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Islam and antisemitism

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Title: Islam and antisemitism  
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Subject: Islam and other religions, Administrators' noticeboard/3RRArchive275, Antisemitism, Antisemitism in the Arab world, Medieval antisemitism
Collection: Islam and Antisemitism, Islam and Judaism
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Islam and antisemitism

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

With the origin of Islam in the 7th century and its rapid spread in the Arabian peninsula and beyond, Jews (and many other peoples) came to be 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 to various subject peoples from time to time, which was reflected in their treatment of these subjects. Reuven Firestone notes, "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 to, and treatment of, Jews in Islamic thought and societies throughout history.


  • Range of opinion 1
  • The Quran on Jews in its historical setting 2
    • Judaism in theology 2.1
    • Remarks on Jews 2.2
    • Distortion 2.3
  • Muhammad and Jews 3
    • Hadith 3.1
    • Quran 3.2
  • Pre-modern Islam 4
    • Literature 4.1
    • Life under Muslim rule 4.2
    • Egypt and Iraq 4.3
    • Iberian Peninsula 4.4
    • Ottoman Empire 4.5
    • Contrast with Christian Europe 4.6
  • Antisemitism in the Islamic Middle East 5
    • 19th century 5.1
    • 20th century 5.2
      • Connections between Nazi Germany and Muslim countries 5.2.1
        • Mohammad Amin al-Husayni
        • Iraq
    • The Ottoman Empire, Turkey, Iraq and Kurdistan 5.3
      • Jews and Assyrian Christians forced migrations between 1842 and the 21st century 5.3.1
        • Iran
        • Egypt
      • Islamist groups 5.3.2
    • 21st century 5.4
      • Antisemitic comments by Muslim leaders and scholars 5.4.1
        • Yusuf al-Qaradawi
        • Muhammad Hussein Yacoub
        • Ibrahim Mahdi
        • Ahmad Bahr
        • Sheik Bassam Al-Kayed
        • Sami Al-Arian
        • Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais
        • Muhammad Al-Mukhtar Al-Mahdi
        • Hazem Shuman
        • Sheikh Ba'd bin Abdallah Al-Ajameh Al-Ghamidi
        • Mahathir bin Muhammad
        • Sheik Taj el-Din al-Hilali
        • Saudi school books
        • Other statements
      • Reconciliation efforts 5.4.2
      • Trends 5.4.3
  • Islamic antisemitism in Europe 6
    • The Netherlands 6.1
    • Belgium 6.2
    • France 6.3
    • Germany 6.4
    • Sweden 6.5
    • Norway 6.6
  • See also 7
  • Notes 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11

Range of opinion

  • Claude Cahen[2] and Shelomo Dov Goitein[3] argue against historic antisemitism in Muslim lands, writing that discrimination practiced against non-Muslims was of general nature, and not targeted specifically 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 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 that 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 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 due only partially 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]

The Quran on Jews in its historical setting

The Quran makes forty-three specific references to "Bani Isrāʾīl" (meaning the Children of Israel).[11] The Arabic term yahud, denoting Jews, and "yahudi" occur eleven times and the verbal form hāda (meaning "to be a Jew/Jewish") occurs ten times.[12] According to Khalid Durán, the negative passages use Yahūd, while the positive references speak mainly of the Banī Isrā’īl.[13] Jews are not mentioned at all in verses dating from the Meccan period.[14] According to Bernard Lewis, the coverage given to Jews is relatively insignificant.[15]

The references in the Quran to Jews are interpreted in different ways. According to Frederick M. Schweitzer and Marvin Perry, these references are "mostly negative"[8] According to Tahir Abbas the general references to Jews are favorable, with only those addressed to particular groups of Jews containing harsh criticisms.[16]

According to Bernard Lewis and other scholars, the earliest verses of the Quran were largely sympathetic to Jews. Mohammed admired them as monotheists and saw them as natural adherents to the new faith and Jewish practices helped model early Islamic behavior, such as midday prayer, prayers on Friday, Ramadan fasting (modelled after the Jewish Yom Kippur fast on the tenth of the month of Tishrei), and most famously the fact that until 623 Muslims prayed toward Jerusalem, not Mecca.[17] After his flight (al-hijra) from Mecca in 622 Mohammad with his followers settled in Yathrib, subsequently renamed Medina al-Nabi ('City of the Prophet') where he managed to draw up a 'social contract',[18] widely referred to as the 'Constitution of Medina'.[19] This contract, known as the Leaf (ṣaḥīfa) upheld the peaceful coexistence between Muslims, Jews and Christians, defining them all, under given conditions, as constituting the umma, or community of that city, and granting the latter freedom of religious thought and practice.[20] Yathrib/Medina was not homogeneous. Alongside the 200 odd emigrants from Mecca (the Muhājirūn), who had followed Mohammad, its population consisted of the Faithful of Medina (Anṣār, 'the helpers'), Arab pagans, three Jewish tribes and some Christians.[21] The foundational 'constitution' sought to establish, for the first time in history according to Ali Khan, a formal agreement guaranteeing interfaith conviviality, albeit ringed with articles emphasizing strategic cooperation in the defense of the city.

In paragraph 16 of this document, it states that:'Those Jews who follow us are entitled to our aid and support so long as they shall not have wronged us or lent assistance (to any enemies) against us'.

Paragraph 37 has it that 'To the Jews their own expenses and to the Muslims theirs. They shall help one another in the event of any attack on the people covered by this document. There shall be sincere friendship, exchange of good counsel, fair conduct and no treachery between them.'[22] The three local Jewish tribes were the Banu Nadir, the Banu Qurayza, and the Banu Qaynuqa. While Mohammad clearly had no prejudice against them, and appears to have regarded his own message as substantially the same as that received by Jews on Sinai,[23] tribal politics, and Mohammad's deep frustration at Jewish refusals to accept his prophethood,[24] quickly led to a break with all three. Unfortunate linguistic misunderstandings may also have given the impression, evidenced in the Quran, that the Jewish community was publicly humiliating Mohammad.[25]

The Banu Qaynuqa were expelled from Medina in 624. In March 624, Muslims led by Muhammad defeated the Meccans of the Banu Quraish tribe in the Battle of Badr. Ibn Ishaq writes that a dispute broke out between the Muslims and the Banu Qaynuqa (the allies of the Khazraj tribe) soon afterwards. When a Muslim woman visited a jeweler's shop in the Qaynuqa marketplace, she was pestered to uncover her hair. The goldsmith, a Jew, pinned her clothing such that, upon getting up, she was stripped naked. A Muslim man coming upon the resulting commotion killed the shopkeeper in retaliation. A mob of Jews from the Qaynuqa tribe then pounced on the Muslim man and killed him. This escalated to a chain of revenge killings, and enmity grew between Muslims and the Banu Qaynuqa.[26]

Traditional Muslim sources view these episodes as a violation of the Constitution of Medina.[26] Muhammad himself regarded this as casus belli.[27] Fred Donner argues that Muhammad turned against the Qaynuqa because as artisans and traders, the latter were in close contact with Meccan merchants.[28] Weinsinck views the episodes cited by the Muslim historians used to justify their expulsion; such as a Jewish goldsmith humiliating a Muslim woman, as having no more than anecdotal value. He writes that the Jews had assumed a contentious attitude towards Muhammad, and as a group possessing substantial independent power, they posed a great danger. Wensinck thus concludes that Muhammad, strengthened by the victory at Badr, soon resolved to eliminate the Jewish opposition to himself.[29] Norman Stillman also believes that Muhammad decided to move against the Jews of Medina after being strengthened in the wake of the Battle of Badr.[30]

Muhammad then approached the Banu Qaynuqa, gathering them in the market place and warned them to stop their hostility lest they suffer the same fate that happened to the Quraish at Badr. He also told them to accept Islam saying he was a prophet sent by God as per their scriptures. The tribe responded by mocking Muhammad's followers for accepting him as a prophet and also mocked their victory at Badr saying the Quraish had no knowledge of war. They then warned him that if he ever fought with them, he will know that they were real men.[31] This response was viewed as a declaration of war.[32] Muhammad then besieged the Banu Qaynuqa [33] after which the tribe surrendered unconditionally and were later expelled from Medina.[34]

In 625, the Banu Nadir tribe was evicted from Medina after they attempted to assassinate Muhammad.[35][36] The men of Banu Qurayza were killed and women and children placed into bondage following the events of the Battle of the Trench. Although the Banu Qurayza never took up arms against Mohammad or the Muslims they entered into negotiations with the invading army and violated the Constitution of Medina. However Nuam ibn Masud was able to sow discord between the invading forces and Banu Qurayza, thus breaking down the negotiations.[37][38][39]

The direction of prayer was shifted towards Mecca from Jerusalem and the most negative verses about Jews were set down after this time.[40][41]

According to Laqueur, conflicting statements about Jews in the Quran have affected Muslim attitudes towards Jews to this day, especially during periods of rising Islamic fundamentalism.[42]

Judaism in theology

According to Bernard Lewis, there is nothing in Muslim theology (with a single exception) that can be considered refutations of Judaism or ferocious anti-Jewish diatribes.[43] Lewis and Chanes suggest that, for a variety of reasons, Muslims were not antisemitic for the most part. The Quran, like Judaism, orders Muslims to profess strict monotheism. It also rejects the stories of Jewish deicide as a blasphemous absurdity, and other similar stories in the Gospels play no part in the Muslim educational system The Quran does not present itself as a fulfillment of the Hebrew Bible but rather a restoration of its original message – thus, no clash of interpretations between Judaism and Islam can arise.[44][45]

In addition Lewis argues that the Quran lacks popular Western traditions of 'guilt and betrayal'.[41] Rosenblatt and Pinson suggest that the Quran teaches toleration of Judaism as a fellow monotheistic faith.[46]

Lewis adds that negative attributes ascribed to subject religions (in this case Judaism and Christianity) are usually expressed in religious and social terms, but only very rarely in ethnic or racial terms. However, this does sometimes occur. The language of abuse is often quite strong. It has been argued that the conventional Muslim epithets for Jews, apes, and Christians, pigs derive from Quranic usage. Lewis adduces three passages in the Quran ([Quran 2:61], [Quran 5:65], [Quran 7:166]) used to ground this view.[47] The interpretation of these 'enigmatic'[48] passages in Islamic exegetics is highly complex, dealing as they do with infractions like breaking the Sabbath,.[49] According to Goitein, the idea of Jewish Sabbath breakers turning into apes may reflect the influence of Yemeni midrashim.[50] Firestone notes that the Qurayza tribe itself is described in Muslim sources as using the trope of being turned into apes if one breaks the Sabbath to justify not exploiting the Sabbath in order to attack Mohammad, when they were under siege.[51]

According to Stillman, the Quran praises Moses, and depicts the Israelites as the recipients of divine favour.[14] The Quran dedicates many verses to the glorification of Hebrew prophets, says Leon Poliakov.[52] He quotes verse [Quran 6:85] as an example,

We gave him Isaac and Jacob: all (three) guided: and before him, We guided Noah, and among his progeny, David, Solomon, Job, Joseph, Moses, and Aaron: thus do We reward those who do good: And Zakariya and John, and Jesus and Elias: all in the ranks of the righteous: And Isma'il and Elisha, and Jonas, and Lot: and to all We gave favour above the nations.

Remarks on Jews

Leon Poliakov,[53] Walter Laqueur,[9] and Jane Gerber,[54] argue that passages in the Quran reproach Jews for their refusal to recognize Muhammad as a prophet of God.[53] "The Quran is engaged mainly in dealing with the sinners among the Jews and the attack on them is shaped according to models that one encounters in the New Testament."[55] The Muslim holy text defined the Arab and Muslim attitude towards Jews to this day, especially in the periods when Islamic fundamentalism was on the rise.[9]

Walter Laqueur states that the Quran and its interpreters have a great many conflicting things to say about the Jews. Jews are said to be treacherous and hypocritical and could never be friends with a Muslim.[9]

Frederick M. Schweitzer and Marvin Perry state that references to Jews in the Quran are mostly negative. The Quran states that wretchedness and baseness were stamped upon the Jews, and they were visited with wrath from Allah, that was because they disbelieved in Allah's revelations and slew the prophets wrongfully. And for their taking usury, which was prohibited for them, and because of their consuming people's wealth under false pretense, a painful punishment was prepared for them. The Quran requires their "abasement and poverty" in the form of the poll tax jizya. In his "wrath" God has "cursed" the Jews and will turn them into apes/monkeys and swine and idol worshipers because they are "infidels".[8]

According to Martin Kramer, the Quran speaks of Jews in a negative way and reports instances of Jewish treachery against the Islamic prophet Muhammad. However, Islam didn't hold up those Jews who practiced treachery against Muhammad as archetypes nor did it portray treachery as the embodiment of Jews in all times and places. The Quran also attests to Muhammad's amicable relations with Jews.[10]

While traditional religious supremacism played a role in the Islamic view of Jews, the same attitude applied to Christians and other non-Muslims. Islamic tradition regards Jews as a legitimate community of believers in God (called "people of the Book") legally entitled to sufferance.[10]

The Quran ([Quran 4:157]) clears Jews from the accusation of deicide, and states "they [Jews] killed him [Jesus] not". They also argue that the Jewish Bible has not been incorporated in the Islamic text, and "virtuous Muslims" are not contrasted with "stiff-necked, criminal Jews".[8]

The standard Quranic reference to Jews is the verse [Quran 2:61].[56] It says:

And abasement and poverty were pitched upon them, and they were laden with the burden of God's anger; that, because they had disbelieved the signs of God and slain the Prophets unrightfully; that, because they disobeyed, and were transgressors.[57]

However, due to the Quran's timely process of story-telling, a majority of scholars agree that all references to Jews or other groups within the Quran refers to only certain populations at a certain point in history and bare any racial profiling or religious profiling, it also gives some legitimacy to their religion in [Quran 5:69] "Those who believe, and the Jews, and the Sabi'un, and the Christians, who believe in God and the Last Day and do good, there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve."

The Quran gives credence to the Christian claim of Jews scheming against Jesus, " ... but God also schemed, and God is the best of schemers." (Quran [Quran 3:54]) In the Muslim view, the crucifixion of Jesus was an illusion, and thus the Jewish plots against him ended in failure.[58] According to Gerber, in numerous verses ([Quran 3:63]; [Quran 3:71]; [Quran 4:46]; [Quran 4:160–161]; [Quran 5:41–44], [Quran 5:63–64], [Quran 5:82]; [Quran 6:92])[59] the Quran accuses Jews of altering the Scripture.[54]

But the Quran differentiates between "good and bad" Jews, adding to the idea that the Jewish people or their religion itself are not the target of the story-telling process.[52] The criticisms deal mainly "with the sinners among the Jews and the attack on them is shaped according to models that one encounters in the New Testament."[55]

The Quran also speaks favorably of Jews. Though it also criticizes them for not being grateful of God's blessing on them, the harsh criticisms, are only addressed towards a particular group of Jews, as it is clear from the context of the Quranic verses, but the translations usually confuse this by using the general term "Jews". To judge Jews based on the deeds of some of their ancestors is an anti-Quranic idea.[16]

Ali S. Asani suggests that the Quran endorses the establishment of religiously and culturally plural societies and this endorsement has affected the treatment of religious minorities in Muslim lands throughout history. He cites the endorsement of pluralism to explain why violent forms of antisemitism generated in medieval and modern Europe, culminating in the Holocaust, never occurred in regions under Muslim rule.[60]

Some verses of the Quran, notably [Quran 2:256], preach tolerance towards members of the Jewish faith.[9] According to Kramer, Jews are regarded as members of a legitimate community of believers in God, "people of the Book", and therefore legally entitled to sufferance.[10]

As one of the five pillars of Islam Muslims perform daily Salat prayers, which involves reciting the first chapter of the Qur'an, the Al-Fatiha. Some commentators[61] suggest that the description, "those who earn Thine anger" in Surah 1:7[Quran 1:7] refers to the Jews.

In 567, Khaybar was invaded and vacated of its Jewish inhabitants by the Ghassanid Arab Christian king Al-Harith ibn Jabalah. He later freed to the captives upon his return to the Levant. A brief account of the campaign is given by Ibn Qutaybah,[62] and confirmed by the Harran Inscription.[63] See Irfan Shahid's Byzantium and the Arabs in the Sixth Century for full details.[64]

In the 7th century, Khaybar was inhabited by Jews, who pioneered the cultivation of the oasis[65] and made their living growing date palm trees, as well as through commerce and craftsmanship, accumulating considerable wealth. Some objects found by the Muslims when they entered Khaybar — a siege-engine, 20 bales of Yemenite cloth, and 500 cloaks — point out to an intense trade carried out by the Jews. In the past some scholars attempted to explain the siege-engine by suggesting that it was used for settling quarrels among the families of the community. Today most academics believe it was stored in a depôt for future sale, in the same way that swords, lances, shields, and other weaponry had been sold by the Jews to Arabs. Equally, the cloth and the cloaks may have been intended for sale, as it was unlikely that such a quantity of luxury goods were kept for the exclusive use of the Jews.

The oasis was divided into three regions: al-Natat, al-Shikk, and al-Katiba, probably separated by natural divisions, such as the desert, lava drifts, and swamps. Each of these regions contained several fortresses or redoubts containing homes, storehouses and stables. Each fortress was occupied by a separate family and surrounded by cultivated fields and palm-groves. In order to improve their defensive capabilities, the settlers raised the fortresses up on hills or basalt rocks.

Jews continued to live in the oasis for several more years afterwards until they were finally expelled by caliph Umar. The imposition of tribute upon the conquered Jews of the Khaybar Fortress served as a precedent. Islamic law came to require exaction of tribute known as jizya from dhimmis, i.e. non-Muslims under Muslim rule.

For many centuries, the oasis at Khaybar was an important caravan stopping place. The center developed around a series of ancient dams built to hold run-off water from the rain. Around the water catchments, date palms grew. Khaybar became an important date-producing center.


Martin Kramer argues that for Muslims to arrive at the concept of the "eternal Jew", there must be more at work than the Islamic tradition. Islamic tradition does, however, provide the sources for Islamic antisemitism. The fact that many Islamic thinkers have spent time in the West has resulted in the absorption of antisemitism, he says. Modern texts further distort the Quran by quoting it alongside texts such as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Thus, Kramer concludes that there is no doubt modern Muslims effectively make use of the Quran, using Islamic tradition as a source on which antisemitism today feeds, but it is also a selective and distorting use.[10]

Muhammad and Jews

During Muhammad's life, Jews lived in the Arabian Peninsula, especially in and around Medina. Muhammad is also known to have Jewish friends,[9] and had a Jewish wife (Safiyya) who became a Muslim. According to Poliakov, "the degree to which Muhammad shows his respect for each religion [Jews and Christians] is remarkable."[52]

The Medinian Jews began to connive with Muhammad's enemies in Mecca to overthrow him, despite having agreed in the treaty of the Constitution of Medina to take the side of him and his followers against their enemies.[46][66][67][68] Two Jewish tribes were expelled and the third one was wiped out.[9][69] The Banu Qaynuqa was expelled for their hostility against the Muslims and for mocking them.[26][31][32][33][34] The Banu Nadir was expelled after they attempted to assassinate Muhammad.[35][36] The last one, the Banu Qurayza, was wiped out after the Battle of Trench where they attempted to ally themselves with the invading Quraish.[37][38][39]

Samuel Rosenblatt states that these incidents were not part of policies directed exclusively against Jews, and Muhammad was more severe with his pagan Arab kinsmen than foreigner monotheists.[46][68] In addition Muhammad's conflict with Jews was considered of rather minor importance. According to Lewis, since the clash of Judaism and Islam was resolved and ended during Muhammad's lifetime with Muslim victory, no Muslim unresolved theological dispute fueled antisemitism. There is also a difference between Jewish denial of Christian and Muslim messages, since Muhammad never claimed to be a Messiah or Son of God, although he is referred to as "the Apostle of God".[70] Also, the death of Muhammad was not caused by Jews.[8]

Muhammad's disputes with his neighboring Jewish tribes left no marked traces on his immediate successors (known as Caliphs). The first Caliphs based their treatment upon the Quranic verses encouraging tolerance.[46] Classical commentators viewed Muhammad's struggle with Jews as a minor episode in his career, but this has changed in modern times due to external influences.[41] Poliakov opines that Muhammad's actions and teachings gave rise to an open and more conciliatory society, where the Muslims were compelled to protect the lives and religion of the Jews.[52]


The hadith (recordings of deeds and sayings attributed to Muhammad) use both the terms Banu Israil and Yahud in relation to Jews, the latter term becoming ever more frequent and appearing mostly in negative context. For example, in this Hadith:

According to Norman Stillman:

Jews in Medina are singled out as "men whose malice and enmity was aimed at the Apostle of God". The Yahūd in this literature appear not only as malicious, but also deceitful, cowardly and totally lacking resolve. However, they have none of the demonic qualities attributed to them in mediaeval Christian literature, neither is there anything comparable to the overwhelming preoccupation with Jews and Judaism (except perhaps in the narratives on Muhammad's encounters with Medinan Jewry) in Muslim traditional literature. Except for a few notable exceptions ... the Jews in the Sira and the Maghazi are even heroic villains. Their ignominy stands in marked contrast to Muslim heroism, and in general, conforms to the Quranic image of "wretchedness and baseness stamped upon them"[11]

He said:

This hadith has been quoted countless times, and it has become a part of the charter of Hamas.[71]

According to Schweitzer and Perry, the hadith are "even more scathing (than the Quran) in attacking the Jews":

They are debased, cursed, anathematized forever by God and so can never repent and be forgiven; they are cheats and traitors; defiant and stubborn; they killed the prophets; they are liars who falsify scripture and take bribes; as infidels they are ritually unclean, a foul odor emanating from them – such is the image of the Jew in classical Islam, degraded and malevolent.[8]


The words "humility" and "humiliation" occur frequently in the Quran and later Muslim literature in relation to Jews. According to Lewis, "This, in Islamic view, is their just punishment for their past rebelliousness, and is manifested in their present impotence between the mighty powers of Christendom and Islam." The standard Quranic reference to Jews is verse [Quran 2:61]: "And remember ye said: "O Moses! we cannot endure one kind of food (always); so beseech thy Lord for us to produce for us of what the earth groweth, -its pot-herbs, and cucumbers, garlic, lentils, and onions." He said: "Will ye exchange the better for the worse? Go ye down to any town, and ye shall find what ye want!" They were covered with humiliation and misery; they drew on themselves the wrath of Allah. This because they went on rejecting the Signs of Allah and slaying His Messengers without just cause. This because they rebelled and went on transgressing."[72]

Two verses later we read: "And remember, Children of Israel, when We made a covenant with you and raised Mount Sinai before you saying, "Hold tightly to what We have revealed to you and keep it in mind so that you may guard against evil." But then you turned away, and if it had not been for Allah's grace and merecy, you surely would have been among the lost. And you know those among who sinned on the Sabbath. We said to them, "You will be transformed into despised apes." So we used them as a warning to their people and to the following generations, as well as a lesson for the God-fearing."[Quran 2:63]

The Quran associates Jews with rejection of God's prophets including Jesus and Muhammad, thus explaining their resistance to him personally. (Cf. Surah 2:87–91; 5:59, 61, 70, and 82.) It also asserts that Jews believe that they are the sole children of God (Surah 5:18), and that only they will achieve salvation (Surah 2:111). According to the Quran, Jews blasphemously claim that Ezra is the son of God, as Christians claim Jesus is, (Surah 9:30) and that God's hand is fettered (Surah 5:64 – i.e., that they can freely defy God). Some of those who are Jews,[11] "pervert words from their meanings", (Surah 4:44), and because they have committed wrongdoing, God has "forbidden some good things that were previously permitted them", thus explaining Jewish commandments regarding food, Sabbath restrictions on work, and other rulings as a punishment from God (Surah 4:160). They listen for the sake of mendacity (Surah 5:41), twisting the truth, and practice forbidden usury, and therefore they will receive "a painful doom" (Surah 4:161).[11] The Quran gives credence to the Christian claim of Jews scheming against Jesus, "... but God also schemed, and God is the best of schemers"(Surah 3:54). In the Muslim view, the crucifixion of Jesus was an illusion, and thus the supposed Jewish plots against him ended in complete failure.[58] In numerous verses (Surah 3:63, 71; 4:46, 160–161; 5:41–44, 63–64, 82; 6:92)[59] the Quran accuses Jews of deliberately obscuring and perverting scripture.[54]

Pre-modern Islam

Jerome Chanes,[45] Pinson, Rosenblatt,[46] Mark Cohen, Norman Stillman, Uri Avnery, M. Klien and Bernard Lewis argue that antisemitism in pre-modern Islam is rare, and did not emerge until modern times. Lewis argues that there is little sign any deep-rooted emotional hostility directed against Jews, or any other group, that can be characterized as antisemitism. There were, however, clearly negative attitudes, which were in part the "normal" feelings of a dominant group towards subject groups. More specifically, the contempt consisted of Muslim contempt for disbelievers.[73]


According to Lewis, the outstanding characteristic of the classical Islamic view of Jews is their unimportance. The religious, philosophical, and literary Islamic writings tended to ignore Jews and focused more on Christianity. Although, the Jews received little praise or even respect, and were sometimes blamed for various misdeed but there were no fears of Jewish conspiracy and domination, nor any charges of diabolic evil nor accusations of poisoning the wells nor spreading the plague nor were even accused of engaging in blood libels until Ottomans learned the concept from their Greek subjects in the 15th century.[74]

Poliakov writes that various examples of medieval Muslim literature portray Judaism as an exemplary pinnacle of faith, and Israel being destined by this virtue. He quotes stories from The Book of One Thousand and One Nights that portray Jews as pious, virtuous and devoted to God, and seem to borrow plots from midrashim. However, Poliakov writes that treatment of Jews in Muslim literature varies, and the tales are meant for pure entertainment, with no didactic aim.[75]

After Ibn Nagraela, a Jew, attacked the Quran by alleging various contradictions in it, Ibn Hazm, a Moor, criticized him furiously. Ibn Hazm wrote that Ibn Nagraela was "filled with hatred" and "conceited in his vile soul".[76]

According to Schweitzer and Perry, some literature during the 10th and 11th century "made Jews out to be untrustworthy, treacherous oppressors, and exploiters of Muslims". This propaganda sometimes even resulted in outbreaks of violence against the Jews. An 11th-century Moorish poem describes Jews as "a criminal people" and blames them for causing social decay, betraying Muslims and poisoning food and water.[77]

The massacre of the Banu Qurayza. Detail from miniature painting The Prophet, Ali, and the Companions at the Massacre of the Prisoners of the Jewish Tribe of Beni Qurayzah, illustration of a 19th-century text by Muhammad Rafi Bazil.

Martin Kramer writes that in Islamic tradition, in striking contrast with the Christian concept of the eternal Jew, the contemporary Jews were not presented as archetypes—as the embodiment of Jews in all times and places.[10]

Life under Muslim rule

Jews and Christians living under early Muslim rule were known as dhimmis, a status that was later also extended to other non-Muslims like Hindus. As dhimmis they were to be tolerated, and entitled to the protection and resources of the Ummah, the Muslim commonwealth. In return they had to pay a tax known as the jizya in accordance with Quran.[78] Lewis and Poliakov argue that Jewish communities enjoyed toleration and limited rights as long as they accepted Muslim superiority. These rights were legally established and enforced.[52][79] The restrictions on dhimmis included: payment of higher taxes; at some locations, being forced to wear clothing or some othe insignia distinguishing them from Muslims; sometimes barred from holding public office, bearing arms or riding a horse; disqualified as witnesses in litigation involving Muslims; at some locations and times, dhimmis were prevented from repairing existing or erecting new places of worship. Proselytizing on behalf of any faith but Islam was barred.

Later additions to the code included prohibitions on adopting Arab names, studying the Quran, selling alcoholic beverages.[8] Abdul Aziz Said writes that the Islamic concept of dhimmi, when applied, allowed other cultures to flourish and prevented the general rise of antisemitism.[80]

Schweitzer and Perry give as examples of early Muslim antisemitism: 9th-century "persecution and outbreaks of violence"; 10th- and 11th-century antisemitic propaganda that "made Jews out to be untrustworthy, treacherous oppressors, and exploiters of Muslims". This propaganda "inspired outbreaks of violence and caused many casualties in Egypt". An 11th-century Moorish poem describes Jews as "a criminal people" and alleges that "society is nearing collapse on account of Jewish wealth and domination, their exploitation and betrayal of Muslims; that Jews worship the devil, physicians poison their patients, and Jews poison food and water as required by Judaism, and so on."[77]

Jews under the Muslim rule rarely faced martyrdom or exile, or forced conversion and they were fairly free to choose their residence and profession. Their freedom and economic condition varied from time to time and place to place.[81][82] Forced conversions occurred mostly in the Maghreb, especially under the Almohads, a militant dynasty with messianic claims, as well as in Persia, where Shi'a Muslims were generally less tolerant than their Sunni counterparts.[83] Notable examples of the cases where the choice of residence was taken away from them includes confining Jews to walled quarters (mellahs) in Morocco beginning from the 15th century and especially since the early 19th century.[84]

Egypt and Iraq

The caliphs of Fatimid dynasty in Egypt were known to be Judeophiles, according to Leon Poliakov. They paid regularly to support the Jewish institutions (such as the rabbinical academy of Jerusalem). A significant number of their ministers and counselors were Jews. The Abbasids too similarly were respectful and tolerant towards the Jews under their rule. Benjamin of Tudela, a famous 12th-century Jewish explorer, described the Caliph al-Abbasi as a "great king and kind unto Israel". Benjamin also further goes on to describe about al-Abassi that "many belonging to the people of Israel are his attendants, he knows all languages and is well-versed in the Law of Israel. He reads and writes the holy language [Hebrew]." He further mentions Muslims and Jews being involved in common devotions, such as visiting the grave of Ezekiel, whom both religions regard as a prophet.[85][86]

Iberian Peninsula

With the Muslim conquest of the Iberian Peninsula, Spanish Judaism flourished for several centuries. Thus, what some refer to as the "golden age" for Jews began. During this period the Muslims of Spain tolerated other religions, including Judaism, and created a heterodox society.[87]

Muslim relations with Jews in Spain were not always peaceful, however. The eleventh century saw Muslim pogroms against Jews in Spain; those occurred in Córdoba in 1011 and in Granada in 1066.[77] In the 1066 Granada massacre, a Muslim mob crucified the Jewish vizier Joseph ibn Naghrela and massacred about 4,000 Jews.[88] The Muslim grievance involved was that some Jews had become wealthy, and others had advanced to positions of power.[77]

The Almohad dynasty, which overthrew the dynasty that ran Spain during the early Muslim era, offered Christians and Jews the choice of conversion or expulsion; in 1165, one of their rulers ordered that all Jews in the country convert on pain of death (forcing the Jewish rabbi, theologian, philosopher, and physician Maimonides to feign conversion to Islam before fleeing the country). In Egypt, Maimonides resumed practicing Judaism openly only to be accused of apostasy. He was saved from death by Saladin's chief administrator, who held that conversion under coercion is invalid.[89]

During his wanderings, Maimonides also wrote The Yemen Epistle, a famous letter to the Jews of Yemen, who were then experiencing severe persecution at the hands of their Muslim rulers. In it, Maimonides describes his assessment of the treatment of the Jews at the hands of Muslims:

... on account of our sins God has cast us into the midst of this people, the nation of Ishmael [that is, Muslims], who persecute us severely, and who devise ways to harm us and to debase us.... No nation has ever done more harm to Israel. None has matched it in debasing and humiliating us. None has been able to reduce us as they have.... We have borne their imposed degradation, their lies, their absurdities, which are beyond human power to bear.... We have done as our sages of blessed memory have instructed us, bearing the lies and absurdities of Ishmael.... In spite of all this, we are not spared from the ferocity of their wickedness and their outbursts at any time. On the contrary, the more we suffer and choose to conciliate them, the more they choose to act belligerently toward us.[90]

Mark Cohen quotes Haim Hillel Ben-Sasson, a specialist in medieval European Jewish history, who cautioned that Maimonides' condemnation of Islam should be understood "in the context of the harsh persecutions of the 12th century and that furthermore one may say that he was insufficiently aware of the status of the Jews in Christian lands, or did not pay attention to this, when he wrote the letter". Cohen continues by quoting Ben-Sasson, who argues that Jews generally had a better legal and security situation in the Muslim countries than in Christendom.[91]

Ottoman Empire

While some Muslim states declined, the Ottoman Empire rose as the "greatest Muslim state in history". As long as the empire flourished, the Jews did as well, according to Schweitzer and Perry. In contrast with their treatment of Christians, the Ottomans were more tolerant of Jews and promoted their economic development. The Jews flourished as great merchants, financiers, government officials, traders and artisans.[92] The Ottomans also allowed some Jewish immigration to what was then referred to as Syria, which allowed for Zionists to establish permanent settlements in the 1880s.

Contrast with Christian Europe

Lewis states that in contrast to Christian antisemitism, the attitude of Muslims toward non-Muslims is not one of hate, fear, or envy, but rather contempt. This contempt is expressed in various ways, such as abundance of polemic literature attacking the Christians and occasionally also the Jews. "The negative attributes ascribed to the subject religions and their followers are usually expressed in religious and social terms, very rarely in ethnic or racial terms, though this does sometimes occur." The language of abuse is often quite strong. The conventional epithets are apes for Jews, and pigs for Christians. Lewis continues with several examples of regulations symbolizing the inferiority that non-Muslims living under Muslim rule had to live with, such as different formulae of greeting when addressing Jews and Christians than when addressing Muslims (both in conversations or correspondences), and forbidding Jews and Christians to choose names used by Muslims for their children by the Ottoman times.[93]

Schweitzer and Perry argue that there are two general views of the status of Jews under Islam, the traditional "golden age" and the revisionist "persecution and pogrom" interpretations. The former was first promulgated by Jewish historians in the 19th century as a rebuke of the Christian treatment of Jews, and taken up by Arab Muslims after 1948 as "an Arab-Islamist weapon in what is primarily an ideological and political struggle against Israel". The revisionists argue that this idealized view ignores "a catalog of lesser-known hatred and massacres".[77] Mark Cohen concurs with this view, arguing that the "myth of an interfaith utopia" went unchallenged until it was adopted by Arabs as a "propaganda weapon against Zionism",[94] and that this "Arab polemical exploitation" was met with the "counter-myth" of the "neo-lachrymose conception of Jewish-Arab history",[95] which also "cannot be maintained in the light of historical reality".[96][97]

Antisemitism in the Islamic Middle East

Antisemitism has increased in the Muslim world during modern times.[98] While Bernard Lewis and Uri Avnery date the rise of antisemitism to the establishment of Israel,[98] M. Klein suggests the antisemitism could have been present in the mid-19th century.[99]

Scholars point to European influence, including that of the Nazis (see below), and the establishment of Israel as the root causes for antisemitism.[98][99] Norman Stillman explains that increased European commercial, missionary and imperialist activities during the 19th and 20th centuries brought antisemitic ideas to the Muslim world. Initially these prejudices only found a reception among Arab Christians and were too foreign for any widespread acceptance among Muslims. However, with the rise of the Arab-Israeli conflict, European antisemitism began to gain acceptance in modern literature.[11]

19th century

According to Mark Cohen, Arab antisemitism in the modern world arose relatively recently, in the 19th century, against the backdrop of conflicting Jewish and Arab nationalism, and was imported into the Arab world primarily by nationalistically minded Christian Arabs (and only subsequently was it "Islamized").[100]

The Damascus affair occurred in 1840, when an Italian monk and his servant disappeared in Damascus. Immediately following, a charge of ritual murder was brought against a large number of Jews in the city. All were found guilty. The consuls of England, France and Austria as well as Ottoman authorities, Christians, Muslims and Jews all played a great role in this affair.[101] Following the Damascus affair, Pogroms spread through the Middle East and North Africa. Pogroms occurred in: Aleppo (1850, 1875), Damascus (1840, 1848, 1890), Beirut (1862, 1874), Dayr al-Qamar (1847), Jerusalem (1847), Cairo (1844, 1890, 1901–02), Mansura (1877), Alexandria (1870, 1882, 1901–07), Port Said (1903, 1908), Damanhur (1871, 1873, 1877, 1891), Istanbul (1870, 1874), Buyukdere (1864), Kuzguncuk (1866), Eyub (1868), Edirne (1872), Izmir (1872, 1874).[102] There was a massacre of Jews in Baghdad in 1828.[103] There was another massacre in Barfurush in 1867.[103]

In 1839, in the eastern Persian city of Meshed, a mob burst into the Jewish Quarter, burned the synagogue, and destroyed the Torah scrolls. This is known as the Allahdad incident. It was only by forcible conversion that a massacre was averted.[104]

Benny Morris writes that one symbol of Jewish degradation was the phenomenon of stone-throwing at Jews by Muslim children. Morris quotes a 19th-century traveler: "I have seen a little fellow of six years old, with a troop of fat toddlers of only three and four, teaching [them] to throw stones at a Jew, and one little urchin would, with the greatest coolness, waddle up to the man and literally spit upon his Jewish gaberdine. To all this the Jew is obliged to submit; it would be more than his life was worth to offer to strike a Mahommedan."[103]

20th century

The massacres of Jews in Muslim countries continued into the 20th century. The Jewish quarter in Fez was almost destroyed by a Muslim mob in 1912.[103] There were Nazi-inspired pogroms in Algeria in the 1930s, and massive attacks on the Jews in Iraq and Libya in the 1940s (see Farhud). Pro-Nazi Muslims slaughtered dozens of Jews in Baghdad in 1941.[103]

American academic Bernard Lewis and others have charged that standard antisemitic themes have become commonplace in the publications of Arab Islamic movements such as Hizbullah and Hamas, in the pronouncements of various agencies of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and even in the newspapers and other publications of Refah Partisi, the Turkish Islamic party whose head served as prime minister in 1996–97."[98] Lewis has also written that the language of abuse is often quite strong, arguing that the conventional epithets for Jews and Christians are apes and pigs, respectively.[105]

On March 1, 1994, Rashid Baz, an American Muslim living in Brooklyn, New York, shot at a van carrying Hassidic Jewish students over the Brooklyn Bridge. The students were returning to Brooklyn after visiting their ailing leader, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who suffered a stroke two years earlier. Ari Halberstam, one of the students, was killed. Others were wounded. Baz was quoted in his confession in 2007 as saying, "I only shot them because they were Jewish."

Connections between Nazi Germany and Muslim countries

Burning synagogue in Aleppo in 1947.

Despite the fact that an estimated 100,000 Muslims (primarily of Bosniak descent) were murdered during the Holocaust, some Arabs found common cause with Nazi Germany against colonial regimes in the region. The influence of the Nazis in the Arab world grew though the 1930s.[106] Egypt, Syria, and Iran are claimed to have harbored Nazi war criminals, though they have rejected the charge.[107] With the recruiting help of the Grand Mufti al-Husseini, the 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar, formed mostly of Muslims in 1943, was the first non-Germanic SS division.[108]

Mohammad Amin al-Husayni
Al-Husseini, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and the chairman of the Supreme Islamic Council and Adolf Hitler, 1941

The Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini attempted to create an alliance with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy to obstruct the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, and hinder any emigration by Jewish refugees from the Holocaust there.

Historians debate to what extent al-Husseini's fierce opposition to Zionism was grounded in nationalism or antisemitism or a combination of both.[109]

On March 31, 1933, within weeks of Hitler's rise to power in Germany, al-Husayni sent a telegram to Berlin addressed to the German Consul-General in the British Mandate of Palestine saying Muslims in Palestine and elsewhere looked forward to spreading their ideology in the Middle East. Al-Husseini secretly met the German Consul-General near the Dead Sea in 1933 and expressed his approval of the anti-Jewish boycott in Germany and asked him not to send any Jews to Palestine. Later that year, the Mufti's assistants approached Wolff, seeking his help in establishing an Arab National Socialist party in Palestine. Reports reaching the foreign offices in Berlin showed high levels of Arab admiration of Hitler.[110]

Al-Husseini met the German Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop on November 20, 1941, and was officially received by Hitler on November 30, 1941, in Berlin.[111] He asked Hitler for a public declaration that "recognized and sympathized with the Arab struggles for independence and liberation, and that it would support the elimination of a national Jewish homeland", and he submitted to the German government a draft of such a declaration, containing the clause.[112]

Al-Husseini inspects Islamic Waffen SS recruits, 1943

Husayni aided the Axis cause in the Middle East by issuing a fatwa for a holy war against Britain in May 1941. The Mufti's widely heralded proclamation against Britain was declared in Iraq, where he was instrumental in the anti-British Iraqi revolt of 1941.[113] During the war, the Mufti repeatedly made requests to "the German government to bomb Tel Aviv".[114]

Al-Husseini was involved in the organization and recruitment of Bosnian Muslims into several divisions of the Waffen SS and other units.[115] and also blessed sabotage teams trained by Germans before they were dispatched to Palestine, Iraq, and Transjordan.[116]


In March 1940, General Rashid Ali, a nationalist Iraqi officer forced the pro-British Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Said Pasha, to resign.[117] In May, he declared jihad against Great Britain. Forty days later, British troops occupied the country. The 1941 Iraqi coup d'état occurred on April 3, 1941, when the regime of the Regent 'Abd al-Ilah was overthrown, and Rashid Ali was installed as Prime Minister.[118]

In 1941, following Rashid Ali's pro-Axis coup, riots known as the Farhud broke out in Baghdad in which approximately 180 Jews were killed and about 240 were wounded, 586 Jewish-owned businesses were looted and 99 Jewish houses were destroyed.[119]

Mass grave of victims of the Farhud, 1941.

Iraq initially forbade the emigration of its Jews after the 1948 war on the grounds that allowing them to go to Israel would strengthen that state, but they were allowed to emigrate again after 1950, if they agreed to forgo their assets.[120]

The Ottoman Empire, Turkey, Iraq and Kurdistan

Jews and Assyrian Christians forced migrations between 1842 and the 21st century

In his recent PhD thesis[121] and in his recent book[122] the Israeli scholar Mordechai Zaken discussed the history of the Assyrian Christians of Turkey and Iraq (in the Kurdish vicinity) during the last 180 years, from 1843 onwards. In his studies Zaken outlines three major eruptions that took place between 1843 and 1933 during which the Assyrian Christians lost their land and hegemony in their habitat in the Hakkārī (or Julamerk) region in southeastern Turkey and became refugees in other lands, notably Iran and Iraq, and ultimately in exiled communities in European and western countries (the USA, Canada, Australia, New-Zealand, Sweden, France, to mention some of these countries). Mordechai Zaken wrote this study from an analytical and comparative point of view, comparing the Assyrian Christians' experience with the experience of the Kurdish Jews who had been dwelling in Kurdistan for two thousands years or so, but were forced to emigrate to Israel in the early 1950s. The Jews of Kurdistan were forced to leave as a result of the Arab-Israeli war, as a result of increasing hostility and acts of violence against Jews in Iraqi and Kurdish towns and villages, and as a result of a new situation that developed during the 1940s in Iraq and Kurdistan in which the ability of Jews to live in relative comfort and tolerance (that was disrupted from time to time prior to that period) with their Arab and Muslim neighbors, as they had done for many years, practically came to an end. In the end, the Jews of Kurdistan had to leave their Kurdish habitat en masse and migrate into Israel. The Assyrian Christians, on the other hand, suffered a similar fate but migrated in stages following each political crisis with the regime in whose boundaries they lived or following each conflict with their Muslim, Turkish, Arab or neighbors, or following the departure or expulsion of their patriarch Mar Shimon in 1933, first to Cyprus and then to the United States. Consequently, although there is still a small and fragile community of Assyrians in Iraq, millions of Assyrian Christians live today in exiled and prosperous communities in the west.[123]


Although Iran was officially neutral during the Second World War, Reza Shah sympathized with Nazi Germany, making the Jewish community fearful of possible persecutions.[124] Although these fears did not materialise, anti-Jewish articles were published in the Iranian media.

Following the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran in 1941, Rezā Shāh was deposed and replaced with by his son Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. However, Kaveh Farrokh argues that there is a misconception that antisemitism was widespread in Iran with Reza Shah in power.[125]


In Egypt, Ahmad Husayn founded the Young Egypt Party in 1934. He immediately expressed his sympathy for Nazi Germany to the German ambassador to Egypt. Husayn sent a delegation to the Nuremberg rally and returned with enthusiasm. After the Sudeten Crisis, the party leaders denounced Germany for aggression against small nations, but nonetheless retained elements similar to Nazism or Fascism, e.g. salutes, torchlight parades, leader worship, and antisemitism and racism. The party's impact before 1939 was minimal, and their espionage efforts were of little value to the Germans.[126]

During World War II, Cairo was a haven for agents and spies throughout the war. Egyptian nationalists were active, with many Egyptians, including Farouk of Egypt and prime minister Ali Mahir Pasha, all of whom hoped for an Axis victory, and full independence of Egypt from Britain.[127]

Islamist groups

Many Islamic terrorist groups have openly expressed antisemitic views.

Lashkar-e-Toiba's propaganda arm has declared the Jews to be "Enemies of Islam", and Israel to be the "Enemy of Pakistan".[128]

Hamas has been widely described as antisemitic. It has issued antisemitic leaflets, and its writings and manifestos rely upon antisemitic documents (the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and other European Christian literature), exhibiting antisemitic themes.[129] In 1998, Esther Webman of the Project for the Study of Anti-Semitism at the Tel Aviv University wrote that although the above is true, antisemitism was not the main tenet of Hamas ideology.[130]

In an editorial in The Guardian in January 2006, Khaled Meshaal, the chief of Hamas's political bureau denied antisemitism, on Hamas' part, and said that the nature of Israeli-Palestinian conflict was not religious but political. He also said that Hamas has "no problem with Jews who have not attacked us".[131]

Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a Shiite scholar and assistant professor at the Lebanese American University has written that Hezbollah is not Anti-Zionist, but rather Anti-Jewish. She quoted Hassan Nasrallah as saying: "If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew. Notice, I do not say the Israeli."[132] Regarding the official public stance of Hezbollah as a whole, she said that while Hezbollah, "tries to mask its anti-Judaism for public-relations reasons ... a study of its language, spoken and written, reveals an underlying truth." In her book Hezbollah: Politics & Religion, she argues that Hezbollah "believes that Jews, by the nature of Judaism, possess fatal character flaws". Saad-Ghorayeb also said, "Hezbollah's Quranic reading of Jewish history has led its leaders to believe that Jewish theology is evil."[132]

21st century

France is home to Europe's largest population of Muslims — about 6 million — as well as the continent's largest community of Jews, about 600,000. In 2000, Muslims attacked synagogues in retaliation for damage done to their Muslim brethren in the Palestinian territories. (See also: Second Intifada) Many Jews protested, the acts were declared "Muslim antisemitism". By 2007, however, attacks were much less severe, and an "all-clear" was perceived.[133] However, during the 2008–2009 Gaza War, tensions between the two communities increased and there were several dozen reported instances of violence such as arson and assaults. French Jewish leaders complained of "a diffuse kind of anti-Semitism becoming entrenched in the Muslim community" while Muslim leaders responded that the issues were "political rather than religious" and that Muslim anger is "not against Jews, it's against Israel".[134]

On July 28, 2006, at around 4:00 p.m. Pacific time, the Seattle Jewish Federation shooting occurred when Naveed Afzal Haq shot six women, one fatally, at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle building in the Belltown neighborhood of Seattle, Washington, United States. He shouted, "I'm a Muslim American; I'm angry at Israel" before he began his shooting spree. Police have classified the shooting as a hate crime based on what Haq said during a 9-1-1 call.[135] In 2012, the Palestinian Authority Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, citing Hadiths, called for the killing of all Jews.[136][137][138]

In Egypt, Dar al-Fadhilah published a translation of Henry Ford's antisemitic treatise, The International Jew, complete with distinctly antisemitic imagery on the cover.[139]

In 2014 the Anti-Defamation League published a global survey of worldwide antisemitic attitudes, reporting that in the Middle East, 74% of adults agreed with a majority of the survey's eleven antisemitic propositions, including that "Jews have too much power in international financial markets" and that "Jews are responsible for most of the world's wars."[140][141]

Antisemitic comments by Muslim leaders and scholars

The imagery revived on the cover of the 2001 Egyptian edition of The International Jew by Henry Ford.
Yusuf al-Qaradawi

In a sermon that aired on Al-Jazeera TV on January 9, 2009 (as translated by MEMRI), Egyptian Muslim scholar and preacher Yusuf al-Qaradawi stated:

"O Allah, take your enemies, the enemies of Islam. O Allah, take the Jews, the treacherous aggressors. O Allah, take this profligate, cunning, arrogant band of people. O Allah, they have spread much tyranny and corruption in the land. Pour Your wrath upon them, O our God. ... O Allah, do not spare a single one of them. O Allah, count their numbers, and kill them, down to the very last one."[142][143][144][145]

In a subsequent speech on Al-Jazeera on January 30, 2009, al-Qaradawi expressed his views on Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust, stating (as translated by MEMRI):

"Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the [Jews] people who would punish them for their corruption. The last punishment was carried out by Hitler. By means of all the things he did to them – even though they exaggerated this issue – he managed to put them in their place. This was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hand of the believers."[144][146][147][148]
Muhammad Hussein Yacoub

In a speech delivered by Egyptian Salafi Islamic scholar Muhammad Hussein Yacoub that aired on Al-Rahma TV on January 17, 2009, he stated (as translated by MEMRI):

"We must believe that our fighting with the Jews is eternal, and it will not end until the final battle.... You must believe that we will fight, defeat, and annihilate them, until not a single Jew remains on the face of the Earth.... As for you Jews – the curse of Allah upon you. The curse of Allah upon you, on whose ancestors were apes and pigs. You Jews have sown hatred in our hearts, and we have bequeathed it to our children and grandchildren. You will not survive as long as a single one of us remains.... O Jews, may the curse of Allah be upon you. O Jews ... O Allah, bring Your wrath, punishment, and torment down upon them. Allah, we pray that you transform them again, and make the Muslims rejoice again in seeing them as apes and pigs. You pigs of the earth! You pigs of the earth! You kill the Muslims with that cold pig [blood] of yours."[149][150][151][152]
Ibrahim Mahdi

Palestinian preacher Ibrahim Mahdi said in a sermon:

"Palestine will be, as it was in the past, a graveyard for the invaders – just as it was a graveyard for the Tatars and to the Crusader invaders, [and for the invaders] of the old and new colonialism.... A reliable Hadith [tradition] says: 'The Jews will fight you, but you will be set to rule over them.' What could be more beautiful than this tradition? 'The Jews will fight you' – that is, the Jews have begun to fight us. 'You will be set to rule over them' – Who will set the Muslim to rule over the Jew? Allah ... Until the Jew hides behind the rock and the tree. But the rock and tree will say: 'O Muslim, O servant of Allah, a Jew hides behind me, come and kill him.' Except for the Gharqad tree, which is the tree of the Jews. We believe in this Hadith. We are convinced also that this Hadith heralds the spread of Islam and its rule over all the land.... O Allah, accept our martyrs in the highest heavens.... O Allah, show the Jews a black day.... O Allah, annihilate the Jews and their supporters.... O Allah, raise the flag of Jihad across the land.... O Allah, forgive our sins...."[153]

On another occasion, Sheikh Madhi added:

"O beloved of Allah ... One of the Jews' evil deeds is what has come to be called 'the Holocaust', that is, the slaughter of the Jews by Nazism. However, revisionist [historians] have proven that this crime, carried out against some of the Jews, was planned by the Jews' leaders, and was part of their policy.... These are the Jews against whom we fight, O beloved of Allah. On the other hand, [what is our belief] about the Jews? Allah has described them as donkeys."[154]
Ahmad Bahr

Ahmad Bahr, Deputy Speaker of the Hamas Parliament, stated in a sermon that aired on Al-Aqsa TV on August 10, 2012:

If the enemy sets foot on a single square inch of Islamic land, Jihad becomes an individual duty, incumbent on every Muslim, male or female. A woman may set out [on Jihad] without her husband's permission, and a servant without his master's permission. Why? In order to annihilate those Jews.... O Allah, destroy the Jews and their supporters. O Allah, destroy the Americans and their supporters. O Allah, count them one by one, and kill them all, without leaving a single one.[155][156][157][158]
Sheik Bassam Al-Kayed

Sheik Bassam Al-Kayed, who is the head of the Islamic Scholars Association in Lebanon, stated on Lebanon's Al-Iman TV in August 2012 that:

If you look all over the world, you will hardly find any civil strife that the Jews are not behind.... Don't you see what's happening in Burma? The Buddhists are trained by the Jews to do what they are doing [to the Muslims].[159]
Sami Al-Arian

Allah had made Jews "monkeys and swine", and damned them in this world and the afterworld.[160]

Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais

Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais is the leading imam of the Grand mosque in the Islamic holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia.[161][162] The BBC aired a Panorama episode, entitled A Question of Leadership, which reported that al-Sudais referred to Jews as "the scum of the human race" and "offspring of apes and pigs", and stated, "the worst ... of the enemies of Islam are those ... whom he ... made monkeys and pigs, the aggressive Jews and oppressive Zionists and those that follow them ... Monkeys and pigs and worshippers of false Gods who are the Jews and the Zionists."[163]

In another sermon, on April 19, 2002, he declared:

Muhammad Al-Mukhtar Al-Mahdi

In an sermon at Al-Azhar University which was broadcast on Egypt's Channel 1 on May 10, 2013, Muhammad Al-Mukhtar Al-Mahdi, a member of Al-Azhar University's Council of Senior Scholars stated (as translated by MEMRI):

Hazem Shuman

In a sermon broadcast on Egypt's Al-Rahma TV channel on October 31, 2009, Egyptian cleric Hazem Shuman stated, with regard to Jews, "Your turn has come at last, you offspring of apes and pigs, you most accursed creatures created by Allah, you people who have harmed the Prophet again and again" and further stated, "It has been proven that the Jews are like a cancer – if they are not removed from the body of the nation, they will kill the entire nation."[166][167][168]

Sheikh Ba'd bin Abdallah Al-Ajameh Al-Ghamidi

According to Dr. Leah Kinberg, "Saudi Sheikh Ba'd bin Abdallah Al-Ajameh Al-Ghamidi, in a sermon in Taif, explained":

He also said Jews are "the scum of the human race, the rats of the world, the violators of pacts and agreements, the murderers of the prophets, and the offspring of apes and pigs."[161] Egyptian Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawy, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Mosque and Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar University, and "perhaps the foremost Sunni Arab authority", has been criticized for remarks made in April 2002, described Jews in his weekly sermon as "the enemies of Allah, descendants of apes and pigs".[169][170][171]

Mahathir bin Muhammad

Mahathir bin Mohamad, who served as Prime Minister of Malaysia from 1981 to 2003, has made a number of public remarks about Jews.

In 1970, he wrote in his controversial book The Malay Dilemma: "The Jews for example are not merely hook-nosed, but understand money instinctively."[172][173]

In a statement made prior to hosting an international meeting of Muslim countries on terrorism, Mahathir said of terrorism:

Mahathir address at a United Nations symposium on Islam at UN University in Tokyo:

On October 16, 2003, shortly before he stepped down as prime minister, Putrajaya, that:

Sheik Taj el-Din al-Hilali

Sheik Taj el-Din al-Hilali the imam of one of the largest mosques in Australia (and subsequently the Mufti of Australia and New Zealand) said:

Saudi school books

A May 2006 study of Saudi Arabia's revised schoolbook curriculum discovered that the eighth grade books included the following statements,[179]

Saudi textbooks for 9th graders teach that "the annihilation of the Jewish people is imperative."[180] Heads of American publishing houses have issued a statement asking the Saudi government to delete the "hate".[181]

Other statements

On May 5, 2001, after Shimon Peres visited Egypt, the Egyptian al-Akhbar internet paper stated that: "lies and deceit are not foreign to Jews.... For this reason, Allah changed their shape and made them into monkeys and pigs."[182]

Author Erel Shalit has written that Jews must listen to statements made about them from the Arab world, regardless of whether they are positive or negative. He cited the following example:

The Jews of yesterday are the evil fathers of the Jews of today, who are evil offspring ... the scum of the human race 'whom Allah cursed and turned into apes and pigs....' These are the Jews, an ongoing continuum of deceit, obstinacy, licentiousness, evil, and corruption.... (The Imam of the Al-Haraam mosque in Mecca; the same words of incitement repeated time and again in the mosques of Gaza and Ramallah.)[183]

Reconciliation efforts

In Western countries, some Islamic groups and individual Muslims have made efforts to reconcile with the Jewish community through dialogue and to oppose antisemitism. For instance, in Britain there is the group Muslims Against Anti-Semitism.[184][185] Islamic studies scholar Tariq Ramadan has been outspoken against antisemitism, stating: "In the name of their faith and conscience, Muslims must take a clear position so that a pernicious atmosphere does not take hold in the Western countries. Nothing in Islam can legitimize xenophobia or the rejection of a human being due to his/her religious creed or ethnicity. One must say unequivocally, with force, that anti-Semitism is unacceptable and indefensible."[186] Mohammad Khatami, former president of Iran, declared antisemitism to be a "Western phenomena", having no precedents in Islam and stating the Muslims and Jews had lived harmoniously in the past. An Iranian newspaper stated that has been hatred and hostility in history, but conceded that one must distinguish Jews from Zionists.[98]

In North America, the Hamas and Hizbollah.[188]

The Saudi mufti, Shaykh Abd al-Aziz Bin Baz, gave a fatwa ruling that negotiating peace with Israel is permissible, as is the cist to Jerusalem by Muslims. He specifically said:

The Prophet made absolute peace with the Jews of Medina when he went there as an immigrant. That did not entail any love for them or amiability with them. But the Prophet dealt with them, buying from them, talking to them, calling them to God and Islam. When he died, his shield was mortgaged to a Jew, for he had mortgaged it to buy food for his family.

Martin Kramer considers that as "an explicit endorsement of normal relations with Jews".[10]


According to Norman Stillman, Antisemitism in the Muslim world increased greatly for more than two decades following 1948 but "peaked by the 1970s, and declined somewhat as the slow process of rapprochement between the Arab world and the state of Israel evolved in the 1980s and 1990s".[11] Johannes J. G. Jansen believes that antisemitism will have no future in the Arab world in the long run. In his view, like other imports from the Western World, antisemitism is unable to establish itself in the private lives of Muslims.[189] In 2004 Khaleel Mohammed said, "Anti-Semitism has become an entrenched tenet of Muslim theology, taught to 95 per cent of the religion's adherents in the Islamic world," a claim immediately dismissed as false and racist by Muslim leaders, who accused Mohammed of destroying efforts at relationship building between Jews and Muslims.[190][191] In 2010, Moshe Ma'oz, Professor Emeritus of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at The Hebrew University, edited a book questioning the common perception Islam is antisemitic or anti-Israel, and maintaining that most Arab regimes and most leading Muslim clerics have a pragmatic attitude to Israel.[192]

According to professor Robert Wistrich, director of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism (SICSA), the calls for the destruction of Israel by Iran or by Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, or the Muslim Brotherhood, represent a contemporary mode of genocidal anti-Semitism.[193]

According to the Pew Global Attitudes Project released on August 14, 2005, high percentages of the populations of six Muslim-majority countries have negative views of Jews. To a questionnaire asking respondents to give their views of members of various religions along a spectrum from "very favorable" to "very unfavorable", 60% of Turks, 74% of Pakistanis, 76% of Indonesians, 88% of Moroccans, 99% of Lebanese Muslims and 100% of Jordanians checked either "somewhat unfavorable" or "very unfavorable" for Jews.[194][195]

Islamic antisemitism in Europe

The Netherlands

In the Netherlands, antisemitic incidents, from verbal abuse to violence, are reported, allegedly connected with Islamic youth, mostly boys from Moroccan descent. A phrase made popular during football matches against the so-called Jewish football club Ajax has been adopted by Muslim youth and is frequently heard at pro-Palestinian demonstrations: "Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas!" According to the Centre for Information and Documentation on Israel, a pro-Israel lobby group in the Netherlands, in 2009, the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Amsterdam, the city that is home to most of the approximately 40,000 Dutch Jews, was said to be doubled compared to 2008.[196] In 2010, Raphaël Evers, an orthodox rabbi in Amsterdam, told the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten that Jews can no longer be safe in the city anymore due to the risk of violent assaults. "Jews no longer feel at home in the city. Many are considering aliyah to Israel."[197]


There were recorded well over a hundred antisemitic attacks in Belgium in 2009. This was a 100% increase from the year before. The perpetrators were usually young males of immigrant background from the Middle East. In 2009, the Belgian city of Antwerp, often referred to as Europe's last shtetl, experienced a surge in antisemitic violence. Bloeme Evers-Emden, an Amsterdam resident and Auschwitz survivor, was quoted in the newspaper Aftenposten in 2010: "The antisemitism now is even worse than before the Holocaust. The antisemitism has become more violent. Now they are threatening to kill us."[197]


In 2004, France experienced rising levels of Islamic antisemitism and acts that were publicized around the world.[198][199][200] In 2006, rising levels of antisemitism were recorded in French schools. Reports related to the tensions between the children of North African Muslim immigrants and North African Jewish children.[200] The climax was reached when Ilan Halimi was tortured to death by the so-called "Barbarians gang", led by Youssouf Fofana. In 2007, over 7,000 members of the community petitioned for asylum in the United States, citing antisemitism in France.[201]

Between 2001 and 2005, an estimated 12,000 French Jews took Aliyah to Israel. Several émigrés cited antisemitism and the growing Arab population as reasons for leaving.[202] At a welcoming ceremony for French Jews in the summer of 2004, then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon caused controversy when he advised all French Jews to "move immediately" to Israel and escape what he coined "the wildest anti-semitism" in France.[203][204][205][206]

In the first half of 2009, an estimated 631 recorded acts of antisemitism took place in France, more than the whole of 2008.[207] Speaking to the World Jewish Congress in December 2009, the French Interior Minister Hortefeux described the acts of antisemitism as "a poison to our republic". He also announced that he would appoint a special coordinator for fighting racism and antisemitism.[208]

Rises in antisemitism in modern France have been linked to the intensifying Israeli–Palestinian conflict.[209] Since the Gaza War in 2009, decreases in antisemitism have been reversed. A report compiled by the Coordination Forum for Countering Anti-Semitism singled out France in particular among Western countries for antisemitism.[210] Between the start of the Israeli offensive in Gaza in late December and the end of it in January, an estimated hundred antisemitic acts were recorded in France. This compares with a total of 250 antisemitic acts in the whole of 2007.[209][211]


According to a 2012 survey, 18% of the Turks in Germany believe Jews are inferior human beings.[212][213]


A government study in 2006 estimated that 5% of the total adult population and 39% of adult Muslims "harbour systematic antisemitic views".[214] The former prime minister Göran Persson described these results as "surprising and terrifying". However, the rabbi of Stockholm's Orthodox Jewish community, Meir Horden, said, "It's not true to say that the Swedes are anti-Semitic. Some of them are hostile to Israel because they support the weak side, which they perceive the Palestinians to be."[215]

In March 2010, Fredrik Sieradzk told Die Presse, an Austrian Internet publication, that Jews are being "harassed and physically attacked" by "people from the Middle East", although he added that only a small number of Malmö's 40,000 Muslims "exhibit hatred of Jews". Sieradzk also stated that approximately 30 Jewish families have emigrated from Malmö to Israel in the past year, specifically to escape from harassment. Also in March, the Swedish newspaper Skånska Dagbladet reported that attacks on Jews in Malmö totaled 79 in 2009, about twice as many as the previous year, according to police statistics.[216]

In early 2010, the Swedish publication The Local published series of articles about the growing antisemitism in Malmö, Sweden. In an interview in January 2010, Fredrik Sieradzki of the Jewish Community of Malmö stated, "Threats against Jews have increased steadily in Malmö in recent years and many young Jewish families are choosing to leave the city. Many feel that the community and local politicians have shown a lack of understanding for how the city's Jewish residents have been marginalized." He also added, "right now many Jews in Malmö are really concerned about the situation here and don't believe they have a future here." The Local also reported that Jewish cemeteries and synagogues have repeatedly been defaced with antisemitic graffiti, and a chapel at another Jewish burial site in Malmö was firebombed in 2009.[217] In 2009 the Malmö police received reports of 79 antisemitic incidents, double the number of the previous year (2008).[218] Fredrik Sieradzki, spokesman for the Malmö Jewish community, estimated that the already small Jewish population is shrinking by 5% a year. "Malmö is a place to move away from," he said, citing antisemitism as the primary reason.[219]

In October 2010, The Forward reported on the current state of Jews and the level of antisemitism in Sweden. Henrik Bachner, a writer and professor of history at the University of Lund, claimed that members of the Swedish Parliament have attended anti-Israel rallies where the Israeli flag was burned while the flags of Hamas and Hezbollah were waved, and the rhetoric was often antisemitic—not just anti-Israel. But such public rhetoric is not branded hateful and denounced. Charles Small, director of the Yale University Initiative for the Study of Antisemitism, stated, "Sweden is a microcosm of contemporary anti-Semitism. It's a form of acquiescence to radical Islam, which is diametrically opposed to everything Sweden stands for." Per Gudmundson, chief editorial writer for Svenska Dagbladet, has sharply criticized politicians who he claims offer "weak excuses" for Muslims accused of antisemitic crimes. "Politicians say these kids are poor and oppressed, and we have made them hate. They are, in effect, saying the behavior of these kids is in some way our fault."[220] Judith Popinski, and 86-year-old Holocaust survivor, stated that she is no longer invited to schools that have a large Muslim presence to tell her story of surviving the Holocaust. Popinski, who found refuge in Malmö in 1945, stated that, until recently, she told her story in Malmö schools as part of their Holocaust studies program, but that now, many schools no longer ask Holocaust survivors to tell their stories, because Muslim students treat them with such disrespect, either ignoring the speakers or walking out of the class. She further stated, "Malmö reminds me of the anti-Semitism I felt as a child in Poland before the war. "I am not safe as a Jew in Sweden anymore."[221]

In December 2010, the Simon Wiesenthal Center issued a travel advisory concerning Sweden, advising Jews to express "extreme caution" when visiting the southern parts of the country due to an increase in verbal and physical harassment of Jewish citizens by Muslims in the city of Malmö.[222]


In 2010, the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation after one year of research, revealed that anti-semitism was common among Norwegian Muslims. Teachers at schools with large shares of Muslims revealed that Muslim students often "praise or admire Adolf Hitler for his killing of Jews", that "Jew-hate is legitimate within vast groups of Muslim students," and "Muslims laugh or command [teachers] to stop when trying to educate about the Holocaust." Additionally that "while some students might protest when some express support for terrorism, none object when students express hate of Jews" and that it says in "the Quran that you shall kill Jews, all true Muslims hate Jews." Most of these students were said to be born and raised in Norway. One Jewish father also told that his child after school had been taken by a Muslim mob (though managed to escape), reportedly "to be taken out to the forest and hanged because he was a Jew".[223]

See also


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Further reading

  • Bostom, Andrew (2008). The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism. Prometheus Books. ISBN 1591025540
  • Gabriel, Mark (2003). Islam and the Jews: The Unfinished Battle. Charisma House. ISBN 0-88419-956-8
  • Ernst, Carl (2004). Following Muhammad: Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World. University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0-8078-5577-4
  • Kressel, Neil J. (2012). The Sons of Pigs and Apes: Muslim Antisemitism and the Conspiracy of Silence. Potomac Books Inc. ISBN 1597977020
  • Lepre, George. Himmler's Bosnian Division; The Waffen-SS Handschar Division 1943–1945 Algen: Shiffer, 1997. ISBN 0-7643-0134-9
  • Viré, F. (2006) "Kird". Encyclopaedia of Islam. Eds.: P. J. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C. E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W. P. Heinrichs. Brill. Brill Online
  • Watt, Montgomery (1956). Muhammad at Medina. Oxford: University Press.

External links

  • Jews in the Qur'an: An Introduction by Aisha Y. Musa
  • Jews in the Koran and Early Islamic Traditions by Dr. Leah Kinberg
  • "Why do jihadists love attacking Jews?"
  • "The Arabs and the Holocaust": War of Narratives
  • Jikeli, Günther; Stoller, Robin; Thoma, Hanne (2007): Strategies and Effective Practices for Fighting Antisemitism among People with a Muslim or Arab Background in Europe, Berlin
  • Kashif Shahzada (2009): Why Islam is Against Antisemitism?, San Diego Jewish World, December 2009
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