Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Why, exactly, do Muslims hate Jews?

[Updated 12/8/08] Wxjames asks Why, exactly, do Muslims hate Jews? Wadard's reply: I honestly don't know - Solomon2 sounds like he might be able to give an insight.

To be asked to answer such a question is an awesome responsibility. What follows is only an attempt, a guess, at grasping towards the answer:

Why do Muslims hate Jews? I can not answer that question, for I believe that the source of hatred of one human towards another lies in the soul of the hater, not in his object of hatred -- because that is all I am, a thing, an object, not a person: see my blog entry Snowblower Diplomacy.

Yes, the Koran calls for Muslims to hate Jews, but that can't account for Muslims' feeling of hatred towards Jews. For that one must look deeply into the hearts of the Arabs and Muslims: not their history, but the life, education, and experiences that have shaped the outlook of Arabs and Muslims today.

For the hatred many Muslims FEEL towards Jews has not been a constant presence throughout the centuries of Islam's existence. Once the Qu'arites were wiped out, most Jews accepted dhimmitude rather meekly; they were, after all, already under the thumbs of the Byzantines, Persians, et al and so a change in masters didn't change much. Spanish Jews probably even abetted the Muslim Conquest, and they retained a privileged status throughout the period of Muslim rule of Spain, Jews intermarried with local populations in Yemen, and Baghdad itself, supposedly, was once 40% Jewish in population. One crazed Egyptian ruler took it upon himself to disobey the Koran and raze Jewish synagogues outright, but afterwards the Muslim community itself paid for its reconstruction.

However, the Jews were dhimmis, and as such, had to pay very high taxes. Those that did not want to do so had an easy way out: they could convert to Islam. Many did, yet the Jewish communities of the Muslim world long continued to grow and prosper.

The differences between the two religions are very great. Judaism does not require every non-Jew to convert and follow the 613 laws of the Torah, but only the Seven Noahchian Laws (no idolatry, no blasphemy, no murder, no robbery or theft, no "immoral" sexual relations, no dismemberment and consumption of live animals, and the establishment of a court of justice). Jews were only commanded to occupy the Promised Land, and while the extent of the Land is disputed its boundaries were specified very carefully, to establish themselves as a nation in the Land, not just a wandering band of journeymen laborers (which is, apparently, what the ancient word Hebiru meant) or slaves. Although Jews could travel and settle elsewhere, and become citizens of other lands and rulers, this is where the Jewish soul was to remain. The new nation was told what laws it was to follow and informed of its strange and unique role in Creation: that through the experience of Israel, the Chosen People, all the nations shall learn and acknowledge G-d as one. (Exactly how Jews are supposed to do that is, itself, a most interesting question.)

So Judaism always envisioned the existence of non-Jews, even as a majority of the world's population. Non-Jews are always people, nothing else.

Unlike much Christian worship, Islam is not a form of idolatry; but in theory or practice it has a fundamentally different view of relations between groups of humans.
As I see it, if you are a Muslim, you may be treated as a person by the community (but there doesn't seem to be any guarantee). If you are one of the "People of the Book", you are a dhimmi and should be made subject to Muslims; you only live and have property as long as Muslims consider convenient. And if you are neither a Muslim nor one of the "People of the Book", you should be robbed and slaughtered as soon as possible if you refuse conversion to Islam, or even if you do convert and stronger Muslims dispute your worship. Non-Muslims are always a threat, even when they give Muslims their charity; and in today's post-tsunami world I need not cite any examples to buttress such a statement.

Thus, Islam as practiced may tend to mold a society to be at war with non-Muslims, and create great tensions between "other" Muslims. Natural human imperfections are thus sufficient for rule of law to become oppressive rule by law, one community versus another; Darfur is only the latest example. Thus, the family, then the tribe, is the refuge and safety for the Muslim.

As support for this view, consider the role of the wedding in Muslim and non-Muslim cultures. For Muslims, is The Wedding not a great union of families and alliance of tribes, and an occasion for exceptional celebration? For Christians and Jews, it is (at most) a union of individuals and their families, and of much less importance.

(This may also explain the lack of interest of Muslims outside the immediately affected communities to send much material aid to their co-religionist victims of the Boxing Day tsunami.)

Furthermore, consider the role of the imam. His base of influence over his community is his knowledge of and skill at interpreting the Koran. He cannot exercise such influence over any non-Muslims in the community, nor over their property. Some humans treasure power over any other possession; is it difficult to imagine an imam who wished to extend his power by converting, destroying, or stealing the possessions of a non-Muslim community?

The Jew or Christian, however, can carry on quite well living as neighbors in a community of rule by law. That continued source of tension (or is it oppression?) that one's fate is much reduced, even forgotten.

So even when Muslims don't contact Jews in their daily lives, may they not experience being wronged in one form or another by their fellow Muslims? Could a competing power structure such as I describe of Muslim society prevent a Muslim who feels wronged from feeling the satisfaction of justice? And then, what would such a person feel? Would he ask himself, "Is being a Muslim a humiliating experience? Why is Muslim society not perfect, would I not then receive perfect justice?"

If so, how could such a person direct his resulting anger? It could be towards his rulers, his fellows, or the person immediately responsible for the humiliation. However, Islam offers the disaffected another answer: Blame the Jews! Blame the non-Muslims! Blame the "other" Muslims! It is their fault that the Muslim World doesn't function correctly! Once the "others" are gone then the world will be perfect! Because Islam is the ONLY true religion and, as such, this is the only explanation that could be.

This explanation is socially acceptable -- that is to say, it doesn't damage the Muslim family, community, tribe, or nation. So is it any great wonder that Muslims direct the anger of their disaffected outward?

Such an explanation falls into nothingness if Muslims themselves, in their deepest hearts, consider their own societies to be perfect. As a Jew, I simply cannot answer that.

Note, 12/1/08: Attention students! This is a popular post for essays and mid-term papers. I suggest you reference it correctly.

Update, 12/3/08: Reviewing the book The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History, scholar Danusha Goska summarizes:
Muslims did not learn their anti-Semitism from Christianity. Muslims who had never met a Jew or a Christian brought their culturally-ingrained anti-Semitism with them into India, a largely Hindu and Buddhist sub-continent. Nor did they aquire anti-Semitism from Scientific Racism's or Nazism's racial disdain for Jews. Arabs are Semites, just as Jews are. Muslims forced Jews to wear distinctive badges more than a thousand years before Hitler did so. Christians also had to wear identifying badges under Muslim leaders.

The Koran is replete with anti-Semitic verses, most notoriously, the ones equating Jews with "pigs and monkeys." There is also the hadith, or saying of Mohammed, that rocks will speak to Muslims, asking them to kill Jews. These verses are freely cited by Islamic religious leaders today, as Muslim sermons posted on youtube reveals. Mohammed, the founder of Islam, exercised murderous hostility toward Jews.

It will be very difficult to discover reformers within Islam who wish to co-exist with Jews in respect and tolerance; it will be even harder for those reformers to realize their dreams. Islam leaves no room for reform, especially when it comes to hostility to non-Muslims, especially Jews. The Koran is believed to be the perfect, unchanging, eternal word of God, and the Muslim God refers to Jews as monkey and pigs.
This view is supported by Muslim-born Magdi Allam (recently publicly baptized into Catholicism by the Pope) who states
"Unlike Christianity, the religion of God incarnate in man," Islam is made concrete in a sacred text that, "being one with God, is not interpretable."

"The very acts of Mohammed, documented by history, and which the Muslim faithful themselves do not deny, testify to massacres and exterminations perpetrated by the prophet. Therefore, the Quran is incompatible with fundamental human rights and non-negotiable values. In the past, I tried to make myself the spokesman of an Islam moderate in itself -"
only to discover his efforts doomed to failure.

Given the content of Islam as described in Legacy and the logic of Islam as explained by Allam I can make this conclusion: Islam cannot be made "moderate" or modest enough to stop hating Jews. Only individual Muslims can.

Traffic Note: 12/8/08

The Mumbai Massacre has resulted in a flood of Google-directed traffic from India, but none at all from Pakistan. I am reminded of the joke Trappenwitz recounts from the heady days of German reunification:
Speaker: Hey, I just heard that the first act of the re-unified German Parliament was to declare their intention to kill all Germany's remaining Jews... and two postmen.

Listening: [after a long pause] Um, I don't understand... why two postmen?

Speaker: What, wiping out Germany's remaining Jews doesn't strike you as odd,... but the death of two postmen does???!

For some people, killing Jews is just part of the natural order of things.

Related: On Muslim Tolerance and Terrorists and War in Mumbai.

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