No Holds Barred: Suicide bombers in heaven?

Refusing to disassociate the God of Muhammad from ’martyrs’ makes a mockery of all those who purport to represent Islam.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf 311 (photo credit: AP)
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf 311
(photo credit: AP)
When you detonate explosives attached to your torso, decapitating people on a bus or disemboweling little children at a kindergarten, do you go to heaven or hell? Are you a martyr or a murderer? Heroic or heinous? While the answer might seem straightforward to some, it clearly flummoxed Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, he of the Ground Zero mosque controversy, when it was asked of him by Barbara Walters in her 2006 TV special on heaven.
In response to the question, Rauf said, “One of the things we are taught is never to say somebody will go to hell or somebody will go to heaven. It is up to God to decide.”
Hmmm. Then allow me to play God for a moment.
Suicide bombers go to hell. Period.
There. That’s settled. Their souls are dispatched to the darkest reaches of the blackest netherworld, where they suffer for all eternity in the anal cavities of the universe, separated forever from God.
As President Barack Obama might say, let me be clear.
I bear no animosity to Rauf, but find his piety in refusing to speculate as to the final celestial resting place of cold-blooded mass murderers both amoral and disingenuous. If men and women who blow up children and defenseless civilians end up in heaven, then heaven is merely a euphemism for hell. If God would reward those who dismember innocent passengers on a bus with high explosives by granting them eternal bliss, then the Creator is in league with the devil, and deserves not our worship but our ridicule, not our praise but our contempt.
FORTUNATELY, THE God that I as a Jew worship, and which is the same God that most of my Muslim brothers and sisters worship, is not the God Rauf discussed. My God is merciful to the innocent and compassionate to the forlorn, but judges the truly wicked and punishes the heartless and cruel. A protector of women and children, He will visit eternal damnation on cowardly assassins who make them into widows and orphans.
Refusing to disassociate the God of Abraham and Muhammad from suicide bombers makes a mockery of all those who purport to represent Islam. Islam is a moral religion. It believes in right and wrong. Like Judaism and Christianity, it condemns murder. Like any moral system, it champions life. So it is incumbent upon Rauf to state unequivocally that suicide bombers will receive the retribution that’s coming to them.
The foremost sin of any religious leader is moral relativism, a failure to lead in the face of ethical anarchy.
A rabbi, priest or imam has a responsibility to provide definitive moral direction about events, people and places that must fall under the rubric of either Right or Wrong. If we were to ask Rauf whether unrepentant pedophiles go to heaven, would he be ambivalent? A preparedness to criticize one’s own community when some of its members are guilty of serious moral lapses is the hallmark of courageous leadership and religious integrity. When in February 1994 Baruch Goldstein slaughtered 29 innocent Muslims in a Hebron mosque, some rabbis shamed themselves by citing mitigating circumstances. They shunned any comparison between Goldstein and an Islamic suicide bomber. He was a doctor whose friends had been stabbed, they said, and so he snapped. He saw too many Jews murdered, so he became unhinged. He was privy to secret intelligence that the Muslims were about to slaughter the Jews of Hebron, so he struck a preemptive blow.
Every one of these cowardly excuses was a betrayal of a rabbi’s responsibility to teach and enforce the Ten Commandments, among which the most serious is “Thou shalt not murder.” Goldstein lost his mind when he saw too many Jews murdered in terror attacks? Really? Then why didn’t the Jews of Hitler’s Europe, immersed in a cauldron where 15,000 of their brethren were gassed and cremated every day for four years, ever blow up a German kindergarten? Why didn’t the Jews of Soviet Russia, who lived for generations under the brutal boot of the KGB, ever detonate a Russian bus? Because the Torah commands us to punish only the guilty.
There is no excuse for murder. Under any circumstances. Ever. Killing is justified only in self-defense. Goldstein, whatever virtue he accrued as a doctor who saved lives, forfeited all when he decided to become a mass murderer and an abomination to Judaism.
But having said this, let’s be fair.
There have been precious few Baruch Goldsteins and all too many Islamic suicide bombers. And if high-profile “moderate” Islamic leaders like Rauf fail to condemn them in the harshest terms, then Islam risks becoming an accessory to murder. The suicide bomber affronts every truth Islam claims to represent. That a Western imam, who enjoys the freedoms and liberties of the United States, is undecided on the question of whether suicide bombers go to heaven is deeply troubling.
And if Rauf feels he has been misquoted or misunderstood, then let him immediately explain himself or correct the quote. Better yet, let him apologize for his appalling lack of judgment and the unfortunate desecration he has brought to a great faith.
The writer hosts ‘The Shmuley Show’ on 77 WABC in NYC. He is the founder of This World: The Values Network, and is the author, most recently, of Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.