[FOUNTAIN]Brother against brother“Fry beans with bean stalks as fuel. Beans wept sadly in the wok. From the same root we both grew. What’s the big hurry in the grill?”
Eighteen centuries ago, the Chinese poet Cao Zhi composed the famous “Quatrain of Seven Steps” for his brother, Cao Pi, the Emperor Wen of Wei. The poem was composed extemporaneously after Cao Pi threatened to punish Cao Zhi if he failed to produce a poem within seven strides. Cao Zhi compared the situation of a powerful brother persecuting the other, despite being born to the same parents, to beans and bean stalks.
The meaning of the poem can be applied to Islam and Christianity today. The religions at odds after the September 11 terror attacks and the Iraq War actually share the same root. Both believe in the Old Testament. Muslims and Christians alike believe in God, Creation, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the genealogy from Abraham through Isaac to Jacob and the promise of God. Both embrace heaven and hell, angels and demons. Muslims consider Jesus a saint and pay him respect. The difference is that according to the Koran, Muhammad and his followers were the descendants of Ishmael, Abraham’s son by his servant Hagar, and the first Christians and Jews are supposedly the descendants of Isaac, the heir of Abraham by his wife Sarah. With so many aspects in common, some religious scholars categorize Judaism, Christianity and Islam together as monotheisms. Buddhism and Hinduism are religions believing in reincarnation.
In a letter to U.S. President George W. Bush sent on May 8, the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cited many biblical characters and referred to the bond shared by the two religions. Mr. Ahmadinejad asked, “If the prophets Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Ishmael, Joseph or Jesus Christ were with us today, how would they have judged such behavior (of the United States)?” He also demanded explanations on how the unlawful detention of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay corresponds to the teachings of Jesus, human rights or liberal values. He stressed that Christianity and Islam come from the same root and advised Washington not to be so hostile. The New York Times online edition titled its article on the letter, “Using Religion to Lecture Bush.”
Mr. Bush ignored the letter, and some Western media derided it as a publicity stunt. However, people around the world are talking about Mr. Ahmadinejad’s advice. Encouraged by the attention, he is ready to push for nuclear development. Why all the handiworks of the Creator and the descendants of Abraham should fight one another?
by Chae In-taek
The writer is a deputy international news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.