“If Islam is a religion of peace, why don’t the imams challenge the murderous rhetoric of the radical Islamists who they claim are highjacking their religion?”
I hear this all the time. The implication of such talk is that if Christianity or Judaism were highjacked, priests, pastors, and rabbis would be out front attacking the radicals and their hate-filled madness. You might have wished it so, but this week has proved otherwise.
When Pope Benedict cited a 14th century Christian emperor saying that anything new taught by Mohammed (Peace be upon him) was evil and inhuman, I didn’t hear any outcry among Christians. What I heard was excuses: “The Pope didn’t say that, he was quoting the emperor.” As I mentioned the other day, this is totally disingenuous. He did not argue against what the emperor said, and by not doing so he was tacitly agreeing with it. Any silence on behalf of Christian clergy suggests that they too are in agreement.
Lest you imagine that Jews are free from such insanity and cowardice, Effi Eitam, a leader of the Israeli Knesset (parliament) aligned with the worldwide Orthodox Zionist movement called for the mass deportations of Arabs from the West Bank and the expulsion of Israeli Arabs from Israeli government.
Admittedly he may have been incensed over Arab members of the Knesset who seemed to side with Hezbollah against Israel, but this is no excuse. He said what he said. Was their widespread condemnation of Eitam? Yes, but only by the secular Jewish world. The Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Congress both condemned Eitam’s remarks, as did the political left in Israel. But where were the rabbis?
Rabbi Yosef Blau, president of the Religious Zionists of America, said that Eitam was not mainstream. Ouch. That is a stinging rebuke. Rabbi Norman Lamm, chancellor of Yeshiva University, cautioned against sanctioning Eitam, saying that we should understand his frustration over Israeli Arabs who are anti-Israel. Rabbi Basil Herring of the Conservative Rabbinical Council of America said that he could not comment until he had spoken with his board of directors. Such courage. I have not read anything from the Reform or Reconstructionist movements so far, and I hope they will be at least as bold at our secular Jewish leaders, but the fact is that clergy are failing us worldwide.
Personally, I don’t care if Eitam was angry, worried, or had a bad day at the office; calling for the mass expulsion of Arabs from Israeli held territory and government is vicious racist madness that needs to be condemned from every synagogue pulpit in the world. Failure to do so denies rabbis any moral standing in their call to their Muslim counterparts to condemn the racist hatred spewed by their extremist coreligionists.
Religion should be a clarion call for universal justice and compassion, and religious leaders should be prophets of peace. But before I say this maybe I should check with my board of directors.