December 5, 2008

Wake-Up Call

by Dr. David Lazerson

An enlightening discussion with an imam.

This past year, I had the opportunity to participate in what a local South Florida university called a “multi-cultural exchange.” I was invited to present and discuss Jewish Torah philosophy to the faculty and student body. Besides myself, they had invited a local minister and imam, each to present their own perspective. I usually take these types of invitations with a large grain of salt, since often the heads of such events come in with their own political agendas. Still, I looked upon it as an opportunity to shed a bit of light on what are often dark, murky waters.

What occurred, however, was quite an eye-opening experience for all involved. When the audience asked about conversion, I responded that Judaism has never been too keen on actively seeking converts. In fact, I explained that we tend to discourage this, making the potential convert wait it out, weigh things carefully, and go through a long, often tedious process. We don’t believe that non-Jews have to become Jews to be “saved,” I explained. The Torah is very clear that if they keep the Seven Noahide Laws, then they are referred to as "righteous Gentiles" and they too receive all the rewards enumerated in the Torah.

The minister then spoke about how Christianity used to be into “holy wars” in which they spread their religion by the sword. Millions throughout the globe were forced to convert under threats of suffering and death. Although Christianity today still actively seeks converts, nonetheless, in the minister’s words, it has “grown up” and become part of modern society. It respects others and seeks to co-exist together. In effect, he said, Christianity has shed its “Middle Ages mentality.”

I found this same discussion with the imam to be quite enlightening. When he referred to Islam as a religion of peace, nearly every hand in the audience shot up. How is this possible, some student verbalized, when nearly every hot spot on the planet and every act of terrorism has Muslim fanatics behind it?

They are the “fringe element,” the Imam responded. They are the small, vocal minority that distorts Islam, he added.

But then things got real interesting when an adult in the crowd asked some specifics pertaining to the Koran. She asked the question as directly as possible: Does the Koran want everyone to become Muslim?

To this, the imam answered yes. But, he was quick to add, this can be done through education.

“Can be done?” another questioned. “And what if the person or persons do not want to become Muslim? Are these people, according to the Koran, called 'infidels'?”

The Imam answered that anyone who is not Muslim is called an “outsider” and that it is the duty of a good Muslim to influence this person to “see the light.”

I don’t know about you, but I get a bit nervous when someone insists that I “see the light” and become saved. We Jews have a rather negative collective history and consciousness about those three little words.

This, of course, led to the next logical step and another student asked if these people who are called “outsiders” (or infidels) to the Koran do not want or accept Islam, does the Koran say “by any means necessary”? In other words, according to the Koran, can force be used to inspire these outsiders to see the light?

There was no room for a vague answer on this one. The imam simply said that some do take the Koran literally and believe they can use force to deal with infidels. We all did this kind of collective nod as the realization hit home. In light of the recent terror attacks in Mumbai, where once again militant Islam has raised its ugly head and slaughtered innocent men, women and children, we should all see the writing on the wall. Muslim fanatics believe that they can do anything to anyone, commit the very worst atrocities, all in the name of their religion, their god and their prophets.

Clearly, their outlook has not grown up and still lives well in the Dark Ages. In the blink of an eye - or a nuclear weapon, G-d forbid - they would gladly send us all back there.

Mumbai teaches us that the hour is late, but not too late to stop this madness. The world cannot afford the luxury of simply waiting to respond to each individual act of terrorism as they arise. We cannot even fathom the horror of terrorists with nuclear weapons. Now is time to be proactive, not reactive. Militant Islam, not unlike the philosophy of Nazism, must be defeated by direct and precise military action. The Nazis went head-over-heels for the dangerous notion of the superior Aryan race. Once one believes that he or she is part of the “master race,” then it’s easy to look upon others as slaves and subordinates. Once the infidels prove to be useless, they are eliminated. Militant Islam bears an frightening close resemblance to the Nazi movement, where infidels, if not converted, can be liquidated even as they sit sipping tea in outdoor cafes, walking down the corridors of hotels or praying in Chabad Houses.

This call to action means the following, which may make some uncomfortable, but at the same time might save lives.

First, actively find these bad guys and get rid of ‘em. Period. There’s nothing wrong with destroying those who would seek to destroy us, our democratic way of life, and who don’t acknowledge our right to breathe. Countries and legitimate agencies should band together to eradicate this evil once and for all.

Second, every “infidel” institution throughout the world needs to take serious safety precautions to prevent another Mumbai from occurring. How nice it would have been if the Mumbai terrorists could have been shot dead before spreading their cowardly evil. If only there were armed and trained guards in the Mumbai train station, at the Taj Hotel and at the Chabad House. The terrorists need to know that there will be no more “soft targets.”

Thirdly, we need to monitor the mosques and imams amongst us to find out who’s preaching what to whom. I know this sounds like a horrible infringement on civil rights, but tough times call for tough actions. We can thank the militant Muslims for changing forever how we get to our planes to travel the skies. Now, it seems they have done us the same favor for how we’ll check into hotels, travel on trains, and visit other non-Muslim religious institutions such as churches and synagogues. Politics in the Middle East has shown us that Muslim leaders often say one thing to the English press and quite another to the Arabic-speaking communities. Imams can no longer have the right to fan the fuels of religious intolerance and hatred. Their words often lead violent behavior.

Those without the physical means to take these actions should actively increase in spiritual “ammunition.” Every mitzvah and good deed done in this world adds light and goodness to the planet. We all can increase in our efforts to give charity and engage in acts of kindness. We must remember that a little bit of light can dispel much darkness. This fight against terror must take place on every level, each person according to his or her own unique abilities.

Yes, we must cry bitter tears for all those brave martyrs who lost their lives and who were wounded in Mumbai. It is a loss beyond words and comprehension. But we must also take action to prevent this from ever happening again.
Kislev 7, 5769 / 04 December 08

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