Faith

British Rabbi: Combat Extremism by Uniting for Religious Liberty

Via Catholic News Agency:

Facing a rising tide of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and government crackdowns on religious practice, European religious communities must stand together, insisted one religious leader this week.

“For the first time in history, we recognize that all faiths are at risk,” Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks told an audience at the National Press Club on Monday in Washington, D.C. He added that “all faiths can stand together recognizing our shared humanity under the sovereignty of God.”

Rabbi Sacks gave the keynote address at the conference put on by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, titled “Europe at a Crossroads.” The conference focused on efforts by civil and religious leaders to combat “religious hatred and bigotry in Europe,” especially Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

“The truth is that things are difficult, in Europe and throughout the world. I have been very, very shocked by what is happening in Europe,” Rabbi Sacks said.

More Jews are leaving France, Holland, Belgium, Norway, Sweeden, and Denmark because of increasing acts of anti-Semitism. The political hostility has become particularly bad in Hungary, Rabbi Sacks noted, and the climate toward Jews in Poland is deteriorating.

The good rabbi is onto something here but there is quite a difference between the roots of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, and the definition of the former covers a wide variety of things.

Almost anyone who publicly expresses a fear of radical Islam faces a backlash from apologists screaming, “Islamophobe!” A desire to avoid being blown up by someone who thinks his god is telling him to kill you is healthy, not bigotry. Acknowledging that some fears are more legitimate than others would be a good first step in the unity process Rabbi Sacks would like to see. Just as all Muslims aren’t terrorists, all non-Muslims who fear radical Islamic terrorists aren’t in the throes of Islamophobia. A little honesty here would help both sides immensely.

That being said, it’s still important to recognize that we live in a world where the very idea of religion is under attack, not just certain faiths that are being targeted. A coming-together of different faith communities to battle secular threats would be a glorious thing indeed, and probably very effective. When I first came upon this article, I was hoping that’s what Rabbi Sacks was suggesting. One would hope it’s in the back of his mind somewhere.

Secular contempt for people of faith should allow us to put aside differences for some battles. Sadly, people of faith often exhibit similar contempt for one another, which leaves us all with too many enemies out there.