My word: Tears and fears

Apart from calling for unity and solidarity, leaders need to be strong enough to defend their values.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini reacts to news of the Belgium blasts in Amman (photo credit: REUTERS)
European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini reacts to news of the Belgium blasts in Amman
(photo credit: REUTERS)
I cry easily. I’m the sort of person who watches romantic comedies and sheds a tear. I have smudged the pages of “chick-lit” paperbacks. I cry at the end of Mary Poppins when (spoiler alert for the rare reader who hasn’t seen it) the magical nanny flies away to help a different family.
Many documentaries have reduced me to tears. And, yes, I occasionally sob or at least sniff during a news broadcast.
My eyes have watered as I’ve interviewed the victims of terrorism and war, although I’ve never had to stop in the middle.
In short, I understand what caused European foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to break down during a press conference at the Foreign Ministry in Amman as she responded to the news of the terrorist attacks in Belgium on March 22.
While having to leave the podium in tears clearly made Mogherini appear more human, it did nothing to improve her standing as a leader.
As Myriam Ibn Arabi, who describes herself as a Moroccan- French Muslim “in war against Islamism” posted on Facebook (and I’m translating it from the French): “Continue to light candles, to make drawings, to hug and brag ‘not afraid’ and to widen the gulf of silliness with ‘Je suis Charlie,’ ‘Je suis Paris,’ ‘Je suis Bruxelles’.... NO!! I AM NOT A CITY!! I AM IN A WAR!!....
“When I see the head of European diplomacy Federica Mogherini whining at a press conference, I want to shout: ‘...Give me a Margaret Thatcher or a Golda Meir!!!’” It’s natural to cry, but a leader can’t be paralyzed by tears and fears.
CRITICIZING MOGHERINI is easier than feeling the need to publicly contradict the pope, but we all have a job to do.
Pope Francis, while condemning the attacks in Brussels, prostrated himself at an asylum center outside Rome on March 24 and washed the feet of migrants of different faiths in a pre-Easter ceremony calling for harmony and fraternity.
“All of us together, Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, Copts, Evangelical [Protestant] brothers and sisters – children of the same God – we want to live in peace, integrated,” said the pope as he performed the ritual that could be seen as an act of servitude. Reportedly, a number of migrants from Nigeria, Mali, Eritrea, India, Syria and Pakistan began crying as the pontiff knelt before them.
I don’t doubt the genuine sentiment behind the act of humility. But the naiveté is stunning. It’s the same type of thinking that led to the decision to cover up nude statues at Rome’s Capitoline Museum in January when Iranian President Hassan Rouhani met the pope there during a visit in the wake of the nuclear deal (and before the Islamic Republic in March tested two ballistic missiles with the neither peaceful nor subtle statement “Israel should be wiped off the face of the Earth” printed in Hebrew on their sides).
Yes, this is the time to call for unity and solidarity, but that is not enough.
I’m pleased to see that, so far, the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, is maintaining dignity and her role as “defender of the faith.” The head of a church should call for peace and act against hatred. They should also be prepared to defend their values.
While Pope Francis was washing the feet of Muslim and other migrants, the fate of Father Tom Uzhunnallil, an Indian Catholic priest abducted in Yemen a few weeks ago, remained unknown, although Islamic State reportedly had expressed its intention to crucify him on Good Friday.
Uzhunnallil was kidnapped at gunpoint from a missionary home in Aden during an ISIS raid in which 16 people were killed. Shed a tear for them – the unknown victims, the ones not killed in Brussels or Paris.
The attack on a playground in Pakistan this week did get a lot of coverage (despite the massive number of complaints I received about it being overlooked). Even the pope noticed. He called the attack “hideous” and demanded that Pakistani authorities do more to protect religious minorities. At least 70 people were killed, including more than 20 children. It was reportedly carried out by a splinter group of the Pakistan Taliban, and aimed at Christians celebrating Easter Sunday in the park.
I cried when I saw the images of mangled children there too, just as I cried when I saw the photos of the young Iraqis killed when an ISIS suicide bomber blew himself up at a soccer stadium in a mainly Shi’ite town south of Baghdad on March 26. At least 30 people were killed and nearly 100 wounded, but I guess it wasn’t close enough to home to make Mogherini weep.
I was one of many who balked at the wording used by most of the British press to describe the murder on Easter Saturday of a Muslim shopkeeper in Glasgow. The killing was largely referred to as “an act of religious hatred.” Well, it certainly wasn’t brotherly love that led another Muslim to repeatedly stab 40-year-old Asad Shah in the head with a kitchen knife shortly after he posted a message on Facebook wishing a happy Easter to his “beloved Christian nation.”
As Douglas Murray noted in an op-ed in the Spectator titled “The questions nobody wants to ask about Asad Shah’s murder,” referring to it as an act of “religious hatred” left readers “with the distinct feeling that – post-Brussels – the Muslim shopkeeper must have been killed by an ‘Islamophobe.’ Had that been the case, by now the press would be crawling over every view the killer had ever held and every Facebook connection he had ever made. They would be asking why he had done it and investigating every one of his associates.”
As Murray pointed out, Shah was an Ahmadi Muslim, “a member of – against some stiff competition – one of the most persecuted sects within Islam,” partly because its peace-loving members, among other things, reject the concept of jihad.
JIHAD IS taking place, though some will still deny it – from either fear of the evil it represents or the stupidity of fearing something that contradicts the conventions of political correctness.
I was not surprised, and although they kept quiet, I assume the Turkish Jewish community wasn’t surprised either when an intelligence source told Sky News that Islamic State intended to target Jewish kindergartens, schools and youth centers, with the most likely target being an Istanbul synagogue with a community center and school attached.
A few hours before the broadcast, the Israeli government issued a red alert calling on all Israelis to leave Turkey immediately, apparently following intelligence of a possible imminent attack. After the deaths of three Israelis in a terror attack in Istanbul the previous week, the warning carried extra impact and urgency.
Paris, Brussels and Turkey are proof that what starts with the Jews rarely ends there. French Jews have felt they’re under increasing threat since what has become known as the Toulouse school massacre in March 2012, when Rabbi Yonatan Sandler, 30, along with his two sons, Aryeh, six, and Gavriel, three, and eight-year-old Miriam Monsonego, were shot and killed at point-blank range by Mohammed Merah. (Thinking about it still makes me cry.) That, of course, was well before the Islamist atrocities committed in Paris at Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper Cacher supermarket at the beginning of 2015, and the attacks of November, in which some 130 people were killed.
The Belgian Jewish community increased security in the wake of the attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels in May 2014, in which two Israeli tourists and a French volunteer were killed.
Only now is the full extent of the involvement of ISIS-inspired terrorists exploiting Europe’s open borders and innocence being exposed.
Turkey’s Jews also know to take the threats seriously. The world has largely forgotten the November 2003 attacks in which bomb-laden trucks crashed into two synagogues in Istanbul, with a death toll of 23 (most of them Muslim passersby).
Given all these reasons to cry, two incidents provided a slightly perverted form of light relief this week. The first was the discussion over whether Cadbury’s had removed or played down the word “Easter” on its famous chocolate eggs for fear of upsetting the Muslim population or because it could date the product and affect post-holiday sales.
The second event that thankfully ended not in tears but smirks was the hijacking of an EgyptAir plane from Cairo to Cyprus by a lovesick professor of veterinary medicine, apparently in a bid to regain the affections of his ex-wife.
He certainly gained her attention. The Guardian quoted a Foreign Ministry official in Cairo as saying: “He’s not a terrorist, he’s an idiot. Terrorists are crazy but they aren’t stupid. This guy is.”
Also stupid is passenger Ben Innes, who took what he described as “the best selfie ever” with the hijacker.
It would make me laugh (for a change) if it wasn’t so pathetic – and so dangerous.
The culture in which the ultimate selfie is a goal; when jihadists flaunt their aim to maim, kill and rule; when leaders cry and grovel in public; and when airline security is evidently still frighteningly lax – all this does not bode well for the weepy.
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