Anti-Semitism amongst Muslims
Islam, Christianity and Judiasm have a common Abrahamic heritage and similar articles of faith binding them together. In the current era of suspicion, disillusionment and the “War on Terrorism”, this bond can provide the much needed shared vision.
Despite the historical bridges and common values, it is unfortunate to witness the level of distrust between the adherents of these faiths. One aspect of this has been the increase in Anti-Semitism amongst the Muslims in the last few decades. With the Arab-Israeli conflict in the backdrop, Anti-Semitism has become a common feature of the Radical Islamist discourse. The ‘Jewish conspiracies’ are another aspect of this attitude. Muslim extremists, especially, have given a theological colouring to the prejudice against the Jews in their speeches and pamphlets. This type of literature not only exacerbates the political problems but also increases tensions in Europe and throughout the world.
I trace the Muslims’ attitude towards the Jews from the initial interaction of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) with the Arabian Jews to the politicization of the Muslim-Jewish relationship because of the Arab-Israel conflict. A glance at history shows the good-will shown by all the respected figures in Islamic history towards their fellow Jews.
I will then review Islam’s attitude towards the Jews as seen from the sacred traditions of the religion. I will analyse Islam’s attitude towards non-Muslims in general and ‘People of the Book’ which include Jews in particular, through the study of the Qur’an. After establishing the general outline of Islam’s views about the Jews, I will study those verses of the Qur’an, which are critical of some sections of the ancestors of the Jews. Verses from these sections have not only been seen with suspicion by the Jews but have also been misused by radical Islamists to further their agenda. A straight-forward holistic and discerning approach to these verses shows that there is no justification of enmity against the Jews in Islam. Therefore Muslims engaging in anti-Semitic discourse are contradicting Islamic values.
A Semite is defined as,
1. A member of a group of Semitic-speaking peoples of the Near East and northern Africa, including the Arabs, Arameans, Babylonians, Carthaginians, Ethiopians, Hebrews, and Phoenicians.
2. A Jew.
The word “Semitic” derives from the Greek version of the Hebrew name Shem, one of the three sons of Prophet Noah (peace be upon him) in the Jewish scriptures (Genesis 5: 32). Anti Semitism is defined as a belief that the Semite race is inferior in human character or ability.
Since I am focusing on anti-Semitism in Islam (which itself is Semitic in origin), I will use ‘anti-Semitism’ in the sense of prejudice and discrimination against the Jews. The worst form of anti-Semitism was witnessed during the rise of the Nazis which led to the Holocaust, one of the greatest tragedies of mankind.
The Arab-Israeli conflict has led to sharp increase of anti-Semitism among extremist Muslims. Frustrated by the sometimes-biased media coverage  and embittered by the never-ending conflicts, some Muslims tend to mix the critique of the State of Israel with hatred for the Jews. This seems to be based on imports from notorious anti-Jewish writings such as ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.  This kind of literature is a cause of great concern even if all political disputes are resolved.
Muslim anti Semitism has also been attributed to ‘retaliatory bigotry’  in the face of the hostile anti-Islamic discourse by Jewish or Christian Zionists.  This of course, does not justify racism by Muslims.
Another source for Muslim anti-Semitism is the faulty interpretation of the Islamic literature of condemning the Jews collectively and eternally for their `scheming’ and mistakes in history. This perception is again re-enforced when seen in context with the struggle for Jerusalem , which inspires such intense emotions in both Muslims and Jews. It is ironic to see this attitude when we analyse the principles of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
The Prophet’s example
At an early stage in his career as the head of Medina, the Prophet had interaction with the three Jewish tribes. When the Prophet (pbuh) migrated to Medina with his followers, he established the constitution of Medina. It conferred legal autonomy and the right to practice one’s own religion freely, and it required a commitment to defend the city of Medina against external aggression. One of the clauses stated,
The Jews of Banu ‘Awf are one nation with the Muslims; the Jews have their religion and the Muslims have theirs, their freedmen and their persons shall be protected except those who behave unjustly or sinfully, for they hurt but themselves and their families. The same applies to the Jews of Banu an-Najjar, Banu al-Harith, Banu Sa’idah, Banu Jusham, Banu al-Aws, Banu Tha’labah, and the Jafnah, clan of the Tha’labah and Banu al-Shua’ibah.
It is one of the earliest documents establishing, political rights, citizen obligations, freedom of belief, freedom of speech and trade, the sanctity of life, the prohibition of bloodshed and crime, and the laws of municipalities and justice. The Jewish tribes found it tough to witness the rise of a new leader in the land and plotted against the Holy Prophet (pbuh).  This led to a lot of problems. The enmity of the tribes towards the Prophet and his followers is referred to in the Qur’an (5: 82). This hostility is also reflected in the negative references to Jews in the Muslim accounts of that time.
In spite of the political turmoil, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) set an example of fair dealing. He made agreements with the Jews of Medina, maintained relations with them, and entrusted his armour to his Jewish neighbour. As it was an Arab custom of making alliance with another tribe through marriage, Prophet Muhammad married a Jewess, Sufiah Bint Alnudair, daughter of the leader of the Nudair tribe.
Once a bier passed before the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and he stood up in respect. When his companions told him that the deceased was a Jew, the Prophet remarked, ‘Was he not a human soul?’.  There is also the story of the Jewish lady who was a neighbour of the Prophet (pbuh) and used to dump rubbish on his doorstep. One day, the Prophet found no rubbish. Upon not finding any rubbish there the next day as well, he asked about the lady, only to learn that the she was sick. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) then visited the ill lady and tried to make her feel better.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is reported by Abu Dawud to have said, “On the Day of Judgment I will dispute with anyone who oppresses a person from among the People of the Covenant, or infringes on his right, or puts a responsibility on him which is beyond his strength, or takes something from him against his will.”
Jews in the Muslim Empire
Jews flourished as a people during the rise of the Muslim civilization. They were given great autonomy to pursue their religion and culture. There are historical examples of magnanimity and good-will shown by revered Muslim figures towards the Jews. It was only when Caliph Umer ibne Khattab reclaimed Jerusalem, that a 500 year expulsion of the Jews was finished. Seventy Jewish families were invited to settle in Jerusalem.
For most of the middle ages, the Jews in the Muslim world comprised the major part of the Jewish race. The interaction of the Jews and Arabs was a significant phenomenon in that time. While the Jews were affected by the Islamic modes of thought, they also made an intellectual contribution to the Muslim civilization.  For a pious Muslim it was an obligation to provide aman (safety) to non-Muslim visitors. Jews who were permanently settled in Muslim lands could live in peace and security as long as they paid tax. They were part of a dynamic civilization which had major intellectual centres in Jerusalem, Baghdad, Damascus, Cairo, Ifsahan and Cordoba.
The era was nonetheless marred by political turmoil and wars. Muslims and Jews were on the same side when the Crusades onslaught started. Muslims and Jews were not allowed to reside in Jerusalem under the crusader rule. However when Muslim general, Salahuddin entered the holy city in 1187, he set a precedent of how Jerusalem should be run with Jews, Christians and Muslims living at peace with each other in the spiritual landscape.
Things were not the same in Western Europe where the flag-bearers of ‘Christiandom’ were persecuting the ‘Christ killers’. Compared to the ‘Christian’ anti-Semitism which had an acute psychological and theological dimension to it, the Muslim mind was free from this kind of emotional baggage. This worked well for the Judaic -Islamic tradition.
A case in point is the migration of great numbers of Jews into the Ottoman lands of Sultan Bayezid the Second after they had been expelled from Spain and Portugal. The Ottomans also welcomed the Jews who had been expelled from Hungary, France, Italy and Bavaria during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. As ‘imperialists’ of that time they also demanded good treatment of Jews who were not under their jurisdiction  The pattern of organization of Jews in the Ottoman Empire  is reported to be similar to that modern USA.
After the fifteenth century, the Muslim-Jews relations were starting to go downhill. After the crusades, Muslims had started to see non-Muslims with more suspicion. Moreover Jews and Christians were seen as collaborators with the Mongols when they attacked the Muslim lands. Unfavourable views about the Jews started to become more commonplace in Muslim lands where the long held bias of Christians started to seep through in the Muslim mind. Despite this the position of Jews in the Muslim Empire was much easier than in Europe. 
Gradually, changes came about in Europe with the French revolution and the formation European nation states. As a new intellectual wave started in the West and Muslims retreated from the European onslaught, the Jewish centres of learning moved westwards. In a time of weakness, Muslims were starting to become more intolerant of the Jews and started to perceive them as part of the colonialist expedition. Even at that time there is the example of the Ottoman sultan writing to the Pope in Rome and the king of France to protect the interest of his Jewish subjects.
The British colonial interest in Ottoman Jews continued. By the middle of the nineteenth century, Jews in Europe were secure enough to intervene in with establishment of Alliance Israelite Universelle and other Jewish bodies. There was considerable Muslim resentment to the control of Europeans in Central Asia, India, Middle-East and North Africa. The Jews were also seen as enjoying the fruits of the empire.
Things were still not good in Eastern Europe. Pogroms in Russia and elsewhere led to the Jews longing for a homeland where they could live in dignity. It was the European persecution of Jews in the late 19th century that became known as anti-Semitism. The Zionist  movement spearheaded by first Theodor Herzl and then Dr. Chaim Zeizmann aimed to build the kingdom of Israel.
Whereas the First World War gave the Balfour declaration, the end of the Second World War led to the demand for a Jewish State. Although, Palestinians owned more than 90 per cent of the land in 1943, the Zionists used the British colonial enterprise to gain a foothold in the Middle East. It was a time of turmoil with the influx of a lot of Jewish refugees into Palestine. These were people who had no home-country to look to and they had great emotional attachment to land of the Jewish Prophets. The Holocaust had been traumatic experience for the Jews and they demanded settlement in Palestine. Muslims were indignant that Palestinians should not be the ones who should pay for the crimes of the Europeans.
The badly managed settlement of Jews by the British and a lack of vision marked the start of the darkest era in Muslim-Jew relations. In 1948, Jewish nationalists drove out the Palestinians from their lands so that the ‘people with out a land could have a land with out a people’.  This was marked as the Catastrophe by the Arabs. The subsequent defeats of the Arabs in 1967 and 1973 only made matters worse with the Arab-Israel relations becoming the focal point of the Muslim-Jew relations. The Muslim world which was experiencing intellectual stagnation could not digest the reversal of fortunes. The championing of Israel’s cause as a ‘beacon of western values in the land of the barbarians’ by well placed Jewish intellectuals caused Arab-Israeli relations to sour further. Interestingly, any critique of Israel was being termed as anti-semitic by Zionists. With Israel’s apartheid policies backed by the UK and USA, every second problem in the Muslim world appeared to have a ‘Jewish’ hand behind it.
Although the trans-national character of Islam guaranteed that Muslims from all parts of the globe were concerned about the dehumanization and oppression of the Palestinians, it is intriguing to note the rise of anti-Semitism in the Muslim world. One factor was the oil money pumped by the Saudis in Muslim organizations of various countries affected the rise of general anti-Jewish sentiments. Some well known Islamist organisations which sprang in response to the colonial and dictatorial oppression in Egypt, Pakistan etc. had become increasingly anti-West. With the Arab-Israeli wars, they also became anti-Jewish in their rhetoric. Similar organizations grew in other areas which had a comparable political climate.
The traditional Islamic education system had already been disturbed during the British Colonization. Muslim preachers with a more political rather than theological background started giving excessive importance to the opposition of the Jews of Arabia to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to convince people that Jews will always be the enemies of the Muslim community. This was also done by trying to use certain Qur’anic verses out of context and the use of some unauthentic ahadith.  Anti-Semitism was also endorsed at the state level with leaders  of well known Muslim countries issuing anti-Jewish statements and encouraging anti-Semitic books. With the Arab-Israeli conflict escalating, there was a greater tendency of Muslims critical of Israel’s oppression to embrace anti-Semitism. Akbar Ahmed says, ‘the loss of land for the Palestinians and the loss of the holy places in Jerusalem are viewed with a sense of injustice and anger among Muslims. In the rhetoric of confrontation, many themselves blur the distinctions between anti-Judaism, antisemitism, and anti-Zionism. Such Muslims thus make the mistake they accuse others of making about them-seeing all Jews as homogenous, monolithic and threatening’. 
Although lasting peace can only come about after Palestinians get justice, it is critical to address the language of hate which is used by ‘Islamic’ scholars. This can only be done by reclaiming the spirit of tolerance, Islam promotes and by examining the principles of the Qur’an and Sunnah (example of the Prophet Muhammad).
Islamic attitude towards non-Muslims
In order to learn about the Islamic attitude toward the Jews, it is important to first outline the Qur’an’s  general teachings concerning non-Muslims. Islam repeatedly stresses four fundamental values i.e. justice (adl), benevolence (ihsan), compassion (rahmah) and wisdom (hikmah). The Quran states that all of us are children of Adam and have a common humanity. Although the Qur’an teaches monotheism and criticises people for not believing in God Almighty, it also points out the unity of truth and confirms the scriptures, which were revealed before it (3: 3). The underlying theme in Islam is peace and justice. The Qur’anic imperative on fairness is so strong that it is stated, ‘O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves’ (4: 135).
The Qur’an forbids compulsion in religion (2: 256, 50: 45), promotes human dignity (17: 70), does not tolerate racism and differentiates among people only according to their piety (49: 13). The Islamic message is that salvation is only through faith in God and good deeds. One is personally accountable to God for one’s actions. One’s lineage, race, colour or family has no bearing to the respect of him or her in the eyes of God. The Qur’an (5: 48) states,
To thee We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety: so judge between them by what Allah hath revealed, and follow not their vain desires, diverging from the Truth that hath come to thee. To each among you have we prescribed a law and an open way. If Allah had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but (His plan is) to test you in what He hath given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to Allah; it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute.
Moreover there is a clear instruction to maintain peace and cordial relations with any people who do not mean harm to the Muslims,
Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just (Qur’an 60: 8).
These verses clearly include Christians, Jews, Buddhist, Hindus, Sikhs and atheists who are not belligerent against Muslims. Moreover Muslims are forbidden from having an insulting attitude towards non-Muslims (Qur’an 6: 108).
Jews, People of the Book
According to the Qur’an, the People of the Book are the believers in different Monotheistic faiths which had scriptures revealed to them. In Islam, the People of the Book, which include Christians and Jews, have special status. Muslims believe that Islam is the primordial religion which has been prevalent throughout time and Muslims respect all the prophets in history, especially Prophets Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and the final Prophet Muhammad in the Qur’an (3: 84). The Qur’an exhorts Muslims to develop understanding with the followers of all scriptures on their common belief in the Unity of God and cooperate with them:
Say: O People of the Book! come to common terms as between us and you: That we worship none but Allah; that we associate no partners with him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, Lords and patrons other than Allah (Qur’an 3: 64).
The Qur’an discusses the Children of Israel (The wider family of the Jews) and recognises Jews as the descendant of Prophet Isaac (pbuh), son of Prophet Abraham (pbuh). The Qur’an specifically refers to the existence of righteous people (3: 113,114) and people on the right course (5: 65, 5: 66) among the followers of other scriptures which includes Jews. The following verse in the Holy Qur’an (2: 62) summarises the respect for the pious Jews among other righteous people,
Those who believe (in the Qur’an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians, - any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.
Similar verses are present in the Qur’an in other places (5: 69 & 22: 17). Jews and Christians are considered close to the Muslims and Islam allows Muslims to eat their permissible food and marry them. Muslims are also specially instructed to observe the sanctity of churches and synagogues (Qur’an 22: 40).  The common Abrahamic heritage of both Islam and Judaism provides the ideal common ground for dialogue between Muslims and Jews.
Criticism of a section of Jews
The Qur’an speaks about the Children of Israel (Bani Israil) in a number of places. It is in view of the general Qur’anic verses and the example of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) that we must see the history of the Children of Israel who are considered the forefathers of the Jewish race.
The Children of Israel have been spoken of favourably in the Qur’an (2: 47, 44: 32), and they were said to have been guided by God. However Qur’an is also critical of the Children of Israel, especially one of the groups of the Children of Israil, Al-Yahud that is referred to in translations simply as Jews. The reason for some strong criticism is that sections of the Jewish tribes failed to be grateful for God’s blessing on them. They committed various wrongs such as disobeying their prophets, promoting usury, becoming arrogant and subverting noble Jewish principles by being overly legalistic. . This has been mentioned in Chapter 4 and Chapter 5 of the Qur’an. It must be noted that similar and sometimes harsher criticism has been made in the Bible (Micah 3: 1-12, Hosea Chapter 8: 1-14, Book of Deuteronomy Verses 16-68, Matthew 23: 13-39).  If one analyses the Qur’anic verses, it is apparent from the direct translation or the context that only a section of the Jews are criticised for their disregard of the principles of Judiasm. For example there is mention of the transgression of Jews in the Qur’an 4: 153-161. However the next verse (4: 162) qualifies that the mistakes are not attributed to the pious Jews.
One of the criticisms of a section of the Jews was their hypocritical and spiteful behaviour towards Prophet Muhammad (Qur’an 2: 109, 4: 54). This is presented as an advice for Muslims not to repeat the mistakes of certain Jews in history. Muslims should learn from these parables. Any anti-Semitism from their side contradicts the teachings of the Holy Qur’an and defeats the purpose of these examples.
If we study the general tenor of the Qur’an it is evident that Muslims cannot be overly judgemental about other people because only God knows the inner workings of anyone’s mind. Moreover no one is to be judged by the actions of their ancestors. Therefore there is no justification to demonise the Jews due to the faults of people among the Children of Israel. Any generalisation about the Jews by Muslims is analogous to reading about the Nazi anti-Semitism in a historical document and concluding today that all Germans are inherently racist.
The Qur’an states that among the Jews is a community, which ‘recites the revelations of Allah in the night season, falling prostrate (before Him). They believe in Allah and the Last Day, and enjoin right conduct and forbid indecency, and vie one with another in good works. These are of the righteous. And whatever good they do, they will not be denied the need thereof. Allah is Aware of those who ward off (evil)’. (3: 113-115).
Need for Contextual Interpretation
It is in context of the general Qur’anic guidelines of peace and friendship that we must see the verse 5: 51 which translates to “O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for your awliya: They are but awliya to each other.” The word awliya has various meanings such as friends, protectors and guardians and if the meaning is taken to be friends it seems to contradict the Islamic message of peace and cooperation.
The context and the historical background of this verse have been well explained by David Dakake.  In this verse, awliya needs to be understood as guardians or patrons in the strict military sense. This is because when this verse was revealed, Muslims were in a precarious position in Medina with the Makkans planning to attack the Muslims and some of the Christian and Jewish tribes conspiring against the Muslims. Therefore Muslims were instructed to consolidate themselves and not depend on any one needlessly. This whole background has been explained by al-Tabari, one of the earliest commentators of the Qur’an. Moreover if we read the verses next to 5: 51, the verse 5: 57 clears the meaning even more,
O ye who believe! Take not for awliya those who take your religion for a mockery or sport,- whether among those who received the Scripture before you, or among those who reject Faith; but fear ye Allah, if ye have faith (indeed).
This shows that whereas Muslims should adopt the general attitude of cooperation with non-Muslims and friendship with well-meaning non-Muslims, they should be wary of making some one who has contempt for Islam or does not mean well for Muslims as their guardian. It is disappointing to see that when a straightforward methodology leads us to the appropriate meaning, this verse is not only used in anti-Islam discourse  but also misused by some hate mongering Muslim groups. Similarly, a warning (Qur’an 5: 82) about the enmity of the Jews of Madina towards the Muslims must be seen in its historical context and should not warrant any ill-will from Muslims. In the Qur’an (39: 18), there is a warning against this attitude and there is an advice to look for the best meaning, ‘those who listen to the Word, and follow the best (meaning) in it: those are the ones whom Allah has guided, and those are the ones endued with understanding’.
Numerous well-known Islamic jurists and scholars have affirmed that there is no religious basis of prejudice against the Jews. Theologically speaking, Islam and Judiasm have similar views on strict monotheism, concept of divine law and the lack of religious office and mediation. Historically, we have so many precedents of goodwill shown by Muslims to the Jews. Jews thrived for four hundred years in Al-Andalus amidst the Muslims during the peak of the medieval Islamic civilization. Karen Armstrong says,
In the Islamic empire Jews like Christians had full religious liberty; the Jews lived there in peace until the creation of the State of Israel in our own century. The Jews of Islam never suffered like the Jews of Christendom. The anti-Semitic myths of Europe were introduced into the Middle East at the end of the last century by Christian missionaries and were usually scorned by the populace. But in recent years some Muslims have turned to passages of the Qur’an which refer to the rebellious Jewish tribes of Medina and tend to ignore the far numerous verses which speak positively of the Jews and their great prophets. This is an entirely new development in the history of 1,200 years of good relations between Jews and Muslims.
Anti-Semitism is against the basics of Islam. Islam promotes humility and warns against keeping enmity and anger in one’s heart. It is a positive sign that many Muslim intellectuals such as Akbar Ahmed and Tariq Ramadan are speaking out against anti-Semitism by Muslims. It is also crucial that the Jewish leaders also follow suit and encourage better understanding between Muslims and Jews. Tariq Ramadan says, ‘there is nothing in Islam that gives legitimization to Judeophobia, xenophobia and the rejection of any human being because of his religion or the group to which he belongs. Anti-Semitism has no justification in Islam, the message of which demands respect for the Jewish religion and spirit, which are considered a noble expression of the People of the Book’.
Muslims also need to see that by being anti-Jew what they are missing. Islamic civilization rose to prominence due to the intellectual push it provided to the whole world. Many prophets came to the Jews and the collective wisdom and intellectual spirit of the Jews has always been a source of knowledge through history. Even now, Jews have a remarkable representation among the world’s intelligentsia relative to their population. Cutting off from this steam of intellect is only going to harm Muslims. Moreover, with debate over Muslim integration in Europe, an alliance with Jewish organizations is all the more important. Jews after all have centuries of experience of settling in foreign lands.
Although both Muslims and Orthodox Jews believe that the Jews did not get a homeland in ancient times because they did not listen to Prophet Moses’ (pbuh), command, the Qur’an (5: 21, 17: 104) has not ruled out a return of the Jews to Palestine. One workable solution to the question of Jerusalem is to make it an international city controlled by the UN. This will enable Jews, Christians and Muslims to access their holy sites. Before that happens the Palestinians must get justice and the Jews and the Muslims have to root out the bigotry within them.
1. See Richardson, John E. (2004) (Mis)Representing Islam: The Racism and Rhetoric of British Broadsheet Newspapers, Netherlands: John Benjamins, for a well-researched book on the coverage of Islam in the British Media.
2. Lewis, B. (1998) ‘Muslim Anti Semitism’, The Middle East Quarterly, 5(2), pp. 43-9.
3. Khwaja, I. (2003 ‘The Problem of Muslim Anti-Semitism’, Pakistan Today, 10 January.
4. There is group of Evangelists in USA who believe that supporting Israel and fighting Muslims will expedite the coming of Jesus Christ. Many well-known Christian theologians have warned against this attitude. This phenomenon is well explained in Malik, A. (ed.) (2005) God on Our Side: Politics and Theology of the War on Terrorism, Bristol: Amal Press, section 3.
5. Armstrong, K. (2005) History of Jerusalem: One City, Three Faith, London: HarperCollins elegantly explains the significance of Jerusalem in all the Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
6. The intrigues by the Jewish tribes in Medina against Prophet (pbuh) have been explained in Lings, M. (1983) Muhammad: his life based on the earliest sources, New York: Inner Traditions International
7. The Sahih Collection of Bukhari: The Book of Funerals. Retrieved 10 Dec 2005 from http://www.sunnipath.com/Resources/PrintMedia/Hadith/H0002P0028.aspx . Accessed 6 March 2006.
8. The great Jewish thinker and physician, Moses Maimonides (1135-1204) was an integral part of a vibrant multi-cultural Islamic Civilization. A Jewish saying on Maimonides goes as, ‘From Moses [of the Torah] to Moses [Maimonides] there was none like Moses’.
9. In 1556, Sultan Sulayman ‘the Magnificent’ wrote a letter to Pope Paul IV asking for immediate release of the Sephardic Jews, Acona Marranos, whom he declared to be Ottoman citizens.
10. Rabbi Sarfati of Edirne wrote the famous Edirne letter in which invited fellow Jews to leave Christiandom and seek safety ands prosperity in Turkey.
11. Lewis, B. (1987) Jews of Islam, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, p. 135.
12. Although Zionism is now used synonymously with Israel’s racism, it is important to take into account the historical background of the movement. There are many ‘Jewish nationalists’ who are as averse to Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians as any one else. Moreover many traditional Jewish groups are against the Zionist ideology.
13. Brownfield, A. C. (1998) ‘Zionism at 100: The Myth of Palestine as “A Land without People” ‘, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, March issue, pp. 29-31.
14. Ahadith are the descriptions of Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) conduct which are attributed to him. Unlike the Qur’an which Muslims believe as Divine, ahadith are accorded varying level of authenticity according to their chain of narration and content.
15. Lewis, B. (1987) Jews of Islam, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, p. 186.
16. Kramer, M, (1995) ‘The Salience of Islamic Antisemitism’, Institute of Jewish Affairs Report (London), October, no. 2.
17. In this essay, I have used Abdullah Yousufali’s translation of the Holy Qur’an.
18. The destruction of synagogues by Palestinians after the evacuation of Gaza in September 2005 shows how revenge and anger can subvert religious principles.
19. It is interesting to note the appearance of similar flaws in the thinking of the radical Muslims today.
20. All these verses from the Bible have been quoted in Siddiqi, M. H., Does the Qur’an sound anti-Semitic? http://pakistanlink.com/religion/2002/0104.html . Accessed 6 March 2006.
21. Dakake D. (2004) ‘The Myth of Militant Islam’, in Lumbard J. E. B. (ed.) (2004) Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition, Indiana: World Wisdom Books, pp. 3-37. In his essay, Dakake has explained the peaceful traditional interpretations of certain verses in the Qur’an, which are quoted irresponsibly in the media.
22. It is noticeable that sections of the western media, which was never too sympathetic to Islam, have become quite hostile. Edward Said, in his book Said E. W. (1981) Covering Islam, New York: Pantheon Books, launched an attack on the methodology adopted by the western media in representing Islam. Character assassination of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) on the basis of unsubstantiated assumptions and centuries old anti-Islamic myths has become common. In mainstream writings, similar treatment to any other eminent personality in history would be unthinkable.
23. The verse 5:51 in the Qur’an is repeatedly misused by an international party, which claims to deal in Political Islam.
24. Armstrong, K. (1992) Muhammad: A Western Attempt to Understand Islam, London: Victor Gollanca, p. 209.
25. Ramadan, T., ‘Muslims against Anti-Semitism: ways to promote common values’. http://www.un.org/Pubs/chronicle/2004/issue4/0404p35.html . Accessed 6 March 2006.
Haris Aziz is pursuing a PhD in Theoretical Computer Science and training as a professional journalist at Warwick University. He was the Lady Noon Scholar at Exeter College, Oxford University in 2004-2005.
( © Copyright Haris Aziz 2006, do not reproduce without permission. )