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December 22, 2015 Off

Condemning Islamic Terrorism, Defending Muslims

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared in The Jerusalem Post.

When Yigal Amir assas­si­nated Israeli Prime Min­is­ter Yitzhak Rabin, surely one of the low moments in Israeli his­tory, there were those who blamed Ortho­dox Jews because he was an Ortho­dox Jew and was edu­cated in that sec­tor of Israeli society.

Shortly after the tragic event, the Ortho­dox Union, the rep­re­sen­ta­tive body of mod­ern Amer­i­can Ortho­dox Jews, con­vened a large gath­er­ing at a promi­nent Ortho­dox synagogue.

The keynote speaker was Rabbi Nor­man Lamm, then Pres­i­dent of Yeshiva University.

Speak­ing to the issue of accu­sa­tions against the Ortho­dox com­mu­nity, Lamm said: “Yigal Amir was a weed, but he was a weed in our garden.”

As Amer­i­can soci­ety and, indeed, the world con­front the chal­lenge of Islamic ter­ror­ism while avoid­ing the destruc­tive think­ing that blames all Mus­lims and Islam itself for the ter­ror, Rabbi Lamm’s com­ment seems more rel­e­vant than ever.

What Lamm was say­ing about the role of Ortho­doxy was that it is a false and dan­ger­ous accu­sa­tion to blame all Ortho­dox and the reli­gion itself for what Yigal Amir did. He was a weed, a per­son who behaved in a way that does not rep­re­sent the Ortho­dox phi­los­o­phy and world­view. So stop these accu­sa­tions and stereotypes.

Hav­ing said that, Rabbi Lamm went on, still the Ortho­dox world needed to look at itself and ask tough and pen­e­trat­ing ques­tions about the way it’s tend­ing to its beau­ti­ful gar­den, that too many of these weeds are appearing.

It was a call for seri­ous intro­spec­tion and a will­ing­ness to say there is an ele­ment of respon­si­bil­ity that demands examination.

In my view, that is the miss­ing piece in the cur­rent dis­cus­sion about Islamic ter­ror­ism. The pres­i­dent of the United States con­demns the ter­ror and calls on all Amer­i­cans not to fall into the trap of stereo­typ­ing Mus­lims or Islam, both admirable reac­tions. But he can­not bring him­self to refer to the hor­ror that is tak­ing place as rad­i­cal Islamic ter­ror­ism, as if were he to do so he would be encour­ag­ing anti-Islamic sen­ti­ment and behavior.

Mean­while, other politi­cians and influ­en­tials blame Mus­lims in gen­eral for the ter­ror, even to the point, as in the case of Don­ald Trump, to exclude Mus­lims from entry into the U.S. and to have them bear ID cards as Muslim.

The truth is these two approaches are not the only choices that could be made. Rabbi Lamm’s per­spec­tive is far more suitable.

The fact that the San Bernardino and Paris ter­ror­ists were rad­i­cal Islamic extrem­ists in no way jus­ti­fies the hor­ren­dous anti-Muslim behav­ior and rhetoric that has emerged in the United States in recent weeks.

ADL has indi­cated that there has been an upsurge in anti-Muslim inci­dents over the past month. Every effort must be made to denounce such activ­ity, par­tic­u­larly when it is incen­tivized by rhetoric such as that com­ing from Trump.

There can be no equiv­o­ca­tion: All Mus­lims should not be blamed for the actions of the few.

But that should not lead to the con­clu­sion that all this ter­ror­ist activ­ity bears no rela­tion­ship to the Islamic world. Not only is this inac­cu­rate, but the reluc­tance to spell out Islamic extrem­ism as the source of the vio­lence actu­ally plays into the hands of those who want to stereo­type all Muslims.

It sounds arti­fi­cial and strained when the pres­i­dent does any­thing to avoid using the term Islamic ter­ror­ism to the point that peo­ple are more, rather than less, will­ing to blame all Muslims.

“He was a weed in our gar­den.” What is it that is going on in the Islamic world that is pro­duc­ing the most vir­u­lent and wide­spread man­i­fes­ta­tion of ter­ror that the world has seen?

Ulti­mately, it is up to Mus­lim lead­ers around the world to ask this ques­tion and to ask what it is that they can do to cre­ate a dif­fer­ent envi­ron­ment less con­ducive to the emer­gence of terror.

We do not help them in this nec­es­sary process when we shy away from call­ing it what it is.

Iron­i­cally, it was Pres­i­dent George W. Bush, still vil­i­fied for his mis­guided war in Iraq, who set the stan­dard for how to deal with problem.

Fol­low­ing 9/11 and the trauma that it was for our nation, the pres­i­dent spoke at a Mosque in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. and made an elo­quent plea not to blame all Mus­lims or Islam itself for the hor­ror that befell our nation.

This impor­tant step in lead­er­ship, how­ever, did not in the least pre­vent him from say­ing clearly and loudly: We are in a war with rad­i­cal Islam and we must win that war for the sake of civ­i­liza­tion itself and for the sake of Mus­lims as well.

A weed, but a weed in our garden.


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May 23, 2014 8

Anti-Muslim Group Uses Hitler Imagery In Latest Anti-Muslim Ad


AFDI’s “Islamic Jew-Hatred” ad in Wash­ing­ton D.C.

Pamela Geller and her anti-Muslim orga­ni­za­tion, the Amer­i­can Free­dom Defense Ini­tia­tive (AFDI), has taken its hate­ful anti-Muslim mes­sage once again to the pub­lic in the form of paid adver­tise­ments on pub­lic transportation.

The lat­est con­tro­versy is just one of many inflam­ma­tory adver­tis­ing cam­paigns spon­sored by Geller and her orga­ni­za­tion in a bid to influ­ence pub­lic dis­course on the dif­fi­cult issues of reli­gion and the Mid­dle East conflict.

Geller’s newest ad cam­paign, which began appear­ing on buses in the Wash­ing­ton D.C. Metro area, states, “Islamic Jew-hatred: It’s in the Quran.” The ad also includes a 1941 photo of the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el-Husseini, hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with Adolf Hitler.

Geller has a long his­tory of pro­mot­ing her big­oted anti-Muslim views through inflam­ma­tory mes­sages in pub­lic spaces, stretch­ing back at least to 2010. These ad cam­paigns are designed to expose Amer­i­cans to what Geller and her orga­ni­za­tion con­sider the biggest threats posed by Islam.

Some notable exam­ples include:

  • July 2012: Geller sub­mit­ted an ad that ran on 75 Metro North train sta­tions stat­ing, “19,250 deadly Islamic attacks since 9/11/01 and count­ing. It’s not Islam­o­pho­bia. It’s Islamorealism.”
  • Sep­tem­ber 2012: After a New York fed­eral dis­trict court ruled that the New York City MTA vio­lated Geller’s First Amend­ment right, AFDI’s “Sav­age” ad appeared in sub­way sta­tions. The inflam­ma­tory ad read: “In any war between the civ­i­lized man and the sav­age, sup­port the civ­i­lized man. Sup­port Israel. Defeat Jihad.”
  • 2010 “Honor Killing Aware­ness Cam­paign”: A series of ads were placed on buses and taxi cab tops pur­port­edly to address young Mus­lim women fac­ing threats from their fam­ily for reject­ing Mus­lim val­ues or becom­ing “too Amer­i­can­ized.” The cam­paigns appeared under sev­eral names, includ­ing “Refuge From Islam” and “Leave Islam Safely.”

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has crit­i­cized Geller and AFDI for “con­sis­tently vil­i­fy­ing the Islamic faith under the guise of fight­ing rad­i­cal Islam;” how­ever, acknowl­edges that the ads are pro­tected polit­i­cal speech under the First Amend­ment. ADL is also on the record stat­ing that “Pro-Israel doesn’t mean anti-Muslim. And sup­port for Israel is not built on anti-Muslim and anti-Arab stereotypes.”

Geller’s lat­est ad cam­paign is in response to an April 2014 anti-Israel ad by the vir­u­lently anti-Israel group Amer­i­can Mus­lims for Pales­tine (AMP). AMP also has a his­tory of pro­mot­ing extreme anti-Israel views through inflam­ma­tory ads on pub­lic trans­porta­tion aimed at demo­niz­ing and dele­git­imiz­ing Israel. In March 2013, on the eve of the Jew­ish hol­i­day of Passover, AMP unveiled an ad on sev­eral New York City Metro North sta­tions falsely accus­ing Israel of “apartheid.”

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