Fanaticism of any sort, and especially fanaticism nourished on religious myths, is a lurking danger to any society that desires to live in a civilized way. Ever since the Six-Day War, Jewish society has been grappling with the destructive influence of Jewish fundamentalism on the social, economic and political life of the individual.
Arab society, too, is trying − unsuccessfully − to grapple with the destructive influence of religion. It can be said that the level of the destructiveness of religious fundamentalism in Arab society, which is for the most part Muslim, is far greater. It is destroying the social fabric that is fragile in any case because of the tribal and ethnic structure rooted there, and is crumbling the solidarity among the elements in the Arab mosaic in its struggle for its rights in the face of majority rule.
Islamic fundamentalism, as embodied by the Islamic Movement, is a useful tool in the hands of the Jewish regime. From one perspective, the Islamic Movement is consciously raising the civil separation barrier between Jews and Arabs, and from another perspective it is breaking Arab society into ethnic groups, sects and tribes quarreling among themselves. The movement is fueling the “divide and conquer” approach that has always served as an effective weapon in the hands of a colonial regime.
Years ago the controversy over the mosque the Islamic Movement wanted to build in Nazareth near the Basilica of the Annunciation burst into public view. It was the government headed by “defender of Islam” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that approved the construction of the mosque. In the wake of that decision, a tempest raged in the Christian world, the plan never came to fruition and since then the plot of land has been a focus of tension in the city. Evidence of the tension is a large sign hanging at the site and on it a quotation from the Koran: “And whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers” (The Family of Imran: 85). Accompanying it is a translation into English to ensure that visitors to the basilica will not fail to get the message.
Another tempest has been raging recently in the Arab public but it has evaded the radar of the Hebrew media, which have not bothered to report on it. Apparently as long as things stay within the Arab community and have no exceptional repercussions or international reverberations, no one in the Hebrew media takes an interest in them. This time, too, the Islamic Movement is at the center of the affair. Now, however, its poisoned arrows are aimed neither at Jews nor at Christians, but rather at the Druze.
Recently a video filmed at the Islamic Studies College in Umm al-Fahm and uploaded to YouTube showed lecturer Dr. Raed Fathi teaching students Muslim doctrine in these words: “The Druze are heretics who must be boycotted and combated.” The Druze public was enraged, complaints against the lecturer were filed with the police and there were harsh exchanges between Druze and Muslims on the Internet. The storm did not abate until the lecturer came with a delegation and apologized to the Druze at the home of the spiritual leader in the Galilee village of Julis. The entire affair escaped the eyes of the Hebrew media. Let the Arabs slug it out among themselves; it’s good for the Jews.
The Islamic Movement is one of the damaging phenomena in Arab society in Israel. Like what is happening in Jewish society, Islamic fundamentalism bears the standard of religion and thwarts any attempt to create a civic national identity that transcends ethnic groups and religions. It must be said clearly that religious studies in which clerics are involved, and especially of the monotheistic religions, are in fact code for “advanced hatred studies.”
The optimal solution in the context of the volatile Israeli mix is legislation prohibiting the establishment of religious parties. The law should not, of course, deny an individual’s right to be religious and worship in accordance with his beliefs, but it must prevent religious incitement of any sort. It must stop the expropriation of religious affiliation by means of malicious manipulations on the part of racist agents of religion − any religion.