Can Islam Solve Its Jewish Problem?

Jan. 25 2018

On December 8—the Friday following the American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital—three imams in the U.S. delivered virulently anti-Semitic sermons at their mosques. Ben Cohen comments on the Islamic texts cited in these sermons, the reactions to complaints about the sermons’ contents, and what hope there is for change in Muslim attitudes toward Jews:

On the one hand, . . . Islam regards the Jews as “enemies” of Muhammad’s prophecy; on the other, Islam realizes only too well that, without the existence of the Jews and their practices to begin with, there would have been no subsequent prophetic tradition and faith to follow. . . .

[Take, for instance,] the sermon delivered at the Islamic Center of Jersey City by Sheikh Aymen Elkasaby, who told those gathered for prayers that the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem was “under the feet of the apes and pigs”—a commonly expressed derogatory term for Jews, that is based upon a sura (chapter) in the Quran which claims that in his anger toward the Jews, God “made some as apes and swine.” . . .

In the aftermath of all three sermons, . . . I came across some reassuring signs that in America, [it’s possible to] deal with these issues with an honesty that is absent in much of Europe and certainly in the Middle East. . . . In the case of [the preacher who gave an anti-Semitic sermon at a Houston mosque], the Islamic Society of Greater Houston condemned him for making “inflammatory remarks about our Jewish community in a deeply disturbing tone.” . . .

In each of these cases, I spoke to Muslim leaders who expressed some degree of remorse or condemnation, and did not deny—as would often be the case in Europe—that such rhetoric is . . . an actual threat to the Jews living here, and therefore a potential threat to most precious norms and conventions of the nation at large. . . .

Nobody can pretend that these anti-Jewish texts, beliefs and traditions do not exist. But the experience of Jews with the Catholic Church during the last half-century—in which fundamental doctrines about the demonic nature of the Jews dating to the time of St. Paul have been dispensed with—suggests that there is very little in this world that is immovable.

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More about: American Muslims, Anti-Semitism, Islam, Muslim-Jewish relations, Religion & Holidays

The Dangers of Diplomacy with Iran

Aug. 21 2018

Although President Trump’s offer to meet with President Rouhani of the Islamic Republic was rejected, the possibility of direct negotiations remains. Ray Takeyh and Mark Dubowitz warn that Tehran could use talks to stall and gain leverage over Washington:

The mullahs understand that just by staying at the table, Americans usually offer up concessions. [They] are betting that the Trump administration may become weaker over time, preoccupied with domestic politics. Best to entangle America in protracted diplomacy while awaiting what the regime expects will be midterm Republican losses in Congress and the return of a more flexible Democratic president to power in 2021. This is what [Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei probably meant when he stressed that negotiations have to wait until America is softened up.

Diplomacy would surely blunt the impact of U.S. pressure. The mullahs believe they can undermine the escalation of [U.S.] sanctions by being diplomatically flirtatious and know well that America seldom disrupts negotiations with military action. Indeed, as a prelude to the talks, Iran may even resume its nuclear activities to frighten the Europeans and gain leverage by putting even more pressure on Washington to adjust its red lines.

Should negotiations begin, the Trump team should take sensible precautions to avoid the predicament of the Obama negotiators. The administration will need to maintain its maximum-pressure campaign and its negotiating demands. . . . Any negotiations with the Islamic Republic should be time-limited, and Washington must be prepared to leave the table when it confronts the usual pattern of regime bombast and mendacity.

Donald Trump should insist on direct talks with the supreme leader, as he did with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un: Rouhani is a lame duck without any real influence. The administration also should demand that Europeans join its sanctions policy targeting Iran’s ballistic-missile program, support for terrorism, and human-rights abuses as a price for their participation in the talks.

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More about: Ali Khamenei, Donald Trump, Hassan Rouhani, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy