I’ve been voraciously reading the various editorial reactions to the Ft. Hood shooting – and have found much of it to be confused at best and patently offensive at worst. If you’re eager for some intelligent commentary, I recommend this post from my friend Rabbi Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer, who took NY Times columnist David Brooks to task for his recent piece that explored the nature and causes of religious extremism, focusing exclusively on Islam.
Yes, there is evil in human hearts. Yes, religion can be the carrier of malevolent narratives. But it is both historically and ethically flawed to write a whole column devoted to this theme and never once even mention that Islam is not the only tradition that has this problem. Brooks speaks about suicide bombers and terrorists but he does not mention that we have seen these troubled tales of “us and them” played out by many other religious folks.
As a Jew, David Brooks might have had the grace to remind us that in 1994 an orthodox Jew, Baruch Goldstein, killed 29 Muslims and wounded 150 while they prayed in Hebron. Like Dr. Hassan, Dr. Goldstein, also a physician, was both a deeply troubled individual and a product of a deeply problematic version of his faith tradition.
Another adherent to a deeply problematic version of our faith tradition is Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, head of the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva in the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar, who recently published a book in which he opined that gentile babies and children can be killed if they pose a threat to the Jewish nation. This followed on the heels of the arrest of Jewish terrorist Yaakov Teitel, a West Bank settler who was charged with murdering two Palestinians in 1997 and bombing the home of a prominent Israeli professor last year. (Teitel reportedly had this to say when arraigned in an Israeli courtroom: “It was a pleasure and an honor to serve my God. I have no regret and no doubt that God is pleased.”)
Intolerance is intolerance, regardless of the faith tradition to which it is attached. As Nancy correctly points out, all religions can be carriers of malevolent narratives. And when deeply disturbed individuals such as Teitel and Hassan attach themselves to these toxic world views, we can predict all too well the tragic results.