In this Front Page magazine interview, Dr Andrew Bostom tells how 9/11 sparked his interest in Islamic antisemitism. He has since written several seminal works on the subject. It should be noted, however, that current Arab antisemitism demonises Jews in a way that good old-fashioned Islamic antisemitism did not.
In the wake of the farcically mislabeled “Arab Spring,” we are witnessing a swelling tide of Jew-hatred emanating from the triumphant Islamists throughout the Middle East who don’t even bother to conceal it. And why should they? Our own willfully blind and/or complicit media downplay it or ignore it altogether.
Some argue that what is mistaken for contemporary Islamic anti-Semitism is just a reaction to Israel’s “occupation” and “genocidal oppression” of the Palestinians. Or that it is not intrinsic to Islam but derives from the influence of Nazism. Or that it is a perversion of Islam on the part of a tiny minority of extremists. What are the true roots of Islamic Jew-hatred?
Andrew Bostom, M.D., M.S., has documented the answer. An Associate Professor of Medicine at Rhode Island Hospital, the major teaching affiliate of Brown University Medical School, he is the author of two essential, extraordinary, and meticulously documented works of scholarship, The Legacy of Jihad and The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, and of the upcoming Sharia versus Freedom (with a foreword by the incomparable Andrew C. McCarthy). He has published articles and commentary on Islam here on FrontPage and in the Washington Times, National Review Online, Revue Politique, American Thinker, and elsewhere in print and online.
This Tuesday in Los Angeles, Mr. Bostom will present “Understanding the Islam in Muslim Jew-Hatred.” See here for information about attending.
Mark Tapson: Dr. Bostom, what inspired you as a scholar to focus on Islam?
Andrew Bostom: It’s pretty straightforward. The stimulus was 9/11/2001. Until then I was simply a medical academic at Rhode Island Hospital (the major teaching hospital of The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University), and an average citizen trying to keep abreast of world events. I am not particularly religious as a Jew though I certainly support the state of Israel. But I grew up in New York, living in Queens most of my life, and I went to medical school in Brooklyn. My wife and I still have family in New York City, so the day of 9/11/2001 itself was traumatic, trying to make sure everyone was OK. A colleague’s wife was in the second tower. She was very lucky, barely getting out before it collapsed.
On the way home I grabbed a book by Karen Armstrong about Islam. I was reading it and commenting to my wife that it just didn’t seem to jibe. (I learned later that Armstrong is a notorious apologist.) As I read it out loud my wife was just laughing. I didn’t find it particularly funny. Nor the news reports over the next days that were transparently apologetic. And I was alarmed at stories that appeared in the New York Times (and other New York area newspapers) about an Egyptian Imam who was preaching at a large Mosque in Manhattan, and spreading conspiracy theories about Jews leaving the World Trade Center in advance of the attacks, due to their “prior knowledge.”
So I started reading independently. A small book by Yossef Bodansky, a terrorism expert, discussed Islamic anti-semitism as a political instrument, and referenced the work of Bat Ye’or on the dhimmi. I got that book by Bat Ye’or, and everything else she has written in English—all her books, essays, and published lectures. I met Bat Ye’or after a correspondence with Daniel Pipes, and brought her to Brown University to give a guest lecture. She became a very close mentor, and introduced me to Ibn Warraq and that’s how things started. I had begun writing short essays within a year of 9/11. Ibn Warraq resided with us in 2003, for a time, and he encouraged me to consider a book project. I was increasingly interested in the Jihad and it was with Warraq’s support that I put that first book, The Legacy of Jihad, together.
MT: What do you say to the common defense that Islam preaches tolerance toward Christians and Jews – “the people of the book” – and that Jew-hatred is not inherent within it?
AB: Although often invoked, these apologetic canards are diametrically opposed to Islamic doctrine and the sad, if predictable historical realities this sacralized hatred has engendered.
What has always been the nature of the system of governance imposed upon indigenous non-Muslims conquered by Islam’s timeless, institutionalized jihad wars?
In his seminal The Laws of Islamic Governance, al-Mawardi (d. 1058) — a renowned jurist of Baghdad — examined the regulations pertaining to the lands and infidel populations subjugated by jihad. This is the origin of the system of dhimmitude. The native infidel “dhimmi” (which derives from both the word for “pact” and also “guilt” — guilty of religious errors) population had to recognize Islamic ownership of their land, submit to Islamic law, and accept payment of the Koranic poll tax (jizya, the tax paid in lieu of being slain) based on Koran 9:29. Al-Mawardi notes: “The enemy makes a payment in return for peace and reconciliation. … Reconciliation and security last as long as the payment is made. If the payment ceases, then the jihad resumes.” A treaty of reconciliation may be renewable, but must not exceed 10 years.
This same basic formulation was reiterated during a January 8, 1998, interview by Muslim Brotherhood “Spiritual Guide,” and immensely popular Al-Jazeera television personality Yusuf al-Qaradawi, confirming how jihad continues to regulate the relations between Muslims and non-Muslims to this day. The “contract of the jizya,” or “dhimma,” encompassed other obligatory and recommended obligations for the conquered non-Muslim “dhimmi” peoples. Collectively, these “obligations” formed the discriminatory system of dhimmitude imposed upon non-Muslims — Jews and Christians, as well as Zoroastrians, Hindus, and Buddhists — subjugated by jihad. Some of the more salient features of dhimmitude include:
– The prohibition of arms for the vanquished dhimmis
– The prohibition of church bells
– Restrictions concerning the building and restoration of churches, synagogues, and temples
It is important to note that these regulations and attitudes were institutionalized as permanent features of the sacred Islamic law, or Sharia. The writings of the much lionized Sufi theologian and jurist al-Ghazali (d. 1111) highlight how the institution of dhimmitude was simply a normative and prominent feature of the Sharia:
The dhimmi is obliged not to mention Allah or His Apostle. … Jews, Christians, and Majians must pay the jizya [poll tax on non-Muslims]. … On offering up the jizya, the dhimmi must hang his head while the official takes hold of his beard and hits [the dhimmi] on the protruberant bone beneath his ear [i.e., the mandible]. … They are not permitted to ostentatiously display their wine or church bells. … Their houses may not be higher than the Muslim’s, no matter how low that is. The dhimmi may not ride an elegant horse or mule; he may ride a donkey only if the saddle-work is of wood. He may not walk on the good part of the road. They [the dhimmis] have to wear [an identifying] patch [on their clothing], even women, and even in the [public] baths. … [Dhimmis] must hold their tongue.
The practical consequences of such a discriminatory system were summarized by the great historian of Muslim and non-Muslim (especially Jewish) relations during classical Islam, S.D. Goitein, in 1970 :
Taxation [by the Muslim government] was merciless, and a very large section of the population must have lived permanently at the starvation level. From many Geniza letters [a trove of Oriental Jewish correspondence etc., particularly from the Middle Ages, discovered in Egypt] one gets the impression that the poor were concerned more with getting money for the payment of their taxes than for food and clothing, for failure of payment usually induced cruel punishment. … The Muslim state was quite the opposite of the ideals … embedded in the constitution of the United States. An Islamic state was part of or coincided with dar al-Islam, the House of Islam. Its treasury was … the money of the Muslims. Christians and Jews were not citizens of the state, not even second class citizens. They were outsiders under the protection of the Muslim state, a status characterized by the term dhimma … They were also exposed to a great number of discriminatory and humiliating laws. … As it lies in the very nature of such restrictions, soon additional humiliations were added, and before the second century of Islam was out, a complete body of legislation in this matter was in existence. … In times and places in which they became too oppressive they lead to the dwindling or even complete extinction of the minorities.
Important scholars of Islamic Antisemitism — from Hartwig Hirschfeld in the mid-1880s, Georges Vajda in the late 1930s, S.D. Goitein in 1971, and Haggai Ben-Shammai in 1988 — have demonstrated, collectively, all of the following:
– Clear historical evidence of specific Islamic anti-semitism, from the Geniza record of the high Middle Ages — including the coinage of a unique Hebrew word to characterize such Muslim Jew hatred, sinuth — published in full by Goitein as of 1971
– The content of foundational Muslim sources detailing the sacralized rationale for Islam’s anti-Jewish bigotry, including Hartwig Hirschfeld’s mid-1880s essay series on Muhammad’s subjugation of the Jews of Medina, based upon the earliest pious Muslim biographies of Muhammad
– George Vajda’s elegant, comprehensive 1937 analysis focusing primarily on the hadith (the putative words and deeds of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, as recorded by his earliest pious Muslim companions)
– Haggai Ben-Shammai’s concise 1988 study of key examples of Jew-hatred in the Koran and Koranic exegesis
– Inequality between Muslims and non-Muslims with regard to taxes and penal law
– The refusal of dhimmi testimony by Muslim courts
– A requirement that Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslims, including Zoroastrians and Hindus, wear special clothes
– The overall humiliation and abasement of non-MuslimsIt is important to note that these regulations and attitudes were institutionalized as permanent features of the sacred Islamic law, or Sharia.
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