Is it wrong to hate Muslims?
Hatred of Jews : Where does Muslim anti-Semitism come from
Every taxi driver in Cairo is familiar with the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" and, convinced of their truthfulness, they like to talk about it with Western passengers. People like to talk about the fact that Arab and Iranian stations like to broadcast hate sermons and TV series such as "Al Shatat" and "Rider Without Horse" in the psychological war against the enemy state Israel, especially in Ramadan. These are horror scenarios that illustrate anti-Semitic topoi such as the legends of poisoning wells or ritual murder, or instrumentalize the fairy tale of the Jewish striving for world domination against Israel.
These are just two popular narratives about "the" Muslim anti-Semitism. But what do these observations prove? They are just as true and condemnable as reports of Berlin schoolchildren with Arab roots who surround a Jewish classmate to tell him: "Wallah, Hitler was a good man because he killed the Jews". This also applies to pro-Palestinian demonstrators who burn Israeli flags at the Brandenburg Gate.
All of this shows that anti-Semitism is widespread among Muslims. But as reprehensible as such failures are, it is historically wrong to infer a general anti-Semitism of Muslims from them. If you want to get a true picture of Muslim anti-Semitism, you have to know its historical background.
The much-cited "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", which Jew haters want to see implemented in the existence of the State of Israel, are fifty years older than the Middle East conflict. They were compiled in Europe at the end of the 19th century with the clever use of age-old resentments and spread from Tsarist Russia all over the world. Hitler was enthusiastic about the pamphlet, which had been exposed as a forgery by the courts and as paranoid nonsense by its content, as was Henry Ford, who made it popular in the USA in the 1920s.
A prophet of the current hatred of Jews was the respected clergyman and scholar Mohamed Sayyid Tantawi (1928-2010), Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar University in Cairo and, as the highest authority of Sunni Islam, influential far beyond Egypt. His book "The People of Israel in the Koran and in the Sunna" is widespread. It goes back to his dissertation in 1966 and deals with the Palestine conflict from a religious perspective.
For the most part an import from the west
The argument is largely racist when Tantawi speaks of the unchangeable characteristics of the Jews, such as their "greed for life and this world" and their "excessive egoism" and characterizes the Jews as the cause of the destruction of morality, religion and spiritual values. With his bestseller, the clergyman Tantawi became one of the pioneers of Islamist terrorism, which is not just about Palestine, but rather places traditional anti-Semitism of European provenance at the service of a fundamentalist hatred against the Jews.
The Muslim dignitary Tantawi, who was considered more liberal in religious matters, invoked Hitler's "Mein Kampf" in his anti-Semitic tirades and he handled the ancient set pieces that have served as arguments for anti-Semitism in Christian Europe for centuries. Tantawi already shows a basic pattern: Muslim anti-Semitism is for the most part a historical import from the West.
This also applies to the founder of the Palestinian national movement, the former Mufti of Jerusalem Amin al Husaini, who advocated the political unity of the Arabs against Great Britain. He ingratiated himself with the National Socialists and justified Arab nationalism with racist phrases against the Jews.
Anti-Semitism based on religion characterizes Christianity
The Mufti, which is also controversial in the Arab world, is always cited as a key witness when the Muslims are denounced in toto as Nazi-affine and fundamentally anti-Semitic. Amin al Husaini was, however, a sectarian who had to acquire ideological tools - nationalism, anti-Semitism and racism - in the West because it is not inherent in Islam. Anti-Semitism based on religion characterizes two thousand years of Christianity, but not Islam.
The recently so popular “Christian-Jewish Occident” lacks any historical reality and is only useful as a political battle term with which “Islamic critics” conjure up the warning of an invasion of dangerous Muslims. Muslim anti-Semitism is not genuine, but political; it is rooted in young Arab nationalism. This is also an import from the west.
The construct of Islam's inherent hostility to Jews stems from the need to react to political resentment with the same means. The necessary differentiation does not stand in the way of the necessary condemnation of insult, hatred and murder or other manifestations of hostility towards Jews. When young Muslims shout anti-Jewish slogans on the streets of German cities, when hate preachers rage against the existence of Israel, when students use “Jew” as a swear word: There can be no tolerance for anti-Semitism in whatever form it expresses itself in a country Society tries to learn lessons from the history of the Holocaust and understands the memory of the murder of the Jews as an element of its political culture.
Punish, prevent - and clear up attacks
The rule of law has options for preventing and punishing attacks. Prevention through education and awareness is even more important. This also includes dealing rationally with anti-Semitism among Muslims. Self-righteousness, which refugees only see as emissaries of an Islamic onslaught on Europe, such as the populists of the “Alternative für Deutschland” (AfD), who thereby attract fearful people, does not solve any problem, at best it distracts from racism and hostility towards Jews in their own ranks .
Blanket resentment against all members of a religious community, who are equated with a hideous but altogether tiny minority of militant fanatics and terrorists, do not explain the problem. Rather, they enlarge it because they aim to urge the majority of Muslims - who vigorously distance themselves from Islamists and jihadists - into solidarity with the fanatics. Then the denunciation would have achieved its goal.
Fanatics and fundamentalists of all religious, political or cultural stripes are dangerous because they are inaccessible to rational arguments and a differentiated worldview and thus inaccessible to sensible conflict resolution. This does not only apply to Muslims who abuse religion to justify violence, but also to activists who are content with denouncing them through images of the enemy who create a mood with the construct of genuinely Muslim anti-Semitism, i.e. hostility towards Jews theologically derived from Islam .
In fact, Christian anti-Judaism is the model for Muslim anti-Semitism. Church fathers in late antiquity invented it to justify the missionary mandate of Christianity. In the 4th century, Abbot Hieronymus von Bethlehem called the Jews murderers of God, thus putting into effect a stereotypical resentment that outlasted the Catholic Crusades and the Protestant anger of Martin Luther and is vital in popular piety not only in the Orthodox Church.
The anti-Semitism of Muslims is directed against Israel
The hostility of Muslims towards Jews is not based in the Koran like the anti-Judaism of Christians in the New Testament. The anti-Semitism of Muslims is generated from political solidarity, is directed against Israel and expresses itself with the stereotypical arguments and clichés of the racism that gave birth to anti-Semitism in the 19th century. Its roots can be found in Europe, Germany, Austria-Hungary, France and Russia.
Religious reservations, fixed in legends, conspiracy fantasies and phobias about the supposed striving of the Jews for world domination as well as envy against their supposed wealth and influence, were the breeding ground for the ideology of pseudoscientific “modern anti-Semitism”, which culminated in the catastrophe of the murder of the Jews.
The current anti-Semitism of Muslims is based on the revitalization of such racial madness for political reasons. The convictions and the arguments used, such as the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", come from the arsenals of European anti-Semitism. Knowing this is the indispensable prerequisite for countering Muslim hatred of Jews. A political solution to the Middle East conflict is the other equally indispensable premise.
The centuries-long exclusion of the Jews by the Christian majority in the West was expressly justified with their religion and zealous preachers declared that the Talmud obliged the Jews to do evil and to harm the majority. New, no less clueless and determined Koran exegetes now claim that religion commands Muslims to do outrages against unbelievers, as well as hatred against Jews. Many people - not just perplexed AfD voters - like to believe that because it relieves the burden, defines the guilty party and lets people forget their own resentments.
The author is a historian and former director of the Center for Research on Antisemitism at the Technical University of Berlin.
Tagesspiegel author Malte Lehming explains here how migrants are changing Holocaust remembrance.
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