Religion & Beliefs

Understanding the Islam in Islamic Antisemitism

Recently Jewcy posted a short opinion piece "On Islamic Antisemitism" which consisted almost entirely of extracts from brief, superficial works on the subject by Bernard Lewis, Daniel Pipes, Robert Wistrich, and Efraim Karsh–none of whom, despite their other areas of … Read More

By / November 17, 2008

Recently Jewcy posted a short opinion piece "On Islamic Antisemitism" which consisted almost entirely of extracts from brief, superficial works on the subject by Bernard Lewis, Daniel Pipes, Robert Wistrich, and Efraim Karsh–none of whom, despite their other areas of expertise, have ever studied Islamic Antisemitism in a serious, comprehensive manner. The glib conceptions of these authors–which are simply affirmed without ever giving any substantive proofs (perhaps because the relevant doctrinal and historical data provides negative proofs), and repeated verbatim and uncritically in the posting by Michael Ezra–remind me, as a clinical investigator in medicine, of a scene from Woody Allen’s film "Sleeper."

In the film Allen portrays Miles Monroe, owner of a health food store in Greenwich Village who is cryogenically frozen, and awakens 200 years in the future. An authoritative, all-knowing doctor who claims to be possessed of "…what we now know to be true," tells Miles, offering him a cigarette, "Here, smoke this. And be sure you get the smoke deep down into your lungs." To which Miles replies: "I don’t smoke." The Doctor then declares: "It’s tobacco! It’s one of the healthiest things for your body!"

There are incontrovertible and overwhelming hard data-pathological and epidemiological-which demonstrate a major causative role for smoking in both the predominant form of lung cancer (i.e., adenocarcinoma), and premature coronary heart disease. Smoking is to these diseases as the Islam in Islamic Antisemitism is to this scourge of Jew-hatred, past and present. It is as destructive to our social and moral health to deny this reality, as it is to human public health disease prevention efforts to deny the causative link between cigarette smoking and adenocarcinoma of the lung, or premature coronary heart disease.

What is the basis for my claim? Contra the shallow contemporary works quoted by Michael Ezra, serious scholars of Islamic Antisemitism — S.D. Goitein, Hartwig Hirschfeld, Georges Vajda, and Haggai Ben-Shammai — have demonstrated all of the following: clear historical evidence of specific Islamic antisemitism, from the Geniza record of the high Middle Ages (including the coinage of a unique Hebrew word to characterize such Muslim Jew hatred, i.e., sin’?th), published in full by Goitein as of 1971; the content of foundational Muslim sources detailing the sacralized rationale for Islam’s anti-Jewish bigotry, including Hartwig Hirschfeld’s mid 1880s essay series on Muhammad’s subjugation of the Jews of Medina, based upon the earliest pious Muslim biographies of Muhammad; George Vajda’s elegant, comprehensive 1937 analysis focusing primarily on the hadith (the putative words and deeds of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, as recorded by pious transmitters); and much more recently, Haggai Ben-Shammai’s concise 1988 study of key examples of Jew-hatred in the Koran and Koranic exegesis.

My 3-part presentation will introduce evidence compiled from the seminal works of these scholars, Islam’s foundational texts, and historical eyewitness accounts-adduced to considerably greater extent in The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism — which elucidate how the living legacy of Islam’s primal anti-Jewish animus, i.e., specific Antisemitic motifs in Islamic theology, including Islamic eschatology, the uniquely Islamic institution of jihad war, and its corollary institution, dhimmitude — operate in tandem with regard to the annihilationist Muslim Jew-hatred directed at the Jews of Israel, in particular.

Part 1: From Jihad to Dhimmitude

In April 1948, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Sheikh Muhammad Mahawif, issued a fatwa declaring jihad in Palestine obligatory for all Muslims. The Jews, he maintained, intended "to take over … all the lands of Islam.." Eight years later, at the height of so-called secular Arab nationalism, a fatwa written January 5, 1956 by then Grand Mufti of Egypt, Sheikh Hasan Ma’moun, and signed by the leading members of the Fatwa Committee of Al Azhar, and the major representatives of all four Sunni Islamic schools of jurisprudence, elaborated the following key initial point: that all of historical Palestine having been conquered by jihad, was a permanent possession of the global Muslim umma (community), "fay territory" [booty], to be governed by Islamic Law. Furthermore, quoting directly from the text, we the see the conjoined motivations of jihad and conspiratorial Islamic Jew hatred:

Muslims cannot conclude peace with those Jews who have usurped the territory of Palestine and attacked its people and their property in any manner which allows the Jews to continue as a state in that sacred Muslim territory.

[as] Jews have taken a part of Palestine and there established their non-Islamic government and have also evacuated from that part most of its Muslim inhabitants… Jihad… to restore the country to its people.. is the duty of all Muslims, not just those who can undertake it. And since all Islamic countries constitute the abode of every Muslim, the Jihad is imperative for both the Muslims inhabiting the territory attacked, and Muslims everywhere else because even though some sections have not been attacked directly, the attack nevertheless took place on a part of the Muslim territory which is a legitimate residence for any Muslim.

Everyone knows that from the early days of Islam to the present day the Jews have been plotting against Islam and Muslims and the Islamic homeland. They do not propose to be content with the attack they made on Palestine and Al Aqsa Mosque, but they plan for the possession of all Islamic territories from the Nile to the Euphrates.

On Friday May 16, 2008 Osama Bin Laden’s latest reputed audio message proclaimed, the "Jihad [holy war]" which he emphasized "is a duty to free Palestine…is the most important issue for the Islamic nation," and he urged "iron and fire" to end Israel’s self-defensive blockade of Gaza.

Earlier remarks of Hamas MP and cleric Yunis Al-Astal, which aired on Palestinian Al-Aqsa TV April 11, 2008 provide complementary, and even more revealing context:

Very soon, Allah willing, Rome will be conquered, just like Constantinople was, as was prophesized by our prophet Muhammad. Today, Rome is the capital of the Catholics, or the Crusader capital, which has declared its hostility to Islam, and has planted the brothers of apes and pigs [i.e., Jews, Koran 2:65, 5:60, and 7:166, and other foundational Muslim texts] in Palestine in order to prevent the reawakening of Islam – this capital of theirs [Rome] will be an advanced post for the Islamic conquests, which will spread through Europe in its entirety, and then will turn to the two Americas, and even Eastern Europe. I believe that our children or our grandchildren will inherit our Jihad…

These words debunk widely accepted tropes that Hamas is merely a nationalist movement, albeit religious, desiring a "Palestinian homeland" in the territories of Gaza (which it already possesses), Judea, and Samaria. Hamas’ blatantly annihilationist rhetoric towards Jews and Israel within the 1949 armistice borders, indicates that the jihadist organization wishes to replace Israel. Why then, in addition to the monotonous rhetoric of Jew hatred (which is Islamic, and specifically Koranic, in origin), the unabashed expression of Hamas’ will to wage global jihad?

Apparently even the still apposite lessons from America’s own first encounter with jihadism have failed to resonate in the current era. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, then serving as American ambassadors to France and Britain, respectively, met in 1786 in London with the Tripolitan [modern Libya] Ambassador to Britain, Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja. These future American presidents were attempting to negotiate a peace treaty which would spare the United States the ravages of jihad piracy-murder, enslavement (with ransoming for redemption), and expropriation of valuable commercial assets-emanating from the Barbary states (modern Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya). During their discussions, they questioned Ambassador Adja as to the source of the unprovoked animus directed at the nascent United States republic. Jefferson and Adams, in their subsequent report to the Continental Congress, recorded the Tripolitan Ambassador’s justification:

… that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman [Muslim] who should be slain in Battle was sure to go to Paradise.

Thus an aggressive jihad was already being waged against the United States almost 200 years prior to America becoming a dominant international power in the Middle East. Moreover, these jihad depredations targeting America antedated the earliest vestiges of the Zionist movement by a century, and the formal creation of Israel by 162 years-exploding the ahistorical canard that American support for the modern Jewish state is a prerequisite for jihadist attacks on the United States.

It is also worth noting these contemporaneous, early 19th century observations by William Shaler, American Consul General in Algiers (1816-1828), on the plight of the North African Jews of Algiers under the Islamic system of dhimmitude, influenced further by Islam’s own innate Antisemitism-prior to French colonization, and more than a century before the advent of Nazism:

Independent of the legal disabilities of the Jews, they are in Algiers a most oppressed people; they are not permitted to resist any personal violence of whatever nature, from a Mussulman; they are compelled to wear clothing of a black or dark color; they cannot ride on horseback, or wear arms of any sort, not even a cane; they are permitted only on Saturdays and Wednesdays to pass out of the gates of the city without permission; and on any unexpected call for hard labor, the Jews are turned out to execute it. In the summer of 1815, this country was visited by incredible swarms of locusts, which destroyed every green thing before them; …several hundred Jews were ordered out to protect the Bashaw’s [local ruler's] gardens, where they were obliged to watch and toil day and night, as long as these insects continued to infest the country.

Shaler goes on to cite, in addition, violent outbreaks during which,

…the Jews have been indiscriminately plundered, and they lived in the perpetual fear of a renewal of such scenes; they are pelted in the streets even by children, and in short, the whole course of their existence here, is a state of the most abject oppression and contumely. The children of Jacob bear these indignities with wonderful patience; they learn submission from infancy, and practice it throughout their lives, without ever daring to murmur at their hard lot.

There is just one historically relevant meaning of jihad despite contemporary apologetics. The root of the word Jihad, appears 40 times in the Koran and in subsequent Islamic understanding to both Muslim luminaries-from the greatest jurists and scholars of classical Islam (including Abu Yusuf, Averroes, Ibn Khaldun, and Al Ghazzali), to ordinary people-meant and means "he fought, warred or waged war against unbelievers and the like." As described by the seminal Arabic lexicographer E.W Lane, "Jihad came to be used by the Muslims to signify wag[ing] war, against unbelievers." A contemporary definition was provided at the Fourth International Conference of the Academy of Islamic Research at Al Azhar, Cairo, in 1968 by Muhammad al-Sobki:

…the words Al Jihad, Al Mojahadah, or even "striving against enemies" are equivalents and they do not mean especially fighting with the atheists…they mean fighting in the general sense…

Muhammad himself waged a series of proto-jihad campaigns to subdue the Jews, Christians and pagans of Arabia. Numerous modern day pronouncements by leading Muslim theologians confirm (see Yusuf Al-Qaradawi’s, "The Prophet Muhammad as a Jihad Model") that Muhammad has been the major inspiration for jihadism, past and present.

Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406), jurist, renowned philosopher, historian, and sociologist, summarized these consensus opinions from five centuries of prior Muslim jurisprudence with regard to the uniquely Islamic institution of jihad:

In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the [Muslim] mission and [the obligation to] convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force… The other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the holy war was not a religious duty for them, save only for purposes of defense… Islam is under obligation to gain power over other nations.

Classical Islamic jurists such as Ibn Khaldun also formulated the concepts Dar al Islam and Dar al Harb (Arabic for, "The House of Islam and the House of War"). As described by the great 20th century scholar of Islamic Law, Joseph Schacht,

A non-Muslim who is not protected by a treaty is called harbi, ‘in a state of war’, ‘enemy alien'; his life and property are completely unprotected by law…

Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, "spiritual" leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, head of the "European Council for Fatwa and Research", and popular Al-Jazeera television personality, reiterated almost this exact formulation of Dar al Harb during July 2003, both in conceptual terms, and with regard to Israel, specifically. And these innocent non-combatant "harbis" can be killed, and have always been killed, with impunity simply by virtue of being "harbis" during endless razzias (raids) and or full scale jihad campaigns that have occurred continuously since the time of Muhammad, through the present. This is the crux of the specific institutionalized religio-political ideology, i.e., jihad, which makes Islamdom’s borders (and the further reaches of todays jihadists) bloody, to paraphrase Samuel Huntington, across the globe.

The essential pattern of the jihad war is captured in the classical Muslim historian al-Tabari’ s recording of the recommendation given by Umar b. al-Khattab (the second "Rightly Guided Caliph") to the commander of the troops he sent to al-Basrah (636 C.E.), during the conquest of Iraq. Umar reportedly said:

Summon the people to God; those who respond to your call, accept it from them, but those who refuse must pay the poll tax out of humiliation and lowliness. (Koran 9:29) If they refuse this, it is the sword without leniency.

By the time of al-Tabari’s death in 923, jihad wars had expanded the Muslim empire from Portugal to the Indian subcontinent. Subsequent Muslim conquests continued in Asia, as well as Eastern Europe. Under the banner of jihad, the Christian kingdoms of Armenia, Byzantium, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia, and Albania, in addition to parts of Poland and Hungary, were also conquered and Islamized by waves of Seljuk, or later Ottoman Turks, as well as Tatars. Arab Muslim invaders engaged, additionally, in continuous jihad raids that ravaged and enslaved Sub-Saharan African animist populations, extending to the southern Sudan. When the Ottoman Muslim armies were stopped at the gates of Vienna in 1683, over a millennium of jihad had transpired. These tremendous military successes spawned a triumphalist jihad literature. Muslim historians recorded in detail the number of infidels slaughtered, or enslaved and deported, the cities, villages, and infidel religious sites which were sacked and pillaged, and the lands, treasure, and movable goods seized.

And this classical formulation of jihad is very much a living doctrine today. For example, one can read the openly espoused views, and sound Islamic arguments which conclude the contemporary work "Islam and Modernism," written by a respected modern Muslim scholar Justice Muhammad Taqi Usmani. Mr Usmani, aged 65, sat for 20 years as a Shari’a judge in Pakistan’s Supreme Court (His father was the Grand Mufti of Pakistan, and one of the most important 20th century Koranic commentators, Maulana Mufti Muhammad Shafi). Currently Usmani is deputy of the Islamic Fiqh (Jurisprudence) Council of the Organization of the Islamic Conference — the major international body of Islamic nations in the world — and serves as an adviser to several global Sharia-based Islamic financial institutions. Thus he is a leading contemporary figure in the world of mainstream Islamic jurisprudence. Mr. Usmani is also a regular visitor to Britain. During a recent visit there, he was interviewed by the Times of London, which published extracts from Usmani’s writings on jihad, Saturday, September 8, 2007. The concluding chapter of Usmani’s "Islam and Modernism" rebuts those who believe that only defensive jihad (i.e., fighting to defend a Muslim land deemed under attack or occupation) is permissible in Islam. He also refutes the suggestion that jihad is unlawful against a non-Muslim state that freely permits the preaching of Islam (which, not surprisingly, was of some concern to The Times!).

For Mr Usmani, "the question is whether aggressive battle is by itself commendable or not." "If it is, why should the Muslims stop simply because territorial expansion in these days is regarded as bad? And if it is not commendable, but deplorable, why did Islam not stop it in the past?" He answers his own question as follows: "Even in those days . . . aggressive jihads were waged . . . because it was truly commendable for establishing the grandeur of the religion of Allah." Usmani argues that Muslims should live peacefully in countries such as Britain, where they have the freedom to practice Islam, only until they gain enough power to engage in battle. Usmani explodes the myths that the creed of offensive, expansionist jihad represents a distortion of traditional Islamic thinking, or that this living institution is somehow irrelevant to our era.

And what was the nature of the system of governance imposed upon those indigenous non-Muslims conquered by jihad? In his seminal The Laws of Islamic Governance al-Mawardi (d. 1058), a renowned jurist of Baghdad, examined the regulations pertaining to the lands and infidel populations subjugated by jihad. This is the origin of the system of dhimmitude. The native infidel "dhimmi" (which derives from both the word for "pact", and also "guilt"-guilty of religious errors) population had to recognize Islamic ownership of their land, submit to Islamic law, and accept payment of the Koranic poll tax (jizya)-the tax paid in lieu of being slain-based on Koran 9:29. Al- Mawardi notes that "The enemy makes a payment in return for peace and reconciliation… Reconciliation and security last as long as the pavment is made. If the pavment ceases, then the jihad resumes." A treaty of reconciliation may be renewable, but must not exceed 10 years. This same basic formulation was reiterated during a January 8, 1998 interview by Yusuf al-Qaradawi confirming how jihad continues to regulate the relations between Muslims and non-Muslims to this day.

The "contract of the jizya", or "dhimma" encompassed other obligatory and recommended obligations for the conquered non-Muslim "dhimmi" peoples. Collectively, these "obligations" formed the discriminatory system of dhimmitude imposed upon non-Muslims-Jews, Christians, [as well as Zoroastrians, Hindus, and Buddhists]-subjugated by jihad. Some of the more salient features of dhimmitude include: the prohibition of arms for the vanquished dhimmis, and of church bells; restrictions concerning the building and restoration of churches, synagogues, and temples; inequality between Muslims and non-Muslims with regard to taxes and penal law; the refusal of dhimmi testimony by Muslim courts; a requirement that Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslims, including Zoroastrians and Hindus, wear special clothes; and the overall humiliation and abasement of non-Muslims It is important to note that these regulations and attitudes were institutionalized as permanent features of the sacred Islamic law, or Shari’ a. The writings of the much lionized Sufi theologian and jurist al-Ghazali (d. 1111) highlight how the institution of dhimmitude was simply a normative, and prominent feature of the Shari’a:

…the dhimmi is obliged not to mention Allah or His Apostle.. .Jews, Christians, and Majians must pay the jizya [poll tax on non-Muslims]…on offering up the jizya, the dhimmi must hang his head while the official takes hold of his beard and hits [the dhimmi] on the protruberant bone beneath his ear [i.e., the mandible]… They are not permitted to ostentatiously display their wine or church bells…their houses may not be higher than the Muslim’s, no matter how low that is. The dhimmi may not ride an elegant horse or mule; he may ride a donkey only if the saddle-work is of wood. He may not walk on the good part of the road. They [the dhimmis] have to wear [an identifying] patch [on their clothing], even women, and even in the [public] baths…[dhimmis] must hold their tongue.

The practical consequences of such a discriminatory system were summarized in A.S. Tritton’s 1930 The Caliphs and their Non-Muslim Subjects, a pioneering treatise on the status of the dhimmis:

…[C]aliphs destroyed churches to obtain materials for their buildings, and the mob was always ready to pillage churches and monasteries…dhimmis…always lived on sufferance, exposed to the caprices of the ruler and the passions of the mob…in later times..[t]hey were much more liable to suffer from the violence of the crowd, and the popular fanaticism was accompanied by an increasing strictness among the educated. The spiritual isolation of Islam was accomplished. The world was divided into two classes, Muslims and others, and only Islam counted…Indeed the general feeling was that the leavings of the Muslims were good enough for the dhimmis.

It is within this overall historical context that one must view contemporary Muslim pronouncements regarding the status of non-Muslims-under past, present, and future Islamic rule.

For example, during a Friday sermon broadcasted live on June 6, 2001 on PA TV, from the Sheik ‘Ijlin Mosque in Gaza, Palestinian Authority employee Sheik Muhammad Ibrahim Al-Madhi reiterated these sentiments with regard to Jews:

We welcome, as we did in the past, any Jew who wants to live in this land as a Dhimmi, just as the Jews have lived in our countries, as Dhimmis, and have earned appreciation, and some of them have even reached the positions of counselor or minister here and there. We welcome the Jews to live as Dhimmis, but the rule in this land and in all the Muslim countries must be the rule of Allah.

Five years ago (i.e., in 2003, prior to Hamas’ electoral victory in 2006), during a briefing for a visiting United States congressional delegation, then Vatican representative to Israel, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, informed US lawmakers that the Palestinian Authority’s new approved state constitution, funded by the US Agency for International Development, provided no juridical status for any religion other than Islam in the emerging Palestinian Arab entity. The Papal Nuncio warned, in addition, that the Palestinian Authority (PA) had adopted Shari’a as the overarching guiding principle of their legal code, thus mandating the absolute supremacy of Muslims over non-Muslims as a matter of law. Archbishop Sambi also initiated a study of the new PA textbooks, which the Vatican deemed to be brazenly Antisemitic.

But how are the jihad and its corollary institution, dhimmitude conjoined to Islamic Antisemitism?

These phenomena will be examined, beginning in Part 2.

[Note: Andrew Bostom's next installment will be published Tuesday.]