Where is my brother, my keeper?

I respect Muslims. But why wouldn't they condemn these odious celebrations?

gaza celebrate 63 (photo credit: )
gaza celebrate 63
(photo credit: )
The sight of Gazans rejoicing at the cold-blooded murder of eight yeshiva students who had not hurt anyone was particularly jolting for me. I am a religious man and feel an immediate affinity with all who profess a love for God and strive to live a life of religious devotion. Meeting religious people of different faiths is always a great pleasure for me. I feel an immediate sense of kinship with them. When I meet religious Muslims in the United States my feelings go beyond kinship, to sympathy. I realize that many Americans are suspicious of religious Muslims, viewing them as a fifth column. I therefore go out of my way to express my brotherhood to them. I want them to know that as a Jew and as an American I stand with them in their desire to live a devout Islamic life. I want them to know that I admire their love of God and their devotion to their ancestral traditions. I also want them to know that I see in them my brother, a fellow child of Abraham. In the current presidential drama, much has been made of the fact that Barack Obama's middle name is Hussein. The Obama campaign has fought a rearguard action against rumors that he is a Muslim, forcing the senator to make public proclamations that he is a Christian and has never been a Muslim. But, for my part, I could not care less if America had a Muslim president. Indeed, a president who feared God, from any faith, would be something that I would welcome. As long as his faith led him to a life of justice, righteousness and love of humanity, I would welcome a Muslim president as much as I would welcome a Christian or Jewish - or indeed atheist - president who was similarly committed to rectitude, decency and goodness. BUT WHAT shakes me to my core is when some of my Muslim brothers and sisters rejoice at the deaths of innocent Jews, particularly those who are at prayer in their yeshiva. When Baruch Goldstein did the same thing, killing 29 innocent Arabs in a mosque, I told the press in England, where I was living at the time, that this religious Jew had committed an abomination before God and that this killer had betrayed his Jewish faith in the most horrible way imaginable. A few extremist Jewish acquaintances were aghast at my pronouncement. They told me, "Shmuley, don't you know that Goldstein had information that the Arabs in Hebron were planning a pogrom against the Jews, and Goldstein was able to stop it by shooting up the mosque?" Their words caused me indescribable pain. "I can't believe you're saying this. We're religious Jews. We believe in the Ten Commandments, the fulcrum of which is 'Do not murder.' "If Goldstein had that information, he could have taken it to the authorities. What he could not do is shoot up innocent men and children. Those people he killed are God's children. "Have you been so scarred by the Arab-Israeli conflict that you have ceased to see the image of God in those innocent victims? Have you become so hardened by this conflict that you could somehow justify the taking of innocent lives at prayer?" AND TO my Arab brothers and sisters, I ask the same question. I know many of you hate Israel. I know many of you believe that Israel is an occupying power. To be sure, I couldn't disagree more. Israel is a great bastion of democracy and humanity, the only place, aside from America-created Iraq, where Arabs actually vote in the Middle East. It is arguably the only country in the Middle East where Arab citizens can read the truth in a newspaper, can peacefully and fearlessly protest the government, and can petition impartial courts that very often take the Arab side against the Jewish side. But, for argument's sake, even if you're right and Israel is a terrible place, does that justify the murder of innocent boys who were studying the Torah? Has your hatred of Israel reached a point where you can no longer see the image of God in a Jew? Have you been so scarred by the conflict that even as innocent families mourn their dead students, you can dance in the streets with joy? And if you've come to that point, can you not see that your own humanity has been compromised? I recognize that those who danced represent a small and extremist minority. The vast majority of Muslims are kind and God-fearing people. But why, then, do more Muslims not publicly condemn and repudiate these haters? Baruch Goldstein's actions were condemned in the strongest and most public terms by 98 percent of all the world's rabbis. Should we not be hearing the same from our Muslim counterparts when yeshiva boys are murdered in cold blood? I realize, my Muslim brethren, that you have many innocent dead that you mourn as well. I know that when Israel strikes back against terrorists who hide behind civilians, many completely innocent men, women, and children die. That is terrible, and I mourn those deaths with you. The instruments of war are imprecise. Were it that bullets would only take the lives of those devoted to the deaths of innocents instead of the innocents themselves. But how can that justify the intentional targeting of innocent students? The African-American community suffered the horrors of slavery in our country, the world's greatest democracy. Innocent men and women were put to the lash for no other reason other than that their skin was darker than a white's. Yet they never retaliated by setting up bombs in white communities and killing children. THE JEWS were turned into soap and lampshades by the Germans. One million of our children were gassed to death. Prof. Jonathan Webber took me, outside Krakow, to a clearing in the woods where 800 Jewish orphans had their brains dashed against the rocks. You see, they were too small to obey orders, to stand in one place for the machine guns to shoot them in the head. So the Nazi soldiers were ordered to crack their skulls against a tree. And still, even amid this atrocity, the Jews never retaliated by walking into German schools and firing on teachers and students. I believe the reason is that both the African-American and Jewish communities never wanted their humanity compromised by their oppressors. They did not wish to allow those who hated them to make their own hearts rancid. They wanted to remain moral even if their assailants were not. I realize that we disagree totally on Israel. But Islam is a great world religion. It preaches love, kindness, and goodness. Its practitioners are similarly compassionate and famously hospitable people. Surely you want to be exemplars of your faith's compassion rather than succumb to an unquenchable hatred that is not sated even when poor victims lie dead in their classrooms? Please join me, therefore, in condemning and mourning the loss of innocent religious students life. In our tears and, God willing, later in our joys, we will discover each other's humanity and become true brothers under God. The writer's radio show airs daily on 'Oprah and Friends.' His newest book is The Broken American Male and How to Fix Him. www.shmuley.com