It Is About Religion— and About Responsibility
When we enter the ancient city of Jaffa on our “Up to Jerusalem” journeys, our bus passes a weathered bronze statue of a whale. Immediately the story of Jonah, God’s recalcitrant prophet, comes to mind.
We all know the story. Jonah was commissioned by God to go to pagan, Gentile Nineveh with a message of impending doom. Rather than obey, he said no to God and took a ship traveling in the opposite direction. The result of his folly is well documented in the account of the prophet and the great fish in the book of Jonah.
As I watched and listened to the United Nations deliberating the issue of how to curtail the activities of a tyrant every bit as godless and tyrannical as were the Ninevites, my mind returned to Jonah and his excruciating excursion into how to face the facts of his position and accept the responsibility committed to him.
Yes, It Is About Religion
We are constantly bombarded by political statements that the war on terror has nothing whatsoever to do with religion. Ever careful not to offend Muslim world leaders, politicians tell us the enemy is a misguided, extremist liberation movement led by an overzealous few who are attempting to free Palestinians and other Arabs from the impaling injustices of Israel and the Western democracies.
Some have gone so far as to remove the stigma of identifying these people as the terrorists they truly are. As in the case of master terrorist Yasser Arafat, who was suddenly alchemized by the news media into a “fighter,” Islamists are now dignified as “freedom fighters,” “militiamen,” and members of a legitimate “liberation movement.”
Painting these false faces on such types is a despicable deception and outrageous breach of responsibility. And it wrongfully anoints them with a designation they do not place on themselves. By their own declarations, they do their hideous work of slaughtering the innocent in the name of their religion and to honor Allah. Furthermore, our saying so does not constitute intolerant bigotry. It merely restates what they themselves proudly proclaim.
America’s apparent failure to recognize the true nature of the conflict is not because militant Muslims have deceived us. It is because Western leaders and media moguls have failed to face the facts and transmit them to Americans and other democratic people in the Western world. It is malfeasance— and it is too often fatal.
Why, for example, do politicians and news reporters give such scant attention to the thousands of Christians who are being killed, starved, tortured, enslaved, and driven from their churches and homes, all in the name of jihad, the Qur’an, and Islam? Horrendous atrocities are perpetrated in many countries while the vast majority of people in the world, including “moderate” Muslims, ignore the growing catastrophe.
Why? Because those responsible for exposing such cruelty are reluctant to call it what it is—an Islamic holy war against Christians, Jews, and Western democracies. The rationale is that we cannot afford to stigmatize peace-loving Muslims by mentioning religion in the same breath with terrorism. Apparently it doesn’t seem to matter that, while Christians and Jewish people are being viciously slaughtered in the name of Islam, one can cut the silence with a knife.
Several years ago I was asked to speak to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. My subject related to the Middle East struggle. I stated that the basic issue is religion and that the Islamic claim to the land lies in the belief that all territory ever ruled by Muslims is sacred to Allah. Consequently, if infidels—namely, Christians or Jews—ever gain control of such land, Muslims can never rest in their beds until Allah’s honor is restored and the infidels annihilated, subjugated, or driven out.
After the meeting, a member of the mainstream media told me he had never heard that side of the issue. Frankly, I was astonished. He had attended numerous press conferences where major political figures had spoken on the Middle East. None, however, apparently addressed this element, which formulates the essence of the controversy.
The Shuttle Disaster Speaks
On January 16 the United States launched the space shuttle Columbia from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It was a landmark event for NASA and the global community. For Israelis, it was a euphoric occasion that saw the first Israeli astronaut, Col. Ilan Ramon, embark on a mission into outer space. Ramon was already a national hero and had participated in the 1981 raid on the nuclear reactor in Iraq, setting the former Iraqi dictator’s plans to build an atomic bomb back for decades.
Tragically, the space vehicle disintegrated on reentry, and all aboard, including Col. Ilan Ramon, were killed. For the vast majority in the civilized world, it was a horrible loss. Memorial services were held around the world, lamenting the catastrophe that took the lives not only of Americans but also of astronauts of other nationalities. For some in the Islamic world, however, it was a time to celebrate.
In England, a firebrand Muslim cleric, Abu Hamza Al-Masri, gloated over the shuttle disaster and rejoiced over the astronauts’ deaths. He referred to the Columbia crew as a band of “thugs in space who deserved to die” and further claimed that the disaster was a sign from Allah because debris rained down on a Texas town named Palestine. While more rational Muslim officials rightly denounced these fanatical rantings, others in the Islamic world agreed when Al-Masri said,
The target of this event was the trinity of evil, as the shuttle carried Americans, an Israeli, and a Hindu, the trinity of evil against Islam. This is a message to the American people that Bush’s term is nothing but a string of curses cast upon them, and that it will lead to the exhaustion of their resources and the elimination of the false American dream. . . . This is a divine message to the Israelis, saying that they are not welcome in space. 1
Were these but isolated incidents, they could be written off as the meanderings of demented minds. The problem for us all is that such anti-Israel, anti-America venom flows freely from the pulpits of mosques throughout the Middle East, America, and the Western world—and it is not something we can afford to whisk aside in the interests of ecumenical harmony.
for a Palestinian State
The vaunted Quartet (U.S., UN, EU, and Russia) has proposed a “road map” for peace in the Middle East that will impose a settlement on Israel and the Palestinians. No matter that it will be, as columnist Caroline Glick has so aptly described, a “road map to perdition.”
Consider these factors. The proposed constitution for the new State of Palestine will incorporate Islamic Sharia law as the legal basis for the nation. This is the same Sharia law that Sudan has forced on Christians and animists, resulting in their torture and death. Under Sharia law, tens of thousands of non-Muslim Sudanese women and children alone have been brutally force-marched, beaten, mutilated, enslaved, and forced to convert to Islam. Despite all of the noble rhetoric about establishing a “democratic” Palestinian state alongside a “secure” Israel, it cannot happen. There is no democracy under Sharia law. A “Sharia democracy” is an irreconcilable contradiction in terms and practice.
In addition, the proposed constitution calls for the conscription of Palestinian youth for the defense of the country. This feature comes in spite of the fantasy that a State of Palestine will be a demilitarized entity. With an army dedicated to the principles of radical Islam and Sharia law, democracy is only a gossamer-winged dream—one that may live in the minds of wishful thinkers in the West but is sure to disintegrate after the state becomes a dreadful reality.
Pity Palestinian-Arab Christians
Since the terrorist Arafat regime was installed after Oslo gave Arafat respectability and position, many Palestinian Christians have lived a nightmare. Bethlehem has witnessed 60 percent of its Christian population leave rather than face daily harassment and deprivation at the hands of a corrupt, militant administration. This being the case, what will happen when Islamic law becomes an official fact of life and the official doors of state slam shut to the scrutiny of the outside world? You can be sure Palestinian believers will be no more welcome there than any of their Israeli neighbors. It can be said unequivocally that, in addition to the Israelis, the biggest losers in the Quartet’s plan for peace will be Arab Christians.
Academic recognition that the problem is religious, and that religious bigotry and aggression emanate from Islamic radicals, is not enough. Yes, it is correct to be sensitive to the feelings of moderate Muslims. However, unrealistic sensitivity can and, in all probability will, make the situation much worse.
As the president has demonstrated, ours is a time for courage and decisiveness. Terrorism must be met and defeated. There can be no “everyone must feel he’s won something” approach. Americans cannot coexist with a militant minority that abhors everything true democracy represents. Furthermore, Muslims who wish to be integrated into the American way of life, with all of its manifold benefits, must not tolerate those among them who promote discord and terror.
And in the interest of true peace, Americans and others who treasure peace cannot stand idly by and countenance a non-solution in the Middle East that will further jeopardize the lives, safety, and well-being of the only true democracy and real friend we have in that volatile part of the world. Any thought or promotion of a Palestinian state under the present rules of the game is intolerable. To capitulate will only invite disaster. And we have certainly seen enough of that.
Following Secretary of State Colin Powell’s speech to the UN in February, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw eloquently stated why the international community needed to act decisively and immediately against Saddam Hussein. He reminded us of the issue that came before the League of Nations during the rise of Nazi Germany. There was much talk, many resolutions, but no action. As a result, the world paid a terrible price. Currently there has been much talk at the UN but little desire to act against aggression and global terror. Fortunately, with American power and will, we have the ability to stop both before it’s too late. And, like it or not, the responsibility is ours.
Here’s the test. Jonah had a clear mandate to act responsibly. Instead, he chose to run in the other direction—and paid the price. Will we be rejectionists like Jonah or face the unpleasant task of being branded “bad guys” while doing a good work for our people and the world? Time is fast running out.
- Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, February 4, 2003, in “Arab Media Reactions to the Columbia Space Shuttle Disaster: Part II,” [www.memri.org/bin/opener_latest. cgi?ID=IA12303], February 7, 2003.