement alone reflects the need for secularists in international relations to engage more formally and seriously the religious dimension as a way towards peace. This ties into some interesting theologian discussions about the privatizing of religion and its removal from the public sphere in the West. (An interesting discussion of the alliance between Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox in the Christian context is to be found in the Winter 2011 edition of the Journal of Ecumenical Studies in the article "An Alliance of the Sacred: Prospects for a Catholic-Orthodox Partnership Against Secularism in Europe," where Catholic and Orthodox theologians find common ground on the retreat of religion from the public sphere in Europe.)
I have been beating the interfaith dialogue drum for some time in WAIS. I am convinced that the formal incorporation of the religious element into formal international diplomacy and interaction, development of a global ethic (to include an ethic of global economics), maturation of interfaith fora and organizations, and interfaith pronouncements given the weight of formal acknowledgement by national governments will bring humanity closer to world peace.
Wikipedia has an interesting discussion of the World Parliament of Religions up to the present. Regarding the opening address at the first-ever World Parliament of Religions in 1893 we read:
"The Parliament of Religions opened on 11 September 1893 at the Art Institute of Chicago. On this day Swami Vivekananda gave his first brief address. He represented India and Hinduism. Though initially nervous, he bowed to Saraswati, the goddess of learning, and began his speech with, 'Sisters and brothers of America!' To these words he got a standing ovation from a crowd of seven thousand, which lasted for two minutes. When silence was restored he began his address. He greeted the youngest of the nations in the name of 'the most ancient order of monks in the world, the Vedic order of sannyasins, a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance.' And he quoted two illustrative passages in this relation, from the Bhagavad Gita, 'As the different streams having their sources in different places, all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take, through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee!' And 'Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths that in the end lead to Me.' Despite being a short speech, it voiced the spirit of the Parliament and its sense of universality."
I think Madeline Albright sums up my thought on the importance and complexity of dialogue between religions regarding hugely contentious issues on the world stage that require, "input from many sources and with no single set of 'right' answers. A thorough consensus would require so many departures from deeply held beliefs as to be beyond the bounds of reasonable hope. Yet even stormy and inconclusive discussions will build common ground as participants shed their weaker arguments in order to shore up more vital ones. Dialogue alone is no guarantee of peace, but it is better than a status quo in which the various sides are preoccupied with preserving age-old dogmas and chastising those who even suggest revisiting them." (p. 279)
I think interfaith dialogue must and will in the fullness of time take on a greater role in the affairs of nation-state interaction as the world evolves towards higher order political unity.
JE comments: Vincent Littrell is correct: comparative religions have always been a cornerstone of WAISly inquiry; we are a "political, economic and religious Forum." (See the statement on our homepage.)
This is a significant day to discuss ecumenism. Pope Benedict, presiding today over a major inter-religious summit in Assisi, has apologized for violence committed in the name of Christianity. This can only be a positive event.
What goes around comes around. I'd like to share this posting from Prof. Hilton, dated 12 March 2000:
- Universalism and Native American Religions (Vincent Littrell, USA 11/08/11 6:59 AM)
In his 15 October post, Alain de Benoist refers to universalism as ethno-centric. Also, in another post, he was critical of the Global Ethics Foundation's lack of inclusion of Native American (and I assume religions of other indigenous peoples) in the sourcing for its mission. On both counts I have to disagree with Alain's points as I understand them.
The founder of the Global Ethics Foundation, Hans Kung, was asked by the 1993 Parliament of World religions to draft a declaration for a Global Ethic (see: http://www.parliamentofreligions.org/_includes/FCKcontent/File/TowardsAGlobalEthic.pdf ).
Professor Kung's book, Tracing the Way: Spiritual Dimensions of the World Religions, discusses indigenous people's religion and the spiritual underpinnings of those many religions that have relevance to development of a global ethic. Furthermore, Professor Kung has been a speaker at recent Parliaments of World Religions, noted for their "universalist sense," and the most recent 2009 Parliament of World Religions (at which Prof. Kung spoke) devoted significant program time to indigenous people's religion. See the following 2009 World Parliament of Religions statement of indigenous people: http://www.parliamentofreligions.org/news/index.php/2010/07/new-release-pwr-statement-of-indigenous-peoples/
Of interest in this regard is an upcoming 9 November webinar at the Council for a Parliament of World Religions website that is devoted to "Native American: Earth Based Spirituality." See: http://www.parliamentofreligions.org/news/index.php/tag/indigenous-peoples/
My point in this paragraph is that Native American, Australian Aboriginal and many other indigenous people's religions are being taken into account by large swaths of the interreligious movement to which Professor Kung is very much a member. This runs in direct counterpoint to Alain's comment.
The bottom line here is that Professor Kung's work and associations and speaking venues are highly indicative of his respect for and inclusion of indigenous people's religion into his efforts, that has the support of the Parliament of World Religions, to establish a global ethic.
Furthermore, universalism as I understand it is far from ethno-centric. Within the Baha'i context, originated in Persia, the Prophet Founder of the Baha'i Faith advocates for the "oneness of mankind." Within the context of the Parliament of World Religions, which is described as universalist, a cursory look at the major speakers puts to rest any thinking that universalism is ethno-centric (see: http://www.parliamentofreligions.org/index.cfm?n=7&sn=41 ). Speakers ranging from former US President Jimmy Carter to Anglican Church of Uganda's Canon Gideon Byamugisha to Native American Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga Nation, USA Chief Oren Lyons, were present (the list of speakers is long and distinguished, and quite representative of a large swath of humanity's religious diversity).
Wikipedia's comment on the 2009 Parliament of World Religions states, "It supported 'strengthening religious and spiritual communities' by providing a special focus on indigenous and Aboriginal spiritualities; facilitating cooperation between Pagan, Jewish, Christian, Bahai, Jain, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh and Hindu communities; crafting new responses to religious extremism; and confronting homegrown terrorism and violence."
The widely read Sufi master and universalist Fritjof Schuon (whom I've discussed before in this Forum) drew at great length in his copious writings from many spiritual traditions to include Native American spirituality. I've read some of his writings on these matters at some length (see for example Prayer Fashions Man: Fritjof Schuon On the Spiritual Life).
Universalism is far from ethno-centric, and Professor Kung's work is not prejudicial as far as I can tell, and I have read much of his work. (I'm currently working through his memoirs. His relationship with Pope Benedict the XVIth/Cardinal Ratzinger is most interesting, as is his involvement with the Vatican II Council; his book Islam: Past, Present and Future is the best overarching one-volume survey of Islamic history and thought I've seen from a Christian author who is a noted Christian theologian.)
- Universalism and Native American Religions (Vincent Littrell, USA 11/08/11 6:59 AM)
- Ecumenical Activism and World Peace (Vincent Littrell, USA 10/27/11 5:19 PM)
- "Theocratic Super-State"? (Vincent Littrell, USA 10/24/11 5:58 AM)
- "New Paradigms" and the Nation-State (Vincent Littrell, USA 10/23/11 4:31 AM)
- Universalism and Sovereignty (Alain de Benoist, France 10/11/11 11:41 AM)
- Hypocrisy, Human Rights, and a Single World-Wide Ethic (Vincent Littrell, USA 10/12/11 1:43 AM)
- Hypocrisy, Human Rights, and a Single World-Wide Ethic (John Heelan, UK 10/11/11 11:28 AM)
- Hypocrisy and Human Rights (Vincent Littrell, USA 10/11/11 4:19 AM)
- Hypocrisy and Human Rights (Jon Kofas, Greece 10/10/11 1:33 AM)
- Iran and Human Rights (Sardar Haddad, USA 10/09/11 5:02 AM)
- Law in US and Iran (Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, USA 10/07/11 1:44 AM)
- Apostasy and the Law, Continued (Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, USA 10/05/11 1:54 PM)