Monday, September 10, 2012

Was there really a Jewish/Muslim love-in prior to 1948?

Was there really a Jewish/Muslim love-in prior to 1948?

Dhimmi Jew in Medieval Spain

Can you believe it? Many Muslims (And also some ignorant mainly European Jews) believe, or pretend to believe, that there was a ‘long history of mutual tolerance between Jews and Muslims’ in the Middle East, and elsewhere, which only came to an end in 1948 – when the state of Israel was founded.

Yes, it is sometimes true that Jews were more severely persecuted in Christian Europe than in the Muslim-Arab world. Or, rather, we should say that it was often the case that Jews were more severely treated and oppressed in Europe than in the Muslim Middle East. But this was not always and everywhere the case. At many times, and in many places, things were just as bad for Jews in the Islamic world than they were in Europe. It depends. It depends on the precise period and the precise location we are talking about.

So let’s talk about Jewish oppression and persecution in the Muslim world (way) before 1948. Here are just a few examples:

i) In the ninth century, Baghdad’s Caliph al-Mutawakki designated a yellow badge to be worn by Iraq’s Jews. The Nazis took over this Muslim example in the 1930s.

ii) In 1465, Muslims in Fez (Morocco) killed thousands of Jews, leaving only 11 alive. This was after a Jew had treated a Muslim woman in ‘an offensive manner’. (Oh! That Muslim word – ‘offensive’!) These preliminary killings sparked off other massacres throughout Morocco. (And so that you know, this is how the actual 'fez' hat came into existence). One of the Muslim murderers dipped his turban in the blood of the Jews he killed and then put it back on his head. Soon enough the rest copied him. And later a specific red blood hat called Fez was created.

iii) In Libya in 1785, Ali Belsi Pasha murdered hundreds of Jews.

iv) More up to date. In Algeria there were Jewish massacres in 1805, 1815 and 1830. Thousands were murdered.

v) There were many decrees that ordered the destruction of synagogues in Egypt and Syria (1014, 1293-4, 1301-2), Iraq (854-859, 1344) and Yemen (1676).

vi) Jews were forced to convert to Islam or face death in Yemen (1165 and 1678), Morocco (1272, 1465 and 1790-92) and Baghdad (1333 and 1344).

vii) And even more up to date (but still pre-1948). Thousands of Jews were killed in anti-Jewish riots in the early 1940s in Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Syria and Yemen. It was these events that forced the mass exodus of Jews (over 850,000) from these Muslim countries to the no-man's land of Palestine and then to Israel. (No! Not all new Israelis were from Eastern Europe or New York! This of course is Muslim propaganda).

viii) More importantly and relevantly. Take that example of supreme Muslim/Jewish tolerance – the Spain of the Muslim ‘Golden Age’. In 1066, Joseph HaNagid, the Jewish vizier of Granada, was crucified by an Arab mob that subsequently went on to burn-to-the-ground the Jewish quarter of the city killing its 5,000 inhabitants. The riot was brought about by Muslim religious leaders who had taken a dislike to Jewish political influence in Granada and in other parts of Spain.

We saw in note viii) that not even in golden-age Spain was there the Jewish/Muslim love-in the Church of Inter-Faith tries to sell us. For example, the convert to Islam (or ‘revert’ as they love to claim), Yahiya Emerick, enters the world of the absurd by stating that
“Jewish citizens of the [Islamic] empire had rights nearly equal to their rights in America today.” 

It’s simply not the case. This is a ridiculous thing to say. It is even hard to make sense of it at all. How on earth could any Middle-Age system of rights in the Islamic world, or anywhere else for that matter, be compared to the system of rights in contemporary America? This is an obscene case of extreme retrospectivism and anachronism. The claim is on a par with the very same writer’s belief that Islam believed in ‘animal rights’, ‘women’s rights’ and would have been against nuclear weapons. In certain respects, rights simply didn’t exist in this period – certainly not rights as the were promulgated by the American Founding Fathers and later in the 20th century generally. Muslims get very confused with the word "rights". 

If Jews had equal rights, or even American-style rights, why were they the victims of the following? 

i) Why were Jews excluded from public office and the armed services in many Muslim lands prior to 1948 – often far before 1948?

ii) Why were Jews not allowed to ride horses or camels, to build synagogues taller than mosques, to construct houses (homes) which were higher than those of Muslims or to drink wine in public?

iii) Why were Jews forced to wear distinctive clothing and not allowed to pray or mourn in loud voices as that might have offended (!) Muslims?

iv) Why did Jews have to show public deference towards Muslims, for example, by always having to yield them the centre of the road?

v) Why were Jews not allowed to give evidence in court against a Muslim, as his oath was unacceptable in an Islamic court?

As H.E.W Young, British Vice Council in Mosul, wrote in 1909:

“The attitude of the Muslims towards the… Jews is that of masters towards slaves, whom he treats with a certain lordly tolerance so long as they keep their place. Any sign of pretension to equality is promptly repressed.”

The trick is, of course, not to brainlessly accept this far-too-neat schematisation:

Pre-1948 Jewish/Muslim relations = good
Pre-1948 Jewish/Christian (European) relations = bad

This is far too simplistic and is often nothing more than propaganda on the Muslim’s/Palestinian’s part. Instead, we should accept G.E. von Grunebaum’s more sophisticated account of Jewish/Muslim interrelations throughout history. He wrote:

“It would not be difficult to put together the names of a very sizable number of Jewish subjects or citizens of the Islamic era who have attained to high rank…” 

Even during the Islamic Golden Age it would still be fair to say, as Grunebaum does, that

“it would again not be difficult to compile a lengthy list of persecutions, arbitrary confiscations, attempted forced conversions, or pogroms [of the Jews].” 

It is also important to say that this very pseudo-beneficence towards Jews, when and where it occurred, was largely a result of the fact that the Islamic empire(s) needed the Jews to help them prosper and thrive, just as it needed infidel Persians, Byzantines, Hindus, Spanish Christians and whatnot. That is, without the labour and brains of the Jews, and of other dhimmis, there would never have been an Islamic empire of any description. Muslim jihadists would have conquered easily enough, but very soon after each conquest their regimes would have disintegrated. Muslim warriors alone would never have created Islamic empires – or any kind of empire.

So let’s recap.

It’s commonly thought, by many Muslims (plus others), that everything was fine and dandy between Jews and Muslims before 1948. (Even if they admit that there were a few tiny hiccups.) This is pure propaganda. Specifically, it is propaganda against the state of Israel and, in the end, against the Jews (as Jews) again. In fact I don’t even believe that Muslims really believe any of this. As I said, it does good work as a piece of Islamic or pro-Palestinian propaganda.

Yahiya Emerick (again) even has the audacity to say that

“save for the modern Arab-Israeli conflict, relations between Jews and Muslims have been quite friendly for over a thousand years.” 

This, again, is pure propaganda. More than that. It is Islamic taqiyya – Islamic deceit. Emerick simply could not have really believed that his words were even moderately true. He was, quite simply, lying when he wrote the above (plus much else). And that’s what many other Muslims do when they defend Islam both in the Church of Inter-Faith and even in the real world.

The issue however is the disturbing trend we see among Jews who also tend to believe in such lies, and which cause tremendous harm to Israel and the Jewish future by consequence of their ignorant actions.

The fact that the Jews have lived "side by side" with Muslims in the past, and many still do to this day, is not proof that Muslims are civilized or tolerant of their religion - or any other religion in fact.

See here for more facts and details of the persecution of Jews.