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Imams denounce terrorism . . . with caveats

That many imams and Islamic leaders around the world embrace terrorism is not news. Dog bites man. That some imams around the world denounce terrorism is news. Man bites dog. The good news sometimes comes unvarnished, and sometimes with caveats. For some, it’s just too hard, still too difficult, to see the murder of innocents as unqualifiedly evil.

We scan the world around us. Zoom in on Chicago. On Jan. 14, at the Chicago Loop Synagogue, Jews gathered to commemorate the victims of terror in France. Among the speakers were lay leaders, rabbis, priests, ministers — and Imam Hazim Fazlic of the Islamic Cultural Center of Greater Chicago and a professor at Lake Forest College.

He said that the idea that the terror attacks were part of a struggle between one “religion, civilization or culture” against another was false, but that the battle was between “evil terrorists and humanity.” We would have been happier without the caveat exonerating Islam from any role in the terrorism in France and elsewhere, but no doubt the unequivocal denunciation of terrorism was refreshing and welcome.

Zoom in on Rotterdam, Holland. Its mayor, a Muslim, said: “If you don’t like it here” [referring to Muslims in Holland] “because some humorists you don’t like are producing a newspaper . . . you can sod off.” No caveats there. Thank you.

Zoom in on Britain. The Muslim Council of Britain (reports the Economist) said: “Nothing is more immoral, offensive and insulting against our beloved prophet than such a callous act of murder.” Again, thank you.

Zoom in on Boston. Summarizing the reaction of Islam’s leaders in Europe, one professor at Boston College summarized the reaction to the murder of 17 innocent in France by Islamic radicals: “sadness, solidarity with the victims, plus a rejection of the idea that Islam was ultimately responsible.” Of course, the murderers themselves were responsible. But on the level of ideas, who inspired these murderers if not radical Islam?

Alas, the Pope cautions against the inevitability of a violent response against offensive free speech. One sheikh in Saudi Arabia, also quoted in the Economist, cancelled the coherence of his denunciation of the terror in France with this:

“All those who try to ignite our anger are responsible for the consequences.”

So we have quite a ways to go yet in the Islamic world; yet, we have no doubt made some progress.

Here’s the analogy: one of those fake non-apologies by politicians and celebrities who are sorry only because someone was hurt by their words, not because they said or did anything intrinsically wrong. Terrorism is intrinsically wrong. It is not an inevitable “consequence” of, say, offensive speech. It is not an ageless palimpsest of wrongs stretching endlessly backward. It is evil. Its perpetrators are responsible. Their ideas, religious or otherwise, are responsible. End of story.

Copyright © 2014 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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