September 6, 1986: Attack on synagogue during Sabbath services in Turkey

The Abu Nidal Organisation terrorist group is believed to be behind the 1986 massacre at a synagogue in Istanbul that killed 21.

Why can’t we agree to disagree when it comes to religion? Ask the terrorists that.

ISTANBUL, TURKEY — When you add up all the acts of terrorism worldwide you are struck that in the vast majority of cases the perpetrators execute their actions in the name of a specific religion. Whether or not their particular understanding of that particular religion is normative or not – in most cases I do not think it is, but I am not a scholar of religion – is not relevant.

This of course is a significant finding. Terrorism does not have to be tied to faith: it can be driven by politics or other forms of ideology. And yet when you look around the world you notice that first and foremost the #1 player happens to be the variety of groups and individuals who self identify as Muslim and are hence called Islamist extremists (or terrorists).

Jihadis, as they are also termed, are not the only religious terrorists. We have violent Hindus, violent Buddhists, violent Jews, violent Christians and violent Sikhs all of which are framing their violence through the lens of what they think their belief system is. Check out my latest book When Religions Kill for more on this.

But what is also true – and disturbing – is that religious terrorists often single out members of other faiths for their hate and anger. It is also as if they decide that just worshiping another deity was reason enough to be killed. And then to say that your faith DEMANDS that you eliminate other faiths is just too much.

On this day in 1986

One example of such a sentiment took place on this day in 1986. Two Arab terrorists invaded a Sephardic synagogue during Sabbath services in the Jewish quarter of Istanbul, locked the doors with iron bars, and proceeded to attack the congregation with sub-machine guns and hand grenades.

At least 21 worshipers, including 7 rabbis, were killed, and 4 others were wounded in the massacre, a blaze of gunfire and explosions that went on for three to five minutes and left the newly refurbished synagogue on fire. The bodies of both gunmen were found in the carnage. The Abu Nidal Organisation (ANO) was believed to be behind the killing.

I realized my father was dead when his leg was burning, but he didn’t move

Account of one of the survivors of the attack

An Islamist extremist attack on a Jewish synagogue is of no surprise as it happens all too often. And these terrorists actually think this is what ‘god’ wants??

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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