The Media and Islam

by Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz

The issue of why the press does not explore the elements within Islam that give rise to terrorism and beheading was brought to the fore recently by conservative commentator Bernie Goldberg. He stated that were he to have been a reporter in the time of the Spanish Inquisition, he would have written extensively on what elements in Roman Catholicism give rise to the barbarism of the Catholic clergy.

Let me hasten to add, when one speaks of barbarism exhibited by a religious community, when considering torture and horrid means of inflicting death upon another in the name of religion, I would suggest that Torquemada could give lessons to ISIS on the subject.

His answer to this dilemma, the rationale for the media not to inquire, was the general left of center view held by most reporters, that Muslims have been the recipients of cruelty and discrimination visited upon them by Western civilization and therefore they have to be pitied for their suffering, which somewhat justifies the actions of the more militant elements of that religion.

I wholeheartedly disagree with Bernie. That which ultimately fortifies the barbarism of both Christianity and Islam against each other and the Jewish people in particular is a singular foundational element of their theology which they share – they are both “universal churches” – both faiths believe they are the true word of G‑d to the exclusion of all other religions. It is this commonality of belief which must be addressed, one which Christendom in all its manifestations refuses to admit. Even the most left-wing of the media, is not willing to take on this reality, that of asking the Christian world to take a good look into the face of the Muslim terrorist and realize that behind that scarf is their own face.

While many in the Jewish community hailed Nostra Atatae issued by Pope Paul VI on October 28, 1965 as a new beginning for Catholic-Jewish relations, this document never stepped back from Catholicism’s belief in Replacement Theology – the Church is the new Jewish People. “True, the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ ;(13) still, what happened in His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today. Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures. All should see to it, then, that in catechetical work or in the preaching of the word of God they do not teach anything that does not conform to the truth of the Gospel and the spirit of Christ.”

As for Islam, an honest expositor of Islam, a former attorney in the United Kingdom, Anjem Choudary, has continuously given voice to the true belief of Islam as a universal church. “Look, at the end of the day innocent people – when we say ‘innocent people’ we mean Muslims – as far as non-Muslims are concerned they have not accepted Islam and as far as we are concerned that is a crime against God. Anjem Choudary, BBC HARDtalk (8 August 2005)

What we are left to consider then is, why Christians no longer resort to torture and murder in propagating their faith, relying upon missionary efforts instead, while Islam continues to do so. The answer would seem to be the difference between Western society and the societies of the Middle East.

The French Revolution saw the beginnings of Jewish emancipation in Europe. Liberalism in countries such as France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and Austria-Hungary eventually brought legal equality for the Jew. It was understood that keeping the Jews in a politically and socially inferior status was incompatible with the concept of civic equality and the “natural rights” of man and would undermine the civic equality of all people who had acquired it through revolution and the acceptance of this principle. “It is the objective of every political organization to protect the natural rights of man… all citizens have the right to all the liberties and advantages of citizens, without exception.”

After all the great proponent of “natural rights” and separation of church and state, Voltaire, had no love for the Jews. Here is but a sampling:

“They are, all of them, born with raging fanaticism in their hearts, just as the Bretons and the Germans are born with blond hair. I would not be in the least bit surprised if these people would not someday become deadly to the human race. You have surpassed all nations in impertinent fables, in bad conduct and in barbarism. You deserve to be punished, for this is your destiny. The Jewish nation dares to display an irreconcilable hatred toward all nations, and revolts against all masters; always superstitious, always greedy for the well-being enjoyed by others, always barbarous – cringing in misfortune and insolent in prosperity.”

Such an occurrence never took place in the Fertile Crescent. The dominant religion, Islam, which, as Judaism is not merely a religion but a way of life including rules and regulations for society and governance as well, advocates a secondary position in society, Dhimitude, for the people of the book – Jew and Christian. Unlike pagans, Jews and Christians are permitted to practice their faith with limitations as understood by Sharia law. Many times, this debased role in society saw cultural developments such as Dhimis forbidden to look into the face of the true believer, forbidden to walk in the rain for fear that the droplets of water falling from their clothing or body would make the very ground they walk upon impure, or worse, physical attacks upon the non-believer. Exemplary of this was the recent demand made by ISIS of the Christian communities in Iraq to convert or leave as an alternative to living the life of a Dhimi and paying the Dhimi tax – the Jizyah.

As Western societies begin to come to grips with the reality of an unbridled “universal church” represented by Islam, I am hopeful that this challenge to free societies committed to the “natural rights” of man can be addressed. As in every instance, the cure to a problem is built upon understanding the true nature of that problem.