It Is a Religious War

Let’s get the obvious out of the way up front. Not all Muslims are terrorists, anti-Semites, war mongers or anything other than peaceful people living their lives according to their faith. It should also go without saying that it is outrageous that any Arab-Americans or other Muslims should be harassed in any way because of the war declared on our country.

That said, we need to speak the truth. This is indeed a religious war. It has very little to do with U.S. support for Israel and everything to do with the belief of radical Muslims that non-Muslims, especially in America, pose a threat to their values and culture. What do the Muslims say that they are doing? They are conducting a jihad, a holy war. This is not about politics, it’s about fundamental beliefs about God, society and human values.

Because of our obsession with political correctness there’s a reluctance to suggest any group might have any negative characteristics, but the Muslims that adhere to radical interpretations of Islam are threats to Americans and, even more so, to Jews. They see the world as divided into believers and nonbelievers and the latter must be converted or destroyed.

Despite the focus on Osama bin Laden, it is vital to recognize that he and his network are not the only Muslims who adhere to radical views and either participate in or support terrorist attacks. The number may be thousands or perhaps even millions, and they live everywhere, including the United States. In Iran, for example, every week for more than 20 years radical Muslims have chanted, “Death to America.” A big deal was made of the fact that they didn’t do this last week, they only shouted the usual, “Death to Israel.” This hardly reflects a change in their basic antipathy toward America. In addition, the Muslim fanatics of Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the West Bank and Gaza are no less anti-American than bin Laden’s followers.

It is true that Muslims are not the sole source of terrorism. A large number are ideological terrorists who hate America because it is a nation with liberal democratic values and because it supports Israel. The one thing the political ideologues and religious fanatics have in common is their commitment to wage their terrorist war until Israel ceases to exist. Perhaps the major difference is that the radical Muslims are willing to commit suicide if it will kill their enemies, whereas the ideologues usually want to come out alive and to get some tangible benefit from their actions, such as an exchange of prisoners or just publicity for their cause.

If you find it uncomfortable to think of the war on terrorism as a new religious crusade, think of the conflict in Northern Ireland. No one hesitates to describe that as a battle between Protestants and Catholics. Sure there are other factors, political, historical and psychological, but, at root, it’s a religious dispute.

The same can be said of the Middle East conflict. A significant number of Muslims will never accept the idea of a Jewish state in what they consider their heartland. And they will not accept America, a land with a Judeo-Christian heritage that many Muslims believe is controlled by the Jews, a separation of church and state (an unthinkable concept in Islam), a profane society and a government that backs corrupt Arab regimes (that’s right, bin Laden and others are as angry at the U.S. for supporting Saudi Arabia as for backing Israel).

Once again, I do not in any way condone attacks on Muslims in this country. This does not mean, however, that no one in this country is involved in terrorism. We know that there are terrorists in our midst. We know that there are organizations that are funneling money to Arab terrorists and we know that there are prominent Arab-Americans and their organizations, including some on TV complaining of being persecuted, that have actively supported and applauded the activities of terrorists.

We should be tolerant, but that does not mean we should close our eyes to the reality that there are people who will never tolerate us.

To learn more about the relationship between Jews and Muslims, read The Jews of Islam by Bernard Lewis from the Avi Chai bookshelf. After reading the book, consider this question: Given the history of Jews and Muslims, can anything be done to reconcile the two groups?