The Fanatic Schisms in the Family of Abraham
by Dr. Abdul Cader Asmal
The family of Abraham comprising Judaism, Christianity and Islam, is being hijacked by fanatical extremists within its ranks who threaten to erode the very core beliefs and values of each of the respective religions. For Islam it is the heretical grip of ‘terrorism’, for Judaism it is the unconditional support of the Israeli government, and for Christianity it is the provocation of Armageddon.
While there is no such thing as Islamic terrorism, conventional wisdom would have us believe, that as currently defined, while all Muslims are not terrorists most terrorists are Muslims. Muslims may feel outraged at such a stereotypical depiction but do the facts belie the observation. Since the heinous crime of 911 and the resultant retaliation against Afghanistan and the wanton devastation of Iraq, Muslim extremists have been so seduced by the heresy of AlQaeda that many have embarked upon acts of barbarity against innocent civilians, mostly fellow Muslim, including women and children, with mind-numbing impunity and savagery, contravening every principle of Islam. When hundreds of innocent Muslim civilians are slaughtered by mindless so-called suicide bombers in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan on a regular basis, and the events are barely recognized in the media, the tacit implication is that nothing better can be expected of fanatics who are acting on the belief that the mass murder of innocents in ‘God’s cause’ earns them instant ‘martyrdom’. In this regard repeated condemnations of terrorism have not worked.
The recent unprecedented remarks by Grand Mufti Sheikh AbdulAziz Al-Sheikh during the holiest day of the Hajj, the day of Arafat (Nov 26, 09) before an audience of 2.5 million pilgrims may have the desired effect among the silent majority of Muslims too intimidated by the demagoguery of the heretics. He said, “The most serious problem the Muslim community is facing lately is from deviant ideology. The deviants have abandoned the right principles of Islam and adopted a wrong creed. Suicide operations have become a curse of Muslim lands and innocent men, women and children are being killed”. (There is a singular absence of blame attributed to non-Muslims irrespective of any role they may play in initiating or perpetuating the mayhem). This message needs to be amplified and reiterated throughout every mosque in every country. This is the only hope that Muslims have of expunging the venomous heresy that Bin Laden injected into Islam. It should be the topmost priority for Muslims beside which other injustices they face from outside pale into insignificance.
But, instead of employing their resources to get their own house in order, much of the Muslim rancor is directed against Jews and Israel. Clearly what the Israeli government is doing to the Palestinians is unconscionable and as such has been condemned by the international community, and by many Jewish intellectuals and activists as compromising the fundamental Judaic principles of social equity and justice. Rabbi Michael Lerner noted, ” Ever since 1986, when we first ran our editorial,” The Occupation: Immoral and Stupid”, we have been actively challenging the American Jewish community, world Jewry, and the Israelis to recognize that the oppression of Palestinians is not only pragmatically bad for the future survival of Israel ( and for the way that it has generated increasing levels of anger at world Jewry who have refused publicly to actively distance themselves from Israeli policies and behaviours like the recent re-invasion of Gaza), but it is ethically unacceptable and a perversion of Judaism. In fact, we’ve even suggested that the Jewish community has replaced God with a fervent worship of the sanctity of Israel and the Holocaust; abandoned Judaism’s firm committment to ‘love the stranger’ and ‘justice, justice thou shalt pursue’,( Tikkun, September October, 2009). Rabbi Arthur Waskow wrote,“If the Israeli government’s behaviour and policy diverge further from the values of peace and justice rooted in prophetic and rabbinic teaching, will American Jews choose to support Israeli government policy anyway, or pursue their ethical committments?” Dr Sara Roy took up the same moral argument (Christian Science Monitor, 1/2/09), ’ Jewish intellectuals oppose racism, repression and injustice almost everywhere in the world and yet it is still unacceptable - indeed , for some it is an act of heresy - to oppose it when Israel is the oppressor. This double standard must end. As Jews in a post-Holocaust world empowered by a Jewish state, how do we as a people emerge from atrocity and abjection, empowered and also humane? How do we move beyond fear to envision something different, even if uncertain?”
Thus, while Muslims have the daunting task of getting their own house in order and they recognize exactly what their challenge is, it is upto Jews to decide whether their unconditional support of Israeli government policies is consonant with their core beliefs of Judaism and act accordingly, in other words whether the struggle for a small piece of real estate in this life can be traded for the incomprehensible grandeur of the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’.
It is also important for Muslims to focus not only on the Islamophobia that some Jews direct toward their religion, but also recognize the goodwill that others promote, as exemplified by the following statement made in response to the Reverend Pat Robertson’s derogatory remarks against Islam after the Fort Hood massacre, ‘How disappointing to see a religious leader stoop to this level, attempting to delegitimize one of the world’s great faiths based on the actions of someone who perverts its teachings’,( Mark Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religion Action Center of Reform Judaism,11/16/09)
In contrast to the monumental problem facing Islam, and the critical one confronting Judaism, that affecting Christianity is relatively minor but inherently more insidious as it is not immediately identified as a problem by the majority of Christians. It is the self-serving un-Christianlike version of the religion espoused and trumpeted by a segment of fundamentalist Triumphalist Christians who often present themselves as Zionist Christians with an avowed unconditional support of Israel. In this support they promote themselves as the champions of ‘good’, fighting against the ‘evil’ forces of Islam in the Armageddon. The emergence of the rapturous Christians in victory, would prompt the return of the Messiah and culminate in the redemption of all Christians. Jews and other lesser mortals would have to choose between conversion or damnation. Such fanatical views are widely disseminated by the likes of the Reverends Hagee, Huckabee and Parsley and not disowned by the Pat Robertsons and Franklin Grahams of this world.
Such views are clearly Islamophobic and with the tricky wars that the US is waging in Muslim countries it makes their execution that much more difficult as they reflect a ‘crusader mentality’ evoking a ‘jihadist’ response against the perceived enemy. It marginalizes Muslims who are born and bred Americans and evokes open contempt in certain quarters. For Jews it is the deepest insult to their religion as its very legitimacy is questioned. In this regard Jews can do no better than to reject the false prophets amongst the Christian Zionist movement who would give their dying support for Israel with a deal that Mephistopheles could not top.
Fortunately for both Jews and Muslims the overwhelming majority of Christians are honest fair-minded individuals who do not harbor an intrinsic hatred of either of their religious cousins. If there is some concern about Muslims it is more from a misunderstanding of the religion rather than raw Islamophobia. Islamophobia though magnified by xenophobes, does not develop in a vacuum. There are violent extremist heretics who claim justification in Islam for their barbarity. It is the imperative of Muslims to eradicate these heretics from their fold by all means possible, including intensive re-education and an active cooperation with law enforcement in a voluntary setting of reciprocal respect. This is for their own good, and the redemption of Islam.What Jews and Christians decide to do to retain the quintessence of their religious identities is their call. Muslims have no choice.