“God forbid that the recent killer of Jewish children and a rabbi in France be a Muslim or of Arab descent,” I tweeted a day before the French authorities named Mohamed Merah as the prime suspect in last week’s terrorist atrocity. People on Twitter responded to me saying: “He also killed Muslims.” And yes, he did—but it does not take away from the severity of the killer’s anti-Semitism that led to him target Ozar Hatorah school and kill Rabbi Jonathan Sandler and the blessed children he was trying to protect.
What was their crime? Miriam Monsonego, aged 7, was killed in cold blood as the murderer grabbed her by her hair to shoot her in the head. She was the headmaster’s daughter. Rabbi Sandler’s two sons, Gabriel and Arieh, aged four and five, were killed too.
I remember their names because I am a father of two young daughters, aged two and four—I can imagine no greater torment in life than to lose our children, and worse, to have them killed before our eyes. My sympathies and prayers are with the parents and Jewish communities globally who continue to suffer at the hands of butchers who take anti-Semitism to its logical conclusion.
The self-proclaimed al-Qaeda jihadi who committed these heinous acts did not only hate Jews. He and his ilk equally abhor their fellow Muslims who are integrated, pluralist, and do not harbor Jew-hatred. Merah slaughtered Jewish children, but before that he also killed proud French Muslims who served in their nation’s armed forces: Sergeant Imad Ibn Ziaten, Corporal Abed Chennouf, Private Mohamed Legouad.
The cancer that is takfiri thinking—the jihadi declaration that people like me or other normal Muslims are not Muslims because we do not share their extremism—underpins this terrorist violence. It is a fact that al-Qaeda has killed more Muslims in Iraq, Pakistan, and elsewhere than it has non-Muslims. To the violent Salafist jihadi, the majority of Muslims are misguided, deviant, and a barrier to creating their dream of a global caliphate.
In these testing times, it is vital that Jews and Muslims demonstrate togetherness against the common enemy. Mahmoud Abbas, for all his faults, was swift to demand that terrorists stop using the Palestinian cause to justify their evil. French Muslim leaders have rallied around Jewish communities. What starts as refusing to honor the dead at Holocaust Memorial Day, leads to dehumanizing Jewish and other deaths, and then to producing men like Mohamed Merah who in cold blood kill children and other innocents.
This article originally appeared on the Jewish Chronicle here.