Friday, April 04, 2008

"Muslims Considered"

Arlene Kushner

I would like to focus on a two-part lecture I attended yesterday at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. It sheds further light on an issue I've raised a couple of times recently.

The first speaker was Dr. Rafael Yisraeli, Professor of Islamic and Middle East history at Hebrew University. His subject was Sheikh Ra'id Salah from Umm el Fahm, which is an Israeli Arab village near Haifa that is the center of radical Islamic sentiment in Israel. The Sheikh heads the Islamic Movement of Israel (which has ideological ties to the Muslim Brotherhood). . From the time of its founding decades ago, the Islamic Movement was violent and promoted acts of sabotage (in one instance planning something against the national water carrier). In 1995, when Israeli elections were upcoming, the Movement split. The relatively more moderate Sheikh Abdallah Darwish wanted the Movement to participate in the political process.

Sheikh Salah was adamantly opposed because he refused to give legitimacy to the Zionist government. His plan was to be involved only in local elections in Israeli Arab towns in order to organize Islamic life in Israel separate from Israeli national life. Sheikh Salah is today the dominant figure of the Movement, and considered something of a hero because of his imprisonment for collaboration with Hamas.


Sheikh Salah has founded the Aksa Foundation which garners large sums from Islamic nations. He has founded an Islamic college and promoted social activities -- all of which promote anti-Israel Islamic values. It is Sheikh Salah who incites via false charges that the Israeli government is digging under the Temple Mount.


Says Prof. Yisraeli, the worst danger to our country is not from outside, but this movement from within. The nation is asleep.

Devoid of a true sense of democracy and the rule of law, they demand the right to do whatever they wish and they call it democracy.


The second speaker was Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, Chairman of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Dr. Gerstenfeld, who grew up in Holland, studies issues of anti-Semitism in Europe today. Yesterday his subject was the video "Fitna." Many of you will already be aware of this video, produced by Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders, which has just been released to much controversy.

Dr. Gerstenfeld traced for us the history of this video: His focus was on the fact that, late last year, after Wilders announced his intention to make a video on radical Islam there was an enormous reaction before anyone had seen it. Had the reaction been less, says Gerstenfeld, the video would have been released quietly: Those opposed to it actually generated the publicity that made it known internationally.

The video was released on March 27 on LiveLeak. Within 24 hours, millions had seen it, including 3 million Dutch. Amidst international condemnation and threats -- from Indonesia, Afghanistan, Iran, etc. etc. -- LiveLeak took it down, but it can now be seen on other sites. . Many in the Dutch government and commercial world were afraid that this would impinge negatively on relations with Arab and Muslim nations.


Gerstenfeld addressed only the first half of the video, which shows a selection of the major radical Muslim crimes and anti-Semitic attacks, and ties them to the Koran.

He regrets, he says, that the video does not clarify the fact that what is being referred to is only a minority (10-15%) of the Muslim world, and that not every Muslim is radical and draws upon these Koran verses to justify violence and terrorism.

Doing this, he says, would have made the video stronger. Gerstenfeld pointed out that this 10-15% of the Muslim world constitutes more people than all of Hitler's troops. In no way does he mean to imply that the fact that not all Muslims are involved means there is no danger. In fact, what he said was that 'the largest criminal body in the world is moving ahead."


At this point in the discussion, Prof. Yisraeli interjected something that I would like to share: How do you define "radical"? he asked. Yes, 10-15% may go out and commit terror acts, but when they do, the majority of the remaining 85-90% go into the streets and dance, and pass out candies.

What Prof. Yisraeli was raising is the much debated issue of whether there are two Islams today -- radical and non-radical -- or whether it is of one piece. A discussion for another day.


The second half of the video, which Dr. Gerstenfeld did not discuss in any detail, addresses the Muslim situation in Holland. My own critique of it is that unless there is background understanding (awareness, for example, of the fact that many Muslims refuse to assimilate into the culture of their adopted country and push for Sharia law), it is difficult to understand what is being discussed.

But this part of the film raises the enormously significant issue of what is happening in Europe today and whether European culture is being overwhelmed. Dr. Gerstenfeld suggests that it is not necessarily possible to extrapolate from the situation in Holland to that in other European countries.

But it is worth noting that, while the Dutch government was in an uproar about the film out of fear of criticism and attack, the Dutch people applauded it. A poll taken showed that Wilders's party would garner more seats in an election now. More than half the Dutch think that Islam is a threat, and 57% think that permitting Muslim immigration into the country was the greatest of mistakes. (It should be noted that many European countries are now starting to clamp down, and undo what has been done to date with regard to the Muslim immigration.)


See it for yourself, I urge you:

see my website

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