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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Dying Not To Offend

I wish I could blame today's post on the savage multi-pronged terror attack that took place in Paris over the weekend.  However, given that literally not a single day has gone by in decades without an atrocity or three (what we in the west delicately call war crimes), being committed by Muslims, in the name of Islam, somewhere in the world... this one is long overdue.

I'll begin by asking the reader to perform a simple exercise.  Do a web search for any / all of the following:

  • Brit Milah
  • Jewish Ritual circumcision
  • Schitah
  • Kosher slaughter
  • Mechitsa
  • Aguna
  • Gender separation Judaism
  • Women's role in Judaism
  • Women Western Wall
  • Egalitarian Judaism

Any such google search will turn up literally thousands of news and opinion pieces that have appeared in mainstream western media over the past decade; dissecting and critiquing orthodox Judaism's tenets and practices at an incredibly granular level.

Granted, many of these pieces were written by members, or at least proponents, of denominations of Judaism other than orthodoxy.  And some are certainly penned by groups within one or the other extreme of Judaism's orthodox branch, who are advocating for either greater flexibility or greater stringency in the application and interpretation of Halachah (Jewish law).

But the very fact that this sea of text dealing with what needs to be changed (or preserved) within Orthodox Jewish observance flows freely into the mainstream media, and does not appear exclusively in, say, insular journals within the Jewish community, suggests that a significant number of non-Jews feel they should be knowledgeable about, and have a stake, if not a say, in the inner workings of the Jewish world.

So why is it that the western mainstream media is nearly empty of any meaningful journalistic scrutiny of mainstream orthodox Islam, Islamic practices and Islamic law?  

Considering that less than 0.2% of the world's population is Jewish, and almost 25% of the world's population is Muslim, I find our willful ignorance and lack of interest in what their faith demands in terms of belief and practice, to be nothing short of astounding.

Oddly, whenever a Muslim individual or group is involved in an act of terror (executions, kidnappings, rapes, slavery, honor killings, etc.), or vandalism (destruction of non-Muslim historical sites, shrines, holy places and/or houses of worship), there seems to be a formulaic, knee-jerk rush by the western media (and its consumers), to quickly dismiss such brutality and violence as the act of extremists who are not behaving according to normative Islamic law, and who do not represent 'mainstream Islam'.

Which begs the question: Do any of us even know what that last expression even means?

I think that most of us instinctively want the term 'mainstream Islam' to refer to the religion as practiced by quiet, unobtrusive Muslims like the ones living in suburban Indonesia, whose values somewhat resemble our own, and who may even enjoy a quiet beer in the privacy of their own homes in the evening.  

In short, it seems that when we say 'mainstream Islam', we are expressing a secret hope that the 'real' Islam is an easy-going, Islam-lite, somewhat analogous to reform Judaism as practiced in the US.  In other words, something culturally evocative of its ancient heritage, but flexible enough to yield when it finds itself in conflict with modern mores.

Sadly, that sort of wishful thinking has landed us where we find ourselves today; at war with a culture about which we have very little reliable knowledge.  And what we do think we know and understand is full of contradictions and hypocrisy.

If we are willing to accept that women can't vote, drive, swim, travel un-chaperoned or dress as they wish in Saudi Arabia, we have no right to consider the stoning of women for having been raped in Yemen to be an aberration.  Both demote women to sub-human status.

If we are willing to turn a blind eye to lashings, disfigurement and beheadings carried out by Islamic governments we call 'allies', how can we condemn the same practices by non-governmental groups carrying out the same punishments in the name of Islam?

If Iran hangs homosexuals from building cranes, how is that any different from how ISIS or Al Queda metes out punishment to gays?  And if last month our leaders and diplomats could sit comfortably in plush Swiss conference rooms negotiating with the one, why are we now vowing to stamp out the other for acting the same way?

Our aversion to examining Islamic law and practices goes far beyond political correctness.  Deep down we know that with such knowledge would come an imperative to act.

And we are loathe to admit to ourselves that by desperately trying not to offend what we consider to be the violent, extreme practitioners of Islam, we are actually avoiding such scrutiny because it might require us to admit that perhaps the beast we are seeing on the bloody streets of Paris, London, New York, Jerusalem and Madrid might just be representative of the normative practices of this aggressive, anti-social and inhuman religion.  

And what would we do then?

Posted by David Bogner on November 15, 2015 | Permalink


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My greatest fear is that monsters like those who commited the latest atrocity in Paris get their hands on nuclear material. As Churchill remarked,some want to be the one the lion eats last,and in this case blindfold themselves as to the true nature of the lion.

Posted by: Ed | Nov 15, 2015 7:20:14 PM

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