Can we request Muslims – and Jews -- to publicly condemn crimes?

Muslims the world over cannot be held accountable, but what about French imams?

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld

OpEds איסלאם בצרפת
איסלאם בצרפת
Manfred Gerstenfeld

The recent mass murders by Muslims in Paris raise again the question whether other Muslims are morally obliged to publicly condemn these murders. This issue is directly related to regular demands on Jews in the Diaspora to publicly condemn Israeli actions.

One of the best-known such demands was by the Swedish Social Democrat and part-time anti-Semite Ilmar Reepalu, when he was mayor of Malmö. That town, partly due to his mode of governance, has become perceived by many as the European capital of anti-Semitism.[1] [2]

Why was Reepalu’s demand anti-Semitic? The Jews in Malmö are Swedish, not Israeli, citizens. Why should they distance themselves from acts in a country where they cannot vote, and thus have no say in its policies? What one could reasonably ask of Swedish Jews, or better yet, of representatives of the Jewish communities in that country is that they should condemn crimes committed in Sweden perpetrated by Jews in the name of Judaism. One should expect that in such cases both the rabbis and the lay leaders of Jewish communities there would come out against the crimes. In truth, the issue is for the most part theoretical. Jewish lawbreakers in Sweden usually do not usually claim to do so in the name of Judaism.


There should be no doubt that the Paris murders are intrinsically connected to Islam.
What has been said here about Swedish Jews may serve as a guideline of what public statements can reasonably be expected of Muslims after the mass murders in Paris. One has no right whatsoever to insist that individual Muslims or even Muslim organizations abroad express their opinion publicly on the murders. However, as with Sweden’s Jews, lay and religious Muslim leaders in France should be expected to condemn publicly such acts carried out by Muslims in the name of Islam.

This however leads us into a labyrinth, because many lay and religious Muslim leaders and organizations in a multitude of countries explicitly incite to murder. How can they condemn the very acts they promote? How can they condemn killings which they interpret as active adherence to Koranic requirements?

Let us look at where the French imams stand on this issue. Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles published an article on November 15 in which he described a meeting between a SWC delegation and French President François Hollande, which took place a year and a half ago. Cooper wrote that the SWC dean Rabbi Marvin Hier asked the President: “‘How many imams are there in France, and how many have condemned terrorist attacks’? ‘Six thousand imams…and about 10 have publicly spoken out…’

These days the number has been reduced to one: Imam Chalgoumi of Drancy. The others have been cowered into silence…”[3] Unsurprisingly perhaps, this imam requires ongoing police protection.

Apparently a few French Muslim organizations have condemned the Paris attacks. Yet, the silence of nearly all French imams is one of the many signs of the enormous problems in the French Muslim communities. Calling this truth islamophobic is tantamount to attempting to whitewash huge moral failures.

After the Paris murders, the largest Dutch daily de Telegraaf published an interview with Yassin Elforkani, a Dutch imam. He said that Muslims can no longer claim that terror has nothing to do with Islam. “The hard reality is that the attackers legitimize their deeds theologically.”[4]

The fact that this statement is considered a news item is an indicator of the European reality. It is so evident that the murders in Paris are Islam-related, but many Muslims deny that. Islam is an integrated system of religion, ideology, culture, and proselytizing. It is irrelevant if the murderers frequent mosques and keep religious laws. By shouting “Allahu Akbar,” they make it explicit that they act out of their ideology of Islam. It is irrelevant whether their day to day behavior is superficially cultural or deeply religious. Statistics show that worldwide the large majority of terrorist crimes in 2014 were committed by ideological Muslim movements.[5]

World leaders and many others have irresponsibly contributed to the whitewashing of Muslim crime.[6] Hollande said after the January murders at Charlie Hebdo and at the Hyper Cacher, “These fanatics have nothing to do with the Muslim religion.”[7]

Another whitewasher of Muslim crime was American President Barack Obama. He announced in a speech that ISIS was ‘not Islamic’” and added, “No religion condones the killing of innocents.”[8]

This sentiment about the extreme Muslim movement was shared by British Prime Minister David Cameron, who stated, “They boast of their brutality. They claim to do this in the name of Islam. That is nonsense. Islam is a religion of peace. They are not Muslims, they are monsters.”[9]

Thus, a not very well-known Dutch imam is much closer to the truth than the leaders of three major nations.

It gets even more confusing. Experts on the subject frequently tell us that there is only one Islam. However, beyond the fact that there is only one Koran and common interpretations of key rituals exist, Islam seems highly fractured. There are great differences in Muslim attitudes.

The idea that Muslims can be divided between Islamists and other Muslims further confuses the issue.[10] There is no such binary division. Instead there is a continuous spectrum of beliefs and attitudes within contemporary Islam. At the one extreme are terrorist promoters in the name of Islam, at the other end are people who identify themselves as Muslims but do not practice at all.

Above we have discussed the requirement of public condemnation of acts in the name of religion by local co-religionists, the whitewashing of Islam-related criminality, and artificial divisions made between moderate and radical Muslims. In summary it is important to note the following:

First, contemporary Islam is not monolithic.

Second - there should be no doubt that the Paris murders are intrinsically connected to Islam.

And finally, it is the moral responsibility of the French religious and lay Muslim.

In order to do so, these Muslim leaders will have to start looking inward at what is radically wrong in their communities.

Sources:

[1] Paulina Neuding, “Sweden’s ‘Damn Jew’ Problem,” Tablet, 5 April 2012.

[2] Yonatan Weber, “Swedish mayor blasts Zionism,” Israel National News, 28 January 2010.

[3] Rabbi Abraham Cooper, “Europe, ISIS and us: Now what?” Jewish Journal, 15 November 2015.

[4] “Imam: terreur heeft wél met islam te maken,” Telegraaf, 16 November 2015.

[5] Mark Anderson, “Terrorist killings up by 80% in 2014, fueling flow of refugees, report says,” The Guardian, 17 November 2015.

[6] Douglas Murray, “Will politicians finally admit that the Paris attacks had something to do with Islam?” The Spectator, 16 November 2015.

[7] “12-French forces kill newspaper attack suspects, hostages die in second siege,” Reuters, 10 January 2014.

[8] “Statement by the President on ISIL,” The White House, 10 September 2014.

[9] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFmCkJ92DRw  

[10] Book review by Daniel Pipes, The Challenge of Fundamentalism: Political Islam and the New World Disorder by Bassam Tibi, Daniel Pipes Middle East Forum, March 2000.



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