I bring you notice of a series of lectures starting on Monday 14 May 2012, (17:30-19:00h at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London – Khalili lecture theatre): The opening lecture is titled:” How Islam Saved the Jews”. Professor David J Wasserstein, a professor at Vanderbilt university in Nashville, Tenessee, will give this lecture and two seminars over the course of the week.
“In the early seventh century C.E. Judaism was in crisis, says the blurb. ” In the Mediterranean basin it was battered by legal, social, and religious pressure, weak in numbers and culturally almost non-existent. It was also largely cut off from the Jewry of the Persian Empire, in Babylon, present-day Iraq. The future seemed clear: extinction in the West, decline to obscurity in the East. Salvation came from Arabia. Islam conquered the entire Persian Empire and most of the Mediterranean world. Uniting virtually all the world’s Jews in a single state, it gave them legal and religious respectability, economic and social freedoms, and linguistic and cultural conditions that made possible a major renaissance of Judaism and the Jews. The significance of Islam for Jewry has been interpreted very variously since the middle ages and is a source of controversy to this day. ”
When told of the lecture series, Dr Andrew Bostom reacted as follows:
“This is the sheerest idiocy. Just look at historical Palestine where the devastating Islamic conquests effectively wiped Judaism–and Christianity– out, other than vestigial remnant communities of brutally subjugated dhimmis.
“Moreover, look at the basic demography of Jews over this 600 year period from the mid 13th through the mid 19th centuries. In the md 13th 90% of the world’s Jews lived in Islamdom, and 10% in Christendom; by the mid 19th century those numbers were reversed due to ..what..”Islamic salvation?”
I am no Islamic scholar, but Professor Wasserstein’s views seem to be at considerable variance with those experts who say that Jews experienced periods where they flourished under Islam, but nonetheless identify periods of great persecution, forced conversion from Judaism and Christianity to Islam, and above all, the imposition of the dhimmi status of forced humiliation and oppression of non-Muslims. Jews were wiped out from the Arabian peninsula. Christians were wiped out from North Africa. It would seem at times more accurate to say that Judaism survived despite, not because, of Islam.
The Wasserstein lectures are presumably another effort ( previous conferences here and here) to show the points of connection between Judaism and Islam. Unless they also show the points of division, however, these lectures might be little better than propaganda to make Islam look good.
But let’s not prejudge the issue. If any readers are planning to attend the lectures, please let me know your impressions.