Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Being Radicalized

To Mark Remembrance Day
Sadly, it just seems much of the news is now filled with stories of what has been termed ‘radicalization’ – an acceptance by otherwise apparently moderate individuals of fanatical Islam. This, what appears to be a global phenomenon, perhaps reached an apex for us in the death of two Canadian soldiers who were recently killed by such individuals. In that Canadians, on November 11, will mark Remembrance Day -- when we recall and acknowledge the debt we owe to our military who have sacrificed in our defense -- the timing is most moving. Our hearts indeed are heavy.
  The question has emerged, though: what leads such individuals to embrace such a system? When we read about the brutality inflicted upon others by such groups as ISIS, we cannot even imagine how any person could treat a fellow human being in such a manner – especially in the name of some type of idealistic goodness. How could it then even be possible that others, when they hear such stories, are not only not repulsed by such behavior but are even attracted to such causes? It seems simply beyond explanation.
Yet, we are still driven to find some cause, some clarification – especially if this will help us in dealing with such occurrences. There are those, though, who simply see each case as a reflection of some personal mental illness; each incident having its own individual explanation. Within this perspective, there would be no point in attempting to find a common theme for there is none. Others, though, still believe that there may be some common ailment that leads certain individuals to embrace such fanaticism. Regardless of the reason, it is still truly devastating to hear of individuals from around the world joining such entities as ISIS, embracing fanatical Islam.
There was one particular news item, however, that particularly caught my attention. CNN reported that the first suspected member of ISIS to stand trial in Germany played, as a youth, for Makkabi Frankfurt, Germany's largest Jewish sports club. Upon questioning from the media about this, team president, Alon Meyer, responded: "This was a guy who used to play with Jewish players every week, he was comfortable there and he seemed so happy.” He added: "His old teammates were very shocked -- they didn't know how to react...They couldn't believe it.” The team always felt that it was in the best interests of the Jewish community to open its doors to invite everyone to play. They never imagined such a result.
In response to this event, certain members of the Jewish community began to question this policy. Perhaps, the club should be only for Jewish players, perhaps we should only take care of ourselves? Mr. Meyer has rejected this suggestion. "We have opened ourselves up to everybody and that is how we live," he explains. The fact that someone who once played for Makkabi Frankfort became radicalized, in Mr. Meyer’s eyes, should not veer the team away from its goal of integration. If a correct choice was made and the community was acting correctly, that is what it must continue to do.
I do not necessarily agree with this Jewish club’s policy of integration. There are strong reasons for why Jewish clubs should, perhaps, only be for Jews. That, though, is not the issue here. The contention here was that because of the radicalization of this one individual, who as a youth played for Makkabi Frankfort, the club should change its policy. In this regard, I agree with Mr. Meyer. We cannot allow the radicalization of individuals to force us to behave in a manner with which we otherwise disagree. Whether Makkabi Frankfort should include non-Jewish players on their teams is one issue. The fact that one such player became radicalized, however, should not be a factor in that decision.
Obviously, terrorism will call upon us, in the goal of protecting individuals from this horror, to behave somewhat differently. The point is, though, that we cannot allow terrorism to cause us to deviate in the expression of our values. In a similar vein, it was with patriotic pride that I read about the resumption of the honour guard at the National War Memorial within days of the murder of Cpl. Cirillo. Of course, all must be done to protect such honor guards on duty but to abandon the practice of displaying such honour cannot be an alternative. To have forsaken the honour guard would mean that terrorism could claim a victory – and this is something we can never permit.
There are those who are becoming radicalized, adopting a value system which we find abhorrent. We must ensure that they also do not cause us to surrender our values.

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