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Seeking G-d in the Aftermath of 10/7
maybe the journey to g-d is like a sukkah, a simple hut with open sides and roof
Religiously motivated terror desecrates and defames religion itself. It is sacrilege against God and the life He endowed with His image. (Rabbi Sacks, Not in God’s Name, p. 266)
I don’t think of the Quran as a horcrux for g-d. I don’t think it teaches Muslims to wage war and hate others for g-d’s glory, either. Muslim leaders did that, social brain hardwiring did that, not an inanimate object. I don’t think that g-d hates. Love cannot hate. We fail when we try to capture g-d and put him into human meaning like we put a corpse into a sarcophagus. G-d is not dead. G-d is not a body. G-d is not anything we can contain. I don’t think we can scapegoat Muslims for the actions of Hamas, ISIS, Daesh, Al Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood, etc etc. I think that we can hold the Muslim community responsible for how they have allowed malignant narcissist incels poisoned by pathological hatred to hijack their religion — power to make change comes from taking responsibility for the present state of things.
The same Muslims who tell us they own the reputation of their prophet and therefore feel entitled to decapitate or maim or blind anyone who dares to tarnish his reputation also seem ok with literal Nazis invoking their religion to commit global terror and instigate pogroms at whim. Rather than address the rampant pedophilia and misogyny and severe incel behaviour within the ranks of radical islamist men, rather than address the rampant narcissism and contagion of dehumanisation that afflict large swaths of the male Muslim population, Muslims choose the ostrich — head in sand. When afflicted with a massive bad hijab problem amongst Muslim men, what does the Muslim world do? Turn hijab for women into a national identity, of course! Women die in Iran because men have bad hijab. The Quran does call men to modesty first—did you know that? Do you think rape and child marriage and murder modest behaviour for men? I do not. I would not cheer my son if he called to tell me he killed 10 human beings for the sport of hate. My son could not even kill a spider or a mouse as a young man living at home—he would capture them gently and give them safe passage to the outdoors, as his father taught him to do. I do not understand this Hamas behaviour that seems cruel and medieval.
The same Muslims who cheered the Salman Rushdie attack orgasmically on Facebook claim to want Israel to stand down in the name of humanitarian efforts for Gazans. The same Muslims who left 130 extreme comments on Facebook in response to my post saying Lars Vilks was human cry cruelty and demand humanitarian compassion + mercy. The same Muslims who went to Umrah and then Hajj no problem after the absolute monarch of Saudi Arabia ordered the brutal execution of Khashoggi on Turkish soil want me to feel moved for people who cheered the brutal genocide of Southern Israelis. Muslims, where was your mercy and humanitarian compassion, for Khashoggi, for the victims of Islamic regimes everywhere, for the victims of 10.7? Nowhere, your mercy for these victims of Islam is absent. That’s my deal breaker.
I made a mistake. I misjudged.
Barb Kay asked me once, when I told her I grew up staunchly Catholic, why didn’t you become a Jew? Because I didn’t think it was allowed, I never really asked though. I have studied the holocaust my entire life, have had an inexplicable burning fire to know that atrocity and every detail about it — what led to it, who suffered and how and by whose hand. Whenever I want to understand the Old Testament, I go to Jewish sources. Judaism, that oldest of religions, has long served as my lighthouse, a candle in the window, my dad waiting up for me when I was out late.
So, why didn’t I become a Jew? Because I make a mistake.
Yeah. I misjudged the collective power of Islamic extremists and I misjudged the weakness of the Islamic reformists. The oppositionality seemed seductive perhaps, also. The entire world, either through opposition or amplification, supports Islamic extremism. Having grown up in the immediate and tall dark shadow of Nazism, I really thought the world got over hating Jews. I feel quite naïve that I didn’t know the depth of Muslim anti-semitism. I feel quite naïve that I still did not understand the depth and vastness of Jew hatred in human society.
I made the mistake of discounting the distortions of hatred and the psychopathy of extremism in the Muslim community of humans when I looked at the Quran and at Sufi mysticism and the ideas that expressed a potential Muslims could aspire to, when I thought I saw the thing that I sought — g-d. I forget g-d exists only in my seeking for him, when I think I found him, and when I try to capture that, I have lost him. I forgot that any faith practise exists upon the foundation of the human community practising that faith. A potential is not the same as reality. Unrealised potential means nothing. So much unrealised potential sits at the foot of the Muslim world, which has consumed itself with jealousy and hatred. It reminds me of Matthew 25:14-30, The Parable of the Talents. A man gave several of his servants talents to invest. The servant who did not invest the talent his master gave him to make it grow into something, and instead chose to bury it in the ground for safe keeping, failed the test.
The Muslim jealousy of Jews + Christians reminds of Biblical fraternal rivalry seen in the story of Cane + Abel. It reminds me of Joseph and the jealousy of his siblings, who sold him into slavery. It reminds me of Jacob + Essau, said to wrestle even within their mother’s womb. Is this current geopolitical rivalry one that will never end? Is this Isaac versus Ismail, brothers set up to be at odds throughout life? I don’t know, just thinking out loud. G-d is in the questions and not whatever answer I think I have. The answers matter, of course. My desire for g-d must not become more important than g-d himself though. Conquest-based religions make the conquest and not g-d their purpose. The only conquest g-d demands I make is with my Self. And yet, without a faith community I often have felt as John of the Cross describes in Dark Night of the Soul, the virtuous soul that is alone and without a master, is like a lone burning coal; it will grow colder rather than hotter. I did feel contracted without a reference point. Without a faith community I did feel like a cold ember. How could I get that spark back? “Her soul burns coal.”
I became a Muslim because I assumed others thought like me. I really had no idea that people in the world literally live like Nazis — tell their kids they are a superior race and culture and tell their kids that Jews and whomever else they decide to other look human and actually have an untermensch essence. I had no idea that Muslims tell themselves + their kids that Jews want to destroy them, etc etc. I didn’t realise the combined influence of Soviet antisemitism + Goebbelsian Psyops + Nazism existed so strongly in the Muslim world—it sucks all the oxygen from the community. In short, I did not imagine that Muslims collectively lacked the capacity for internal + critical thinking because of their intense hatred of Jews, and Europeans.
Ultimately anyone who embraces cruelty + terror + hatred must not value or love themselves. Behaviour is a thing we do to ourselves, before anyone else. Cruelty we inflict on others does not escape us, we carry that act we have done to others around in our nervous system. Wherever you go there you are. I did not realise that people who live in the west hate freedom + democracy — why did they escape to Canada, then? Why would you not want for your own people, and fellow humans, what you want and have for yourself? This makes no sense, it seems self defeating to me. You cannot keep what you have when you deny others repeatedly. You do not have freedom when you must throttle people in order to have that freedom. Ismail Haniyeh does not have freedom or power, sitting in his fancy Qatari digs in front of his green screen screaming hateful rhetoric to the world. He is a weak man. Terrorism is a sign of weakness.
Holocaust denial greeted me as soon as I tried to engage the local Muslim community. It was the very first thing I saw on the FB page of a Muslim woman who friended me via the local Muslim FB group after I took my Shahada. When I expressed my outrage at seeing such blatant hatred, the Jew hater told me that I cannot love g-d that way. I grew up in the Jim Keegstra era and watched that case become a part of Canadian jurisprudence and history. Holocaust denial disgusts me. I never felt entirely safe in amongst Muslims again, after the Holocaust denier and the apathy from the Muslims who witnessed my outrage. As time passed my concern grew. I had entered an intellectually closed and anti western grievance culture which prayed to g-d in Arabic. Few Muslims had the capacity to recognise that new comers make a religion — someone like me who figured it out on my own and didn’t need forcing would help build a strong faith community built on values, one that can eradicate extremism and provide a future for our children and care for the vulnerable.
Alas, Muslims don’t want that. They have a perfect religion, the problem is everyone else. If only all the Dhimmis would just stop resisting and allow the Muslim Borg to assimilate them! Muslims who are not cradle Muslims get relegated to the child’s table, convert or revert they will call you. Hierarchy + arrogance feature prominently in the initiation ritual, which never ends. They truly want your submission, to themselves. You only get fully embraced by the community if you agree to become part of the collective, that means losing yourself and becoming some fake Arab shill for an anti-western cult that prays in Arabic. Suddenly evangelical homophobic Christian dudes have an Arabic name and wear islamic fashion and have the whole beard thingy. Like some cosplay. They get the script and study it: Arab nationalism is good zionism is bad free Palestine Jerusalem will be free cancel Israel zionism is racism europeans are zionists Israel is a European colony in the middle east from the river to the sea Palestine will be free Israelis aren’t civilians ceasefire now Israel is a Nazi state. At no time does anyone ask what these slogans mean, people do as told without question for god. At this point anyone can observe the mind virus at work — a cluster of cognitive distortions which replicate via social interaction + exposure to propaganda + the brain’s own social reward circuitry. The fire of extremism requires three elements to ignite itself: Need-Narrative-Network.
What motivated my decision to try out becoming a Muslim? Need, seeking the divine. My dad died in 2017. My husband took his life a year before that. My relationship with my mother became strained because of my dad’s illness and death and the way things happened around that. My relationship with my parents had always been my portal to g-d. My marriage, which had ended a few years before Martin hung himself in a local Vancouver park, had always served as my spiritual foundation. Narrative, I felt alone, abandoned, needing to belong in the wake of social death that struck my life. Network, the Muslim community seemed like a healthy network from which to feed myself. Yet I never entirely trusted it. I never went to a mosque. I attended a handful of events and felt like a gasoline car that got fed diesel fuel.
Muslim-ing wasn’t for me. I tried. More to convince myself that it was not my thing. The Peshawar mosque bombing, the picture of the Ayatollah surrounded by a sea of little girls in full pink flowery chadors, the Southern Israeli massacre of 7.10 — these events showed me that the Muslim community does not share the same faith values as me. I found Muslims ungrateful, fanatical, narcissistic and tribal. Always a grievance, always postering superiority from a position of emotional and psychological weakness. The violent cult of Mohammad seems weird and idolatrous to me. Entering the Muslim world, I felt like I had demoted myself from spiritual high school to spiritual preschool — the level of emotional stuntedness and toxicity surprised me. Something that seems really polite and peaceful and doesn’t even drink or smoke can turn out to be more extreme and bizarre and unhealthy that any social circle you would find at Hasting and Main or in the Grand Union pub. Pick your drug — it’s the same. In both cases God does not live there.
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I was raised in the immediate aftermath of Vatican II, no politics entered my faith upbringing. My parents loathed fundamentalism and religious politics. We observed the religious war in Northern Ireland from afar, getting involved only to help resettle refugees and taking no side in the battle. My community produced missionaries who spent long periods of time in Africa and rarely returned home, and then only grudgingly, when ordered by the archbishop. My mother’s only sister had a case of scrupulosity and her best friend, a grey nun, became my aunt also, and I saw the inside of the nuns’ provincial house. My older siblings remember being ordered to kneel on a cold hard wooden floor and remain motionless for hours on end whilst reciting the rosary in french or latin. My eldest brother knew the entire high mass in English, Latin and French. My mother experience ostracism from her religious community when she left her first marriage to escape the man trying to kill her. Tragedy + hardship become her sandpaper. I don’t doubt that the mother I got was very different than the one my siblings got. My dad wasn’t beating her every day, he provided safety + love + devotion and that makes all the difference. Also, like I said, becoming a refugee from her own life made my mother profoundly wise and merciful in ways I cannot describe.
My mum, a religious outcast in her faith community, hooked up with my dad, a new Windrush immigrant and lapsed Hindu. Mum + dad taught me that g-d means you make your own sukkah where you commune with g-d, you create the life where you can seek him unobstructed. The hut or fort you construct out of your life provides the vehicle through which you travel to g-d. Rules and narcissistic cosplay do not get me closer to g-d. I get me closer to g-d through vulnerability + humility, through patience, through acceptance of the unchanging, and through rejection of the things I can own + then work to change. The Catholic community could not be that for me. The Muslim community could not be that for me. G-d was not there because they felt like dead ends to me — ends consumed by their own need to be superior and The One Truth.
The only One Truth is this: I Don’t Know.
Whenever I don’t know, I seek. Then g-d appears. G-d is in the seeking. He does not live in arrogance, imperialism and hateful righteousness. G-d does not live in cruel condemnation. My life for the past 20 years has been like a continuous wandering exodus, a dark + hollow passage through a surreal + cruel desert, from then to now. The notion of a succah appeals to me, the notion of the Jewish journey of trial + triumph feels like mine already.
“Sitting in the succah, under its canopy of leaves, I often think of my ancestors and their wanderings across Europe in search of safety, and I begin to understand how faith was their only home. It was fragile, chillingly exposed to the storms of prejudice and hate. But it proved stronger than superpowers and outlived them all.” (—Rabbi Sacks)