A Passage to Peace: Global Solutions from East and West

22 Dec

Reviewed by: Fakiha Hassan Rizvi

Authors: Nur Yalman and Daisuka Ikeda 

Published by I.B.Tauris in 2009

Genre: Global Peace, Inter state relations

About the Authors
Nur Yalman 
is a Professor of Anthology and Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University. His area of interest  includes the religion and politics of South Asian, Central Asian, Middle Eastern countries and other Muslim societies.
Daisuka Ikeda is the President of Soka Gakkai International (Buddhist organization). Ikeda received the United Nations Peace Award in 1993 and has been awarded with more than 240 academic degrees.

This book is a profound and coherent dialogue on interesting global themes. The conversation between Ikeda (Japanese) and Yulman (Turk) unveils the intricate similarities that resonate among Asia’s powerful states. It’s an enticing rhetoric by the learned men, highlighting the societal, religious, cultural and humanistic values, common between Japan and Turkey. During the discourse, they also develop a consensus on mutual understanding, empathy, global governance and dialogue as the gateway to peace.
The book is divided into contents that fall under 10 broad categories:

1) Cultural Resonances
* The spirit of global citizenship
Ikeda and Yulman acknowledge each others’ command on various subjects of religion and culture. They start the dialogue through ‘respect’ for difference in opinion.

*Istanbul– where East and West meet
The financial hub of Turkey (Istanbul) is a unique cultural fusion of Persian, Arabian, Mongol, Greek, Russian, Balkan and East- European. It is located at a place where East meets the West. Ikeda tells Yalman that out of the 54 countries that he has visited, Turkey has a great impression on him. Yalman also regards Istanbul as the most exotic city in the world, only Bangkok can be compared to it.

*Spiritual siblings
Ikeda relates religious proximity with the colours in Japanese and Turkish flags. Japan with a red sun and white background and Turkey with a white crescent and star on a red ground. Yulman focuses on understanding minorities and diversity.

* Floral Preferences
Blossoming cherry tree represents Japan. Roses are related with Turkish poetry. Dutch were introduced to Tulips by Turks in the 16th century.

*Lively tradition of popular literature
Important Turkish writers include Yasar Kemal and Orhan Pamuk (Nobel Prize winner). Hikmet was controversial as he was considered as communist. Reflections of Islamic mystics like Rumi, Yunus Emre and other poets can be seen in the works of Man’yoshu (Collection of ten thousand leaves) and the Kokin Wakashu (Collected Japanese Poems from Ancient and Modern Times).

*Women in Society
Yalman tells Ikeda that covering the head is not a characteristic feature of Islamic societies, only. ‘Veiling is a demonstration of the idea that, as special, even sacred people, women need to be protected.’ Ikeda believes in gender equality to the extent that female subjugation fades.

*In the Marketplace
Ikeda described the price variation as an odd feature of Islamic economy, while Yalman explains that universal pricing is a negative feature of globalization. Ikeda relates this with the Japanese term benkyo-suru (to study) that also means ‘to offer discount’.

*Festivals in Funerals
Turkey is more agile in celebrating religious festivities like Eid, celebration at the end of Hajj. Ikeda tells about Lotus Sutra introduced by Japanese priest and philosopher Nichiren.

*Buddhism is Peace promoter
Ikeda considers religion as a liberator for human soul that directs it towards self-realization. He explains how Soka Gakkai thwarts religious authoritarianism by propagating a revitalized religion that is beneficial for the people. Yalman adds that Buddhism doesn’t have any history of coercion or domination by force, except when it was used at the hands of national or ethnic powers.

2) Loyalty to all Humanity
*Cultivating enduring amity ( goal of the dialogue)

*Dramatic starting point
Yalman traces down relations between Japan and Turkey to 19th century

*Linguistic similarities
Grammatical similarities, the ability of Japanese to learn Turkish fast and vice versa. Hopscotch, marble, kites and tops are used for playing by Japanese and Turk children.

*Land of many proverbs
Turkish proverb  ‘Lies last only as long as liars’ money. Japanese proverb ‘Time reveals the lie’.

* Resisting Imperialism
Both, Turkey and Japan have resisted imperialism

* The common good
Lack of good leadership is felt in the East as well as in the West. Vision, action and global citizenry should evolve to work for common good of humanity.

3) Peace Within and Without 
*Ataturk’s Reforms
Turkey’s endeavour to join the European Union and its cooperation with Europeans since Ataturk became the first president of Turkey.

*Separation of Religion and Politics
Yalman describes Turkish parliamentary system as a better one that presents a strong case for separating religion from politics.

* Education
As a tool for knowing each other, eliminating prejudices and ignorance.

*Global partnership
Overcoming differences in order to engender humanism at a global level through constructive dialogue.

4) Mutual Understanding For a Better World

5) Intercultural Communion 
* Dialogue as the solution
*The peril of stereotypes 
* The challenge of globalization

6) Empathy and our shared Humanity

7) Reviving Asian Humanism

8) Global Governance

9) Dialogue: the Magna Carta of civilization

10) New Paths for education

Critical Analysis 
The book has been written with a simple language, which supports its’ theme of mutual understanding. For the reader, it is not hard to imagine Ikeda and Yalman conversing with each other. A glossary at the end of the book leads to better understanding of the key personalities/terms in Japan and Turkey that are mentioned in the conversation. It’s an exemplary model of ‘dialogue’ for intellectuals around the world to follow. No where in the dialogue a disagreement was found. A smooth exchange of ideas, perceptions and opinions was neatly knitted for the reader, impelling him/her to admit the ‘power of the dialogue’. As harmony between the East and the West is dependent upon such dialogues, which aim at resolving differences instead of inflaming conflicts. 

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Posted by on December 22, 2012 in Book Review


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