As described February 23, 2006 by Nidra Poller, “Ilan’s uncle Rafi Halimi told reporters that the gang [of Ilan’s Muslim torturers/murderers] phoned the family on several occasions and made them listen to the recitation of verses from the Koran, while Ilan’s tortured screams could be heard in the background.”
An open letter calling for “dialogue” was introduced this Monday, February 25, 2008, by Tariq Ramadan, ballyhooed by its promoters in grandiose terms as the “World’s First Cross-Denominational Statement from Muslims to Jews.” A press release sent to me directly by one of the Muslim organizers of the initiative, Dr. Akbar Ahmed, touted two Jewish leaders, Rabbi David Rosen, “International President, Religions for Peace and Advisor on Interfaith Relations to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel,” and Rabbi Danny Rich, described as “Director of Liberal Judaism,” who had quickly endorsed the statement.
Rabbis Rosen and Rich should disavow their naïve endorsements because support for this initiative, as framed in the letter, is an egregious error.
Notwithstanding the inappropriateness of selecting Mr. Ramadan as the “presenter”—given his penchant for espousing anti-Jewish conspiracy theories—the statement itself (available in full here) is a thoroughly disappointing amalgam of raw denial, and disingenuousness.
Devoid of genuine mea culpa, as opposed to immoral equivalence, the letter, released in Cambridge, England, is hermetically sealed off from a contemporary British, and larger Western European milieu, in which Muslims are responsible for fully half (50%) of the documented Antisemitic incidents on the European continent, i.e., on a population percentage basis Muslims in Europe (comprising only ~3.0-4.0% of the total European population.) account for roughly 24.0 to 32.3 times the number of Antisemitic incidents as their non-Muslim European counterparts.
Also ignored in the letter are the expressed, “carefully researched” views on Jews—words which incite such Muslim Antisemitism, including acts of violence—espoused by the nearest Muslim equivalent to a Pope—Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University, the head of the most prestigious center of Muslim learning in Sunni Islam, Sunnis representing some 85% of the world’s Muslims. Tantawi wrote these words in his 700 page treatise documenting and rationalizing Muslim Jew hatred, Banu Isra’il fi al-Qur’an wa al-Sunna [Jews in the Qur’an and the Traditions], originally published in the 1970s, and then re-issued in 1986/87:
[The] Qur’an describes the Jews with their own particular degenerate characteristics, i.e. killing the prophets of Allah, corrupting His words by putting them in the wrong places, consuming the people’s wealth frivolously, refusal to distance themselves from the evil they do, and other ugly characteristics caused by their deep-rooted lasciviousness…only a minority of the Jews keep their word….[A]ll Jews are not the same. The good ones become Muslims, the bad ones do not. (Qur’an 3:113)
Sheikh Tantawi was apparently rewarded for this scholarly effort by being named Grand Imam of
“…anyone who avoids meeting with the enemies in order to counter their dubious claims and stick fingers into their eyes, is a coward. My stance stems from Allah’s book [the Qur’an], more than one-third of which deals with the Jews…[I] wrote a dissertation dealing with them [the Jews], all their false claims and their punishment by Allah. I still believe in everything written in that dissertation.” [i.e., from above, in Banu Isra’il fi al-Qur’an wa al-Sunna]
Tantawi’s case illustrates the prevalence and depth of sacralized, “normative” Jew hatred in the contemporary Muslim world, which engenders both the Antisemitic attitudes, and resultant anti-Jewish violence inflicted upon Jews far removed from the Middle Eastern battlegrounds of Israel, and the neighboring Muslim nations and communities. Arguably Islam’s leading mainstream cleric, Tantawi embodies how the living, nearly1400 year-old legacy of Muslim anti-Jewish hatred, and violence remains firmly rooted in mainstream, orthodox Islamic teachings, not some aberrant vision of an Islam “hijacked” by a minority of extremists.
But the authors of the disingenuous “dialogue” letter avoid any discussion of this living anti-Jewish doctrine and history, and focus instead on demonstrably false platitudes about the “Iberian peninsula” during the high Middle Ages, rare and completely de-contextualized pacific sounding verses from the Koran and hadith, and an entirely misleading discussion of the so-called “Medina Charter” of Muhammad—in reality, a part of Muhammad’s design to neutralize the Jews of Medina, and establish a hegemonic Islamic order, via jihad—which the Muslim prophet-jihadist accomplished.
More than four decades ago (in 1964), Moshe Perlmann the pre-eminent scholar of Islam’s ancient anti-Jewish polemical literature, observed appositely,
The Koran, of course became a mine of anti-Jewish passages. The hadith did not lag behind. Popular preachers used and embellished such material.
Salient examples of Jew hatred from these foundational Islamic sources, ignored, conveniently by the Muslim authors of the “Call to Peace, Dialogue, and Understanding”, include:
· How as a central anti-Jewish motif, the Koran decrees an eternal curse upon the Jews (Koran 2:61/ 3:112) for slaying the prophets and transgressing against the will of Allah. This motif is coupled to Koranic verses 5:60 and 5:78 which describe the Jews transformation into apes and swine (5:60), having been “…cursed by the tongue of David, and Jesus, Mary’s son” (5:78). The related verse, 5:64, accuses the Jews—as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas did in a January 2007 speech, citing Koran 5:64—of being “spreaders of war and corruption,” a sort of ancient Koranic antecedent of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The Koranic curse (verses 2:61/3:112) upon the Jews for (primarily) rejecting, even slaying Allah’s prophets, including Isa/Jesus (or at least his “body double”), is updated with perfect archetypal logic in the canonical hadith: following the Muslims’ initial conquest of the Jewish farming oasis of Khaybar, one of the vanquished Jewesses reportedly served Muhammad poisoned mutton (or goat), which resulted, ultimately, in his protracted, agonizing death. And Ibn Saad’s sira account maintains that Muhammad’s poisoning resulted from a well-coordinated Jewish conspiracy
· How the Koran’s overall discussion of the Jews is marked by a litany of their sins and punishments, as if part of a divine indictment, conviction, and punishment process. Specifically—the Jews wronged themselves (16:118) by losing faith (7:168) and breaking their covenant (5:13). The Jews (echoing an ante-Nicaean, Marcionite polemic) are a nation that has passed away (2:134; repeated in 2:141). Twice Allah sent his instruments (the Assyrians/or Babylonians, and Romans) to punish this perverse people (17:4-5)—their dispersal over the earth is proof of Allah’s rejection (7:168). The Jews are further warned about both their arrogant claim that they remain Allah’s chosen people (62:6), and continued disobedience and “corruption” (5:32-33) Other sins, some repeated, are enumerated: abuse, even killing of prophets (4:155; 2:91), including Isa [Jesus] (3:55; 4:157), is a consistent theme. The Jews ridiculed Muhammad as Ra’ina (the evil one, in 2:104; 4:46), and they are also accused of lack of faith, taking words out of context, disobedience, and distortion (4:46). Precious few of them are believers (also 4:46). These “perverse” creatures also claim that Ezra is the messiah and they worship rabbis who defraud men of their possessions (9:30). Additional sins are described: the Jews are typified as an “envious” people (2:109), whose hearts are as hardened as rocks (2:74). They are further accused of confounding the truth (2:42), deliberately perverting scripture (2:75), and being liars (2:78). Ill-informed people of little faith (2:89), they pursue vague and wishful fancies (2:111). Other sins have contributed to their being stamped (see 2:61/ 3:112 above) with “wretchedness /abasement and humiliation,” including—usury (2:275), sorcery (2:102), hedonism (2:96), and idol worship (2:53). More (and repeat) sins, are described still: the Jews’ idol worship is again mentioned (4:51), then linked and followed by charges of other (often repeat) iniquities—the “tremendous calumny” against Mary (4:156), as well as usury and cheating (4:161). Most Jews are accused of being “evil-livers” /“transgressors” /“ungodly” (3:110), who, deceived by their own lies (3:24), try to turn Muslims from Islam (3:99). Jews are blind and deaf to the truth (5:71), and what they have not forgotten they have perverted—they mislead (3:69), confound the truth (3:71), twist tongues (3:79), and cheat Gentiles without remorse (3:75). Muslims are advised not to take the Jews as friends (5:51), and to beware of the inveterate hatred that Jews bear towards them (5:82).
· How the Jews’ ultimate sins and punishments are made clear in the Koran—they are the devil’s minions (4:60) cursed by Allah, their faces will be obliterated (4:47), and if they do not accept the true faith of Islam—the Jews who understand their faith become Muslims (3:113)—they will be made into apes (2:65/ 7:166), or apes and swine (5:60), and burn in the Hellfires (4:55, 5:29, 98:6, and 58:14-19).
· How Muslim eschatology, as depicted in the hadith, highlights the Jews’ supreme hostility to Islam. Jews are described as adherents of the Dajjâl—the Muslim equivalent of the Anti-Christ—or according to another tradition, the Dajjâl is himself Jewish. At his appearance, other traditions maintain that the Dajjâl will be accompanied by 70,000 Jews from
· How, also according to the hadith, stubborn malevolence is the Jews defining worldly characteristic: rejecting Muhammad and refusing to convert to Islam out of jealousy, envy and even selfish personal interest, lead them to acts of treachery, in keeping with their inveterate nature: “…sorcery, poisoning, assassination held no scruples for them.” These archetypes sanction Muslim hatred towards the Jews, and the admonition to at best, “subject [the Jews] to Muslim domination,” as dhimmis, treated “with contempt,” under certain “humiliating arrangements.”
· How a profoundly anti-Jewish motif occurring after the events recorded in the hadith and sira, put forth in early Muslim historiography (for example, by Tabari), is most assuredly a part of “the birth pangs” of Islam: the story of Abd Allah b. Saba, an alleged renegade Yemenite Jew, and founder of the heterodox Shi’ite sect. He is held responsible—identified as a Jew—for promoting the Shi’ite heresy and fomenting the rebellion and internal strife associated with this primary breach in Islam’s “political innocence”, culminating in the assassination of the third Rightly Guided Caliph Uthman, and the bitter, lasting legacy of Sunni-Shi’ite sectarian strife.
The letter’s woefully inadequate “presentation” of Islam’s doctrinal anti-Jewish (and overlapping anti-dhimmi) hatred is accompanied, not surprisingly, by a complete failure to illustrate any of the historical consequences of these sacralized hatreds. Some brief examples are adduced in the following discussion.
Rigid conformity to a motif in the hadith (and sira) based on the putative death bed wish of Muhammad himself, as recorded by Umar (the second Rightly Guided Caliph), “Two religions shall not remain together in the peninsula of the Arabs,” had tragic consequences for the Jews of Yemen. (The hadith and sira further maintain that Umar did eventually expel the Jews of Khaybar.) Thus a pious 17th century Yemenite ruler, Al-Mahdi wishing to fulfill the mandate of this hadith in
Formal decrees (or modern pronouncements) and opinions from Muslim rulers, jurisconsults, and theologians—past and present—have repeatedly associated non-Muslim dhimmis in general, or Jews specifically, with Satan, and the torments of being consigned deservedly to Hell. The Abbasid Caliph al-Mutawakkil in an anti-dhimmi decree dated 850, according to Tabari’s account, “…commanded that wooden images of devils be nailed to the doors of their homes to distinguish them from the homes of Muslims”. Ibn Abdun, a Muslim jurist from
You must not allow any…Jew or Christian to wear the attire of great men, doctors of law, or the wealthy. On the contrary, they must be objects of contempt and disgust; they are not entitled to a greeting of peace , [“Peace upon you!” (as-salam alaykum!)]. In effect [quoting 58:19] “Satan has gained the mastery over them, and caused them to forget God’s Remembrance. Those are Satan’s party; why, Satan’s party, surely, they are the losers!” They must wear a distinctive, ignominious sign.
The common expressions and practices of ordinary Muslims demonstrate how such associations of the Jews with Satan and Hell have long been imbibed by the masses. Solomon b. Jeroham, the authoritative Karaite Jewish exegete who lived in Jerusalem during the mid-10th century, confirmed that the hateful doctrine regarding salutation (and humiliation), illustrated (above) by Ibn Abdun’s treatise, was actually practiced by Muslims in their encounters with Jews. Solomon included the following observation in his 955/56 commentary on the Book of Lamentations:
What can you say about people [Muslims] who curse you when you greet them, and when you do not greet them humiliate you and offend you?
And Walter Fischel has described the severe hardships imposed upon the Jews of 17th century
Such punitive measures in turn forebode additional persecutions which culminated in the Jews of Isfahan being forcibly converted to Islam toward the end of Shah Abbas I’s rule (1588-1629).
A September, 2002 review of Friday sermons from Saudi Arabian mosques indicated that these motifs remain vibrant in popular modern Islamic religious teaching. At a mosque in
[Islam] believes that only Islam and the “Camp of Kufur [unbelief]” exist, and that there is no way to reach
Sheikh Muhammad Saleh Al-Munajjid, another contemporary Saudi cleric, referred to the Jews, explicitly in his related discussion during a sermon delivered at a mosque in Al-Damam:
The Jews are the helpers of Satan. The Jews are the cause of the misery of the human race, together with the infidels and the other polytheists. Satan leads them to Hell and to a miserable fate.
References to the Jews transformation into apes, or apes and swine—perhaps the most striking Koranic motifs for the Jews debasement—have been exploited in polemical incitement against Jews, or odes celebrating their having been disgraced and slaughtered. The sacralized prototype is clear: right before subduing the Medinan Jewish tribe Banu Qurayza and orchestrating the mass execution of their adult males, Muhammad addressed these Jews with hateful disparagement, as “You brothers of monkeys.” Some 4000 Jews were massacred in the 1066 Granada pogrom, inspired in part by an anti-Jewish ode containing the line, “Many a pious Muslim is in awe of the vilest infidel ape,” referring to the Jewish communal leader, the vizier Joseph b. Samuel Naghrela. More Jews were killed in this one pogrom than in the Crusaders’ much more infamous ravages through the
Referring to the Jews as “brothers of apes,” who repeatedly blasphemed the prophet Muhammad, and whose overall conduct reflected their hatred of Muslims, the Moroccan cleric Al-Maghili (d. 1505) fomented, and then personally lead, a Muslim pogrom (in ~ 1490) against the Jews of the southern Moroccan oasis of Touat, plundering and killing Jews en masse, and destroying their synagogue in neighboring Tamantit. Each of these massacres was incited and/or celebrated by depictions of Jews as apes in verses by popular clerics—in the case of Touat, the “composer” of such a verse al-Maghili (d. 1505), an important Muslim theologian whose writings influenced Moroccan religious attitudes towards Jews into the 20th century—led the pogrom himself. Maghili also declared in verse, “Love of the Prophet, requires hatred of the Jews.”
Currently the invocation of Koranic references to the Jews as apes and pigs pervades Muslim (especially Arab Muslim) religious and political discourse in print, audio, video, and internet venues. Young children are targeted with these messages, and even encouraged to repeat them by approving adults during additional media coverage. Menachem Milson recently warned that repeated invocation of these motifs cannot be “dismissed as mere vulgar invective,” or “primitive magical thinking.” Rather, these recurring expressions need to be understood as a form of dehumanization serving as a pretext for the destruction of Jews. Given the murderous historical legacy of Muslim societies that invoked these Koranic motifs (i.e., in
The intimate doctrinal connection between the institution of jihad war, and its corollary institution, dhimmitude (most notably via Koran 9:29, and centuries of voluminous Islamic jurisprudence produced across the length and breadth of Islamic civilization), is also ignored entirely by the letter’s Muslim authors. Instead they invoke the completely bowdlerized myth of “
Christians and Jews were not citizens of the state, not even second class citizens. They were outsiders under the protection of the Muslim state, a status characterized by the term dhimma, for which protection they had to pay a poll tax specific to them. They were also exposed to a great number of discriminatory and humiliating laws…As it lies in the very nature of such restrictions, soon additional humiliations were added, and before the second century of Islam was out, a complete body of legislation in this matter was in existence…In times and places in which they became too oppressive they lead to the dwindling or even complete extinction of the minorities.
With regard to North African Jewry under Islam, Goitein, in a 1974 paper, described the Jews’ cultural narrowing to an “exclusively Talmudic sphere” as a result of “…the almost permanent state of oppression and vexations, if not outright persecutions.”
Bat Ye’or’s extensive analyses of the dhimmi condition for both Jews and Christians published (in English) in 1985 and 1996, concluded:
…These examples are intended to indicate the general character of a system of oppression, sanctioned by contempt and justified by the principle of inequality between Muslims and dhimmis…Singled out as objects of hatred and contempt by visible signs of discrimination, they were progressively decimated during periods of massacres, forced conversions, and banishments. Sometimes it was the prosperity they had achieved through their labor or ability that aroused jealousy; oppressed and stripped of all their goods, the dhimmi often emigrated.
…in many places and at many periods [through] the nineteenth century, observers have described the wearing of discriminatory clothing, the rejection of dhimmi testimony, the prohibitions concerning places of worship and the riding of animals, as well as fiscal charges- particularly the protection charges levied by nomad chiefs- and the payment of the jizya…Not only was the dhimma imposed almost continuously, for one finds it being applied in the nineteenth century Ottoman Empire…and in Persia, the Maghreb, and Yemen in the early twentieth century, but other additional abuses, not written into the laws, became absorbed into custom, such as the devshirme, the degrading corvees (as hangmen or gravediggers), the abduction of Jewish orphans (Yemen), the compulsory removal of footware (Morocco, Yemen), and other humiliations…The recording in multiple sources of eye-witness accounts, concerning unvarying regulations affecting the Peoples of the Book, perpetuated over the centuries from one end of the dar al-Islam to the other…proves sufficiently their entrenchment in customs
Two particularly humiliating “vocations” that were imposed upon Jews by their Muslim overlords in
Moroccan Jews were confined to ghettos in the major cities, such as
In the 1870’s, Jews were forced to salt the decapitated heads of rebels on the Sabbath. For example, Berber tribes frequently revolted against Sultan Muhammad XVIII. In order to force them to accept his authority, he would engage in punitive military campaigns. Among the tribes were the Musa, located south of
Yemenite Jews had to remove human feces and other waste matter (urine which failed to evaporate, etc.) from Muslim areas, initially in Sanaa, and later in other communities such as Shibam, Yarim, and Dhamar. Decrees requiring this obligation were issued in the late 18th or early 19th century, and re-introduced in 1913. Yehuda Nini reproduces an 1874 letter written by a Yemenite Jew to the Alliance Israelite in
…it is 86 years since our forefathers suffered the cruel decree and great shame to the nation of Israel from the east to sundown…for in the days of our fathers, 86 years ago, there arose a judge known as Qadi, and said unto the king and his ministers who lived in that time that the Lord, Blessed be He, had only created the Jews out of love of the other nations, to do their work and be enslaved by them at their will, and to do the most contemptible and lowly of tasks. And of them all…the greatest contamination of all, to clear their privies and streets and pathways of the filthy dung and the great filth in that place and to collect all that is left of the dung, may your Honor pardon the expression.
Almost 850 years ago, elaborating on the depth of Muslim hatred for the Jews in his era (contra the deceitful allusions of the “dialogue” letter), Maimonides made this profound observation regarding the Jewish predilection for denial, a feature that he insists will hasten their destruction.
We have acquiesced, both old and young, to inure ourselves to humiliation…All this notwithstanding, we do not escape this continued maltreatment [by Muslims] which well nigh crushes us. No matter how much we suffer and elect to remain at peace with them, they stir up strife and sedition.
The Jews and their communal leaders like Maimonides living under Islamic rule in the Middle Ages—vanquished by jihad, isolated, and well-nigh defenseless under the repressive system of dhimmitude—can be excused for their submissive denial. There is no such excuse in our era given the existence of an autonomous Jewish State of Israel, and a thriving Western Jewish diaspora living under the blanket of hard won protections for their religious freedom, physical security, and dignity.
When the late 23 year-old Parisian Jew Ilan Halimi was being tortured to death in February 2006, his Muslim torturers, as Nidra Poller wrote in the Wall Street Journal “…phoned the family on several occasions and made them listen to the recitation of verses from the Qur’ran, while Ilan’s tortured screams could be heard in the background.” In the heart of
As a pre-condition to real dialogue—not its miserable simulacrum as represented by the February 25, 2008 letter—Jews and their leadership—religious, political, and intellectual—must demand a mea culpa from their Muslim counterparts for the sacralized Islamic Jew hatred which contributed to Ilan Halimi’s death, and countless other similar atrocities across space and time, since the advent of Islam.
Let us demonstrate as Jews that we are no longer living with 12th century expectations of Muslims, otherwise they will oblige us.