The other day I watched the latest ISIS video on YouTube.  I found it horrifying, almost too gruesome to watch. It was not a beheading – that I will not watch. I would never want my clicking on it misconstrued as support for this kind of obscene brutality.

The video I viewed was of ISIS terrorists, some clad in traditional Moslem garb, and others in secular garb, destroying ancient artifacts in an Iraqi museum. It made me feel ill to watch these statues and friezes getting smashed with tire irons and sledge hammers.

Why would anyone break into a museum – before it’s even opened to the public – in order to destroy large artifacts and steal smaller ones in order to sell them on the black market? What’s the motivation? These were beautiful relics from the palace of King Sennacherib and other recent archaeological finds from the ancient Assyrian empire. What could possibly be offensive?

The answer comes from the bottom of the screen where the following is written. “The monuments that you can see behind me are but statues and idols of people from previous centuries, which they used to worship instead of God. Those statues and idols weren’t there at the time of the Prophet nor his companions. They have been excavated by Satanists.”

It’s like what happens when creationists run into dinosaurs and realize that the very existence of these old bones means their version of creation doesn’t work so well. All of the statues and relics and idols in the museum signify that civilizations in the Near East existed 1000 years before Mohammed. For these men, such thought is impermissible. For them, history begins with Allah and will end with Allah. There can only be one path, one moral code, one way.

These frightening men believe that they are the sole arbiters of culture and religious belief. They think that they can destroy all notions of history and culture and art that do not align with their terribly narrow and toxic take on the universe. They want to obliterate the past and control the future.

Diversity is the enemy of ISIS. It is the enemy of all fundamentalist sects. Diversity destroys all totalitarian regimes. Diversity leads to equality: of men and women, of Christians and Jews and Moslems, of theists and atheists, of all humanity. Diversity is the champion of multiculturalism.

One of the things I love about progressive Judaism is our collective understanding that we alone do not determine the trajectory of the universe. We share in the travails and the triumphs of all humans. The central progressive Jewish lesson is the lesson our mothers taught us: “you have to learn to share.”

We must continue to uphold proclaim dignity for all human beings. We can’t let ourselves be led into cynicism and extremism by the actions of thugs and terrorists. We must be thoughtful and wise and openhearted without being naïve and self-delusional. That’s not easy. But in the end, we must continue proclaiming that everyone has to learn to share.

Of course Isis cannot control the ultimate warp and woof of history. They may destroy ancient artifacts, but they cannot destroy history itself. They will swing their sledgehammers. But in time, it is their ideology that will shatter. The oneness of God’s creation will win out, because it must.

Shabbat shalom


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