Opinion | Opinion

Countering radical Islam

Democracies should adopt a carrot-and-stick strategy.

Channel 1 has been airing the satirical sketches series| Hayehudim Ba’im (“The Jews are Coming”). In this twisted version of Jewish history since biblical times, no sacred cow is spared, including God and his prophet Moses.

Now imagine that following one of the most controversial episodes, a group of armed Jewish zealots would have stormed the television studios in Romema, Jerusalem, killing the creators and the presenters of the series.

Or, for that matter, imagine a bunch of raging Mormons, opening fire in the theater on Broadway or in London’s West End, where their religion is being mocked every night by The Book of Mormon, to the delight of ecstatic crowds.

One is tempted here to go on and conclude that it is only Muslims who – like the three terrorists in Paris on Wednesday – are likely to react with deadly violence when their sacred religious symbols are ridiculed. Theo Van Gogh comes immediately to mind, that Dutch film director and producer, whose film Submission, which criticized the treatment of women in Islam, offended many Muslims.

On November 2, 2004, he was murdered by a Dutch-Moroccan Muslim, who, in a chilling resemblance to the recent Paris massacre, walked to the already wounded Van Gogh and calmly shot him several more times at close range.

So, can we safely generalize that this vicious trait is exclusively Muslim? Not so fast. On October 22, 1988, French Christian fundamentalists threw Molotov cocktails inside the Espace Saint-Michel theater in Paris while it was screening Martin Scorsese’s controversial film The Last Temptation of Christ.

This attack wounded 13 people, four of whom were severely burned.

And am I stretching the limits of the discussion here by reminding us that my boss, prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, was slain by a zealot Jew, on religious, not political, grounds? According to Yigal Amir, by planning to give parts of the Land of Israel to non-Jews, Rabin became a Rodef, a Halachic term describing a Jew who puts the lives of fellow Jews at risk, and therefore should be stopped by any means, and even be killed.

Is it not about Muslim fanaticism, then, but about fanaticism in general? Not quite. The cases where Christians or Jews committed atrocities in the name of religion are rare and are universally condemned, while such Muslim atrocities are numerous, and are condoned by leading radical Muslim clerics. As a Saudi journalist, Abdelrahman al-Rashid, the managing director of the satellite channel Al-Arabiya, wrote in Al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper more than 10 years ago (and quoted by Ben-Dror Yemini in Yediot Aharonot): “It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all terrorists are Muslims.”

Alexis de Tocqueville, the most astute observer of the French Revolution, wrote in his L’Ancien Régime et la Révolution (1856) that the Revolution didn’t wish to destroy religion; however, it replaced it with a new religion, a political one, based on principles that anyone, anywhere, could relate to: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.

By their strike in Paris, the Muslim terrorists demonstrated again that radical Islam refuses to accept that hegemony of liberal and humanistic democracy, initiated in the same city 225 years ago.

Furthermore, in this counter-revolution, not only democracy should recede before religion, but that religion should be Islam and Islam only, and the way to enforce it is through a holy war, jihad.

Children of the French Revolution are now openly fighting Islamic State, al-Qaida and the other embodiments of radical Islam on the battlefields of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. A more difficult battle, however, should be waged for the hearts and minds of millions of angry, disenfranchised young Muslims anywhere in the West, who are constantly fed by their inciting clerics with promises of the coming victory of radical Islam.

To win that battle, democracies should adopt a carrot-and-stick strategy: Embrace those Muslims amongst them who are willing to accept the hegemony of the liberal and humanistic values of the French Revolution, while using an iron fist against radical Islamist incitement and terrorism. Looking at the West today, I’m not holding my breath.

(Uri Dromi is director of the Jerusalem Press Club. Between 1992 and 1996 he was the spokesperson of the Rabin and Peres governments.)