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What Muslims Can Learn from Moses Mendelssohn

Feb. 21 2017

While some have argued that Islam needs a Martin Luther-like figure to reform the religion, the Muslim theologian Mustafa Akyol argues that his coreligionists could gain more from someone like Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786), the German Jewish philosopher who was among the founders of the Haskalah, or Jewish Enlightenment. Akyol writes:

[There are numerous] similarities between [Mendelssohn’s] arguments and the arguments of contemporary Muslim reformists. Mendelssohn offered a new interpretation of Judaism where Jews could be true to their faith while being full members of Gentile society. He argued against religious coercion among Jews, with the argument that only under freedom can genuine religiosity flourish. These are the exact same issues that Muslim liberals are dealing with today.

It is notable that Mendelssohn was criticized in his time both by more conservative Jews, who found him too liberal, and by Gentile skeptics, who found him too Jewish. One of the latter, a Christian writer named August Friedrich Cranz, judged Mendelssohn’s reformism a hopeless effort. For Cranz, Judaism was a religion of “armed ecclesiastical law,” and Jews would never be able to accept freedom of religion unless they “directly contradict” the faith of their forefathers. He sounds like [those] today who . . . think there can be no real Muslim liberals except the ones who really cease to be Muslims.

Read more at Forward

More about: Haskalah, History & Ideas, Islam, Judaism, Moderate Islam, Moses Mendelssohn

 

Why a Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza Is Unlikely

Feb. 16 2018

High-ranking figures in the IDF, along with some Israeli and foreign officials, have been warning that economic troubles combined with severely deficient public works could lead to an outbreak of starvation or epidemic in the Gaza Strip; their warnings have been taken up and amplified in sensationalist stories in Western media. Hillel Frisch is skeptical:

The most important factor behind real humanitarian crises—mass hunger and contagious disease—is first and foremost the breakdown of law and order, and violence between warring militias and gangs. This is what occurred in Darfur, Somalia, and the Central African Republic. In such situations, the first to leave are the relief agencies. Then local medical staffs evacuate, along with local government officials and anyone professional who can make it out of the bedlam. The destitute are left to fend for themselves. Hospitals, dispensaries, schools, and local government offices are soon abandoned or become scenes of grisly shootouts and reprisals.

Nothing could be farther from such a reality than Gaza. Hamas, which is the main source of [misleading reports] of an imminent humanitarian crisis, rules Gaza with an iron fist. Few developed democracies in the world can boast the low homicide rates prevailing in the Strip. Nor have there been reports of any closings of hospitals, municipal governments, schools, universities, colleges, or dispensaries. . . .

Nor have there been news items announcing the departure of any foreign relief agencies or the closure of any human-rights organizations in the area. Nor is there any evidence that the World Health Organization (WHO), which rigorously monitors the world to prevent the outbreak of contagious disease, is seriously looking at Gaza. And that is for good reason. The WHO knows, as do hundreds of medical personnel in Israeli hospitals who liaise with their colleagues in Gaza, that the hospital system in Gaza is of a high caliber, certainly by the standards of the developing world. . . .

Hamas, [of course], wants more trucks entering Gaza to increase tax revenues to pay for its 30,000-strong militia and public security force, and to increase the prospects of smuggling arms for the benefit of its missile stockpiles and tunnel-building efforts. How Israel should react is equally obvious. You want more humanitarian aid? . . . Free the two mentally disabled Israelis who found their way into Gaza and are imprisoned by Hamas.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian economy