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.
In the USA we see similar scapegoating as a 19-year-old right-wing terrorist white man named John Earnest, is accused of attacking both a mosque and then a synagogue a month later.
The suspect in Saturday’s shooting at a synagogue near San Diego, California; who murdered one person and injured three more, is John Earnest, according to Sheriff William Gore. One of the wounded was the Synagogue’s Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein who was shot in the hand during Shabbat/Passover services — but insisted on finishing his sermon—before being taken to the hospital.
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 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.
All this teaches us that everyone should be constantly reminded that religious 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.
Widespread doubt about America’s future 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 scapegoating against Islam and Judaism as can been seen in the major rise in Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in the U. S.
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