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On Islamic Antisemitism

On Islamic Antisemitism, by Mark Durie

During the years that responding to Islam has been a significant concern for me in Christian ministry, I have been repeatedly struck by two seemingly contradictory facts: the reality of Islamic antisemitism on the one hand, and its denial on the other.

1. There can be no doubt that antisemitism is hard-wired into Islam’s sacred history. The Qur’an and hadiths (traditions of Muhammad) have numerous passages which proclaim enmity towards the Jews. Jews are declared to be deceivers, malevolent, and killers of Muhammad (by poisoning him).

Islam’s foundational texts express hostility to four religious groupings: Jews, Christians, pagans, and Muslim renegades. Jihad is mandated against all four of these groups, and whereas the rules of war are the more merciless against the pagans and Muslim renegades – only Jews and Christians being allowed to keep their faith after conquest – of the two ‘Peoples of the Book’ it is the Jews who attract the most intense expressions of hatred. There is less anti-Christian sentiment in the Qur’an and hadiths than there is anti-Jewish sentiment, and in Muhammad’s biography his dealings with the Jews of Arabia – leading to a genocide in Medina, and the bloody conquest of Khaibar – loom much larger and are much more negative than his dealings with Christians.

The Islamic daily prayers include repeated recitations of al-Fatihah, the first chapter of the Qur’an. In these few verses, every Muslim prays that they will be guided on the straight path, not like the Christians (‘those who have gone astray’) or the Jews (‘those who incur Allah’s wrath’). This simple contrast, that whereas Christians have lost their way, Jews have fallen under the anger of Allah, neatly summarizes Islam’s attitude to the Jews. The celebrated commentator Ibn Kathir, whose translated tafsir is popular among English-speaking Muslims, explains the distinction in his discussion of al-Fatihah: These two paths are the paths of the Christians and Jews, a fact that the believer should beware of so that he avoids them.


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