A friend forwarded to me a sermon that Rabbi Schlomo Lewis of Atlanta delivered a year ago on Rosh Hashana. A bit of Googling showed that the sermon has circulated widely. It is as strong a statement as I have seen comparing Radical Islam to Nazism, and comparing the widespread indifference to the current danger with the condition that prevailed prior to the Holocaust and World War II. http://www.examiner.com/jewish-community-in-los-angeles/rosh-ha-shana-message-from-rabbi-schlomo-lewis-atlanta-1


One should not object to the Rabbi''s emphasis on Radical Islam, and his assertion that the vast majority of Muslims are not in that category. That reflects expressions employed by President George W. Bush after 9-11 and repeated several times by President Barack Obama. It is a wise convention, and the essence of political correctness. Hopefully it will avoid a massive confrontation with a billion Muslims, the 48 countries with a Muslim majority in their population, and the near 25 percent of the votes in the United Nations General Assembly that they represent. Muslim countries also possess a major portion of the world''s energy reserves: 69 percent of oil, and 57 percent of natural gas. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Majority_Muslim_countries http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_reserves http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_gas_by_country


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Truth having some value, however, it might also be mentioned that "Radical Islam" is close to--or the same as--what is currently conventional Islam. The radicals among the Muslims are the minority that speak out against the more dominant postures proclaimed by those called Radicals by decent Christians and Jews.


There are several indications of what is dominant among Muslims. Perhaps the most striking are surveys showing what Muslims think about 9-11. Substantial majorities of the Muslims queried in eight locations (Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Palestinian territories, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, Turkey) responded that they do not believe that Arabs carried out the attacks. Seventy-five percent of those asked in Egypt, 73 percent in Turkey, and even 59 percent of those in Israel responded that they do not believe that Arabs carried out the attack. http://pewresearch.org/pubs/2066/muslims-westerners-christians-jews-islamic-extremism-september-11


The Middle East Media Research Institute (www.memri.org) is a reputable organization that translates into English and a variety of other languages the media coming from Muslim countries. It provides exposure to secular intellectuals and clerics who oppose, or express reservations about what is conventional, but also testimonies about the accuracy of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and the most hateful preaching describing Jews as dogs and monkeys, and damning all non-Muslims to be the casualties of holy war.


The predictable practice of Muslim countries to promote anti-Israel actions in international forums provides another demonstration of what is conventional Islam, as does Mahmoud Abbas'' current campaign to obtain international recognition for a Palestinian state on his terms, as well as the Palestinians'' persistent rejection of Israeli offers, and their refusal to admit that Israel is the state of the Jewish people. One can quarrel about the tactics pursued by Israel as well as the Palestinians in the current confrontation. What is impressive about Palestinian postures is the certainty with which they claim the monopoly of suffering, without conceding any responsibility for the political impasse that has prevailed for six decades.


Worrisome are the substantial communities of Muslims who have migrated to western countries from various parts of Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. Their communities include prominent critics of parochial and hateful Islam, but also individuals who have contributed their voices and actions to anti-western violence. A summary of numerous surveys shows a mixed picture about the assimilation of those communities. On the issue of 9-11, a substantial majority of British Muslims and pluralities of German and Spanish Muslims do not believe that Arabs carried out the attacks. Among French Muslims, there is a small plurality difference admitting that Arabs were responsible. pewglobal.org/files/pdf/253.pdf


One can quarrel about the nature of religion, and how much of the politics is a reflection of religious doctrine, per se. Islam, like Judaism and Christianity, has accumulated an endless collection of doctrinal expressions by individuals and organizations recognized as authoritative. The doctrines are subject to interpretation. There is also room in each faith for customs that have developed in numerous ethnic cultures, even those which are said to contradict formal doctrines.


One can argue until the arrival, or re-arrival of one or another Messiah about the essence of each faith. Prominent themes have changed over time, despite claims of orthodoxy or eternal truth. Each of the monotheistic faiths has doctrines that deserve the labels of humane and accommodating, as well as the labels of parochial and hateful of outsiders and apostates. Judaism turned inward after the Romans destroyed their homeland, and Christians have rejected anti-Semitism since the Holocaust. Jews who claim that Arabs are the remnants of Amelekites who deserve their Biblical punishment, and Christians who persist in their efforts to convert the Jews are minorities who embarrass the mainstreams in each community.


There are Muslims who would follow similar paths to western openness and tolerance of others, and see such developments as the keys to economic development and personal fulfillment. There is no clear indication that they are anything but a minority, however, commenting on the fringes of societies whose leadership and mainstream are stuck in another mind set.


The minority of critics are the true radicals of Islam, standing against what others may be wise to label Radical Islam. While adhering to the wisdom of what is politically correct, we ought to recognize who the real radicals are, and provide them with all the encouragement that non-Muslims can offer.




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