Islam hatred and anti-Semitism...connect the dots
09/06/2010 - 07:57
James Besser

Reading the comments of many Jewish Week readers on the New York Islamic Center controversy, I can't help but wonder why so many fail to see the parallels between their views of Islam and traditional anti-Semitism.

A typical comment goes like this: “Don't you understand that Islam is not a religion, but a violent ideology bent on conquering the world and bringing its population under submission through Sharia law? Haven't you read the Koran?”

Now, if you have a strong stomach, go to any of the top neo-nazi or Holocaust revisionist sites (I won't link to them, for obvious reasons) and search for “Talmud.”

What you'll see almost exactly parallels these arguments.

The Talmud, these warped, bigoted sites preach, is a how-to manual for world domination; it prescribes violence against non-Jews; it allows for the violation of young gentile children and for taking gentile slaves.

To prove their points, they offer up quotes from the Talmud – generally taken out of context or totally distorted. Challenge any of the propagators of this trash, and I'm sure you'd get answers similar to the ones today's' Islam haters use in their own defense: we live in dangerous times, these are the writings of Jews themselves, this isn't bigotry, it's self defense.

Yes, I know; it was Muslims who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon nine years ago; it's Islamic Iran and Islamic Hamas that threaten Israel's existence. Terrorism by Islamic extremists is real and must be fought with both might and wisdom.

And yes, there is unspeakable anti-Semitism spewed by some Islamic leaders.

That doesn't change the fact that it's becoming acceptable in today's America to attack all Muslims as part of this evil force, to portray the Muslim faith as inherently violent and evil in almost exactly the same way that Judaism has been labeled for centuries on end.

It doesn't change the fact that the words of Islamic extremists are taken as representing all of Islam – the same way some Jewish extremists are now being portrayed as reflecting the entire Jewish community.

It doesn't change the fact that the words of Islamic sacred texts are being taken out of context and warped to “prove” the point that all of Islam is violent and treacherous, the same way the Talmud is distorted to “prove” great Jewish conspiracies for world domination.

It doesn't change the fact self-appointed protectors of Western civilization continue to mine the Koran for quotes they can use to prove Islamic perfidy – the same way the neo-Nazis and revisionists continue to scour Jewish texts for quotes they can warp to “protect” white Europeans from the growing Jewish “threat.”

Anti-Semitism is the world's most persistent, insidious form of bigotry, but it doesn't exist in a vacuum; it reflects the universal craving for scapegoats. Anti-semitism is a scourge – and today's claims Islam is an evil, world-conquering religion is a mutation of the same virus.

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This is a fine article. As Leon Wieseltier has just pointed out in the New Republic, every religion has messages of war and peace, love and hate. Judaism has more than its share of anti-gentile messages and bigotry -- goyyim are not human (Zohar); they have no human soul (Tanya); the filth of Eve's sexual sin with the serpent was not washed off of them. Jesus and Muhammed have been vilified; the virgin Mary was a whore; the list goes on and on, and it is possible to cherry pick these passages, as anti-Semites have done for centuries, or it is possible to censor them, as Jews and non-Jews have done. It is also possible to explain them away, as Jewish apologists have done. If you are a traditional Jew, as I am, you know that you cannot understand a religion until you live it and study it for years. And yet I see Jews in America, who would never pick up a humash without reading commentaries, profess to be experts on Islam after they read a few websites. There are close to 1.4 billion Muslims in the world. If there are 10,000 jihadi terrorists in the world (there are not), that would be -- what -- a hundredth of one percent of Muslims? Like any religion or ideology, Islam has its negative side, and fundamentalist Islam is something that has to be studied and understood. Within Islam's canonical texts you can find the same love and hate that you can find within all of the Western religious texts. Muhammed had a much more ambivalent relationship with Jews then the Jews had with Amalek, though both groups were perceived as enemies at certain times. Islamophobic Jews have to stop acting like Jewish Henry Fords and start meeting real Muslims. And New York is a great place to do that.
The "parallel" that is claimed here is superficial. The writer might as well say that an elephant and a can of soup are the same since neither one can ride a horse. Even if certain Quran verses can be taken out of context it doesn’t mean that they all are, or that those who do this are doing so insidiously. The fact is that the holy book of Islam does contain a great many anti-Semitic verses, and merely saying that they are taken out of context doesn’t make it so. In fact, the "context" of these verses is the life of Muhammad, who attacked peaceful Jewish communities, beheaded the men, raped the women and enslaved the children. His companions continued doing the same long after his death.