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Support For Jews From An Unlikely Source

It’s not often you hear loud and public support for Jews in Arab newspapers, which is why Egyptian journalist Sharif ‘Abd Al-Ghani’s recent article in a Qatari paper is cause for celebration. Al-Ghani attacks Muslim preachers for their hateful language toward Jews. How, he asks, can preachers lead hateful discussion of Jews, yet venerate Moses?

Why does our sheikh – and we behind him – shower all these curses on the Jews, but then add the expression ‘peace be upon him’ when speaking of their prophet Moussa [Moses]? Are the Jews not people of the Book and among those whom the Koran orders us to treat kindly so long as they do not fight us? And how could Allah have created them so impure and damned if they are the disciples of a prophet?

He also points out that many inventors and scientists who have changed the world with their work were Jewish. Muslims have benefited from these scientific and medical advancements, he argues, yet Jews are attacked with violent rhetoric in mosques across the world.

The absurd thing is that after cursing the Jews, the preacher never forgets to urge the attendees to donate [money in order to establish] a dialysis unit in the village… which will treat thousands of patients… But it doesn’t occur to him, or to any of the attendees who say amen after the curses and curse the Jews themselves – many of whom suffer kidney failure – that the man who invented the treatment for this condition is the Jewish doctor and scientist Willem Klofkim [sic, apparently Kolff]!

O you, those who curse and besmirch the Jews, do you not know that the ‘impure and damned’ Jew Baruch Blumberg discovered the viral liver disease Hepatitis [B] and the treatment for it – a disease that afflicts 12% of Egyptians?

It’s always worth pointing out advancements in religious tolerance, especially of Muslims toward Jews in the Middle East. Via Meadia hopes that Al-Ghani’s common sense, intellectual honesty and tolerance prove contagious.

It seems to be a general law of modern life that those who hate and fear Jews are condemned to backwardness and irrelevance: not, as anti-Semitic loons pathetically imagine, because Jewish cabals manipulate capitalism to frustrate their enemies, but because without intellectual clarity and a sincerely tolerant worldview, it is very difficult to prosper in a world like ours.

In Libya, unfortunately, Al-Ghani’s message hasn’t been received.  According to Hadeel Al-Shalchi (@hadeelalsh), on hearing news that a Libyan of Jewish origin was trying to rebuild a synagogue, a mob of ignorant haters assembled outside the hotel in which he is staying, baying for blood in the traditionally chilling and evil (but also pathetic and contemptible) way that they have.

When I think of the potential of the Arab Spring, it is to courageous voices like Sharif ‘Abd Al-Ghani and Hadeel Al-Shalchi.  Political problems with Israel are one thing; unreasoning hate of a people is something else.

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  • A concerned non-person of the Book

    Professor Mead,

    I agree with your opinion on Mr. Al Ghani’s hopeful article.

    But what do the statements of the Quran (and the literal manner in which many Muslims interpret them) portend for the relations between Muslims and the nearly four billion humans falling outside of the category of “peoples of the Book?” These include atheists, agnostics, Hindus, Buddhists, Confucianists, Taoists, Sikhs, Shintoists, animists, etc.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @concerned: The Bible says that we should not allow witches to live, but as far as I know Christian-Wiccan relations these days are mostly pretty good. Holy books need to be interpreted, and the people who interpret them inevitably bring their own assumptions and experiences to bear. Not all that long ago, Christians interpreted the Bible to require religious persecution, permit slavery and various other nasty things. These days, most Christians have a much clearer view of what the Scriptures really teach. Who knows what will happen in Islam? Many thoughtful Muslims today are starting to ask questions similar to those Christians asked in the past. Let’s see what happens…

  • Luke Lea

    Possibly off topic but I’ve long been interested in all things Jewish and so made a couple of comments on a remarkable sentence Vivian Gornick wrote in her review of the notebooks of Lional Abel, Abel being, at least in my judgment, one of the two or three really good literary critics out there who were even worth reading, once Edmund Wilson had passed away. Anyway, in connection to American Jewish writers of Abel’s generation who were active in the middle of the last century, Ms. Gornick wrote:

    “”When the open anti-Semitism that had dominated the writers’ lives subsided, and still they continued to experience the world as a place of unrelenting anxiety and frustration, the war against the gentiles was replaced by one against women:”

    To which I responded: “As I’ve grown older (now almost 70) and better acquainted with the facts of history, I realize how little real anti-Semitism there was in American society, ever. Of course there were slights and notes of condescension from the Anglo-Saxon elite, but believe me (a southerner of Scots-Irish descent) these were hardly reserved for the Ashkenazi alone.

    What is different is that American Jews were singularly sensitive to these slights because of a certain cultural self-centerdeness which has always been part of Jewish culture — and which gradually, with the changing generations, they are beginning to outgrow.

    Hopefully the feeling of being “at war with the gentiles” will also disappear as I can assure you the feeling is not being returned. As it stands Anti-Gentilism is in fact a form of racial prejudice which has unfortunate consequences in the hands of an influential minority.

    There, I said it! No offense intended. Friends tell their friends unpleasant truths.

    — posted 10/05/2011 at 17:10 by Luke Lea

    But then I thought better of what I had said, so a couple of days later added this:

    “Let me amend my comment above. I referred to “a certain self-centeredness that has always been part of Jewish culture.” I should have added that this element has always been at war with an opposite element which, for lack of a better word, I will call “do unto others.” It is the tension that first surfaces between the God of Abraham in Genesis and the God of Moses in Exodus. Though Exodus says they are one and the same, the fact remains that the conflict between these two opposing traditions is a constant in Jewish history right on up into modern times. Thus while there are plenty of famous, self-centered Jews, there are also an inordinate number of famous liberal humanists [not a few of whom have managed to embody both tendencies in a single conflicted personality]. I once wrote about the origins of this conflict in a piece of scholarly research that was published, in pre-Internet days, in the journal Judaism, summer issue of 1987 (I think). It’s title was “The Torah and the West “Bank.” If I knew how I would put it online.”

    — posted 10/07/2011 at 01:45 by Luke Lea

  • Haim

    Nothing pathetic in a thousand-strong mob wanting to kill you, I can assure you (unless you have the guns, and then you’re Israel). But the Muslim doctrine had easily overcome those puny difficulties Al-Ghani is pointing out. By refusing to accept the true and final prophecy of Muhammad and to become Muslims, Jews had forfeited their pact with God (sound familiar to any Christian, isn’t it?), and that turned them to be jealous and vindictive towards Muslims and to become their worst enemy. Islam does not dispute the cunning of the Jews and approves of it being used to further the needs of the believers (that goes for dialysis machines as for the financial and political advice to the Arab and Turkish rulers of old), but the moment the Jews aren’t necessary they must be put in their place under the laws of dhimmitude.

  • http://pubsecrets.wordpress.com Phineas

    Dr. Mead,

    “These days, most Christians have a much clearer view of what the Scriptures really teach. Who knows what will happen in Islam?”

    The trouble is, a clearer view of what the Islamic scriptures teach will I fear only lead to a reinforcement of Jew-hatred. Due to the doctrine of abrogation, later verses on a topic supersede earlier ones. Regarding the Jews, that means the generally anti-Jewish, post-Hijra verses override the more tolerant ones found in the Meccan chapters of the Qur’an.

    I’d love to see Mr. Al-Ghani’s message take root and spread. But, given how thoroughly Antisemitism is woven into Islam, I have a hard time seeing how it can happen without a wholesale repudiation of the faith by its believers.

  • IgotBupkis

    >>> The Bible says that we should not allow witches to live

    Actually, as I understand it, this is an erratic translation of the early language by the scholars of James’ time.

    I’m not claiming expertise by any means, but someone whose research skills I trust has told me that the actual word was not “witch” or anything directly associated with Wicca at all. There are, I think he said, two places where this proscription lies, and the actual word used better translates as “someone who places curses on another”.

    Now, there are Wiccan “rules” for doing this, but, let’s face it, when you say “DAMN YOU!” you’re doing it, too. So it’s not unique to Wicca in the least bit.

    The idea, nominally, is that you’re attempting to call forth “powers” which are not granted you by God, and thence can only be fulfilled by the agents of “his opposition”. The idea that you should not be doing this is sort of obvious, and also fits in with the idea, found in Matthew near the Sermon on the Mount, that one should not “swear” — as in “I swear I’m telling the truth!” — According to the Bible, you’re actually supposed to simply say “Yes” or “No”. “I will”, or “I won’t”. Since you don’t have the power to call God’s wrath down up yourself, to commit God to an action if you lie, then it makes no difference and, if anything, it’s an offense to God to suggest that is within your power.

    So when someone asks you to promise, or to take an oath, as a Good Christian, you’re actually supposed to decline.

  • IgotBupkis

    The chance for the gentleman’s message spreading amongst the faithful of Islam is directly proportional to the length of time it takes for some retarded, barbaric Muslim Cleric to put out a fatwa on his head for speaking heresy.

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