What the world does not realize

(RNS) — The world was in shock this past Friday, when it received the news that an affiliate of the Islamic State group had perpetrated a deadly terrorist attack at a concert venue in Moscow, killing 140 people and leaving more than 100 injured.

Wait. “Shocked?”

We should not have been shocked. We should have expected this all along.


Because of Oct. 7.

There is a dotted line between Oct. 7 and the massacre in Moscow.

I cannot be the only person who has noticed this. 

Yes, Hamas condemned the attack. Vladimir Putin would like to link the whole thing to Ukraine.

Here is what Putin does not understand and what the world might also fail to understand.

On Oct. 7, it was abundantly clear to so many of us, and it bears repeating — just in case you had forgotten. 

Hamas is ISIS, and it is also Boko Haram, and it is also Hezbollah, and it is also the Taliban, and it is also al-Qaida, and it is also the Houthis. 

There are differences in their ideologies. Hamas, Boko Haram, al-Qaida and the Taliban are Sunni; Hezbollah and the Houthis are Shiites. ISIS is Salafi jihadist. Some (Hamas, Hezbollah, Houthis) are linked with Iran. 

I write as a layperson, who is not an expert at Muslim ideology, and who respects Islam.

Yet, this is what I see.

At a certain point, the grisly Venn diagram emerges. Where these groups overlap is their radical interpretation of Islam, their fanaticism and their eager willingness to engage in extreme violence. Where these groups overlap is their violent hatred of Western values, including free speech, freedom of the press, secular education and most certainly women’s rights, and even more certainly and lethally, LGBTQ rights — including the right to live. 

Iran has famously, or infamously, threatened death to the “great Satan” — the United States — and the “little Satan,” Israel. Sept. 11 was the strike against the great Satan; Oct. 7 was against the little Satan.

Some have not been paying attention. Some have already forgotten. Some have sought to say that cultural values are all relative. Some accuse Western critics of these groups of exerting their colonialist hegemony over the Third World.

For all those, let us repeat what should have been manifestly clear. 

  • If you think the war in Gaza is about Israel and the Palestinians, you’re wrong.
  • If you think this is about the Israel Defense Forces and Hamas, you’re a little bit more correct.
  • If you realize this is about Israel and Iran, you’re getting warmer. 

If you come to understand that this is about the West and radical Islam, and that it is a “clash of civilizations” (as Samuel P. Huntington put it), then you would be almost right.

It turns out that what is happening in Gaza is one front of the war between Western civilization and radical Islam.

The attack in Moscow? That is another front of that war. The 2014 kidnapping of 276 mostly Christian school girls in Nigeria — that was another front of that war. 9/11 was another front. The Houthi attacks on American ships — which anti-Israel activists applaud! — that is another front.

Some years ago, I was visiting in Israel during its incursion in Gaza — wait, sorry, it was in the north, against Hezbollah. Upon my return, I was in a restaurant in Atlanta, discussing my trip with a companion.

A big tattooed guy — OK, a good ol’ boy — approached our table. 

“Did I hear you say you were in Israel?” he asked.

“Yes … ,” I said, looking for the nearest exit — just in case. 

“Am I right in assuming you support what Israel is doing there in Lebanon?”

“Yes, you’re right,” I said, as the moisture content of my shirt proceeded to approach that of the Mississippi Delta.

He gave me a high five. “I just want to thank you for fighting that war for us.”

He was saying: The war that Israel was fighting was not only on behalf of the security of its northern border. The war that Israel was fighting was but another skirmish in the war for Western civilization.

My good ol’ boy had turned out to be a rather astute analyst of world politics. 

Those who found the Hamas attack “exhilarating” and “energizing” (I’m looking at you, Professor Russell Rickford of Cornell University) and those who support the actions of Hamas (I’m looking at you — more than 60% of 18- to 24-year-olds in this country): Please understand what you are supporting, and/or choosing not to condemn. 

You are giving “aid and comfort” not only to Israel’s enemies and those who would wipe out the country, which, in a short time, will be the home of the majority of Jews in the world. 

You are giving aid and comfort to those who would wage a war against everything you believe in, and against every lifestyle you would embrace. 

You need not believe that Western civilization is perfect, unblemished and without sin. In fact, you should not believe that. Certainly Judaism has not refrained from its critiques of culture — all cultures, even its own (I am looking at you, Isaiah and Amos and Heschel and … ).

But, for those who take delight in criticizing Western civilization, you might choose to remember this: It was precisely the intellectual heritage of the West that even gave you the tools to be able to critique it.

As I have said: Hamas, ISIS, Boko Haram, Hezbollah, the Taliban, al-Qaida and the Houthis are all franchises of radical Islam, and it is radical Islam that is at war with our culture.

For this reason, and for many others, American Jews must seek out and engage with mainstream Muslim leaders — to build bridges, to heal pain and to gain understanding.

Allah and Elohim. It is the same God.

(The trauma of Oct. 7 will be with us for quite some time — and the poetry that was produced since that moment is devastating. That is the subject of our next Wisdom Without Walls conversation — Sunday, March 31, at 3 p.m. Eastern time. We will be learning with one of Israel’s most famous and most beloved educators, Rachel Korazim, who will share that poetry with us. It is, in a word, devastating. Register here. We look forward to seeing you on screen.)

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