Whether one likes it or not, the image of the Jews depicted and disseminated extensively by Quran is that they are inherently evil and enemies of Islam, enemies of "the religion of truth," and of all Muslims. When anyone, such as a moderate Muslim or non-Muslim, draws attention to this dismaying fact, such as its direct connection to an indoctrinated hatred of "all" Jews, and when anyone calls for a justified examination or reform of these views, he immediately faces accusations of "Islamophobia." He is then overwhelmed by dozens of false rationalizations and supposed justifications in a way that indicates a deeply-rooted avoidance by senior Muslim scholars and institutions -- and even many mainstream Muslims -- of the truth that Quranic verses are full of hatred of Jews. All of the Jews, no exceptions:
Al-Bukhari (3593) and Muslim (2921) narrated from the hadith of Ibn 'Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) that he said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) say: "The Jews will fight you and you will prevail over them, then a rock will say: 'O Muslim, here is a Jew behind me; kill him.'"
In Saheeh Muslim (2922), it is narrated from the hadith of Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: "The Hour will not begin until the Muslims fight the Jews and the Muslims will kill them, until a Jew hides behind a rock or a tree, and the rock or tree will say: O Muslim, O slave of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Except the gharqad (a thorny tree), for it is one of the trees of the Jews."
Christians (and all "disbelievers") are not far behind:
"They have certainly disbelieved who say, " Allah is the third of three." And there is no god except one God. And if they do not desist from what they are saying, there will surely afflict the disbelievers among them a painful punishment." (Quran 5:72) Sahih International translation.
"O you who have believed, fight those adjacent to you of the disbelievers and let them find in you harshness. And know that Allah is with the righteous." (Quran 9:123) Sahih International translation.
"O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are [in fact] allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you – then indeed, he is [one] of them. Indeed, Allah guides not the wrongdoing people." (Quran 5:51) Sahih International translation
It was no wonder, therefore, that Egypt's al-Azhar University, the most influential school of Sunni Islam, was enraged by a call from many intellectuals in France to amend the verses in the Quran that disseminate anti-Semitism and hatred of non-Muslims.
Al Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt. (Image source: Sailko/Wikimedia Commons)
Recently, Al-Azhar condemned an open letter written by co-founder of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, Philippe Val, and signed by more than 250 French politicians and public figures such as former President Nicolas Sarkozy, three former Prime Ministers, elected officials, intellectuals, and artists, calling to reconsider outdated the Quran verses that provoke hatred and killing of Jews and promote anti-Semitism. Twelve members of Charlie Hebdo's staff, including its senior editor-in-chief, Stéphane Charbonnier, were murdered and 11 others injured by three Muslim extremists shouting "Allahu Akbar" ["Allah is the Greatest"], on January 7, 2015.
The new manifesto, "Against New Anti-Semitism," which emphasizes the need for urgent action against the rise of anti-Semitism and recent increase in violent anti-Semitic attacks in France, was published in the newspaper Le Parisien on April 21. "In our recent history, 11 Jews have been murdered -- and some tortured -- by radical Islamists because they were Jewish," the manifesto said.
Signed by politicians from the right and left, as well as Jewish, Muslim and Catholic leaders, the declaration asks that "the verses of the Quran calling for the killing and punishment of Jews, Christians and unbelievers be [denounced as] outdated by theological [Islamic] authorities, as were the incoherencies of the Bible and the Catholic anti-Semitism abolished by Vatican II, so that no believer can rely on a sacred text to commit a crime."
In response to the manifesto, the Deputy to the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Abbas Shoman, decried any calls for purging or considering obsolete any verses of the Quran and labeled such calls as "absolute ignorance," the Egyptian daily al-Masry al-Youm reported. And in obvious taqiyya (dissimulation), Shoman denied that the Quran contains "any verses that command the killing of anyone that has not committed a crime that necessitates that, such as premeditated murder" and falsely described all "war and killing verses" as calling for justified self-defense and as verses of peace. He also asked the signatories of the manifesto to understand that the Quran is the right way and "if they insist on their misguided understanding [of it], they should go to hell with their wrong understanding." Notably, Sheikh Shoman overlooked that the French manifesto not only talks about the murder and abuse of Jews; it was also talks about the culture of anti-Semitism being promoted by dozens of Quranic verses. One wonders how, after having been taught Islamic supremacy all their lives, imams could even try to understand such a manifesto. Sheikh Shoman's remarks may just indicate his own indoctrinated anti-Semitism.
Islam is not the only religious text that contains violence and anachronistic passages -- a fact highlighted by a few imams such as Tareq Oubrou, imam of the Grand Mosque of the southern city of Bordeaux. Yet, as has been noted elsewhere, Islam is the only remaining religion in which "people still live by" these texts, where violence is divinely sanctioned.
Sheikh Shoman correctly says that Allah loves not the aggressor,
"Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors." (Quran 2:190) Sahih International translation.
Yet, it has often seemed easy to point to others as aggressors -- whether real or imagined -- to justify a "defensive" response and guarantee that the defense of Islam has been "just." The problem, of course, is that what constitutes an "aggression" is wholly subjective. While everyone has the right to defend oneself if attacked, justifications for what constitutes an attack have ranged from children naming a stuffed teddy bear Muhammad (the teacher, who was British, received death threats and served jail time) in the Sudan, or another teacher, in Spain, who was sued for having discussed ham, a major Spanish export, in class.
The Catholic Church issued a declaration ( November 18, 1964) that unequivocally absolved the Jews of all times -- whether in the era of Jesus or in later days -- from the ancient charge of deicide, which meant abolishing incoherencies of the Bible and traditional Catholic anti-Semitism. Muslims strongly believe that the Quran, which forbids befriending "disbelievers" is the permanent word of Allah, the only God, hasn't and will never be altered or modified and should not be equated with other religious texts have been altered and distorted.
"Let not believers take disbelievers as allies rather than believers." -- Quran 3:28; Sahih International translation.
In an egocentric and deceptive spirit, the "Observatory of Islamophobia," which is affiliated with the Egyptian Dar al-Iftaa (an institution run by al-Azhar scholars and is responsible for issuing fatwas [religious opinions]) denounced the manifesto as hateful and Islamophobic, and claimed it that causes attacks and antagonism against Muslims. The statement deliberately ignores that, according to the manifesto:
"French Jews are 25 times more likely to be attacked than their fellow Muslims. 10% of the Jewish citizens of Ile-de-France -- that is to say about 50,000 people -- were recently forced to move because they were no longer safe in some cities and because their children could not attend public schools anymore."
We will never be able to understand Islamist violence in Europe, the Middle East, and around the world if political and religious leaders -- including al-Azhar and Pope Francis -- insist on saying that Islamist violence has nothing to do with Islam. Saying that "Islamist violence has nothing to do with Islam" does not make it so. Like or not, it does.
As the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, remarked in a November 2016 lecture at the Catholic Institute of Paris, "If we treat religiously-motivated violence solely as a security issue or a political issue, then it will be incredibly difficult -- probably impossible -- to overcome it." The archbishop also insisted that, "Until religious leaders stand up and take responsibility for the actions of those who do things in the name of their religion, we will see no resolution."
A. Z. Mohamed is a Muslim born and raised in the Middle East.