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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Narratives Lie

As Jews our freedom begins with taking on the yoke of God. I am free because I serve Him, and only Him. God tells me to obey the law of the land - "the law of the kingdom is law":
"DINA DE-MALKHUTA DINA (Aram. דִּינָא דְּמַלְכוּתָא דִּינָא), the halakhic rule that the law of the country is binding, and, in certain cases, is to be preferred to Jewish law." - Source: The Jewish Talmudic scholar ("Amora") Samuel of Nehardea/Samuel bar Abba, cited in the Talmud at Ned. 28a; Git. 10b; BK 113a; BB 54b and 55a; source Jewish Virtual Library
Of course the fact that Jews have to make this point brings up an entire discussion about the theology of civil law for observant people, e.g. if you bind yourself to a certain religion how can you then submit to non-religious law?

In contemporary culture, where we are frequently exposed to acts of radical Islamic terror, the point comes up as a reflexive reaction that blames the Qur'an (and its associated body of law, Sharia) for such acts.

But that narrative is a lie. It is narrative-making that has created the "Muslim bogeyman." According to a report released eight years ago from Britain's intelligence service, the MI5, titled "Behavioural Science Unit Operational Briefing Note: Understanding Radicalisation and Violent Extremism in the UK," the report dispels some common myths about radical Islamic terror.

Most notably, radical Islamic terrorists are actually not particularly knowledgeable or religious. Just the opposite, being religious actually serves as a barrier to the commission of terrorism:
"Far from being religious zealots, a large number of those involved in terrorism do not practise their faith regularly. Many lack religious literacy and could actually be regarded as religious novices. Very few have been brought up in strongly religious households, and there is a higher than average proportion of converts. Some are involved in drug-taking, drinking alcohol and visiting prostitutes. MI5 says there is evidence that a well-established religious identity actually protects against violent radicalisation."
It is of course possible to find numerous examples of terrorism committed in the name of Islam. But that doesn't make such violence inherently religious in nature--any more than sick acts of violence committed by others citing theological grounds.

Looking at the numbers, Muslims are overwhelmingly ignored as a massive body of victims of terror. In 2011, the U.S. Counterterrorism Center reported that "in cases where the religious affiliation of terrorism casualties could be determined, Muslims suffered between 82 and 97% of terrorism-related fatalities over the past five years."

Radical Islamic terrorism is politically, not religiously motivated.

The West, and the United States in particular, has actively created the popular stereotype of the crazed Muslim terrorist.

Under President Bush, the United States actively engaged in Muslim "fear-mongering" for political ends. As history professor Juan Cole put it:
"Even while denying he has anything against Muslims, Bush is creating this “Islamic Fascist” bogeyman, which mostly is a figment of his fevered imagination, or is woefully imprecise as a way of describing the phenomenon, or lacks any real political power, or could be dealt with by containment and decisiveness (remember the Soviet Union), or turns out to be some goatherds on the side of a hill in southern Lebanon." 
This agenda was furthered under both Democrats and Republicans:  Hillary Clinton freely admitted weaponizing Muslims to pursue a U.S. foreign policy agenda. And as The Guardian Notes, the U.S. under President Obama actively fueled the rise of ISIS as a way of overthrowing the government of Syria. (See the widely cited Department of Defense source document released in 2012 and posted by Judicial Watch).


As far as the perceived looming threat of Sharia, the reality is that it is no more a conflict for Muslims living in secular society than Jewish law is for Jews.
"Many American Muslims, like other religious communities who rely on scriptures and religious principles to guide their life, look upon Sharia as a personal system of morality and identity. The vast majority of American Muslims see no conflict between their religious obligations and values and the U.S. legal system." - Interfaith Alliance Frequently Asked Questions document endorsed by 23 organizations including the Islamic Networks Group, the Islamic Society of North America and the Muslim Public Affairs Council
In fact, Jews and Muslims helped found the United States (and have always suffered from what can politely be termed "ambivalence" from the mainstream) along with Christians.

From a legal perspective, the Founding Fathers drew on Islam as they formulated the Constitution, just as they were inspired by Judaism and obviously by Christianity.

So there you have it: Muslims aren't bad.

But false narratives--like the one used by the White House to sell Americans the Iran deal--always are.

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All opinions my own.