Is Islam antisemitic?

17 June 2021

Tim Dieppe, Christian Concern’s Head of Public Policy, explores the links between Islam and antisemitism.

Debate with Reza Aslan

Antisemitism on the rise in the UK

There has been a notable increase in incidents of antisemitism in the UK in recent months. Last month I reported how a member of a mob openly said in front of police officers in London:

We’ll find some Jews there! We want the Zionists! We want their blood!”

In another incident, a man yelled at a Jewish nurse:

 “I want to kill all your people.”

A spike in antisemitic incidents occurred during the recent increased violence in Israel and Gaza. Some protestors had placards displaying antisemitic tropes. Nick Timothy, wrote in The Telegraph:

“Schools have reported huge spikes in anti-Semitic abuse of pupils. In Leicester, gangs of college students were filmed stamping on tables and chanting ‘Allahu akbar!’ The intimidation of Jewish pupils and teachers grew so severe that the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson wrote to schools warning that while pupils are allowed to express political views, anti-Semitic language and threats must not be tolerated.”

The Islamic connection

Nick Timothy commented on an interesting response to this letter from Gavin Williamson:

“In response to the Williamson letter, Miqdaad Versi, spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, complained that the Government was being ‘one-sided’. The letter, of course, was not about events in Israel, but the harassment of British Jews. In suggesting there might be two sides to racism, Versi revealed more than he intended about why the Government refuses to engage with the MCB.”

It doesn’t look good for the MCB to complain about the government trying to tackle antisemitism.

The Telegraph reported that ministers fear a revival of Islamist extremism could be fuelling a rise in antisemitism. Asked whether Britain was experiencing a resurgence of the sort of Islamist extremism highlighted by David Cameron more than a decade ago, the Communities Secretary, Robert Jenrick, told the Telegraph:

“I think we have to be alive to that, because some of the themes we’ve seen in recent weeks are more than just casual antisemitism, or people who don’t understand what antisemitism is, and drift into it by accident.  I think there were signs of something more pernicious – of extremism. And that makes my desire to root out extremism even stronger.”

Sir John Jenkins, former ambassador to Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia wrote in The Telegraph that the government is not doing enough to tackle the extremism behind Britain’s rise in antisemitism. The extremism he refers to is clearly Islamism:

“This is why the apostles of Critical Race Theory like to categorise Jews as White. Doing so enables them to frame Jews not as the victims of 1000 years of European persecution but as the heirs of European colonial aggression. Islamists wholeheartedly agree. For them, Muslims are the victims; Israel the enduring symbol of Western – and White – hostility towards them.

“This discourse is no longer confined to Islamist circles. But it lies behind the claims Islamists make to represent and defend Muslims collectively.”

Islamic antisemitism in the Qur’an

From the way these events are reported, you could be forgiven for believing that Muslims and Jews got along just fine prior to the formation of the state of Israel in 1948. This narrative effectively seeks to blame Israel for Islamic antisemitism.

In reality, Islamic antisemitism goes right back to the Qur’an and the life of Muhammad. Islamic antisemitism has featured throughout Islamic history.

It is worth quoting a selection of the very many antisemitic verses in the Qur’an (from the Saheeh International translation).

“You will surely find the most intense of the people in animosity toward the believers [to be] the Jews and those who associate others with Allah.” (Q 5:82)

“The Jews say, “Ezra is the son of Allah”; and the Christians say, “The Messiah is the son of Allah.” That is their statement from their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved before [them]. May Allah destroy them; how are they deluded?” (Q 9:30)

“O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are [in fact] allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you – then indeed, he is [one] of them. Indeed, Allah guides not the wrongdoing people.” (Q 5:51)

“And the Jews say, “The hand of Allah is chained.” Chained are their hands, and cursed are they for what they say. Rather, both His hands are extended; He spends however He wills. And that which has been revealed to you from your Lord will surely increase many of them in transgression and disbelief. And We have cast among them animosity and hatred until the Day of Resurrection. Every time they kindled the fire of war [against you], Allah extinguished it. And they strive throughout the land [causing] corruption, and Allah does not like corrupters.” (Q 5:64)

“Allah has certainly heard the statement of those [Jews] who said, “Indeed, Allah is poor, while we are rich.” We will record what they said and their killing of the prophets without right and will say, “Taste the punishment of the Burning Fire.” (Q 3:181)

“Have you not seen those who were given a portion of the Scripture, who believe in jibt [superstition] and ṭāghūt [false objects of worship] and say about the disbelievers, “These are better guided than the believers as to the way”? Those are the ones whom Allah has cursed; and he whom Allah curses – never will you find for him a helper.” (Q 4:51-52)

“And We conveyed to the Children of Israel in the Scripture that, “You will surely cause corruption on the earth twice, and you will surely reach [a degree of] great haughtiness.” (Q 17:4)

“And to those who are Jews We have prohibited that which We related to you before. And We did not wrong them [thereby], but they were wronging themselves.” (Q 16:118)

“Say, “O you who are Jews, if you claim that you are allies of Allah, excluding the [other] people, then wish for death, if you should be truthful.”” (Q 62:6)

These verses require no comment – their antisemitism is explicit. Many more examples and explanations can be found in the book Al-Yahud: Eternal Islamic Enmity & the Jews, by Sam Solomon and Elias Al-Maqdisi. Another book which deals with this in great detail is The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, by Andrew Bostrom.

Antisemitism in the life of Muhammad

The verses cited above have not been taken out of context. In fact, Islam interprets its scriptures with reference to the life of its founder, Muhammad. And his example is no less disturbing.

The most infamous antisemitic incident in Muhammad’s life was the slaughter of the Jewish Qurayza tribe. Following a 25-day siege, the Jews surrendered. Muhammad’s biographer Ibn Ishaq relates what happened next:

“Then they surrendered, and the apostle confined them in Medina in the quarter of d. al-Harith, a woman of B. al-Najjar. Then the apostle went out to the market of Medina (which is still its market today) and dug trenches in it. Then he sent for them and struck off their heads in those trenches as they were brought out to him in batches. Among them was the enemy of Allah Huyayy b. Akhtab and Ka`b b. Asad their chief. There were 600 or 700 in all, though some put the figure as high as 800 or 900. As they were being taken out in batches to the apostle they asked Ka`b what he thought would be done with them. He replied, “Will you never understand? Don’t you see that the summoner never stops and those who are taken away do not return? By Allah it is death!” This went on until the apostle made an end of them.”
(Ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, Alfred Guillaume (translator), Oxford University Press, p. 464.)

One Hadith relates:

“I was among the captives of Banu Qurayzah. They (the Companions) examined us, and those who had begun to grow hair (pubes) were killed, and those who had not were not killed. I was among those who had not grown hair.” (Sunan Abu Dawud, Hadith 4404)

So, this was a mass-beheading of post-pubescent Jewish men. The women and children were sold into slavery, and Muhammad chose one of the Jewish women who had just seen her husband beheaded for himself. As usual, he also took one fifth of the plunder for himself (Ibn Ishaq p466).

Prior to this, Muhammad addressed the Jews in this way:

“You brothers of monkeys, has God disgraced you and brought his vengeance upon you?”
(Ibn Ishaq, p461).

This links with three Qur’anic verses which liken Jews to apes and pigs (Q 2:65; 5:60; 7:166).

On another occasion, Ibn Ishaq relates (p369):

“The apostle said, ‘Kill any Jew that falls into your power.’ Thereupon Muhayyisa b. Mas’ud leapt upon Ibn Sunayna, a Jewish merchant with whom they had social and business relations, and killed him. Huwayyisa was not a Muslim at the time though he was the elder brother. When Muhayyisa killed him Huwayyisa began to beat him, saying, ‘You enemy of God, did you kill him when much of the fat on your belly comes from his wealth?’ Muhayyisa answered, ‘Had the one who ordered me to kill him ordered me to kill you I would have cut your head off.’ He said that this was the beginning of Huwayyisa’s acceptance of Islam. The other replied, ‘By God, if Muhammad had ordered you to kill me would you have killed me?’ He said, ‘Yes, by God, had he ordered me to cut off your head I would have done so.’ He exclaimed, ‘By God, a religion which can bring you to this is marvellous!’ and he became a Muslim.”

There are also multiple antisemitic canonical Hadith. One of the most notorious is this one:

“Allah’s Messenger said, “The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say. ‘O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him.’”
(Sahih Bukhari 4:52:177  – see also Sahih Bukhari 4:52:176; Sahih Muslim  41:6985)

This antisemitic Hadith is quoted in the Hamas Charter (Article 7).

On his deathbed, Muhammad is reported to have said: “Two religions shall not remain together in the peninsula of the Arabs.” (Ibn Ishaq p525). Sadly, some of his followers have attempted to fulfil this wish.

Islamic antisemitism through history

Throughout Islamic history, Jews and Christians under Islamic rule have been treated as second class citizens, or dhimmi. They are offered the choice to convert to Islam, accept subjugation as dhimmi including punitive jizya taxes, or die. When forced to pay jiza tax, Jews and Christians were often required to bow down and accept a blow to the neck.

The fashionable myth of the Andalusian paradise has been systematically taken apart by Darío Fernández-Morera in his book on the subject. It was far from paradise for the Jews. The Ottoman Empire also imposed multiple conditions on Jews. Tales of antisemitic abuse by Muslims throughout Islamic history abound. They are exhaustively catalogued by Bat Y’eor in her book The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians Under Islam,  as well as by Bostrom in The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism. The real myth is to believe that Islamic antisemitism is a modern phenomenon.

Islamic antisemitism today

A global survey assessing antisemitic attitudes around the world in 2019 found that in the UK, 11% of the overall population harboured antisemitic attitudes. That is shocking and disturbing enough, but amongst Muslims in the UK, the portion harbouring antisemitic attitudes was 54%. The sixteen most antisemitic countries are all in the Muslim Middle East. These statistics show that the link between Islam and antisemitism remains very strong today, including in the UK.

Multiple examples of Muslim jurists, scholars and theologians making antisemitic statements in modern times can be found. I will cite just a few.

Muhammad Saytyid Tantawi wrote in a book first published in the 1970s and reissued in 1986:

[The Qur’an] describes the Jews with their own particular degenerate characteristics, i.e., killing the prophets of God, 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. … This means that not all Jews are not the same. The good ones become Muslims; the bad ones do not.” (Bostrom, The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, p394)

Tantawi was subsequently appointed grand Mufti of Egypt in 1986, and then Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in 1996 until his death in 2010.

Sheikh Atiyyah Saqr, former head of the Al-Azhar Fatwa Committee, outlined 20 bad traits of the Jews as described in the Qur’an in an online chat in 2004.

Former Jordanian MP, Muhammad Tu’mah Al-Qudah, said on Jordanian TV in October 2019:

“Today, some Muslims are acting like Jews in their moral values, their behaviour, and their conduct. The Prophet Muhammad warned us against these people. The Quran says: ‘You shall find the people strongest in enmity towards the believers to be the Jews and the polytheists.’ Every Muslim should read this verse. Every Muslim should memorize it and carve it onto his mind and his heart. … [Our] enmity toward the Jews will never end. It will continue until the Antichrist arrives and the Jews are annihilated in the Great Battle, which will take place in the Levant, in our own land, against the Jews. The enmity between us and the Jews will never cease because it is ideological. … The regimes of the world can sign agreements and peace accords with the Jews, but the people curse the Jews whenever they recite the Al-Fatiha chapter [i.e. Q 1:7] in the Quran.”

It is hardly surprising that Muslim leaders will preach antisemitism since antisemitism is found throughout the Qur’an and the other Islamic religious texts. The Bible, by contrast, has been used to oppose racism in all its forms. The Bible clearly explains that God made all nations “from one man” (Acts 17:26) and explains that “there is neither Jew nor Greek” (Gal 3:28). Jesus himself was Jewish and the Bible was almost entirely written by Jews. The Bible certainly cannot be used to support antisemitism.

What can be done?

Sadly, we have to conclude that Islamic teaching and texts are clearly antisemitic. Many Muslims are blissfully unaware of this of course, and therefore many Muslims are not at all antisemitic. But those Muslims who do read, understand and respect Islamic scriptures are likely to become antisemitic.

Antisemitism is so deep-rooted in Islamic teaching that it can’t be separated. We should not try to avoid the issue. People need to understand that antisemitism is inherent in Islamic teaching. It is time more people were willing to say that Islam is a false religion that needs exposing.

Somalian-born Dutch-American activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali said in her 2006 acceptance speech for the American Jewish Committee’s ‘Moral Courage Award’:

“I have a confession to make. If you are Jewish…I used to hate you. I hated you because I thought you were responsible for the war which took my father from me for so long… I saw poor people from a place called Palestine…I was told you drove them out of their homes. I hated you for that. When we had no water, I thought you closed the tap…

“If my mother was unkind to me, I knew you were definitely behind it. If and when I failed an exam, I knew it was your fault. You are by nature evil, you had evil power and you used them to evil ends.

“Learning to hate you was easy. Unlearning it was difficult. …

“I am ashamed of my prejudices against you in the past. The good news is I am not alone in learning not to blame you for my misfortunes. Many others who are taught in the name of Islam to hate you have stopped hating you. The tragedy is however that those unlearning to hate are far fewer in number than those who still do.”

The government is right to be concerned about the connection between Islamism and antisemitism. Whether they realise how prevalent antisemitism is in Islamic teaching is another question.

There is really only one way to deal with Islamic antisemitism – and that is to deal with Islam.

I conclude with this warning. As long as Islamic influence increases in the UK, we can expect antisemitism to continue to increase.

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