Made in Heaven?

 

While the idea of a divinely matched soul mate may be romantic, it poses significant theological problems—and many rabbinic sources reject it.

Read more at Yutopia

More about: Fate, Marriage, Predestination, Soul mate, Talmud, Theology

 

The Truth about Islam and Terrorism

 

It has become de rigueur for Western leaders to characterize acts of terror and violence committed by Islamists as having “nothing to do with Islam,” or at least to claim that most Muslims do not support the jihadists. Joshua Muravchik analyzes these positions and finds them lacking:

The Quran is not organized as a logical treatise any more than is the Bible. It is sprinkled with “sword verses” as well as “peace verses,” and the proper interpretation or application of these verses has always been a subject of debate among believers and Islamic scholars. Great value is often attached to emulating Muhammad, who . . . did kind and peaceful things but also was a conqueror. As [President] Obama recently reminded Americans, “people [have] committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ,” but Christ himself counseled turning the other cheek; not so, the Prophet of Islam.

Certainly, contrary to [White House press secretary] Josh Earnest, the Paris killers Cherif and Said Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly believed they were fulfilling the strictures of their faith, and they were prepared not only to kill but also to die in doing so. Neither can it be said, alas, that they were merely one (or three) of a kind, like the homegrown American terrorists who blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995. Of the 51 organizations listed by the State Department as “foreign terrorist organizations,” 38 are predominantly Muslim, mostly Islamist in ideology. Their works are evident daily all around us.

And what do statistics suggest about the support enjoyed by Islamist beliefs? Muravchik continues:

[W]hile the predominant view among the world’s Muslims, insofar as we can learn from polls, rejects terrorism, a significant minority does not. If, on the whole, say, 20 percent of Muslims, a conservative estimate, . . . support terror “often” or “sometimes,” that amounts to 300 million people; and if, say, another 15 percent support it “rarely,” then the total base of support for at least occasional terror acts comes to 500 million. There is little comfort to be found in such figures.

They also make nonsense of the claim that it is unfair to speak of Islamic violence or terrorism and not of Christian or Jewish violence or terrorism, even though occasional terrible acts are committed in the names of the latter two faiths. The obvious answer is that there are no Christian or Jewish analogues to the Islamic State; the numbers of such outrages are an infinitesimal fraction of those committed by Muslims; and there is no equivalent base of support in the respective religious communities.

One of the Pew surveys asked a question not asked in the others, . . . bringing into view another important aspect of the issue of Islamic terrorism: its relation to Israel. . . . If all these polls suggest that Muslim attitudes toward terrorism are often equivocal, the case of Israel compounds the problem. For many Arabs and Muslims, Israelis are always fair game.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Anti-Semitism, Charlie Hebdo, Politics & Current Affairs, Quran, Radical Islam, Terrorism

The Dangers of the Iran Nuclear Deal

 

Examining the most recent report of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran’s nuclear program, as well as Iran’s ballistic-missile arsenal and its history of avoiding inspections, Dore Gold soberly sums up the prospects of the West’s impending agreement with the Islamic Republic:

The new agreement between Iran and the P5+1 [powers] that is presently being completed will leave Iran’s massive nuclear infrastructure largely intact. . . . Iran has not put its weaponization efforts on the negotiating table, nor will it. Neither has it agreed to allow its huge ballistic-missile forces to become a subject of discussion. For that reason, Israeli spokespeople have been saying that Iran will be at the threshold of having nuclear weapons. . . .

Undoubtedly, there are those in the West who are convinced that if Iran violates its agreement and crosses the threshold to assemble a nuclear weapon, it would immediately face a strong reaction which could include the use of force. [But] there is an enormous problem for anyone who thinks that this last stage of assembling a nuclear weapon can be reliably detected. . . . Iran could acquire nuclear weapons without being detected unless a future agreement gave the West the right to move all over Iran with little notification. Given [previous experience with Iran inspections], there is no indication that the West will have an inspection regime of this sort.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Iranian nuclear program, Israel, Nuclear proliferation, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy

Making Sense of Anti-Semitism in Europe

 

British journalists Douglas Murray and Brendan O’Neill, the Muslim thinker Maajid Nawaz, and Simone Rodan, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Paris office, discuss the threat of anti-Semitism in contemporary Europe and the UK in particular. They touch on such topics as elite indifference to anti-Semitism and what Nawaz calls “the ideology that must not be named—that is, radical Islam.”

Read more at Youtube

More about: Anti-Semitism, European Jewry, Muslim-Jewish relations, Politics & Current Affairs, United Kingdom

Does Western Music Need Religion to Flourish?

 

Most orchestral music composed since 1950, writes Oliver Rudland, pales in comparison with that of the previous 100 years. Even popular music, after its mid-century heyday, seems to be in decline. Why? Rudland has an answer:

On closer inspection, it is not hard to see the idée fixe that unites the vast array of varied talent [active between 1850 and 1950]: nationalism. To varying degrees of explicitness, whether through the deliberate inclusion of folk elements, or simply a general overarching style suggestive of national sentiment, [the great composers of this period] would quite happily have thought of themselves not just as composers but as French, Russian, Hungarian, English, German, Finnish, Norwegian, Italian, or Czech composers. . . . [A] good deal of what these composers set out to accomplish was driven by a passion for the language, history, customs, traditions, institutions, and, perhaps most prominently, the countryside of their native lands.

This surge of nationalist output, produced during the long 19th century, was an obvious accompaniment to the growth of the nation state itself. However, there is another, deeper set of convictions which the classical composers held in common, and upon which the nation states of Europe themselves were predicated: Christianity.

Even in opera, a seemingly secular arena, Christianity commonly frames the moral dilemmas of the characters on stage. . . . [I]n fact, I would go as far so to argue that there is a sense in which Western music is Christian. . . . Something of the wisdom of the Gospels and the Psalms shines out of the harmonies of Western music—which is that crucial balance between judgment and compassion—and this is why, even on the operatic stage, a Christian moral logic so naturally and fittingly flows forth from the voices of the characters and the machinations of their plots.

Read more at Standpoint

More about: Arts & Culture, Christianity, Classical music, Music, Nationalism, Religion

Sidon’s Last Synagogue Is Now a Home for Squatters

 

In the Lebanese city of Sidon, once home to a vibrant Jewish presence, at least one synagogue, built in 1850, still stands in the former Jewish quarter, and legally belongs to the community. But its last congregants departed in 1982. Currently, a Syrian family lives in the men’s section and a Palestinian family in the women’s section. Rana Moussaoui writes:

On the walls, Hebrew renderings of the Book of Genesis and Jewish laws have been daubed over with red paint. But while little remains of the synagogue’s former life, its past has not been forgotten. “I’ve received visitors from Canada, France, and Brazil who showed me photos of their [Jewish-Lebanese] ancestors from Sidon,” said Muhammad, [one of the current residents].

In 2012, two rabbis from Neturei Karta—a sect of anti-Zionist Jews who believe that the state of Israel should not exist—prayed in the synagogue, much to the surprise of its residents. It was the first prayer held in the building for 40 years, and came as part of a tour that also included a visit to the nearby tomb of Zebulun, one of the sons of the biblical patriarch Jacob.

Nagi Gergi Zeidan, a specialist on the Jews of Lebanon, says the synagogue once housed 50 Torah scrolls dating to the Roman era, which were [rescued] by Israelis during their 1982 invasion.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: First Lebanon War, Jewish world, Lebanon, Mizrahi Jewry, Synagogues