For this month's message, I've
included between the lines below, portions of an editorial
written by Thomas L. Friedman of the New York Times
on 27 Nov, 2001. I think it offers a lot of insight
into current events. Let me also recommend the book
"Warriors of the Prophet" by Mark Huband, which surveys
the development of radical Islam.
"If 9/11 was indeed the onset
of World War III, we have to understand what this
war is about. We're not fighting to eradicate "terrorism."
Terrorism is just a tool. We're fighting to defeat
an ideology: religious totalitarianism.
World War II and the cold
war were fought to defeat secular totalitarianism
- Nazism and Communism - and World War III is a battle
against religious totalitarianism, a view of the world
that my faith must reign supreme and can be affirmed
and held passionately only if all others are negated.
That's bin Ladenism.
But unlike Nazism, religious
totalitarianism can't be fought by armies alone. It
has to be fought in schools, mosques, churches and
synagogues, and can be defeated only with the help
of imams, rabbis and priests.
The generals we need to fight
this war are people like Rabbi David Hartman, from
the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. What first
attracted me to Rabbi Hartman when I reported from
Jerusalem was his contention that unless Jews reinterpreted
their faith in a way that embraced modernity, without
weakening religious passion, and in a way that affirmed
that God speaks multiple languages and is not exhausted
by just one faith, they would have no future in the
land of Israel. And what also impressed me was that
he knew where the battlefield was. He set up his own
schools in Israel to compete with fundamentalist Jews,
Muslims and Christians, who used their schools to
preach exclusivist religious visions.
After recently visiting the
Islamic madrasa in Pakistan where many Taliban leaders
were educated, and seeing the fundamentalist religious
education the young boys there were being given, I
telephoned Rabbi Hartman and asked: How do we battle
religious totalitarianism? He answered: "All faiths
that come out of the biblical tradition - Judaism,
Christianity and Islam - have the tendency to believe
that they have the exclusive truth. When the Taliban
wiped out the Buddhist statues, that's what they were
saying. But others have said it too. The opposite
of religious totalitarianism is an ideology of pluralism
- an ideology that embraces religious diversity and
the idea that my faith can be nurtured without claiming
exclusive truth. America is the Mecca of that ideology,
and that is what bin Laden hates and that is why America
had to be destroyed."
The future of the world may
well be decided by how we fight this war. Can Islam,
Christianity and Judaism know that God speaks Arabic
on Fridays, Hebrew on Saturdays and Latin on Sundays,
and that he welcomes different human beings approaching
him through their own history, out of their language
and cultural heritage? "Is single-minded fanaticism
a necessity for passion and religious survival, or
can we have a multilingual view of God - a notion
that God is not exhausted by just one religious path?"
asked Rabbi Hartman.
Many Jews and Christians have
already argued that the answer to that question is
yes, and some have gone back to their sacred texts
to reinterpret their traditions to embrace modernity
and pluralism, and to create space for secularism
and alternative faiths. Others - Christian and Jewish
fundamentalists - have rejected this notion, and that
is what the battle is about within their faiths…Although
there is a deep moral impulse in Islam for justice,
charity and compassion, Islam has not developed a
dominant religious philosophy that allows equal recognition
of alternative faith communities."
Rabbi Hartman's "multilingual
view of God", mentioned in the above article, is a
view which needs to spread throughout the world. Until
we can discard the notion that our beliefs (be they
Jewish, Christian, or Muslim) constitute the "one
true path" the world will remain filled with conflict
And the issue is larger than
just religion. Whenever force, destruction, or violent
acts are used to impose your views, you are on the
wrong path. There are many such examples today: anti-abortion
bombers, anti-trade activists, white supremacists,
animal rights activists, etc. As long as you are anti-
anything, as long as you are consumed by hate, as
long as you resort to violence, you are dooming yourself,
and those around you, to a life of misery.
It is still possible to oppose
ideas you find distasteful. You don't have to become
a spineless moral relativist. Stand up for what you
believe, just remember to approach the problem with
love, and allow others to hold views that don't necessarily
match yours. As a wise woman once told me, "reasonable
people agree to disagree."
Respect other's beliefs, and
accept the fact that you don't have a corner on the
Get over yourself.
Don't blindly accept the dogmas
you've grown up with, social dogmas, religious dogmas,
political dogmas. Open your eyes. Question your beliefs.
Meditate and tune into the universal truth. It's amazing
how much is out there ready to be learned. Armed with
love and this new outlook, you can make a difference
in your family and in your community.