The Saudi Religious Scholar Who Is Trying to Fix Islam’s Anti-Semitism Problem

March 1 2018

Since his appointment as head of the Muslim World League in 2016, Muhammad al-Issa has taken the organization—which has historically been used by the Saudi monarchy to spread fundamentalist, intolerant, and often anti-Semitic teachings around the globe—in a decidedly anti-Islamist direction. He has, in recent months, also been trying to offer a new attitude toward Jews. Having interviewed Issa, Ben Cohen writes:

[I]t is plain to see why, at this particular juncture, [Issa] is an asset to a Saudi government eager to convince the West that, finally, it stands resolute against both Sunni and Shiite variants of Islamism and is determined to establish Islam as a religion of peace and coexistence. Still, to reduce Issa’s own message to a strictly political calculation would be a grave mistake, if only because its theological content needs to be heard irrespective of the political machinations in Gulf capitals. . . .

Throughout our discussion, Issa was adamant that Muhammad’s faith was predicated on an appreciation for a divine order in which differences among religions and nations are a cause for peace, rather than conflict—the diametrical opposite of the vengeful teachings of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist organizations. . . . Moreover, Issa stressed that—in contrast to the long-standing Christian depiction of the Jews as eternally responsible for the death of Jesus—Islam did not approach Judaism from the vantage point of “original sin.” . . . A Muslim, then, faces no challenge to his faith when it comes to “respecting the Jewish religion and the right of the Jews to live in dignity.”

When that “dignity” includes an independent, sovereign state that is yet to exchange ambassadors with Saudi Arabia after 70 years of existence, what then? Again and again, Issa emphasized the political neutrality of the Muslim World League, and the need for a strict separation between religious faith and political orientation. At the same time, he gave no succor to historic Arab ambitions for Israel’s elimination. Peace begins, Issa said, by recognizing that all the nations of the region will remain exactly where they are.

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Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Anti-Semitism, Islam, Islamism, Moderate Islam, Muslim-Jewish relations, Religion & Holidays, Saudi Arabia

For Israelis, Anti-Zionism Kills

Dec. 14 2018

This week alone, anti-Zionists have killed multiple Israelis in a series of attacks; these follow the revelations that Hizballah succeeded in digging multiple attack tunnels from Lebanon into northern Israel. Simultaneously, some recent news stories in the U.S. have occasioned pious reminders that anti-Zionism should not be conflated with anti-Semitism. Bret Stephens notes that it is anti-Zionists, not defenders of Israel, who do the most to blur that distinction:

Israelis experience anti-Zionism in a different way from, say, readers of the New York Review of Books: not as a bold sally in the world of ideas, but as a looming menace to their earthly existence, held at bay only through force of arms. . . . Anti-Zionism might have been a respectable point of view before 1948, when the question of Israel’s existence was in the future and up for debate. Today, anti-Zionism is a call for the elimination of a state—details to follow regarding the fate befalling those who currently live in it. . . .

Anti-Zionism is ideologically unique in insisting that one state, and one state only, doesn’t just have to change. It has to go. By a coincidence that its adherents insist is entirely innocent, this happens to be the Jewish state, making anti-Zionists either the most disingenuous of ideologues or the most obtuse. When then-CNN contributor Marc Lamont Hill called last month for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea” and later claimed to be ignorant of what the slogan really meant, it was hard to tell in which category he fell.

Does this make someone with Hill’s views an anti-Semite? It’s like asking whether a person who believes in [the principle of] separate-but-equal must necessarily be a racist. In theory, no. In reality, another story. The typical aim of the anti-Semite is legal or social discrimination against some set of Jews. The explicit aim of the anti-Zionist is political or physical dispossession.

What’s worse: to be denied membership in a country club because you’re Jewish, or driven from your ancestral homeland and sovereign state for the same reason? If anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are meaningfully distinct (I think they are not), the human consequences of the latter are direr.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian terror