Dieppe takes issue with the Holy Quran’s characterisation of Jews as apes (Surah Ch.2: V.65, Ch.5: V.61), but on what basis does he, as a Christian, claim this is unfair or anti-Semitic, since Jesus Christ, according to the New Testament, says about the Jews: “You brood of vipers, how can you, who are evil, say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Mathew 12:34) Many Jews have pointed out this verse as anti-Semitic and unfortunately, Christians for centuries oppressed Jews based on this verse. What explanation would Dieppe give for this verse that would not fall into hypocrisy?
Leaving the Christian hypocrisy aside for the moment, is it still fair to claim Islam is anti-Semitic based on the verses characterising Jews as apes? Chapter 2, verse 66 says, “You are already aware of those of you who broke the Sabbath. We said to them, ‘Be disgraced apes!’” The Quran is referring to Jews who did not keep the Sabbath as primates. In the first place, the Quran is not putting all Jews into one category, as we discussed previously. But the Quran is calling out those Jews who failed to live up to their standards (given by God). If Islam referred to the Jews in an undignified manner because they did not accept Islam, that would be one thing, but the Quran is condemning the Jews for not following their own rules. Neither a Jew nor a Christian would have a basis to claim Islamic anti-Semitism based on chapter 2, verse 66 in a consistent manner. Both Jews and Christians see Genesis 16:12 as a negative prophecy about Muslims. The common translations read Ishmael would be “a wild ass among men; his hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him.”
Dieppe quotes a hadith referring to the end of times in which it is stated:
“The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say. ‘O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him.’” (Sahih al-Bukhari)
The late Professor Khaleel Muhammad saw this hadith as evidence of anti-Jewish hostilities from Christian converts to Islam. (The Jewish and Christian Influences in the Eschatological imagery of Dajjal of Sahih Muslim, Khaleel Iqbal Mohammed, August 1997, www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/obj/s4/f2/dsk2/ftp01/MQ40170.pdf)
In his view, the Christians of the time identified the anti-Christ and his followers as Jewish and so they brought these beliefs with them and they crept into Islamic literature. A traditional explanation of the hadith sees it as authentic and a reference to a great apocalyptic battle at the end of time. The traditional explanation is also careful to note that the Jews referenced in the hadith are only the followers of Dajjal (the anti-Christ). (The Myth of An Anti-Semitic Genocide In Muslim Scripture, Justin Parrott, https://yaqeeninstitute.org/read/paper/the-myth-of-an-antisemitic-genocide-in-muslim-scripture)
Based on the teachings of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiahas, it would be inconceivable to interpret such hadiths about the future concerning the Dajjal, Mahdi and final judgment in a literal manner.
The question remains of what we do with problematic Islamic literature that appears to be hateful or incongruent with the Quran, reason, or established religious principles. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas has provided us with a litmus test for analysing such hadiths as the ones in question. (A Review of the Debate Between Batalavi and Chakrhalavi)
Hazrat Ahmadas reminded us that the Quran is the most authentic book on earth and that the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammadsa and ahadith must follow in that order. To this day, many people in the Islamic world continue to use ahadith to promote their various desires, even when those notions contradict the clear words of the Quran. The Promised Messiahas cleared up misconceptions about Islamic principles by subjecting the ahadith to the Quran. Unfortunately, many Muslims have not heeded Hazrat Ahmad’s call and instead use ahadith to override the clear words of the Quran.
What does Islam teach about interactions with Jewish people?
If religion is anti-Semitic, we should be able to find proof of that in the ethical system of that religion. What does Islam teach about interactions with Jewish people?
The Quran encourages positive interaction with the Jews. Allah says in the Quran that men may marry from among the people of the book and that believers can also consume food from the recipients of previous scriptures. The Quran does not encourage any hostilities towards the Jews. The ahadith are also a source of ethical imperatives from which we learn how the Prophet Muhammadsa interacted with others. There is a well-known narration that the Holy Prophetsa stood during a Jewish funeral procession and when asked why he did so, the Prophetsa responded “is he not a living soul?” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith 1312)
Dieppe claims Christianity is free of racism and that, compared to Islam, “The Bible, by contrast, has been used to oppose racism in all its forms.” He cites Acts 17:26 to show that all nations come from one man. The reality is that the Bible has been used to justify racism for centuries. The Torah tells us that after the flood, Noahas and his sons settled down to replenish the earth. Ham, one of Noah’s sons, caught his father in a bad position and committed a serious breach of morality.
The Torah records God stating, “And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.” (Genesis 9:25) The descendants of Ham are considered cursed according to the Bible. The Sages commented that Ham was smitten with his skin. (Sanhedrin 108b) The Me’am Loez, an 18th-century commentary, states that Ham’s skin was cursed with blackness. For centuries, Jews and Christians used Genesis 9:25 to justify slavery. The Church of Jesus Christ of the Later Day Saints also used this verse to justify the prohibition of black people from entering their temples until 1979. While Dieppe claims that the Quran writes off a whole group of people as accursed, it is only the Bible that does.
About the Bible, Dieppe writes that it “certainly cannot be used to support antisemitism.” Dieppe will have a hard time convincing many Jews of his assertion. We already pointed out that the New Testament refers to Jews as snakes and blames them for the death of the prophets and Jesus Christ himself. Revelations refer to the Jews as the “Synagogue of Satan” (Rev 2:9).
Concerning the responsibility for the death of Jesusas, Christian apologists claim that all people bear responsibility for the cross. However, the Bible does not justify this claim. During the trial of Jesusas, Pontus Pilate clears himself of responsibility and the Jews respond enthusiastically, “His blood is on us and on our children!” (Mathew 27:25) It is no wonder that Jewish academics such as Daniel Goldhagen have called for anti-Semitic passages to be taken out of the Bible. (A Moral Reckoning: The Role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust and Its Unfulfilled Duty of Repair)
James Dunn, a British Christian New Testament scholar, shared Hagan’s sentiments by admitting that the New Testament contributed to anti-Semitism. (James DG Dunn (ed.) 1992 J, The Question of Anti-Semitism in the New Testament Writings of the Period)
Incident of the Banu Qurayza
Dieppe quotes two narrations about the conflict with the Banu Qurayza in an attempt to show Prophet Muhammadsa was anti-Semitic. If the only thing we knew about the conflict was that there was a siege and that people were executed (all the information that Dieppe provided), then we would not know much about the incident. Why was there a siege in the first place? What is the claim by Muslims about why the siege of Banu Qurayza took place and what are the non-Islamic counterarguments to the claim? Furthermore, what was the Prophet’ssa attitude toward the other Jewish tribes, such as the Banu Qaynuqa?
Dieppe does not bother answering any of these questions. The mere fact that there was a siege and that Jewish people were killed does not tell us the motive for why the incident occurred. It seems Dieppe wants us to believe that Prophet Muhammadsa was anti-Semitic simply because the Muslims won a siege against the Jews. Unfortunately, many of the Jewish and Christian polemics on the issue of Banu Qurayza do not bother discussing the reasons behind the siege and only want people to side with the Banu Qurayza just because they were Jews – these polemicists do not take account of the actions of those Jews. If we only take sides based on whom we like and not what is right then we are submitting to a parochial morality. The issue of the Banu Qurayza can only be discussed openly if Jews and Muslims are willing to hold all participants to a moral system that applies equally to both parties.
Jewish scholars such as Claude Cahen and Shelomo Dov Goitlein have long argued that antisemitism does not have an extensive history in the Muslim world. (A Mediterranean Society: An Abridgment in One Volume, Claude Cahen, “Dhimma” in Encyclopedia of Islam; Shelomo Dov Goitein, p. 293) Dieppe believes otherwise and devotes two short paragraphs to the topic. He mentions a study by Darío Fernández-Morera, The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise to make the case that the golden age of Islamic and Jewish relations was a myth. He also recalls Bat Y’eor’s book Dhimmitude. The article refers to the dhimmi status as “punitive” even though it is not seen as such by Muslim scholars themselves. (The issue of dhimmis can be studied elsewhere, www.alislam.org/question/does-islam-oppress-dhimmis-and-demand-jizya-or-death/)
Muslims have indeed exaggerated the golden age of the era and Bat Yeor and Fernadez-Morera have information to give us a clearer picture of historical interactions between Muslims and Jews. However, Bat Yeor and Fernandez-Morera have both been subject to scathing reviews due to their evident bias against Islam.
As Muslims, we should not be afraid to analyse our history and call a spade a spade. There may have been oppression suffered by Jews at different times during Islamic rule in Spain (such as under the Almohads), but that was not the norm. If Jews are no longer in Spain today, it is not the fault of Muslims but the 1492 expulsion and the subsequent inquisition by Christians.
While Dieppe claims the Jews suffered under Ottoman rule, let us remind the reader that it was the Ottomans that sent ships to Spain in 1492 to offer a new home to the Jews. The common consensus remains that the Jews suffered more under European Christian rule than they did in the Islamic world. Yet, Dieppe does not point this out. How could Dieppe, as a Christian, not admit to Christian wrongdoing if he would point out the faults of Islamic history? Dieppe is not willing to submit to that type of scrutiny.
What is the solution to anti-Semitism?
The answer to the question is beyond the scope of this article, but the solutions will only come when everyone comes to the table to discuss ideas openly in a peaceful manner. Dieppe limits his scholarship to non-mainstream individuals with hostility towards Islam and thereby only seeks to speak to an echo chamber. Dieppe’s promotion of, what many would term as hate speech (https://christianconcern.com/comment/speakers-corner-stabbing-freedom-of-speech-is-already-in-danger/) in the name of free speech, would have serious fighters of anti-Semitism walk away from him. His attacks on multiculturalism enhance the fact that he is not interested in dialogue. (https://christianconcern.com/resource/whats-wrong-with-multiculturalism/)
Dieppe says in vague terms that Christians must “deal with Islam,” which the readers can interpret the way they want.