The American Jewish community has been at the forefront, as it should, of those warning against prejudicial stereotyping of any religious or ethnic group, most notably Arab Americans or Muslims, in the wake of the Sept. 11 attack. While the evidence seems clear that Islamists — those who advocate jihad and terrorism against the West, as opposed to mainstream Islam — were responsible for the deadly assaults on New York and Washington, we Jews know well the dangers of blaming an entire group for the actions of individuals.
Even as the U.S. is forced to revisit the issue of racial profiling, once seen as untenable but becoming more acceptable to those placing a premium on security, we are mindful of American excesses during World War II, when loyal Americans of Japanese descent were interned. All the more reason to appreciate Israel's constant struggle between freedom and defense, and its efforts to maintain an open, democratic society in the face of violent attacks from its Arab neighbors, and even Israeli Arabs.
Despite the appropriate warnings about defaming Muslims in the U.S., though, it should be noted that a number of Muslim organizations in America have supported and defended fundamentalist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, whose long record of deadly terrorist attacks in Israel and strong anti-American rhetoric is well documented. The American Muslim Council, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the American Muslim Alliance are among those organizations that have supported the Palestinian "right to resist occupation," in the words of one leader, and sought to differentiate between Palestinian violence against Israel and other forms of terror attacks.
Such rhetoric is dishonest and dangerous, masking its defense of the murder of innocent Jewish men, women and children in the name of legitimate struggle — not to mention its clear assault on the Oslo Accords, which bound Palestinians and Israelis to resolve their difference through negotiations rather than armed violence.
It is time for Muslim religious leaders to condemn rather than glorify suicide bombers and to speak out against terrorism.
We welcome reports that some Arab American and Muslim leaders, in the wake of the Sept. 11 attack, are beginning to speak out against any form of terrorism against civilians anywhere in the world. We hope that Muslim clerics, who insist that Islam is a peaceful religion, would do the same by making public and clear condemnations of suicide bombs and drive-by shootings that kill women and children in Israel. Surely any person of faith believes that all men and women are created in the image of God. Such a central religious belief must not exclude any one group.
Yet we know that the young "martyrs" are told that their suicide mission is a holy one and that they will enter Paradise for taking the lives of Jews. We have heard the hateful calls on a regular basis from the leading mosques in Cairo and Jerusalem and Gaza and other Arab quarters to kill the Jews and destroy America. Indeed, some leading clerics have been instrumental in whipping up violence and hatred among their adherents, on religious grounds; school textbooks in the Palestinian Authority describe the coming victory of Islam over Western civilization.
It is time for Muslim religious leaders to condemn rather than glorify suicide bombers and to speak out against terrorism, not only in a qualified way, decrying the attacks on New York and Washington, but against any and all efforts to destroy men, women and children in the name of God.