I may be the last person to be adding to a blogosphere vibrating with emotion about the apalling terrorist murders in Mumbai.
The horrifying carnage waged by those who believe their despicable acts glorify their god--and are even commanded by their god--leave all sane and civilized people in mourning and shock.
A point made by my favorite talk show host today, however, was different, and struck me. Fave Host was talking about a blog post by Commentary Magazine and NYTimes columnist Max Boot for Nov. 29, in which he suggests that by now, terrorist attacks in India are so common as to earn barely a mention in the Western press.
The Host added that in order to gain the notoreity and importance the killers desired--in order to force the world to take notice--they selected Americans and Jews as their targets. Even if their aim was to foment friction or war between India, a Democratic power, and Pakistan, a goal that did not include the United States or Israel specifically.
Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek International Editor and a native of Mumbai, said in an interview that he thought disaffected Indian Muslims, left behind in the current economic boom, were recruited by outside groups, probably trained in Pakistan. The name offered by those claiming responsibility, the Deccan Mujahedeen, is unfamiliar to terrorist experts.
But while the perpetrators and their purposes are sorted out, we on the sidelines--who can barely stomach the details and watch reports through cracks between fingers we lift to block our eyes--are personally affected by the horror. Americans in India are not just citizens of any foreign country, who happen to be there. The Jews of Chabad House were not just any religious workers selflessly bringing services and solace in an emerging land. Both Americans and Jews stand out on the world stage as much more.
Americans represent the freedom and diversity that Islam seeks to quash. The wealth and upward mobility that extremist Muslims rue. We represent a free press and instant, constant news. Command the airwaves, command the blogosphere, and you have power.
Jews symbolize all of that and more. Historically attacked, isolated, and destroyed partially because communication is central to the religion, Jews are the opposite of diversity--representing unity, in a direction that jihadist Muslims despise. Jews are as completely "not them" as any people can be. And hated all the more because the Jewish connection to God is via a brother and more importantly, a rival, of a figurehead of their religion. Where Abraham is shared by both Judaism and Islam, the Koran claims that Ishmael, the son of Abraham's concubine/wife Hagar, is the inheritor of the Godly mantle. The Torah, of course, shows Isaac as the descendant God favors, one of the "fathers" of Jewish thought and practice.
Rabbi Gabriel and his wife Rivka Holtzberg, 28 years old with five years invested in Mumbai creating a haven of Jewish worship, study and practice surrounded by a cacophony of alien philosophies and religions, were a natural target. For Muslim extremists, The rival is here and must not prosper.
This very physical battle in Mumbai was a victory for the terrorists, whose free reign in the face of unarmed police and few barriers is a grim warning about the importance of weapons for those who keep peace, and a reminder that Americans dare not become complacent.
But more than that, this is a spiritual battle, and on that front, the values and Godly connection of Americans and Jews worldwide need not lose. The response of the Chabad Jewish outreach organization to the tragedy is to urge Jews to take on a new mitzvah, to draw closer to God by fulfilling more of His commandments, with a more fervent spirit. This is a response with a different type of weapon. The kind that suicide murderers cannot combat, no matter what they try to do.