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The Threat of Extremism

The Threat of Extremism

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This past week, our good friend Rabbi Avraham Rothman, a rabbi of the Aish HaTorah congregation in our community, invited my husband and I to join him at the premier of a groundbreaking new film that I consider a must-watch for anyone who values his freedom: "The Third Jihad."

The film confirmed a gradual shift in my perspective that has been germinating for some time now.

I used to think in terms of black and white. An idea, response, conviction or action was either right or wrong.

Some ideas or principles are just always good. Take kindness and generosity—how could you possibly go wrong by being nice to people? Same with finding depth and spiritual meaning, seemingly a positive course for leading a more valuable life. Ditto for freedom, equality, justice and liberty as cornerstones for what every human being needs and deserves.

But as time goes on, I realize that the same principle can be both right and wrong, depending on its measure and extreme. Moreover, the very same ideal can bring the greatest beauty and goodness to our world—or wreak absolute havoc and evil brutality.

Part I: Radical Islam's Goal of World Domination

The Third Jihad tells the account of one brave Muslim American doctor, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser. The film is based on the FBI's release of a radical Islamist manifesto outlining a plan to destroy America from within, by taking advantage of the United States' democratic process.

Through chilling video footage of radical Islamists throughout the world, as well as interviews with experts in the fields of defense and international terror, the film clearly depicts the Islamic goal of world domination.

To achieve their goal, the radical Islamists employ both hostile as well as peaceful methods.

Through building terror networks and committing acts of terror throughout the free world, Islamists call attention to their cause while inflicting untold damage and horror to Western sensibilities and intimidate into silence those who would oppose them.

Their "peaceful" means include mass immigration to infiltrate our societies, as well as funding the sending of fanatical Imams from the hotbed of their radical societies, like Saudi Arabia, to teach, preach and convert as many as they can to their harsh interpretation of the Sharia (Islamic law). Hardened criminals are converted to Islam by Imams who arrive at their prison cells to win them over and convert them, and later build for them special communities, like Islamberg in Upstate N.Y., from where they can channel their aggressive energies to destroy Western society.

Compounding the danger presented by Radical Islam is high Islamic birthrate. After several decades their growing population will simply overtake the general population’s sadly dwindling one. In Europe, for example, through mass immigration and large families, Muslims already represent 20% of the population, and the name Mohammed is more common than George. Islam is the fastest growing religion, and Islamic propaganda assures its faithful that by the year 2050, Muslims will be the largest segment of the European population.

Most frightening about this perilous situation is that this is a well kept secret (to which our press associations are apparently willing corroborators—but more on that later).

And the large grants provided to departments of Middle Eastern Studies in prestigious Ivy League universities also ensure that a sympathetic approach to Radical Islam is taught by our society's "intellectuals" and then advocated by the student population.

There are very few individuals who are aware of and are openly fighting this agenda. Fewer yet are Muslims.

Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, a Muslim physician, is an exception. His amazing courage in fighting the radical Islamist agenda by increasing public awareness of this menace--despite the risk to his life--provides a valuable lesson for all of us, about the ability of every individual to make a difference in our world by standing up for one's convictions.

Distorting Something Positive: Idealization of the Afterlife

The Third Jihad is a chilling message to the West to awaken and realize the threat facing its very existence, its democratic way of life and value system.

But as I watched this gripping video, my recurring thought was how a positive ideal could become absolutely evil if distorted from its proper context or taken to too extreme a measure.

As I watched the footage documenting Radical Islamists' goal to enforce Sharia worldwide, I couldn't help but think of the surface similarities to many universal religious values. Yet, while the values may be similar at the starting point, how different are the results and end goals.

At the core of Islamic teaching is the realization of the temporality of physical existence and submission to a Higher Power. Infuse your life with a higher purpose, the Imams preach, where the spiritual reigns supreme.

This is a beautiful ideal. One that Western society, with its feverish pursuit of materialism at the expense of spiritual wellbeing, has much to learn from. Valuing a spiritual existence is a positive core value.

This lofty ideal, however, is distorted by fanatical extremism. Taken to the extreme of Radical Islam, physical life becomes meaningless. Rather than cherishing life as the precious gift that it is, death becomes a means to attaining one's most gratifying (physical) pleasures in some spiritual Afterlife.

One religious woman shown in the film is respected by her co-religionists for being the mother of three suicide bombers. She proudly and unflinchingly declares that she would be thrilled to send all her ten sons to their death for the noble cause of Islam.

In another frame, young children proudly demonstrate their "military" training—to execute suicide bombings.

The underlying theme in all this is the ideal that our physical life is temporary while the eternal and most meaningful life is in the hereafter. That is why a mother is willing to send her child, or even all her children, to their deaths along with as many "infidels" as possible.

The result of this extreme application is that rather than fostering a more spiritual lifestyle in our world, the greatest atrocities are committed because life in the here and now has become insignificant. This distorted focus also results in the debasement of the entire concept of the spiritual Afterlife, which becomes merely a means for attaining one's most perverted lusts.

On the other extreme, in Western society, material luxuries are pursued despite the steep spiritual price and the neglect of our soul's wellbeing. The pursuit of physical pleasures has become revered, while spiritual growth has become unimportant, relegated, at most, to a back burner, somewhere way down on our long list of essential priorities, the top of which is dominated by items needed to enhance our material standard of living.

In contrast to both radical Islam and Western society, in Judaism, a spiritual life does not come at the expense of the physical. Physical or material existence is not meant to be disregarded, but rather used, channeled and sanctified for a divine purpose. Our physical world and physical life need not be sinful, debased or disdainful, but a medium for a greater spiritual existence—which the spiritual soul alone, without a physical body or physical world, is incapable of attaining.

So hallowed and cherished is our time in this world, as an opportunity to refine and channel our physical reality for greater goodness, that the Sages state, "Greater is one hour of doing good deeds in this world than all the time in the world to come." For this reason, saving a life is the greatest virtue and most pressing commandment, for which other commandments are overridden. Moreover, in Judaism, the spiritual worlds are but "waiting stops" for the soul, until the most ideal of times comes, when the redemption will happen here, on this physical world, and all souls will return to their physical bodies.

Similarly, it can be argued that capital sentences – which are regular and frequent occurrences in Islamic societies, along with the ghastly "honor killings" – for severe or immoral crimes are an important deterrent against crime. However, this too, taken to an extreme, by becoming a common occurrence, merely debases life rather than encouraging a greater, more refined way of living.

In Judaism, there are also capital crimes. But though the law permitted capital punishment for severe offenses, the courts were enjoined to spare no effort in finding reasons to acquit. Consequently, executions were so rare that the Talmud derogatorily refers to a Court of Law that has executed even one individual in seventy years as a "murderous court."

Because life is cherished as the most precious gift that G‑d has given us.

Belief in the Afterlife or belief in a more spiritual existence needs to provide us with the impetus to live more meaningful lives that are not geared only to immediate gratification, but in which we work towards refining ourselves into better, more loving, more harmonious and more giving individuals. If belief in the Afterlife, however, causes a disregard for the sanctity of life—ours and our fellow humans'—as well as a disdain for physical pleasures in this world only to expect them in their most lustful, debased form in the world to come, then this belief has become an escape mechanism to permit the greatest perversions, brutalities and atrocities—all supposedly in the name of G‑d.

Part Two: When Liberty and Equality Become an End Goal

Aside from the distortion of the role of the Afterlife in radical Islam, another positive core value is being distorted – albeit by people on the opposite spectrum of society – and this too is resulting in promoting the goals of radical Islam.

Most of us in the Western world vociferously defend the concepts of equality and liberty. Freedom of religion and multiculturalism are the foundations upon which American and Western societies were built. The democratic process ensures that every voice is heard and equal opportunities are made available for all. Unlike dictatorial societies, we pride ourselves on freedom of expression and every person's right to say and do as he or she chooses.

But what if that same freedom is giving voice to terrorists who want to destroy our very value system? Or what if by providing fanatics with a platform and rights, we ultimately enable the success of a program intended to suppress our own freedoms? What if through the medium of multiculturalism, one group intends to overtake and dominate all others and ultimately to forcefully impose their culture?

This is the astounding situation that is facing us in Western civilizations across the globe. Moreover, radical Islamists are very aware of our democratic mindset and plan on using these very noble principles to destroy the very fabric of life that we so cherish.

For the sake of freedom of religion and freedom of speech, we allow fanatical Imams to immigrate into our midst, teach the most hateful, inciteful messages of Islamic world domination and encourage their faithful to promote this plan through all means—peaceful or hostile—at their disposal.

Ironically, those who usually lobby for the rights of women and other exploited minorities are instead promoting the rights of people whose treatment of those same individuals is abhorrent.

We are protecting the rights of people who view women as less than human. People who come from a culture where "honor killings" are common. In radical Islamist cultures, if a young woman is found to have engaged in a "forbidden" sexual relationship (which might mean a relationship with a non-Muslim, or might mean that she has been forcibly raped) she is often killed by the members of her own family in order to honor their name and reputation. And this is the culture that they want to force upon us; these are the people whose "freedoms" we are so concerned about!

Why? How can we make sense of this irrational advocacy by elements of our press and large segments of our society for those whose goals are so antithetical to their own?

But perhaps the convictions of liberty and equality have become so distorted by many of us that these noble values are being applied to an extreme fanatical and irrational measure. Our ideals have no longer become a means to the end of a better life, but an end goal in themselves.

Have we become so shortsighted in the application of our values to the extent that they have become our new idolatry? Are we are even willing to forego our ultimate freedom and way of life for the sake of defending the voices of those who wish to destroy our way of life?


So, once upon a time, I used to believe that our world could be divided into black and white, good and bad. And, I believed, that the more of a good thing, the better.

But I've come to realize that in our complex world, almost everything—even good, noble causes—requires a balance, context and boundary.

Maimonides writes (Laws of De'ot ch. 1) that we should stay away from extremes. Not too miserly, not to giving. Not too indulgent, but not abstinent either. Not the local comedian, but not a sour face either. The proper path, he teaches, is always the middle ground—even with regards to admirable character traits.

Because the loftiest of traits or convictions, when taken to a fanatical extreme, can in fact become the worst possible manifestation of evil and destruction.

That is how the most beautiful concept of leading a more spiritual life can become malicious.

And how the noble virtues of liberty and equality can become their own, equally horrific, self-serving idolatry.

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of five popular books.
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Philip Voerding Corcoran August 15, 2016

I'm not sure who Chana Weisberg is referring to by "Radical Islam". When I see the term Radical Islam, I naturally think of Wahabists, later sects that developed out of the 4th Sunni school of Jurisprudence, the Hanbali school. The first three Sunni schools came into existence after the Caliphate became dynastic. They used fewer traditions and relied on their interpretations of the Quran. The 12er Shia Muslim Imams had abandoned politics after the murder of the Prophet's grandson by the second Ummayyad Caliph. Sufism came into existence because pious Muslims were discouraged by the imperialism of the Sunni Caliph. Zaidi and 12er Shia Muslims used Quran, and Reason, like the Mutazilites, but also the books of their Imams, not the Six Sunni Books which are used by modern Wahabists. Most 12er Shia Muslims are not political except Iran and Hezbollah. Jihadists are a small percentage. Keep out Muslims fleeing Jihadism and let everyone else come? That's still bigotry? What if they said no Jews allowed? I would NEVER accept that! So, no sophistry. Reply

Tana Goodwin Las Vegas, NV May 13, 2011

we can't allow ourselves to be like this As a Holocaust survivor I know, from personal experience, that condemning an entire group of people because of their religious believes is extremely dangerous. The Muslims I've met, all Americans, are family loving, kind people. They are not the extremists against whom we do need to fight. Reply

marie December 29, 2010

Relply for Dan ofcourse not all muslims are terrorists, the only point that i think i was really trying to make here, is simply to question where
"Islam" is heading (and the consequences) as a whole.

Something needs to happen here.

And I'm not so sure that our acceptance of Islam is what is required (or wise) here. I can accept Muslims, as a people, but their theology (and it's consequences) is what I am having trouble with accepting. Reply

dan bryant alpharetta, georgia December 28, 2010

we can't allow ourselves to be like this as a group that has been oppressed for thousands of years, we can't afford to be like our oppressors. are either of you familiar with any muslims personally? i went to high school and go to college with many of them. what y'all do not understand is that almost all of them are just like us— born and raised in the USA, their parents born and raised here, too. they don't contribute to terrorist groups, and they all denounce terrorism as any sane person would. to compare muslims to nazis is being an extremist yourself. we must remember that although we do not agree on many issues, they are following the noachide code and worshiping G-d in their own way. we cannot persecute other people because of their beliefs. and we cannot make broad sweeping statements such as "all muslims are terrorists". Reply

marie December 27, 2010

Reply to 'Oh My' (Dan) Do you think 'all' Nazis joined, and stayed in the Nazi movement, only because they wanted to kill Jews? Should the Nazis NOT have been branded as a group, but only on an individual basis?

Before you answer though, please see the video at You Tube titled "Three Things about Islam"..it's only about 8 minutes long. I'm curious as to what you think we should make of this? Reply

Esther hallandale, fl December 27, 2010

Percentage...1% is alot nothing to say except we were attacked on 9/11....and still being threatened....There is definetely money contributed to terrorist groups through Mosques. and while the majority of Muslims moving to the USA are probably good people....there is no overall rejection from the majority of Muslims regarding terrorism throughout the world.nor does the UN seem to care....But when it comes to Israel thats always on the defensive...they're picked on..to let terrorism continue. ....in the case of billions of people 1% is alot. Don't know how rational your mind is....to think we have no reason to feel threatened. Reply

dan bryant alpharetta, georgia December 25, 2010

oh my replace in this article every instance of the word "muslim" and replace it with "jew". if you find it offensive, it's probably not true. there is no conspiracy among muslims to take over our society. to remove the rights of these immigrant muslims would be to do the same thing that germans did to us during the holocaust. there is a very small minority of radical muslims, less than 1% of the total muslim population as a whole. these muslims don't move to the united states because they view us as an evil empire. the ones that are moving here are looking for jobs and a better life— an escape from radical islam. to say that islam has a chance of converting 300 million americans, most of whom are conservative christians, even over 200 years is absurd. this article, although it does have some good things to say, is mostly a racially charged diatribe. we cannot make generalizations—that's what they did to us—we must view every person as an individual and speak of them regardless of background Reply

Shahid October 13, 2010

Shahid Ms. Chana Weisberg has alarmed in a very detailed and immaculate manner. I agree with her point of view. Reply

Anonymous Malta September 12, 2010

Rabbinical Judaism ...is best described as coveting the things of time not space -- Abraham Joshua Hershel. Reply

gilad nashville, tN September 12, 2010

Rabbinical Judaism? What is this Rabbinical Judaism you speak of all the time? Reply

Anonymous Malta September 8, 2010

The whole point of Islam (like rabbinical Judaism) is the worship of the one true G-d. If anyone adds or takes-away a single jot from the truth of G-d, this leads to waywardness. Reply

gilad Nashville, TN September 8, 2010

study Islam has no inherent morality; there are no commandments given by G-d in the Islamic texts. Morality is measured ONLY through the words and deeds of the prophet Muhammad, who is considered the perfect man - whatever he did is good and should be emulated. Whatever he forbade or spoke out against, is forbidden. This is Islam, pure and simple. The Koran is not the basic text and everything else is commentary (as the mainstream media and majority of Imam's would have us believe). It is part of an inseparable, integrated trilogy. The Koran is not even written in chronological order. One cannot learn anything about Muhammad, or Islam without studying the Sira (his biography) and the Haddiths. The refusal to acknowledge the authority of factual evidence over opinion and ideal in regards to Islam, and to religion in general never ceases to amaze me. The Theological arguments posted here are pure conjecture, Shana Tova. Reply

Esther hallandale, fl September 7, 2010

continuation of discussion Want to end on a happy note.....although you are completely off base with your analogy.....The Jewish people are a righteous nation and wherever we have lived always enhanced the society.....It is not your place to put a judgement on our people...nor the USA which is not a secular nation in my opinion....although we have free choice our laws are based on the Commandments. and Fundamentalist teaching derived from Torah....I would sooner believe our Rabbis who clearly state that we are the children of Abraham Isaac and Jacob....and try to follow in their footsteps..... To discuss holy books is not in the realm of my expertise...although I do live as an observant Jewish person and am guided by the Torah.. and proud of my people and their contributions to the world. As well as a proud American who's motto is "In G-d we Trust.." to guide us......-A Good and Sweet year of revealed peace and justice throughout.... Reply

Elisheba ocala, fl/usa September 7, 2010

studying It would not do any good for someone to study the Quran if they have not studied the Tanakh..because they wouldn't even notice that it is repeating the Tanakh. Actions do speak loud. The disobedience to Torah brings many curses as outlined in the 28th chapter of Deuteronomy. In the U.S.A. we have a secular life. It may be the best available but it is not in keeping with G-d's will. Reply

Esther hallandale, fl September 6, 2010

My reactions to last few comments.... Did not study the Quran and have no intention of studying it......But action speaks louder than words...and think we all have to consider our children.....and start thinking rationally....How can we acheive peace? And it is obvious----just be peaceful.....A far cry from the Islamic threats and jihad .. In the USA we have the blueprint of a decent way of life.....and thats my hope for my grandchildren as well as peace, justice and security throughout the world...... Reply

Elisheba ocala, fl/usa September 6, 2010

Islam & Judaism The Quran is the basic text - everything else is commentary. This is similar to the Tanakh being the authority & all other Jewish writings are collections of commentary & even scholars debating. If one would form opinions on Judaism by using the other writings (instead of the Tanakh) it would be similar if not worse than certain hadiths. Reply

Anonymous September 6, 2010

Pure Islam, like rabbinical Judaism dispenses with the need to rely on any of the "similitudes" (or "multiplicities"), its focus is on direct interaction with the Creator of mankind, the King, blessed be He, is also our Most High and Merciful L-rd.

It is He Who is able to feed the mouth of the messenger (not reportage from CNN or Al-Jazeera, etc).

We are human, by definition frail and without fail, all in need of mercy.

Shalom/ Salaam... Reply

marie pa. September 5, 2010

Well said, Gilad You nailed it Gilad, very well-said. Thank you for putting it into the right words/explanation on what is the truth, which I often find difficult to do so eloquently. The truth about what is going on with Islam needs to be said more often so that people can/will begin to understand the lies spewing from our current mainstream. Reply

gilad Nashville, TN September 4, 2010

To Elisheba Elisheba, I recommend you read not only the Quran, but the Sira and Haddith as well before making such erroneous statements such as that Islam forbids terrorism (the Quran comprises only 16% of the whole Islamic cannon). There are moderate Muslims, this is true, but there is no moderate Islam. Please educate yoruself, for uneducated statements, however good intentioned they may be, only serve to distort the truth. Study about Muhammad, the quintessential Muslim whose every word and deed must be emulated by all Muslims, and you will begin to understand what terrorism really is, and what really is the core of a political ideology disguised as a religion. Reply

Elisheba ocala, fl/usa September 2, 2010

Abraham's descendants Talking negative about Muslims is slander or defamation. Many of them are descendants of Abraham which means they are semites - relatives of Jacob's descendants. They are family. The Torah forbids slander against our fellow human beings. If a terrorist who happens to think himself a Muslim ( although they are not because the Quran forbids terrorism ) reads these negative comments - it would just inspire them to commit more violence & even justify it in their minds. Words are powerful. Reply