In the aftermath of the horrific terrorist attack and murders at the offices of the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, the hashtag #NotInMyName began trending on Twitter. This hashtag was primarily posted by Muslims who wished to dissociate themselves, and their religion, from the extremist terrorists who perpetrated the attack. But it stretches beyond Islam, and I believe it is time for those of us who espouse the values of liberalism and tolerance, through religion, to stand together with mainstream Muslims and collectively declare “Not in our name.”
Altering the famous words of Pastor Niemöller perhaps today we should be cautioning: “First they came for the Muslims, and I did not speak up, for I was not a Muslim”. While as Jews we may not be the primary group that is targeted today, it is clear that the good name of religion as a whole is being blackened, and we cannot know whom will be targeted tomorrow. We have unfortunately witnessed extremists within the Jewish community who have committed heinous acts, and thus know first hand that too often the actions of the few tarnish the reputations of the many.
We need to remember that our religious traditions all emerge from a place that prioritises, and aspires to, peace. The very word Islam is derived from the Arabic root word meaning submission, wholeness, and peace. It is the equivalent root of our word Shalom. We need to stand united in the face of the on-going terrorist threat and remind people of God’s original call for peace, justice, and community. And to the terrorists and extremists of all religions, with a loud and united voice, we must say #NotInOurName.
Elul is a month given to us to reflect and prepare for the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It is a month where we try to take account of our lives, so that we might make the most of this powerful time of renewal, regeneration, fresh starts and healing.
This year our daily Elul Thoughts are taken from ‘Terror, Trauma and Tragedy’, edited by Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain and Rabbi David Mitchell. Each is a short extract of a larger piece designed to help us find meaning, comfort or perhaps more questions in the aftermath of horrific events, which have seemed all too frequent this year. The horror of such atrocities can leave us in confusion, depression and fear. As we move into a new year we hope these pieces might variously offer some solace, be a tool of self-reflection, and encourage us to continue working for a better world.