RESTON, Va., May 31 (UPI) -- There are interesting similarities between two groups, diametrically opposed to each other, who represent the extreme fringes of their religions.
Islamic extremists and Jewish extremists -- the latter represented by the Haredi Jews -- share the belief they alone are special. Both believe they are protected by a Higher Authority. Both project that Higher Authority not as a Loving Entity but as One to be feared. Both believe their special status arises from their dedicated study of religion. Both focus on their religious study to the exclusion of a broader education. Both focus upon rote memorization of religious texts rather than independent thought. Both believe every waking moment is to be guided by religious law. Both believe in sex segregation. Both lack employment skills resulting in very high unemployment rates. Both have very high birth rates as they seek to increase their influence within the community -- the Muslim population doubling every 26 years while Haredi Jews double every 12-20 years. Both live below the poverty line.
Ironically, there is another belief the two groups share that is most shocking. Both believe the Jewish state of Israel shouldn't now exist! For Islamists, the belief is Israel should never exist; for Haredi Jews, the belief is it shouldn't exist until the coming of the Messiah.
There are differences, too.
Islamists are committed either to seeing all non-Muslims convert to Islam -- or killing those who refuse to do so. They are religious zealots who believe they have a license to kill those opposing their own beliefs by fulfilling their duty to conduct violent jihad.
However, while the license authorizes them to kill non-Muslims, they pave the road to Islam's world domination with the bones of fellow Muslims, against whom most their killing is directed.
Haredi Jews, on the other hand, believe they have no obligation to serve in defense of their beliefs or those of their fellow countrymen. Soon after Israel was established, the government entered an arrangement with the Haredim exempting their scholars from military service. This was done as the exemption only affected about 400 young men at the time and it was believed the Haredi lifestyle would phase out. But the community has grown significantly -- today representing 10 percent of Israel's population, thus greatly expanding the exclusion's impact.
The initial arrangement for this exclusion was enshrined into Israeli law in 2002 but with an eye toward gradually integrating Haredim into the military. However, the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional, deciding it couldn't be extended past August 2012. This was based on the law's failure to achieve its objective as a disproportionately small percentage of recruits from among the Haredi age-eligible youth joined (15 percent) as opposed to the rest of the population (75 percent). The court, as well as most Israelis, favors a law that will make the burden of military service more equitable.
Both Islamic extremists and Haredi Jews are creating numerous problems for their respective non-extremist majorities. Both extremist groups pay no heed to population explosions for which they are responsible -- the Islamists by virtue of multiple wives having multiple children and a Haredi Jew's only wife baring as many as six children. As they are unable to support their large families due to a high unemployment rate (60 percent for Haredi men while Arab countries have the highest national rates in the world), responsibility for subsidizing them falls to others.
(Although Arabs living in Israel enjoy a much lower unemployment rate than their Arab brothers living in Muslim nations, they do experience a higher unemployment rate than Israeli Jews -- but the bottom line is Arabs living in Israel enjoy a much better standard of living than those residing in the Muslim world.)
While uneducated (in the sense of independent thinking), unemployed religious zealots such as Haredi Jews and Islamists multiply faster than rabbits, they also present a financial drain on the rest of society. In the case of Islamic zealots, the problem is compounded as they also pose a threat to Muslim society by resorting to violent jihad, which has borne witness to the deaths of so many of their fellow Muslims in the name of Allah.
In a society where the only contribution extremists make are societal problems rather than solutions, the majority is left to take one of two courses of action.
The easier course involves doing nothing. Throughout history, this is how the "silent" majority has earned its name. Whether motivated by fear, lack of concern, hopes that the problem will simply go away on its own or others will deal with it, the silent majority has been unmotivated to do anything. The risk is, by remaining silent, the majority's desires ultimately may become subservient to those of the extremists.
The second is to take action to make the extremist group enjoying societal benefits share in the corresponding responsibilities.
The moment of truth for the Israeli majority as to what course of action will be taken comes in August as it must decide whether to tolerate extremists unwilling to fulfill their responsibilities to society or forcing them into a majority fold that is. However, it appears the moment of truth for the Muslim majority has passed, its intentions evidenced by its silence in the wake of Islamic extremism's violent jihad.
(James. G. Zumwalt is a retired U.S. Marine Corps officer who heads Admiral Zumwalt and Consultants, Inc. He is author of "Bare Feet, Iron Will -- Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam's Battlefields" and the e-book "Living the Juche Lie -- North Korea's Kim Dynasty.")
(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)