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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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August 20, 2013 Off

The One Million Muslim March On 9/11


Rabbi Alam and Brigitte Gabriel appear on Sean Han­nity program

The Amer­i­can Mus­lim Polit­i­cal Action (AMPAC), an orga­ni­za­tion with a rel­a­tively insignif­i­cant pres­ence among Amer­i­can Mus­lims, cre­ated a strong media reac­tion by announc­ing its inten­tion to orga­nize a “One Mil­lion Mus­lim March” to the U.S. Capi­tol on Sep­tem­ber 11, 2013. AMPAC was founded and is run by Mr. Rabbi Alam (“Rabbi” is his first name), an Amer­i­can war vet­eran orig­i­nally from Bangladesh with a past record of mak­ing con­tro­ver­sial and big­oted statements.

Sev­eral US media out­lets and activists have high­lighted some of Alam’s past anti-Semitic and con­spir­a­to­r­ial remarks imply­ing Jew­ish involve­ment in the 9/11 attacks. For exam­ple, in 2009 Alam posted a com­ment on Topix, a web-based forum, on the dis­cus­sion topic “Was 9/11 a con­spir­acy?” He wrote “a big yes from my own under­stand­ing.” In the same post, Alam ques­tioned why 9/11 was an “offi­cial holidy for all jew­ish peo­ple [who] worked in the WTC [sic]” and added “who can tell me how many of the Jew­ish peo­ple died on the 9/11 tragedy? [sic].”

AMPAC’s web­site also states, “The his­tory of the Jewish-Zionist lobby AIPAC shows that it is more effec­tive to be ‘rad­i­cal’ and express one’s views strongly and hon­estly, than to be fear­ful and timid. The best defense is a good offense.”

Alam recently appeared on Fox News with Brigitte Gabriel, leader of  Act! for Amer­ica, to dis­cuss the march with Sean Han­nity. The inter­view called into ques­tion his abil­ity to orga­nize a large event, and under­scored his will­ing­ness to stir con­tro­versy. By his state­ments, he made it read­ily appar­ent why some anti-Muslim groups would find him a con­ve­nient exam­ple to cite in pro­mot­ing their agenda.

To date, there is lit­tle evi­dence of sup­port for the march from Amer­i­can Muslims.

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