Tens of thousands of Moslem rioters around the globe successfully proved the point of the caricature in a Danish paper of Mohammed with a bomb-shaped turban. The “religion of peace” has been seized by those bent on death and destruction. Moslem demonstrators in London carried placards reading: “Behead those who insult Islam;” “Prepare for the REAL Holocaust;” “Europe you will pay, your 9/11 is on the way.”
Easily enraged Moslems resemble a surly teenager – insults waiting to happen – with the difference that there are millions of them. For them life itself is an insult, as they are forced to confront daily the failure of Islamic societies wherever they look.
In response to an Iranian offer of a prize for the most offensive Holocaust cartoons, Islamic wits in Holland published a cartoon of Hitler in bed with Anne Frank over the caption, “Write this in your diary, Anne.”
By responding to the perceived insult to their religion by giving even greater offense to others, these Moslems showed themselves incapable of grasping the basic principle of democratic society: mutuality, i.e., the acceptance of one set of rules for all members of society. They did not attempt to formulate arguments based on reciprocal tolerance and respect. Nor could they, given the stream of vicious caricatures of Jews from the Islamic press.
Why do so many Moslems naturally respond to insult with threats of murder and why is democratic tolerance so foreign to them?
From the moment Islam swept out of the Arabian peninsula, it was a religion of conquest. Military success became associated with divine favor, and the expansion of Islamic rule a religious imperative. The reversal of those early triumphs over the last five hundred years is thus a continual affront not only to Moslems but to their god.
Traditionally, most Moslems have had little experience living with people of other creeds, except as rulers, and thus little interest in rules that allow people of different views and faiths to dwell together in relative harmony.
Jews, by contrast, have lived everywhere as a small minority for 2,000 years. Unlike both Christianity and Islam, Judaism never sought the conversion of mankind under its banner. Nor did it teach that eternal life is limited to its adherents.
Jews have never equated worldly success with Divine favor. Over two thousand years ago, the Men of the Great Assembly declared G-d’s gvura to be that He withholds His wrath, even as the evildoers celebrate in His Temple (Yoma 69b).
Our attitude to our persecutors was one of disdain rather than murderous rage. We trusted that G-d would not forget innocent blood shed in His service, and left vengeance to Him rather than being consumed by hatred.
These historic attitudes explain why Jews do not react to caricatures of their beliefs, even by their co-religionists – think of Shulamit Aloni’s characterization of Yehoshua as a book of genocide – with the rage, and why they have adapted so well to democracy.
Originally published in Maariv, February 15, 2006