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Worldwide Scapegoating Terrorist Attacks – OpEd

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Widespread doubt about the future in America, Great Britain, Europe and the Muslim World leads to scapegoating politics and world wide extremest political/religious sects. Anxiety has split Americans in half — 49 percent to 49 percent — on whether “America’s best days are ahead of us or behind us.”

This anxiety had produced three major scapegoats; immigrants, Jews and the Muslims, as can been seen in a major rise in Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in the U. S. and G.B.

A recent poll reports [2/18/19] that 35 percent of British people think Islam is a threat to the British way of life in the wake of 2017 terrorist attacks; and that anti-Semitism on the political left is an increasing issue in the U.K.

The anti-fascist group Hope Not Hate’s annual “The State of Hate” report, based on a survey of 10,383 Brits conducted in July 2018, found that anti-Muslim prejudice has hardened in the past eight years and, among far-right groups, supplanted fears of increasing immigration.

The report also pinpointed left-wing anti-Semitism, particularly in the Labour Party, as a critical problem. The authors cited conspiracy theories and tropes about undue levels of Jewish power, as well as dismissing allegations of liberal anti-Semitism as a right-wing or Zionist plot.

Thirteen percent of the British agreed that Jewish people have an unhealthy control over the world’s banking system. Almost half of people surveyed said it was a false statement, and about 41 percent said they did not know.

A good example of confluence of worldwide scapegoating paranoia is the suspect in the shooting at a synagogue near San Diego, California; who murdered one person and injured three others. He is a 19-year-old white man named John Earnest, according to Sheriff William Gore.

Sheriff Gore confirmed that a manifesto in Earest’s name was published that Saturday morning on an online message board popular with the far-right white nationalists. The writer of the manifesto took credit for an unsolved arson at a mosque last month in Escondido, nine miles away from the Poway synagogue. Earnest is now being investigated in relation to that incident, Gore said.

The Escondido arsonist reportedly left a note at the scene praising Brenton Tarrant, who killed 50 worshippers at two New Zealand mosques last month. The Poway manifesto also praises Tarrant.

The Poway document also praised Robert Bowers, the accused gunman in last year’s Pittsburgh synagogue massacre. Eleven people were killed in that attack, which took place six months to the day before the Poway shooting.

The manifesto is filled with anti-Semitic invective and cites Christian Bible verses to justify his actions.

All this teaches us that everyone should be constantly reminded that religious political extremism is ultimately self-destructive to both its self, and its supporters. In the words of the poet W. B. Yeats: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold…The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

The time has come for all the best of religious conviction, to denounce and denigrate the activities and beliefs of those who are filled with the worst of religious convictions, before they desecrate and diminish all believers in the one God of Abraham.

Our religious and political leaders could help improve interfaith relations by constantly repeating the important lesson taught by the German Protestant theologian Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) about the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazis’ rise to power; and their subsequent purging of their chosen targets, one group after another:

First they arrested Socialists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a Socialist.

Then they arrested Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they arrested Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.

And our religious and political leaders could also help improve interfaith relations by constantly repeating the important lesson taught by an eleventh century Spanish Muslim theologian:

“Declare your jihad on thirteen enemies you cannot see – Egoism, Arrogance, Conceit, Selfishness, Greed, Lust, Intolerance, Anger, Lying, Cheating, Gossiping and Slandering [scapegoating]. If you can master and destroy them, then will you be ready to fight the enemy you can see.” Al-Ghazali



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Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Allen Maller retired in 2006 after 39 years as Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, Calif. He is the author of an introduction to Jewish mysticism. God. Sex and Kabbalah and editor of the Tikun series of High Holy Day prayerbooks.

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