Jewish World Review Oct. 9, 2003/ 13 Tishrei, 5764
Tears for the sacrifice
I weep for the three generations of the Zer-Aviv family who are with us no more: Bruria, 54; Bezalel, 30; Keren, 29; Liran 4; and Noya, 1.
I weep for the idiocy of Hanadi Jaradat, 27, who blew herself up in a restaurant operated by both Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews. The Maxim restaurant was a comfortable beachfront meeting place where men, women and children of different religions casually testified to friendship.
The destruction of Maxim's will be recalled years from now as another tragedy punctuating the Jewish New Year, coming between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
This is the time of year when Jews ask for forgiveness and pray for their names to be written in the Book of Life for yet another year. They listen to the shofar, the ram's horn, blasting through to the soul with notes of sacrifice, suffering and hope. The notes express possibility and anguish, recalling life's many tragedies and the need for repentance. We listen to the wail of humankind, a collective howl despising man's inhumanity to man.
But how can this tragedy at Haifa do anything but instill more anger, cultivate more outrage? This was murder timed to occur just after President Bush spoke out against "the fence." It's these savage crimes of suicide bombers that make that fence, ugly as it may be, necessary. The explosion was timed to turn the road map into a dead end. That was and is inevitable as long as Yasser Arafat remains in power.
Jews argue endlessly among themselves, but there is no interpretation of the words of the Torah that could lead children or young adults or anyone else to blow up themselves to kill others. The Jewish emphasis is on life not death, and murder in Judaic teaching never translates into martyrdom.
We are assured by certain Muslims that the suicide bombers - and those who instruct them - find no direction or validation in the Koran. But is that necessarily so?
In a new book, "The Trouble With Islam," (CLICK HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR) Irshad Manji, an Islamic woman, challenges the authority of the Koran and its interpreters who are "uncritical" of what they read and who dominate mainstream Islam with a literal interpretation of the Koran. "We can't be afraid to ask: What if the Koran isn't perfect?" she tells The New York Times. "What if it's riddled with human biases?"
Irshad Manji's ideas arrive with a strange mix of affinities. As an outspoken lesbian feminist, she knows she would not enjoy freedom in the Islamic world as she does in the West. She lives in Canada, having fled the oppression of Idi Amin in her homeland of Uganda. She refuses to hide from hard truth that many Islamists and their sympathizers in the West ignore. It's these hard truths that give power to her voice and why she calls herself a "refusenik." She doesn't refuse to be a Muslim. She refuses "to join an army of automatons in the name of Allah."
In her book, to be published here in January, she addresses "My Fellow Muslims" in a call for an Islamic Reformation to determine the course of Islam in the 21st century. "Through our screaming self-pity and our conspicuous silences, Muslims are conspiring against ourselves," she writes. "We're in crisis and we're dragging the rest of the world with us."
On her web site, (www. Muslim-refusenik.com) she urges independent thinking and honest analysis over injustices done in the name of Islam, beginning with how Muslim societies treat women, the persistent Jew-bashing, the scourge of slavery in Islamic countries. She recalls the tolerance and freedom of expression that flourished in Islamic countries between the 10th and 13thh centuries, and vows to work for its renewal.
"Liberal" Muslims say that what she criticizes isn't true Islam. She disagrees. "Prophet Muhammad himself said that religion is the way we conduct ourselves toward others," she says.
"By that standard, how Muslims actually behave is Islam, and to sweep that reality under the rug of theory is to absolve ourselves of any responsibility for our fellow human beings."
Would that Hanadi Jaradat, her handlers and the Islamist terrorists who kill, maim and destroy in the name of Allah had heard, and understood the message of Irshad Manji. If they had, and if they had acted on belief the slain of Haifa - some of them Jews and some of them Arabs - who celebrated the sunlight on the blue Mediterranean as it edged upon the white sand beach, would be thriving today. Their names would be written again in the Book of Life.
Instead we weep - for them all.
Comment on JWR contributor Suzanne Fields' column by clicking here.