A month has passed since the Middle East Media Research Institute posted a 2010 video interview of Muslim Brotherhood leader, and now Egyptian president, Muhammad Morsi spewing Antisemitic vitriol. Morsi’s comments included a characterization of today’s Zionists — plainly Jews in his parlance — as “descendants of apes and pigs” — a specific invocation of Koran 5:60, which he had repeated, elsewhere, in print interviews, and commentaries.
That this dehumanizing Koranic depiction was in reference to Jews has been validated by the most authoritative classical and modern exegeses* (“tafsir,” or commentaries) on the Koran, the words of Muhammad himself (as recorded in the sira, or pious Muslim biographies of Islam’s prophet), as well as a large corpus of Islamic theological writings which demonstrate the motif’s application by Muslims over a nearly 1400-year continuum.
Yet to this day, thousands of reports and opinion pieces later (search “Morsi” + “apes and pigs” using Google.com to estimate the vast output), only a handful have noted this irrefragable link to a Koranic verse (i.e., 5:60) declaring the Jews to be apes and pigs. The apotheosis of this negationist trend was captured in a January 27, 2013 Times of Israel interview of Charles Small, head of the itinerant Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP). Small piously proclaimed that ISGAP was uniquely committed to addressing what was framed as “Islamic” Antisemitism, because,
There’s a reluctance among scholars to open up this subject [i.e., “Islamic” Antisemitism]. This subject is dangerous, embarrassing. It touches on various political interests in international relations that people don’t really want to engage with.
What explains the almost uniform, egregious omission of Morsi’s Koranic reference, and Small’s broader see-no-Islam in “Islamic” Antisemitism mindset, displayed even by politically centrist or conservative Western media outlets, and the centrist or conservative “Middle East experts” opining for them? I argue that such willful blindness is rooted in the misrepresentation of Islamic Jew-hatred — indeed its frank denial as a coherent doctrine — by one of the leading contemporary scholars of Islam, turned late-blooming, ubiquitous public intellectual, whose limited, dogmatic investigation of the subject has smothered all such desperately required discussion. That scholar is Bernard Lewis.
Accrued over a distinguished career of more than six decades of serious scholarship, Bernard Lewis clearly possesses an enormous fund of knowledge regarding certain aspects of classical Islamic civilization, as well as valuable insights on the early evolution of modern Turkey from the dismantled Ottoman Empire. A gifted linguist, non-fiction prose writer, and teacher, Lewis shares his understanding of Muslim societies in both written and oral presentations, with singular economy, eloquence, and wit. These are extraordinary attributes for which Lewis richly deserves the accolades lavished upon him.
But as I will demonstrate, Lewis’ remarkable contributions are diminished by yawning gaps in his expressed understanding of Islamic Jew-hatred, and the overall condition of non-Muslims vanquished by jihad, and living as so-called “dhimmis,” under the restrictive and humiliating mandates of the Sharia. Ultimately, Lewis takes the rather dogmatic (and apologetic) positions that Islam is devoid of theological Antisemitism, and dhimmitude has never existed as a Sharia-based Islamic institution. Lewis’s views on Islamic Jew-hatred and (for Jews, the conjoined institution of) dhimmitude are doctrinally and historically untenable, as the evidence I adduce will make clear. Moreover, Lewis’s apologetic tendencies must have been attractive to the Muslim Brotherhood/Saudi Wahhabi front Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs, and its pseudo-academic Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs(JMMA), which has been an Abedin family enterprise since 1979. Regardless of whether Lewis was a willing dupe, or not, he served on the editorial board of the JMMA for some 14-years, from 1996 to 2010, despite the fact this “academic” journal was, and remains, a thinly veiled mouthpiece for Sharia supremacism. These critical limitations of his scholarship and judgment have implications which must also be recognized by all those for whom Lewis remains an iconic source of information, and advice, especially policy advice.
The late Orientalist Maxime Rodinson (d. 2004), a contemporary of Bernard Lewis, warned forty years ago of misguided modern scholarship effectively “sanctifying” Islam:
Understanding has given away to apologetics pure and simple.
Lewis’s bowdlerized 1974 summary portrayal of the system of governance imposed upon those indigenous non-Muslims conquered by jihad is a distressing, ahistorical example of this apologetic genre.
In his seminal The Laws of Islamic Governance, al-Mawardi (d. 1058), a renowned jurist of Baghdad, examined the regulations pertaining to the lands and infidel populations subjugated by jihad. This is the origin of the system of dhimmitude. The native infidel “dhimmi” (which derives from both the word for “pact,” and also “guilt” — guilty of religious errors) population had to recognize Islamic ownership of their land, submit to Islamic law, and accept payment of the Koranic poll tax (jizya), based on Koran 9:29. Al- Mawardi notes that “The enemy makes a payment in return for peace and reconciliation.” He then distinguishes two cases: (I) Payment is made immediately and is treated like booty, “it does, not however, prevent a jihad being carried out against them in the future.” (II). Payment is made yearly and will “constitute an ongoing tribute by which their security is established.” Reconciliation and security last as long as the payment is made. If the payment ceases, then the jihad resumes. A treaty of reconciliation may be renewable, but must not exceed 10 years. This same basic formulation was reiterated during a January 8, 1998 interview by Yusuf al-Qaradawi confirming how jihad continues to regulate the relations between Muslims and non-Muslims to this day.
The “contract of the jizya”, or “dhimma” encompassed other obligatory and recommended obligations for the conquered non-Muslim “dhimmi” peoples. Ibn Kathir’s important 14th century Koranic commentary describes the essence of the Koran’s mandate in verse 9:29 for submissive tribute, or “jizya,” under the heading, “Paying Jizya is a Sign of Kufr [unbelief] and Disgrace.” He elaborates, as follows:
Allah said, “until they pay the Jizya”, if they do not choose to embrace Islam, ‘with willing submission’, in defeat and subservience, “and feel themselves subdued”, disgraced, humiliated and belittled. Therefore, Muslims are not allowed to honor the people of Dhimma or elevate them above Muslims, for they are miserable, disgraced, and humiliated. Muslim recorded from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet said, “Do not initiate the Salam to the Jews and the Christians, and if you meet them in a road, force them to its narrowest alley”. This is why the Leader of the faithful ‘Umar b. Al-Khattab [d. 644; the second “Rightly Guided” Caliph], may Allah be pleased with him, demanded his well-known conditions be met by the Christians, these conditions that ensured their continued humiliation, degradation, and disgrace.
Collectively, these “obligations” formed the discriminatory system of dhimmitude imposed upon non-Muslims — Jews, Christians, as well as Zoroastrians, Hindus, and Buddhists — subjugated by jihad. Some of the more salient features of dhimmitude include: the prohibition of arms for the vanquished dhimmis, and of church bells; restrictions concerning the building and restoration of churches, synagogues, and temples; inequality between Muslims and non-Muslims with regard to taxes and penal law; the refusal of dhimmi testimony by Muslim courts; a requirement that Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslims, including Zoroastrians and Hindus, wear special clothes; and the overall humiliation and abasement of non-Muslims. It is important to note that these regulations and attitudes were institutionalized as permanent features of the sacred Islamic law, or Sharia. The writings of the much lionized Sufi theologian and jurist al-Ghazali (d. 1111) highlight how the institution of dhimmitude was simply a normative, and prominent feature of the Sharia:
…the dhimmi is obliged not to mention Allah or His Apostle.. .Jews, Christians, and Majians [Zoroastrians] must pay the jizya [poll tax on non-Muslims]…on offering up the jizya, the dhimmi must hang his head while the official takes hold of his beard and hits [the dhimmi] on the protruberant bone beneath his ear [i.e., the mandible]… They are not permitted to ostentatiously display their wine or church bells…their houses may not be higher than the Muslim’s, no matter how low that is. The dhimmi may not ride an elegant horse or mule; he may ride a donkey only if the saddler-work] is of wood. He may not walk on the good part of the road. They [the dhimmis] have to wear [an identifying] patch [on their clothing], even women, and even in the [public] baths…[dhimmis] must hold their tongue.
The practical consequences of such a discriminatory system were summarized in A.S. Tritton’s 1930 The Caliphs and their Non-Muslim Subjects, a pioneering treatise on the status of the dhimmis:
…[C]aliphs destroyed churches to obtain materials for their buildings, and the mob was always ready to pillage churches and monasteries…dhimmis…always lived on sufferance, exposed to the caprices of the ruler and the passions of the mob…in later times..[t]hey were much more liable to suffer from the violence of the crowd, and the popular fanaticism was accompanied by an increasing strictness among the educated. The spiritual isolation of Islam was accomplished. The world was divided into two classes, Muslims and others, and only Islam counted…Indeed the general feeling was that the leavings of the Muslims were good enough for the dhimmis.
Yet over four decades after Tritton published this apt characterization, here is what Bernard Lewis opined on the subject (in 1974):
The dhimma on the whole worked well. [emphasis added] The non-Muslims managed to thrive under Muslim rule, and even to make significant contributions to Islamic civilization. The restrictions were not onerous, and were usually less severe in practice than in theory. As long as the non-Muslim communities accepted and conformed to the status of tolerated subordination assigned to them, they were not troubled.
The assessments of two other highly esteemed Western scholars — Professors Ann Lambton and S.D. Goitein — who were Lewis’s contemporaries (and colleagues), make plain that his flimsy apologetic on “the dhimma” does not represent a consensus viewpoint.
From 1972-78, the late Ann Lambton headed the Near and Middle East department, while contributing articles and analyses for The Cambridge History of Islam, which she co-edited with Bernard Lewis. Professor Lambton and Bernard Lewis were also both protégés of the famous School of Oriental and Asiatic Studies Islamologist, Sir Hamilton Gibb. Lambton’s obituarist, Burzine K. Waghmar, noted (on August 1, 2008),
Lambton was unrivalled in the breadth of her scholarship, covering Persian grammar and dialectology; medieval and early modern Islamic political thought; Seljuq, Mongol, Safavid, Qajar and Pahlavi administration; tribal and local history; and land tenure and agriculture. Her association with SOAS (School of Oriental and Asiatic Studies) in London, which lasted from her time as an undergraduate in 1930 until her death as Professor Emerita, aged 96, was one of the longest and most illustrious, and Lambton became acknowledged as the dean of Persian studies in the West. Without hyperbole, an era has passed in Middle Eastern studies.
Ann Lambton, wrote the following on the dhimmis, published in 1981:
As individuals, the dhimmis possessed no rights. Citizenship was limited to Muslims; and because of the superior status of the Muslim, certain juristic restrictions were imposed on the dhimmi. The evidence of a dhimmi was not accepted in a law court; a Muslim could not inherit from a dhimmi nor a dhimmi from a Muslim; a Muslim could marry a dhimmi woman, but a dhimmi could not marry a Muslim woman; at the frontier a dhimmi merchant paid double the rate of duty on merchandise paid by a Muslim, but only half the rate paid by a harbi; and the blood-wit paid for a dhimmi was, except according to the Hanafis, only half or two-thirds that paid for a Muslims. No dhimmi was permitted to change his faith except for Islam…
Various social restrictions were imposed upon the dhimmis such as restrictions of dress…Dhimmis were also forbidden to ride horses…and, according to Abu Hanifa valuable mules. The reason for this prohibition was connected with the fact that dhimmis were forbidden to bear arms: the horse was regarded as a ‘fighter for the faith,’ and received two shares in the booty if it were of Arab stock whereas its rider received one. Dhimmis were to yield the way to Muslims. They were also forbidden to mark their houses by distinctive signs or to build them higher than those of Muslims. They were not to build new churches, synagogues, or hermitages and not to scandalize Muslims by openly performing their worship or following their distinctive customs such as drinking wine…
The humiliating regulations to which [dhimmis] were subject as regards their dress and conduct in public were not, however, nearly so serious as their moral subjection, the imposition of the poll tax, and their legal disabilities. They were, in general, made to feel that they were beyond the pale. Partly as a result of this, the Christian communities dwindled in number, vitality, and morality…The degradation and demoralization of the [dhimmis] had dire consequences for the Islamic community and reacted unfavorably on Islamic political and social life. [emphasis added]
Shlomo Dov [S.D.] Goitein (d. 1985), was a historian of Muslim-Jewish relations, whose seminal research findings were widely published, most notably in the monumental five-volume work, A Mediterranean Society: The Jewish Communities of the Arab World as Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Geniza (1967-1993). Goitein was Professor Emeritus of the Hebrew University, scholar at The Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and a colleague of Lewis. The New York Times obituary for Professor Goitein (published on February 10, 1985) noted, appositely, that his renowned (and prolific) writings on Islamic culture, and Muslim-Jewish relations, were “…standard works for scholars in both fields.” Here is what Goitein wrote on the subject of non-Muslim dhimmis under Muslim rule, i.e., dhimmitude, circa 1970:
…a great humanist and contemporary of the French Revolution, Wilhelm von Humboldt, defined as the best state one which is least felt and restricts itself to one task only: protection, protection against attack from outside and oppression from within…in general, taxation [by the Muslim government] was merciless, and a very large section of the population must have lived permanently at the starvation level. From many Geniza letters one gets the impression that the poor were concerned more with getting money for the payment of their taxes than for food and clothing, for failure of payment usually induced cruel punishment… the Muslim state was quite the opposite of the ideals propagated by Wilhelm von Humboldt or the principles embedded in the constitution of the United States. An Islamic state was part of or coincided with dar al-Islam, the House of Islam. Its treasury was mal al-muslumin, the money of the Muslims. Christians and Jews were not citizens of the state, not even second class citizens. They were outsiders under the protection of the Muslim state, a status characterized by the term dhimma, for which protection they had to pay a poll tax specific to them. They were also exposed to a great number of discriminatory and humiliating laws…As it lies in the very nature of such restrictions, soon additional humiliations were added, and before the second century of Islam was out, a complete body of legislation in this matter was in existence…In times and places in which they became too oppressive they lead to the dwindling or even complete extinction of the minorities. [emphasis added]
Lewis’s conception of Islam’s doctrinal Antisemitism, and its resultant historical treatment of Jews, is a sham castle which rests on two false pillars. These glib affirmations, which amount to nothing less than sheer denial, are illustrated below:
 In Islamic society hostility to the Jew is non-theological. It is not related to any specific Islamic doctrine, nor to any specific circumstance in Islamic history. For Muslims it is not part of the birth-pangs of their religion, as it is for Christians.
 “dhimmi”-tude [derisively hyphenated] subservience and persecution and ill treatment of Jews… [is a] myth.
There is voluminous evidence from Islam’s foundational texts of theological Jew hatred: virulently Antisemitic Koranic verses whose virulence is only amplified by the greatest classical and modern Muslim Koranic commentaries (by Tabari [d. 923], Zamakshari [d. 1143], Baydawi [d. ~1316], Ibn Kathir [d.1373], and Suyuti [d. 1505], to Qutb [d. 1966] and Mawdudi [d.1979]), the six canonical hadith collections, and the most respected sira (pious Muslim biographies of Muhammad, by Ibn Ishaq [d. 761 ]/Ibn Hisham [d. 813], Ibn Sa‘d [d. 835 ], Waqidi [d. 822], and Tabari). The Antisemitic motifs in these texts have been carefully elucidated by scholarship that dates back to Hartwig Hirschfeld’s mid-1880s analysis of the sira and Georges Vajda’s 1937 study of the hadith, complemented in the past two decades by Haggai Ben Shammai’s 1988 examination of the major Antisemitic verses and themes in the Koran and Koran exegesis, and Saul S. Friedman’s broad, straightforward enumeration of Koranic Antisemitism in 1989. Moshe Perlmann, a pre-eminent scholar of Islam’s ancient anti-Jewish polemical literature, made this summary observation in 1964:
The Koran, of course became a mine of anti-Jewish passages. The hadith did not lag behind. Popular preachers used and embellished such material.
Notwithstanding Bernard Lewis’s hollow claims, salient examples of Jew-hatred illustrating Perlmann’s remarkably compendious assessment of these foundational Islamic sources, and their tragic application across space and time, through the present, are summarized in the discussion that follows.
A front page New York Times story published Saturday January 10, 2009, included extracts from the Friday sermon (of the day before) at Al Azhar mosque pronounced by Egyptian-government appointed cleric Sheik Eid Abdel Hamid Youssef. Referencing well-established Antisemitic motifs from the Koran (citations provided, below), Sheikh Youssef intoned,
Muslim brothers, God has inflicted the Muslim nation with a people whom God has become angry at [Koran 1:7] and whom he cursed [Koran 5:78] so he made monkeys and pigs [Koran 5:60] out of them. They killed prophets and messengers [Koran 2:61 / 3:112] and sowed corruption on Earth. [Koran 5:33 / 5:64] They are the most evil on Earth. [5:62 /63]
The crux of all these allegations is a central antisemitic motif in the Koran which decrees an eternal curse upon the Jews (Koran 2:61/ reiterated at 3:112) for slaying the prophets and transgressing against the will of Allah. It should be noted that Koran 3:112 is featured before the pre-amble to Hamas’ foundational Covenant. This central motif is coupled to Koranic verses 5:60, and 5:78, which describe the Jews transformation into apes and swine (5:60), or simply apes, (i.e. verses 2:65 and 7:166), having been “…cursed by the tongue of David, and Jesus, Mary’s son” (5:78). Muhammad himself repeats this Koranic curse in a canonical hadith, “He [Muhammad] then recited the verse [5:78]: ‘…curses were pronounced on those among the children of Israel who rejected Faith, by the tongue of David and of Jesus the son of Mary’ .” The related verse, 5:64, accuses the Jews of being “spreaders of war and corruption,” — a sort of ancient Koranic antecedent of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion — invoked not only by Hamas and Hezbollah leaders, but “moderate” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas who cited Koran 5:64 during a January 2007 speech which urged Palestinian Muslims to end their internecine strife, and “aim their rifles at Israel.”
Indeed the Koran’s overall discussion of the Jews is marked by a litany of their sins and punishments, as if part of a divine indictment, conviction, and punishment process. The Jews’ ultimate sin and punishment are made clear: they are the devil’s minions (4:60) cursed by Allah, their faces will be obliterated (4:47), and if they do not accept the true faith of Islam — the Jews who understand their faith become Muslims (3:113) — they will be made into apes (2:65/ 7:166), or apes and swine (5:60), and burn in the Hellfires (4:55, 5:29, 98:6, and 58:14-19).
The centrality of the Jews’ permanent “abasement and humiliation,” and being “laden with God’s anger” in the corpus of Muslim exegetic literature on Koran 2:61/3:112, is clear. By nature deceitful and treacherous, the Jews rejected Allah’s signs and prophets, including Isa, the Muslim Jesus.
Ikhwanonline.com from November 21, 2004 quoted Muhammad Morsi stating,
…it is confirmed by the Quran that Jews are the most hostile of men to Muslims. The Almighty says: “Certainly you will find the most hostile to those who believe are the Jews and those who are polytheists.” [Koran 5: 82] The verse confirms that Jews are the most hostile enemies of the Muslims..
Classical Koranic commentators such as Tabari (d. 923), Zamakshari (d. 1143), Baydawi (d. 1316), and Ibn Kathir (d. 1373), when discussing Koran 5:82, which includes the statement (“Thou wilt surely find the most hostile of men to the believers are the Jews..” , concur on the unique animus of the Jews towards the Muslims, which is repeatedly linked to the curse of Koran 2:61/3:112. For example, in his commentary on 5:82, Tabari writes,
In my opinion, [the Christians] are not like the Jews who always scheme in order to murder the emissaries and the prophets, and who oppose God in his positive and negative commandments, and who corrupt His scripture which He revealed in His books.
Tabari’s classical interpretations of Koran 5:82 and 2:61, as well as his discussion of the related verse 9:29 mandating the Jews payment of the jizya (Koranic poll-tax), represent both Antisemitic and more general anti-dhimmi views that became, and remain, intrinsic to Islam to this day. Here is Tabari’s discussion of 2:61 and its relationship to verse 9:29, which emphasizes the purposely debasing nature of the Koranic poll tax:
…“abasement and poverty were imposed and laid down upon them”, as when someone says “the imam imposed the poll tax (jizya)on free non-Muslim subjects”, or “The man imposed land tax on his slave”, meaning thereby that he obliged him [to pay ] it, or, “The commander imposed a sortie on his troops”, meaning he made it their duty.…God commanded His believing servants not to give them [i.e., the non-Muslim people of the scripture] security — as long as they continued to disbelieve in Him and his Messenger — unless they paid the poll tax to them; God said: “Fight those who believe not in God and the Last Day and do not forbid what God and His Messenger have forbidden — such men as practice not the religion of truth [Islam], being of those who have been given the Book [Bible] — until they pay the poll tax, being humble” (Koran 9:29)..
The dhimmis [non-Muslim tributary’s] posture during the collection of the jizya- “[should be lowering themselves] by walking on their hands, …reluctantly
… His words “and abasement and poverty were imposed upon them”, ‘These are the Jews of the Children of Israel’. ..‘Are they the Copts of Egypt?’…“What have the Copts of Egypt to do with this? No, by God, they are not; but they are the Jews, the Children of Israel.…By “and slain the prophets unrightfully” He means that they used to kill the Messengers of God without God’s leave, denying their messages and rejecting their prophethood.
The Koranic curse (verses 2:61/3:112) upon the Jews for (primarily) rejecting, even slaying Allah’s prophets, including Isa/Jesus (or at least his “body double” 4:157-4:158), is updated with perfect archetypal logic in the canonical hadith: following the Muslims’ initial conquest of the Jewish farming oasis of Khaybar, one of the vanquished Jewesses reportedly served Muhammad poisoned mutton (or goat), which resulted, ultimately, in his protracted, agonizing death. And Ibn Saad’s sira account (i.e., one of the important early pious Muslim biographies of Muhammad) maintains that Muhammad’s poisoning resulted from a well-coordinated Jewish conspiracy.
The contemporary Iranian theocracy’s state-sanctioned Jew hatred employs this motif as part of its malevolent indoctrination of young adult candidates for national teacher training programs. Affirming as objective, factual history the hadith account (for eg., Sahih Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 47, Number 786) of Muhammad’s supposed poisoning by a Jewish woman from ancient Khaybar, Professor Eliz Sanasarian notes,
… the subject became one of the questions in the ideological test for the Teachers’ Training College where students were given a multiple-choice question in order to identify the instigator of the martyrdom of the Prophet Muhammad, the “correct” answer being “a Jewess. ”
It is worth recounting — as depicted in the Muslim sources — the events that antedated Muhammad’s reputed poisoning at Khaybar.
Muhammad’s failures or incomplete successes were consistently recompensed by murderous attacks on the Jews. The Muslim prophet-warrior developed a penchant for assassinating individual Jews, and destroying Jewish communities — by expropriation and expulsion (Banu Quaynuqa and B. Nadir), or massacring their men, and enslaving their women and children (Banu Qurayza). Just before subduing the Medinan Jewish tribe Banu Qurayza and orchestrating the mass execution of their adult males, Muhammad invoked perhaps the most striking Koranic motif for the Jews debasement — he addressed these Jews, with hateful disparagement, as “You brothers of apes.” Subsequently, in the case of the Khaybar Jews, Muhammad had the male leadership killed, and plundered their riches. The terrorized Khaybar survivors — industrious Jewish farmers — became prototype subjugated dhimmis whose productivity was extracted by the Muslims as a form of permanent booty. (And according to the Muslim sources, even this tenuous vassalage was arbitrarily terminated within a decade of Muhammad’s death when Caliph Umar expelled the Jews of Khaybar.)
Thus Maimonides (d. 1203), the renowned Talmudist, philosopher, astronomer, and physician, as noted by historian Salo Baron, emphasizes the bellicose “madness” of Muhammad — Maimonides refers to Muhammad as “Meshugga” — and his quest for political control. Muhammad’s mindset, and the actions it engendered, had immediate, and long term tragic consequences for Jews — from his massacring up to 24,000 Jews, to their chronic oppression — as described in the Islamic sources, by Muslims themselves.
Muhammad’s brutal conquest and subjugation of the Medinan and Khaybar Jews, and their subsequent expulsion by one of his companions, the (second) “Rightly Guided” Caliph Umar, epitomize permanent, archetypal behavior patterns Islamic Law deemed appropriate to Muslim interactions with Jews. George Vajda’s seminal analysis of the anti-Jewish motifs in the hadith remains the definitive work on this subject. Vajda concluded that according to the hadith stubborn malevolence is the Jews defining worldly characteristic: rejecting Muhammad and refusing to convert to Islam out of jealousy, envy and even selfish personal interest, lead them to acts of treachery, in keeping with their inveterate nature: “…sorcery, poisoning, assassination held no scruples for them.” These archetypes sanction Muslim hatred towards the Jews, and the admonition to at best, “subject [the Jews] to Muslim domination,” as dhimmis, treated “with contempt,” under certain “humiliating arrangements.”
Lastly, a profound anti-Jewish motif occurring after the events recorded in the hadith and sira, put forth in early Muslim historiography (for example, by Tabari), is most assuredly a part of “the birth pangs” of Islam: the story of Abd Allah b. Saba, an alleged renegade Yemenite Jew, and founder of the heterodox Shi’ite sect. He is held responsible — identified as a Jew — for promoting the Shi’ite heresy and fomenting the rebellion and internal strife associated with this primary breach in Islam’s “political innocence”, culminating in the assassination of the third Rightly Guided Caliph Uthman, and the bitter, lasting legacy of Sunni-Shi’ite sectarian strife.
Two particularly humiliating “vocations” that were imposed upon Jews by their Muslim overlords in Yemen, and Morocco — where Jews formed the only substantive non-Muslim dhimmi populations — merit elaboration.
Moroccan Jews were confined to ghettos in the major cities, such as Fez (since the 13th century) called mellah(s) (salty earth) which derives from the fact it was here that they were forced to salt the decapitated heads of executed rebels for public exposition. This brutally imposed humiliating practice — which could be enforced even on the Jewish Sabbath — persisted through the late 19th century, as described by Eliezer Bashan:
In the 1870’s, Jews were forced to salt the decapitated heads of rebels on the Sabbath. For example, Berber tribes frequently revolted against Sultan Muhammad XVIII. In order to force them to accept his authority, he would engage in punitive military campaigns. Among the tribes were the Musa, located south of Marrakesh. In 1872, the Sultan succeeded in quelling their revolt and forty-eight of their captives were condemned to death. In October 1872, on the order of the Sultan, they were dispatched to Rabat for beheading. Their decapitated heads were to be exposed on the gates of the town for three days. Since the heads were to be sent to Fez, Jewish ritual slaughterers [of livestock] were forced to salt them and hang them for exposure on the Sabbath. Despite threats by the governor of Rabat, the Jews refused to do so. He then ordered soldiers to enter the homes of those who refused and drag them outside. After they were flogged, the Jews complied and performed the task and the heads of the rebels were exposed in public.
Yemenite Jews had to remove human feces and other waste matter (urine which failed to evaporate, etc.) from Muslim areas, initially in Sanaa, and later in other communities such as Shibam, Yarim, and Dhamar. Decrees requiring this obligation were issued in the late 18th or early 19th century, and re-introduced in 1913. Yehuda Nini reproduces an 1874 letter written by a Yemenite Jew to the Alliance Israelite in Paris, lamenting the practice:
…it is 86 years since our forefathers suffered the cruel decree and great shame to the nation of Israel from the east to sundown…for in the days of our fathers, 86 years ago, there arose a judge known as Qadi, and said unto the king and his ministers who lived in that time that the Lord, Blessed be He, had only created the Jews out of love of the other nations, to do their work and be enslaved by them at their will, and to do the most contemptible and lowly of tasks. And of them all…the greatest contamination of all, to clear their privies and streets and pathways of the filthy dung and the great filth in that place and to collect all that is left of the dung, may your Honor pardon the expression.
And when the Jews were perceived as having exceeded the rightful bounds of this subjected relationship, as in mythically “tolerant” Muslim Spain, the results were predictably tragic. The Granadan Jewish viziers Samuel Ibn Naghrela, and his son Joseph, who protected the Jewish community, were both assassinated between 1056 to 1066, and in the aftermath, the Jewish population was annihilated by the local Muslims. It is estimated that up to four thousand Jews perished in the pogrom by Muslims that accompanied the 1066 assassination. This figure equals or exceeds the number of Jews reportedly killed by the Crusaders during their pillage of the Rhineland, some thirty years later, at the outset of the First Crusade. The inciting “rationale” for this Granadan pogrom is made clear in the bitter anti-Jewish ode of Abu Ishaq, a well-known Muslim jurist and poet of the times, who wrote:
Bring them down to their place and return them to the most abject station. They used to roam around us in tatters covered with contempt, humiliation, and scorn. They used to rummage amongst the dung heaps for a bit of a filthy rag to serve as a shroud for a man to be buried in…Do not consider that killing them is treachery. Nay, it would be treachery to leave them scoffing.
Abu Ishaq’s rhetorical incitement to violence also included the line,
Many a pious Muslim is in awe of the vilest infidel ape
Moshe Perlmann, in his analysis of the Muslim anti-Jewish polemic of 11th century Granada, notes,
[Abu Ishaq] Elbīrī used the epithet “ape” (qird) profusely when referring to Jews. Such indeed was the parlance.
The Moroccan cleric al-Maghili (d. 1505), referring to the Jews as “brothers of apes” (just as Muhammad, the sacralized prototype, had addressed the Banu Qurayza), who repeatedly blasphemed the Muslim prophet, and whose overall conduct reflected their hatred of Muslims, fomented, and then personally lead, a Muslim pogrom (in ~ 1490) against the Jews of the southern Moroccan oasis of Touat, plundering and killing them en masse, and destroying their synagogue in neighboring Tamantit. An important Muslim theologian whose writings influenced Moroccan religious attitudes towards Jews into the 20th century, al-Maghili also declared in verse, “Love of the Prophet, requires hatred of the Jews.”
Mordechai Hakohen (1856-1929) was a Libyan Talmudic scholar and auto-didact anthropologist who composed an ethnographic study of North African Jewry in the early 20th century. Hakohen describes the overall impact on the Jews of the Muslim jihad conquest and rule of North Africa, as follows:
They [also] pressed the Jews to enter the covenant of the Muslim religion. Many Jews bravely chose death. Some of them accepted under the threat of force, but only outwardly…Others left the region, abandoning their wealth and property and scattering to the ends of the earth. Many stood by their faith, but bore an iron yoke on their necks. They lowered themselves to the dust before the Muslims, lords of the land, and accepted a life of woe — carrying no weapons, never mounting an animal in the presence of a Muslim, not wearing a red headdress, and following other laws that signaled their degradation.
Here is but a very incomplete sampling of pogroms and mass murderous violence against Jews living under Islamic rule, across space and time, all resulting from the combined effects of jihadism, general anti-dhimmi, and/or specifically Antisemitic motifs in Islam: 6,000 Jews massacred in Fez in 1033; hundreds of Jews slaughtered in Muslim Cordoba between 1010 and 1015; 4,000 Jews killed in Muslim riots in Grenada in 1066, wiping out the entire community; the Berber Muslim Almohad depredations of Jews (and Christians) in Spain and North Africa between 1130 and 1232, which killed tens of thousands, while forcibly converting thousands more, and subjecting the forced Jewish converts to Islam to a Muslim Inquisition; the 1291 pogroms in Baghdad and its environs, which killed (at least) hundreds of Jews; the 1465 pogrom against the Jews of Fez; the late 15th century pogrom against the Jews of the Southern Moroccan oasis town of Touat; the 1679 pogroms against, and then expulsion of 10,000 Jews from Sanaa, Yemen to the unlivable, hot and dry Plain of Tihama, from which only 1,000 returned alive, in 1680, 90% having died from exposure; recurring Muslim anti-Jewish violence — including pogroms and forced conversions — throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, which rendered areas of Iran (for example, Tabriz) Judenrein; the 1834 pogrom in Safed where raging Muslim mobs killed and grievously wounded hundreds of Jews; the 1888 massacres of Jews in Isfahan and Shiraz, Iran; the 1910 pogrom in Shiraz; the pillage and destruction of the Casablanca, Morocco ghetto in 1907; the pillage of the ghetto of Fez Morocco in 1912; the government sanctioned anti-Jewish pogroms by Muslims in Turkish Eastern Thrace during June-July, 1934 which ethnically cleansed at least 3000 Jews; and the series of pogroms, expropriations, and finally mass expulsions of some 900,000 Jews from Arab Muslim nations, beginning in 1941 in Baghdad (the murderous “Farhud,” during which 600 Jews were murdered, and at least 12,000 pillaged) — eventually involving cities and towns in Egypt, Morocco, Libya, Syria, Aden, Bahrain, and culminating in 1967 in Tunisia — that accompanied the planning and creation of a Jewish state, Israel, on a portion of the Jews’ ancestral homeland.
At present, the continual, monotonous invocation by Al Azhar clerics of Antisemitic motifs from the Koran (and other foundational Muslim texts) is entirely consistent with the published writings, and statements of Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi — Grand Imam of this pre-eminent Islamic religious institution since 1996, until his death in mid-March of 2010. Tantawi’s case illustrates the prevalence and depth of sacralized, “normative” Jew hatred in the contemporary Muslim world. Arguably Islam’s leading mainstream cleric, Grand Imam Sheikh Tantawi, embodies how the living legacy of Muslim anti-Jewish hatred, and violence remains firmly rooted in mainstream, orthodox Islamic teachings, not some aberrant vision of “radical Islam.”
Tantawi’s Ph.D. thesis [Banu Israil fi al-Quran wa-al-Sunnah] Jews in the Koran and the Traditions was published in 1968-69, and re-published in 1986. Two years after earning his Ph.D., Sheikh Tantawi began teaching at Al-Azhar. In 1980 he became the head of the Tafsir [Koranic Commentary] Department of the University of Medina, Saudi Arabia — a position he held until 1984. Sheikh Tantawi became Grand Mufti of Egypt in 1986, a position he was to hold for a decade, before serving as the Grand Imam of Al Azhar beginning in 1996, for the last 14 years of his life.
The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism includes extensive first time English translations of Tantawi’s academic magnum opus. Tantawi wrote these words in his 700 page treatise, rationalizing Muslim Jew hatred:
[The] Koran describes the Jews with their own particular degenerate characteristics, i.e. killing the prophets of Allah [Koran 2:61/ 3:112], corrupting His words by putting them in the wrong places, consuming the people’s wealth frivolously, refusal to distance themselves from the evil they do, and other ugly characteristics caused by their deep-rooted lasciviousness…only a minority of the Jews keep their word…[A]ll Jews are not the same. The good ones become Muslims [Koran 3:113], the bad ones do not. …[T]he Jews always remain maleficent deniers….they should desist from their negative denial…some Jews went way overboard in their denying hostility, so gentle persuasion can do no good with them, so use force with them and treat them in the way you see as effective in ridding them of their evil. One may go so far as to ban their religion, their persons, their wealth, and their villages.
Tantawi was apparently rewarded for this scholarly effort by subsequently being named Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University. These were the expressed, “carefully researched” views on Jews held by the nearest Muslim equivalent to a Pope — a man who for 14 years headed the most prestigious center of Muslim learning in Sunni Islam, which represents some 85 to 90% of the world’s Muslims. And Sheikh Tantawi never mollified such hatemongering beliefs after becoming the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar as his statements on “dialogue” (January 1998) with Jews, the Jews as “enemies of Allah, descendants of apes and pigs” (April 2002), and the legitimacy of homicide bombing of Jews (April 2002), made clear.
Tantawi’s statements on dialogue, which were issued shortly after he met with the Israel’s Chief Rabbi, Israel Meir Lau, in Cairo, on December 15, 1997, provided him another opportunity to re-affirm his ongoing commitment to the views expressed about Jews in his Ph.D. thesis:
…anyone who avoids meeting with the enemies in order to counter their dubious claims and stick fingers into their eyes, is a coward. My stance stems from Allah’s book [the Koran], more than one-third of which deals with the Jews…[I] wrote a dissertation dealing with them [the Jews], all their false claims and their punishment by Allah. I still believe in everything written in that dissertation. [i.e., Jews in the Koran and the Traditions, cited above]
Unfortunately, Tantawi’s antisemitic formulations are well-grounded in classical, mainstream Islamic theology. However, understanding and acknowledging the Koranic origins of Islamic antisemitism is not a justification for the unreformed, unrepentant modern endorsement of these hateful motifs by Tantawi — with predictably murderous consequences. Within days of the Netanya homicide bombing massacre on a Passover seder night, March 27, 2002, for example, Sheikh Tantawi issued an abhorrent sanction (April 4, 2002) of so-called “martyrdom operations,” even when directed at Israeli civilians.
And during November, 2002 (“Tantawi: No Antisemitism” Associated Press 11/19/2002), consistent with his triumphant denial, Sheikh Tantawi made the following statement in response to criticism over the virulently antisemitic Egyptian television series (“Horseman Without a Horse”), based on the Czarist Russia forgery, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”:
Suppose that the series has some criticism or shows some of the Jews’ traits, this doesn’t necessitate an uproar…The accusation of antisemitism was invented by the Jews as a means to pressure Arabs and Muslims to implement their schemes in the Arab and Muslim countries, so don’t pay attention to them
January 22, 2008, it was reported that Tantawi cancelled what would have been an historic visit to the Rome synagogue by the imam of Rome’s mosque (Ala Eldin Mohammed Ismail al-Ghobash). The putative excuse for this cancellation was Israel’s self-defensive stance — a blockade — in response to acts of jihad terrorism (rocket barrages; attempted armed incursions) emanating from Gaza. The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, commenting aptly about these events, observed that the cancellation proved, “…even so called Muslim moderates share the ideology of hate, violence and death towards the Jewish state.” Al Azhar, Corriere della Sera, further argued, which constituted a “Vatican of Sunni Islam,” had in effect issued “a kind of fatwah.” The paper concluded by noting that “What the Cairo statement really means is that Muslim dialogue with Jews in Italy is only possible once Israel has been eliminated.”
Annihilationist sentiments regarding Jews, as expressed by Hezbollah, the Iranian regime, and incorporated permanently into the foundational 1988 Hamas Charter, are also rooted in Islamic eschatology, or end of times theology. As characterized in the hadith, Muslim eschatology highlights the Jews’ supreme hostility to Islam. Jews are described as adherents of the Dajjâl — the Muslim equivalent of the Anti-Christ — or according to another tradition, the Dajjâl is himself Jewish. At his appearance, other traditions maintain that the Dajjâl will be accompanied by 70,000 Jews from Isfahan wrapped in their robes, and armed with polished sabers, their heads covered with a sort of veil. When the Dajjâl is defeated, his Jewish companions will be slaughtered — everything will deliver them up except for the so-called gharkad tree, as per the canonical hadith included in the 1988 Hamas Charter (in article 7). Another hadith variant, which takes place in Jerusalem, has Isa (the Muslim Jesus) leading the Arabs in a rout of the Dajjâl and his company of 70,000 armed Jews. And the notion of jihad “ransom” extends even into Islamic eschatology — on the day of resurrection the vanquished Jews will be consigned to Hellfire, and this will expiate Muslims who have sinned, sparing them from this fate. Moshe Sharon recently provided a very lucid summary of the unique features of Shi’ite eschatology, its key point of consistency with Sunni understandings of this doctrine, and Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s deep personal attachment to “mahdism”:
Since the late ninth century, the Shi’ites have been expecting the emergence of the hidden imam-mahdi, armed with divine power and followed by thousands of martyrdom-seeking warriors. He is expected to conquer the world and establish Shi’ism as its supreme religion and system of rule. His appearance would involve terrible war and unusual bloodshed.
Ahmadinejad, as mayor of Teheran, built a spectacular boulevard through which the mahdi would enter into the capital. There is no question that Ahmadinejad believes he has been chosen to be the herald of the mahdi.
Shi’ite Islam differs from Sunni Islam regarding the identity of the mahdi. The Sunni mahdi is essentially an anonymous figure; the Shi’ite mahdi is a divinely inspired person with a real identity.
However both Shi’ites and Sunnis share one particular detail about “the coming of the hour” and the dawning of messianic times: The Jews must all suffer a violent death, to the last one. Both Shi’ites and Sunnis quote the famous hadith [Sahih Muslim, Book 40, Number 6985] attributed to Muhammad: The last hour will not come unless the Muslims fight against the Jews, and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and the stone or the tree would say: “Muslim! Servant of Allah! Here is a Jew behind me; come and kill him!” Not one Friday passes without this hadith being quoted in sermons from one side of the Islamic world to the other.
The rise of Jewish nationalism — Zionism — has posed a predictable, if completely unacceptable challenge to the Islamic order — jihad-imposed chronic dhimmitude for Jews — of apocalyptic magnitude. As historian Bat Ye’or has explained,
…because divine will dooms Jews to wandering and misery, the Jewish state appears to Muslims as an unbearable affront and a sin against Allah. Therefore it must be destroyed by Jihad.
This is exactly the Islamic context in which the widespread, “resurgent” use of Jew annihilationist apocalyptic motifs — Sunni and Shi’ite alike — would be an anticipated, even commonplace occurrence.
Such is the state of ferment we find in the Muslim world of today. It was epitomized by the openly expressed annihilationist sentiments of Muslim Brotherhood “Spiritual Guide” Yusuf al-Qaradawi which marked his triumphal return to Cairo Friday February 18, 2011. After years of exile, his public re-emergence in Egypt was sanctioned by the nation’s provisional military rulers. Qaradawi, a vocal advocate of Islam’s Jew-hating mainstream canon (like the late Al-Azhar Grand Imam Tantawi), used the occasion to issue a clarion call for the jihad re-conquest of Al-Aqsa mosque, i.e., Jerusalem.
A message to our brothers in Palestine: I have hope that Almighty Allah, as I have been pleased with the victory in Egypt, that He will also please me with the conquest of the al-Aqsa Mosque, to prepare the way for me to preach in the al-Aqsa Mosque. May Allah prepare the way for us to (preach) in the al-Aqsa Mosque in safety — not in fear, not in haste. May Allah achieve this clear conquest for us. O sons of Palestine, I am confident that you will be victorious.
This pronouncement was met with thunderous applause by the millions assembled in Tahrir Square celebrating the so-called Arab Spring.
Sadly, if predictably, Bernard Lewis in an April 2, 2011 Wall Street Journal interview, although wary of Qaradawi, ignored the immensely popular cleric’s mainstream, canonical jihadism and Jew-hatred. But Lewis did manage to reject his own repeated 1950s characterization of Islam as authoritarian, even totalitarian, while burbling his now oft repeated pieties about the putative tolerant, anti-authoritarian “tradition” of Islam, to cast a hopeful light on the Arab Spring:
The whole Islamic tradition is very clearly against autocratic and irresponsible rule.. We have a much better chance of establishing…some sort of open, tolerant society, if it’s done within their systems, according to their traditions.
Historian Robert Kaplan has dispassionately analyzed the views of Bernard Lewis on Islamic Jew hatred. Kaplan’s discussion provides broader insights which help elucidate how Lewis may have developed the other self-contradictory, or apologetic positions he has taken on Islamic authoritarianism and dhimmitude. As Kaplan explains, central to Lewis’s method are the invalid generalizations he proffers, absent any hard data, i.e., supportive facts.
Lewis puts Islam’s record regarding Jews in a favorable light mainly with the generalizations he makes rather than the particular facts he marshals. These generalizations, which crumble under the slightest scrutiny, are of four general types. One holds that the least onerous version of Muslim oppression is typical of Muslim practice….A second type of generalization claims that the worst of the behavior of Christians towards Jews was the norm… A third variety of generalization employed by Lewis claims that Muslim abuses are far less bad than the worst imaginable abuses by non-Muslims… A fourth type of generalization ascribes to “human nature” rather than Islam, with no basis of evidence, the unattractive characteristics exhibited by Muslims.
Kaplan describes perhaps the most egregious example of the first type of generalization, as follows:
Lewis writes “dhimmitude was a minor inconvenience Jews learned to live with …under Muslim rule the status of dhimmi was long accepted with gratitude by Jews.” In making this improbable claim he gives no evidence or explanation. Could he mean that the Jews were grateful for not being killed?
Kaplan also demonstrates how Lewis employs a cynical manipulation of semantics to negate the concept of Antisemitism in Islam.
How does Lewis reach the conclusion that Antisemitism is unknown to classical Islam? He defines Antisemitism as hatred of Jews according to Christian doctrine, not simply hatred of Jews. In doing so he distorts the ordinary meaning of “antisemitism” which in contemporary English means hatred of Jews.
Once again, it is illuminating to juxtapose Lewis’s attempt to deny the existence of Antisemitism in Medieval Islam, with the conclusions of S.D. Goitein, based upon the latter’s thorough philological and historical analyses of the primary source Geniza documents. Thus, in the specific context of the Arab Muslim world during the high Middle Ages (circa 950-1250 C.E.), Goitein’ s seminal analyses revealed that the Geniza documentary record employed the term antisemitism,
…in order to differentiate animosity against Jews from the discrimination practiced by Islam against non-Muslims in general. Our scrutiny of the Geniza material has proved the existence of “antisemitism” in the time and the area considered here…
Goitein cites as concrete proof of his assertion that a unique strain of Islamic Jew hatred was extant at this time (i.e., up to a millennium ago) — exploding Lewis’s spurious claim of its absence — the fact that letters from the Cairo Geniza material,
…have a special word for it and, most significantly, one not found in the Bible or in Talmudic literature (nor registered in any Hebrew dictionary), but one much used and obviously coined in the Geniza period. It is sinuth, “hatred”, a Jew-baiter being called sone, “a hater.”
Incidents of such Muslim Jew hatred documented by Goitein in the Geniza record come from northern Syria (Salamiyya and al-Mar‘arra), Morocco (Fez), and Egypt (Alexandria), with references to the latter being particularly frequent.
A concluding example illustrates how Lewis’s Islamic apologetics — primarily via the same spurious method of “generalization” Kaplan identifies — morphs into frank moral confusion.
In 1937 Walter Fischel wrote a thoughtful analysis of the Mongol period and its impact on Jews and Christians in the conquered Abbasid Caliphate. The Mongol conquest of Baghdad (seat of the Abbasid Caliphate) in 1258 ended the domination of Islam as a state religion, and with it the system of dhimmitude — a point Fischel makes explicitly:
…the principle of tolerance for all faiths, maintained by the Il Khans [Mongol rulers], (depriving) the [Islamic] concept of the “Protected People”, the ahl adh-Dhimma [dhimmi system]…of its former importance; with it fell the extremely varied professional restrictions into which it had expanded, [emphasis added]…primarily those regarding the admission of Jews and Christians to government posts.
The 13th century Christian chronicler Bar Hebraeus and the Iraqi Muslim Ghazi b. al-Wasiti (fl. 1292), author of a Muslim treatise on the dhimmis, made these concordant observations from diametrically opposed perspectives — Bar Hebraeus as a dhimmi celebrating the changes wrought by Mongol conquest, and al-Wasiti as a Muslim lamenting them:
[Bar Hebraeus] With the Mongols there is neither slave nor free man, neither believer nor pagan, neither Christian nor Jew; but they regard all men as belonging to one and the same stock.
[al-Wasiti] A firman of the Il Khan [Hulagu] had appeared to the effect that everyone should have the right to profane his faith openly and his religious connection; and that the members of one religious body should not oppose those of another
Fischel notes that because the Mongols abolished a system Lewis contends never really existed (or a system Lewis ignores), the plight of the dhimmi Jews and Christians improved substantially:
For Christians and Jews, the two groups chiefly affected by the ahl adh-Dhimma policy, current until then, this change in constitutional and religious principles implied a considerable amelioration of their position; whereas for the Muslims it meant they had sunk to a depth hitherto unknown in their history.
Moreover, when the Mongols subsequently converted to Islam, a transition that took place under Mongol rulers Ghazan (1295-1304) and Uljaytu (1305-1316), Fischel maintains,
The concept of the ahl adh-Dhimma once again became a basic fact in the administration of the state, and it is characteristic that under Ghazan and his successor Uljaytu (1305-1316) we hear of renewed enactments against the ahl ad-Dhimma and of sumptuary laws [dress regulations, especially], as well as of the destruction of synagogues and churches, and of the persecution of Christians and Jews.
Bernard Lewis’s brief characterization of these events is selective to the point of absurdity. He entirely ignores the imposition of dhimmitude upon the non-Muslim minorities under the Abbasid Caliphate before the pagan Mongol conquests, its amelioration under pagan Mongol rule (when the system of dhimmitude was transiently abolished), or its re-imposition when the Mongols eventually converted to Islam. Neglecting all these facts, Lewis instead, perseverates on his charge of “collaboration” by the Christians and Jews with the Mongols, before the latter converted to Islam:
The Mongol rulers found Christians and Jews — local people knowing the languages, and the countries but not themselves Muslims — very useful instruments, and appointed some of them to high office. Afterwards, when the Mongols were converted to Islam, became part of the Islamic world, and adopted Islamic attitudes, the Christians and Jews had to pay for past collaboration with the pagan conquerors.
German scholar Karl Binswanger ended his brilliant 1977 analysis of the imposition of Islamic law on non-Muslims under Ottoman rule with a valid moral critique of the “dogmatic Islamophilia” epitomized by Bernard Lewis, and Orientalists of Lewis’s persuasion.
It is absolutely scientifically justifiable to call cynicism and “evil” by their names.
It is understandable that the Orientalist has a predilection for those peoples with whose history and culture he is concerned and wishes to present them in a good light. All the same, such a process has nothing to do with science…[W]homever — consciously or not — downplays or misrepresents the morally negative aspects of the Dhimma or even distorts it into its (moral) opposite, because he would otherwise have to partially revise his pre-conceived evaluation of Islamic culture, he is behaving like the Marxist “researcher” who simply demonizes every manifestation of “evil” feudalism, instead of, or without (even therefore) investigating the functional accomplishments of feudalism. The Marxist “researcher” acts this way, because there is no place for critical examination of his own position in his pre-conceived conception of the world and science. For him “scientific socialism” is a dogma. Orientalist studies must defend itself from degenerating into an obstinate “scientific Islamophilia.” Or it will deserve the teasing name of “orchid specialty” (obscure and unimportant specialty) and not that of a science.
Bernard Lewis’s own strain of dogmatic Islamophilia is clearly manifested in his bowdlerized, morally confused assessments of dhimmitude and Islamic Jew-hatred. Given Lewis’s iconic status, his glib, negationist formulations have had far reaching ill-effects. Perhaps this deleterious influence, or “DisOrient-alism,” is best illustrated by the recent failure of virtually all media accounts, including those quoting “expert” commentators, to identify the Koranic (5:60) origins of Muhammad Morsi’s repeated references to Jews as “descendants of apes and pigs.”
* Morsi’s understanding of this verse (5:60) comports with its classical exegesis in the seminal Tafsir al-Jalalayn, meaning “The Commentary of the Two Jalals,” named after its two Egyptian authors, Al-Suyuti (1445-1505), a brilliant multidisciplinary scholar, and his mentor Jalalu’d-Din al-Mahalli (1389-1459). The great contemporary Dutch Islamologist, Johannes J.G. Jansen, notes in his treatise, “The Interpretation of the Koran in Modern Egypt,” Tafsir al-Jalalayn remains one of the most popular, as well as the most authoritative Koranic commentaries in Egypt. Here is the gloss on 5:60 from Tafsir al-Jalalayn:
…those whom Allah has cursed and put far away from His mercy and with whom he is angry — turning some of them into monkeys and into pigs by transmogrification — and who worshipped false gods. These are the Jews…“False gods” refers to Shayṭān [Satan]. They [the Jews] worship him by obeying him. Such people are in a worse situation — because they will be in the Fire — and further from the right way (the Path of the Truth) [i.e., Islam]
Popular, authoritative modern commentaries validate this classical interpretation of Koran 5:60. Thus Mawdudi’s contemporary exegesis from Towards Understanding the Qur’an. Vol. 2 , p. 175, maintains that Koran 5:60,
…alludes to the Jews, whose history shows that they were subjected, over and over again, to the wrath and scourge of God. When they desecrated the law of the Sabbath, the faces of many of them were distorted, and subsequently their generation reached such a low point, they took to worshipping Satan quite openly.
Al-Muntakhab fii Tafsiir al-Qur’aan al-Kariim. [Al-Azhar University paraphrase of, and commentary on the Qur’an, in Modern Standard Arabic]. 11th ed. Cairo1406/1985., p. 158, also states that the Jews were punished because they “worship Satan, and follow error,” but views their transformation as purely cognitive:
He [Allah] is angry with you [the Jews] for your unbelieving disobedience, He has obliterated your minds, so become like [emphasis added] apes and pigs…