Globalization: Social & Geographic Perspectives

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Memo 3 – “In Israel, When Is A Jew Not Jewish Enough?” and “Bin Laden and Other Thoroughly Modern Muslims” – Antonio Macheve Jr.

November 23rd, 2010 · No Comments
Reading Response Memos

Audio: In Israel, When Is A Jew Not Jewish Enough?

The audio “Israel, when a Jewish is not Jewish Enough?” exemplifies the impatience and somewhat lack of consideration for local values by certain Americans when traveling abroad. Although I disagree with Israeli settlements destroying Palestinian territory, I have no doubt that the young Jewish-American man from California, Jonathan Leavitt, had genuine intentions of serving the Israel Defense Forces and reconnect with his homeland through aliyah – the migration to the Jewish state. However, he should understand that being an American Jew in California is different from being Jewish in the state of Israel. In other words, there are other implications. One fundamental difference lies in the laws. The United States is a secular state, the first amendment to the US constitution clearly states that: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” On the other hand, Israel is a Jewish state, de facto, which demonstrates the tendency towards the predominant strands of Judaism. In this case, religious life is currently dominated by the ultra-orthodox, which is a conservative and more strict strand of Judaism. Therefore, I believe that perpetually victimizing oneself for not being received with open harms on the first encounter will certainly not lead to an integration to the society.

In order to be part of the Israeli institutions, Jonathan needs to understand that he needs to get accustomed to the local values and the laws before entering local institutions. Clashes are understandable in the beginning because changing societies is not the same thing as changing a pair of sneakers, especially from a secular to a de facto religious state. I believe that there are steps that can be followed to be eligible to participation in the IDF and other Israeli institutions if he wants to genuinely integrate to the society. According to the rabbinate, in the case of Jonathan, it would be conversion in accordance to the strictest interpretation of Jewish law in spite of his bar mitzvah because his mother was not born a Jew. It takes that patience and less victimization to integrate to a society, for we do not all live by the same rules.

Chapter 42: Bin Laden and Other Thoroughly Modern Muslims

In his text “ Bin Laden and Other Thoroughly Modern Muslims,” Charles Kurzman separates radical Islam, which tends to be more political than religious, from moderate muslims. In response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 masterminded by extremists, the people of the Qu’ran have been targeted as a community of brutish and backward people who are not compatible with modernity by Westerners, particularly Americans due to their understandable emotional ties with the victims of 9/11. Nonetheless, the same people fail to understand that a significant number of Muslims also died in the same attacks and their families also mourn their deaths. Further, I am certain that the families of the innocent Muslims who died during 9/11 were not celebrating the deaths of their loved ones as martyrs. As Kurzman suggests, the people who have taken responsibility for the atrocities, primarily Osama bin Laden, are not seminary-educated Islamic scholars or better yet, they are not the people that most Muslims  would resort to for spiritual or moral guidance. Moreover, Kurzman demonstrates that most radical Islamists come from secular backgrounds and are not the most relied on people in terms of Koranic expertise. For instance, Hasan Turabi is a lawyer trained in Khartoum, London and Paris; Hassan al-Banna, who founded the Muslim Brotherhood, the first mass Islamist group was a teacher who was educated in secular schools.

The radical Islamists are a minority and in the predominantly Muslim states, they do not get much support; in fact, according to Kurzman: “the only majority vote that Islamists have ever received was in Algeria in 1991, when the Islamic Salvation Front dominated the first stage of parliamentary elections, winning 81 percent of the seats; it was about to win the second stage of voting when the military annulled the elections and declared martial law.” This demonstrates that the extremists are not so welcome by most Muslims either. Therefore, one needs to be very careful in making a judgment about a people because it might fuel unnecessary conflicts that will ultimately perpetuate hate and hamper coexistence.

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