An Oversimplification

Letter to the Editor

Published October 04, 2012, issue of October 12, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share

In his apparent drive to combat the real-world problem of anti-Semitic bias, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen (“Fuel for the Days of Rage,” September 28) seems unfortunately — and ironically — oblivious to his own counterproductive stereotyping of another group: “political Islamists.” Without defining the term, he glibly suggests that those so identified seek, as an “annihilative impulse,” to “behead all those who insult the prophet,” motivated by their rage against “the world’s opposition to their unbounded totalitarian aspirations.” Goldhagen apparently acknowledges not at all that, in fact, political Islam — reasonably defined as a set of political ideologies and movements holding that Islam is not only a religion but also a political system whose teachings should be preeminent in all facets of society — includes individuals and groups with a wide range of beliefs and practices, ranging from violent extremism (Al Qaeda) to non-violent movements (Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood), and parties that have embraced democracy and tolerance of others (Turkey’s AKP).

Goldhagen’s failure to distinguish among the diverse strains of local, regional and global political Islamism, ostensibly in service of a generalized “clash of civilizations” worldview, does little to advance our political and cultural understanding of the Muslim world. Nor does it serve as a basis for the kind of discerning and nuanced American foreign policy the ever-changing conditions in that part of the world demand. That policy should include direct engagement with political Islamists who eschew violence, embrace democracy (before and after they achieve power), and protect minority rights.

Violent Islamic extremism is cause for worldwide concern, but painting all political Islamists with the same brush does little to advance the interests of Israel, the U.S. and Jews everywhere.

MICHAEL FELSEN
Jamaica Plain, Mass.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.