Religious extremism

Religious extremism

This is not about Israel or Jews at all.

It is, instead, about a bombing and small massacre in Kabul, Afghanistan, that happened last Friday night.

As NPR reported, a suicide bomber caused a diversion that allowed two gunmen to massacre 21 people, many of them foreigners who worked for nonprofit agencies.

The restaurant, called Taverna du Liban, was a small oasis, the report said; the owner, Kamal Hamade, who was among the victims, was a great cook and baker, the sort of hospitable, gregarious person who runs a restaurant because he gets joy from feeding people and watching them unbend. As its name made clear, it offered Lebanese food, and until the first crackdown, it also offered wine. Once that was disallowed, the owner still offered wine, but in teapots. Customers had to ask for red or white tea.

The taverna was not easy to get into. It had many layers of security – sort of like the gates after gates after gates that Maxwell Smart made his bumbling way through decades ago in “Get Smart,” except there was nothing even vaguely funny about this. In fact, Mr. Hamade had set up such safeguards as a barrel of oil, which was to have been spilled on the floor to made it likely that intruders would slip as they charged in.

But the chaos caused by the suicide bomber overrode everything.

For one thing, this possibly changes the rules; until this episode diplomats and nonprofit workers were not seen as targets. That change would be very bad.

But even worse – the Taliban took credit for this attack, claiming, among other things, that the wine served proved the restaurant’s moral laxity, and consequently its customers’ unworthiness for life.

This is about the kind of fundamentalism that leads to this kind of warped evil. We Jews are taught about moderation; eating and drinking is good, as long as it is done appropriately, and as long as we follow the rules. But there does seem to be a human tendency to move from moderation to a kind of pinched, sanctimonious dourness that catapaults into joyless, pointless self-sacrifice and then, eventually, and only in rare cases, into murderous, loveless, soulless psychopathology.

The Taliban exemplifies that movement.

We are very lucky that this story is not a Jewish story. Let us hope that we never give into that slide toward fanaticism.