Antisemitism in Islam

Islam and antisemitism relates to Islamic theological teachings against Jews and Judaism and the treatment of Jews in Muslim communities.

With the origin of Islam in the 7th century and its rapid spread on the Arabian peninsula and beyond, Jews (and many other peoples) became subject to the rule of Muslim rulers. The quality of the rule varied considerably in different periods, as did the attitudes of the rulers, government officials, clergy and general population toward various subject peoples from time to time, which was reflected in their treatment of these subjects. Reuven Firestone says, "negative assessments and even condemnation of prior religions and their adherents occur in all three scriptures of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam."[1] Scholars have studied and debated Muslim attitudes toward, and treatment of, Jews in Islamic thought and societies throughout history.

Range of opinions

  • Claude Cahen[2] and Shelomo Dov Goitein[3] argue against historic antisemitism in Muslim lands, writing that the discrimination that was practiced against non-Muslims was of a general nature, and it was not specifically targeted at Jews.[4] For these scholars, antisemitism in Medieval Islam was local and sporadic rather than general and endemic.
  • Bernard Lewis[5] writes that while Muslims have held negative stereotypes regarding Jews throughout most of Islamic history, these stereotypes were different from those stereotypes which accompanied European antisemitism because, unlike Christians, Muslims viewed Jews as objects of ridicule, not fear. He argues that Muslims did not attribute "cosmic evil" to Jews.[6] In Lewis' view, it was only in the late 19th century that movements first appeared among Muslims that can be described as antisemitic in the European forms.[7]
  • Frederick M. Schweitzer and Marvin Perry state that there are mostly negative references to Jews in the Quran and Hadith, and Islamic regimes treated Jews in degrading ways. Jews (and Christians) had the status of dhimmis. They state that throughout much of history Christians treated Jews worse, saying that Jews in Christian lands were subjected to worse polemics, persecutions and massacres than Jews who lived under Muslim rule.[8]
  • According to Walter Laqueur, the varying interpretations of the Quran are important for understanding Muslim attitudes. Many Quranic verses preach tolerance towards the Jews; others make hostile remarks about them (which are similar to hostile remarks made against those who did not accept Islam). Muhammad interacted with Jews living in Arabia: he preached to them in hopes of conversion, he fought against and killed many Jews, while he made friends with other Jews.[9]
  • For Martin Kramer, the idea that contemporary antisemitism by Muslims is authentically Islamic "touches on some truths, yet it misses many others". Kramer believes that contemporary antisemitism is only partially due to Israeli policies, about which Muslims may have a deep sense of injustice and loss. But Kramer attributes the primary causes of Muslim antisemitism to modern European ideologies, which have infected the Muslim world.[10]