ISLAM AND THE WEST
By Daniel Brumberg
Anti-Semitism is… becoming part of the political ideology… If you dehumanize a group of people — and the Islamists dehumanize the Jews — even if they don’t say they want to kill them, the dehumanization is… a crime. — Bassam Tibi
A Syrian-born German scholar and leading expert on Islamist ideology, Bassam Tibi doesn’t mice words. For the sad reality is that many Islamist leaders today espouse a version of Jew hatred that is as odious as any other prejudice.
Rather than submerge readers in the countless examples of Islamist anti-Semitism (IAS), let’s consider two competing explanations of it. I will comment on each of these accounts and then offer my own modest take on this complex problem.
Explanation Number One: What appears to be IAS is not in fact anti-Jewish ideology. Rather it is a political critique of Israel, Zionism, and/or of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians.
There is no doubt that IAS is stoked by Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
BUT: the phenomenon predates this conflict, and more importantly, IAS has incorporated all of the classic anti-Jewish themes of traditional, European anti-Semitism: Jews as a subhuman minority of money/media controllers conspiring to manipulate entire governments etc…This prejudice has developed a life of it own.
Explanation Number Two: IAS is rooted in Islam itself, and in the Qur’an, which is replete with anti-Jewish statements. Jews and Christians are a “tolerated minority” (dhimma) in a majority Muslim community. From an Islamic point of view, any Jewish state in which Muslims are a minority is — ipso facto– unnatural and oppressive.
The Qur’an has a lot of negative things to say about the Jewish tribes that battled the Prophet Mohammed, even as it honors Moses as a Prophet and the Jews as a “People of the Book.” Some – maybe many — Muslims who want an Islamic political community probably find the idea of a Jewish polity governing a Muslim minority alien or threatening.
BUT: this antagonism towards the Jewish state is neither constant nor consistent. If today more Muslim youth espouse IAS, this is partly because seven days a week, satellite TV beans bloody images of the Arab-Israeli conflict into their daily lives.
Brumberg Explanation Number Three: There are Islamists who espouse anti-Semitism and there are those who reject it. But the suppliers of hate depend on the social, economic and political conditions that create a demand for their message or that make people receptive to it. These conditions include, but are not limited to, the Arab-Israeli conflict.
To confront IAS we have to work on both the supply and demand side. Islamists who reject IAS must openly and unreservedly condemn those who espouse it. But the task of those Muslims who reject IAS would be far easier if the Muslim world could see some real light in the seemingly endless tunnel of Palestinian-Israeli violence and suffering.
Daniel Brumberg is acting director of U.S. Institute of Peace’s Muslim World Initiative and associate professor at Georgetown University.
By Daniel Brumberg |
March 11, 2009; 9:17 AM ET
Previous: Getting Religion on Women’s Rights |
Main Index –>