Police at al-Aksa Mosque, Temple Mount, Jerusalem, October 13, 2014.
(photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)
On the eve of Succot, dozens of masked Muslim youths threw rocks, fire bombs, fireworks, metal pipes and concrete slabs at police officers and non-Muslim visitors to the Temple Mount.
This vicious attack was premeditated, according to police. The rioters ascended the Temple Mount the night before and slept at one of the mosques so as to orchestrate the assault and build barricades to block police. Photos in Arabic media showed stones of different sizes stockpiled inside the mosque, some wrapped in prayer rugs. This was a protest against non-Muslim visitors, planned to coincide with the beginning of Succot.
In the wake of the attack, police decided to close the Temple Mount for at least one day to non-Muslim visitors, including hundreds of Jews who planned to come during the holiday to what they consider to be the holiest place on earth.
Deputy Knesset Speaker Moshe Feiglin attacked the police’s decision to close the Temple Mount to Jewish worshipers during the holiday, when many Jews make a traditional pilgrimage to Jerusalem. “Hamas and ISIS have taken control of the Temple Mount,” he told reporters. He critiqued the government’s actions as a form of capitulation and noted that the Mount has fallen into the hands of extremists.
The police reaction was indeed a surrender to Muslim religious extremism – one of the biggest threats to liberal, open societies in the 21st century.
Perhaps the most infamous recent case of caving in to Muslim extremists was the Danish cartoon controversy.
Late in 2005, after Jyllands-Posten ran a competition for cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, Muslims around the world rioted, saying any depiction of Muhammad’s face should be punished by death. By the time the hysteria had been called off by those who incited it, perhaps as many as 200 people had been pointlessly killed.
Most of the news media around the world self-censored their coverage, refusing to show the cartoons out of fear Muslim extremists would target them.
The cartoon controversy was an example of how capitulation to Muslim extremism leads to the curtailing of the freedom of the press. In the Temple Mount example, religious freedom is being trampled. But the same logic is at work.
Out of fear that Muslim fanatics will riot, commit attacks and injure or even murder innocent people for doing nothing more than exercise rights that any self-respecting democracy should protect, the police chose the easy way out.
Instead of enforcing the law and protecting the rights of Jews and non-Jews to have access to the Temple Mount, the police caved in to the extremists.
The implication is that Jews who demand to exercise their right to visit the Temple Mount are to be held accountable for the violence committed by Muslim rioters. This line of thinking relieves rioters of responsibility for their actions and places the blame for their crimes on others.
But the fact remains that when someone instigates something, he or she intends for it to happen. If it is a riot, that person has fomented it. If it is murder, that person has colluded in it. People with free will orchestrated the rioting on the Temple Mount. No one forced them to behave the way they did.
By accepting the reasoning that Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount cause unrest and riots, police are essentially blaming the victim. It is similar to the argument Muslim extremists sometimes make that when women will not wear the veil, they provoke those who rape or disfigure them.
Backing down to religious fanatics leads to a number of bad, and potentially destructive, outcomes. Perhaps the most insidious is the abandonment of Western values in the face of threats from extremists who, if we let them, will send us all back to a medieval society based not on freedom but on religious fundamentalism.
In a way, religious extremists perform an important function. They challenge our core Western values and force us to stand up for what we too often take for granted.
We forget that much blood was spilled in the fight for these rights.