Imagine this scenario: the emergence of a militant Jewish group. The New Sadducee State (NSS) rejects the Torah’s Oral Tradition, and want to return the entire world to their rule under their literal and strict interpretation of the Written Law. They want to bring back slavery, an eye-for-an-eye justice, chopping off the hands of thieves, and the death penalty for sodomy.
Their firebrand preachers follow a carefully devised strategy. They hang out in the cafes of Wall Street, befriending PhDs who work as quantitative analysts. Gaining their trust, they succeed in radicalising them and convincing them to join their battle against the evils of capitalism and democracy. They travel to the NSS enclave in the British Virgin Islands – a tax free jurisdiction where these analysts cum elite hackers run very profitable high-frequency trading systems to build a war chest of billions of dollars, and the ability to compromise and bring down the world’s financial systems. They use social media to distribute horrifying videos of people’s financial assets being decapitated. The entire western world is paralysed with fear of what NSS might do.
The world would naturally revert to antisemitism in the wake of the NSS threat. World leaders will call for calm, and would use their expert status as non-Jews to proclaim to the world that NSS is not actually Jewish.
How do you think the Jewish world would respond to this? Every Jewish publication without fail – from Hamodia and Yated Ne’eman to the New York Times and everything in between – would be unequivocal in its condemnation of NSS. After all, one thing Jews do really well is criticise each other very publicly. There would be full page ads in every major daily with signatures of leaders of the most diverse Jewish groups, all seeking to make it very clear that despite each person individually believing that their version of Judaism is mainstream, NSS does not represent any known form of mainstream Jewry.
There would be no excuses or rationalising. No suggestions that we hold back judgement pending further investigation. NSS would unite the Jewish world more than any external enemy ever could.
Now, contrast this hypothetical to the response of the Muslim world to the threat of the Islamic State (IS). Perhaps I missed the large and widespread advertising campaign in newspapers from Muslim organisations clearly declaring their opposition to IS. Or the editorials from senior representatives distancing themselves from IS. We must ask: why have these not been forthcoming?
In a recent local (Melbourne) incident where young Muslim Numan Haider was shot dead by police after an altercation, the media reports initially stumbled to the point where they published a picture of the wrong man. While Haider was initially reported to have stabbed two officers before being shot, following criticism of the media coverage, the media later realized that the stabbing was only ‘alleged‘. The story reported that one of the officers was released from hospital but the other remained in a stable condition. In a bizarre twist of events, the stabbing was alleged, but the injuries were not!
The response from Muslim organisations has been quite staggering. The Islamic Council have refused to condemn the man, and demanded that he not be branded a ‘terrorist’. A youth worker fears that Muslim youth are ‘under siege’ through social media, and an Islamic conference organiser has inverted things completely, equating the IS beheadings to the actions of Western armies. The media has followed suit, now raising concerns that the very theories of radicalisation are marginalising teenagers.
This defensive and reflexive attitude is quite staggering. All this after Haider was being observed by police for several months prior to the incident, and was discovered to be carrying two knives and an IS flag. But let’s not jump to conclusions!
The world has united to fight IS, and while some Arab states have joined the military coalition, the Muslim world itself appears to be lagging behind. This is a serious problem. The hardest enemy to fight is the enemy you don’t even recognize. Again, we must ask: why are Muslims so reluctant to criticize IS?
With a creative thought experiment, David Werdiger asks why the Muslim world has not been vocal in its opposition to the Islamic State (IS, ISIS, ISIL).