The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: An Interview with Andrew G. Bostom

Islam must undergo reforms, and that process must begin immediately.

By Uzay Bulut, EUROPEAN CONSERVATIVE.   31 March 2024

Photo by Tarisco / Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0 Deed

Since the invasion of Israel by Hamas terrorists on October 7 and the massacre of around 1,200 people there, antisemitic, pro-Hamas marches have swept both majority-Muslim countries and Western nations.

In London, antisemitic hate crimes are up 1,350% according to police, and pro-Hamas protestors chanted, “Oh Jews, the army of Muhammad is coming.” In the Tunisian city of Al Hammah, hundreds of people were filmed setting fire to a synagogue. In Russia’s Muslim Dagestan region, hundreds of people stormed into the main airport and onto the landing field, chanting antisemitic slogans and seeking passengers arriving on a flight from Israel. In California, a Jewish dentist was killed, and two others injured in a shooting by a Muslim. In Chicago, a Jewish man was attacked by anti-Israel protesters at an October 7 documentary screening in the Logan Square. In Paris, a Jewish man was attacked outside a synagogue; and another was stabbed in Zurich.

In the Middle East, North Africa, and the Gulf Region, this genocidal hatred has resulted in the ethnic cleansing of Jews. Over 850,000 Jews were forced to leave their homes in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Morocco, and several other Arab countries in the 20 years following the re-establishment of Israel in 1948. Another major exodus of Jews took place from Iran in 1979-80, following the Islamic revolution. Jews had resided in those lands for over 2,500 years. The rising Muslim population in the West has imported the same—and exceedingly violent—Jew-hatred into Western nations. Antisemitic attacks and threats abound since Hamas ignited the war in Gaza by massacring and raping Israelis on October 7. To learn about the theological and historical roots of Muslim antisemitism, I interviewed a prominent specialist and researcher on Islam, its history and theology.

Dr. Andrew G. Bostom is a leading expert on the history and scriptures of Islam. He is the author of Sharia versus Freedom: The Legacy of Islamic Totalitarianism and the editor of both The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims and The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History. He has also published articles and commentary on Islam in The Washington TimesNational Review OnlineRevue PolitiqueFrontPageMagazineAmerican Thinker, and other print and online publications. More on Bostom’s work can be found at www.andrewbostom.org/blog/.

What motivated you to write The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism?

Two specific discoveries motivated my research culminating in The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism.

First, since the end of the 12th century, Al Azhar University (and its mosque) have represented the apogee of Islamic religious education, which evolved into the de facto Vatican of Sunni Islam. Egyptian Sheikh Muhammad Al-Gameia, the Al-Azhar University representative in the U.S., and imam of the Islamic Cultural Center and Mosque of New York City at the time of the September 11, 2001, attacks, provided a very concrete and disturbing example of the authoritative Al-Azhar Islamic mindset exported to America. Within three days of the 9/11 jihad carnage, al-Gameia, who according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was “known for his moderate views,” sermonized, as the Tampa Bay Times reported, “calling for peace, healing, and love among people of all religions.” The good Sheikh struck an entirely different chord when he was interviewed for an Al-Azhar University website on October 4, 2001. Gameia returned to Egypt after September 11, 2001, alleging, without any substantiation, that he was being “harassed.” Gameia’s interview (original Arabic; extracts translated here) was rife with conspiratorial Islamic antisemitism, which riffed upon his invocation of what I would later come to understand are the central Quranic motifs of Jew-hatred, while equating Jews and Zionists. Al-Azhar’s representative to the U.S. melded this sacralized anti-Jewish bigotry to virulent calumnies against Americans and threats to the U.S.—whom he imagined as witless “dupes” of the Zionist Jews.

Second, in early 2005, when I was nearing completion of my initial book compendium, The Legacy of Jihad (specifically the section about jihad on the Indian subcontinent), I came across a remarkable comment by the Indian Sufi theologian Sirhindi (d. 1624). Typical of the mainstream Indian Muslim clerics of his era, Sirhindi was viscerally opposed to the reforms which characterized the latter ecumenical phase of Akbar’s 16th century reign (when Akbar became almost a Muslim-Hindu syncretist), particularly the abolition of the humiliating jizya (Quranic poll tax, as per Quran 9:29) upon the subjugated infidel Hindus. Sirhindi wrote, motivated by Akbar’s pro-Hindu reforms, that, “Whenever a Jew is killed, it is for the benefit of Islam.”

The biographical information I could glean about Sirhindi provided, no evidence he was ever in direct contact with Jews, so his very hateful remark suggested to me that the attitudes it reflected must have a theological basis in Islam—contra the prevailing, widely accepted ‘wisdom’ that Islam, unlike Christianity, was devoid of such theological antisemitism. This stunning observation, as well as my earlier discovery of Sheikh Gameia’s antisemitic fulminations, inspired me to better understand Islamic antisemitism, and its potential religious rootedness in Islam’s theology.

Can you briefly describe the Islamic theological roots of Jew-hatred? How do the Quran and traditions of Muhammad [hadith] refer to Jews? Why is antisemitism so widespread within Muslim societies?

Although the Quran’s basic organizing principle across 114 chapters, is simply longer duration chapters to shorter duration chapters, absent any chronological, orienting narrative, the terse fatiha, chapter 1, is a glaring exception to this order. Moreover, pious Muslims repeat the fatiha a total of 17 times daily during their requisite five prayers sessions.

Muslims are directed on their appropriate, righteous path as set forth in the fatiha’s initial six verses, but they are cautioned, at concluding verse 7, to follow “the path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor [Islam], not of those who have evoked [Your] anger or of those who are astray.”

Islam’s prophet Muhammad, in a canonical tradition (or hadith), clarified that it is the Jews who evoked Allah’s anger and the Christians who went astray. This clarifying interpretation is reinforced with rare exceptions by over 13 centuries of authoritative classical and modern Quranic commentaries which have glossed verse 1:7.

The Qur’an: An Encyclopedia is a modern compendium of analyses written by 43 Muslim and non-Muslim mainstream academic experts, edited by Oliver Leaman, and published by Routledge. These excerpts from p. 614 serve as a “summary verdict” on how Muslims and non-Muslims, both, are to understand the Fatiha’s last verse:

The Prophet [Muhammad] interpreted those who incurred God’s wrath as the Jews and the misguided as the Christians. The Jews, we are told killed many of their prophets  and through their character and materialistic tendencies [usurious 2:2754:161; greedy/hedonistic 2:96; envious 2:109; hard-hearted 2:74; liars 2:78] have contributed much to moral corruption, social upheaval and sedition in the world [Koran 5:32335:64] … [T]hey were readily misled and incurred both God’s wrath and ignominy [2:612:903:112]. As for the Christians … over time they succumbed to the influence of those who had already deviated from the chosen path.

As alluded to by the most authoritative glosses on Quran 1:7, the Quran’s overall discussion of the Jews is marked by a litany of their sins and punishments, as if part of a divine indictment, conviction, and punishment process. The Jews wronged themselves (16:118) by losing faith (7:168) and breaking their covenant (5:13). The Jews (echoing an ante-Nicaean, Marcionite polemic) are a nation that has passed away (2:134; repeated in 2:141). Twice Allah sent his instruments (the Assyrians/or Babylonians, and Romans) to punish this perverse people (17:4-5)—their dispersal over the earth is proof of Allah’s rejection (7:168). The Jews are further warned about both their arrogant claim that they remain Allah’s chosen people (62:6), and continued disobedience and “corruption” (5:32-33; 5:64) Other sins, some repeated, are enumerated: abuse, even killing of prophets (4:155; 2:91), including Isa (Jesus) (3:55; 4:157), is a consistent theme. The Jews ridiculed Muhammad as Ra’ina (the evil one, in 2:104; 4:46), and they are also accused of lack of faith, taking words out of context, disobedience, and distortion (4:46). Precious few of them are believers (also 4:46). These “perverse” creatures also claim that Ezra is the messiah and they worship rabbis who defraud men of their possessions (9:30).

Additional sins are described: the Jews are typified as an “envious” people (2:109), whose hearts are as hardened as rocks (2:74). They are further accused of confounding the truth (2:42), deliberately perverting scripture (2:75), and being liars (2:78). Ill-informed people of little faith (2:89), they pursue vague and wishful fancies (2:111). Other sins have contributed to their being stamped (see 2:61/ 3:112) with “wretchedness/abasement and humiliation,” including usury (2:275), sorcery (2:102), hedonism (2:96), and idol worship (2:53). More (and repeat) sins, are described: the Jews’ idol worship is again mentioned (4:51), then linked and followed by charges of other (often repeat) iniquities-the “tremendous calumny” against Mary (4:156), as well as usury and cheating (4:161). Most Jews are accused of being “evil-livers” / ”transgressors” / ”ungodly” (3:110), who, deceived by their own lies (3:24), try to turn Muslims from Islam (3:99). Jews are blind and deaf to the truth (5:71), and what they have not forgotten they have perverted. They mislead (3:69), confound the truth (3:71), twist tongues (3:79), and cheat Gentiles without remorse (3:75). Muslims are advised not to take the Jews as friends (5:51), and to beware of the inveterate hatred that Jews bear towards them (5:82). The Jews’ ultimate sin and punishment are made clear: they are the devil’s minions (4:60) cursed by Allah, their faces will be obliterated (4:47) if they do not accept the true faith of Islam. The Jews who understand their faith become Muslims (3:113). They will be made into apes (2:65/ 7:166), or apes and swine (5:60), and burn in the Hell fires (4:55, 5:29, 98:6, and 58:14-19).

In a brilliant 1937 essay entitled “Juifs et Musulmans selon le ?ad?t” (which I translated into English and included in The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism), Rabbi Georges Vajda demonstrated that stubborn malevolence is the Jews defining worldly characteristic according to the traditions of Muhammad and the earliest Muslims. Per the hadith, rejecting Muhammad and refusing to convert to Islam out of jealousy, envy and even selfish personal interest, lead Jews to acts of treachery, in keeping with their inveterate nature: “… sorcery, poisoning (including poisoning of Muhammad himself, by a Jewish conspiracy) assassination held no scruples for them.” These archetypes sanction Muslim hatred towards the Jews, and the admonition to at best, “subject [the Jews] to Muslim domination,” as dhimmis, treated “with contempt,” under certain “humiliating arrangements.” Vajda’s research on the hadith further illustrates how Sunni Muslim eschatology emphasizes the Jews supreme hostility toward Islam. Jews are described as adherents of the Dajjâl—the Muslim equivalent of the Antichrist—and, per other traditions, the Dajjâl is in fact Jewish. When the Dajjâl is defeated, his Jewish companions will be slaughtered—everything will deliver them up except for the so-called gharkad tree. Thus, according to several canonical hadith, Muhammad himself reportedly declared if a Jew seeks refuge under a tree or a stone, these objects will be able to speak to tell a Muslim: “There is a Jew behind me; come and kill him!” Vajda also emphasizes how the notion of jihad war “ransom” extends even into Islamic eschatology:

Not only are the Jews vanquished in the eschatological war, but they will serve as ransom for the Muslims in the fires of hell. The sins of certain Muslims will weigh on them like mountains, but on the day of resurrection, these sins will be lifted and laid upon the Jews.

Islam’s major contemporary theological institutions, such as Al-Azhar University and influential mainstream clerics, continue to promote this ‘sacralized’ Jew-hatred to both Muslim religious educators and the Muslim masses. Not surprisingly, the result is a global pandemic of Muslim Jew-hatred—including antisemitic violence—evident far beyond the battlegrounds of Israel, Gaza, and Judea-Samaria.

Al-Azhar’s learned, authoritative Muslim theologians issued a fatwa, or Islamic religious ruling, on 19 October 2023, pertaining to the ongoing conflict sparked by Hamas’ October 7 invasion of southern Israel. Absent of any mention of Hamas’ jihad carnage—murdering, dismembering, torturing, raping, and burning some 1,200 largely non-combatant Israelis, including infants, children, women, and the elderly—the fatwa ruled that all of Israel’s citizens remained legitimate targets for such heinous jihad depredations. This Al-Azhar ruling was celebrated by Al-Qaeda and came on the heels of an earlier official Al-Azhar statement celebrating the jihad depredations of Hamas as “the resistance efforts of the proud Palestinian people.” This latest fatwa by Sunni Islam’s Vatican in fact reflects an “updated” 75-year continuum of similar edicts issued since 1947, sanctioning the jihad genocide of modern Israel’s Jews.

A year after Israel’s decisive victory during the 1967 war, Al-Azhar convened the 4th Conference of the Academy of Islamic Research in Cairo, which assembled prominent Muslim theologians not only from the Middle East, but Asia, Africa, and Europe. This seminal, if ugly conference, marked the formal abandonment of pseudo-secular Arab Nationalism as a guiding ideological rationale for the simmering conflict with Israel. Published in English as a 935pp. tome in 1970, the conference proceedings were the subject of late historian David Littman’s pioneering analysis, in 1971. Littman summarized the conference’s six key “recurring themes,” as follows:

1) “Jews are frequently denoted as the ‘Enemies of Allah’”

2) “Jews manifest in themselves an historical continuity of evil qualities … as described in the Qur’an”

3) “The Jews do not constitute a true people or nation”

4) “The State of Israel is the culmination of the historical and cultural depravity of the Jews …It has to be destroyed by a Jihad”

5) “The superiority of Islam over all other religions is brandished as a guarantee that the Arabs will ultimately triumph”

6) “It is outrageous for the Jews, traditionally kept by Arab Islam in a humiliated, inferior status, and characterized as cowardly, to defeat the Arabs, have their own State, and cause the contraction of the ‘abode of Islam’”

Al-Azhar’s most recent spiritual leaders, Grand Imam Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi (who held that position from 1996-2010), and his successor, the current Grand Imam, Ahmed al-Tayyeb, have each reinforced the ignoble tradition of promoting jihadism and Islamic Jew-hatred directed at Israel, and Jews generally. Both Tantawi and Tayyeb sanctioned homicide bombing of any Israeli Jews, including non-combatant children and women. Grand Imam Tantawi, a leading modern Quranic commentator, has championed the most virulent Quranic themes of Jew-hatred in his authoritative interpretations, including Jews as “apes and pigs” (Quran 5:60) whose immutable perfidy merits eternal debasement (Quran 3:112), even exhorting Muslims to, “use force with them and treat them in the way you see as effective in ridding them of their evil. One may go so far as to ban their religion, their persons, their wealth, and their villages.”

 

April 1, 2024 | 1 Comment »

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  1. Reform Islam? You’ve got to be kidding! A better idea would be to encourage conversion to a less violent ideology. Too bad Zoroastrianism has been largely stamped out. Maybe Bahaiism, Buddhism, or Confucianism? Imagine the good which could come if the Arab world devoted itself to seeking wisdom rather than compelling submission.