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Israel-Hamas war is also about radical Islamism vs. democratic values

  | ZAIN JAAFAR/AFP via Getty Images

Violent religious extremists that disrespect the value of innocent human life remain the greatest threat to peace in our time. Those like myself who live in the majority world are very aware of this dangerous reality. They are saboteurs to all we hope for in our world.

The hideous terrorist attack by Hamas on Israeli civilians on October 7 invited Israel’s fierce response. While most of the conversations surrounding the war tend to focus on what is taking place on the ground, what is often lost is that there is a larger, undeclared war underway between radical Islamism and a commitment to humanity preserved by democratic values.

As Israeli President Herzog put it, “This is not a battle between Jews and Muslims. And it is not just between Israel and Hamas. It is between those who adhere to norms of humanity and those practicing a barbarism that has no place in the modern world.”

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What we must realize is that if Hamas is not dismantled, not only is Israel’s future threatened, but the specter of extremist Islamist violence will raise its ugly head in other Western democracies and throughout the free world. They will seek to sabotage all efforts at peace and coexistence between those God has created in his image, whatever their religions. The Palestinians, used as their human shields figuratively and literally, will be their victims too.

Unlike many in the majority Christian West, I share my perspective as a minority Christian from the majority east.

Here’s what I know: Islamist extremists despise the existence of the Christian West almost as much as they despise the existence of Israel. When the Iranian regime calls America the “Great Satan,” they mean it. These vile threats cannot be taken as hyperbole. And when any terrorist organization — most of whom are funded by Iran — declare anyone unlike them as infidels, they are serious.

Killing infidels is, for them, a legitimate and just cause. Islamist extremists dominate the discourse and actions of Muslims with violence and fear. They must be stopped.

Unfortunately, all too often these extremist voices in Islam are unchallenged, if not coddled in the west, even as moderate Arab nations have lost any such need to coddle such extremist views. Those countries are confident in their approach because they know Islamist fundamentalists, and their violent actions, do not represent the majority of Muslims who want to get on with living and building a better future for their children.

As the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates famously said in Europe in 2017, “Let me say this in English so that you can understand what I’m saying … I just want to make sure you get it right. There will come a day when we will see far more radical extremists and terrorists coming out of Europe because of a lack of decision-making, trying to be political, or assuming they know the Middle East, Islam, and others far better than we do. I’m sorry but that’s pure ignorance.” 

The foreign minister was right and is right. Europe and the United States have let naivete guide their decision making and therefore we are witnessing throughout the world the eruption of anti-democratic values given sanctuary in democratic countries where the freedom of speech can never be an excuse for violent hate speech. There should be no room for Hezbollah, ISIS, Al Qaeda, and Hamas in these countries, or for their sympathizers.

The West does not seem to understand that achieving a multicultural society actually requires a refusal to appease extremist groups that make threats of violence, no matter their ethnic or religious affiliations. Blindness to this threat is often perpetrated by leftist thinkers who seem to have a naive view of human evil and despise their own democracies far more than they despise those who would do them harm.

The kind of antisemitic protests that are seen in Western democracies today, led by tens of thousands of Islamists, have to be taken more seriously. To shout slogans to drive the Jews out to the sea is nothing but crying out for another holocaust.

Extremist Islamic groups do not want peace in the nations of the world. Their vision of global dominance drives their fervor, and it always results in violence. When these groups resort to violence and terrorism, civilized society has no option but to defeat them, and refuse to fall for the propaganda that indiscriminate acceptance of refugees presents no threat to their populations.

The emergence of Hamas and the brutal, inhumane attacks on Jews both in Israel and around the world must not be seen merely through the prism of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as important as that is.

This is far bigger than Israel. It’s about the rest of us too. Democracies that respect the rule of law are worth fighting for.

Archbishop Joseph D’Souza is an internationally renowned human and civil rights activist. He is the founder of Dignity Freedom Network, an organization that advocates for and delivers humanitarian aid to the marginalized and outcastes of South Asia. He is archbishop of the Anglican Good Shepherd Church of India and serves as the President of the All India Christian Council.

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