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1 Journal of South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Vol. XXXIII, No. 2, Winter 2010 Our Shared Religious Heritage Leon Miller* Introduction When reflecting on religious tensions today our thoughts are immediately drawn to some very crucial and fundamental issues stemming back to the Middle Eastern roots of Western Civilization. We now often think of these issues as connected with Islam. However the issues connected with the most challenging Western concerns are shared with Islam. There are indeed many Islamic scientists and scholars recognizing the need to address and resolve very analogous issues that Islam also realizes exist between cultures as well as within Islamic cultures. By realizing the power of mutually cooperating to address these shared concerns the West comes closer to embracing the full scope of its own religious heritage. The issues connected with Western efforts to build an effective International Alliance can only be accomplished by recognizing and embracing this full heritage. At the roots of the heritage of Western Civilization are factors that have influenced the development of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Out of these roots the three traditions developed by asserting that truth is revealed to humanity with the intention of improving conditions on earth. History makes evident that when human reasoning attempts to apply a deep understanding of perennial wisdom (the fundamental principles of Western Civilization’s heritage) a unifying force is generated. This unifying power laid the foundation for humanity shaping itself into cultures. It also generated insight that proved beneficial to the progression of civilization. In this article I describe the necessity for the West to embrace the full scope of its religious heritage. The foundations of Western Civilization are built on a deeply sincere desire to discern how perennial wisdom can apply to improving the human condition. Such deeply sincere intentions originate with a collaboration of the people of faith, the scientists and the philosophers of Mesopotamia. A successful International Alliance relies on reviving such collaboration as a means of generating the cooperation *Leon Miller, Instructor of Comparative Religion and Intercultural Relations, International University Audentes, Tallinn, Estonia 2 needed to address very urgent issues. This dialogue will help both Islam and The West to understand that by embracing our shared heritage we come closer to realizing valued principles that we both share. Liberalism’s vision of a global application of Human Rights is an attempt to expand peace and prosperity. The success of this depends on reconciling Universalism (or Liberalism) with the more traditional or Particularist aspects of our heritage. The difficulty in doing this is due to the failure of Liberalists and Particularists to focus on the shared principles they hope will help them both realize certain values. However there is as well an aspect of the difficulty stemming from centuries of power assertions intending to extend or protect interests. This has resulted in Realist power and interest clashes overshadowing our shared values and common heritage. There is rooted in the very foundation of Western Civilization the recognition of an unusual force at work in creation. At the most primordial level that we witness an expression of this force we recognize its tendency to organize forms into ever more complex, unified structures. We also believe that this force impelled humans into social interactions, the forming of cultures and the shaping of civilization. One segment of the Western identity is rooted in regarding this as a natural force that shaped human nature and is the basis of what fashions our relationship to nature. This segment of the Western identity claims that environmental problems are due to losing sight of how essential a connection with nature is to our sense of well-being. This viewpoint permeates many sectors of society today. It is seen as a necessary viewpoint for leading humanity toward being true to basic human nature, for the elevation of humanity (perhaps even the survival of humanity) and to the solution to our environmental crisis. Another segment of the Western identity is based on the belief that human ingenuity improves (has improved) our situation in nature. This viewpoint claims that human cognitive abilities have elevated humanity, shaped cultures and improved the human condition. Our rational capacity is regarded is a...