Book refutes myths that fuel Muslim anti-Semitism

“The Jew Is Not My Enemy” by Tarek Fatah

By Arthur Gale, Special to the Jewish Light

In “The Jew is not my Enemy: Unveiling the Myths that Fuel Muslim Anti-Semitism” (McClelland & Stewart, $24.95), journalist Tarek Fatah claims that the Hadith, a compilation of the sayings attributed to Mohammed, is the source of much Muslim hatred directed towards the Jews as well as other non-Muslims. The author says that anti-Semitism is pervasive and growing throughout the Muslim world in both Arab and non-Arab countries. He quotes one source who in 2004 said that “anti-Semitism has become an entrenched tenet of Muslim theology taught to 95 percent of the religion’s adherents in the Islamic world.”

Fatah, a practicing Canadian Muslim of Pakistani background, has nothing but contempt for religious leaders who promote anti-Semitism – he labels them “hate-mongers.” Citing the writings of a number of Islamic scholars and intellectuals, he states that the Quran is not anti-Semitic or anti-Christian. Most of the passages clerics quote as supporting their anti-Semitic teachings come not from the Quran, which Muslims believe is divinely inspired, but from the Hadith, a man-made compilation of sayings attributed to the prophet Mohammed, and written up to 200 years after his death. He describes the Hadith as “hate literature… that we [Muslims] have no obligation to embrace.”

The author continues: “From labeling Christians and Jews pigs and apes to prohibiting Muslims from playing chess, Hadith literature has been a source of much embarrassment to Muslims…If we Muslims continue to study the Hadith texts as if they were divinely ordained then we will have considerable difficulty convincing anyone that Islam is a pluralistic religion that promotes peace and harmony among peoples.”

Fatah acknowledges that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has lent anti-Semitic statements contained in the Hadith respectability and credence. He does not support the occupation of Palestinian lands by Israel. But he clearly believes that Israel has the right to exist. He cites two passages from the Quran that are rarely discussed and “would shock Muslims in how they authenticate the Jewish claim to their rightful presence in Palestine and Jerusalem.”

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Fatah refers to a small but growing reform movement in Islam that rejects the commentaries of the Hadith. He asks “…can we Muslims not be brave enough to say that the hatred against Jew that permeates the texts be set aside as inapplicable in societies where the universality of human rights and the equality of races is the cornerstone of civilization?”

Fatah sums up the book with a challenge to his fellow Muslims: “We need to stand up to members of our community who spread hate against the Jew, the atheist, the apostate, the Hindu, and the Christian and then hide behind the Quran…We need to recognize that blaming the other for our dismal contribution to contemporary civilization is a sedative, not the cure for the disease that afflicts us all. To join the nations and peoples of this world, as brothers and sisters of a common humanity we need to wean ourselves from our addiction to victimhood and hate.”

The book was published before the “Arab Spring” revolutions in Muslim countries of the Middle East and North Africa began. Whether these revolutions will end up embracing the reformist ideals proposed in this book or revert to the fundamentalist philosophy of the Hadith remains to be seen.

Regardless of the outcome of the Arab Spring, Tarek Fatah has performed an admirable job of explaining clearly the contradictions that exist in Islam by virtue of its reliance on the Hadith rather than exclusively on the Quran. The book provides an original and unique perspective on understanding Islam.

Readers of all faiths should find this book worthwhile.