The Rabbis Who Saw Sanctity in Islam

In a daring passage in his code of Jewish law, Moses Maimonides (1138–1204) asserted that both Islam and Christianity are part of a divine plan to bring faith in the One God to the Gentile world. Despite his personal experience with Muslim persecution of Jews, Maimonides appreciated Islam especially for its “unblemished” commitment to monotheism. Yaakov Nagen examines these and other rabbinic observations on the close theological connection between the children of Jacob and the children of Ishmael:

[T]he Muslim story itself is built on the biblical story. The character who is mentioned most frequently in the Quran is Moses (more than 100 times, in contrast to Mohammad who is mentioned only four times), and the Jewish people are mentioned dozens of times. Islam, like Christianity, became a vessel for spreading the biblical story throughout the world.

In contrast to Christianity, our relationship with Islam also has an ethnic aspect, because Jews and Arabs see each other as descendants of Abraham. Indeed, our similarity, both theologically and ethnically, has led to Islam often being treated differently from other non-Jewish faiths in rabbinic sources.

Rabbi Jacob Emden (1698-1776) took another step. Following Maimonides, he saw the hand of God in the spread of Christianity and Islam: “The two families that God chose to subdue many nations, to bring them under the yoke of the beliefs and positions that are necessary for settling the world and improving the national collective.” . . . In his eyes, Islam, like Christianity, contains truth, and these religions are fitting for the nations of the world.

A more far-reaching approach is that of the sages who saw Islam—and particularly the Quran—not only as a product of divine providence but also of divine revelation.

Read more at Lehrhaus

More about: Islam, Moses Maimonides, Muslim-Jewish relations, Quran


How to Save the Universities

To Peter Berkowitz, the rot in American institutions of higher learning exposed by Tuesday’s hearings resembles a disease that in its early stages was easy to cure but difficult to diagnose, and now is so advanced that it is easy to diagnose but difficult to cure. Recent analyses of these problems have now at last made it to the pages of the New York Times but are, he writes, “tardy by several decades,” and their suggested remedies woefully inadequate:

They fail to identify the chief problem. They ignore the principal obstacles to reform. They propose reforms that provide the equivalent of band-aids for gaping wounds and shattered limbs. And they overlook the mainstream media’s complicity in largely ignoring, downplaying, or dismissing repeated warnings extending back a quarter century and more—largely, but not exclusively, from conservatives—that our universities undermine the public interest by attacking free speech, eviscerating due process, and hollowing out and politicizing the curriculum.

The remedy, Berkowitz argues, would be turning universities into places that cultivate, encourage, and teach freedom of thought and speech. But doing so seems unlikely:

Having undermined respect for others and the art of listening by presiding over—or silently acquiescing in—the curtailment of dissenting speech for more than a generation, the current crop of administrators and professors seems ill-suited to fashion and implement free-speech training. Moreover, free speech is best learned not by didactic lectures and seminars but by practicing it in the reasoned consideration of competing ideas with those capable of challenging one’s assumptions and arguments. But where are the professors who can lead such conversations? Which faculty members remain capable of understanding their side of the argument because they understand the other side?

Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Academia, Anti-Semitism, Freedom of Speech, Israel on campus