Religious Leaders See No Evil, Hear No Evil
by Lorna Salzman
Religious leaders are not alone in ignoring evil. Our mass media do it as a matter of course. In this month's Harper's magazine, in their famous Harper's Index, you can find the following two statistics:
Confirmed number of terrorist plots against the U.S. perpetrated by Muslims in 2010: 10
By nonMuslims: 25
Now look at an ad in the same issue placed by Negative Population Growth: present U.S. population 308.7 million.
Of these a generous estimate of American Muslims is usually given as 5 million.
Conclusion: while Muslims constitute about 1.6% of the U.S. population, they account for about 35% of total terrorist plots.
Harper's didn't see fit to comment on its own terrorist plot figures.
It is striking how reluctant religious leaders are to acknowledge evil in the world, except for the kind that violates their own doctrines. They denounce war (a fatuous denunciation in any case). Catholics denounce abortion and gay marriage. Muslims denounce everything not in conformity with sharia law. Protestant evangelicals denounce the devil. But when it comes to threats to secular society or sexual predation by their clergy they are silent at best and in denial at worst. It was left to the Pope to denounce Muslim violence and terrorism.
The silence of organized religion after 9/11 was deafening. Eventually sounds were made on the left to the effect that the American "imperialist" chickens were coming home to roost. While most Americans genuinely mourned the World Trade Center deaths, some on the left felt compelled to reach out ......to Muslims. Shortly after the attack, one colleague on Long Island went to meet with Muslims in her community as some perverted kind of outreach, presumably to let them know she didn't blame them personally for the atrocity.
As the visibility and influence of Muslims grew, the media felt compelled to print articles on Muslim culture and "moderate" religious leaders and in general sat up to salute Muslims as group in order to demonstrate their liberalism and tolerance. National Public Radio and the New York Times were repeat offenders in this grovelling display that managed to overlook the religious origins and motivation behind the WTC destruction.
As Homeland Security beefed up airport inspections, Muslims decided to fight back. Six imams on an airplane decided to test liberal tolerance on the airplanes and their strange behavior evoked a passenger complaint that led to them being led off the plane for further scrutiny. Result? The airline AND the passenger who complained were sued by the imams for discrimination. Then newspaper photos appeared showing the five imams in the terminal linking hands with Rabbi Arthur Waskow, head of the Shalom Center, as a gesture of interfaith relations.
Meanwhile, back at the liberal blog Tikkun run by ex-radical Michael Lerner, a different kind of X-ray was being deployed against me personally. Lerner asked if I would write a regular environmental blog for Tikkun on line and I agreed. But shortly after, his assistant (and later he himself) notified me that he had looked at my web site and seen articles critical of radical Islam. He said that Tikkun did not want to be attacked for publishing articles (on environment, mind you, not Islam) by someone who had criticized Islam elsewhere. So here is the supposedly brave, tolerant religious leader quaking in fear that he and his blog might be tainted by association with someone whose writings on other topics in other venues might put them in a bad light. So much for principles.
Last summer the Westhampton Beach synagogue sponsored a talk and slide show by a member of the group, Stand With Us. The presentation was powerful and devastating, with videos of Muslims (many of them blacks) delivering virulent tirades against Jews and Israel on American and Canadian campuses. It was as if
Nazi Germany in the 1930s were being revived here in America. I had printed out a handout on the suppression of free speech by Muslims and Muslim groups, and just before the talk started to put them on the attendees' seats, when the friend who had invited me to attend stopped me cold and asked me to not hand them out. I asked why; she said because the rabbi was making outreach efforts to local Muslims and this might offend him or hurt his efforts.
Why are Jewish religious leaders initiating "interfaith dialogue" with Muslims anyway? Shouldn't it be the Muslims reaching out to Jews and rebutting anti-Semitism and terrorism? What is the reluctance of religious leaders to acknowledge the existence of evil in the world?
The answer is simple. If one points out religiously inspired evil, one opens up one's own religion to similar scrutiny and criticism. Each religion has its doctrines, and if religious leaders question those of another religion, this raises the question of its validity...and the validity of other religions as well. Thus, evil can only be described in abstract terms, disconnected from motives and from the perpetrators themselves.
In a New York Times article of April 6th about a French panel discussion of secularism and Islam, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois criticized the debate saying it could feed demagogy and could lead "to a refusal of all religious expression in our society". The Council of Bishops did not participate and the leaders of six major religions (Roman Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox Christians, Jews, Muslims and Buddhists issued a joint statement of concern that it could "add to the confusion in the troubled period we are traversing". No mention of who is causing these troubles was made or why a panel on the relationship of secularism and religion would be "confusing". Unquestionably, organized religions are clustering tightly together for protection; their statement clearly is saying that secularism is a greater enemy than radical Islam.
But Muslim religious leaders do not observe this propriety. Anti-Semitic propaganda and anti-Christian pogroms are widespread throughout the Muslim world. Muslim tracts in mosques have no hesitation in attacking Jews (slickly referred to as "Zionists"). The qu-ran minces no words in telling Muslims how they should treat nonMuslims and apostates and those who "offend" Mohammed: slaughter them. Muslims have no qualms in squashing free speech practiced by nonMuslims while demanding the right to curse and issue fatwas against anyone and anything considered "offensive".
Meanwhile, Jewish and Christian religious leaders pretend that Muslim prejudice, hatred, violence and misogyny are aberrations, not attitudes embedded in Muslim law and beliefs. They have nothing to say about honor killings right here in this country. They have nothing to say about the growing threats to civil liberties from Muslim leaders. They have nothing to say about Muslim anti-Semitism. For them, evil is disembodied. It has no origin, no perpetrators, no crime scene, and its victims are nameless.
Religion of course was the first recognition by humans of the existence of evil. But at the same time it recognized that violence was an innate characteristic of humans and therefore ineradicable. All it could do was try and discourage it by threatening burning at the stake for heretics and hell fire after death for everyone else.
The beauty of this was that it could justify its grip on human beings in the name of salvation. Today this doesn't wash in nonMuslim religions but it still prevails under Islam. Yet nonMuslim religious leaders refuse to condemn the most atrocious acts committed in the name of Islam because they know that an attack on one religion is an attack on all of them. Best to cover your own ass in these situations than cast a stone.