During the years that responding to Islam has been a significant concern for me in Christian ministry, I have been repeatedly struck by two seemingly contradictory facts: the reality of Islamic antisemitism on the one hand, and its denial on the other.
1. There can be non doubt that antisemitism is hard-wired into Islam's sacred history. The Qur'an and hadiths (traditions of Muhammad) have numerous passages which proclaim enmity towards the Jews. Jews are declared to be deceivers, malevolent, and killers of Muhammad (by poisoning him).
Islam's foundational texts express hostility to four religious groupings: Jews, Christians, pagans, and Muslim renegades. Jihad is mandated against all four of these groups, and whereas the rules of war are the more merciless against the pagans and Muslim renegades - only Jews and Christians being allowed to keep their faith after conquest - of the two 'Peoples of the Book' it is the Jews who attract the most intense expressions of hatred. There is less anti-Christian sentiment in the Qur'an and hadiths than there is anti-Jewish sentiment, and in Muhammad's biography his dealings with the Jews of Arabia - leading to a genocide in Medina, and the bloody conquest of Khaibar - loom much larger and are much more negative than his dealings with Christians.
The Islamic daily prayers include repeated recitations of al-Fatihah, the first chapter of the Qur'an. In these few verses, every Muslim prays that they will be guided on the straight path, not like the Christians ('those who have gone astray') or the Jews ('those who incur Allah's wrath'). This simple contrast, that whereas Christians have lost their way, Jews have fallen under the anger of Allah, neatly summarizes Islam's attitude to the Jews. The celebrated commentator Ibn Kathir, whose translated tafsir is popular among English-speaking Muslims, explains the distinction in his discussion of al-Fatihah:
These two paths are the paths of the Christians and Jews, a fact that the believer should beware of so that he avoids them. … the Jews abandoned practicing the religion, while the Christians lost the true knowledge. This is why ‘anger’ descended upon the Jews, while being described as ‘led astray’ is more appropriate of the Christians. Those who know, but avoid implementing the truth, deserve the anger, unlike those who are ignorant. The Christians want to seek the true knowledge, but are unable to find it because they did not seek it from its proper resources.
This is why they were led astray. We should also mention that both the Christians and the Jews have earned the anger and are led astray, but the anger is one of the attributes more particular of the Jews. Allah said about the Jews, ‘Those (Jews) who incurred the curse of Allah and His wrath’ ([Sura] 5:60). The attribute that the Christians deserve most is that of being led astray, just as Allah said about them, ‘Who went astray before and who misled many, and strayed (themselves) from the right path’ ([Sura] 5:77).
Here Ibn Kathir is explaining that, wheras Christians are merely ignorant, Jews know the truth but deliberately reject it, thus thus making themselves objects of Allah's wrath.
That this libel is repeated in every observant Muslims' obligatory prayers, seventeen times a day, shows that Islam's rejection of the Jews is not peripheral in Islam. Many years ago I was personally surprised to discover hatred of Jews among the Muslims of Indonesia, a country which has had virtually nothing to do with Jews in its history. When Amrozi, the Balinese bomber, cried out threats against Jews at his sentencing in a Balinese courtroom, this was not because he had ever met a single Jew. His hatred was purely theological.
2. The other reality is that denial of Islam's antisemitic legacy is so persistent and tenacious, in spite of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Even some Jews who should know better deny it:
The historian Bernard Lewis confidently declared in his 1984 book The Jews of Islam, that, unlike Christian antisemitism, Islam's ill-treatment of Jews had no theological basis: it was merely the 'usual attitude of the dominant to the subordinate'.
Iranian Jewish philanthropist and art-collector David Khalili, when asked on Australian radio whether his remarkable achievements as a collector of Islamic art might change Muslims' attitudes to Jews, responded that the idea that Jews are inferior would never have 'crossed any Muslim's mind'.
In the light of these two considerations - Islamic antisemitism and its baseless denial - I strongly encourage readers to familiarize themselves with the work of Andrew Bostom, who has recently published The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism. This brilliant and courageous book is a landmark study of the subject.
My friend Dr Daniel Shayesteh was one of the Iranian founders of Hizballah, became a Christian after he fled from the Ayatollah's murderous regime. He explains in his testimony of the hatred of Jews which he absorbed as part of his Muslim upbringing in Iran, and the intention of the Iranian revolutionaries to destroy Israel. The visceral hatred which shaped Hizballah's dreams of conquest and destruction has not died out, and continues to plague the world. The urgency of this threat leads me to append below one of Andrew Bostom's recent postings, on Hizballah's intentions.
June 22, 2008
Renewing Hezb'allah's Jihad Genocide Against Jews Everywhere
By Andrew G. Bostom
According to US and Canadian intelligence agencies the Shi'ite jihad terror organization Hezb'allah, supported by its patron Iran, is poised, once again, to launch a lethal attack against "Jewish targets" far removed from the battlegrounds of the Middle East. Although no substantive evidence has emerged identifying a specific target, both Canada and Latin America have been suggested as possiblities, the latter being where, in Buenos Aires, Hezb'allah struck twice during the 1990s, killing 29 at the Israeli embassy in 1992, and murdering at least 85 more in a 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center.
The ostensible reason given for this renewed jihad terror activity is "revenge" for the February (2008) assassination of Hezb'allah's murderous terror master Imad Mugniyah, killed by a car bomb in Damascus, Syria. Hezb'allah blames Israel for this assassination, an allegation rejected by Israeli officials. Ultimately, however, Hezb'allah's chronic, annihilationist jihad against Israel reflects a rigid adherence to both classical jihad theory, and the ugliest elements of Islamic theology regarding Jews.
The distinguished Shi'ite theologian al-Amili (d.1622) wrote the following (p.213) about jihad war in the Jami-i-Abbasi, his seminal Persian manual of Shi'a Law:
"Islamic Holy war [jihad] against followers of other religions, such as Jews, is required unless they convert to Islam or pay the poll tax."
And the Jews stubborn malevolence -- portrayed in the darkest colors by Islam's sacred texts -- is their defining worldly characteristic. Examples of this archetypal Jew hatred from the Koran, and hadith (traditions of the Muslim prophet Muhammad), amplified by the early Muslim biographies of Muhammad, include:
Koranic verses labeling Jews as malevolent enemies of Islam (5:82); disobedient slayers of their own prophets who suffered justifiable abasement (2:61), including, for some, transformation into apes and swine (5:60);
the canonical hadith (Sahih Muslim Book 026, Number 5431), and accounts provided by early Muslim biographers of Muhammad (such as Ibn Saad, below), that the Jews caused Muhammad's protracted, excruciating death from poisoning:
"The Jews discussed about poisons and became united in one poison. She [a Khaybar Jewess, Zaynab Bint al-Harith] poisoned the goat putting more poison in the forelegs.. Allah's Apostle took the foreleg, a piece of which he put into his mouth...Allah's Apostle sent for Zaynab [and]...handed her over to [those] who put her to death...Allah's Apostle lived after this three years, till in consequence of his pain he passed away. During his illness he used to say: I did not cease to find the effect of the poisoned morsel I took at Khaybar..."
Hezb'allah's name, "The Party of Allah", derives from Koran 5:56:
"And whoever takes Allah and His messenger and those who believe for a guardian, then surely the party of Allah are they that shall be triumphant."
In a public statement issued February 15/16, 1986, Hezb'allah stressed its indelible links to Iran and Ayatollah Khomeini ("We obey the orders of one leader wise and just...") and conceived of itself as a "nation" linked to Muslims worldwide by "...a strong ideological and political bond, namely Islam." Expressed in the political language of the Koran, Hezb'allah's ideology encompasses, (as per the slogan adorning the party emblem, "The Party of Allah is Sure to Triumph" ) at least three major objectives: transforming Lebanon into a Shari'a state; destroying Israel; establishing regional, followed by international Islamic hegemony, i.e., bringing the region, then the world under Shari'a law.
...we do not constitute an organized party in Lebanon. Nor are we a tight political cadre. We are an umma linked to the Muslims of the whole world by the solid doctrinal and religious connection of Islam, whose message God wanted to be fulfilled by the Seal of the Prophets, i.e., Muhammad. This is why whatever touches or strikes Muslims, in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Philippines and everywhere reverberates throughout the Muslim umma of which we are an integral part. Our behavior is dictated to us by legal principles laid down by the light of an overall political conception defined by the leading jurist (wilayat al-faqih)
As for our culture, it is based on the Holy Koran, the Sunna and the legal rulings of the faqih who is our source of imitation (marja' al-taqlid). Our culture is crystal clear. It is not complicated and is accessible to all.
No one can imagine the importance of our military potential as our military apparatus is not separate from our overall social fabric. Each of us is a fighting soldier. And when it becomes necessary to carry out the Holy war (Jihad), each of us takes up his assignment in the fight in accordance with the injunctions of the Law, and that in the framework of the mission carried out under the tutelage of the Commanding Jurist.
...our struggle [against Israel] will end only when this entity is obliterated. We recognize no treaty with it, no cease fire, and no peace agreements, whether separate or consolidated.
Demonizing Israel and Jews -- via motifs in the Koran and hadith -- Hezb'allah views the jihad against the "Zionist entity" as an annihilationist war intrinsic to broader conflicts: the struggle between the Islamic world and the non-Muslim world, and the historical struggle between Islam and Judaism.
The most senior clerical authority for Hezb'allah, Husayn Fadlalah has stated,
"We find in the Koran that the Jews are the most aggressive towards the Muslims...because of their aggressive resistance to the unity of the faith."
Fadlallah repeatedly refers to anti-Jewish archetypes in the Koran, hadith, and sira: the corrupt, treacherous and aggressive nature of the Jews; their reputation as killers of prophets, who spread corruption on earth; and the notion that the Jews engaged in conspiratorial efforts against the Muslim prophet. Fadlallah argues, ultimately, "Either we destroy Israel or Israel destroys us." Muhammad. Hassan Nasrallah, current Secretary General of Hezb'allah, and a protége of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, presently Iran's highest ranking political and religious authority (i.e., its "Guardian Jurisprudent"), has reiterated these antisemitic and annihilationist views with particular vehemence. Invoking motifs from Islam's foundational texts, Nasrallah has characterized Jews as the "grandsons of apes and pigs," and as "Allah's most cowardly and greedy creatures." He elaborates these themes into an annihilationist animus against all Jews, not merely Israelis.
Anyone who reads the Koran and the holy writings of the monotheistic religions sees what they did to the prophets, and what acts of madness and slaughter the Jews carried out throughout history...
Anyone who reads these texts cannot think of co-existence with them, of peace with them, or about accepting their presence, not only in Palestine of 1948 but even in a small village in Palestine, because they are a cancer which is liable to spread again at any moment...There is no solution to the conflict in this region except with the disappearance of Israel.
If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew. Notice, I do not say the Israeli...[I]f they [the Jews] all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.
The Shi'ite jihadist organization Hezb'allah thus proclaims with triumphant exuberance its visceral opposition to Judaism and the existence of Israel, stressing the eternal conflict between the Jews and Islam. Eradicating Israel, and terrorizing, perhaps even destroying Jewish communities worldwide, represents an early stage of Hezballah's Pan-Islamic ambitions, and its jihad against the rest of the non-Muslim world. Blithely ignoring this reality, and allowing places such as Toronto, Canada, or Dearborn, Michigan to become hubs for Hezb'allah fund-raising and organizing is both morally repugnant, and destructive to our must fundamental Western values expressed with such eloquence in George Washington's 1790 letter to the Jewish community of Newport, Rhode Island.
The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent national gifts. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.
May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to...enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.
Andrew G. Bostom is the author of The Legacy of Jihad (Prometheus, 2005) and The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism.
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