Jewish-Muslim hate: A manufactured enterprise of illegitimate rulers

Published: December 12, 2016

May Muslims and Jews cease to harm each other and unite as they did in Andalusia a millennium ago.

On November 14, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) formed a new national group known as Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council (MJAC).

They announced three initial action items as follows:

1. The Council will highlight the contributions of Muslims and Jews to American society, and aim to celebrate their contributions in the best traditions of American democracy.

2. The Council will develop a coordinated strategy to address anti-Muslim bigotry and anti-Semitism in the US.

3. The Council will work to protect and expand the rights of religious minorities in the US, as enshrined in the Constitution, so they may practice their faiths in full freedom and security.

This is a rare example of Jewish–Muslim cooperation and hopefully will be the beginning of many such initiatives. This is an opportune moment for both Muslims and Jews to re-evaluate the history of Jewish-Muslim relations and question the foundations of the hatred and mistrust that has so long marred them.

Autocratic regimes within the Muslim world have long practiced a contrived and self-serving anti-Semitism. They use state-controlled media and politicised clergies to cultivate anti-Jewish animus in their citizenry. It is taught in schools and mosques through selective and acontextual readings of both scripture and history. This de rigueur hatred serves such regimes several uses. It provides them with a permanent conspirator that they can blame for social maladies and gives them a shibboleth to roil public emotions in order to distract them from administrative failures. They utilise the perceived sense of a common enemy to portray themselves as indispensable and justify the brutality and suppression of political expression which is the bane of the Muslim world.

Unfortunately, such attempts to divide are being reciprocated. Last year, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, engaged in a distortion of history designed to foster hatred against Palestinians by exaggerating their role in the holocaust – even though he later retracted his statement. Aside from this, a number of Rabbis across Israel have campaigned for racism and segregation against Arabs, declaring it a Torahic precept to do so. In 2010, dozens of municipal Rabbis wrote a joint letter calling for denying Arabs housing in Jewish neighbourhoods on this premise.

A vital tool to counter these attempts to sow discord for political gain is an honest appraisal of the history of Jewish–Muslim relations. Let us examine some of the salient features of this history and inquire what lesson it is that history teaches us.

In the year 1163, Moses Maimonides wrote a letter known as the “Igeret Hashmad”  (Letter of Apostasy) to the Rabbi, Ovadyah Hager. The letter was in response to certain views the Rabbi had expressed about Muslims and Jewish–Muslim relations. Rabbi Hager was urging Sephardic Jews to face execution rather than accept forced conversion to Islam at the hands of the Al-Muwahideen who had conquered southern Spain. Amongst his stated reasons for this was his belief that Muslims, due to their practices during the Hajj (annual pilgrimage to Mecca that includes walking seven times around the Kaaba and stoning pillars that represent Satan) were “idol worshippers”. Maimonides wrote:

“The Muslims are not idol worshipers at all. It is already cut away from their mouths and from their hearts. They designate the proper unity to God, a unity which has no imperfection.”

He further wrote that Islam and Christianity were both vessels for the transmission of Abrahamic tradition. All subsequent mainstream canonical approaches to Islam within Judaism have followed this approach to Islam.

Maimonides lived during the end of the Jewish “Golden Age” in the Iberian Peninsula that started with the conquest of the Umayyad Caliphate in 711. Most historic accounts describe the Jews aiding the Muslim army against the Visigoth rulers who (barring a few) had relentlessly persecuted Jews for two centuries. Upon completion of the conquest, Jews were decreed to be under the protection of the Caliphate and were left in charge of several cities. The Hanafi Muslim scholar, Abu Yusuf, was primarily responsible for an interpretation of the Dhimmi (literally, “protected person”) status of non-Muslims under the Moors which allowed them freedom to work and practice their faith as long as they paid the ‘Jizya’ (tribute paid by non-Muslims for the ‘protected’ status).

There have been many recent attempts by revisionist historians to diminish the importance of the Jewish ‘Golden Age’, the medieval-era example of tolerance and pluralism. But there are far too many accounts from erudite historians including George Sarton, Abba Eban and Will Durant to deny the fact that such interfaith coexistence and collaboration was unprecedented.

The magnificent advancement of Jewish thought, including the sciences and Talmudic scholarship leaves no question that there was indeed freedom of religion, academic opportunity and economic prosperity among the Jews of Iberia. There were approximately 70 libraries in Cordoba and the foundations for modern mathematics and the scientific approach to medicine was laid by scientists of all three Abrahamic faith in Cordoba and other parts of the Andalusian region of Southern Spain that was the hub of scientific advancement under the Moors.

And these are not the only examples of Jewish–Muslim kinship. In their landmark 1901 work, The Jewish Encyclopedia, Cyrus Adler and Isidore Singer relate that when the Spanish Inquisition began in 1492, the Ottoman Emperor, Bayazid II, helped rescue Jews from Spain and Italy and welcomed them to the Ottoman Empire. The encyclopedia quotes Bayazid having said to his courtiers in this regard:

“You venture to call Ferdinand a wise ruler, he who has impoverished his own country and enriched mine!”

Lastly, to this day, Moroccan Jews pay annual homage to King Mohammad V who in 1940 rejected orders from the pro-Nazi Vichy government in France to ostracise the 200,000 Moroccan Jews and force them to wear yellow stars. Moroccan Jews hold that, had it not been for his refusal, the fate of these Jews would most likely have been exiled to concentration camps in Europe. At a gathering of Rabbis that he invited to his palace in a show of defiance to the Vichy regime, he stated:

“There are no Jews in Morocco. There are only subjects”.

Ultimately, history is instructing us that peaceful coexistence is possible. It furthermore shows us that lasting prosperity for both Jews and Muslims was possible only when there was peace between them. Violence and subjugation have only brought only temporary glory to a few. Only peace has benefited many.

Moses ibn Ezra, one of the greatest influences on Arabic and Hebrew poetry wrote this in the early 12th century:

“And the poetry of Moses was true and kingly,
Like an Arabic poem, in words of sweetness.
And one speaking in the language of the Jews,
Spoken in perfect symmetry,
And the power of the speech of Araby
With its turns of phrase and eloquence.
Delightful sayings, in the Arabic tongue or the Hebrew,
and wisdom to grasp on every side, from each direction.”

Only in peace does the chance for general prosperity lie. Within sanguineous feud the only winners are those whose stratagems are crafted to create strife. Only when Jews and Muslims alike reject the demagogues who scavenge on their misery will they find peace.
May Muslims and Jews cease to harm each other and – like the poetry of Moses ibn Ezra – unite as they did in Andalusia a millennium ago to create a sum that is far, far greater than the parts.

Amen, Ameen, Salaam, Shalom.

Khusro Tariq

Khusro Tariq

The author is a Pakistani-American Psychiatrist currently pursuing training in Jungian psychoanalysis. He blogs on Huffington Post on matters of psychology, faith, politics and poetry. He tweets as @KhusroKhwaja (twitter.com/khusrokhwaja)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Keyboard Soldier

    I commend the author for trying his best but hatred for the Jews is a natural written rule in both Shariah and the Quran.

    In order to make friends with the Jews, the Muslims would have to negate the teachings of Shariah and the Quran.

    Practicing Muslims will always see the Jewish community as an enemy.

    Only those Muslims who are only Muslims because they were born in a Muslim country or parents and are not really into religiosity as such, can entertain your facts.Recommend

  • M Waqas Sajid

    Read Quran, then, you will come to know about the ruthlessness of Jews in the past. They, hypocrites, don’t even spare Prophets.Recommend

  • wb

    Hatred of Muslims by Jews(in fact today, by Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists, Christians, Bahais, Zorostrians, Wiccans, Satanists, Jains, Sikhs, Jews and possibly even by mormons) is only reactionary.

    Before Islam came in the seventh century, Saudi Arabia was full of Jews, Christians and Pagans living peacefully. Where did they disappear? So were the Levant region and Egypt. So was Mesopotamia. How were those Jews wiped out by the spread of Islam?

    Also, you need learn a bit about the battle of Khyber and what happened to Huyyay Ibn Akhtab and his daughter Sophia Bint Huyyay.

    “Autocratic regimes within the Muslim world have long practiced a contrived and self-serving anti-Semitism. They use state-controlled media and
    politicised clergies to cultivate anti-Jewish animus in their
    citizenry. It is taught in schools and mosques through selective and acontextual readings of both scripture and history.”

    The fact is, Holy Quran doesn’t come with contexts and explanations. The only thing that gives contexts to Ayats are the Hadiths. And any Muslim who reads Hadith is bound to hate Jews as cunning, evil people. And trust me, it’s a matter of FACT that Hadith do not come with additional contexts. So, don’t mislead your readers.Recommend

  • wb

    See author, what did I tell you. People like Waqas Sajid are the epitome of MUSLIMness.Recommend

  • 19640909rk .

    Jews were hated by Both Christians and Muslims since respective religions were established. Ironically both religions have connection with Judaism . In fact both religions use the Jewish religious scriptures and prophets as their own. So all three religions are deeply interconnected.

    The problem arises out of Christianity and Islam. Jews did not accept their prophets (Jesus and Mohammed) as one of their own. Therein lies the problem. This is taken as an insult bu both these religions and they are persecuted.

    Jews lived peacefully in lands where Christianity and Islam were not in majority. India, China, Japan are three nations where Jews never faced any discrimination at all.Recommend

  • hore choopo

    God cant be a partisan.He treats everyone equally.Recommend

  • Alex Sal

    And Muslims spare no one today. they are ruthless in presentRecommend

  • wb

    You Muslims are super interesting. First, you’re and have been the worst kind of haters in the world because of your religion.

    And when we point to these facts…we become haters. That’s like saying I’m evil because I said Hitler is evil.Recommend

  • Milind A

    “Autocratic regimes within the Muslim world have long practiced a contrived and self-serving anti-Semitism.”

    What??? The autocratic regime of Saudi Arabia is in cahoots with Israel as far as Iran and its adversaries are concerned. Same goes with Egypt as well, who surreptitiously co-operate with Israel to tackle its own Muslim Brotherhood. Its the Muslim masses influenced by religious texts and clergy that hate Jews.. And these autocratic regimes simply pay lip-service to go along with the majority opinion (while secretly co-operating with Jews).Recommend

  • Keyboard Soldier

    Muslims make up 20% of Israel. A recent poll was conducted which included around 15,000 Israeli Muslim Arabs.

    They were asked if they would want to “marry” an Arab that is not Israeli. Most replied they “would not” because the Arab Muslims were very backward in their approach to life.

    Israeli Muslims believe that Muslims from other parts of the world live in stone ages.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Comment was edited by hindus at ET.Recommend

  • Keyboard Soldier

    Read 4:160, 5:41, 3:181, 3:110-112, 2:65, 9:30, 62:6.

    Recommend

  • Fahim

    I have read, what is point of hatred for Jew community.Recommend

  • wb

    You know my dearest brother that I never change my name. But you have used my name several times. I know this and you know this.

    Dear brother, we’re like congenital twins. We may nave never met each other and may have lived oceans apart, but we know each other very well.

    And being the elder, I will always own you.Recommend

  • 19640909rk .

    well, the comments will never be published. and I will becalled an “Islamophobe” if they do.Recommend

  • Umair

    I read the verses again. It’s nowhere asking the Muslims to hate the Jews. Only mentions that killing of prophets etc was a deplorable act by the Jews.Recommend