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Divided by the Same Father

Author: Reza Aslan, Adjunct Senior Fellow
November 30, 2012
Tony Blair Faith Foundation


This article appeared on the Tony Blair Faith Foundation's Religion and Conflict blog.

In Hebron stands the Tomb of the Patriarchs, one of the most important sites in all of the Holy Land. This is the place that tradition says Abraham, the father of the three great monotheistic faiths and the man that Time Magazine dubbed the "interfaith superstar" a few years back, lies buried.

Yet as much people of faith like to view the great Patriarch as a symbol of everything that binds Judaism, Christianity, and Islam together as one unified faith, the truth is that here, in this holy place, he is often more emblematic of the deep suspicion and mutual mistrust that exists between the those call Abraham, father. Indeed, it was not that long ago that a zealous Israeli settler named Baruch Goldstein opened fire on a group of Muslims who were praying at Abraham's tomb, killing twenty nine worshippers before being killed himself.

Perhaps no conflict in modern times has so thoroughly taken on the patina of religious war more than the decades-long conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. For many around the world, this conflict long ago ceased being about land, or resources, or competing national narratives. Rather, it has become "a contest over whether or not the word of God is true," to quote Oklahoma Republican Senator James Inhofe.

So for example, in the imaginations of a broad coalition of increasingly radicalized Jewish groups in Israel, the confrontation with Palestinians is viewed through the lens of the mythological battles fought by the ancient Israelites against God's enemies.

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