Opinion: Why Are So Many Mourning a Terrorist?

Updated: 3 days 13 hours ago
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Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

Special to AOL News
(July 21) -- What are we to make of the outpouring of grief from highly credible Western news and diplomatic sources for the death -- lamentably of natural causes -- of Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, the spiritual head of Hezbollah, one of the world's most deadly terrorist organizations and the murderous puppet of Iran?

Fadlallah was the spiritual authority who sanctioned and blessed the suicide truck bombings in Beirut in October 1983 that killed 300 American servicemen and embassy personnel and represented the deadliest single-day death toll for the Marines since the battle of Iwo Jima. Most recently, Fadlallah authorized the firing of thousands of rockets from Southern Lebanon into Israeli civilian population centers, killing dozens and maiming scores more.

In a 2002 interview with The Daily Telegraph, Fadlallah said, "I was not the one who launched the idea of so-called suicide bombings, but I have certainly argued in favor of them."
The Telegraph's executive foreign editor, Con Coughlin, wrote of Fadlallah, "When you look back at his track record you can see he was right up there with other infamous terror masterminds, such as Abu Nidal and Carlos the Jackal."

But none of this stopped Britain's ambassador to Lebanon, Frances Guy, from publishing a statement mourning Fadlallah's death, saying: "The world needs more men like him."

That an official representative of a government involved in the war on terror could praise a mass murderer and call for more people to walk in his footsteps staggers the imagination.

Then there was CNN's senior editor for Middle East affairs, Octavia Nasr, who tweeted that she was "sad to hear of the passing of" Fadlallah, adding for good measure that the terrorist was "one of Hezbollah's giants I respect a lot." To their credit, CNN fired Nasr.

But to her rescue came Tom Friedman, the noted New York Times columnist. After condemning CNN for the firing, Friedman conceded that Nasr's posting was "troubling," not because she praised a terrorist but because "reporters covering a beat" undermine their credibility when they "issue condolences" for the personalities they cover.

Incredibly, Friedman then offers praise of his own for Fadlallah, quoting Augustus Richard Norton of Boston University, who said that Fadlallah was an advocate for women who "was not afraid to speak about sexuality." But lest you conclude that Friedman is whitewashing a terrorist, he grants that Fadlallah "was not a social worker. He had some dark side." Really, Tom, you don't say?

Why are so many literate Westerners grieving over Fadlallah's death?

The answer lies in the hidden contempt shown by many apologists on the left for Arabs and Islam. As a rabbi I see my Arab brothers as my unqualified equals in every respect and Islam as a godly religion. I therefore hold both to the very same standards I hold for myself and my faith.

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But then there are those who treat Arab regimes as inherently uncivilized and Islam as a primitive religion, such that even the slightest deviation on the part of a Muslim cleric from genocidal terror suddenly makes him into a saint and a progressive. For people like Guy, Nasr and Friedman, an imam like Fadlallah who wants to kill Americans and Israelis but who is unexpectedly nice to women has taken a giant leap forward from the Dark Ages, deserving respect and praise.

This attitude is, of course, not only deeply amoral and patronizing nonsense but historically false.

Islam was once a proud and advanced civilization that already in the ninth century prioritized general education, with Al-Mamun, caliph of the Abbasid dynasty, establishing state-funded places of study, focusing on translations of Greek and other works of antiquity that predated the first European universities by more than 300 years.

The Abbasid Muslim empire had an agricultural revolution in the eighth century that produced technological innovations the likes of which wouldn't been seen in the West until at least 1180. And in the 16th century, Muslim Sultan Akbar of India enacted laws embracing religious toleration and protection of women and children, not to mention being one of the very first commanders to insist upon the proper treatment of captured enemy troops.

Sheikh Fadlallah must be judged against the backdrop of this advanced tradition and as such must be regarded as an abomination to Islam and a pious fraud.

Those who care for Islam, and wish it to recapture the splendor of its past, must utterly condemn clerics who, for all their cosmetic modernity, have allowed a great world faith to be tarnished with the blood of innocents.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, founder of This World: The Values Network, hosts "The Shmuley Show'" on WABC in New York City and is the author most recently of "Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life." Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.
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