I had an interesting experience the other day. After spending a good deal of the morning in an interesting and intellectually stimulating discussion with a very bright and pleasant Irishman about the right of the State of Israel to exist, I spent the afternoon in a heated and acrimonious debate with a very irate and extremist Israeli who believed that ”blacks were slaves of Islam”, that ”Arabs are animals” and that ”Muslims were evil”.
In the morning I was defending the Jews and the State of Israel with all the logic, passion, debating skills, historical knowledge, powers of persuasion and sincerity that I could muster and in the afternoon I found myself vigorously confronting the excesses, religious bigotry, racism and sheer arrogance of a misguided Jew and the malevolent mindset and disposition that virtually all extremist and right-wing Israelis suffer from.
What a day it was. I experienced as much hate and as much violence in temperament and language from that Jew as I have ever done from the most extreme and militant Islamic fundamentalist and jihadist.
Naturally he got far more than he bargained for from me and he left the discussion a very sober man indeed because I was compelled to tell him the bitter truth about his own people, his own faith and his own intellectual and emotional disposition.
Yet all in all the entire discussion troubled me. This is especially after I was labelled as being ”anti-Semitic” by many American and European Jews and Christians on twitter simply for speaking the truth.
I have also been labelled as being ”anti-Muslim” by many of my Muslim friends and detractors simply because of my relentless and unyielding opposition to Islamist terror and Muslim fundamentalism over the years.
Having been involved in public discourse and debates for over 20 years now I loose no sleep about what others think about me but what I always find troubling is the fact that some people find it very difficult to cope with the bitter truth when confronted with their own shortcomings, fallacies and errors.
Worse still once you point those bitter truths out to them they go on the defensive, lash out at you, seek to demonise you and label you as public enemy number one. I am used to getting that from the Muslim extremists in our midst but I was surprised to get it from the Jews, whom I have always defended, as well.
And frankly the extraordinary brand of arrogance and high level of historical revisionism, double-speak, stubborness and selective memory of the right-wing orthodox Jewish extremists is worse than any that I have ever come across in my life because, more often than not, they speak from the position of being the helpless victim and they feel justified in all that they say and do.
Their rhetoric is powerful, compelling and convincing and the rationale for all that they do and say is laced with emotion. This is pretty potent stuff and these are very serious people with an extremly dangerous mindset. They are indeed the very same people that murdered the moderate Israeli Prime Minister and great peacemaker, Mr. Yizhak Rabin, simply because he had the decency and presence of mind to sign the American-sponsored Oslo Accords with Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organisation in 1995.
I kept asking myself one question: how on earth do the Arabs cope when faced with such insolence, intolerance and racism from the Jewish far right? Many of us love Israel and consider ourselves to be friends of Israel but, like I told my Jewish orthodox antagonist, real friends are compelled to tell the truth, even if that truth is bitter and unpleasant.
Only fake friends will endorse every act of Israel even when that act is wrong, counter-productive, ill-conceived, irrational and unreasonable. Only fake friends will support the display and expression of every inappropiate, disproportionate and indefensible Israeli action and utterance.
If you are not prepared to tell the State of Israel or the Jews the truth when and where they have gone wrong then you cannot call yourself a lover of Israel or a believer in the Jewish cause.
I sought to teach my right wing Jewish orthodox friend a few lessons in that debate and those lessons are as follows.
Not all Muslims are bad, not all Christians are good and not all Jews are civilised. Again not all Arabs are demons, not all Jews are angels and not all Christians are as holy as the Pope.
Racial bigotry and religious intolerance is the worse form of ignorance that exists. It is a cancer and it is evil. That is why I am a secularist and I believe that religion must be kept out of the affairs of state and politics.
Whether you are black, white, brown, red or yellow or whether you are a Muslim, Christian, Arab, Jew, Persian or anything else, if you are a racist or a religious bigot I despise you and I have nothing but contempt for you.
I harbor the same degree of disdain and contempt for a Muslim fundamentalist and Islamist terrorist as I do for a christian terrorist, a Jewish terrorist and a Hindu terrorist. Terror is terror. It has no race or creed. It is evil and it is unacceptable.
Those that believe that such atrocities are only committed by Muslims have not read their history very well. They forget that it was a christian by the name of Adolf Hitler, with the full backing and endorsement of the Pope of his day, who gassed 6 million Jews, Slavs and Gypsies and who caused the death of 50 million people during the Second World war.
They forget that it was a christian by the name of Kaiser Wilhelm 11 of Germany who started the First World War which led to the death of 20 million people.
They forget that it was a christian militia backed by the Jewish State of Israel and the Israeli Defence Force that killed thousands of innocent Palestinian and Arab women and children in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla.
They forget that it was the Hindu nationalists that slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Muslims in post colonial India which led to the breaking up of that nation into three separate countries.
They forget that it was the white christian Boers of South Africa that institutionalised apartheid and that justified it with verses from the bible.They forget that it was the Jewish state of Israel that espoused and still espouses the deeply racist concept of Zionism.
They forget that it was the Christian Hutus of Rwanda that slaughtered 800,000 of their own Christian Tutsi brothers and sisters in 28 days of madness, fratricide and genocide with knives, cudgels and machetes. They forget that it was Christian America that killed 150,000 innocent civilians in 3 days when they bombed Baghdad in an illegal war.
They forget that it was Christian America that wiped out the Red Indians and that herded the few that they didn’t slaughter into concentration camps that they called reservations. They forget that it was Christian western Europe that dehumanised and enslaved the black man and that carved up and colonised the African continent. They forget that it was Christian Great Britain that tormented and plagued pre-independence China and that turned the Chinese into helpless victims of a drug called opium.
They forget that it is Christian America that has killed thousands of innocent muslim women and children in secret drone attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the last few years. They forget that it was the Christian IRA that killed thousands of innocent British civilians over a period of 100 years and during the time of the ”troubles”.
They forget that it was Christian King Leopold 11 of Belgium that personally ordered the slaughter of no less than 10 million Congolese and that actually owned the entire nation of the Congo and regarded it as part of his personal estate.
They forget that it was Jewish Israel that killed 2000 innocent civilians, including 450 infants and young children, during the just-concluded bombing of Gaza. I have always believed that Israel has the right to defend herself and I have always supported them in their noble cause.
This is because I believe passionately that the re-establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 was prophetic and because I believe that she has the right to exist. However that does not mean that I ought to endorse, commend or support the slaughter of 450 innocent Palestinian children.
They forget that it is Christian Ukraine that is shelling, bombing and killing thousands of their own people in the eastern part of their country today simply because those people are trying to exercise their right of self-determination and are fighting for their freedom and liberty.
They forget that it was the Christian Serbs that were indulging in ethnic cleansing and slaughtering the Muslim Kosovars and Bosnians and the christian Croats in eastern Europe approximately 20 years ago. They forget that it was the Christian crusaders that massacred every single muslim man, woman and child when they took the City of Jerusalem in the Middle Ages.
They forget that it was a Muslim by the name of Salahudeen who, 100 years later when he re-took Jerusalem back from the Christians, refused to retaliate and instead gave every christian safe passage to leave the city and ordered that not one of them should be harmed.
Those that argue that all Muslims are butchers, animals and terrorists have forgotten the compassion of Salahudeen and those that argue that all Christians are beasts and sadistic killers have forgotten the compassion of King Richard the Lionheart of England, a God-fearing and profoundly good man who led the later crusades, who liberated Jerusalem from the Muslims and who was a respected friend and worthy adversary of the great Salahudeen.
From this it is clear that kindness, restraint, mercy, compassion, righteousness and humanity has no religious or ethnic boundries or identity. Unfortunately neither does the affliction of wickedness or the perpetuation and willful administration of horror and misfortune.
Terror is unacceptable whether it comes from a Christian, a Jew or a Muslim and whether it is being administered by the state or by a religious or private militia. Human beings of every race and creed can be beasts and more often than not they use religion to justify their beastly activities and ways and to achieve their sinister political objectives.
I condemn Islamist terror (particularly the type of horrific and unprecedented terror inflicted by groups like Al Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS, Islamic Jihad, Al Shabab and Boko Haram) but I refuse to condemn Islam as a religion because not all Muslims are terrorists and not all terrorists are Muslims.
If I were to condemn all Muslims for the barbaric actions of a few of them then I would have to condemn all Christians and Jews for the barbaric acts, committed throughout world history, by the adherents of both of these faiths as well.
Not one of the three major religious faiths is evil because each of the three accept the concept and propogate the notion of one all-powerful and all-knowing God that rules in the affairs of men and that is the creator of all that exists. It is mankind that corrupts and abuses the practice and interpretation of these three great faiths and that, more often than not, uses them to justify the most barbaric and the most evil acts that one can possibly imagine. If we really want a better world this has to stop.
I shall pray for my right wing, orthodox Jewish antagonist because, as with all extremists, he has been blinded by hate, fear and venom. I shall also continue to pray for and bless the State of Israel because I have a very soft spot for the Jews and because my bible compels me to do so.
Yet whether the Jews continue to see me as a friend or not is neither here nor there and neither does it bother me one way or the other. This is because the Lord sees my heart and, as a servant of truth, I am compelled by the laws of the God to continue to speak the truth no matter how painful it is and no matter whose ox is gored. Shalom Al Israel.
Femi Fani-Kayode is the Former Nigeria’s Aviation Minister
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