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The Jew is Not My Enemy: Unveiling the Myths that Fuel Muslim Anti-Semitismby Tarek Fatah
A liberal Muslim and critically acclaimed author explores the historical, political, and theological basis for centuries of Muslim animosity towards Jews, debunking long-held myths and tracing a history of hate and its impact today.
More than nine years after 9/11 and 60 years after the creation of the state of Israel, the world is no closer to solving, let alone
A liberal Muslim and critically acclaimed author explores the historical, political, and theological basis for centuries of Muslim animosity towards Jews, debunking long-held myths and tracing a history of hate and its impact today.
More than nine years after 9/11 and 60 years after the creation of the state of Israel, the world is no closer to solving, let alone understanding, the psychological and political divide between Jews and Muslims. While countless books have been written on the subject of terrorism, political Islam, and jihad, barely a handful address the theological and historical basis of the Jew—Muslim divide. Following the terrorist attacks on Mumbai in November 2008, in which Pakistani jihadis sought out and murdered the members of a local Jewish centre, Tarek Fatah began an in-depth investigation of the historical basis for the crime.
In this provocative new book, Fatah uses extensive research to trace how literature from as early as the seventh century has fueled the hatred of Jews by Muslims. Fatah debunks the anti-Jewish writings of the Hadith literature, takes apart the Arab supremacist doctrines that lend fuel to the fire, and reinterprets supposed anti-Jewish passages in the Quran. In doing so he argues that hating Jews is against the essence of the Islamic spirit and suggests what needs to be done to eliminate the agonizing friction between the two communities.
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— National Post
"Valuable and courageous."
— Library Journal
"Fatah's contribution to the dire need for Islamic moderation is timely and welcome."
— Winnipeg Free Press
"Among the book's delights is Fatah's independent and inquiring mind. In a field riddled with dogmatism, he offers fresh material and original insights."
— Toronto Star
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Read an Excerpt
“O Allah, Completely Destroy and Shatter the Jews”
“When you kill one [Jew] . . . it is worth more than killing fifty people.” The voice of the Pakistani commander crackles over the cellphone as he urges on two jihadis who have taken over the ultra-Orthodox Chabad House in Mumbai on the evening of November 26, 2008. Already, a rabbi, his pregnant wife, and two house guests have been shot dead, while two Jewish women are being held hostage in this suicide mission.
In conversations recorded by Indian intelligence, the Pakistan-based handlers warn the jihadi terrorists not to contemplate surrender under any circumstances. “Getting arrested alive is not an option. Remember . . . For your mission to end successfully, you must be killed. The virgins are waiting for you in paradise.” Exhorting the jihadis to spread terror, the handlers tell them, “Create so much havoc that the enemy should fear us till the end of times.”
A day earlier, ten Pakistani terrorists had landed on the beach at Mumbai, the city that symbolized everything repugnant to these Islamists – modernity, secularism, and joy. All through their teens they had watched Bollywood movies on pirated DVDs, which tantalized them with dancing damsels and titillating tunes, weakening their faith, challenging their manhood, and corrupting their morals. Now, it was time to get even.
Splitting into five pairs, they each have a specific target. One pair, however, has a special assignment. The group leader takes aside the two gunmen, Babar Imran and Nasir, and reminds them of the significance of their mission. They are to target and kill Jews. He stresses to the two jihadis that their task is the most important one. Even if all the other attacks fail, the Chabad House operation to kill Jews must succeed. Attacking the Jewish community centre that also serves as an ultra-Orthodox synagogue, he reminds them, will send a message to Jews around the world.
In the days to come, these ten Islamic terrorists would turn Mumbai into a living hell before nine of them would “ascend” to heaven and the tenth would beg a judge to hang him, so he too could join his fellow “martyrs.” Their handlers have promised them seventy-two virgins each, more beautiful and sensual than anything Bollywood could create in its hundred-year sinful history.
Before they could land in Mumbai, however, there was the little matter of their hostage, Amar Singh Solanki, captain of the Indian fishing trawler the jihadis had captured three days earlier. All four of Solanki’s crew had been killed, while Captain Solanki was forced at gunpoint to navigate the 550-mile voyage to Mumbai.
As the trawler bobbed in the waters off the coast, Ismail Khan, the leader of the jihadi group, called his handlers in Pakistan for directions. “What do we do with the hostage?” he asked. On hearing that the four other Indian fishermen had been killed and their bodies dumped into the Indian Ocean, the handler exclaimed: “You ate those four goats?” Ismail then asks, “Can I eat the fifth one?” Yes, came the answer.
Ismail ordered two of his men, Shoaib and Babar Imran, to blindfold the “goat” and take him down to the trawler’s engine room. Having served his purpose, the Hindu father of three was forced to lie down on the floor. With Ismail and Babar holding on to him, Shoaib slit the helpless Indian’s throat, just as he had slaughtered many a goat back in his village. What better way to launch holy war on a city than to make a human sacrifice to the gods.
This would be the first of many deaths in the orgy of killing that consumed the next forty-eight hours, before Shoaib and his co-jihadis were shot dead by Indian security forces, fulfilling the Pakistani men’s wish for martyrdom.
The honour of slaughtering the first infidel has gone to Shoaib, but Babar Imran is not disappointed that he has been overlooked. Solanki was, after all, just another run-of-the-mill infidel, a Hindu. Babar is excited that he and another mate, Nasir, have been specially selected to carry out the task that would earn them the most prized kills, the mother of all infidels – the Jews.
In the 2,500 years since Jews have called the Indian subcontinent their home, they have never faced anti-Semitism. The Bani Israelis, as Indian Jews refer to themselves, are believed to have arrived in India when their ancestors were shipwrecked off the Konkan coast in 175 BC. Even when the persecution of Jews was widespread in Europe, India was different. From the Muslim Mughal emperors of Delhi to the ordinary Muslim villagers living in towns along the Ganges and the Indus, there is no recorded animosity towards the “Yahudi,” a term of respect. All of this was about to change.
Around 8:20 p.m., the men dock their inflatable dinghy at a fishermen’s slum next to Mumbai’s Cuffe Parade neighbourhood. The area is home to some of India’s most prominent citizens, among them the controversial artist M.F. Husain and the billionaire Ambani family. On any other night the neighbourhood near the docks would be teeming with people, but tonight, most of the cricket-crazy residents of the city are glued to their TV sets watching the satellite feed of the India vs. England match being played in London.
A local resident, Ajay Mistry, is one of the first to witness the Pakistanis land on Indian soil. He remembers the ten as dressed smartly in navy blue and black; with their heavy backpacks they look almost like college kids. A teenager steps out of his house and asks them who they are. Just students, they say, coming back from a boat ride. The Pakistanis are polite with the men, but when a woman approaches them, their demeanour changes.
Anita Rajendra Udaayar, another neighbourhood resident, has been watching the young men with their oversized backpacks. It is an unusual sight for her, even though she is accustomed to tourists taking boat rides. When she asks them what they are doing, one of them scornfully tells her to mind her own business. No woman has ever questioned them – how dare an infidel raise her voice!
This is the last time some of them will see each other – that is, until they meet in their hoped-for paradise. To make sure there is no mistaking their Islamic identities at the gates of heaven, all of them have adopted Arabic noms de guerre, some meaningless but nonetheless comforting to these villagers from the Punjab. Thus Babar Imran is Abu Akash, and Nasir is known as Abu Umer.
Before the jihadis split into pairs, their leader, Ismail Khan, briefs them for the last time. Eight of the men are assigned the task of spreading terror and killing Indians without distinction, be they Hindu, Sikh, Christian, or Muslim. The job assigned to Babar and Nasir, however, is very specific: to kill Jews, and as many as possible. They must not fail, he reminds the two. He emphasizes that the other targets – hotels, a café, a train station – are merely intended to amplify the effect of the attack on Chabad House, the Jewish community centre.
The two make their way to the crowded residential neighbourhood of Mumbai’s Colaba district. Tucked inside an area that is home to a large Muslim population, the five-storey Nariman House is a meeting place and refuge for the city’s tiny Jewish population and Israeli backpackers. It is one of several hundred Chabad Houses operated around the world by the Orthodox Chabad-Lubavitch movement. The Mumbai Chabad House is run by the twenty-nine-year-old American Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his twenty-eight-year-old Israeli wife, Rivka. Since 2006, thousands of Jews have visited and stayed at the centre and have had no problems with their Muslim neighbours.
Although their colleagues have already begun their killing spree, lobbing grenades and randomly firing their AK-47s into the nearby Leopold Café, Babar and Nasir take their time locating Nariman House. Once there, they know it should be a cakewalk. Despite its tight connections with Israel, the Chabad House is a soft target – much easier to hit than, say, the tightly guarded Israeli diplomatic mission or the offices of El Al, Israel’s national airline.
By ten that night, scores of people have already died across the city. It is time for Babar and Nasir to strike. To divert attention away from their mission, they throw a hand grenade at a nearby gas station. On hearing the explosion, Rabbi Holtzberg calls the police.
Startled by the blast, Vicky Patel, who owns a sweet shop nearby, is surprised to see the two Pakistanis head straight for Nariman House: “A common man would have had difficulty in finding the place, but these people knew every lane as if they had studied the entire place.” Later, when the siege was over, Patel would help to recover the bodies of the hostages.
While neighbours come out of their homes and businesses to watch the fire at the gas station, Babar and Nasir force their way into Nariman House, where they are confronted by Rabbi Holtzberg and his wife.
An eyewitness would later say that she heard Rivka defy the two gunmen: “Shoot me . . . shoot me,” she yelled. Without hesitation the jihadi pulled the trigger and Rivka fell to the floor in the hail of bullets. Then the witness heard Rabbi Holtzberg also confront the two. “Shoot me,” he said before more shots rang out.
Babar and Nasir kill two more Jews before taking fifty-year-old Norma Rabinovitch and sixty-two-year-old Yoheved Orpaz hostage. Leaving the four bodies behind, they force the two women to the upper floors. The gunmen do not know that the nearly two-year-old son of the Holtzbergs is in bed on another floor while his nanny, Sandra Samuels, is hiding in a closet. TV coverage would later show the boy wandering among the dead before the nanny grabs him and escapes from the siege.
After securing the Jewish centre, the two terrorists establish contact with their handlers in Pakistan over their cellphones equipped with Indian SIM cards. They are unaware that by now Indian Intelligence is monitoring all cellular phone calls and recording all conversations.
On hearing about the killing of the rabbi, his wife, and two other Jews, the Pakistani handler congratulates the terrorists and reminds them that killing a Jew is far more significant than killing any other non-Muslim: “You should understand that when you kill one person where you are, it is worth more than your colleagues killing fifty people elsewhere.”
By now the entire neighbourhood is alive with people watching the action from their balconies and the street. The handlers are anxious to see more casualties. They are watching the incident unfold live on TV, but nothing from Nariman House. One calls again: “Do you see any movement to your left and right?” Babar informs him about the growing crowd. “There are lot of people watching from their balconies both on our left and right,” he says. The handler confers with his superiors. He is overheard asking, “There are regular civilians on the street. What should we do?”
He tells Babar to fire into the crowd. “Shoot anyone you see,” he orders. Babar immediately fires, hitting several people, many of them Muslims.
The handler justifies this random shooting of civilians by assuring the terrorists, “The enemy must fear us. When this is over, there will be much more fear of us in the world, forever.”
The terrorists’ strategy is working. The world watches in horror as out-of-control fires engulf the picturesque Taj Hotel, and Israelis wake up to hear about Jews being targeted in India. Shortly after the takeover of Nariman House, Israel’s defence minister, Ehud Barak, offers the Indian government assistance in dealing with the attacks.
As dawn breaks, the Pakistani handlers learn that one of the terrorists, Kasab, has been captured after a shootout with police. Their orders had been clear: “Getting arrested alive is not an option . . . For your mission to end successfully, you must be killed.”
Now the handlers play the hostage-exchange card. They ask Norma Rabinovitch, one of the two hostages, to call the Israeli consulate in Mumbai and ask them to put pressure on the Indian government to work for her release.
In a breaking voice, Norma tells the Pakistanis she has already made contact with the Israelis: “I was talking to the consulate just a few seconds ago and they have said to leave the line free. They are calling the prime minister and the army from the embassy in India.”
The Pakistani handler patronizes Norma Rabinovitch: “Don’t worry, ma’am, just sit back and relax, and don’t worry, and just wait for them to contact. Okay?” As Rabinovitch sobs, the Pakistani chuckles: “And save your energy for good days. If they contact right now, maybe you’re gonna celebrate your Sabbath with your family.”
He then issues instructions to the terrorists: “The Indian authorities will call you on this number and ask you what you want. Just say, ‘Release our guy and his weapons in our hands within half an hour.’ You must not disclose to them that you have only two hostages. You must say that you will release all the hostages. Tell them, only then will you negotiate with them.”
As the two jihadis and their Pakistani handler await the call from the Indians, Babar Imran uses the dead rabbi’s phone to call up a local TV station and vent his anger at Israel. He pretends he is Indian and sprinkles his Urdu with a few words of Hindi, but his accent fools no one.
INDIA TV: Hello, Imran, where are you?
BABAR: We are here . . . You call their [Israeli] Army Staff to visit Kashmir . . . why is it so? . . . Who are they to come to Kashmir? . . . This is a matter between us and Hindus . . . the Hindu government . . . Why does that Israel come here . . .?
INDIA TV: Imran, you claim that you are in Nariman [Chabad] House. How many of your friends are there in Nariman House?
BABAR: We know how to live . . . how to snatch our rights . . .
INDIA TV: Imran, are you able to listen to what I am saying?
BABAR: Yes, I can hear you.
INDIA TV: Just reply to my question . . . How many of you . . . are there in Nariman House?
BABAR: I have five persons with me.
INDIA TV: And when did you come to Mumbai?
BABAR: We have come here for our work . . . we waited . . . every thing is before you . . . We are tired of facing tortures and injustice, we are forced to do this . . . The situation is in front of you . . . I am merely repeating history to you, but . . . I don’t understand why you people talk like this.
After hanging up, Babar waits for the call from the Indian government. But neither the Indians nor the Israelis have taken the bait.
It is now 10 p.m., twenty-four hours after the takeover of Chabad House. Finally the phone rings, but it is his handlers from Pakistan calling. Babar informs them that the Indians have not called. What should he do, he asks.
The handler confers with his superiors sitting in the Pakistan office: “Do you want them to hold on to the hostages or kill them?” A voice in the background says, “Kill them.” The handler gets back on the line with clear instructions to Babar: “Listen to me. Save yourself the hassle and get rid of them [the hostages]. Kill them. You could come under fire at any time now and they may be left behind . . . Kill them now.”
Babar hesitates. He tells his handler, “Yes, but I do not see any movement from the police. It is all quiet over here.”
HANDLER: No, do not wait any longer. Kill the hostages. You never know when you might come under attack and with what intensity or which direction and at that time, you will not have the time to kill the hostages.
HANDLER: And when you shoot, make sure the bullets do not ricochet from the walls and hit you . . . Come on, do it now . . . I’ll stay on the line.
[A long pause.]
HANDLER: Come on, do it, do it . . . I am listening.
BABAR: What? Should I shoot them?
HANDLER: Make them sit up, turn their faces away, and then shoot them in the back of the head. Do it, do it. I am waiting.
BABAR: The problem is that I just asked Umer [Nasir] to get some sleep. He has not been feeling too well. I am hoping he gets some sleep and then we will do the job.
HANDLER: OK. I will wait for half an hour and call you back. Will you do it then? OK? I will phone you back.
One hour later Babar and Nasir have still not executed the two women hostages, and the handler starts to lose patience.
BABAR: Please do not get angry. I had to change some settings.
HANDLER: Has the job been done or not?
BABAR: We will do it right now. I was just waiting for you to call so you could listen.
HANDLER: OK, then do it in the name of Allah.
[There is a pause before the shots are fired.]
HANDLER: Was that just one?
BABAR: No, both of them killed, yaklakht [at once].
Nine hours after the two women hostages are shot dead, Indian commandos land on the roof of Nariman House and the final battle begins. In his last phone call, Babar asks his handler in Pakistan to pray for him so that he can attain martyrdom. He says he has been hit in the arm and leg. Amidst the din of rapid gunfire, the phone goes dead.
The only Jew to escape the slaughter is Moshe, who turned two the day after his father and mother were killed.
If the Pakistani terrorists had hoped to disrupt Muslim-Jewish relations in India, the reaction of the leaders of the two communities reflects their failure.
Ezra Moses, head of a congregation that is home to many Indian Jews, told the Indian magazine Tehelka, “It has never happened on Indian shores that a Jew is attacked.” Another prominent member of the community, Solomon Sopher, said the high school he manages was founded as a Jewish school but now enrolled mostly Muslims. “Jews have been more close to Muslims in India than to people of any other faith,” and this, he said, is what made the attack by Muslims on Nariman [Chabad] House all the more disturbing.
“People who committed this heinous crime cannot be called Muslim,” Hanif Nalkhande, a spokesperson for the Bada Kabrastan graveyard, told The Times of London, explaining why Mumbai Muslims were not permitting the terrorists a Muslim burial. Another prominent Indian Muslim leader, columnist M.J. Akbar, agreed: “Indian Muslims are proud of being both Indian and Muslim, and the Mumbai terrorism was a war against both India and Islam. . . . Since the . . . terrorists were neither Indian nor true Muslims, they had no right to an Islamic burial in an Indian Muslim cemetery.”
A year after the attack, the bodies of the nine terrorists lay unclaimed in an Indian morgue, as no Indian Muslim cemetery would agree to bury them. The leadership of India’s Muslim community referred to the dead men as “murderers,” not “martyrs.” (Finally, in April 2010, after the Pakistani government refused to accept the bodies, the terrorists were buried in secret unmarked graves by the Maharashtra state government, in what it said was a “dignified” manner.)
While Indian Muslims were vocal in their denunciation of the jihadis, right-wing Pakistani Islamists claimed that the attack on Mumbai was the work of Israel. Surprisingly – or perhaps not – a large section of Pakistan’s intelligentsia has bought into this conspiracy theory. Self-styled Pakistani security expert Zaid Hamid, interviewed on TV while the attack was unfolding, accused “Western Zionists and Hindu Zionists” of planning the operation. (Hamid, who claims he once fought for the cia-backed mujahedeen in Afghanistan during the 1980s, is the founder of the Pakistani think tank BrassTacks and is believed to have close links to the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI.) Hamid said, “The Indians have themselves always wanted to orchestrate a 9/11, to create the same drama in which they could include Americans and Israelis. We have no doubt this [attack on Mumbai] was a joint plan by Israelis, Americans, and Indians – in other words, this was a joint plan by Western Zionists and Hindu Zionists; in it Israelis are directly involved, there is involvement of Mossad.”
He further argued that the now iconic image of Kasab with an AK-47 entering the Mumbai railway station indicated that he was a Hindu, not a Muslim. In the picture, Kasab is wearing an orange wristband. “If you look at the images, the terrorist shown firing . . . with a machine gun in his hand, he has tied in his hand a saffron band of Hindu Zionists. Muslims do not wear this type of band – their faces are like Hindus’, the language in which they are speaking, this language no Pakistani uses.”
In May 2010, Kasab was sentenced to death by a Mumbai court on the charge of waging war against India, and the world would discover that this jihadi operation involved Muslim Pakistanis living in Canada and the United States.
The previous October, U.S. authorities arrested two Muslims – Tahawwur Hussain Rana, a forty-eight-year-old Pakistani-Canadian immigration consultant, and his accomplice David Headley, forty-nine (whose real name was Dawood Sayed Gilani) – on charges that included providing reconnaissance to the Pakistani jihadis who attacked Mumbai. In March, Headley pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against his Pakistani-Canadian co-conspirator.
In late November 2008, as the ten Pakistani jihadis were killing Jews in Mumbai, on the other side of the world, three African-American converts to Islam and a Haitian Muslim were plotting to blow up New York synagogues.
The four men – James Cromitie, forty-four; David Williams, twenty-eight; Onta Williams, thirty-two; and Laguerre Payen, twenty-seven – had been on the fbi’s radar since June, when an undercover agent ran into them at the Masjid Al-Ikhlas mosque in Newburgh, New York, and found them, in the words of prosecutors, “eager to bring death to Jews.”
All four had criminal records; they had entered the prison system as Baptists or Catholics but came out as Muslims, converted in jail by Islamic chaplains. Somewhere inside the New York correctional system, the men, who had had little interaction with Jews, came to hate them.
The FBI states that at an October meeting at a house in Newburgh, the four men discussed Cromitie’s desire to strike a synagogue in the Bronx and military aircraft at the Air National Guard base in Newburgh. Cromitie, aka Abdul Rahman, bragged that blowing up the synagogues would be a “piece of cake.” “I hate those motherf – ers, those f – ing Jewish bastards . . . I would like to get a synagogue,” Cromitie told a police informant.1
After months of planning and acquiring explosives and a Stinger surface-to-air missile, the four men and the informant each declared their willingness to perform jihad. On May 6, they drove to Stamford, Connecticut, to take delivery of the bombs and the Stinger missile. Long before they arrived, though, the fbi had disabled both the Stinger and the explosives. After testing one of the detonators for the bombs, they drove the weapons to Newburgh, locked them in a storage container, and celebrated, shouting, “Allahu akbar!”
Two weeks later, on May 20, they drove to the Bronx with the bombs. At around 9 p.m., after planting the bombs in cars outside the Riverdale Temple, a Reform synagogue, and the nearby Riverdale Jewish Centre, an Orthodox synagogue, they were about to head to the National Guard base, planning to shoot down military aircraft with their missile while simultaneously detonating the bombs with a cellphone. But just after they had planted the last of the dud bombs, police swooped in and arrested them.
This was by no means the first attempt by radical Islamists to attack Jewish centres in the United States.
March 1977: Hanafi Muslims seized three buildings in Washington, D.C., including the headquarters of B’nai B’rith, and held hostages for thirty-nine hours, resulting in one death and one severe injury.
February 1993: Ramzi Yusuf, the mastermind of the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City, which claimed seven lives and injured more than a thousand people, declared the towers not a civilian target, but a military one, by virtue of the fact that it might house a “Zionist official.”
June 1993: “Boom! Broken windows. Jews in the street” is how one of the plotters described the carnage that would ensue from a planned “day of terror” with simultaneous bombings of the United Nations complex, the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, and other New York landmarks.
March 1994: Rashid Baz opened fire on a van carrying Orthodox Jewish boys across the Brooklyn Bridge, killing one sixteen-year-old.
July 1997: Ali Hasan Abu Kamal shot seven tourists atop the Empire State Building, killing one and seriously wounding another. In his suicide note, he accused the United States of using Israel as “an instrument” against the Palestinians.
July 1997: Ghazi Ibrahim Abu Maizar nearly succeeded in detonating a pipe bomb in the New York City subway system.
July 2002: Hesham Mohamed Ali Hadayet attacked the El Al counter at Los Angeles International Airport, killing two.
September 2005: Jam’iyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh’s plot against two Los Angeles–area synagogues was disrupted because of a dropped mobile phone.
July 2006: Naveed Haq assaulted the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, murdering one and injuring five.
Neither the Mumbai terrorists nor the Haitian and African Americans were Arab or had been affected by the Israel-Palestine dispute. Chances are they had little or even no interaction with Jews in their day-to-day lives. So what motivated them to harbour so much hate in their hearts that they would give their lives for a chance to massacre Jews? Could it be that the religious education they received in the New York prison system or in the madrassahs of Pakistan turned them into vessels brimming with hateful bigotry?
The seeds of such hate are planted in the minds of Muslims at an early age. The first time we attend Friday prayers at our neighbourhood mosques, as boys accompanying our fathers (most Muslim women never attend Friday congregations), the sermon we hear ends with the clarion call, “O Allah, defeat the kuffar” – Jews and other non-Muslims. We grow up having this prayer drilled into us week after week, though in time most of us ignore it as nothing more than the rhetoric of the screaming cleric. Nevertheless, this repeated prayer does leave a lingering suspicion about the Jew that stays with most Muslims for our entire lives, even if we never meet one.
Not only has the prayer asking God to defeat the Jews and Christians become a regular feature at most Friday congregations, it has gone unchallenged. In Muslim countries, no one seems to find it at all objectionable, while in the West there is a fear of upsetting Muslim clerics and community leaders. Many Westerners feel this hate is protected under provisions for minority religious rights. Some imams in the West have become so emboldened by the cowardice of the multiculturalists that they have placed their call for the defeat of Jews and Christians on their websites, ensuring that the large majority of Muslims who do not regularly attend mosque will not miss the message.
At a Toronto mosque in October 2009, a cleric ended one Friday sermon with this prayer: “O Allah, give victory to Muslims and Islam . . . O Allah, give defeat to the kuffar and mushrikeen” – non-believers. “Allah, destroy them from within themselves, and do not allow them to raise their heads in destroying Islam.” When asked to explain his use of the pulpit to spread such hate, Imam Said Rageah, who was schooled in Saudi Arabia, told the National Post that he did not intend to insult non-Muslims. Moreover, he said, his use of the word destroy did not mean he wanted to destroy anyone, “but rather to confound or weaken those that would infringe on their [Muslim] rights.”2
He did not deny that the word kuffar meant non-Muslims, including Jews, but Islamists across Canada came to his aid, claiming that the word was not at all a label for Jews or other non-Muslims. This despite the fact that scholar after scholar in all of Islamic history and to the present day, in the Middle East as well as North America, has referred to Jews and other non-Muslims as the kuffar.
Among them is Sheikh Muhammad al-Shinqati, director of the Islamic Center of South Plains, in Lubbock, Texas, and a resident scholar on the Islam Online website that gives fatwas on various issues raised by Muslims from around the world. In 2005, Sheikh al-Shinqati was asked on that forum whether Muslims are “allowed to call a Christian person kafir? Who is, exactly, a kafir?” He answered: “Christians and Jews are kuffar because they rejected the Prophethood of Muhammad.” The good sheikh added: “Kafir is now a derogatory term, and that is why I would encourage Muslims to use the term ‘non-Muslims’ when referring to people of different faiths.”3
The good news is that some clerics have begun to question the inclusion in Friday prayers of this call to defeat Jews. Senior Saudi cleric Sheikh Salman al-Awdah, director of the website Islam Today, has said that Muslims should avoid prayers that call for the destruction of non-Muslims. “Praying for the ruin and the destruction of all infidels is not permitted because it goes against God’s law to call upon them . . . to take the righteous path.”4
If an imam in Canada, with all its laws restricting hate speech, fears no consequences of his anti-Semitic prayer, imagine what is happening in the Arab world and Pakistan, where Muslims form the overwhelming majority of the population, and where asking Allah to “crush the Jews” has been the norm, not the exception, for centuries.
On March 9, 2009, a young Arab boy appeared on Egypt’s Al-Rahma Television. This is what he had to say under the watchful eyes of his Islamic teacher:
O Allah, completely destroy and shatter the Jews. O Allah, torment them with a disease that has no cure or remedy. Send a thunderbolt down upon them from Heaven. O Allah, torment them with every kind of torment. O Allah, send upon them flocks of swallows that will pelt them with stones of baked clay, and turn them into straw that has been eaten. O Allah, turn their women into widows – just like Muslim women were widowed. Allah, turn their children into orphans – just like Muslim children were orphaned. O Allah, bless the efforts of the mujahedeen. O Allah, bring victory upon us soon. Amen.
Such a prayer may shock the non-Muslim listener, but to Muslims around the globe, such prayers and injunctions, if not always so explicit, are perfectly common. But although the clerics and imams of today may be the instruments of such fanatic hate, we need to look elsewhere for the roots of this rancour.
Meet the Author
Journalist and political advocate TAREK FATAH is the founder of the liberal Muslim organization the Muslim Canadian Congress. He is a regular contributor and guest host on the morning show on Newstalk 1010. His first book, Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State, was a finalist for the Donner Prize.
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