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As it appeared in MetroWest Daily News, Framingham MA 10/24.03

Reader comment on item: Deadly Denial [of Muslim Anti-Semitism]

Submitted by Ilana Freedman (United States), Oct 26, 2003 at 13:00

Thank you for your continued insightful and extremely important input into the public discource on these issues that must continue to be heard. Following is a column that appeared in Friday's paper in the Boston area. Anti-semitic rhetoric is not acceptable on any stage and must be confronted from as many sources as possible. The menace of radical Islam cannot be overestimated. That this movement builds its cadre from the ranks of little children whom it trains to kill and die is a threat to the world and must be stopped. The more we speak, the louder our voice will be.

Freedman: The threat is real. Is anyone listening?
By Ilana Freedman / Local Columnist
Friday, October 24, 2003

Last week, Malaysia's Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad addressed the opening session of the 10th Islamic Summit Conference. Employing a rhetorical mixture of ethnic pride, self-pity, and xenophobia, he spoke of Muslim solidarity in the face of a long history of "humiliation and oppression."
It came, he said, at the hands of "detractors and oppressors (who) will attack and kill us, invade our lands, (and) bring down our governments."
He called for an end to fighting between Muslim groups in order to recapture their unified strength, and told the assembled leaders that their own "counter-attack" could start "only after we have put our houses in order."
Then, in a chilling statement, he identified the enemy: "The Muslims," he said, "will forever be oppressed and dominated by the Europeans and the Jews."
Mahatir enumerated the strengths of the people of Islam: "We are now 1.3 billion strong. We have the biggest oil reserve in the world. We have great wealth... We are familiar with the workings of the world's economy and finances. We control 50 out of the 180 countries in the world. Our votes can make or break international organizations...We need guns and rockets, bombs and warplanes, tanks and warships for our defense...1.3 billion Muslims cannot be defeated by a few million Jews."
Mahatir dismissed the holocaust in a single sentence. "The Europeans killed six million Jews out of 12 million. But today the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them."
His words were reminiscent of that mixture of half-truths, myths, and psycho-babble written 80 years ago to explain "Jewish world domination." The book was Mein Kampf and the author was Adolf Hitler.
To those of us old enough to remember, Mahatir's words bring an eery feeling of deja vu. Just as Hitler's rhetoric electrified his followers, Mahatir's words of hate find resonance in the minds of those who share his views, and his stature in the Muslim world as Prime Minister of Malaysia gives credibility to his message.
Mahtir's suggestion that a few million Jews could hold 1.3 million Muslims hostage in a global society is patently absurd. His assertion that this small, scattered population, decimated by Hitler's policies of systematic mass murder, could be a world power is equally ridiculous. Yet to dismiss Mahatir's remarks as silly would be to dangerously miss the point.
We live in difficult times. Never was the danger so great. Never was there a greater need for diffusing the time bomb of mindless hatred and distrust among the peoples of the world. We cannot ignore Mahatir's blatant display of ethnic hatred. His appeal reaches far beyond that hall in Putrajaya, to the poor, the hungry, the desperate throughout the Muslim world, those kept in abject poverty by autocratic rulers, and those who have been raised from the cradle to hate.
They seek a reason, a scapegoat upon which to heap their accumulation of rage and frustration. Although Mahatir first calls for calm and thoughtful planning, he speaks the language of violence that they have been taught to understand. And because these radicalized souls see no other route, they are a grave threat to us all.
I truly believe that most people, no matter what their religion, their ethnicity, or their cultural background, want nothing so much as to be left alone to live their lives, to seize what opportunities present themselves so they can make better lives for themselves and their families.
But too many are held hostage by autocratic leaders who stifle opportunity and growth, who limit the scope of education, and who put their people at mortal risk as they pursue their own agendas for political power and personal wealth.
For them, living in a world where small transgressions are punished in the most brutal ways, a message that provides a safe outlet, an excuse, a scapegoat for the cause of their suffering is a message to which they will listen.
We cannot afford to sit silently as this menacing threat continues to fester.
Postscript: Closer to Home
Several weeks ago, on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish New Year, worshipers at Temple Emanu-El in Haverhill, Massachusetts, left the sanctuary at the end of their prayers to find vicious, hate-filled flyers strewn around the synagogue and on all the surrounding streets.
The shock was palpable, bringing home the reality that even here, we are not safe.
The community response was electric. Last Sunday evening, hundreds of people came to Temple Emanu-El to show their solidarity with the Jewish community. Among those present were the mayor of Haverhill, the chief of police, members of the City Council, several ministers, congregants of neighborhood churches, and many people from the community.
Together they spoke, they prayed, and, holding hands across the aisles, they sang.
There is no room in our precarious existence for ethnic and religious hatred. The words of Mahatir bring with them a cold-steel warning that the danger is real, it is today, and it is here. Like the people of Haverhill, we too must stand together and speak out against the tyranny of hate wherever and whenever we find it.
To be silent in the face of such a threat is to strike a blow at our way of life.
Ilana Freedman, a specialist in counter-terrorism preparedness, welcomes your questions and comments

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