Why I Continue to Defend My “Terrorist” Friends

Islam is a religion of violence, they say; it’s not a religion of justice, or fairness of peace. Islam is a territorial powerhouse, some say, not a pathway to seek internal change within oneself. Jihad is a violent war with the kafir, the non believer, I hear on a regular basis; but is jihad not simply a struggle? For what reason do we continue to call our friends and neighbors terrorists, for what reason do we continue to lump them with only the worst of their people?

Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, eastern religious individuals: we are all on the same path. We are all seeking an internal truth, a deeper meaning if you will. Some seek this truth via submission to their faith, others through mysticism, and still others through violence.

Throughout history, religion has had a legacy of violence. While we sought to understand our own lives, we have been willing to sacrifice the well being of other human beings to our own benefit. Rather than embracing the other, we defame and verbally or God forbid, physically obliterate. This was shown to be true in the ancient Jewish people, the Crusades among the Christian community, and today among Muslim extremists, among many others.

Recently however, two attacks, perpetrated by extremist terrorists within the Jewish community, have left a scar on my people. The death of a child by arson, and a multiple stabbing by a religious zealot at a gay pride parade must be a somber reminder that sometimes we are no better than those we claim seek only to destroy us.

Fortunately, Jews are not discussed only as the worst of our people; there is more to us than that. Now don’t misjudge my wording here, we as Jews do not have the easiest time in society, but we are not seen generally as terrorists. Israelis across the board are slandered, but as a religion, Jews have escaped at least that aspect of a perpetual sense of anti-Semitism.

Today, Islam is most known for violent crimes committed in its name; it is known for terror, for hatred, for bigotry, for backwards ideology. But this is not the Islam that I have seen; these terrorists are not who I am fortunate to call some of my closest friends. It is for this reason, I cannot stand many of the advocates in our own pro-Israel community. There is a direct failure to separate Islam, from its extremists; we shout from the rooftops, “Muslims are terrorists and we must put an end to this terror”. Many of the same individuals have personally called my friends terrorists, simply for their choice to wear a kaffiyeh. Such divisive language and actions help no one.

While it can not be factually contested that many of today’s most violent attacks have been perpetrated in the name of Islam, so too is it true that Muslims are often the first to come to the defense of their Jewish friends. Whether I see it in a Muslim friend of mine who with no questions asked, was the first to risk his own well being to pull a Jewish friend out of the water after falling off a boat, or whether I see it in Muslims in Copenhagen surrounding a synagogue in a ring of protection, I look around and see Muslims seeking peace.

Vigilance of violence is of course necessary, but the systematic condemnation of a people is not. My friends are not terrorists, they are human beings. Those who I seek to advocate with are not necessarily extremists; they too are simply human beings.

Sometimes, it seems we need to remind ourselves of this truth more often than we should. I will continue to defend my so called terrorist friends, and I simply ask you to consider the same. Without the opportunity to meet one another, we vilify the other; stepping out of our comfort zones can change this.

About the Author
Seth Greenwald is passionate in his fights both against anti-Semitism on college campuses as well as the fight against anti-Israel bias and slander worldwide. Seth first developed a passion for Israel after traveling there for his Bar-Mitzvah, kindled that passion through United Synagogue Youth, and has continued to develop throughout his undergraduate career at Clark University. Seth also served as an intern at the Committee for Accuracy in Middle Eastern Reporting for America (CAMERA), Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP), and the David Project.