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A distorted interpretation of the past

A distorted interpretation of the past
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We have clearly seen how the Islamist belief system and rhetoric focus their attention on the early days of Islam, presenting the Jews as the historical and eternal enemy of Islam. We have heard how this belief system is expressed through hatred and violence towards Jews. In order to get their antisemitic messages through and to imbue them with a level of sanctity, Islamists rely on negative quotes about the Jews found in both the Quran and the Hadith, including those relating to the clashes between the Prophet Muhammad and the three Jewish tribes in Arabia. This reliance on the Quran in Islamist rhetoric created a mistaken perception in which Jews have always been viewed as the greatest enemy of Islam.
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However as we will now see it is a matter of selective interpretation. Antisemitism is rooted in the Islamic texts because the Islamic texts are used in order to a create modern times antisemitism. There are in the Quran verses which we can define as pro-Jews, and there are many more verses which we can define as anti-Jews. The question is whether they used historically and how they used historically these verses, or anti-Jewish verses, and the answer is that for the most part of history they did not use these verses against the Jews. There’s a schism in Islam between Sunna and Shi’a.
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The Sunnis are the majority - 90% of the Muslims are Sunnis, and the highest authority in Sunni Islam is the Shaykh of al-Azhar, the University of al-Azhar, the religious university in Cairo, which is more than one thousand years old. When [Anwar] Sadat was in power, he instructed the Shaykh of al-Azhar to assist him in writing the speech which he delivered at the Israeli Parliament, and he instructed him to pick up only the positive phrases in the Quran, and there were many. And Sadat said when he was speaking in the Knesset, he said, “I am here to fulfill the mission of the Quran, our holy book.”
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And he kept quoting out of the Quran positive things about the Jews and he said, “We are brothers, we live in peace together, and I’m here to give you my hand, to reach my hand for you, reach out my hand for you.” And so you see, these are the positive views of the Quran for peace with Israel for peace with the Jews. But there are other phrases in the Quran which are the opposite which can be used against Israel and against the Jews.
Dr. Esther Webman
In order to get their antisemitic messages through and to imbue them with a level of sanctity, Islamists rely on negative quotes about the Jews found in both the Qur’an and the Hadith, including those relating to the clashes between the Prophet Muhammad and the three Jewish tribes in Arabia. This reliance on the Qur’an in Islamist rhetoric created a distorted perception in which Jews have always been viewed as the greatest enemy of Islam. However, as we will now see, it is a matter of selective interpretation.
How do Islamists distort past Jewish-Muslim relations and why? How does this distortion affect the way non-Muslims and Muslims today perceive Jewish-Muslim dynamics, both past and present?
References
  • Ayoob, Mohammed, The Many Faces of Political Islam: Religion and Politics in the Muslim World (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008).
  • Jikeli, Günther, “Anti-Semitism within the Extreme Right and Islamists’ Circles,” in Olaf Glöckner and Haim Fireberg, eds., Being Jewish in 21st-Century Germany (Berlin: De Gruyter Oldenbourg, 2015), pp. 188 – 207.
  • 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.
  • Webman, Esther, “The Challenge of Assessing Arab/Islamic Antisemitism,” Middle Eastern Studies, vol. 46, no. 5 (2010), pp. 677 – 697.
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Antisemitism: From Its Origins to the Present

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