Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

3 Ellul 5761 - August 22, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Antisemitism Islamic Style

by A. Ben Aharon

Editor's Note: Though it is important to know about the material discussed in this article, much of it is upsetting and may not be suitable for reading on Shabbos. This is not meant to certify that everything else is suitable, but only that the issue is particularly blatant in this instance. Readers should seek the guidance of a competent halachic authority.

The latest hit in Egypt is a song that declares, "I love Amr Moussa -- and hate Israel." Shevan Ibd al-Rachim was an anonymous composer until he decided to publish a song that became number one on the chart. The song is popular not only in Egypt, but in most of the Arab world.

For those who do not know, Amr Moussa is the Egyptian Foreign Minister who left his job and became the secretary general of the Arab League. Moussa was asked for his opinion on the song and said that it contained "political messages that all the sides in the Middle East must understand." Moussa was obviously not referring to the part of the song that dealt with himself.

The only thing that now bothers al-Rachim, who has become one of the most popular singers in Egypt, is that another anonymous singer decided to build himself up on al-Rachim's success. He sued him in court, claiming that the song "hate Israel" is really his and al-Rachim stole it.

The question of the song's true owner definitely does not disturb the sleep of the State of Israel. However, the conclusion to be drawn from the song's tremendous popularity is frightening. The Egyptian public -- and not only the Egyptians -- enthusiastically received a song of total incitement against Israel and its people. Even more, the Egyptian government sees no need to intervene, censure or criticize.

As will soon be apparent, this phenomenon is not an exception. The Arab world is against Israel -- and Judaism. The fundamentalist countries are full of antisemitic incitement, and even those considered moderate, like Egypt, are forced to accept the phenomenon that overtakes most of the Muslim population. And anyhow, who said that the Egyptian government is not pleased, secretly or openly, with the antisemitic incitement expressed all over the country?

The Pope's Silence

The story of the Egyptian hit song did not make the front pages of the international newspapers. Bashar al-Assad's terrible insult to Judaism, not only Israel, on the other hand, did arouse international protest.

At the beginning of May, a very famous visitor came to the Middle East. The Pope embarked on a "bringing together hearts" journey in the powder keg of the world. The Pope visited Syria as well, met Bashar al-Assad, and heard a provocative speech that could have competed with priests in Christian churches of the past, before the Church officially jettisoned antisemitism.

Assad gave a fiery speech in which his poisonous words were completely the opposite of historical truth. He blamed the Jewish nation for all the evil that one could imagine. The pinnacle was perhaps when he turned to the Pope and proposed a brotherly treaty: Since the Muslims suffer today from the Jews' desire to destroy them, as they tried to destroy the Christians in the past, shouldn't Muslims and Christians join forces against these Jews?

The Pope, who is considered by the world at large to be intellectual, broad- minded and one of the most successful leaders in the priesthood in the last hundreds of years, kept a cautious silence. He did not need one of his advisers to remind him that all of Assad's words are based on deliberate distortions of history. He knew quite well that the Jews never harmed Christians. Just the opposite, almost from the very beginning, the Christians incited against the Jews and wanted to kill them or force them to convert. Almost every community in Europe is stained with Jewish blood.

The present Pope was actually the first Christian leader to express some kind of apology to Israel for the injustices done by the Church throughout the generations.

This time, however, the Pope kept his silence. It was a calculated diplomatic move, but was not well received. Why didn't the leader of the Church show that he does not agree with Assad's words? Even if he did not want to cause controversy with one of the new Arab leaders, was he really unable to find a way to express his disagreement at all?

A few days after he reached Syria, the Pope visited Japan, where he officially apologized to the families of the Catholic Church, the Japanese Christian church. The two churches waged a bloody feud that could have competed with terrorist organizations of the last hundred years. The present Pope, who is trying to raise the honor of the Church, does a lot of apologizing, but when it comes to Damascus, for some reason he lost his voice.

Foolhardy Bashar and his Friends

In an attempt to apologize, the Vatican spokesman will say that the church did not know in advance what Bashar would say. But anyone who knows the new Syrian leader knows what can be expected of him.

Assad Senior (Bashar's father) was also a harsh man. He never hesitated to use cruelty, even with his own people. But Hafez al-Assad knew when to be cautious. He never started up with the United States, at least not since the fall of his biggest supporter, the Soviet Union. It was his son, who is considered intelligent, an eye doctor by trade, who was supposedly going to change the face of Syrian rule, who said what his father never dared say.

Thomas Friedman, a famous American journalist, was among those who attacked Bashar for his style of speech. Friedman mentioned a few details that Bashar himself would prefer to forget. "The fact that a man is an eye doctor does not mean that he can see. Bashar is perhaps an expert doctor, but a serious leader does not say such words in public, even if they think them. His father definitely never spoke like that. Bashar is not yet ready for leadership," Friedman wrote.

It would be a mistake, however, to view Bashar's hate speech as a one-time phenomenon, characteristic of a young, inexperienced Syrian leader. It was typical of the stance that has characterized the Muslim world for many years, which has increased exponentially lately, especially since the second intifadah broke out.

In Iran, the country's leaders gave up the opportunity to present themselves as moderate and renew their ties with the West. In a large gathering of representatives from most of the Arab world, Khameini, the chief fundamentalist leader, called for a war against Israel. Representatives from most of the Arab world were present at the meeting with the exception of Iraq and, for technical reasons, Jordan.

The Arabs are busy rewriting their history and Jewish history, in a style that could compete with the Nazis. They are busy denying the Holocaust, as they attempted at an international convention that was sent from one Arab country to the other in the past few weeks. They tried to present the Palestinian saga as an alternate Holocaust. That was the meaning of "Nakba" ("Catastrophe" -- the founding of the State of Israel) that they celebrated with waving flags, stormy demonstrations and slaughtering a young Jew whose car entered a Palestinian sniper's trap.

Base and Baseless Antisemitism

"The general public has a mistaken opinion," wrote Professor Rafael Israeli of Hebrew University and member of Ariel Center of Political Studies, "that as the peace process progresses and the Arabs get to know Israel and Jews more closely, the anti-Jewish, anti-Zionist, anti-Israel stereotype that is widespread in Arab thought, media and advertising will start to diminish until it disappears completely."

And this, Israeli stresses, is a big mistake. "In reality, any time difficulties arose in the peace talks, the Egyptian newspapers called then- Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, `Shylock.' This nickname is taken from Shakespeare, who presented the Jewish merchant as a cruel money lender who was out for a Christian `pound of flesh.' The nickname became widespread throughout the world and appeared in dictionaries as another name for a cruel bloodsucker -- or a Jew. The Egyptians were quick to use it."

Already in Assad Senior's days, long before Bashar's provocative speech, the Syrian Tishrin, Damascus' main newspaper, used to accuse Israel of "Nazi behavior" and deny the Holocaust.

One of the most popular books in the Middle East is the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an antisemitic forgery from the days of the Russian czars, now translated into Arabic.

A harsh battle is in progress between writers in Egypt. A few writers allowed their books to be translated into Hebrew and as a result, they were harassed by the local media, which accused them of favoring Israel. One of them, Ibrahim Abed al- Magid, allowed an Israeli publishing company, "El Andlus," to translate one of his books. When he saw the controversy developing with Israel, he cancelled his permission. The publishing company actually belonged to a pro-Palestinian group of Israeli intellectuals and the company's owner was an aide of Azmi Bishara, the MK. But Egyptians do not differentiate between one Jew and another.

Israeli View of Antisemites

Until the peace treaty with Egypt and then, until the Oslo agreements, many Israeli leaders deluded themselves into thinking that as soon as they make a treaty with the Arab world, peace will reign in the Middle East. Not many wanted to listen to Yehoshafat Harkabi, past head of military intelligence and professor of international relations, who claimed that the Arabs want to destroy Israel and that nothing less will satisfy them.

Harkabi published his opinion in a book, The Arab Stance in the Arab- Israeli Controversy. He based it on an evaluation of the advertisements in the media and literature, expressions of religious and educational representatives, and what appears in official Arab government propaganda. His material was current as of 1968, but it is very thorough. The conclusion was unequivocal. There is no one to talk to. The Arabs want to destroy the country of Israel and its nation. Period.

However, during the years that have passed since the Yom Kippur War, Israeli leaders have begun to hope for a peaceful solution. Didn't they obtain an agreement with Egypt? Isn't there a good relationship with Jordan? Why assume that far- away, moderate countries, like the Persian Gulf, would be interested in a war against the Jews?

In general, the country's leaders, especially the Leftist ones, wanted to blend into the Middle East and throw off any spark of Judaism. It did not occur to them that, as in Germany before the Nazis rose to power, closeness with the Arabs only causes the hatred to intensify.

The Oslo agreements opened a path for men of "vision" and dreams. "It seemed as if the wall of hatred was shattered," wrote Stoy, a researcher at Ariel Center. The Israelis were prepared to pay anything for peace. And the results speak for themselves.

The antisemites, Stoy stressed, encompass all levels of society. It is not just among the various fundamentalists. Even the Arab intellectuals who, in the West and in Israel, lean to the Left and try to curry favor through criticizing their birthplace, hate Israel. And as more agreements are signed, the level of hatred only rises.

This is not just hatred of the country of Israel. It is sinas Yisroel literally, what is called "antisemitism."

A Cold Peace and Boiling Hatred

The term "antisemitism" seems, in this context, a bit strange. After all, this famous word is made up of "anti" (-- against) "Semite," someone from the family of Shem the son of Noach. This also includes the Arabs as descendants of Avrohom Ovinu. However, it is difficult to find a better word to describe what is happening throughout the Arab world against Israel and the Jews, especially recently.

Three studies investigated this topic in recent years. Dr. Rivka Yadlin of Hebrew University investigated the hostility in the south of Israel in the eighties. The sad picture is reminiscent of Nazi Germany.

Professor Bernard Lewis reached the same conclusion in his research of other Arab areas. He drew parallels between what happens today and sinas Yisroel of the past. His conclusions took him not only to Nazi Germany but also to the Middle Ages when the priests, with the government's encouragement, incited the masses against the Jews and called them heretics. Assad's speech could undoubtedly be used as additional material.

The last study was done by Professor Israeli, who was mentioned above. He brought up an interesting comparison between Egyptian society's behavior towards Israel before and after Sadat's peace treaty with Israel in 1977. "The obvious impression is that Sadat's peace plan did not really cause any change in Egypt and the Arab world in relationship to Israel and the Jewish people. Even more, if we survey the articles and caricatures that were published after 1977, we reach the conclusion that the hostility only worsened."

Picture Illustration

In October of 1993, the Egyptian army's periodical published a caricature about Israel. Something that looked like an Israeli flag with a Mogen David in the middle was being trampled by a black boot with a large flame coming out of it. The caption read, "The October war was not the last."

Another caricature from Jordan, a country considered to be an old ally of Israel, is another example. In 1996, Adastor, a daily newspaper, published a picture of what the editors apparently want to happen to Israel. A Jewish soldier wearing a helmet with a Mogen David on it had his head split by a knife from one end to the other. The knife, dripping with blood, contained Arab writing. This was, Professor Israeli pointed out, after a withdrawal from Chevron and following a peace treaty with Jordan.

Ishmael's antisemitic hatred has ancient roots. Although the Muslim world generally treated the Jews better than the Christians, since the country of Israel was established, hatred of Jews is obvious and takes many forms, from incitement to vicious plotting.

Arabs recently tried to blow up a Jewish bus in France and they did torch a shul there. In Arab countries, the Jews still there lower their heads and try not to draw attention. In England, Jewish groups caution Jews to beware of Muslim terrorist organizations, who draw volunteers from the large and growing Muslim population. For years, it has been dangerous to walk in certain areas in European cities with a Jewish head covering.

The Koran, the basis of the Muslim religion, calls for hatred of Jews, even a Jihad (religious war). In our times, the Arabs have adopted the weapons of the Christian world. They support Holocaust deniers and publish the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The most recent and sharp expression of perverting history was Assad Jr.'s speech, which blamed the Jews for plotting against the Muslims as they plotted against the Christians in the past. Although Assad did not mention poisoning the wells, which was attributed to the Jews during the Black Plague in Europe, this claim against Israel was widely accepted by the Palestinians.

Antisemitic Literature

One of the prolific fundamentalist writers who wrote against Israel was Saeed Kutav, head of the Muslim Brothers Organization in Cairo. In one of his articles, "Our Struggle with the Jews" (take note: not "the Israelis" but "the Jews!"), he repeats attacks from the old Muslim world, the Middle Ages and earlier. However, he adds a modern twist. The article is fiery and emotional, but its message is given in a pseudo-scientific style.

"Truth and falsehood can not live together on this earth," Kutav wrote. "When Islam went out to solidify its kingdom in the world . . . those who opposed it did not know peace. Islam will destroy them in order to emancipate mankind."

Kutav's books and articles were published as early as the fifties. In 1966, Kutav was executed by the government. This was because of a fundamentalist battle against the regime, but not because of his extreme opinions against Israel. There were many to fill his place.

In the seventies, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion appeared translated into Arabic. Quite surprisingly, the publisher was Saudi Arabia.

Kutav himself hated the West and the Christian countries -- even if they merely paid lip service to Christianity -- no less than the Jews. To him, Israel and Judaism symbolized the West. So why should he exert himself to go far if the enemy was so close?

However, Kutav had special words of incitement for the Jews -- words similar to what the Christians and Nazis wrote against the Jews in all generations:

"The Jews are just waiting for mankind to meet calamities. They suffer from the same casualties time after time, due to wars and fights between people, and they themselves encourage the wars in order to profit from them."

Hatred Islam Style

Professor Israeli sums up the main allegations of Islam antisemitic literature in the following words: "Israel gave refuge to Jews, whom the Koran defined as an unfortunate nation. Jews are not a nationality, but only a belief that Islam is prepared to allow exist. Therefore, their desire for a political existence is against Islamic tradition.

"The very fact that Jews wanted to leave Islamic lands and immigrate to Israel shows that they are not grateful for the equal rights they were granted by Islam. This is a terrible insult to the Muslims.

"The Jewish victories in battle against the Muslim armies is an insult to the Islamic Nation. All attempts of the country of Israel," Professor Israeli stressed, "to present itself as a completely different factor than the Jewish nation that Mohammed wrote about, are doomed to failure from the beginning. A Jew can not run away from himself.

"Palestine was under Islamic rule a hundred years after it was founded. The British only conquered it from the Turks. (Don't try to verify this historically). The Jews' attempt to found a country is like the Crusaders' temporary conquest hundreds of years ago -- until the glorious victory of the famous conqueror Salah-A-Din. Even today, the Muslims demand a Jihad against the Jewish conquerors."

Muslim Hatred, Christian Style

Although they don't lack their own means, the Muslims have also adopted Christian tactics. The fact that the books and opinions are written and expressed by those who are considered scientists and researchers adds to their importance. The Islamic world happily adopts the following means of incitement:

The infamous and false accusation of a Zionist conspiracy to rule over the entire world through undermining the economical and social infrastructure of all countries in order to establish a Jewish hegemony. This was first popularized in the fraudulent Protocols.

Often Judaism is portrayed as an octopus with its many arms extended everywhere, aiming to enslave mankind. In this context, the Muslims shed their loyalty to Islam and side with the Christians, who are threatened by the Jews.

Judaism is falsely said to be responsible for historical phenomena such as colonization (establishing settlements and empires in undeveloped parts of the world, such as France, Holland and England did in Africa and the Far East). The fact that these countries were usually cruel to the Jews does not come into consideration. Perhaps this was part of the Jewish plot, or perhaps the topic did not come up at all.

American Jews, especially, are falsely said to control the national banks, media and politics. Suspicious agents plot terrible things behind the scenes.

The Jewish ability to enact far-reaching plans sometimes arouses the jealousy of the inciters who tell their people to learn from the Jews how to reach goals.

The country of Israel is falsely said to embody all these terrible traits in the worst degree. Israel is racist, determined to conquer the world, as written in the Protocols. The Jews are said to be enemies of Islam and enemies of mankind.

It must be stressed that the incitement is not only against Israel but Judaism as well. There are not enough words of disdain in the Arabic dictionary, which is quite rich in this aspect, to curse the Jews. There is an attempt to enlist psychology to help the cause. Jews are said to suffer from psychological flaws that cause them to do evil to the world around them. Nazi propaganda obviously filled an important role here. The Jews are said to cause the gentiles to cultivate bad character traits by their very existence.

Intensive Incitement

Shocking but false descriptions of Jewish soldiers' actions at the al Aqsa Mosque on the Har Habayis, for example, wrote Professor Israeli, are included in Muslim history books as undeniable facts.

An important part of the anti-Jewish incitement comes from Iran. However, even countries that are considered moderate seem extreme in their hate of Israel.

We return to Egypt. The War of Survival between the Koran and the Talmud, a book whose contents are clear from the title, was written two years after the peace treaty with Israel, and it is a best-seller. Even Christian Arabs join the incitement. One of them is Annis Manzor, who was a friend of Sadat, the man who made peace with Begin. Manzor wrote the book A Wall of Silence and Tears. According to Professor Israeli, it is hard to find a book that mocks, disgraces and provokes the Jews like it does.

Children in kibbutzim, Manzor claims, are raised to "hate anyone who is not a Jew." (Doesn't he know that on the contrary many are raised to hate anything authentically Jewish?) He writes that the Talmud teaches the Jews to kill all Christians. The blatant lies and accusations can not even be put to paper.

Blood libels, which some think had disappeared with the development of international media that can easily uncover lies, occur in the Muslim world. Kamil Sefen, an Egyptian scientist with a doctorate, wrote the book, Jews, History, and Doctrine in which he breathes new life into the infamous blood libel of 1840 in Damascus. Lufti ibd al-Adhim, a doctor and researcher as well, published an article in the prestigious financial newspaper of the Arab world, in which he declared:

"It is necessary to differentiate between Jews and Israelis. The Jews are the Jews. They haven't changed for thousands of years. They embody treachery, narrow-mindedness, fraud and contempt of human values. They are prepared to tear a person apart alive and drink his blood in order to plunder his property. They will not live peacefully with Arabs. This was the illusion when some of our leaders declared that the War of 1973 was the last. Since I prefer to be the murderer than the murdered, and I hope that I am not an exception in the Arab world, it is impossible to expect me to wait on the side until the raging, bloodthirsty Israelis cut apart my body and bury my family's corpses. I declare unequivocally: Yes, this is antisemitism, but since the Arabs are also Semites, our antisemitism is not against Semites, but against Jews."

No Reprieve

When faced with the powerful machine of propaganda and incitement, the question remains: Is there anything to do to still the waves of hatred? Is there any hope of peace with millions of people who are constantly being incited to antisemitism?

We know something that the professors have ignored. The answer does not lie in attempts of peace, pleading for mercy or military might and relying on kochi ve'otzem yodi. The answer is teshuva. When Yisroel returns to their Father in Heaven, the hatred will automatically disappear.

Until then all we can do is hope for rachmei Shomayim. He Who guarded the sheep of Yaakov among seventy wolves will guard us from the antisemitism of Semite origin.

(Our thanks to the Ariel Center of Political Studies for use of their sources).

The Great Lie

The following advertisement appeared in American newspapers, placed by the American Jewish Committee:

The Great Lie Still Exists!

"In the merit of Hitler, who took revenge for the Palestinians in advance against the most corrupt criminals on the earth, although we are angry at him for not taking enough revenge" -- al-Akhbar, the official government newspaper of Egypt, April 18, 2001.

"It's true, the number is less than six million, and Israel takes advantage of it to gain favor in every place in the world." -- Ikerma Sabari, the mufti of Jerusalem of the Palestinian government, quoted by the Associated Press, March 25, 2001.

"The Zionists invented the myth of the Holocaust in order to blackmail the intellectuals and politicians of the world and to terrorize them." -- Tishrin, Syria's government newspaper, January 31, 2001.

"If Auschwitz was an extermination camp for the Jews, not a single Jew could have remained alive . . . Professional survivors like Eli Wiesel, who present themselves as if they were eyewitnesses to the `Holocaust,' are living proof that the so-called extermination of the Jews never took place." -- Teheran Times, Iran's official newspaper, February 19, 2001.

They deny, debase, and even praise the Nazi slaughter of six million Jews, including one and a half million children. This is happening right now in the Middle East.

Could this terrible distortion of history help build the foundation of mutual honor and peace that all the neighboring countries demand?

The tragic answer speaks for itself.

Restrictions in Saudi Arabia

The Arab countries are very different from all of the West. Arabs citizens and visitors there are required to observe very harsh rules.

To list a few of the different ways of doing things there:

A man wearing shorts in public risks arrest; mingling of the sexes is actively discouraged through practices like separate restaurant sections and banks and no movie theaters; couples must offer proof they are married before checking into a hotel; all commerce ceases several times daily for prayers.

Also, tourists are shepherded around in small groups on carefully choreographed, educational visits that minimize the chances of a confrontation with the religious police. A kind of roving morals squad, they enforce rules like a woman being chaperoned in public by her husband or a male relative.

The country is also hot. 105 degrees is not an unusual temperature at midnight in much of the country during the summer months.

Blasphemy in Muslim Countries

The things that concern people in Muslim countries are different than in the West. If a person teaches ideas that are contrary to the teachings of Islam, he may be executed by the State. The atmosphere is different there. What the West is accustomed to call "civilization" does not exist there. For religious reasons, apparently, one can kill someone in the streets. It can certainly be discussed openly with apparent social approval.

According to a report in the New York Times last May, Dr. Younus Shaikh, teaching at a medical college in Pakistan, talked briefly about seventh-century Arabia and its practices regarding circumcision and the removal of underarm hair.

Some students found his remarks deeply offensive. "Only out of respect, because he was our teacher, did we not beat him to death on the spot," said Syed Bilal, 17.

Instead, they informed a group of powerful mullahs, who in turn filed a criminal complaint. Lest the matter be treated with insufficient urgency, these clerics dispatched a mob to the medical school and the police station, threatening to burn them down.

The number of those imprisoned on blasphemy charges in Pakistan is estimated in the hundreds. Only the most sensational cases get much notice: when vigilantes murder the accused, or the bold judge who set him free. When a man is condemned to die if a few pages in the Koran are torn. When a newspaper is shut down after publishing a sacrilegious letter.

Dr. Shaikh is charged under Provision 295-C of the law: the use of derogatory remarks about the holy Prophet Mohammed. Whether such an offense is intentional or not, the mandatory punishment is death. This Monday it was announced that indeed Dr. Shaikh was sentenced to die.

"Please understand, I am a deeply religious man," Dr. Shaikh said to a reporter for the Times, professing his Islamic faith through the tight wire mesh of a jail cell. "I cannot even imagine blaspheming our holy Prophet, peace be upon him.

"My statements about the holy Prophet, peace be upon him, were made in his praise only, and these have now been twisted out of context," he said in measured phrases.

Federal laws in Pakistan enforce a mix of mosque and state, and questions of religion are often presumed to have a single right answer, like arithmetic.

Outside of school, the students had begun talking about Dr. Shaikh. Was he uttering blasphemies? they asked each other. And if so, what should a good Muslim do?

"I had heard from the sermons in the mosques that those who blaspheme deserve to be killed immediately," said Asghar Ali Afridi, who at 28 was older than most students and whose views were persuasive. "It was a weakness of faith that we did not do it."

But 11 students, the entire class, did sign a letter that listed Dr. Shaikh's possible crimes. They claimed he had said that the Prophet was not a Muslim until age 40; that before then, he did not remove his underarm hair or undergo circumcision; that he first wed, at 25, without an Islamic marriage contract; that his parents were not Muslims.

Mr. Afridi was picked to deliver the letter to the Movement for the Finality of the Prophet, a group well known for pursuing blasphemers.

"For Dr. Shaikh's own protection, we sought his arrest," said Abdul Wahid Qasmi, secretary general of the organization's Islamabad chapter. "Otherwise, he might have been killed in the streets."

The Movement's vigilance is most often directed at Ahmadis, who regard themselves as Muslims but believe another prophet appeared after Mohammed. By law, they are barred from linking themselves in any way to Islam. Each year, many are arrested for simply reciting a Koranic verse or using the greeting "Salaam aleikum."

The Pakistani minister for religious affairs, Mahmoud Ahmad Ghazi, says the blasphemy law requires revision. He has reviewed numerous cases and said the majority originate from "ill will and personal prejudice."

At the Movement's headquarters, the law also comes under criticism, though the complaint is of sluggish justice. Blasphemers may get locked up, but not one has been executed.

"Even if someone is only half-conscious when speaking against the Prophet, he must die," said Mr. Qasmi, who managed to sound amiable. "In Dr. Shaikh's case, his relatives have come to see us, saying the man is sorry and that he repents. But to be sorry now is not enough. Even if a man is sorry, he must die."

Dr. Shaikh comes from a religious family in Bahawalnagar, and his father, a merchant, is a hafiz, a man who has memorized the Koran. The Shaikh family has no intention of being steamrolled by hostile fundamentalists. At a recent hearing, they brought their own mullahs -- equally bearded, equally turbaned, equally able to quote from holy books.

"No blasphemy has been committed in this case," proclaimed Maulana Abdul Hafiz. An elderly, stern-faced man, he, too, heads a chapter of the Movement for the Finality of the Prophet, his being in Bahawalnagar. "Blasphemy can be committed only if issues are raised about the period after the holy Prophet declared his prophethood. These issues are pre- prophethood."

The mullahs from Bahawalnagar say they have tried to reason with the mullahs from Islamabad, but these efforts have failed. "They know we are right but they do not want to backtrack and lose face," said Maulana Hafiz, enraged by his adversaries.

How dare they? he declared: "They tell us that we ourselves should be cautious, that protecting a blasphemer is as bad as blaspheming itself."

Suicide Bombers

Perhaps the most extreme example of hatred is the suicide bombers. Packing themselves with explosives that are wrapped in screws and nails calculated to cause the cruelest injuries if not death, the walking bombs see their victims moments before murdering them.

But for Palestinians, the question of why one of their compatriots would sacrifice his life to kill Israelis needs little soul-searching.

"Why not?" would be a common response.

Islam forbids suicide, but rewards "martyrdom" as an instant ticket to glory in this world and paradise in the next. Muslim militant groups have no difficulty in convincing aspiring suicide bombers that they are guaranteed martyr status.

Friends of Shadi al-Kahlout, a would-be suicide bomber shot dead six months ago as he crossed a border fence with Israel, said he had been a "martyr-in- waiting" for more than five years.

Palestinian psychiatrist Khaled Dahlan said suicide bombers see themselves as heroes and healers setting an example for others to follow and confident of rewards in the afterlife.

These he defined as "paradise, the care of God, moving from a humiliating life to a dignified one."

The families of suicide bombers, never informed beforehand, often celebrate the deaths of their sons with pride and honor, distributing sweets and juice to visitors who arrive to congratulate the bereaved relatives rather than offer condolences.

Iyad al-Sarraj, another psychiatrist, said a suicide bomber would go on his final mission with a sense of pride, self- motivation -- and a deadly, unearthly calm.

"They are not fully aware of what is happening around them. There is a kind of detachment from reality," he argued.

Sarraj cited religion and the humiliation of life under occupation as the key motives for suicide bombers bent on starting a better life in paradise.

"What better reward could he want?" Sarraj asked. "He is killing the enemies of God, the enemies of his country. He is avenging the humiliation, going to paradise.

"It is no wonder that some people are doing it. We should wonder why everyone isn't doing it."

This is the assessment of an Islamic psychiatrist.

Our only answer is Torah and mitzvos.


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