On the morning of the [Ft. Hood] shootings, he [Maj. Nidal Hassan] stopped by the home of another neighbor, Lenna Brown, as she was sharing coffee with a friend. He gave them both brand new copies of the Koran…
“I asked him where are you going, and he said Afghanistan,” Ms. Brown said. She asked him how he felt about that, and he paused before answering.
“I am going to do God’s work,” he replied.
—New York Times
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“It was a pleasure and an honor to serve my God,” said [Jack] Teitel [accused settler murderer] at the Jerusalem courthouse. “I have no regret and no doubt that God is pleased.”
When people believe they are acting in God’s name or the name of their particular religion they can do horrible things. Those of us who believe that bad acts are only done in the name of one religion like Islam must remember that all religions (including Judaism) produce such hate. No religion has a monopoly on righteousness or moral purity. Anyone who believes that Judaism and Jews are always victims and never victimizers is doing themselves and their religion a deep disservice.
To be clear, there are those eager to claim that Nidal Hassan was purely a Muslim terrorist. I don’t believe this. I believe he was mentally ill and used his religion as a crutch or catalyst for his latent violent mental condition. On the other hand, no media report from Israel has suggested that Jack Teitel has any such mental condition.
What I’m trying to get at here is not the degree to which religion motivated these killers. I’m merely looking at what they themselves said and believed in regard to their actions. And the fact that both believed virtually the same thing about their actions (i.e. that God blessed their work) tells us both how deluded human beings can be, and how capable we are of using religion to justify the worst of human behavior.
Those of us who are Jewish or Muslim must stand up and say that we will not let our respective religions be hijacked (whether the hijacker is mentally ill or entirely lucid and competent) by such insanity. We must condemn not only the killers, but the spiritual leaders and movements who lay the groundwork for their hate whether their names be Omar Abdel-Rahman, Anwar al-Awlaki or Yitzchak Shapira, Dov Wolpe, Ariel Sokolovsky or Herschel Schachter.
We must declare that God does not want us to kill on His behalf. God does not hate anyone who is Muslim (if you are a Jew) or Jewish (if you are a Muslim). And anyone who makes such a claim must be ostracized, told in no uncertain terms that our religion does not countenance such hateful rhetoric. Now, it’s easy for me to say these things. But I expect our own religious leaders to say them as well. And they don’t. I know for a fact that Jewish rabbinic leaders largely do not reject publicly and forcefully such expressions of hate in their midst. If you could review the content of rabbinic sermons delivered the Shabbat after Jack Teitel’s arrest, I’d venture to say no more than a handful if that would’ve referred to him and the implications of his alleged crimes for Judaism. For most rabbis, Jack Teitel and his actions are “out there,” and not relevant to “our” Judaism. I assume the same may be true in the Muslim community.
I’m not claiming this is universally true. Of course there are pockets of tolerance in both Islam and Judaism. There are rabbis and imams who do denounce the haters. But I maintain they are the exception rather than the rule and what I’m calling for is for denunciation of hate and intolerance deriving from our midst that is full-throated and universal.