Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Mufti concocted own brand of antisemitism

 More evidence has come to light that the wartime Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, developed his own brand of antisemitism, lacing half-remembered Koranic episodes with modern Christian anti-Jewish tropes. Boris Havel supports his argument by quoting from the pamphlet distributed to members of the Bosnian Muslim SS division, Islam and Judaism.  Article in Middle East Quarterly (Summer 2015):

The booklet Islam and Judaism offers a stark illustration of the lengths taken by the mufti to demonize Jews and Judaism. Qur'anic passages are freely paraphrased without reference to sura and verse while apparent quotations (like those about Jews converting insincerely to Islam in order to drag Muslims away from their faith) are nowhere to be found in the Qur'an, certainly not in the translation by Muhammed Pandža and Džemaluddin Čaušević[20] used by Yugoslav Muslims since 1937.

 Indicating the pamphlet's clear propaganda and incitement purpose, this sloppiness reflected both Hajj Amin's poor religious credentials and his apparent conviction that the pamphlet would not be subjected to critical scrutiny or even read by believers well-versed in the Qur'an. For, though bestowed with the title of Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Mandatory Palestine's highest religious authority, it was common knowledge at the time that Hajj Amin did not possess the necessary religious credentials for such a lofty post. Indeed, he even failed to make the final short-list for the mufti's post having received only nine of the electors' sixty-four votes; but the Husseinis and their British champions forced one of the final three candidates to step down in his favor, paving the road to his appointment.[21]

Some of the pamphlet's assertions indicate the mufti's deficient familiarity with Islamic history and theology. Nor was Hajj Amin averse to introducing novelties and fabrications for the purpose of defaming Jews. His text contains details with an unconventional interpretation of Qur'anic accounts, some of them erroneous. He accuses the Jews of having "attempted to undermine Muhammad's honor by spreading a rumor that Muhammad's wife Aisha committed adultery."

But renowned Islamic scholars, including Tabari, to whom the mufti refers in the booklet, do not mention the Jews at all in the context of this event: Aisha's accusers were all Arabs. Some came from the tribe of Kharzaj; at least one was from the Quraish, Muhammad's tribe, and another was the sister of Muhammad's wife. Their names are listed in both Ibn Ishak's and Tabari's accounts of the event. After God revealed Aisha's innocence to Muhammad, some of the accusers were punished by flogging.[22]

Furthermore, the mufti claimed that Muhammad attacked Khaibar because its Jews bribed Arab tribes to attack Medina. The sources, however, do not mention any such activity by the Khaibar Jews. Khaibar was in alliance with the Arab tribe of Ghatafan—which at this point seemed to be rather defensive—with the Quraish, and with the Persians. Muhammad's attack occurred shortly after he concluded the peace of Hudaibiya (March 628) with the Meccans. It is hard to envisage that Muhammad's enemies would plot an attack from the north without Meccan support. On the contrary, it seems that he concluded the peace of Hudaibiya to secure his southern front so as to be able to attack the Khaibar Jews, whose Persian allies had just been defeated by the Byzantine army.[23]

There remains a deep connection between Islamism and Nazism based on the common characteristics of racism, nationalism, religious bigotry, and intolerance. Hitler's Mein Kampf has been a bestseller for years in predominantly Muslim countries, including the Palestinian Authority and Turkey.

There was, however, an event reminiscent of the mufti's story that occurred a year earlier. The Jews of Medina had invited the Quraish and Ghatafan tribes to attack Muhammad. It was at this point, after the Battle of Badr, that the Quraish asked the Jews whose religion was better, theirs or Muhammad's. Encouraged by the Jews, the two tribes marched on Medina, and their subsequent abortive attack came to be known as the Battle of the Ditch.

After their retreat, Muhammad attacked Medina's Jewish tribe of Banu Quraiza.[24] It seems likely that the mufti—unless he intentionally invented stories, a possibility that cannot be ruled out—confused the episode of the Banu Quraiza with that of Muhammad's war on Khaibar.

Far more important than these technical details and idiosyncratic interpretations are the novelties the pamphlet introduces in Islamic political discourse regarding the Jews. By combining the Islamic canon with pre-Christian and Christian anti-Judaism, it attributes strengths and powers to Jews that cannot be found in Islamic tradition by portraying them as far more cunning and successful in their vicious designs than previous mainstream Islamic thought had recognized or permitted.

A simpler example of this anti-Jewish eclecticism can be found in the mufti's accusation that Jews brought plague to Arabia. This statement evokes medieval European myths with similar themes. More significant is the notion that Muhammad's death might have been a result of poison given to him by a Khaibar Jewess.

To be sure, Ibn Ishak and Tabari do mention how during the illness that led to his death Muhammad spoke to Umm Bashr, mother of his poisoned companion, and complained about his pain, caused by poisonous meat he had tasted three years earlier.[25] However, in classic Islamic thought, this tradition was not interpreted as proof that the Jewess had succeeded in her attempt on the Prophet's life but as a desire to attribute to the Prophet the highest of virtues: martyrdom. In Ibn Ishak's words, "The Muslims considered that the apostle died as a martyr in addition to the prophetic office with which God had honored him."[26] Tabari repeats this explanation, as does Ibn Kathir (1300-73), who referred to eight different hadiths asserting that Muhammad had been warned by God about the poison: proof of his being a genuine prophet. Conversely, Ibn Kathir states that "the Messenger of God died a martyr."[27]

The core theme of all these traditions is the Prophet's martyrdom and not the Jews' lethal craft; the reader is left with the clear impression that the two phenomena were unrelated. In contrast, the mufti's pamphlet establishes the link and changes the emphasis from the Prophet's virtue to the Jews' mendacity. Apparently, his intention was to draw parallels with Christian traditions regarding Christ's killing by the Jews. This accusation was intended to provoke more anger among Muslims, but it also violated Islamic tradition and theology.

The implications of the mufti's claim that the Jews were successful in killing Muhammad despite God's warning imply that Jews possess the power to defy God's will. Such a blasphemous thought would be worse than Christian accusation of deicide. Jesus overcame death, and by his suffering, death and resurrection brought salvation to his community of believers; however, Muhammad not only remained dead but also failed to appoint his successor due to the rapid progression of his illness and his sudden, untimely demise. Consequently, the umma was split by different claimants to authority, and the dispute eventually led to the fiercest internecine strife in the history of early Islam, known as the fitna.

While the mufti's Palestinian successors would not tire of reiterating this story (as late as November 2013, Palestinian Authority minister of religious affairs Mahmoud Habbash claimed that Yasser Arafat was poisoned by the Jews just as they had poisoned the Prophet Muhammad to death),[28] most contemporary Islamic scholars have a different understanding of this hazardous theology; inasmuch, the accusation that the Jews killed the Prophet has largely faded as a theological theme with mainstream Islamic commentary viewing the Jews, along the Qur'anic derision, as "adh-dhilla wa-l-maskan," translated by Yehoshafat Harkabi as "humiliation and wretchedness."[29] Bernard Lewis further explained:
The outstanding characteristic, therefore, of the Jews as seen and as treated in the classical Islamic world is their unimportance. ... For Muslims, he might be hostile, cunning, and vindictive, but he was weak and ineffectual—an object of ridicule, not fear. This image of weakness and insignificance could only be confirmed by the subsequent history of Jewish life in Muslim lands.[30]
Departing from this conventional view, the mufti did not interpret contemporary events as a new historical phenomenon to which Muslims should respond in a new, ad hoc manner. Instead, he traced Jewish accomplishments of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, and the alleged Jewish power and ambitions, to supposed Jewish activities at the time of Muhammad. In doing so, he created a precedent, later followed by prominent Islamic actors in the Middle East and elsewhere, particularly after Israel's stunning military victories over its Arab adversaries. Thus Hamas accuses the Jews of "wiping out the Islamic caliphate" by starting World War I and of starting the French and the communist revolutions, establishing "clandestine organizations" and financial power so as to colonize, exploit, and corrupt countries.[31] Likewise, former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Muhammad accused Jews of ruling the world by proxy.[32] Attributing such gargantuan accomplishments to the Jews, many of them at the expense of Muslims, presents a theological innovation with an immediate political consequence. Linking early Islamic with medieval Christian depictions of Jews results in their portrayal as "a demonic entity," thus making their "extermination legitimate."[33]

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L. King said...

Interesting conjecture that the poisoning of Arafat conjecture might be related to an assertion of parallels to the life of Mohammad, and a good analysis of the flaws of Hajj Amin's propaganda in the context of religious interpretation

Selina said...

They're like a dog with a bone, they have this mania, this obsession with Jews. Very Hitler-like

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Arafat's successors in the palestinian authority most likely know very well that he died of AIDS or related disease. Their claim of poisoning in arafat's case is very much meant to be a parallel to the Muslim tradition of seeing a Jewess as having tried to poison Muhammad. This is a lie and most likely they all know it. But it is politically convenient for some Arab leaders and spokesmen to charge Israel with poisoning him. They tell their rank and file lies about Jews all the time. On this look up the sites of MEMRI and PMW [palestinian media watch].

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Jennie Lebel wrote a book on Husseini's career mostly focusing on his collaboration with the Germans in Croatia and Bosnia and his essential help in recruiting SS divisions of local Muslims in Yugoslavia [Bosnia and Kossovo]. As far as I know she was the first one to make extensive use of documents from Yugoslavia in Serbo-Croatian. By the way, she is a collateral relative of Theodor Herzl whose paternal family came from what is today Serbia and his grandfather may have heard the early Zionist preaching of Rabbi Alkalai early in the 19th century. Rabbi Alkalai lived around Belgrade as did Herzl's grandfather.

Joseph Schechtman in The Mufti and The Fuehrer, also wrote somewhat about Husseini in Yugoslavia and has, I believe, the text of a speech that Husseini made to the Bosnian Muslim SS division.

Nicky said...

To be sure, antisemitism is indeed rooted in the quran and hadith. Nothing in Islam has changed in 1400 years.