The Boston Globe (May 19, 2005) published an op-ed Why Islam is disrespected, by Jeff Jacoby. Here is my response:
The Guilty Lamb
by Israel Shamir
Muslims can’t be respected if a simple come-on like wasting of the Koran works them up into a frenzy, exclaims Jeff Jacoby , and they go around murdering innocent folk; while “decent people”, Catholics, Jews and Buddhists take it easy if “someone has offended their religious sensibilities”.
If that were the case, we still may respect the Muslim world. Our indifference to sacrilege and their awareness of things sacred would imply that our profaned civilisation is doomed to extinction to be replaced by the Muslim one, alive and vibrant.
But it is not the case at all. Jacoby is speaking through his hat. His piece reminded me, an Israeli writer from Jaffa, of a Jewish joke: “Is it true that Katz won a million dollar in a lottery?” “Yes, it is true, but it was poker, not a lottery; ten dollar, not a million, and he lost, not won.” Every statement in Jacoby’s piece is wrong, and it is not a small achievement.
Jacoby notes “widespread Muslim rioting… brutal threats and the slaughter of 17 innocent people” and exclaims: “decent people do not resort to murder just because someone has offended their religious sensibilities”. How true! But it is not that the Muslim fanatics murdered seventeen innocent American investigators. Other way around, peacefully protesting Muslims were killed by American occupation forces and their auxiliaries in Afghanistan, Gaza and Andijan. The slaughtered innocents were Muslims, while the slaughtering brutes were paid for their deed by the US taxpayer.
Jacoby offers a positive example: “Jewish communities [didn’t] erupt in lethal violence in 2000, after Arabs demolished Joseph’s Tomb, torching the ancient shrine and murdering a young rabbi who tried to save a Torah.” Again, all wrong. Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus is an old Muslim shrine; it was not demolished but rebuilt by the Muslim Nablus municipality; the only Israeli that died at the fighting at the Tomb was not “a young rabbi who tried to save a Torah”, but a Druze mercenary. Jewish community, otherwise known as the Jewish state of Israel, indeed erupted in lethal violence: Israelis killed over twenty Muslims at the shrine and hundreds more elsewhere.
Jacoby writes: “It would be unthinkable for a mainstream rabbi to demand that a blasphemer be slain.” However, this ‘unthinkable’ happens daily: many mainstream rabbis issued a fatwa amounting to a death sentence to a person involved in the ‘sacrilege’ of Gaza disengagement. It worries our Chief of Security Services; he spoke of it on the national TV. Jacoby could read of it in our Haaretz and elsewhere. The calls to “exterminate Muslims” are quite common, too; witness this graffiti on a wall in Israel-occupied Hebron.
Moreover, every case of sacrilege against Jewish holy places – graffiti on a synagogue’s wall or in a cemetery, - causes hundreds of thousands Europeans and Americans to march in solidarity, while Kofi Annan calls up a special meeting of the UN General Assembly and the heads of states fly into Jerusalem to swear their full support of the Jews. Thus Jewish religious sensitivities are well protected; in addition, Israeli law allows for snatching and trying in Israel of every person who committed such an act anywhere on earth. If it is not enough, France, Germany and a few other states have a special law punishing an offence given to Jewish sensitivities by long imprisonment, and there are a few dozen offenders languishing presently in European jails for this misdeed.
However, Muslim sensitivities are protected neither by the UN, nor by national law, nor by mass demonstrations of Europeans and Americans. I doubt the US interrogators guilty of offending the Muslims will land in jail next to Ernst Zundel who offended the Jews. This week, the Jewish state did not allow the Muslim retired leader Mahathir Muhammad to pray at the holy al-Aqsa mosque in occupied Jerusalem – and this flagrant breach of freedom of worship did not bring the UN into an emergency meeting. So much for Muslim sensitivities and for our concern!
The reasons offered by Jacoby as to “why Islam is disrespected” collapsed as a house of cards in the fresh wind of reality. May I venture a better reason?
Islam is disrespected – not by us, but by Jacobys of this world because it has little influence; because it is peaceful and non-aggressive; because the Muslims still do not understand why they are attacked in the Globe and tortured in Guantánamo. Islamic militancy never had deep roots in the Muslim world – this was created from scratch by the CIA in order to fight Russians in Afghanistan and Chechnya. Pro-American Muslim activists were surprised to find themselves framed as The Enemy, when, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the US proclaimed them ‘the main threat to world peace’. The Muslims were as guilty as the lamb in the La Fontaine fable, guilty for the Wolf was hungry. The US military complex needed an enemy to justify its expenses; the pro-Zionist media needed an enemy to justify multi-billion transfers to the Jewish state; and the Islamic world was chosen for the role of the Villain.
It was not prepared for this role; wealthy Muslims invested in the US stocks and bought the US hardware; they stay in the dollar zone and spend their dividends buying Western goods. Even now, ten years after the beginning of the War to Islam, they can’t understand the problem and respond.
They have means, and perfectly peaceful, too. The Muslims may put pressure on dollar and on US securities. They may buy up the US media and turn the tables on Jacobys and his kin. But it does not happen: the Muslims do not assert themselves in the media and do not act on the financial markets. Apparently, they are satisfied with sitting in their sitting rooms, thumbing the Boston Globe and pondering, “why Islam is disrespected?’