Skip to comments.Misunderstanding Islamic Antisemitism
Posted on 05/19/2008 10:00:32 PM PDT by rmlew
Last year, nearing completion of the final manuscript version of The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, I took a brief hiatus and posed the following two questions, based upon my research, to a cadre of academics, independent scholars, theologians, journalists, and activists who opine, in writing and speech, about Antisemitism, generally, and/or within the Muslim world, specifically. I asked (via e-mail correspondence), "In your opinion, would this quote (below) exemplify racial, or at least ethnic Antisemitism? Moreover would you please hazard a guess as to where and when it was written, based upon the contents?" Here is the quote:
Our people [the Muslims] observing thus the occupations of the Jews and the Christians concluded that the religion of the Jews must compare unfavorably as do their professions, and that their unbelief must be the foulest of all, since they are the filthiest of all nations. Why the Christians, ugly as they are, are physically less repulsive than the Jews may be explained by the fact that the Jews, by not intermarrying, have intensified the offensiveness of their features. Exotic elements have not mingled with them; neither have males of alien races had intercourse with their women, nor have their men cohabited with females of a foreign stock. The Jewish race therefore has been denied high mental qualities, sound physique, and superior lactation. The same results obtain when horses, camels, donkeys, and pigeons are inbred.
Until the end of World War II...Jews lived safely -- although submissively --under Muslim rule for 1,200 years, enjoying full religious freedom; but in the 1930s, Nazi propaganda on Arabic-language shortwave radio, coupled with slanders by Christian missionaries in the region, infected the area with this ancient Western prejudice [antisemitism]. After the war, Cairo became a sanctuary for Nazis, who advised the military and the government. The rise of the Islamist movement coincided with the decline of fascism, but they overlapped in Egypt, and the germ passed into a new carrier.
"Of course it's Antisemitism of the most vile racist stripe-which leads me to think it likely dates from the 19th century, at the earliest. It also sounds like the sort of thing one would read in the Antisemitic popular literature of the Edwardian period. So, my guess would be somewhere between 1830 and the 1920s."
"I imagine this was written under the influence of modern theories of racial inferiority."
"If I had to hazard a guess, I would say this is from a sermon in a Gaza mosque this past Friday.."
"Could be any mosque in the Muslim world, or Nazi Germany if it weren't for the first line. Definitely racial..."
"How about current Wahhabi establishment?"
"I have no idea who said it but I'll hazard a guess just for sport: the Mufti of Jerusalem, circa 1940?"
"Probably last week from one of the mullahs in the UK."
"Yes, racist to the point of being Nazi-like. I would say, the Mufti of Jerusalem or some other Islamofascist, or maybe contemporary Wahhabi."
"...it's the usual (modern) boiler plate from the Middle East."
I shall begin to enumerate the causes which made the Christians more liked by the masses than the Magians [Zoroastrians], and made men consider them more sincere than the Jews, more endeared, less treacherous, less unbelieving, and less deserving of punishment. For all this there are manifold and evident causes.
When the [Muslim] Emigrants [from Mecca] became the neighbors of the Jews [in Medina]...the Jews began to envy the Muslims the blessings of their new faith, and the union which resulted after dissension. They proceeded to undermine the belief of our [i.e., the Muslim] masses, and to lead them astray. They aided our enemies and those envious of us. From mere misleading speech and stinging words they plunged into an open declaration of enmity, so that the Muslims mobilized their forces, exerting themselves morally and materially to banish the Jews and destroy them. Their strife became long-drawn and widespread, so that it worked itself up into a rage, and created yet greater animosity and more intensified rancor. The Christians, however, because of their remoteness from Mecca and Medina, did not have to put up with religious controversies, and did not have occasion to stir up trouble, and be involved in war. That was the first cause of our dislike of the Jews, and our partiality toward the Christians.
In my [Tabari's] opinion, [the Christians] are not like the Jews who always scheme in order to murder the emissaries and the prophets, and who oppose God in his positive and negative commandments, and who corrupt His scripture which He revealed in His books.
...in order to differentiate animosity against Jews from the discrimination practiced by Islam against non-Muslims in general. Our scrutiny of the Geniza material has proved the existence of ‘antisemitism' in the time and the area considered here...
...have a special word for it and, most significantly, one not found in the Bible or in Talmudic literature (nor registered in any Hebrew dictionary), but one much used and obviously coined in the Geniza period. It is sin'ūth, "hatred", a Jew-baiter being called sōn�", "a hater".
They [the Jews] are held in the utmost contempt and abhorrence by the Muslims in general, and they are said to bear a more inveterate hatred than any other people to the Muslims and the Muslim religion. It is said, in the Koran [quoting 5:82] "Thou shalt surely find the most violent all men to those who have believed to be the Jews..."
It is a common saying among the Muslims in this country, "Such one hates me with the hate of the Jews." We cannot wonder, then, that the Jews are detested far more than are the Christians. Not long ago, they used often to be jostled in the streets of Cairo, and sometimes beaten for merely passing on the right hand of a Muslim. At present, they are less oppressed: but still they scarcely ever dare to utter a word of abuse when reviled or beaten unjustly by the meanest Arab or Turk; for many a Jew has been put to death upon a false and malicious accusation of uttering disrespectful words against the Koran or the Prophet. It is common to hear an Arab abuse his jaded ass, and, after applying to him various opprobrious epithets, end by calling the beast a Jew.
The Israelite race is the one that the Muslims hate the most. They think that the Jews hate Islam more than any other nation...Speaking of a fierce enemy, the Muslims say: "He hates me the way the Jews hate us." During the past century, the Israelites were often put to death because they were accused rightly or wrongly to have something disrespectful about the Koran.
The Jew is still an object of scorn, and nowhere is the name of "Yahoodi (Jew)"more looked down upon than here in the city of his fathers. One day, as I was passing the Damascus gate, I saw an Arab hurrying on his donkey amid imprecations such as the following:"Emshi ya Ibn-el-Yahoodi (Walk, thou son of a Jew)! Yulaan abuk ya Ibn-el-Yahoodi (Cursed be thy father, thou son of a Jew)!"
I need not give any more illustrations of the manner in which the man went on. The reader will observe, that the man did not curse the donkey, but the Jew, the father of the donkey. Walking up to him, I said, "Why do you curse the Jew? What harm has he done you?"
"El Yahoodi khanzeer (the Jew is a hog)!", answered the man.
"How do you make that out?", I said. "Is not the Jew as good as you or I?"
"Ogh!", ejaculated the man, his eyes twinkling with fierce rage, and his brow knitting.
By this time he was getting out of my hearing. I was pursuing my walk, when he turned round, and said, "El Yahoodi khanzeer! Khanzeer el Yahoodi! (The Jew is a hog! A hog is a Jew!)"
Now I must tell the reader, that, in the Mahomedan vocabulary, there is no word lower than a hog, that animal being in their estimation the most defiled of animals; and good Mahomedans are prohibited by the Koran from eating it. The Jew, in their estimation, is the vilest of the human family, and is the object of their pious hatred, perhaps from the recollection that a Jewess of Khaibar first undermined the health of the prophet by infusing poison into his food. Hence a hog and a Jew are esteemed alike in the eye of a Moslem, both being the lowest of their kind; and now the reader will better understand the meaning of the man's words, "El Yahoodi khanzeer!"
The Muslim hates no other religion as he hates that of the Jews...even now that all forms of political oppression have ceased, at a time when such great tolerance is shown to the Christian population, the Arabs still bear the same contemptuous hatred of the Jews. It is a commonplace occurrence, for example, for two Arabs reviling each other to call each other Ibn Yahūdī (or "son of a Jew") as the supreme insult...it should be mentioned that in these cases, they pronounce the word Yahūdī in a violent and contemptuous tone that would be hard to reproduce.
...it is interesting to note that even the fallāhīn, the Egyptian peasantry (almost all of them Muslim) certainly did not know many Jews at close quarters, but nevertheless would revile them. The enmity some Muslims felt for the Jews incited them to violence, persecution, and physical assault, as in 1882...Hostility was not necessarily the result of envy, for many Jews were poverty-stricken and even destitute and were sometimes forced to apply for financial assistance to their co-religionists abroad.
The pejorative characteristics of Jews as they are described in Muslim religious texts are applied to modern Jews. Anti-Judaism and anti-Zionism are equivalent -- due to the inferior status of Jews in Islam, and because divine will dooms Jews to wandering and misery, the Jewish state appears to Muslims as an unbearable affront and a sin against Allah. Therefore it must be destroyed by Jihad. Here the Pan-Arab and anti-Western theses that consider Israel as an advanced instrument of the West in the Islamic world, come to reinforce religious anti-Judaism. The religious and political fuse in a purely Islamic context onto which are grafted foreign elements. If, on the doctrinal level, Nazi influence is secondary to the Islamic base, the technique with which the Antisemitic material has been reworked, and the political purposes being pursued, present striking similarites with Hitler's Germany.
That anti-Jewish opinions have been widely spread in Arab nationalist circles since the 1930s is not in doubt. But their confirmation at [Al] Azhar [University] by the most important authorities of Islam enabled them to be definitively imposed, with the cachet of infallible authenticity, upon illiterate masses that were strongly attached to religious traditions.
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