In the aftermath of the terror attacks in Paris, do we demand that local Muslim leaders condemn Islamist radicalism, or does that tar an entire community for the acts of a few?
Rabbi N. Daniel Korobkin
Beth Avraham Yoseph Congregation, Toronto
Rabbi Lisa Grushcow
Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom, Montreal
Rabbi Grushcow: Let me begin with some of the words I sent to my congregation as news was coming in about the attack on the kosher supermarket in France: first, may we stand by our co-religionists in France, supporting them in every way we can. No one should have to be afraid to go to synagogue, shop for kosher food or walk in the streets wearing a kippah.
Second, may these events not become an excuse to attack Muslims. We must come to terms with the fact that there is a strain of religious extremism and violence in Islam, as there has been in Christianity and Judaism. This is indeed a religious ideology – but it is wrong. Let us hear the voices of condemnation from so many in the Muslim world, knowing that the goal of the attackers is to divide us. Let us work even harder to find ways to understand one another, and to live together, to create a civil society shaped by shared values and respect…
As religion continues to emerge as an all-too-often force of violence, may we be vigilant in remembering that these attacks are profoundly opposite to what it means to live in service to God.
Rabbi Korobkin: You’re right: this tragedy was compounded because it was done in the name of religion. We should mourn, therefore, not only for those innocent journalists, officers and Jews who were mercilessly slaughtered, but also for the disgrace to God and all religion.
However, I think your response is a bit too tepid for the sheer magnitude of this violent tragedy. No one needs to “come to terms” with the fact that Islam contains a faction that is extremist and murderous. Rather, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper put it, we need to accept that “the international jihadist movement has declared war… And the reality is we’re going to have to confront it.”
No longer can we afford to give a free pass to the Islamic leadership in our communities. Every Canadian has the right and duty to call out local imams and have them show their cards.
Rabbi Grushcow: I know that a number of my congregants will agree with you on this. However, I do not.
My eyes are wide open: there is a jihadist movement growing, which poses a real and present danger. But the fact that there is a dangerous movement within Islam does not mean that every Muslim in the world should be held accountable for their doings. Did I need to apologize when Baruch Goldstein massacred innocent Arab worshippers in Hebron?
To tar all Muslims with the same brush would be to scapegoat an entire community for the acts of a few. That approach has ended badly for us when we have been on the receiving end. I refuse to use it myself.
Here in Montreal, where so many Jews have connections to France, we feel this attack especially deeply. So what can we do? Pay attention to security. Build allegiances between people of all faiths and none, to work toward a civil society that is both safe and open. Remember the value of every human life. That is the struggle that we face as we mourn our dead and step forward into tomorrow.
Rabbi Korobkin: I agree that it’s important to forge relationships with Christian and Muslim leaders. We are actively attempting to do this, but it has become increasingly difficult to find Muslim religious leaders who are prepared to unequivocally condemn radical jihad. We have very few partners here in Toronto with whom we can dialogue. Until Islamic leaders take up the cause of eradicating Islamic violence as their first priority, instead of condemning Israel and all their other perceived enemies first, it will be hard to come together on anything.
I was a young rabbi 21 years ago when Baruch Goldstein committed his horrific crimes, and yes, I did feel it necessary to condemn his behaviour and make sure my congregation knew that there is nothing in the Torah that could possibly condone his violent act. I expect nothing less from all other people of faith.