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“The Invention of Tradition”: an invented interpretation of Muslim-Jewish history

"The Invention of Tradition": an invented interpretation of Muslim-Jewish history
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It appears that a major aspect of Islamist philosophy, which can be found already in the ideology laid by the Muslim Brotherhood, is the attempt to “religionize” the political order and to return to what they perceived as a more authentic form of Muslim identity. These led to an intensified literalist and uncritical reading of earlier Islamic history and of the sacred texts. We have already seen how both negative and positive perceptions of the Jews can be found in the Quran, and how throughout the Middle Ages and into the modern era, Jews existed in relative peace under Islam.
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Under Islamism, a new interpretation of history arose, and resentment toward the Jews of the early Islamic period was translated into an emotional and intellectual hatred, which also combined modern antisemitic perceptions and rhetoric. This selective and distorted view of the past can clearly be seen in the writings of one of the leading figures of the Muslim Brotherhood movement in the 1950s and 60s, Sayyid Qutb. The founder of the Muslim Brotherhood is Hassan al-Banna, but Hassan al-Banna was not an intellectual. I have his entire writings - all together 300 pages. The major thinker of Islamism in the past and today, because he exists through his books, is Sayyid Qutb. Sayyid Qutb is for Islamism what Karl Marx is for Communism.
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Can you imagine Communism without Karl Marx? Of course not. The major thinking and the major ideology of Islamism rests on the writings of Sayyid Qutb. Qutb radicalized the discourse not only against Jews, but against the Egyptian regime, and in general Muslim regimes, which he considered not religious enough, and in fact corrupt, and belonging to the period of Jahiliyyah, to the pagan period when they didn’t of course know anything about Islam and did not follow its rules. Qutb saw the Jews as part of the problem of the Muslims.
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They symbolized the Jewish or Jewish-Christian tradition or civilization, and both were supposed to be fought against, because he wanted, of course what he saw in his vision, is the return of Islamic civilization to the way it was in the first days of Islam. And the Jews were not only part of this civilization, but also its driving force, and in fact the bearers of all those notions of nationalism, which was just the opposite of what Islam saw as the Muslim grand community. They were the ones with the ideas of capitalism, of communism, you name it. I mean all evil ideas and notions brought to the world were brought by the Jews.
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And so the Jews became the first target, in addition of course to the Muslims or the Muslim regimes, and the Muslims who do not really adhere to Islam as it should [be] - we had the struggle with the Jews. He wrote dozens of books - small books - and one of them, a most influential one, is “Maarakatuna maa al-Yahud” - “Our Battle” or “Our Fight with the Jews.” And he argues in that book the Jews are per definition the enemies of Islam, and this from the 7th century on, not recently. He says Jihad - this is a new definition - Jihad is a world revolution that liberates the world from the Jews.
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And this is the worst definition of genocidal antisemitism. “Maarakatuna maa al-Yahud” is a basic booklet in the classes of Islamism. Islamism is not only a violent movement. Islamism is also an educational movement and part of the educational agenda of Islamism is antisemitism. And this book is used as basic reading - “Maarakatuna maa al-Yahud,” an evil document of Islamist antisemitism.
Prof. Bassam Tibi, Dr. Esther Webman
Under Islamism, a new interpretation of history arose, and resentment toward the Jews of the early Islamic period was translated into an emotional and intellectual hatred, which also combined modern antisemitic perceptions and rhetoric. This selective and distorted view of the past can clearly be seen in the writings of one of the leading figures of the Muslim Brotherhood movement in the 1950s and 1960s, Sayyid Qutb.
What can the writings of Sayyid Qutb teach us about the way Islamists perceive Jews and Judaism?
Refrences
  • Calvert, John, Sayyid Qutb and the Origins of Radical Islamism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).
  • Litvak, Meir and Esther Webman, “Israel and Antisemitism,” in Albert S. Lindemann and Richard S. Levy, eds., Antisemitism: A History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), pp. 237 – 249.
  • Tibi, Bassam, Islamism and Islam (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012).
  • Tibi, Bassam, “Religion, Prejudice and Annihilation: The Case of Traditional Islamic Judeophobia and Its Transformation into the Modern Islamist Antisemitism,” in Anthony McElligott and Jeffrey Herf, eds., Antisemitism Before and Since the Holocaust: Altered Contexts and Recent Perspectives (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), pp. 115 – 146.
  • Toth, James, Sayyid Qutb: The Life and Legacy of a Radical Islamic Intellectual (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).
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Antisemitism: From Its Origins to the Present

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