Muslims must acknowledge fully their relations with Jews

Kunwar Khuldune Shahid lives in Pakistan, which makes it all the more remarkable  that he has been refreshingly blunt in this Spectator article, in which he urges other Muslim states to follow the Moroccan model of peace-seeking with Israel. The Muslim world must acknowledge the good as well as the negative aspects of its historical relationship with the Jews. (With thanks: Lily)



King Mohammed VI of Morocco visiting Beit Dhakira in Essaouira, a synagogue converted into a museum devoted to the memory of Moroccan Jewry

 After becoming the latest Arab state to formalise ties with Israel, the
fourth in as many months, Morocco has gone a step further; it will
start teaching Jewish history as part of the school curriculum.
Morocco is now the first modern Arabic state to embrace its tradition of
religious pluralism — a pluralism that has over the decades faded into
mono-cultural Sunni Islam. 

Over the last 70 years,
the number of Jews living in Morocco has
fallen from half a million to just 2,000.

In January, Moroccan King Mohammed VI
visited a Jewish museum and synagogue in Essaouirato celebrate the country’s pluralistic past as well as the Moroccan monarch’s recent
attempts to restore Jewish heritage sites.

Indeed, in the 18th century, Sultan Mohammed Ben Abdellah oversaw the
building of nearly 40 synagogues in Essaouira,a city where once
four in ten of its population was Jewish. Before that, Morocco welcomed
Iberian Jews cast out of modern-day Spain by the 1492 Alhambra decree,
giving them legal autonomy over their worship. 

 As the Muslim world begins to
reconcile with Israel, so too must it acknowledge the full history
of Islam’s relationship with Judaism. This won’t be easy, of course,
since the past is loaded with animosity for Jewish peoples — but there
are also neglected, older tales of Islamic multiculturalism.
Islam, as its more liberal proponents like to remind us, was theharbingerof the European Enlightenment. 

 The exodus of Jews from the Muslim world began in in earnest in the
1940s, eventually evolving in some countries from persecution to
slaughter. Nazi Germany’s Holocaust extended into Axis controlled north
African territories during the second world war. Hundreds
of camps like the one in Jadu, Libya illustrate tales of barbarism
reserved exclusively for Jews in the Arab world under the Axis rule. 

 Many local Muslims didn’t find Jewish discrimination particularly
repulsive, perhaps owing to the preceding Ottoman rule
which had already established Jews as inferior ‘dhimmis’, legally
upholding Muslim supremacism, while overseeing multiple pogroms. Indeed,
many Arabs cheered in Tunis when the Jews were paraded by German
occupying forces. 

Under the Nazi-allied French Vichy
regime, Algeria became the second country where Jews werestrippedof their citizenship after Germany.

Even so, amid instances of Arab
collaboration with the Third Reich, there were many, lesser-acknowledged
stories of Arabs safeguarding Jews. 

Tunisian landowner Khaled Abdul Wahab, ‘the Arab Schindler’,
risked his life to protect many Jewish families. Similarly, Moroccan Sultan Mohammed V
saved the Jews of Casablanca, as he resisted the anti-Semitic laws promulgated under the Vichy rule. 

There are
similar tales from Turkey, Iran and other parts of the Muslim world, with over 60 Muslims honoured as ‘righteous’ at the
Yad Vashem memorial And it is easy to understand why theirs are lesser-known stories. 

After the war, the Jewish populations of Tunisia, Sudan, Libya, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt were pressured to leave, some had their passports

stamped ‘exit with no return’ as anti-Semitism spiralled in the
Muslim world. While geopolitical commentators often point to the
creation of Israel in what was seen as Arab land, the anti-Jewish
feeling is in fact millennia old. 

Quranic

verses telling Muslims ‘not to take Jews as friends’ and Hadithsmandating the killing of Jews ‘hiding behind stones and trees’ continue to be taught across the Muslim world.

Just as Judeophobia mandated by scriptures became the root of the Arab
and Muslim world’s antagonism towards Israel, the ongoing formalisation
of ties is also backed by an

Islamic rationale.

 It is this reformist interpretation of Islam,
coupled with recognition of the crimes perpetrated by their states and
empires — similar to the ideological course correction undertaken by
Europe after world war two — that will help Muslim
states progress. And today, the biggest threat to such progression
comes not from Arab monarchs or dictators, but democratically elected
populists in the Muslim world. 

Judeophobia dominates all from the
largest Muslim state
Indonesia to the officially secular
Bangladesh.

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