Don’t burn books


JTA’s Ron Kampeas reported last week on Jewish organizations stepping up their efforts to combat discrimination and hatred directed at Muslims and Islam.

A day after the story was posted, the Anti-Defamation Leage issued a statement titled "ADL Strongly Condemns Anti-Muslim Actions And Rallies Planned To Coincide With 9/11 Anniversary." The ADL not only slammed the burning of Korans (which ended up not taking place), but also the rally held Sept. 11 against the proposed Islamic center two blocks from Ground Zero:

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has condemned plans for a Koran burning in Gainesville, Florida and a rally in lower Manhattan featuring anti-Muslim speakers timed to coincide with the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

"The Dove World Outreach Center’s threat to burn thousands of copies of the Koran is outrageous and horrific and must be forcefully condemned by all Americans," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director.  "The tragedy of September 11 should never be exploited, and we should not let bigots defile the memory of the victims of 9/11 with offensive rhetoric and hate speech.  That stands against everything this country and our long tradition of religious freedom represents." …

The League has spoken out strongly against the planned Sept. 11 protest of the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero sponsored by Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA), which is slated to include remarks from the outspoken anti-Muslim Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders, and others, calling the rally "un-American."

"This is not a place for political demonstrations, for advocacy, especially on the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks," said Mr. Foxman.  "This is a place for memory, for families to be together and to remember their loved ones on that solemn day."

Writing in The Miami Herald, Rabbi Noam E. Marans of the American Jewish Committee argued that Jews have a responsibility to speak out against the burning of the Koran and other anti-Islamic activities:

History has taught that silence is complicity. Responsible religious and political leaders need to fill the vacuum and refuse to yield the playing field to the verbal extremists among us. Words that incite hate are painfully wrong and dangerous. They can lead to violence, as seen in the stabbing of a Muslim taxi driver in New York and the arson attack and gunshots at a Tennessee mosque.

All of us have a responsibility to call out those who have stoked the fires, condemn those who have hurt others in their hate of Islam and stand with those who have been made vulnerable.

Jews have a particular responsibility to help alter the current climate. After all, we know better than most how stereotypes, discrimination, bias and violence have challenged our long journey.

Muslims should not be collectively judged by the 9/11 terrorists who, in their perversion of Islam, killed thousands, including Muslims. The terrorists were not purveyors of religion, but of sacrilege.

It’s worth noting that Marans made clear that he was not only directing his comments against the political fringe:

It may indeed be a cynical election season that has unleashed a torrent of incendiary comments by public leaders who should know better. Among the most egregious may be the words of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who compared the so-called Ground Zero mosque to the placement of a swastika at the site of Washington’s Holocaust Museum.

Even the Zionist Organization of America, which usually is focusing on Muslims behaving badly felt obliged to issue a statement condemning the threatened Koran-burning in Florida:

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has condemned the planned 9/11 Quran burning event organized by Pastor Terry Jones and his Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida.

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “We condemn this proposed Quran burning. The ZOA has not and will not support or condone burning religious scriptures of any faith.

“This proposed act of Quran-burning is not only offensive and counter-productive, but a diversion from real issues that concern us regarding extremism in the Muslim world.

“The ZOA has countless times articulated its genuine and substantive concerns about Islamic radicalism. We must combat jihadists as well as other Muslim extremists who legitimize, rationalize or seek to dishonestly sanitize violent, totalitarian doctrines that involve the murder and subjugation of non-Muslims and moderate Muslims. We oppose tirelessly Islamist terrorism and those Muslims who work for the subjugation of America, Israel and indeed all non-Muslim countries, whether this is attempted by immediate, violent and blatant means, or by gradual, non-violent and covert means.

“We should be seeking out, promoting and working with moderate Muslims. It will not be possible to do so if we support or fail to criticize Quran-burning events such as the one proposed in Florida.

Klein also made a point of rejecting the argument that burning the Koran should be opposed on national security grounds:

“It has been argued, including by General David Petraeus, that this proposed Quran-burning will serve as a pretext for Islamist assaults here and overseas. His statement is misconceived. These are not the grounds on which we oppose and condemn this event.

“Burning the Quran should be opposed because it is offensive, wrong and counter-productive, not because it can be used to justify Islamist violence. If we take that approach, we will soon find that all efforts to oppose or challenge radical Muslims will be quickly condemned on the same grounds. This will morally and physically disarm us and encroach on our ability as a free society to challenge dangerous enemies.

“Radical Muslims need no pretext to attack us, so it is wrong to suggest that we are specially endangering ourselves by doing something, whether proper or offensive, to challenge them. Tragically, the attacks would come anyway, regardless of what we say and do today.”

It’s worth noting that this issue cuts both ways — some opponents of building an Islamic center near Ground Zero say the problem is that it will be seen by anti-U.S. Islamic radicals as a sign of triumph. Similarly, ZOA and other opponents of unilateral Israeli territorial concessions have consistently argued that such moves serve to inspire future terrorist attacks. Of course, there are plenty of liberals who also try to have it both ways, but in the other direction. But all of this is a discussion for another blog post.

Recommended from JTA