To end terrorism, start with moral clarity
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To end terrorism, start with moral clarity

The most often asked question I hear today is “How do we stop radical Islamic terrorism?”

Of course there are no quick, easy solutions but any attempt must start with an absolute commitment to speaking and acting with moral clarity.

How can it be that there are leaders today, including the president of the United States, who simply refuse to use the words “Islamic terrorism” or “Islamic jihad”? I am not an expert on Islam, and I have no true sense whether Islam is or is not a religion of peace.

To me that is irrelevant. What is clear is that there are a large number of followers of Islam who have caused the greatest desecration of God’s name today, with one murderous attack after another, in country after country, against our brothers and sisters in Israel and Jews around the world, against Christians, and mostly against fellow Muslims, all in the name of a perverted cult that worships death, violence, domination, subjugation, and intolerance. Religion is the exact opposite. It can stand only for peace, love, tolerance, respect, kindness and chesed, especially to the other.

The Torah urges us to show kindness to the stranger more frequently than it tells us to keep Shabbat. Every great Jewish leader, past and present, from Moses to the sages of the Talmud, including Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai, to the Rambam, to the chasidic masters, to contemporary holy figures like the Lubavitcher rebbe and Rav Soleveichik, represented these ideals of kindness and ethical values, in addition to incredible scholarship.

Moral clarity requires that:

• All leaders – local, national, and international, including political and religious leaders – must speak honestly about radical Islamic terrorism, call it what it is, and call out this despicable ideology. No more excuses about how it is related to Israel and the Israel-Palestinian conflict or any other excuses.

• Political and religious Muslim leaders must speak out loudly and clearly against any form of extremism and terror. They must tell their followers that the only way they can honor Islam is by living a life dedicated to life, not death, by respecting others, including members of other faiths.

• All leaders must stop funding countries and entities that support terror in any shape or form. This includes those societies and leaders (especially in the PA) that glorify terrorists and murderers, turning them into heroes, naming streets and stadiums after them.

• All of us must speak out, organize rallies, contact our political representatives, and demand an end to hatred and anti-Semitism, whether at the U.N., on college campuses, or in the media

It’s really very clear that we cannot stop radical Islamic terrorism, jihad, ISIS, Hamas, and other murderous groups or ideologies without finally facing up to it. We ignore it at our peril; as we have seen, it has only gotten worse. Further, while we can do our part, the only sure way that radical Islamic terrorism can be stopped is from within the Muslim world. It will take their leaders and people to recognize that a segment of the Muslim world is on a path to destroy civilization as we know it, and it is they who defame Islam far more than any cartoonists ever could.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said last week that the fight against terrorism needs a new religious discourse, in addition to security and military measures. He said, “The fight … should include a reformed religious discourse from which false ideologies that could lure some into adopting violence to impose their ideas have been removed.” It’s a start – but so much more is needed.

I was in Belgium on business last year. Because of dietary restrictions I asked a worker in the business lounge to assist me. He offered to bring some salad and fruit to my room. When he came, the door happened to be open and he saw that I was in the middle of Mincha, the afternoon prayer service. He waited quietly until I was done, and then he told me that although he was living in Belgium, he was a Muslim from Egypt. He said that we were brothers, both sons of Abraham, and he extended blessings to me. I returned the blessings.

He said that it was only the extremists who make the problems, and that they kill everyone – Muslims, Jews, and Christians. I countered that unfortunately there are too many extremists, and we have to speak out against them. “If our leaders don’t speak out, how can we?” he said. “We are too scared.”

Let’s issue a resounding call to our leaders, especially in the Muslim community. Don’t be scared. Speak out. Speak clearly. Death, violence, domination, subjugation, intolerance – these things are not Islam. They are not religion but rather the exact opposite.

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