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October 25, 2015 6:40 am

Britain’s Former Chief Rabbi Tackles the Roots of Islamist Terror in New Book (INTERVIEW)

avatar by Richard Ferrer

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The cover of Not in God's Name. Photo: provided.

The cover of Not in God’s Name. Photo: provided.

An ominous shadow has swept across the Middle East and North Africa, leaving chaos and carnage in its wake. Mad men armed with Kalashnikovs and depraved convictions commit unspeakable acts – all safe in the knowledge that they are doing God’s work.

How the civilized world counters the Islamic State and its associates is the subject of Lord Jonathan Sacks’ timely new book, Not In God’s Name.

The former Chief Rabbi of Britain sees the battle against ISIS and similar groups as the defining conflict of the 21st century.

The frontline might be Syria and Iraq, but the battle is being fought everywhere and targets everyone — especially Jews.

In Europe, radical Islamists have spilled Jewish blood in Paris, Brussels, and Copenhagen in recent months. For Lord Sacks, Jews are the canaries in the cage. “The hate begins with Jews but never ends with them,” he says. “That’s why Jews must never be left to fight anti-Semitism alone. If it’s not safe to be a Jew in Europe today, it’s not safe to be a European in Europe today. Anti-Semitism is a sign of something larger and even more dangerous.”

He adds: “There’s significant antisemitism across the continent in France, Scandinavia, Holland, Belgium, Hungary, Spain and elsewhere. The threat level is not the same in Britain. We could not have asked for more loyal friends than our recent prime ministers, who have stood unequivocally with the Jewish community. But the dangers remain clear to us all.”

Lord Sacks rejects claims that anger at Israel is the root cause of this current antisemitism. “The problem is steeped in theological roots — an ancient sibling rivalry between Judaism, Christianity and Islam. For 1,000 years, Jews were the most conspicuous non-Christian minority in Christian Europe. Today, Israel is the most conspicuous non-Muslim presence in an otherwise Muslim Middle East. Jews have long been a conspicuous minority. Old prejudices must be acknowledged and overcome. We need to sit down in a respectful way and work out a peaceful future for all the people and faiths in the region.”

“Israel is not a key factor in what’s happening in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen or Libya. There’s an internal struggle within Islam between extremists and moderates — a dramatic split between those who are religious and respect democracy and engage with the world around them, and those who want to impose their beliefs on others by force. These are two completely different strains of religiosity. It is essential we engage with young Muslims to make sure they are fully integrated into British society. They need to hear strong religious voices, ones that are not radical or rejectionist.”

Sacks adds: “The late British Muslim leader, Doctor Zaki Badawi, who was head of the Muslim College in London and a friend of mine, was a wonderful moderate Islamic leader. There are many young moderate Muslims who are just as forthright and courageous as Zaki, but none has yet achieved his status. When that happens it will make a crucial difference in this struggle.”

According to Lord Sacks, extremist propaganda fills the vacuum left by an absence of moderate voices, particularly in Palestinian schools — where state-sanctioned indoctrination of children turns Jews into objects of disgust. Under the Palestinian education system, children are groomed for holy war and martyring themselves in terrorist attacks, rather than preparing for adulthood.

Lord Sacks says: “Palestinian schools and media tell children [that] non-believers are destined for hell. This has been the case for too long. The world must wake up and realize that if children are taught to hate, then all the military intervention in the world will not stop the spread of extremism. As a Jew, I wrestle with these issues every day. I hope Muslim leaders are doing the same.”

He speaks animatedly about Israel. “It is the only sound democracy in the region; a world technology leader full of creativity, idealism and exceptional energy. During my regular visits I meet young Israelis who fill me with inspiration. Why the world can’t accept Israel’s achievements and contribution is deeply troubling to me. Those who can’t see the obvious good in Israel harm themselves, not just Israel.”

When Lord Sacks finally stepped down as Britain’s Chief Rabbi in 2013, Prince Charles hailed him as a “light unto this nation.” How does he reflect on his 22 hectic years in the role?

“As chief rabbi, I was captain of a team, so there were naturally things I simply couldn’t say. Today, I can speak more freely and openly as an individual. I count those years in the Chief Rabbinate as an enormous privilege. And I am so impressed by the way my successor Chief Rabbi [Ephraim] Mirvis has taken over the mantle and continued to lead Anglo-Jewry with great warmth and skill. These days, I see my role as a teacher and, hopefully, someone who can inspire young people of all religions to engage in leadership to build a better future.”

Not In God’s Name by Jonathan Sacks is on sale now in hardcover, priced $28.95. 

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  • ThomasT

    Either he’s misinformed or telling lies and misinforming. Doesn’t the ex Rabbi know that 2 Israeli military ‘agents’ were captured in Iraq guiding IS. That Israel treats the nusra et al wounded and arms the whole lot?

    • Mike P.

      TommyT, Israel treats any Syrian wounded it is able to–many hundreds saved, not just El Nusra…any Syrian whatsoever. As for the two agents, provide the link…and make sure it’s not StormFront.

  • .

    As you may be aware I INVESTIGATE THE ANTI SEMITISM OF THE PALESTINAN AUITHORITY . I am hacked, threatened, and insulted. Rest assure I will never give up or back down. Consider what I do JEWISH DEFENSE like in nature as I spread the word and fight for you, call it shomrim , guards if you wish. Our people are now being murdered daily. More to come on this subject. Never again….RABBI DR. BERNHARD ROSENBERG

    Rabbi Bernhard Rosenberg to head entity to study and expose official Palestinian Authority…

    The Center for Near East Policy Research, dedicated to memory of Nahum Bedein, who succumbed to cancer four years ago, now engages|By David Bedein

  • Cherie

    Fully support the statement that Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East. Their achievements are acknowledged with great respect and admiration, within and throughout the wider Pacific Region.

    Long live Israel and may all your enemies come to an end!!

  • Vivienne Havalant (Leijonhufvud)

    I have enormous respect for Rabbi Lord Sacks and naturally I will be ordering his latest book. I have questions about Islam that I simply cannot reconcile? Primarily the so called prophet Mohammet, himself! Unlike our Jewish Prophets this man was less than respectful to the one true G-d and his fellow man, in particular women and children. Indeed the man appeared to be an extremely disturbed individual – in psychological terms may be considered a malignant Narcissist. Frankly if there are any redeeming features of ISLAM I would be most grateful if some one could point them out to me! In my view there is only one aspect of so called ISLAM worthy of respect and recognition and that is Sufism? I myself have come into contact with Sufi’s and I wonder if Lord Sacks is referring to this part of ISLAM which indeed is full of wisdom, beauty,poetry and mysticism. Certainly Sufism does not condone the abuse of women, boys, little girls and prepubicsant girls! No more does Sufism preach hate toward ones fellow humans either Jew, Christians or any other denomination. I will have to read the words of the Rabbi and hope I may take a more conciliatory view of ISLAM than I do at present.

  • steve

    A Great Mind ….

  • G M Ben-Nathan

    Lord Sacks is a deep thinker. He is right in divining that Replacement Theology is at the heart of Christian and Muslim antipathy towards the Jewish state. Powerful forces in both Christian and Muslim countries are simply unable to come to terms with the re-establishment of sovereign Jewish independence.
    Jews are regarded as people to be kicked from pillar to post: that is their punishment for rejecting Jesus and / or Muhammad.

    In addition to rejection by Christian, post-Christian and Muslim societies, Jews are further ostracized by the extreme Left and Right. These elements simply cannot accept that, for the majority of Jews, their “-isms” are rejected by Jews in favour of the supremacy of the family and family values. Lord
    Sacks would hopefully agree with this.

    One area where the former Chief Rabbi could make a great contribution to Middle East peace would be his careful consideration of the history of the Palestinians – particularly those living on what is now called the ‘West Bank’, Judea and Samaria. If Lord Sack’s voice could be added to the still small number who recognize these people, as, incidentally, many of them do themselves, as the “am ha-aretz” of the Talmud, i.e. people of Jewish origin, much could be achieved and quickly.

    Beyond being “am ha-aretz” – an unfortunately derogatory term in Hebrew – these people are part of the people of historic and ancient Israel as sure as eggs are eggs. This is a fact. The tragedy is that so few people of influence realise this.

    The ultimate solution to the whole miserable conflict lies in the realisation that the SAME people are chasing every inch of the SAME land as if they are two different peoples. They are not. They are one people whose historic life-courses have taken them through very different life-passages.

    • Douglas Brown

      Any Christian with his head screwed on straight knows full well the Jew is our elder brother and very precious in the Lord’s sight. The Jew is the recipient of the promises made to Abraham, the inheritors of the specific Euphrates to Nile land grant, those people God chose to recieve oracles of God. Islam may be a sham religion, but Christians must know they are deeply indebted. Christians gullible and stupid enough to buy into the perverse and illicit Replacement Theology are not worth the time of day. God Bless Israel. And incidentally, GOD BLESS THE IDF !

  • Ron Blower

    “We need to sit down in a respectful way and work out a peaceful future for all the people and faiths in the region.”

    With those who have an imperative from their god and his prophet to kill Jews and non-Muslims???

    Yeah!! Nothing could go wrong with that!!

    “… a dramatic split between those who are religious and respect democracy and engage with the world around them, and those who want to impose their beliefs on others by force. These are two completely different strains of religiosity.

    Really?? Then why, Lord Sacks, this:

    “According to Lord Sacks, extremist propaganda fills the vacuum left by an absence of moderate voices, particularly in Palestinian schools — where state-sanctioned indoctrination of children turns Jews into objects of disgust.”

    How does ANYONE “know” about these “Moderates” with their “absence of moderate voices”.

    And, ‘absence of Moderate action’, too, I might add.

    PS: Lord Sacks: Let me add… “The late British Muslim leader, Doctor Zaki Badawi…” of the Muslim College took the job from a Jihadist Muslim; after his death, the Muslim who replaced him was a Jihadist Muslim; and, any Muslim who ATTENDS that school, let alone the leaders, is or will be a Jihadist Muslim because the school is paid for with Saudi, et al money.


    Some years ago, a Muslim scholar who converted to Christianity, was checking out a copy of St. John’s Revelations from the Vatican archives – dated in the 300s.
    John had been instructed to write down what he saw in his visions. When the scholar saw what was purported to be the “mark of the beast”, he saw symbols that had been interpreted as being in the Greek language, were actually in Arabic. The Arabic language did not come along for hundreds of years. See what he found.

    • Miriam Kaplan

      Intriguing video. However . . .
      Where did you get your information on the the Muslim scholar who converted to Christianity ?
      I could find nothing on the youtube page or through Google on who produced this video.

      There are several issues which challenge an uncontested acceptance of the theory.
      1. the manuscript is not identified
      2. the context of the text is not provided
      3. we are not informed whether this mode of presentation is unique to this manuscript or was common at the time.