Does Islam’s holy book promote anti-Semitism? To discuss this issue with us today, Frontpage Symposium has assembled a distinguished panel:
Prof. Khaleel Mohammed, Assistant Professor at the Department of Religious Studies at San Diego State University.
Bat Ye’or, the author of three major books on dhimmis, jihad, and dhimmitude (www.dhimmitude.org and www.dhimmi.org). On May 1, 1997-- after the publication of The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam. from Jihad to Dhimmitude (1996) -- she testified at a Hearing of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs on 'Religious Persecution in the Middle East' ("An Historical Overview of the Persecution of Christians under Islam. PAST IS PROLOGUE: The Challenge of Islamism Today"). Her latest study is Islam and Dhimmitude. Where Civilizations Collide (2002); see “Eurabia: The Road to Munich.” National Review Online, October 9, 2002; "European Fears of the Gathering Jihad." FPM, Feb. 21 2003.
Robert Spencer, the director of Jihad Watch and the author of Onward Muslim Soldiers: How Jihad Still Threatens America and the West (Regnery Publishing), and Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World’s Fastest Growing Faith (Encounter Books).
FP: Prof. Khaleel Mohammed, Bat Ye’or and Robert Spencer welcome to Frontpage Symposium.
Prof. Khaleel Mohammed, you are on the record for maintaining that the Qur'an respects the Jews. Yet isn’t it clear that the Qur’an attributes so many negative characteristics to them, like “falsehood" (Sura 3:71) and “distortion” (Sura )? Among other things, the Qur’an teaches that the Jews have been cursed by Allah, as well as by David and Jesus. (Sura 2:61/58, Sura 5:78/82) And Allah was so disgusted with Jews that he transformed them into apes and pigs. (Sura 5:60/65, 2:65 and 7:166). What conclusions is a faithful Muslim supposed to reach here?
Mohammed: That is a rather simple question to answer if one takes principles of exegesis into consideration. First of all, the Qur’an has to be explained in totality rather than by isolated verses. Secondly, we have to remember that the Judaism of Muhammad's time was not a monolithic construct -- as it is not even up to today.
The Qur'an respects certain groups of Jews, and seems to think certain other groups (of Jews) are not observing Judaism. In fact, many scholars, among them Goitein, Lazarus-Yafeh, feel that the Qur’anic positions often reflect disputes between Jewish groups. Others such as Menachem Kister et al have shown that the Jewish tradition(s) tremendously influenced Islam, and as such a lot of the imagery of the Qur’an is based on Judaic paradigms. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that many Jewish oral traditions have not reached us, but a familiarity with them is assumed in the Qur’an.
Thirdly, the aspect of the Qur'an "picking" on certain groups of Jews is not something peculiar to Islam--every new religion establishes its "correctness" by pointing out the perceived problems of older established religions. Judaism, according to the Torah, talks of the older religions and other peoples in horrible terms, and we have the story of the Moabites as a single example. Christianity does the same, with Jesus likening his own people to swine and dogs (Matthew 7:6, 2 Peter ).
Fourthly, the Qur'an is primarily an oral document, put together in a way unlike a scriptural text. And so, unlike a book, wherein there must be cohesion between a page and its preceding and subsequent pages, this is not an elemental aspect of the Qur’an. It jumps from topic to topic, and one set of verses can cover several topics...the connection between the topics requires familiarity with the contents of the entire document, which is why memorization is such a cherished prerequisite for exegesis. Having outlined these few basics, let us take each part of the question
How can I say that the Qur’an respects the Jews: let us examine: Q2:47, Q2:62, Q3:33, : those verses certainly do respect the Jews, in fact, telling them that they are entitled to the kingdom of heaven. The Qur’an refers to the Torah as a book of light (Q5:44)--and the foregoing are only a few examples of the respect of Judaism and its Scripture.
On the issue of falsehood, such as in Q3:71: based on what I have explained, how can we say that this is for ALL Jews? And is the Qur’an saying something that Jews did not say about themselves? Let us examine Jeremiah 8:8, Deut 31:29. The Qur'an was quite familiar with these charges made by Jewish groups against each other, and simply used the arguments. For distortion, as in Q4:46, the same argument applies. The discussions in the Talmud often focus on how words are to be construed...so again, this is not something peculiar to the Qur’an.
On the aspect of the Jews being cursed by Allah: Once again, not ALL, but those who committed certain transgressions. Throughout the Hebrew and Christian Bibles, do we not find such references to those whom God can and does curse? Does Jewish tradition not teach that the reason why the Jews have suffered so much is because they have transgressed against the covenant? Are there not Jews who teach--whether rightly or wrongly is besides the point--that even the Shoah is because of God's displeasure with them? And according the Christian testament did Jesus not address words of rejection and anger towards the Jews? And if Jesus, a Jew could do this, I don't think we can argue if David could.
Allah turning Jews into apes and swine. Let us examine the phraseology of the verses that are referred to in the question:
5:60: This is in polemic, simply addressed to those who were making fun of Islamic beliefs. The story of God transforming those with whom he is angry is a well-known motif in midrashic work: check tractate sanhedrin in the Babylonian Talmud wherein some of those who attempted to build the tower of Babel were transformed into apes. While I have not come across a mention of transformation to swine, I would hazard a guess by saying that given that with which the pig is associated in Judaism, it could have been an oral tradition known to Arab Judaism. Leviticus Rabbah 13:5 puts the pig as the example of hypocrisy: it looks kosher by outward appearance, but its actions are not kosher (it does not chew the cud). Considering the date of redaction of this document--circa 5th century--as well as the Matthew7:6 verse presented earlier, the pig image for those who disobey seem part of the general area concept rather than just Qur'anic.
On the verses in 2:65 and 7:166, the structure of the verses clearly show Jewish provenance: "And you know well those who transgressed among you on the matter of the Sabbath...: Muslims do not observe a Sabbath, and so those being addressed are clearly Jews. Next it says "you know well" showing that the Q is presupposing knowledge of a tradition known to the Jews. Also, it says "those who transgressed among you" showing not ALL transgressed...and so the verse is an indictment not of all Jews, but of those who violated the Sabbath. 7:166 elucidates the nature of the transgression: that of netting fish on a Saturday.
The Sambatyon narratives in Jewish lore add credence to the provenance that I have suggested: Jewish oral tradition. Let us not forget that the importation of Jewish lore was so well-accepted among Muslims that a specific genre of literature was coined for this "isra'iliyaat"--and only later did this literature become frowned upon. As Kister has shown, it was accepted among early exegetes. And the medieval Muslim historian, Ibn Khaldun, has stated in his Muqaddimah, that when the pre-Islamic Arabs wanted to know anything about the past, they went to the Jews. Q 21:7, seems to support this. When we see charges in the Qur'an that identifies certain Jews therefore, in many cases we have to examine Jewish sources for provenance.
All of this being said, I am aware that many Muslim preachers use the verses in a manner that is totally wrong, demonizing all Jews. And I have offended some of those preachers by pointing out that one of Muhammad's wives was Jewish--safiyyah bint Huyayy--and if Muslims are to believe the Jews are descended from apes and swine, then Muhammad was married to a descendant of such creatures. Of course this is unacceptable to Muslim sensibilities.
You asked about a faithful Muslim and what conclusion s/he is supposed to reach from these verses: your choice of wording is significant, and points the problem out. "faithful" is often seen as a substitute for "discerning"...the average faithful Muslim will follow the imam's interpretation--which is generally influenced by current anti-Jewish polemic, or by medieval exegesis which bought into demonization of Jews as an entire group. A discerning Muslim will hopefully see the verses in context the way I have.
Spencer: It was kind of Professor Khaleel Muhammad to remind us of the principles of interpretation and exegesis of sacred texts. It is indeed true that “the Qur’an has to be explained in totality rather than by isolated verses.” Unfortunately, using this standard, many influential Muslim authorities would regard his conclusions here as almost entirely erroneous.
While there may be some Muslims who view the Qur’an’s statements about Jews the same way Professor Muhammad does here, they are not at this point mounting an effective refutation of the radical interpretation, which draws on numerous traditional sources. Conversely, however, radical exegetes would have little trouble poking holes in Professor Muhammad’s analysis -- a fact with sobering consequences for Israel and the world at large.
For instance, take the renowned (and still respected and widely read) Qur’anic commentator Ibn Kathir (1301-1372). The erudite and meticulous Muslim convert and scholar Ahmad Von Denffer calls his Qur’an commentary one of the “better-known” and “more valuable books of tafsir [commentary],” and notes that it is “of greatest importance to Muslims.” On the Qur’an’s 2:47, which Professor Muhammad adduces as evidence of the Qur’an’s respect for Jews and notification of their eligibility to enter the kingdom of heaven (a term which, by the way, does not appear in the Qur’an, but only in the Christian Bible), Ibn Kathir has a decidedly different spin. He takes pains to point out that while Allah honored the Jews above other nations (cf. another of the professor’s Qur’anic verses, ) at one time, that favor has now passed to the Muslim community. “This is the only way the ayah [verse] can be understood,” Ibn Kathir tells us, “because this ummah [community] is better than theirs.”
Jews might still deserve respect in this view even if the Muslim community is better than theirs. But Ibn Kathir also invokes verse 3:110 of the Qur’an, which tells Muslims: “You are the best of people ever raised up for mankind … And had the People of the Book [Jews and Christians] believed, it would have been better for them.” In line with this, Ibn Kathir interprets the whole passage in which Sura 2:47 appears as a warning: “After Allah reminded the Children of Israel of the favors that He has granted them, He warned them about the duration of the torment which He will punish them with on the Day of Resurrection.”
Why will Allah punish them? The influential radical Muslim theorist and Qur’an commentator Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966) explains, in his own analysis of 2:47: “The preferred position granted to the Israelites was limited to the time of their mandate as custodians of God’s Message on earth. As soon as they betrayed their trust, disobeyed their prophets, denied God’s favors and abandoned their commitment to God, they incurred His wrath and reproach, and were condemned to a life of humiliation, misery and exile.” Verse 2:47 itself “was meant to remind them of that glory and privilege in order to encourage them to seize the fresh opportunity presented to them by Islam to rejoin the community of believers and renew their covenant with God.” In other words, they’ll be worthy of plenty of respect as soon as they become Muslims -- but not before.
And why not before? Take another one of Professor Muhammad’s statements: “The Qur’an refers to the Torah as a book of light (Q5:44).” True -- but the Qur’an also states that the Jews have corrupted that Torah, hence incurring Allah’s curse: “Because of their breaking the Covenant, We [Allah] have cursed them and made hard their hearts. They changed words from their places and have abandoned a good part of the Message that was sent to them.” (5:13).
Indeed, the Qur’an insists that Abraham, Moses, Noah, and other central Jewish figures were in fact Muslims, whose original Islamic message was changed by the wicked Jews referred to in 5:13. As another influential radical Muslim theologian, Syed Abul Ala Maududi, noted: “Adam and Eve invited their children to follow the Islamic way of life.” In this view, Professor Muhammad is right that the Qur’an sees two parties of Jews one, however, is that which recognized Muhammad as a prophet and became Muslim. The others were accursed heretics and renegades. And since the Jews of today don’t recognize Muhammad as a prophet, traditional Islamic theology regards them as the descendants of those heretics and renegades. They have no right to the holy land, or to respect. They are the descendants of those whom Allah called apes and swine in Suras 2:62-66, 5:59-60, and 7:166 -- for all the Jews who obeyed Allah and thus did not incur this curse have long since become Muslim.
Thus the “Muslim preachers” who, according to Professor Muhammad, “use the verses in a manner that is totally wrong, demonizing all Jews” are on firm Qur’anic ground, and they know it. It makes no difference to any of this that “one of Muhammad’s wives was Jewish,” for Safiyyah bint Huyayy became a Muslim, thus proving she was not deserving of the apes and swine appellation. Once one of her slave girls accused her of keeping the Jewish Sabbath; when questioned by the Caliph Umar (this was after Muhammad’s death), she declared: “I have not loved the Sabbath since Allah replaced it with Friday for me.”
That, to all too many Muslims, is the only kind of statement from a Jew that is worthy of respect. Professor Muhammad acknowledges that this sacred Jew-hatred is more common in Islam than his perspective, and hopes that “a discerning Muslim will hopefully see the verses in context the way I have.” I hope so too, but the good professor would make this more likely by constructing a more durable and convincing refutation of the interpretations that give rise to that hatred.
Bat Ye’or: Let me start with a preliminary comment: Professor Mohammed’s efforts at exegesis are important, and must be encouraged to promote interfaith reconciliation. They are also a testimony to the strong Judeo-Christian spirit still prevailing in America, which compels Muslim immigrants to revise some of their religious tenets teaching hostility toward the Jewish and Christian Americans among whom they chose to live. In a Europe redolent with antisemitism/antizionism, emanating, in its most violent expressions, from a large and increasingly radicalized Muslim population, such exegesis is almost useless, as the European media, encouraged by European Union policy, propagates and gives credence to Arab-Muslim Judeophobia. Thankfully, Europe’s rejection of its own Judeo-Christian roots and values has not yet occurred in the United States. The strong embrace of Biblical, Judeo-Christian values expressed openly in the U.S, by President Bush in particular, is an important cause of the hostility felt toward both America and its President by many European politicians and parties. Moreover, the obsessive European hatred of Israel is but another manifestation of this overall animus toward Judeo-Christian culture.
That having been said, there is a major flaw in Prof. Mohammed’s arguments. He constantly refers the anti-Jewish verses in the Qur’an to a Jewish source. This is an established tactic used by antisemites. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion were written by a Christian, Matthieu Golovinski, in French, but attributed to Jews. As Prof. Mohammed is clearly not an antisemite, it would be prudent for him to desist from this kind of reasoning. According to sacralized Muslim tradition, the Qur’an is a complete text, standing alone, revealed in its entirety to Muhammad by Allah within a period of two decades. And this is how Muslims read it. The critiques in the Bible formulated by some Hebrew prophets refer to specific situations and behaviors- they do not represent condemnation for eternity to hell of any whole people. There are many benedictions, and expressions of love, compassion and praise for Israel, its neighbors, and all human beings. These Biblical motifs are incorporated into the concept of the Righteous Among the Nations- an ancient, but continuous Jewish tradition alive today. For example, courageous non-Jews who saved Jewish lives during the Holocaust receive formal recognition as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, the Holocoaust museum and repository in Jerusalem, as mandated by the law of the State of Israel.
If the criticisms of the Jews were the same in the Bible and the Qur’an, Jews in Muslim lands would never have suffered persecution, often slavery, deportation, land expropriation, and massacres, resulting from the permanent, uniquely Islamic institutions of jihad and dhimmitude. Nor would they have had to wear on their clothes the image of an ape. Specifically, the 9th century Tunisian Qadi, Ahmed b. Talib compelled the dhimmi Jews to wear upon their shoulder a patch of white cloth (riqa') that bore the image of an ape, [the Christians were required to wear the image of a pig], and to nail onto their doors a board bearing the sign of a monkey. Apes are mentioned in Judaic texts, but zoomorphic signs were never imposed in the Jewish kingdoms, as was done for Jews and Christians in Islamic lands. Hence the actual implementation of such discriminatory zoomorphic badges is particular to Islam, and the reasons for this must be examined independently, and honestly, without any reference to Judaism.
Prof. Mohammed also makes a fallacious comparison of the criticisms of the Jews in the Bible, and in the Qur’an. The Bible is a collection of a wide variety of books, composed over many centuries. The Qur’an is a revelation directed to one man, a text uncreated and representive of the words of Allah, verbatim. While biblical situations and events can be contextualized in a narrative involving a great variety of events and people over the centuries, this is forbidden if the Qur’an is a verbatim revelation of God’s uncreated words. Furthermore, the Qur’an cannot be compared to the Talmud, as Prof. Mohammed does, because the Talmud is a compilation of sayings, commentaries, and legal advice given by rabbis or sages over centuries. For Muslims, the Qur’an has a unique sacred, and unassailable status that the Talmud does not have for the Jews. While it is true that the Prophet Mohammed and the first umma lived among Jews, and that the Arab Prophet was strongly influenced by his Jewish and Christian contemporaries, the anti-Jewish and anti-Christian condemnations in the Qur’an have a totally specific, permanent theological meaning. As opposed to mere transient, internal quarrels between groups, the Qur’an speaks of eternal condemnation to hell of whole peoples.
The respect expressed to Jews or to the Torah is addressed to the followers of the primal Islamic revelation, the Biblical narrative being a deviation from the true revealed faith : Islam. Muslims believe that only one Revelation was given at the beginning of time for the whole of humanity, i.e., Islam. The biblical narrative is Islamized as the Old Testament prophets, Jesus, and the apostles, all preached Islam, and their followers were Muslim. Only those Islamized personages are praised, not the Jews and Christians who follow the Bible, a book rejected as being the falsification of Islam. If Islam is the primal religion restored (and re-stated) by the Qur’an, its anti-Jewish verses must originate from this Islamic source – not from the Bible which comes later, according to Muslim beliefs.
I would like to remind Prof. Mohammed that Muslim theologians and jurists have created an Islamic civilization that conforms to Islamic tenets, not to the Bible. Jihadists today invoke the Qur’an to justify the worst terrorist crimes. Throat slitting of infidels is mentioned in the Qur’an. Al-Mawardi (d. 1058), the prominent 11th century jurist quoted this verse, specifically, « When you encounter those who deny (the Truth) then strike (their) necks. » (Qur’an 47 :4), in his learned discussion of jihad. This ritual execution is also mentioned in other Muslim legal texts and in narratives of Christian and prominent Muslim historians. Today it is performed against infidels and recorded on videotape for the edification of Muslim audiences. Rather than continually seeking Jewish paradigms to explain evil behaviors, and avoid self-criticism, Muslim reformers must have the intellectual honesty to examine their own texts. Simply stated, it is not the Bible that inspires Muslims, but their own unique sacred text, the Qur’an.
Mohammed: I will have to structure my answer in two parts, since the perspectives presented by the other panelists are so different in nature.
To Mr. Spencer's comments, I have to ask for clarification on some issues. I have lectured in several mosques, and not a single imam has been able to even argue that my conclusions, based on the exegetical approach I adopt, are erroneous. I therefore have to ask how, by using my standard, "influential Muslim authorities" to regard my conclusions as entirely erroneous.
I also have to correct: Radical exegetes would have trouble with my analysis to be sure; but they have not yet poked holes in any of my conclusions, so I fail to see how such a statement could be made with any basis of reliability. Yes, I have argued vehemently with radicals, and the conclusion has almost always been that, my approach is theoretically sound, but that I somehow don't have that love for the Arabs that I should, and that I do not respect the hadith the way I should. None of these two accusations have anything to do with proper methodology. And in fact, the masses in the many mosques have admitted that my arguments are convincing; it is the imams who do not wish me to be heard: again, not because my arguments are flawed, but rather, because they are flawless. I think you will all find it funny when, on one occasion, unable to defeat me, they created the story that I had been specially trained by the CIA!
Certainly Ibn Kathir is a well-respected exegete. But as most Muslims know, he was trained by Ibn Taimiyyah. And the thrust among many Muslims now, especially in light of the growing Muslim displeasure with conservative exegesis, and the rise of feminist scholarship within Islam, is to recognize that people like Ibn Kathir, Tabari etc were simply men of a particular time. After all, how many Muslims can read Tabari and Ibn Kathir?
The take of Ibn Kathir on Jews is ,as the Muslims would say, his personal exegesis. This does not make it the only one. And scholars such as Muhammad al Ghazzali (d. 1988), Taha Alalwani, Abdullahi Naim, Khalid Abou el Fadl, Mahmoud Ayoub and myself certainly advocate different readings. And there are many who are reading/listening to these readings...especially in view of the fact that many of us do not propound them as "new" readings, but as the original interpretations. On the issue of the Qu'ran referring to Jews and their treatment of the Torah, once again, I point out that this is not an Islamic argument only, and I cited from the Torah to show that it was a common idea.
On the issue of Sayyid Qutb--while his name may be famous, and some may read his exegesis, I must point out, and I do this as someone who has studied in the Muslim world, he was NOT recognized as an exegete, and his "In the Shade of the Qur'an" appealed to a particular readership.
On the issue of the Qur'an referring to prophets as "Muslims" I am afraid that non-Muslims do not yet understand this. Islam, as in the Qur'an, comes as a lowercase Islam, and an Upper case Islam. The lower case Hslam is that form of religion that is monotheistic and wherein all acknowledge God--seeking, as with the Hebrew cognate of shalom, to achieve wholeness. From the Qur'anic perspective then, all true prophets were Muslim. The upper case "Islam" is obviously only after Muhammad, and it would be nonsensical to argue that the Qur'an sees Moses as a Muslim to mean that Moses observed the same rituals and law that a Muslim of Muhammad's time would have done. No Muslim scholar that I know of says this.
By saying that the Qur'an speaks of different parties of Jews, I never ever stated that one group had to acknowledge Muhammad as prophet, and that this was the condition for their recognition. A proper reading of the Qur'an seems to shift to the idea that to each nation has come a prophet, and that for the Jews, there is their own shariah/halakha and they will be judged by that. The Qur'an does have a problem with those Jews who did take it upon themselves to seek to intervene and work with Muhammad's enemies. Yet, I will agree that my opinion is a miniscule minority one.
I disagree with the idea that imams who use demonizations of Jews are on Qur'anic ground. In fact, any examination of their arguments would show a reliance on oral tradition and NOT Qur'an, for the most part. I have received countless email from Muslim and non-Muslim alike on this issue and can say that many Muslims are making those imams and their views into a minority group. There is, to say, thanks to Muhammad al Ghazzali and his modern exegetical approach, there is a sort of "protestant" reading become more common among Muslims now.
On the issue of Safiyyah bint Huyayy and the slave girl report...Mr. Spencer reads it one way. Other scholars may read it differently. In the first place, there is the issue of reliability of the "hadith." The mere fact that Safiyyah was still celebrating the Sabbath is significant. Incidentally, Safiyyah is still referred to as "Safiyyah al Yahudiyya" --Safiyyah the Jew, and this is also significant.
My refutations of traditional approaches are being taken and studied: I offer the text. Muslims can and will read the text. But how can Muslims be expected to come to reading with any objectivity when they perceive this grand scheme by non-Muslims to demonize them and their holy book? As I pointed out, Jesus uses pig imagery in the Christian testament. But that is not even being mentioned today. The Torah itself speaks disparagingly of many Jews--but this is made to seem as if it is a Qur’anic trait only. And lastly, it is being presented to Muslims that the Qur'an's accusations of certain Jews for certain actions are all false, and that the Jews were all innocent. This simply stands in the way of honest scholarship and understanding. The problem for the Western audiences is wherein western writers take verses from the Qur'an, style themselves as experts, and then go about with wrong interpretations. For obvious reasons, many Muslims do not read these books, and therefore do not refute.
On Bat Ye'or's strong statements identifying the US culture as "Judeo-Christian", I take issue. This business about "Judeo-Christian" is a new one--until recently Jews were seen as Orientals. The guilt that the Western world feels for its complicity in the Shoah is hidden by this term, fooling us that the values of western civilization were based on "Judeo-Christian" morals.
It was stated that there is a "flaw" in my arguments in that I attributed ideas in the Qur'an to Judaic sources. I fail to see how once could conclude that the anti-Semitic ploy of the protocols can be paralleled by my statements which I accompanied with proof. And I find it rather strange that the works of Abraham Geiger (What Muhammad took from the Jews) or Torrey's "The Jewish Foundations of Islam" seem to be of little value now. This has been a long established theory, propounded not only by the names I just mentioned, but by Goitein, Lazarus-Yafeh, Kister and several others. So, I am afraid that there is no flaw in my argument.
No doubt the Torah has benefictions etc. But we all know that Judaism does not rely on the written Torah alone. It also relies on the Oral tradition. And that there are verses of war and hate in the Torah as well. The actions of Joshua as all know, would qualify today as war crimes. The Oral traditions speak of the Ishaelites in really harsh terms, about them being the possessors of 9/10 of the world's stupidity, and 9/10 of the world's whoredom. I do not consider it academic when we will only focus on the Muslim hate writings, and conveniently forget that they have their counterpart in Jewish writings as well. Yes, one hears of courageous non-Jews who saved Jews during the Shoah. But one does not hear of Muslims who also acted with honor. One is made almost to forget that letters exist wherein Jews who were in the Ottoman state were calling other Jews to go there. One forgets that Turkey itself has long been a state wherein Jews found hospitality. One forgets that, while I disagree with the normative Muslim idea of an Andalusian "golden age", that Jews were nonetheless, far better treated under Muslims than they were ANYWHERE else. To forget these truths is to seek to rewrite history and to produce, as Amos Funkenstein called it, a "counter-history" wherein the perceived opponent is demonized. This is precisely what Muslims see happening today, and which, I must say, has a lot of truth in it.
I find the idea of how Jewish governments acted as being bad academic approaches to history. The Jewish kingdoms spoken of in the Bible are there for a reason, not often historical. To equate not-always verifiable biblical presentations of how Jews acted (actually the Bible does not document the treatment in detail of the non-Jew, but it does speak in harsh terms of what was done with those who opposed the Hebrews--and certainly the Qur’an, with all its statement of war, does not even approach the Biblical gore) with the verifiable actions of the later Muslims is wrong. After all, many Muslims heap opprobrium on those who acted thus stating that they were against the teachings of the Qur'an.
Bat' Ye'or while seeking to contextualize the Bible, wants to force me and Muslims to accepting one approach to the Qur’an. Any school of Islamic studies would prove her wrong--that there are several approaches, and that over the last century, the once normative traditional position has shifted to acknowledgement about time and place context. This, I may point out, is the same with the Bible.
Since I once again repeat that I am trained in an Islamic university, and now add in the west as well, I wonder by what authority Bat Ye'or speaks when she seeks to tell me about which Jews the Qur'an speaks? There is no basis for her contention that the Jews addressed are those of the original revelations...This is a view of some exegetes, and actually made popular by Mawdudi--who by his own account, was not well-trained in Islamic sciences.
I would suggest that Bat Ye'or take a course in Qur'anic exegesis and how to read the document before her Islamophobic issuances that the Qur'an demonizes entire peoples. At the very beginning I stated the issue of a thematic reading. Such a reading cannot support her views. I use the harsh term "Islamophobic" while acknowledging her gracious eschewal of accusing me of anti-Semitism for the simple fact that I find certain conclusions to be indeed hateful. To say that the legal constructs of the medieval exegetes conforms to Islamic tenets is to say that which has been disproved by many. The mere fact that there was so much argument among Jurists prove the point, and one has to distinguish between political Islam and the Islam of practice. Let us not forget too that the Muslims and Christians had historically powerful states, unlike the Jews, whose accounts are from the Bible and oral tradition. Muslims and Christians therefore had to deal with historically traceable problems, while we have no similar tracing to Jewish history of the Jewish states.
I find it difficult to have honestly when one takes Mawardi to explain throat slitting, and states the Muslims use the Qur’an and not the bible for their actions. Since we are taking the actions of a few to accuse many, then let us explore further. The stoning of the adulterer comes not from the Qur'an but from the Bible. The killing of the rapist does not come from the Qur'an (not that I disagree with it) but from the obvious source. Let us not commit historical infidelity and attribute violence to the Muslims only. Holy War started in the Bible, and Augustine know of Just War. The Qur'an knows of defensive war. That Muslims have taken this out of context, I do not deny. But I find it unfathomable to think that we can deny war exists in its most horrible from in antecedent Abrahamic scripture. And I don't think we have forgotten that it was biblical terminology that was used to dehumanize the natives of many civilizations around the world--the Africans and native Americans being likened to canaanites and moabites.
There is not a single verse in the Qur'an speaking of killing each man woman and child in a nation. I do not wish to focus on that which is negative in the Bible...but I find it difficult to do otherwise when a forum that assumes a proper approach is filled with accusations against the Qur'an. If we wish to explore scripture for verses of war, hate, genocide, I am prepared to do so, although I don't see how that would benefit except to refute agendum that seems afoot in Bat Ye'or's presentation.
And while we may state that the Talmud is the views of rabbis etc, there are many Jews who see the Talmud as being an essential element of Judaism. Many Muslims do NOT see the hadith as being an essential part of Islam...and we have strong movements against hadith im Malaysia etc. Let us not select one sect of Judaism and then make blanket statements as if that sectarian view is representative of all Judaism.
While Bat Ye'or may coin phrases like "dhimmitude" and furnish information that suggests somehow that Muslims were slaughtering Christians and Jews, I wonder why she does not speak of what many Muslim apologists aver: that while the Christians were slaying Jews and Muslims, the Jews did seek and find succor in Muslim countries. And the Byzantine treatment of Jews was certainly nowhere near the relative harmony of the Muslims. And Muslims are not the ones sending missionaries to Islamize the world.
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