Islam and Antisemitism - Range of Opinion

Range of Opinion

  • Claude Cahen and Shelomo Dov Goitein argue against historic antisemitism in Muslim lands, writing that discrimination practiced against non-Muslims was of general nature, and not targeted specifically at Jews. For these scholars, antisemitism in Medieval Islam was local and sporadic rather than general and endemic. For Goitein antisemitism was not present at all, and for Cahen it was rarely present.
  • Bernard Lewis writes that while Muslims have held negative stereotypes regarding Jews, throughout most of Islamic history these stereotypes were not indicative of antisemitism because, unlike Christians, Muslims viewed Jews as objects of ridicule, not fear. He argues that Muslims did not attribute "cosmic evil" to Jews. In Lewis' view, it was only in the late 19th century that movements first appeared among Muslims that can legitimately be described as antisemitic.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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