First printed September 2006
The lesson of history, learned over the centuries, is that where synagogues burn, so too will churches. Just a year ago, the abandoned synagogues of Gaza were desecrated and burned. There was little condemnation, except by those of us who knew that a society that burns a synagogue, will also kidnap, murder and terrorize.
There was little mourning for the beautiful houses of worship that were attacked by rampaging mobs, except by those of us who knew that what was born in Gaza that day was a people who believed they had won. They saw our withdrawal as the beginning of their victory; our weakness as their strength. What they did to the synagogues of Gaza, they would do to churches given “cause.”
What came out of Gaza, out of Iraq, out of Afghanistan, is a movement to bring Islam to rule the earth. So intolerant is this religion, that a picture is enough to incite murder; an errant word enough to justify rioting and the burning of holy sites. The Christian world and the Jewish world shy away from these truths because they are as abhorrent to the world we wish to believe exists as ethnic profiling. We don’t like the idea that it is possible to determine the threat someone poses based on his or her ethnic appearance. It is racist. It is wrong.
No 67-year-old Jewish grandmothers have hijacked planes or blown up buildings, but to be fair, we must search and stop them as we would a young Moslem man. And if, in the time we take to search that grandmother, Abdullah or Mohammed succeeds in passing security unfettered and does blow something up, goes the reasoning, at least we have our humanity. At least we didn’t single out one ethnic group. We may have 30 funerals to attend, but we have our humanity.
But this concept is taking a beating as little “mistakes” trigger violent reactions in the Moslem world and no matter how we try to understand and excuse, the bottom line is simply that we in the western world don’t act that way. We don’t riot when insulted; we don’t burn when inflamed.
First it was a cartoon in Denmark that showed a caricature of Mohammed’s face. Poor taste, ill-advised. But justification for murder? Not in the western world. But in the Arab world, it was enough to cause rioting, and lead to several deaths and a $1 million dollar death threat against the cartoonist. Interestingly enough, when an entire “art” show of cartoons against Israel and the Holocaust was officially sanctioned in Iran recently, there were no riots in the world, no burned buildings, no death threats. Go figure.
When the President of Iran calls for the destruction of Israel, and presumably the more than 5 million Jews within its borders, there were no riots, no death threats, no burned mosques or kidnapped journalists. When Jews were beaten in Russia, France, Yugoslavia, England, and Belgium, there were no violent demonstrations, no riots and death threats.
Now the Pope has spoken a few words, perhaps ill-timed, perhaps badly phrased, but the result is the same. The Arab world is alight. Despite the calming words of Jakarta rally organizer that, “we Muslims have no violent character,” violence seems to prevail. Several churches in Palestinian areas have been fire-bombed.
Deputy leader to the Turkish Prime Minister said the Pope was “going down in history in the same category as leaders such as Hitler and Mussolini.” Hitler was responsible for the murder of at least 10 million people, by conservative estimates. His close ally, Mussolini established a fascist dictatorship in Italy.
To have an Islamic leader compare the Pope to these men of evil may help shed light on the ongoing propaganda war to paint Moslems as victims rather than aggressors. But the truth is in the flames that burned the churches, the bullets that were shot in the air, and the firebombs thrown in Gaza. Last year, the world was silent to the atrocity of synagogues being burned. Just one year later, the lesson returns.
Where synagogues burn, so too do churches.