Sunday, August 04, 2013

The Extremists of Islam and Judaism

Islamist extremist
I would never compare Charedi Rabbinic leadership to the apologist western Muslim leaders. Who well dressed in fashionable Western garb always come forward to condemn a terrorist attack by Fundamentalist Muslims. They almost always say that these people are not us. They do not represent in any way the ‘religion of peace’.  

What they fail to mention is that all of the Islamist terrorism that they condemn are indeed members of that ‘religion of peace’ who scream ‘Alla-hu Akbar’ – God is great - as they blow themselves up - and every around them. You can’t really make the claim that they are not motivated by Islamist doctrines – even if they do so in unacceptable ways. They are indeed so motivated.

Those condemnations are always tepid and have no real consequences for the terrorists. Without the necessary teeth of severe sanctions, Islamic terrorism will continue – all in the name of God.

I have to ask, how is this any different from the tepid condemnations of the extremists in our own ranks? They too are motivated by the same religious ideals that Charedim believe in? The tactics are indeed not approved of, but their goals certainly are?

The latest example of this kind of condemnation was in a Matzav op-ed about the recent capture of a member of Neturei Karta who offered to spy against Israel for Iran. Matzav actually hosted a vehement condemnation of these people. But does the author of this piece, Rabbi Avrohom Rotter, have the stature to make this kind of condemnation mean anything other than a personal rant? The kind I would make? Even if he is Charedi?

What we need is for the Agudah Moetzes, the Eida HaCharedis, and every Charedi rabbinic leader of stature to make this kind of condemnation and implement the suggestions in that Matzav post.

They have not ever done so and they probably won’t do so here – even f they do come out with yet another tepid condemnation.

Charedi extremists
The bottom line is that this is not that different than leaders of American and other Western Islamic leaders coming out with their tepid condemnations of their terrorists. Saying they do not represent Islam is the same thing as saying that these Charedi extremists do not represent Charedim. The fact is… they are Charedim just like Islamist terrorists are Muslim. They are just extremist Charedim!

The only difference between Charedi extremists and Islamist terrorists is one of degree, not of kind. While the degree of difference is huge, the religious fervor behind the two is the same. Do we need Charedi extremists to become suicide bombers before Charedi rabbinic leaders take the kind of action Rabbi Rotter recommends?

I would humbly ask these leaders to consider what I have said here. Many of us that are not Charedim have seen the similarity of the tepid reactions by both Charedi and Islamic leaders.

Lest anyone accuse me of bashing Charedim from the left (or the center in my case) I should point out that what motivated me to write about this today was an almost exact replica of these views by prominent Charedi writer, Jonathan Rosenblum who expressed them in his weekly column in Mishpacha Magazine.  So please direct your criticisms to him. Here is an excerpt: 
Even as the politicians issued their usual bromides against considering all Muslims potential ax-murderers, the less sophisticated average man scratched his head, as Ali put it, over the attempt to portray a murder committed by someone shouting “Alla-hu Akbar” as having nothing to do with Islam.
 The spokesmen in Western suits and women in fashionable headscarves would have a good deal more credibility, she opined, if instead of issuing the usual laments after another horrifying attack, they had embarked on a public and persistent campaign to discredit these Islamist advocates of mayhem and murder. Had they done so, their nattering about the “religion of peace” would ring truer.
WHILE THERE IS NO OTHER REMOTELY comparable phenomenon to Muslim terrorism, Hirsi Ali’s observation that preventative efforts speak much more loudly than post facto disavowals has wider application.  
Jonathan went on to extol a new communal effort in Bet Shemesh will expose Charedi students to the way Gedolim like Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach handled controversies that extremist react violently to. That is indeed a good thing. But while he didn’t spell it out the way I did, the implication is clear.

Charedi leaders have just not been tough enough on these extremists. And as great as new initiatives like this one in Bet Shemesh are, they will not be effective unless accompanied by rabbinic condemnations along the line of Rabbi Rotter suggests.

But it should apply not only to NK members spying for Iran, but to all extremists, whether they are spitting on 8 year old DL girls while calling them whores, rioting and breaking windows on a bus, or even calling people who wear a Kipa Seruga Amlek or declaring those who voted for a certain political party led by a religious Jew - as losing their portion in the world to come.