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Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain on the events in Paris

This was sent to members of Maidenhead Synagogue following the attacks in Paris.

We have all read and seen the dreadful events over the last few days, and members have asked what is our response, so here are a few thoughts:

First – to carry on as normal – not to suddenly become neurotic – not to turn from being carefree to suspicious – to keep our everyday lifestyle – because adopting a bunker mentality will destroy our lives and relationships much more than any isolated attack.

Second – not to blame Islam for the deranged members among it…nor hold all Muslims responsible for the disturbed Muslims that exist.

Third – not to blame religion in general as the source of all evil – of course there are those who do terrible things in its name – but there are plenty of murderous atheists, with Hitler, Stalin, Mao tse Tung and Poll Pot leading the way – while we also know that religion can lead to great good in society and many individuals acts of kindness. I like to think that Maidenhead Synagogue is source for good too.

Fourth – not to stop the ability of cartoonists and writers to satirise religion… because freedom of speech is one of our key values…and it is not just healthy to have that openness, but it is a vital safeguard and nothing should be immune from criticism, otherwise it would allow abuses to go unchecked.

But if there is no right not to be offended, there is a right not to be physically attacked, and so a piece that incites violence should be banned.

Fifth – carrying on as normal does not mean being complacent, and we have long had a trained security team made up of members who offer both practical security and a visual deterrent.

Sixth – appreciating that we live in a different society from France and with different social trends; although we are not immune from terrible acts (witness the 7/7 London bombings), life in our particular area has been remarkably tolerant and trouble-free….long may it remain so. Working hard at good inter-faith relations is part of that process.

None of the above is new, but it’s precisely when one’s assumptions are challenged by a shocking event, that one needs to not go into panic mode but simply restate the values we hold and from which we will not be deflected

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