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Why did Jews not immigrate to the Muslim world?

Why did Jews not immigrate to the Muslim world?

Throughout most of history, Jews lived significantly better in the Muslim countries than in Christian ones. Moreover, after the expulsion from Spain, many Spanish Jews moved to the Muslim world (from Morocco to the Ottoman Empire). Yet, when Jews were evicted from Central and Eastern Europe, or even after pogroms there (until the 1800s), Jews just moved from country to country in Europe (and sometimes even back to the original country that evicted them). Why didn't they move out to the Muslim world?

I could imagine, it is a kind of spiritual home. Jews immigrated from Muslim countries to Muslim countries (ok, Spain was Christian when the Jews were banished, but it was a new thing, and the Jews remembered on the better days under Muslim authority.)

When Jews were evicted from Central/Eastern Europe they looked for similar societies to settle. They had experience with Christians, so they preferred them. The didn't want to go to complete foreign peoples.

But there also other examples. Jews immigrated to China/Shanghai during the 30's from Germany, Russia and Iraq. Main reason will be, that they had no other possibility.

The question as it was posed is not entirely accurate. The Sephardic Jews are, rightly, the most famous Jewish community of the Ottoman Empire. However, in Istanbul, you could find synagogues and associations belonging to Ashknazi immigrants from Europe. These were all pre-Zionist immigrants from, if memory serves, Russia. In fact, there was a power struggle and conflict in the Jewish community between the European newcomers and the 'native' Sephardic Jews.

This is not to suggest that Jewish immigration to the Ottoman Empire from Europe was large before the late 19th century, but it certainly did exist. I wouldn't be surprised if you found more European Jews in other cities with Jewish populations, such as Izmir, Edirne and, particularly, Salonika.

As to why there wasn't a large-scale immigration, I would offer that European Jews were culturally European and were much more likely to migrate within their cultural world, where their language and practises would have been the norm, than to one which would have been culturally foreign. The same goes for Ottoman Jews, who did not move to Europe in any great numbers during this period because they were more at home with Arabs, Turks, Kurds, Greeks or whichever population they lived amongst.

Eventually both Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews would eventually emigrate to North and South America, just like Christians and Muslims in Europe and the Middle East.

It is a question of contacts. Where are you to move, and how? In general you move to where you have friends, contacts and where you can speak a language. And moving a long way with all your possessions is costly and takes time.

The history of the Jews post-Diaspora is quite complicated.

For one thing, I believe there was always a significant Jewish minority in the Muslim world, so one answer would be that they did in fact do just what you suggested.

However, there were always some in Europe too. In part, this was because they were inadvertantly encoraged to live there. Christian theology of the Middle Ages prohibited lending money at interest. Thus the only people who could make a living lending money (eg: being bankers) were non-Christians. There's a lot of money to be made in banking, even back then.

This was (sometimes literally) a dual-edged sword though. If you're a ruler who owes a bunch of money you can't repay, one way to get out of it was to get the local citizenry into an uproar about the local Jews, so that they all have to flee for their lives (or stay and get killed). This was the ultimate source of much European anti-semitisim.

We often wonder, how and why is it that our Medieval Ashkenazic ancestors kept on coming back to their destroyed communities to rebuild (much like the residents of Galveston constantly rebuild, after hurricanes and such… ).

Why the heck didn't they run away to the Ottoman Empire where the Turks treated Jews relatively nicely? (face it, they needed the Jews, more than the Jews needed them).

Well I don't have the answer to that question, but I can tell you that some Ashkenazim themselves were puzzled by the illogical habitation of Jews in hateful Christian territory. Take a read.

Not all Franco-German Jews suffered from what I once described as a disorder akin to “battered woman's syndrome”.

As Graetz put it:

When contrasted with the miserable conditions of the Jews in Germany, the lot of those who had taken up their abode in the newly-risen Turkish empire must have seemed unalloyed happiness. Jewish immigrants who had escaped the ceaseless persecutions to which they had been subjected in Germany expressed themselves in terms of rapture over the happy conditions of the Turkish Jews. Unlike their co-coreligionists under Christian rule, they were not compelled to yield up the third part of their fortunes in royal taxes; nor were they in any way hindered in the conduct of business. They were permitted absolute freedom of movement throughout the breadth and length of the empire. They were subject to no sumptuary laws, and were thus able to clothe themselves in silk and gold, if they chose.

Turkey was in short, correctly described by an enthusiastic Jew as a land “in which nothing, absolutely nothing is wanting.” Two young immigrants, Kalman and David, thought that if German Jews realized but a tenth part of the happiness to be found in Turkey, they would brave any hardships to get there. These 2 young men persuaded Isaac Sarfati who had journeyed in Turkey in earlier times, and whose name was by no means unknown in Germany, to write a circular letter to the Jews of the Rhineland, Styria, Moravia, and Hungary, to acquaint them with the happy lot of the Jews under the crescent as compared with the hard fate under the shadow of the cross, and to call upon them to escape from the German house of bondage and emigrate to Turkey. The lights and shadows of his subject could not have been more sharply defined than they are in Zarfati's letter (written in 1456), whose graphic, often somewhat too artificial language, does not readily lend itself to translation:

“I have heard of the afflictions, more bitter than death, that have befallen our brethren in Germany-of the tyrannical laws, the compulsory baptisms and the banishments. And when they flee from one place, a yet harder fate befalls them in another. I hear an insolent people raising its voice in fury against the faithful; I see its hand uplifted to smite them. On all sides I learn of anguish of soul and torment of body; of daily exactions levied by merciless extortioners. The clergy and the monks, false priests, rise up against the unhappy people of God and say: 'let us pursue them even unto destruction, let the name of Israel be known no more among men.' They imagine that their faith is in danger because the Jews in Jerusalem might per-adventure, buy the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (eventually this happened, j.d.). For this reason they have made a law, that every Jew found upon a Christian ship bound for the east shall be flung into the sea. Alas! How evilly are the people of God in Germany entreated; how sadly is their strength departed! They are driven hither and thither, and pursued even unto death. The sword of the oppressor ever hangs over their heads. Brothers and teachers! Friends and acquaintances! I, Isaac Zarfati, from a French stock, born in Germany, where I sat at the feet of my teachers, I proclaim to you that Turkey is a land wherein nothing is lacking. If ye will, all shall yet be well with you. The way to the holy land lied open to you through Turkey. Is it not better for you to live under Moslems than under Christians? Here every man dwells in peace under his vine and fig tree. In Christendom, on the contrary, ye dare not clothe your children in red or in blue, according to your taste, without exposing them to insult and yourselves to extortion; and therefore are ye condemned to go about meanly clad in sad colored raiment (haredim… , j.d.). All your days are full of sorrow, even your Sabbaths and holidays. Strangers enjoy your goods; and therefore of what profit is the wealth of your rich men ( j.d.-הכותב כבר הקדים אתכם, מר גפרסון ומר גון לוק) They hoard it but to their own sorrow, and in one day it is lost to them forever. Ye call you riches your own? Alas! They belong to your oppressors. They bring false accusations against you. They respect neither age nor wisdom; and though they gave you a pledge you sealed sixty fold, yet would they break it. They continually lay double punishments upon you, a death of torment, and confiscation of goods. They prohibit teaching in your schools; they break in upon you during your hours of prayer; and they forbid you to work or conduct your business on Christian feast-days. And now seeing all these things, O Israel, wherefore sleepest thou? Arise, and leave this accursed land forever!” Isaac Sarfati's appeal induced many Jews to emigrate forthwith to Turkey and Palestine. Their grave demeanor, extreme piety and peculiar apparel at once distinguished them from the Jews of Greece and the Orient, and ere long, the new-comers exercised considerable influence upon the other inhabitants of the countries in which the settled.

But lest one think that conditions for Jews in Judea were utopia:

There were peculiar circumstances connected with the prohibition of the emigration of the Jews to Palestine. The Jewish inhabitants of Jerusalem had obtained permission from a pacha to build a synagogue on one of the slopes of Mount Zion. The site of this synagogue adjoined a piece of land owned by Franciscan monks. The monks raised a clamor, again raising the fear that the Jews would occupy the holy sepulcher… (hmmm… this sounds familiar… -j.d.)

The Pope issued a bull prohibiting any Catholic shipowners (most of whom were conveniently Venetians) to transport Jews to the east.

I am also trying to comprehend an opposite phenomenon, namely that of Sephardim expelled from Spain and Portugal seeking refuge in places like Germany (especially Hamburg), Austria (Vienna mostly) France and even in Eastern Europe (the latter is the subject of my upcoming book). Most of the descendants of these unfortunate souls would eventually meet a violent death on the eastern part of this blood-soaked continent.

For a start, most Jews didn't just move from country to country within Europe. Where the possibility existed, they left Europe altogether. At the end of the 19th century, a veritable flood of immigrants made their way to Germany, sparking fears of Ostjuden - but most of them were actually using Germany as a stepping stone to get to North America (the USA and Canada), to which it was significantly easier to immigrate if coming from a Western European country.

Significant numbers of Russian-speaking Jews (primarily from the Baltic states) made their way to South Africa at this time as well. They sought lucrative employment, freedom from persecution and a better life - the same thing that all immigrants want.

When they couldn't do that, they at least sought something familiar. Why move to North Africa or the Middle East when doing so necessitates learning an entirely new language but doesn't bring with it the possibility of upwards mobility? At times when movement to those regions did bring the possibility of economic advancement (such as after the expulsion from Spain and Portugal), people moved. At times when it didn't, they sought the familiar: other post-Enlightenment Christian countries with a Jewish population possessed of similar traditions and lifestyle customs to their own.

Because the claim Jews "lived significantly better" in Muslim lands is false. There was little difference in the treatment of Jews in Christian or Muslim lands; there were pogroms and periods of tolerance in both.

One thing to remember: Excepting Persia and points east, the "Muslim world" was previously the Christian world. Arabia was peopled by pagan, Christian, and Jewish tribes; Yemen had a Jewish king! The Jewish populations in these lands, North Africa, and Europe were there when Christianity arrived, and still there when Islam arrived. Mostly, people stayed where their ancestors had been, moving only when it was a matter of life or death, and returning when the new place became intolerable.

Actually, there were several Jewish communities throughout the Islamic world.

After the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, many Jewish communities did emigrate to Muslim North Africa-(specifically, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia). The Moroccan cities of Casablanca and Fez had sizable Spanish Jewish communities during the Modern Age.

In 1492, the Turkish Muslim Sultanate invited the expelled Spanish Jewish community to reside in various parts of the Ottoman Empire, specifically to Constantinople, Thessaloniki, Izmir/Smyrna, the Aegean island of Rhodes, as well as the Egyptian cities of Alexandria and Cairo. (Although most of the places listed were originally Greek cities and lands, they were under Ottoman Turkish Muslim colonial rule for several centuries).

The Ancient Jewish Diaspora also included pre-Islamic lands and countries, such as Syria, Yemen, Iran and Iraq.

I think one of the reasons was that Europe was more economically developed with higher standards of living. Sometimes Jews knew how to adapt to the circumstances in Europe. For example, in Russian Empire Jews frequently obtained Turkish citizenship so to be counted as foreigners in Russia (and to avoid anti-Jewish legislation which only applied to the subjects of Russian Empire), but remained in Russia.

Jews in Islamic Countries: The Treatment of Jews

Arabs sometimes claim that, as "Semites," they cannot possibly be anti-Semitic. This, however, is a semantic distortion that ignores the reality of Arab discrimination and hostility toward Jews. Arabs, like any other people, can indeed be anti-Semitic.

The term "anti-Semite" was coined in Germany in 1879 by Wilhelm Marr to refer to the anti-Jewish manifestations of the period and to give Jew-hatred a more scientific sounding name. (1) "Anti-Semitism" has been accepted and understood to mean hatred of the Jewish people.

While Jewish communities in Arab and Islamic countries fared better overall than those in Christian lands in Europe, Jews were no strangers to persecution and humiliation among the Arabs and Muslim. As Princeton University historian Bernard Lewis has written: "The Golden Age of equal rights was a myth, and belief in it was a result, more than a cause, of Jewish sympathy for Islam." (2)

Muhammad, the founder of Islam, traveled to Medina in 622 A.D. to attract followers to his new faith. When the Jews of Medina refused to convert and rejected Muhammad, two of the major Jewish tribes were expelled in 627, Muhammad's followers killed between 600 and 900 of the men, and divided the surviving Jewish women and children amongst themselves. (3)

The Muslim attitude toward Jews is reflected in various verses throughout the Koran, the holy book of the Islamic faith. "They [the Children of Israel] were consigned to humiliation and wretchedness. They brought the wrath of God upon themselves, and this because they used to deny God's signs and kill His Prophets unjustly and because they disobeyed and were transgressors" (Sura 2:61). According to the Koran, the Jews try to introduce corruption (5:64), have always been disobedient (5:78), and are enemies of Allah, the Prophet and the angels (2:97­98).

The Dhimmi

Still, as "People of the Book," Jews (and Christians) are protected under Islamic law. The traditional concept of the "dhimma" ("writ of protection") was extended by Muslim conquerors to Christians and Jews in exchange for their subordination to the Muslims. Peoples subjected to Muslim rule usually had a choice between death and conversion, but Jews and Christians, who adhered to the Scriptures, were allowed as dhimmis (protected persons) to practice their faith. This "protection" did little, however, to insure that Jews and Christians were treated well by the Muslims. On the contrary, an integral aspect of the dhimma was that, being an infidel, he had to openly acknowledge the superiority of the true believer--the Muslim.

In the early years of the Islamic conquest, the "tribute" (or jizya), paid as a yearly poll tax, symbolized the subordination of the dhimmi. Later, the inferior status of Jews and Christians was reinforced through a series of regulations that governed the behavior of the dhimmi. Dhimmis, on pain of death, were forbidden to mock or criticize the Koran, Islam or Muhammad, to proselytize among Muslims or to touch a Muslim woman (though a Muslim man could take a non­Muslim as a wife).

Dhimmis were excluded from public office and armed service, and were forbidden to bear arms. They were not allowed to ride horses or camels, to build synagogues or churches taller than mosques, to construct houses higher than those of Muslims or to drink wine in public. They were not allowed to pray or mourn in loud voices-as that might offend the Muslims. The dhimmi had to show public deference toward Muslims-always yielding them the center of the road. The dhimmi was not allowed to give evidence in court against a Muslim, and his oath was unacceptable in an Islamic court. To defend himself, the dhimmi would have to purchase Muslim witnesses at great expense. This left the dhimmi with little legal recourse when harmed by a Muslim. (4)

Dhimmis were also forced to wear distinctive clothing. In the ninth century, for example, Baghdad's Caliph al-Mutawakkil designated a yellow badge for Jews, setting a precedent that would be followed centuries later in Nazi Germany. (5)

Violence Against Jews

At various times, Jews in Muslim lands were able to live in relative peace and thrive culturally and economically. The position of the Jews was never secure, however, and changes in the political or social climate would often lead to persecution, violence and death. Jews were generally viewed with contempt by their Muslim neighbors peaceful coexistence between the two groups involved the subordination and degradation of the Jews.

When Jews were perceived as having achieved too comfortable a position in Islamic society, anti-Semitism would surface, often with devastating results: On December 30, 1066, Joseph HaNagid, the Jewish vizier of Granada, Spain, was crucified by an Arab mob that proceeded to raze the Jewish quarter of the city and slaughter its 5,000 inhabitants. The riot was incited by Muslim preachers who had angrily objected to what they saw as inordinate Jewish political power.

Similarly, in 1465, Arab mobs in Fez slaughtered thousands of Jews, leaving only 11 alive, after a Jewish deputy vizier treated a Muslim woman in "an offensive manner." The killings touched off a wave of similar massacres throughout Morocco. (6)

Other mass murders of Jews in Arab lands occurred in Morocco in the 8th century, where whole communities were wiped out by Muslim ruler Idris I North Africa in the 12th century, where the Almohads either forcibly converted or decimated several communities Libya in 1785, where Ali Burzi Pasha murdered hundreds of Jews Algiers, where Jews were massacred in 1805, 1815 and 1830 and Marrakesh, Morocco, where more than 300 hundred Jews were murdered between 1864 and 1880. (7)

Decrees ordering the destruction of synagogues were enacted in Egypt and Syria (1014, 1293-4, 1301-2), Iraq (854-859, 1344) and Yemen (1676). Despite the Koran's prohibition, Jews were forced to convert to Islam or face death in Yemen (1165 and 1678), Morocco (1275, 1465 and 1790-92) and Baghdad (1333 and 1344). (8)

As distinguished Orientalist G.E. von Grunebaum has written:

It would not be difficult to put together the names of a very sizeable number of Jewish subjects or citizens of the Islamic area who have attained to high rank, to power, to great financial influence, to significant and recognized intellectual attainment and the same could be done for Christians. But it would again not be difficult to compile a lengthy list of persecutions, arbitrary confiscations, attempted forced conversions, or pogroms. (9)

The situation of Jews in Arab lands reached a low point in the 19th century. Jews in most of North Africa (including Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Morocco) were forced to live in ghettos. In Morocco, which contained the largest Jewish community in the Islamic Diaspora, Jews were made to walk barefoot or wear shoes of straw when outside the ghetto. Even Muslim children participated in the degradation of Jews, by throwing stones at them or harassing them in other ways. The frequency of anti-Jewish violence increased, and many Jews were executed on charges of apostasy. Ritual murder accusations against the Jews became commonplace in the Ottoman Empire. (10)

By the twentieth century, the status of the dhimmi in Muslim lands had not significantly improved. H.E.W. Young, British Vice Consul in Mosul, wrote in 1909:

The attitude of the Muslims toward the Christians and the Jews is that of a master towards slaves, whom he treats with a certain lordly tolerance so long as they keep their place. Any sign of pretension to equality is promptly repressed. (11)

The danger for Jews became even greater as a showdown approached in the UN over partition in 1947. The Syrian delegate, Faris el-Khouri, warned: "Unless the Palestine problem is settled, we shall have difficulty in protecting and safeguarding the Jews in the Arab world." (12)

More than a thousand Jews were killed in anti-Jewish rioting during the 1940's in Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Syria and Yemen. (13) This helped trigger the mass exodus of Jews from Arab countries.

1. Vamberto Morais, A Short History of Anti-Semitism, (NY: W.W Norton and Co., 1976), p. 11 Bernard Lewis, Semites & Anti-Semites, (NY: WW Norton & Co., 1986), p. 81.
2. Bernard Lewis, "The Pro-Islamic Jews," Judaism, (Fall 1968), p. 401.
3. Bat Ye'or, The Dhimmi, (NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1985), pp. 43-44.
4. Bat Yeor, pp. 30, 56-57 Louis Gardet, La Cite Musulmane: Vie sociale et politique, (Paris: Etudes musulmanes, 1954), p. 348.
5. Bat Yeor, pp. 185-86, 191, 194.
6. Norman Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands, (PA: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1979), pp. 59, 284.
7. Maurice Roumani, The Case of the Jews from Arab Countries: A Neglected Issue, (Tel Aviv: World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries, 1977), pp. 26-27.
8. Bat Ye'or, p. 61
9. G.E. Von Grunebaum, "Eastern Jewry Under Islam," Viator, (1971), p. 369.
10. Bernard Lewis, The Jews of Islam, (NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984) p. 158.
11. Middle Eastern Studies, (1971), p. 232.
12. New York Times, (February 19, 1947).
13. Roumani, pp. 30-31.

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Muslims Were Banned From the Americas as Early as the 16th Century

On Christmas Day, 1522, 20 enslaved Muslim Africans used machetes to attack their Christian masters on the island of Hispaniola, then governed by the son of Christopher Columbus. The assailants, condemned to the grinding toil of a Caribbean sugar plantation, killed several Spanish and freed a dozen enslaved Native Americans in what was the first recorded slave revolt in the New World.

The uprising was quickly suppressed, but it prompted the newly crowned Charles V of Spain to exclude from the Americas “slaves suspected of Islamic leanings.” He blamed the revolt on their radical ideology rather than the harsh realities of living a life of slavery.

By the time of the Hispaniola revolt, Spanish authorities had already forbidden travel by any infidel, whether Muslim, Jewish, or Protestant, to its New World colonies, which at the time included the land that is now the United States. They subjected any potential emigrant with a suspicious background to intense vetting. A person had to prove not just that they were Christian, but that there was no Muslim or Jewish blood among their ancestors. Exceptions were granted solely by the king. Catholic Europe was locked in a fierce struggle with the Ottoman Empire, and Muslims were uniformly labeled as possible security risks. After the uprising, the ban applied even to those enslaved in the New World, writes historian Sylviane Diouf in a study of the African diaspora.

“The decree had little effect,” adds historian Toby Green in Inquisition: The Reign of Fear. Bribes and forged papers could get Jews to the New World with its greater opportunities. Slave traders largely ignored the order because West Africa Muslims often were more literate and skilled in trades, and therefore more valuable, than their non-Muslim counterparts. Ottoman and North Africans captives from the Mediterranean region, usually called Turks and Moors, respectively, were needed to row Caribbean galleys or perform menial duties for their Spanish overlords in towns and on plantations.

In the strategic port of Cartagena, in what is now Colombia, an estimated half of the city’s slave population were transported there illegally and many were Muslim. In 1586, the English privateer Sir Francis Drake besieged and captured the town, instructing his men to treat Frenchmen, Turks, and black Africans with respect. A Spanish source tells us “especially Moors deserted to the Englishman, as did the blacks of the city.” Presumably they were promised their freedom, although Drake was a notorious slave trader. A Spanish prisoner later related that 300 Indians—mostly women—as well as 200 Africans, Turks, and Moors who were servants or slaves boarded the English fleet. 

En route to the English colony on Roanoke Island, Drake and his fleet raided the small Spanish settlement of St. Augustine, on Florida’s Atlantic Coast, and stripped it of its doors, locks and other valuable hardware. With the pirated slaves and stolen goods aboard, Drake intended to bolster Roanoke, situated on the Outer Banks of North Carolina and the first English effort at settling the New World. “All the Negroes, male and female, the enemy had with him, and certain other equipment which had taken…were to be left at the fort and settlement which they say exists on the coast,” a Spanish report states.

Drake sought to help his friend, Sir Walter Raleigh, who had settled Roanoke the year prior with more than 100 men and the goal of establishing a base for privateering and extracting the wealth that made Spain the richest and most powerful nation on Earth. Among them was a German metallurgist named Joachim Gans, the first Jewish-born person known to have set foot on American soil. Jews were forbidden to live or even visit England then—the ban lasted from 1290 to 1657—but Raleigh needed scientific expertise that could not be found among the Englishmen of his day. He won for Gans today’s equivalent of an H-1B visa so that the accomplished scientist could travel to Roanoke and report on any valuable metals found there. Gans built a workshop there and conducted extensive experiments.

Shortly after Drake’s fleet arrived off the Carolina coast, a fierce hurricane pummeled the island and scattered the ships. The English colonists abruptly chose to abandon their battered fort and return home with the fleet. Had the weather been more fortunate, the fragile settlement on Roanoke might have emerged as a remarkably mixed community of Christian, Jewish and Muslim Europeans and Africans, as well as Indians from both South and North America. The Drake fleet returned safely to England, and Elizabeth I returned 100 Ottoman slaves to Istanbul in a bid to win favor with the anti-Spanish sultan.

The fate of the Moors, Africans and the Indians, however, remains an enduring mystery. There is no record of them reaching England. “Drake thought he was going to find a flourishing colony on Roanoke, so he brought a labor supply,” says New York University historian Karen Kupperman. She and other historians believe that many of the men and women captured in Cartagena were put ashore after the storm.

Drake was always eager to make a profit from human or material cargo, and not inclined to liberate a valuable commodity, but there was little market in England for enslaved persons. To make room for the Roanoke colonists, he may well have dumped the remaining men and women on the Carolina coast and sailed away. Some of the refugees may have drowned in the hurricane.

Less than a year later, a second wave of English settlers sailed to Roanoke—the famous Lost Colonists--but they made no mention of meeting hundreds of refugees. The Cartagena captives might have scattered among the local Native American population to avoid detection by the slave raiders who prowled the North American coast in the 16th century. The new colonists were themselves abandoned in the New World and never heard from again—including Virginia Dare, the first English child born in America.

The Jamestown settlement that followed adopted a policy similar to that of the Spanish with regards to Muslims. Christian baptism was a requirement for entering the country, even for enslaved Africans, who first arrived in Virginia in 1619. In 1682, the Virginia colony went a step further, ordering that all “Negroes, Moors, mulattoes or Indians who and whose parentage and native countries are not Christian” automatically be deemed slaves.

Of course, suppressing “Islamic leanings” did little to halt slave insurrections in either Spanish or British America. Escaped slaves in Panama in the 16th century founded their own communities and fought a long guerilla war against Spain. The Haitian slave revolt at the turn of the 19th century was instigated by and for Christianized Africans, although whites depicted those seeking their freedom as irreligious savages. Nat Turner’s rebellion in Virginia in 1831 stemmed in part from his visions of Christ granting him authority to battle evil.

The real threat to peace and security, of course, was the system of slavery itself and a Christianity that countenanced it. The problem wasn't the faith of the immigrants, but the injustice that they encountered on their arrival in a new land.

Jewish History

In the year 570 CE, in the city of Mecca, in what is today Saudi Arabia, the man Mohammed was born. He would become the founder of Islam, a mighty monotheistic religion that has over a billion-and-a-half adherents, a religion that would exert a great influence on civilization and the history of humanity in general.

According to Islam, a Muslim is someone who is “subservient to” or who serves God. Muslims object to being called “Mohammedans” because it is blasphemous to say that Mohammed was a god.

The religion of Islam is a purely monotheistic faith which is built in to a great extent upon Judaic ideas. In fact, in the Quran, the book of Islam, one finds many direct quotes not only from Tanach, but even from the Talmud. Mohammed himself lived in an area that at the time had a large Jewish population. Therefore, he was well acquainted with the ideas and customs of the Jews. He even tailored his new religion to try to attract Jews.

Early Life

He was born into a famous clan that still exists today among the Arabs: the Hashemite family. This family rules Saudi Arabia as well as Jordan. In fact, the country of Jordan today is called “The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.”

Mohammed’s father died before he was born, and his mother died before he was six. Orphaned at a young age, he was raised by Bedouin Arabs. In his early youth, he became a camel driver, then a caravan leader and then a merchant.

When he turned 25, he took a rich widow and her entourage on a caravan and did such a splendid job that she married him. She was almost 20 years older than he was, but she would play a major role in his life. She is the one that supported and encouraged him. She also bore him a daughter who would become famous in her own right, Fatima. The years that Mohammed was married to the wealthy woman were the most tranquil and normal in his life. After her death, his lifestyle changed radically.

The True Believer

The Arabs at that time were polytheistic and Mohammed objected to that in the worst way. He claimed to have seen a vision in which the angel Gabriel came to him and told him that he was being given an assignment by God to go forth and preach to the Arabs the doctrine of monotheism, and that all the idols had to be eradicated and destroyed.

In the streets of Mecca there were many people who walked around and said they had visions. It is a very hot climate, and hashish is plentiful. But he did not want to be regarded as just another crazy man, so he was afraid to tell anyone. This is where his wife’s support came in. She believed in the vision and encouraged him until he finally went public with it.

Until then, the people in Mecca let him alone. He was not really disturbing anyone. But when he proclaimed himself a prophet, the authorities began to fear that he would stir a rebellion. Therefore, they started to give him a very hard time.

It is during this period that Mohammed began to flesh out a little his religion. Based on the tenet of monotheism, he placed a great deal of stress on moral codes, on behavior between human beings. A great many of these ideas bore a striking similarity to ideas in Judaism.

However, he eventually claimed to have a vision in which God told him and his followers that they were not making enough headway by merely trying to convince people with words. If people were not going to get convinced with words, then he should convince them with the sword.

Mohammed and the Jews

While Mohammed’s following was still small, he and his group were forced to flee Mecca to save their lives. That took place in the year 622 CE. His trip from Mecca to the city of Medina became known in Islam as the hijra (also hegira, which means “migration” in Arabic). Medina was then called Yathrib. Its name was eventually changed to Medina, which is short for Medinat Nabi, the “city (or county) of the prophet.” (Medina is the same word in Hebrew, meaning city or country.)

Medina was a city with a very large Jewish population. There were three major Jewish clans who controlled a great deal of the commerce and politics in the town. Therefore, when Mohammed came to Medina, he tailored his religion to make it more attractive to Jews. For instance, he instituted the right of praying toward Jerusalem, the same way that the Jews pray. A few years later, when he caught on that the Jews were not going to become Muslims, he changed it to praying toward Mecca. However, for the first few years, the Muslims prayed facing Jerusalem.

He also introduced the prohibition against pork. He introduced the method of slaughtering animals similar to shechitah. He introduced many things that were similar to Jewish practices.

All of this was done with the conviction that the Jews would accept the new religion, much as the Christians were also convinced that the Jews somehow would accept their new religion. When it became obvious that the Jews were not going to accept the religion, he became very strongly anti-Jewish.

Not surprisingly, the Quran contains some of the most awful statements in world literature regarding the Jewish people. There are also statements that are not as vicious, but the problem with the Quran is that if one wants to be a rabid, anti-Semitic fanatic one can, on the basis of the Quran, justify everything that he is doing.

When Mohammed realized that the Jews rejected him he took direct action and his followers assassinated the leaders of the Jewish tribes. One of Mohammed’s later wives was a Jewess she had been taken captive in one of his campaigns against the Jewish tribes outside of Medina.


After Mohammed’s forces destroyed all of his enemies in Medina they turned toward Mecca. His army marched into the city, destroyed all opposition and forcibly converted everyone there, as well as those in neighboring villages. He thus built for himself a strong base of power with a large army, whose avowed purpose was to go forth, conquer the rest of the Middle East and convert it to Islam.

Mohammed is the one who invented – or at least introduced — the concept of the jihad, or holy war, into the Muslim religion. He said that anyone who dies in the jihad receives the greatest rewards in the afterlife. The Muslim afterlife has much more tangible rewards than the spiritual “World to Come” of Judaism or even of Christianity. The Muslim afterlife is wine, women, and song—not necessarily in that order. Therefore, he had a relatively easy time convincing others that death in a jihad was to be viewed as nothing to be feared.

Over the centuries, the Muslims have been able to raise such a fervor among themselves for these types of holy wars that outsiders tend to associate Islam with jihad more than anything else.

Life After Mohammed

One has to realize that in a single century — roughly between the years 600 and 700 — the Muslims swept the entire Middle East. At the height of Mohammed’s powers, Muslim armies had swept up from the Saudi Arabian peninsula through Palestine into Babylonia and Syria, all the way up into Turkey. Then they swept east into what is today Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan. Then they swept west into what is today Egypt and the Sudan, Libya and the northern coast of Africa. They even came to the gates of Vienna and almost took over Europe. The entire face of the world was changed by the coming of the Muslims.

Then Mohammed made the mistake of dying.

A problem which always exists, especially in dictatorships or authoritarian rules, is the problem of succession. Who is going to take over? This led to the major split in the Muslim world, a split that exists until today: the split between the Sunni Muslims and the Shi’ite Muslims.

When he died, the majority of the elders of the Muslim religion met and elected new leaders. However, Mohammed had a daughter, Fatima, and she had a husband, Ali, and he claimed the right of succession by the fact that he was related to Mohammed. He thus became the founder of the Shi’ites.

The Sunnis took a less literal view of the Quran. They had extra-textual traditions that modified the words of the Quran, and these generally relaxed some of the extremism. The Shi’ites took the Quran literally, without any tradition to leaven it, to lighten it, so to speak.

About two-thirds of the Muslim world today is Sunni, and one-third Shi’ite. The Muslim religion was originally supposed to be for the Arabs only. And the Arabs do basically control it. The Sharif (Governor) of Mecca, for instance, is from the Hashemite family. Nevertheless, most Muslims in the world are not Arabs. A great deal of Asia is Muslim. All of Indonesia and Malaysia are Muslims. A great deal of Africa is Muslim. Therefore, you have a combination of different groups and different races, but basically it is a religion of the desert, a religion for the Arabs.

Jewish Reaction to the Rise of Islam

After the first century of Muslim rule, from about the year 720 on, even though the Jews would never have an easy life among the Muslims, and even though they never would be treated with respect let alone equality, they did not feel the terrible persecutions. There were exceptions, such as the Almohads in the 12th century, but generally speaking they did not feel the type of persecution that, for instance, the Jews in Christian Europe felt throughout the Middle Ages.

Furthermore, for a long period of time, the Muslims were the leaders of civilization in terms of art, music, literature, poetry, astronomy and mathematics. The Jews were able to relate to that.

Arguably, their greatest invention – probably the most significant invention since the wheel — was the invention of Arabic numerals, which are the basis of all modern mathematics. Imagine making advanced calculations if you had to multiply with Roman numerals.

Some of these advances were no doubt due to war. Unfortunately, most of the major advances in human technology over the centuries have been either because of war or by-products of war. Since the Muslims were fierce warriors, and were always engaged in war, they naturally made great technological advances. The study of how to heal war wounds alone, for instance, helped them become skilled doctors. They were especially expert in healing cuts and amputations. Even in the Roman Empire, a doctor was little more than a soothsayer or magician. Advances in the study of medicine and the transformation of the station of the doctor into a serious profession are contributions of the Arabs.

Because of their love of words, they became poets and authors. We have vestiges of the literature of the Arab world from that time. The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam is probably the most famous, but there are other vestiges of poetry, word plays, puns, stories that all became part of the Muslim culture.

And it became part of the Jewish culture also.

It is no accident that this time period also begins the age of the piyyutim (singular, piyut) in Jewish prayer. A piyut is a special poem inserted into the prayers. Jews often are influenced by the surrounding culture. Arab culture influenced Jews to become poets. The Jews directed it towards holy and sublime goals, but the idea to use words in inventive ways is characteristic of the times.


The Muslims became very great in philosophy. They inherited Aristotle, because the Church, which needed Aristotle and would use it later with Aquinas, was asleep for these centuries. When the Arabs got hold of all the classical works, they read them and developed ideas in philosophy.

When they came to debate the Jews, the Jews had to answer. Therefore, we will find for the first time – during roughly the seventh to the ninth centuries – classic Jewish philosophers. The Jews learned Arabic because the books were written in Arabic.

Arabic is a sister language to Hebrew. It is a Semitic language. Maimonides wrote his famous commentary to the Mishnah in Arabic, as well as his Guide for the Perplexed. That could not be done if the culture would not have supported it.

Jews adopted Arabic as their second language. It would not until the end of the Spanish Era that the Jews would give up Arabic and adopt Ladino as a second language to be spoken.

In matters of religion, Islam had zero influence upon the Jews. But in matters of culture, it had an enormous influence. It changed all of Jewish culture. That, combined with the decline of Europe in the Dark Ages, shifted the whole emphasis toward the Arabic world. Jews were now living in an Arab society, a Muslim society, and the response of the Jewish people to that is what is reflected in the works and in the life of the Jews during that period of time.

When Jews and Muslims Got Along

The hostile relations between Israel and the Muslim world make one wonder if Jewish-Muslim relations were ever amicable. The idea of a so-called Golden Age, a Jewish-Muslim interfaith utopia in Islamic Spain and elsewhere in the middle ages, has rightly been called a myth: it overlooks the inferior legal status of Jews during that time and glosses over episodes of conflict and hardship. But to say that Muslims have always persecuted the Jews, and that anti-Semitism in the Arab-Muslim world today represents a continuation of fourteen centuries of oppression, would be just as wrong--indeed, a counter-myth.

In the premodern Muslim world Jews, like all non-Muslims, were second-class subjects, but they enjoyed a considerable amount of toleration, if we understand toleration in the context of the times. They were a "protected people," in Arabic, dhimmis, a status that guaranteed free practice of religion, untrammeled pursuit of livelihood, protection for houses of worship and schools, and recognition of communal institutions--provided that able, adult males paid an annual head-tax, accepted the hegemony of Islam, remained loyal to the regime, and acknowledged the superiority of the Muslims.

There were deficits to being a dhimmi. The head-tax was often collected in a humiliating manner to symbolize the superiority of Islam, and it was burdensome for the poor. Special sartorial rules, originally intended to distinguish the majority non-Muslims from the minority of Muslim conquerors, could spell danger when exploited by hostile Muslims to identify and mistreat them. Protection, moreover, could be rescinded if dhimmis exceeded their humble position. This could happen, for instance, when a dhimmi rose to high office in Muslim government, violating the hierarchy that placed Muslims on top.

On the plus side, Islamic society was a pluralistic mosaic of different religions and ethnic groups and Jews were not the only marginal group. Moreover, as the smallest of the minority groups, Jews were rarely singled out for special attention. In Latin Europe, by contrast, Jews constituted the only non-conforming religion (heretics were considered bad Christians), and accordingly suffered more frequent and severe persecutions.

Jews enjoyed a vibrant cultural exchange with Islam. At its beginnings, Islam drew some of its inspiration from Judaism. Later on, Judaism was creatively enriched by contact with Islam, notably in the fields of law, medicine, science, poetry, and philosophy. Jewish intellectuals, of whom the illustrious Maimonides is but one example out of many, imbibed Arabic and Islamic cultural values and exchanged knowledge with Muslims in friendly, interdenominational settings.

Where we have evidence of everyday life in the middle ages, most famously, the first-hand documents discovered in a medieval synagogue in Old Cairo known as the Cairo Geniza, we are able to observe the Jewish population-at-large going about their daily lives, just as deeply embedded in Arab society as the great intellectuals. Apart from the dhimmi tax, they suffered little of the discrimination prescribed by Islamic legal theory. They bore Arabic honorific names (forbidden in Islamic law) dressed any way they liked with impunity. In violation of Islamic prohibition they read the Qur'an (in Hebrew transcription). They owned and enjoyed reading other books from the Arabic literary bookshelf (we have inventories of the books Jews owned). They maintained synagogues that were obviously constructed after the rise of Islam (in contravention of Islamic law). And, with rare exception, their communal institutions functioned without unwanted government interference.

Jews often had recourse to Muslim religious courts to register contracts and litigate business disputes, and even for matters of personal and family status. They received fair treatment before Muslim judges, who honored their testimony under oath (though Islamic legal theory disallowed it). Jews' confidence in the Muslim judicial system continued down to modern times.
Jewish merchants operated freely in the Islamic marketplace, traveling between places as far from each other as Spain and India, enduring no greater risk or danger than the average Muslim trader. They formed bonds of trust and friendship with Muslim colleagues and even established business partnerships with Muslims, circumventing restrictions on mixed partnerships inscribed in Islamic law.

The infamous massacres and forced conversions in North Africa and Spain in the mid-twelfth century by the Muslim Berber dynasty of the Almohads, regularly cited by counter-mythologists as an example of Muslim anti-Semitism, were directed not at Jews, but at dhimmis as a group--including Christians--and even nonconforming Muslims.

Anti-Semitism, understood properly as an irrational belief in the inferiority and even nefariousness of Jews, arose in medieval Europe in the twelfth century in the form of the myth of the diabolical, all-powerful Jew who murders Christian children to reenact the crucifixion and uses the victim's blood for ritual or medicinal purposes. This myth was embellished with racist hatred in modern times (when it first came to be called "anti-Semitism").

Such irrational, anti-Semitic beliefs are not found in classical Islam. They were imported into the Middle East in the nineteenth century on the heels of European colonialism. An early example is the famous blood libel in Damascus in 1840, regularly, though wrongly, cited as proof of homegrown Muslim-Arab anti-Semitism.

Anti-Semitism increased in the Muslim world as Arab nationalism (itself imported from the West) came into conflict with Jewish nationalism. Today, it uses Islamic sources, from the Quran and the hadith, but this is only an "Islamized" version of its western, Christian model, giving the erroneous impression that it is rooted in classical Islam. This, in turn, helps fuel the historical counter-myth of Islam as an intolerant, violent, anti-Jewish religion.

The great French sociologist Maurice Halbwachs wrote that collective memory is fashioned by the social frameworks of human experience. Changing social frameworks, especially the intensification of Arab-Israeli animosity, have caused many Jews to reject the more favorable interpretation of Jewish-Muslim relations and caused many Jews from Arab lands to replace memories of friendships with Muslims with a selective, bitter memory of enmity, exclusion, and persecution. In many ways this is a transplanted version of the bitter memory of Christian Jew-hatred and of the Holocaust that haunts Israelis and diaspora Jews when faced with the prospect of having to trust Muslims. Muslims need to be aware of this anti-Semitism in an Islamic mode is, simply stated, politically unproductive.

An awareness by both Muslims and Jews that they were not born to hate one another, and that there once was a time when Jews and Muslims actually coexisted in a creative and mutually enriching manner, might promote confidence on both sides of the seemingly unbridgeable gulf.

Mark R. Cohen is an emeritus professor of Jewish history in the Islamic world at Princeton University and contributing editor of A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations.

Don’t forget the Jewish refugees from Arab and Muslim lands

(December 2, 2019 / JNS) In international conflicts, history is more of a weapon than a field of study. That’s why the history of Palestinian Arab refugees is so well-known. Far less understood is the story of Jewish refugees from Arab lands, who were at least comparable to, if not greater in number, than the Palestinians. Though Israel has tried to promote an annual commemoration of their history on Nov. 30, the day passed without much fanfare or notice around the world, and certainly garnered far less attention than the ongoing narrative of the plight of the Palestinians.

That the Palestinians get more notice is in one sense understandable. These refugees were never resettled but kept stagnant in camps for the last 70 years in order to be used as props in the Arab and Muslim worlds’ war to destroy Israel. Their descendants are still there—now built-up slums rather than camps—still claiming refugee status decades later and with a United Nations agency (UNRWA) dedicated to perpetuating their plight rather than helping them. By contrast, the Jewish refugees were absorbed into Israel and in Western countries, where they have settled, found communities and become a major force in Israeli life and culture.

Jewish refugees are no longer objects of sympathy, but their history remains important. It not only puts what happened to the Palestinians into a historical context, but a full understanding of how vital they and their descendants are in Israeli society gives the lie to the claims that Israeli is a colonial European state that all non-whites should oppose.

Unable to compromise with the Jewish community of British Mandate Palestine after the United Nations voted to partition the country, the Arab inhabitants launched a bitter war to prevent the establishment of a Jewish state. It was a war that they could not win on their own or even with the help of the five surrounding Arab states that invaded the new Jewish state on the day of its birth.

The result of their disastrous decisions was what they have aptly termed a nakba—a “catastrophe” or “disaster.” Approximately 750,000 Arabs fled the country. While some were forced out of their homes by Israel as a result of bitter fighting, most did so voluntarily under the mistaken belief that conquering Arab forces would soon allow them to return.

Yet at the same time, Jews living in the Arab world were already finding that their already precarious status as dhimmi—or second-class citizens who were tolerated, though never granted equal rights—was also undergoing a change. Within a few years, Jewish communities that had been in existence since the first millennium or earlier were largely destroyed as riots and heightened official discrimination drove hundreds of thousands from their homes.

The totals were staggering as the Mizrahi Jewish world was forced to flee. Some 259,000 Jews left Morocco. Approximately 140,000 left Algeria and another 100,000 from neighboring Tunisia. More than 120,000 Jews fled Iraq. Elsewhere in North Africa, 38,000 fled Libya and 75,000 from Egypt. Some 135,000 fled Iraq, 55,000 were airlifted from Yemen, while 20,000 moved out of Lebanon and 18,000 from Syria.

The circumstances in each country varied, but the pattern was familiar. The birth of Israel, which was seen as a humiliation by Muslims who believed that none but members of their faith could govern anywhere in the region, gave an excuse to those who wished to target Jews. Nevertheless, the notion that Jewish life in the Arab world was a golden age disrupted only by Zionism is a myth.

At various points in history, the plight of Jews in the Muslim world was less awful than that faced by their co-religionists in Christian Europe. Still, to depict it as anything but one in which Jews existed at the sufferance of Muslims is fallacious. These communities had deep roots and enjoyed periods of prosperity, but Jews were rarely, if ever, fully accepted as equals. To the contrary, every period of peaceful coexistence was always punctuated with new outbursts of hatred and intolerance.

What happened in the 20th century was not a complete break with history as Arab nationalists used Jews and Zionism as scapegoats for the failings of the Muslim world. Those who spread hate against Jews found it easy to do so because such discrimination was deeply embedded in the culture of the Arab and Muslim worlds.

While we should mourn the destruction of these communities, the emigration of so many of their members to Israel enabled their culture and learning to flourish anew in a country where they were truly at home. And even though these immigrants suffered from discrimination at the hands of Ashkenazi elites, today their descendants constitute a majority of the Israeli Jewish population.

That’s why, in addition to the fact that Israel is a democracy where equal rights are guaranteed under law, the notion that it is an apartheid state is a big lie. The Jews from the Arab and Muslim worlds, as well as those who came out of Ethiopia, are “people of color” as defined by those who see the world exclusively through a racial lens. Those who buy into intersectional ideology that sees the Palestinian war on Israel as akin to the struggle for civil rights in the United States are dead wrong.

We should learn the stories of these communities not just because doing so puts the suffering of the Palestinians into context, or because it also demonstrates the wrongs committed by Arabs and Muslims in the course of their war on Israel. Their heritage, which is integral to the culture of the Jewish state whose life they have enriched, is deserving of study and honor. Learning the history of these refugees is also a necessary response to those who accept the Palestinian nakba narrative. Once you recognize that the Palestinians weren’t the only refugees in the Middle East, the arguments of those who claim that their plight means that Israel has no right to exist are exposed as transparent falsehoods.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS—Jewish News Syndicate. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.

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The deep reason Muslim world hates Zionism

Cultural and political demands advanced by Berbers, Kurds and Chechens have been frustrated. Muslim claims over Mindanao and Southern Thailand have been crushed. Yet Islamic solidarity and support for the Palestinian cause dwarfs the solidarity and support provided to urgent Muslim causes elsewhere.

During the 20th century, millions of Muslims were murdered and exiled from the Balkans, the Caucasus and India. More recently, hundreds of thousands of Muslims have been persecuted and exiled from Myanmar. Muslim hatred of the nations behind these atrocities is regional. The odium stirred by smaller Zionist abuses is pan-Islamic.

Many Islamic scholars regard non-Muslim control of Muslim lands to be unjust and offensive. Yet religious sensitivity to occupation is selective: Chinese subjugation of Muslim Xinjiang, the Indian takeover of Kashmir and Russian dominance in the Caucasus are largely ignored. Jewish control of Palestine fuels religious fundamentalism and terrorism throughout the world. The claim that Jewish control over Jerusalem—the third holiest city of Islam—lies at the origin of these emotions is incorrect: Zionism was vilified long before Israel controlled any Muslim holy sites in Palestine.

Some analysts claim that aversion to Zionism reflects the strength of Islamic anti-Semitism. This theory is weak. It does not explain how Jews lived in relative peace and prosperity in Muslim lands for many centuries. If Muslims had hated Jews throughout history, it would be hard to fathom why Jews in India, for instance, built their synagogues in the heart of Muslim neighborhoods and why most Spanish Jews sought refuge in Muslim lands after 1492.

Contemporary anti-Zionism in the Muslim world reflects fears that recognition of Zionism discredits Islam. Zionism cites memories of exile to claim Jewish rights to self-determination in the Land of Israel. Jewish descent from the exiled Israelites and continuity between Israelite and Jewish religious traditions undergird this narrative.

According to Islamic tradition, the biblical Abraham, Moses, David and Solomon were Muslim prophets. The Israelites were also originally Muslim. The corollary is Islamic supersession, namely the belief that Muslims—and not Jews—are the legitimate heirs to the Israelite faith and homeland. Muslim denial that a Jewish temple existed in Jerusalem reflects Islamic beliefs that the Muslim king and prophet Suleyman built a mosque on the Temple Mount. Islamic supersession is based on the Islamic doctrine of tahrif, which teaches that Jewish and Christian scriptures distort the Islamic message delivered by the prophets of antiquity.

As fanciful as tahrif and Islamic supersession may appear to non-Muslims, these teachings are fundamental in justifying the doctrinal superiority of Islam. These teachings also shed light on the fundamental reason most Muslim states refuse to recognize Jewish ties to Jerusalem and to accept Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.

Recognizing Israel as the Jewish homeland involves accepting the Zionist narrative. For Muslims, this means engaging with Jewish history and Jewish scriptures on historical terms—not Islamic terms. Doing so leads to recognition that Judaism predates Islam and that Islam appropriated prophetic traditions from Judaism.

For Israel, making peace with Muslim nations is a diplomatic achievement. For Muslim nations, accepting Zionism concedes the precedence of Judaism over Islam. Understanding the theological implications of Zionism for Islam is crucial to realizing why peace eludes Israel. Without these theological implications, Israel would probably be tolerated as a minor nuisance. Due to these theological implications, the Muslim world tends to attribute demonic ambitions to Zionism.

The psychological impact of Zionism is hard to overestimate. Throughout Islamic history, the fact that Jews were docile dhimmis subject to Muslim rule demonstrated the truth of supersession. Zionism subverted traditional religious hierarchies in the Middle East. By doing so, it also subverted the credibility of Islamic superiority over Judaism. The insecurity and anxiety created by this situation hardens political postures.

Despite the advantages of a peace agreement with Israel and the heavy costs of continued conflict, a survey conducted by Bernard Sabella of Bethlehem University during the Oslo peace process revealed 81 percent of Muslim Palestinians wanted Palestinian control over all of Jerusalem, including its Jewish neighborhoods. Only 33 percent of Christian Palestinians endorsed this view. These figures—even though they are not recent—suggest that Palestinian intransigence in the conflict is not motivated by a collective historical trauma or by nationalism.

Were the demands of Palestinian negotiators driven by national pride and memories of the tragic Nakba, Christian Palestinians who are proudly patriotic and who also experienced the Nakba would be as intransigent as their Muslim neighbors. These survey results suggest that the refusal of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland mirrors the religious anti-Zionism of a predominantly Muslim population.

It is true that Egypt and Jordan, which are predominantly Muslim countries, have signed peace agreements with Israel. Neither Egypt nor Jordan, however, ever agreed to recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland. It is probable that had Israel demanded this recognition, both Egypt and Jordan would have refused to sign peace agreements with Israel. And despite these peace agreements, both Egypt and Jordan continue to boycott Israel and imbue schoolchildren with hostility towards Israel.

Ending the Israeli-Arab conflict requires Islamic recognition of the historical and spiritual significance of Israel for the Jewish people. This recognition will only be forthcoming when Muslim public opinion is exposed to pre-Islamic history, archaeology and scriptures. Islamic engagement with Jewish religious texts is fundamental for Jewish human rights to be respected in the Middle East. As long as the religious legitimacy of Judaism is denied, the vast majority of Muslims will reject genuine peace and reconciliation with Israel.

Rafael Castro ( [email protected] ) is an independent political analyst based in Berlin.

The author would like to thank Fred Maroun for his valuable contribution to this piece.


Slavery was widely practiced in pre-Islamic Arabia, [ need quotation to verify ] as well as in the rest of the ancient and early medieval world. The minority were European and Caucasus slaves of foreign extraction, likely brought in by Arab caravaners (or the product of Bedouin captures) stretching back to biblical times. Native Arab slaves had also existed, a prime example being Zayd ibn Harithah, later to become Muhammad's adopted son. Arab slaves, however, usually obtained as captives, were generally ransomed off amongst nomad tribes. [17] The slave population increased by the custom of child abandonment (see also infanticide), and by the kidnapping, or, occasionally, the sale of small children. [22] Whether enslavement for debt or the sale of children by their families was common is disputed. (historian Henri Brunschvig argues it was rare, [17] but according to Jonathan E. Brockopp, debt slavery was persistent. [23] ) Free persons could sell their offspring, or even themselves, into slavery. Enslavement was also possible as a consequence of committing certain offenses against the law, as in the Roman Empire. [22]

Two classes of slave existed: a purchased slave, and a slave born in the master's home. Over the latter, the master had complete rights of ownership, though these slaves were unlikely to be sold or disposed of by the master. Female slaves were at times forced into prostitution for the benefit of their masters, in accordance with Near Eastern customs. [17] [24] [25]

Early Islamic history Edit

W. Montgomery Watt points out that Muhammad's expansion of Pax Islamica to the Arabian peninsula reduced warfare and raiding, and therefore cut off the basis for enslaving freemen. [26] According to Patrick Manning, Islamic legislations against abuse of slaves limited the extent of enslavement in the Arabian peninsula and, to a lesser degree, for the area of the entire Umayyad Caliphate, where slavery had existed since the most ancient times. [27]

According to Bernard Lewis, the growth of internal slave populations through natural increase was insufficient to maintain slave numbers through to modern times, which contrasts markedly with rapidly rising slave populations in the New World. He writes that

  1. Liberation by freemen of their own offspring born by slave mothers was "the primary drain".
  2. Liberation of slaves as an act of piety, was a contributing factor. Other factors include: : A fair proportion of male slaves were imported as eunuchs. Levy states that according to the Quran and Islamic traditions, such emasculation was objectionable. Some jurists such as [al-Baydawi considered castration to be mutilation, stipulating laws to prevent it. However, in practice, emasculation was frequent. [28] In eighteenth-century Mecca, the majority of eunuchs were in the service of the mosques. [29] Moreover, the process of castration (which included penectomy) carried a high risk of death. [citation needed]
  3. Liberation of military slaves: Military slaves that rose through the ranks were usually liberated at some stage in their careers.
  4. Restrictions on procreation: Among the menial, domestic, and manual worker slaves, casual sex was not permitted and marriage was not encouraged.
  5. High death toll: There was a high death toll among all classes of slaves. Slaves usually came from remote places and, lacking immunities, died in large numbers. Segal notes that the recently enslaved, weakened by their initial captivity and debilitating journey, would have been easy victims of an unfamiliar climate and infection. [30] Children were especially at risk, and the Islamic market demand for children was much greater than the American one. Many black slaves lived in conditions conducive to malnutrition and disease, with effects on their own life expectancy, the fertility of women, and the infant mortality rate. [30] As late as the 19th century, Western travellers in North Africa and Egypt noted the high death rate among imported black slaves. [31]
  6. Another factor was the Zanj Rebellion against the plantation economy of ninth-century southern Iraq. Due to fears of a similar uprising among slave gangs occurring elsewhere, Muslims came to realize that large concentrations of slaves were not a suitable organization of labour and that slaves were best employed in smaller concentrations. [32] As such, large-scale employment of slaves for manual labour became the exception rather than the norm, and the medieval Islamic world did not need to import vast numbers of slaves. [33]

Arab slave trade Edit

Bernard Lewis writes: "In one of the sad paradoxes of human history, it was the humanitarian reforms brought by Islam that resulted in a vast development of the slave trade inside, and still more outside, the Islamic empire." He notes that the Islamic injunctions against the enslavement of Muslims led to massive importation of slaves from the outside. [34] According to Patrick Manning, Islam by recognizing and codifying the slavery seems to have done more to protect and expand slavery than the reverse. [27]

The 'Arab' slave trade is sometimes called the 'Islamic' slave trade. Bernard Lewis writes that "polytheists and idolaters were seen primarily as sources of slaves, to be imported into the Islamic world and molded-in Islamic ways, and, since they possessed no religion of their own worth the mention, as natural recruits for Islam." [35] Patrick Manning states that religion was hardly the point of this slavery. [36] Also, this term suggests comparison between Islamic slave trade and Christian slave trade. Propagators of Islam in Africa often revealed a cautious attitude towards proselytizing because of its effect in reducing the potential reservoir of slaves. [37]

According to Ronald Segal, the male:female gender ratio in the Atlantic slave trade was 2:1, whereas in Islamic lands the ratio was 1:2. Another difference between the two was, he argues, was that slavery in the west had a racial component, whereas the Qur'an explicitly condemned racism. This, in Segal's view, eased assimilation of freed slaves into society. [38]

In the 8th century, Africa was dominated by Arab-Berbers in the north: Islam moved southwards along the Nile and along the desert trails. One supply of slaves was the Solomonic dynasty of Ethiopia which often exported Nilotic slaves from their western borderland provinces, or from newly conquered or reconquered Muslim provinces. Native Muslim Ethiopian sultanates exported slaves as well, such as the sometimes independent sultanate of Adal. [39]

For a long time, until the early 18th century, the Crimean Khanate maintained a massive slave trade with the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East. Between 1530 and 1780 there were almost certainly 1 million and quite possibly as many as 1.25 million white, European Christians enslaved by the Muslims of the Barbary Coast of North Africa. [40]

On the coast of the Indian Ocean too, slave-trading posts were set up by Muslim Arabs. [41] The archipelago of Zanzibar, along the coast of present-day Tanzania, is undoubtedly the most notorious example of these trading colonies. Southeast Africa and the Indian Ocean continued as an important region for the Oriental slave trade up until the 19th century. [17] Livingstone and Stanley were then the first Europeans to penetrate to the interior of the Congo basin and to discover the scale of slavery there. [41] The Arab Tippu Tib extended his influence and made many people slaves. [41] After Europeans had settled in the Gulf of Guinea, the trans-Saharan slave trade became less important. In Zanzibar, slavery was abolished late, in 1897, under Sultan Hamoud bin Mohammed. [42] The rest of Africa had no direct contact with Muslim slave-traders.

Roles Edit

While slaves were sometimes employed for manual labour during the Arab slave trade, this was usually the exception rather than the norm. The vast majority of labour in the medieval Islamic world consisted of free, paid labour. The only known exceptions to this general rule was in the plantation economy of 9th-century southern Iraq (which led to the Zanj Revolt), in 9th-century Ifriqiya (modern-day Tunisia), and in 11th-century Bahrain (during the Karmatian state). [33]

Roles of slaves Edit

A system of plantation labor, much like that which would emerge in the Americas, developed early on, but with such dire consequences that subsequent engagements were relatively rare and reduced. Moreover, the need for agricultural labor, in an Islamic world with large peasant populations, was nowhere near as acute as in the Americas. [2] Slaves in Islam were mainly directed at the service sector – concubines and cooks, porters and soldiers – with slavery itself primarily a form of consumption rather than a factor of production. [2] The most telling evidence for this is found in the gender ratio among black slaves traded in Islamic empire across the centuries, there were roughly two females to every male. [2] Almost all of these female slaves had domestic occupations. For some, this also included sexual relations with their masters. This was a lawful motive for their purchase, and the most common one. [43]

Military service was also a common role for slaves. Barbarians from the "martial races" beyond the frontiers were widely recruited into the imperial armies. These recruits often advanced in the imperial and eventually metropolitan forces, sometimes obtaining high ranks. [44]

Arab views on African peoples Edit

Abdelmajid Hannoum, a professor at Wesleyan University, states that racist attitudes were not prevalent until the 18th and 19th century. [45] According to Arnold J. Toynbee: "The extinction of race consciousness as between Muslims is one of the outstanding achievements of Islam and in the contemporary world there is, as it happens, a crying need for the propagation of this Islamic virtue." [46]

In 2010, at the Second Afro-Arab summit Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi apologized for Arab involvement in the African slave trade, saying: "I regret the behavior of the Arabs. They brought African children to North Africa, they made them slaves, they sold them like animals, and they took them as slaves and traded them in a shameful way. I regret and I am ashamed when we remember these practices. I apologize for this." [47]

In Classical Arabic terminology, female slaves were generally called jawāri (Arabic: جَوار ‎, s. jāriya Arabic: جارِية ‎). Slave-girls specifically might be called imā’ (Arabic: اِماء ‎, s. ama Arabic: اَمة ‎), while female slaves who had been trained as entertainers or courtesans were usually called qiyān (Arabic: قِيان ‎, IPA /qi'jaːn/ singular qayna, Arabic: قَينة ‎, IPA /'qaina/). [48] They included sometimes highly trained entertainers known as qiyan who enjoyed special privileges and status.

Choosing slaves to undergo the grooming process was highly selective in the Moroccan empire. There are many attributes and skills slaves can possess to win the favour and trust of their masters. When examining master/slave relationships we are able to understand that slaves with white skin were especially valued in Islamic societies. Mode of acquisition, as well as age when acquired heavily influenced slave value, as well as fostering trusting master-slave relationships. Many times, slaves acquired as adolescents or even young adults became trusted aides and confidants of their masters. Furthermore, acquiring a slave during adolescence typically leads to opportunities for education and training, as slaves acquired in their adolescent years were at an ideal age to begin military training. In Islamic societies, it was normal to begin this process at the age of ten, lasting until the age of fifteen, at which point these young men would be considered ready for military service. Slaves with specialised skills were highly valued in Islamic slave societies. Christian slaves were often required to speak and write in Arabic. Having slaves fluent in English and Arabic was a highly-valued tool for diplomatic affairs. Bi-lingual slaves like Thomas Pellow used their translating ability for important matters of diplomacy. Pellow himself worked as a translator for the ambassador in Morocco.

Rebellion Edit

In some cases, slaves would join domestic rebellions or even rise up against governors. The most renowned of these rebellions was the Zanj Rebellion.

The Zanj Revolt took place near the city of Basra, located in southern Iraq, over a period of fifteen years (869–883 AD). It grew to involve over 500,000 slaves imported from across the Muslim empire, and claimed over “tens of thousands of lives in lower Iraq”. [49] The revolt was said to have been led by Ali ibn Muhammad, who claimed to be a descendant of Caliph Ali ibn Abu Talib. [49] Several historians, such as Al-Tabari and Al-Masudi, consider this revolt one of the “most vicious and brutal uprising[s]” out of the many disturbances that plagued the Abbasid central government. [49]

Political power Edit

Mamluks were slave-soldiers who were converted to Islam, and served the Muslim caliphs and the Ayyubid sultans during the Middle Ages. Over time, they became a powerful military caste, often defeating the Crusaders and, on more than one occasion, they seized power for themselves, for example, ruling Egypt in the Mamluk Sultanate from 1250–1517.

Through the Middle Ages up until the early modern period, [50] a major source of slaves sent to Muslim lands was Central and Eastern Europe. Slaves of Northwestern Europe were also favored. The slaves captured were sent to Islamic lands like Spain and Egypt through France and Venice. Prague served as a major centre for castration of Slavic captives. [51] [52] The Emirate of Bari also served as an important port for trade of such slaves. [53] After the Byzantine Empire and Venice blocked Arab merchants from European ports, Arabs started importing slaves from the Caucasus and Caspian Sea regions. [54] Despite this, slaves taken in battle or from minor raids in continental Europe remained a steady resource in many regions. The Ottoman Empire used slaves from the Balkans and Eastern Europe. The Janissaries were primarily composed of enslaved Europeans. Slaving raids by Barbary Pirates on the coasts of Western Europe as far as Iceland remained a source of slaves until suppressed in the early 19th century. Common roles filled by European slaves ranged from laborers to concubines, and even soldiers.

In the Muslim conquests of the 8th century, the armies of the Umayyad commander Muhammad bin Qasim enslaved tens of thousands of Indian prisoners, including both soldiers and civilians. [55] [56] In the early 11th century Tarikh al-Yamini, the Arab historian Al-Utbi recorded that in 1001 the armies of Mahmud of Ghazna conquered Peshawar and Waihand (capital of Gandhara) after the Battle of Peshawar in 1001, "in the midst of the land of Hindustan", and captured some 100,000 youths. [57] [58] Later, following his twelfth expedition into India in 1018–19, Mahmud is reported to have returned with such a large number of slaves that their value was reduced to only two to ten dirhams each. This unusually low price made, according to Al-Utbi, "merchants [come] from distant cities to purchase them, so that the countries of Central Asia, Iraq and Khurasan were swelled with them, and the fair and the dark, the rich and the poor, mingled in one common slavery". Elliot and Dowson refer to "five hundred thousand slaves, beautiful men, and women.". [59] [60] [61] Later, during the Delhi Sultanate period (1206–1555), references to the abundant availability of low-priced Indian slaves abound. Levi attributes this primarily to the vast human resources of India, compared to its neighbors to the north and west (India's Mughal population being approximately 12 to 20 times that of Turan and Iran at the end of the 16th century). [62]

The Delhi sultanate obtained thousands of slaves and eunuch servants from the villages of Eastern Bengal (a widespread practice which Mughal emperor Jahangir later tried to stop). Wars, famines and pestilences drove many villagers to sell their children as slaves. The Muslim conquest of Gujarat in Western India had two main objectives. The conquerors demanded and more often forcibly wrested both land owned by Hindus as well as Hindu women. Enslavement of women invariably led to their conversion to Islam. [63] In battles waged by Muslims against Hindus in Malwa and the Deccan plateau, a large number of captives were taken. Muslim soldiers were permitted to retain and enslave prisoners of war as plunder. [64]

The first Bahmani sultan, Alauddin Bahman Shah is noted to have captured 1,000 singing and dancing girls from Hindu temples after he battled the northern Carnatic chieftains. The later Bahmanis also enslaved civilian women and children in wars many of them were converted to Islam in captivity. [65] [66] [67] [68] [69]

During the rule of Shah Jahan, many peasants were compelled to sell their women and children into slavery to meet the land revenue demand. [70]

Slavery was a legal and important part of the economy of the Ottoman Empire and Ottoman society [71] until the slavery of Caucasians was banned in the early 19th century, although slaves from other groups were still permitted. [72] In Constantinople (present-day Istanbul), the administrative and political center of the Empire, about a fifth of the population consisted of slaves in 1609. [73] Even after several measures to ban slavery in the late 19th century, the practice continued largely uninterrupted into the early 20th century. As late as 1908, female slaves were still sold in the Ottoman Empire. Sexual slavery was a central part of the Ottoman slave system throughout the history of the institution. [74] [75]

A member of the Ottoman slave class, called a kul in Turkish, could achieve high status. Black castrated slaves, were tasked to guard the imperial harems, while white castrated slaves filled administrative functions. Janissaries were the elite soldiers of the imperial armies, collected in childhood as a "blood tax", while galley slaves captured in slave raids or as prisoners of war, manned the imperial vessels. Slaves were often to be found at the forefront of Ottoman politics. The majority of officials in the Ottoman government were bought slaves, raised free, and integral to the success of the Ottoman Empire from the 14th century into the 19th. Many officials themselves owned a large number of slaves, although the Sultan himself owned by far the largest number. [76] By raising and specially training slaves as officials in palace schools such as Enderun, the Ottomans created administrators with intricate knowledge of government and a fanatic loyalty.

Ottomans practiced devşirme, a sort of "blood tax" or "child collection", young Christian boys from Eastern Europe and Anatolia were taken from their homes and families, brought up as Muslims, and enlisted into the most famous branch of the Kapıkulu, the Janissaries, a special soldier class of the Ottoman army that became a decisive faction in the Ottoman invasions of Europe. [77] Most of the military commanders of the Ottoman forces, imperial administrators, and de facto rulers of the Empire, such as Pargalı Ibrahim Pasha and Sokollu Mehmed Pasha, were recruited in this way. [78] [79]

In the East Indies, slavery was common until the end of the 19th century. The slave trade was centered on the Muslim Sultanates in the Sulu Sea: the Sultanate of Sulu, the Sultanate of Maguindanao, and the Confederation of Sultanates in Lanao (the modern Moro people). The economies of these sultanates relied heavily on the slave trade. [80]

It is estimated that from 1770 to 1870, around 200,000 to 300,000 people were enslaved by Iranun and Banguingui slavers. These were taken by piracy from passing ships as well as coastal raids on settlements as far as the Malacca Strait, Java, the southern coast of China and the islands beyond the Makassar Strait. Most of the slaves were Tagalogs, Visayans, and "Malays" (including Bugis, Mandarese, Iban, and Makassar). There were also occasional European and Chinese captives who were usually ransomed off through Tausug intermediaries of the Sulu Sultanate. [80]

The scale of this activity was so massive that the word for "pirate" in Malay became Lanun, an exonym of the Iranun people. Male captives of the Iranun and the Banguingui were treated brutally, even fellow Muslim captives were not spared. They were usually forced to serve as galley slaves on the lanong and garay warships of their captors. Female captives, however, were usually treated better. There were no recorded accounts of rapes, though some were starved as discipline. Within a year of capture, most of the captives of the Iranun and Banguingui would be bartered off in Jolo usually for rice, opium, bolts of cloth, iron bars, brassware, and weapons. The buyers were usually Tausug datu from the Sultanate of Sulu who had preferential treatment, but buyers also included European (Dutch and Portuguese) and Chinese traders as well as Visayan pirates (renegados). [80]

The economy of the Sulu sultanates was largely based on slaves and the slave trade. Slaves were the primary indicators of wealth and status, and they were the source of labor for the farms, fisheries, and workshops of the sultanates. While personal slaves were rarely sold, slave traders trafficked extensively in slaves purchased from the Iranun and Banguingui slave markets. By the 1850s, slaves constituted 50% or more of the population of the Sulu archipelago. [80]

Chattel slaves, known as banyaga, bisaya, ipun, or ammas were distinguished from the traditional debt bondsmen (the kiapangdilihan, known as alipin elsewhere in the Philippines). The bondsmen were natives enslaved to pay off debt or crime. They were slaves only in terms of their temporary service requirement to their master, but retained most of the rights of the freemen, including protection from physical harm and the fact that they could not be sold. The banyaga, on the other hand, had little to no rights. [80]

Most slaves were treated like serfs and servants. Educated and skilled slaves were largely treated well. Since most of the aristocratic classes in Sulu were illiterate, they were often dependent on the educated banyaga as scribes and interpreters. Slaves were often given their own houses and lived in small communities with slaves of similar ethnic and religious backgrounds. Harsh punishment and abuse were not uncommon, despite Islamic laws, especially for slave laborers and slaves who attempt to escape. [80]

Spanish authorities and native Christian Filipinos responded to the Moro slave raids by building watchtowers and forts across the Philippine archipelago, many of which are still standing today. Some provincial capitals were also moved further inland. Major command posts were built in Manila, Cavite, Cebu, Iloilo, Zamboanga, and Iligan. Defending ships were also built by local communities, especially in the Visayas Islands, including the construction of war "barangayanes" (balangay) that were faster than the Moro raiders' ships and could give chase. As resistance against raiders increased, Lanong warships of the Iranun were eventually replaced by the smaller and faster garay warships of the Banguingui in the early 19th century. The Moro raids were eventually subdued by several major naval expeditions by the Spanish and local forces from 1848 to 1891, including retaliatory bombardment and capture of Moro settlements. By this time, the Spanish had also acquired steam gunboats (vapor), which could easily overtake and destroy the native Moro warships. [81] [82] [83]

The slave raids on merchant ships and coastal settlements disrupted traditional trade in goods in the Sulu Sea. While this was temporarily offset by the economic prosperity brought by the slave trade, the decline of slavery in the mid-19th century also led to the economic decline of the Sultanates of Brunei, Sulu, and Maguindanao. This eventually led to the collapse of the latter two states and contributed to the widespread poverty of the Moro region in the Philippines today. By the 1850s, most slaves were local-born from slave parents as the raiding became more difficult. By the end of the 19th century and the conquest of the Sultanates by the Spanish and the Americans, the slave population was largely integrated into the native population as citizens under the Philippine government. [81] [80] [82]

The Sultanate of Gowa of the Bugis people also became involved in the Sulu slave trade. They purchased slaves (as well as opium and Bengali cloth) from the Sulu Sea sultanates, then re-sold the slaves in the slave markets in the rest of Southeast Asia. Several hundred slaves (mostly Christian Filipinos) were sold by the Bugis annually in Batavia, Malacca, Bantam, Cirebon, Banjarmasin, and Palembang by the Bugis. The slaves were usually sold to Dutch and Chinese families as servants, sailors, laborers, and concubines. The sale of Christian Filipinos (who were Spanish subjects) in Dutch-controlled cities led to formal protests by the Spanish Empire to the Netherlands and its prohibition in 1762 by the Dutch, but it had little effect due to lax or absent enforcement. The Bugis slave trade was only stopped in the 1860s, when the Spanish navy from Manila started patrolling Sulu waters to intercept Bugis slave ships and rescue Filipino captives. Also contributing to the decline was the hostility of the Sama-Bajau raiders in Tawi-Tawi who broke off their allegiance to the Sultanate of Sulu in the mid-1800s and started attacking ships trading with the Tausug ports. [80]

In Singapore as late as 1891, there was a regular trade in Chinese slaves by Muslim slaveowners, with girls and women sold for concubinage. [84]

The strong abolitionist movement in the 19th century in England and later in other Western countries influenced slavery in Muslim lands. Though the "position of the domestic slave in Muslim society was in most respects better than in either classical antiquity or the nineteenth-century Americas", due to regulation by Sharia law, [85] the enlightened incentives and opportunities for slaves to be emancipated meant there was a strong market for new slaves and thus strong incentive to enslave and sell human beings. [86] Appalling loss of life and hardships often resulted from the processes of acquisition and transportation of slaves to Muslim lands and this drew the attention of European opponents of slavery. The continuing pressure from European countries eventually overcame the strong resistance of religious conservatives who were holding that forbidding what God permits is just as great an offence as to permit what God forbids. Slavery, in their eyes, was "authorized and regulated by the holy law". [87] Even masters persuaded of their own piety and benevolence sexually exploited their concubines, without a thought of whether this constituted a violation of their humanity. [88] There were also many pious Muslims who refused to have slaves and persuaded others to do so. [89] Eventually, the Ottoman Empire's orders against the traffic of slaves were issued and put into effect. [85]

According to Brockopp, in the 19th century, "Some authorities made blanket pronouncements against slavery, arguing that it violated the Qurʾānic ideals of equality and freedom. The great slave markets of Cairo were closed down at the end of the nineteenth century and even conservative Qurʾān interpreters continue to regard slavery as opposed to Islamic principles of justice and equality." [23]

Slavery in the forms of carpet weavers, sugarcane cutters, camel jockeys, sex slaves, and even chattel exists even today in some Muslim countries (though some have questioned the use of the term slavery as an accurate description). [90] [91]

According to a March 1886 article in The New York Times, the Ottoman Empire allowed a slave trade in girls to thrive during the late 1800s, while publicly denying it. Girl sexual slaves sold in the Ottoman Empire were mainly of three ethnic groups: Circassian, Syrian, and Nubian. Circassian girls were described by the American journalist as fair and light-skinned. They were frequently sent by Circassian leaders as gifts to the Ottomans. They were the most expensive, reaching up to 500 Turkish lira and the most popular with the Turks. The next most popular slaves were Syrian girls, with "dark eyes and hair", and light brown skin. Their price could reach to thirty lira. They were described by the American journalist as having "good figures when young". Throughout coastal regions in Anatolia, Syrian girls were sold. The New York Times journalist stated Nubian girls were the cheapest and least popular, fetching up to 20 lira. [92]

Murray Gordon said that, unlike Western societies which developed anti-slavery movements, no such organizations developed in Muslim societies. In Muslim politics, the state interpreted Islamic law. This then extended legitimacy to the traffic in slaves. [93]

Writing about the Arabia he visited in 1862, the English traveler W. G. Palgrave met large numbers of black slaves. The effects of slave concubinage were apparent in the number of persons of mixed race and in the emancipation of slaves he found to be common. [94] Charles Doughty, writing about 25 years later, made similar reports. [95]

According to British explorer (and abolitionist) Samuel Baker, who visited Khartoum in 1862 six decades after the British had declared slave trade illegal, slave trade was the industry "that kept Khartoum going as a bustling town". [96] From Khartoum slave raiders attacked African villages to the south, looting and destroying so that "surviving inhabitants would be forced to collaborate with slavers on their next excursion against neighboring villages," and taking back captured women and young adults to sell in slave markets. [96]

In the 1800s, the slave trade from Africa to the Islamic countries picked up significantly when the European slave trade dropped around the 1850s only to be ended with European colonisation of Africa around 1900. [97] [ full citation needed ]

In 1814, Swiss explorer Johann Burckhardt wrote of his travels in Egypt and Nubia, where he saw the practice of slave trading: "I frequently witnessed scenes of the most shameless indecency, which the traders, who were the principal actors, only laughed at. I may venture to state, that very few female slaves who have passed their tenth year, reach Egypt or Arabia in a state of virginity." [98]

Richard Francis Burton wrote about the Medina slaves, during his 1853 Haj, "a little black boy, perfect in all his points, and tolerably intelligent, costs about a thousand piastres girls are dearer, and eunuchs fetch double that sum." In Zanzibar, Burton found slaves owning slaves. [99]

David Livingstone wrote of the slave trade in the African Great Lakes region, which he visited in the mid-nineteenth century:

To overdraw its evils is a simple impossibility .

19th June 1866 - We passed a woman tied by the neck to a tree and dead, the people of the country explained that she had been unable to keep up with the other slaves in a gang, and her master had determined that she should not become anyone's property if she recovered.
26th June. - . We passed a slave woman shot or stabbed through the body and lying on the path: a group of men stood about a hundred yards off on one side, and another of the women on the other side, looking on they said an Arab who passed early that morning had done it in anger at losing the price he had given for her, because she was unable to walk any longer.
27th June 1866 - To-day we came upon a man dead from starvation, as he was very thin. One of our men wandered and found many slaves with slave-sticks on, abandoned by their masters from want of food they were too weak to be able to speak or say where they had come from some were quite young. [100]

The strangest disease I have seen in this country seems really to be broken-heartedness, and it attacks free men who have been captured and made slaves. Twenty one were unchained, as now safe however all ran away at once but eight with many others still in chains, died in three days after the crossing. They described their only pain in the heart, and placed the hand correctly on the spot, though many think the organ stands high up in the breast-bone. [103]

Zanzibar was once East Africa's main slave-trading port, and under Omani Arabs in the 19th century as many as 50,000 slaves were passing through the city each year. [104] Livingstone wrote in a letter to the editor of the New York Herald:

And if my disclosures regarding the terrible Ujijian slavery should lead to the suppression of the East Coast slave trade, I shall regard that as a greater matter by far than the discovery of all the Nile sources together. [105]

20th-century suppression and prohibition Edit

At Istanbul, the sale of black and Circassian women was conducted openly until the granting of the Constitution in 1908. [106]

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, slavery gradually became outlawed and suppressed in Muslim lands, due to a combination of pressure exerted by Western nations such as Britain and France, internal pressure from Islamic abolitionist movements, and economic pressures. [17]

By the Treaty of Jeddah, May 1927 (art.7), concluded between the British Government and Ibn Sa'ud (King of Nejd and the Hijaz) it was agreed to suppress the slave trade in Saudi Arabia. Then by a decree issued in 1936, the importation of slaves into Saudi Arabia was prohibited unless it could be proved that they were slaves at the treaty date. [107]

In 1953, sheikhs from Qatar attending the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom included slaves in their retinues, and they did so again on another visit five years later. [108]

In 1962, all slavery practices or trafficking in Saudi Arabia was prohibited.

By 1969, it could be observed that most Muslim states had abolished slavery, although it existed in the deserts of Iraq bordering Arabia and it still flourished in Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman. [109] Slavery was not formally abolished in Yemen and Oman until the following year. [110] The last nation to formally enact the abolition of slavery practice and slave trafficking was the Islamic Republic of Mauritania in 1981. [111]

During the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005) people were taken into slavery estimates of abductions range from 14,000 to 200,000. [112]

Slavery in Mauritania was legally abolished by laws passed in 1905, 1961, and 1981. [113] It was finally criminalized in August 2007. [114] It is estimated that up to 600,000 Mauritanians, or 20% of Mauritania's population, are currently [ when? ] in conditions which some consider to be "slavery", namely, many of them used as bonded labour due to poverty. [115]

The issue of slavery in the Islamic world in modern times is controversial. Critics argue there is hard evidence of its existence and destructive effects. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Islam, slavery in central Islamic lands has been "virtually extinct" since the mid-20th century, though there are reports indicating that it is still practiced in some areas of Sudan and Somalia as a result of warfare. [116]

Islamist opinions Edit

Earlier in the 20th century, prior to the "reopening" of slavery by Salafi scholars like Shaykh al-Fawzan, Islamist authors declared slavery outdated without actually clearly supporting its abolition. This has caused at least one scholar, William Clarence-Smith, [117] to bemoan the "dogged refusal of Mawlana Mawdudi to give up on slavery" [118] and the notable "evasions and silences of Muhammad Qutb". [119] [120]

Muhammad Qutb, brother and promoter of the Egyptian author and revolutionay Sayyid Qutb, vigorously defended Islamic slavery from Western criticism, telling his audience that "Islam gave spiritual enfranchisement to slaves" and "in the early period of Islam the slave was exalted to such a noble state of humanity as was never before witnessed in any other part of the world." [121] He contrasted the adultery, prostitution, [122] and (what he called) "that most odious form of animalism" casual sex, found in Europe, [123] with (what he called) "that clean and spiritual bond that ties a maid [i.e. slave girl] to her master in Islam." [122]

Salafi support for slavery Edit

In recent years, according to some scholars, [124] there has been a "reopening" [125] of the issue of slavery by some conservative Salafi Islamic scholars after its "closing" earlier in the 20th century when Muslim countries banned slavery.

In 2003, Shaykh Saleh Al-Fawzan, a member of Saudi Arabia's highest religious body, the Senior Council of Clerics, issued a fatwa claiming "Slavery is a part of Islam. Slavery is part of jihad, and jihad will remain as long there is Islam." [126] Muslim scholars who said otherwise were "infidels". In 2016, Shaykh al-Fawzan responded to a question about taking Yazidi women as sex slaves by reiterating that "Enslaving women in war is not prohibited in Islam", he added that those who forbid enslavement are either "ignorant or infidel". [127]

While Saleh Al-Fawzan's fatwa does not repeal Saudi laws against slavery, [ citation needed ] the fatwa carries weight among many Salafi Muslims. According to reformist jurist and author Khaled Abou El Fadl, it "is particularly disturbing and dangerous because it effectively legitimates the trafficking in and sexual exploitation of so-called domestic workers in the Gulf region and especially Saudi Arabia." [128] "Organized criminal gangs smuggle children into Saudi Arabia where they are enslaved, sometimes mutilated, and forced to work as beggars. When caught, the children are deported as illegal aliens." [129]

Mauritania and Sudan Edit

In Mauritania slavery was abolished in the country's first constitution of 1961 after independence, and abolished yet again, by presidential decree, in July 1980. The "catch" of these abolitions was that slave ownership was not abolished. The edict "recognized the rights of owners by stipulating that they should be compensated for their loss of property". No financial payment was provided by the state, so that the abolition amounted to "little more than propaganda for foreign consumption". Religious authorities within Mauritania assailed abolition. One leader, El Hassan Ould Benyamine, imam of a mosque in Tayarat attacked it as

"not only illegal because it is contrary to the teachings of the fundamental text of Islamic law, the Koran. The abolition also amounts to the expropriation from Muslims of their goods, goods that were acquired legally. The state, if it is Islamic, does not have the right to seize my house, my wife or my slave.` [20] [130]

In 1994–95, a Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights documented the physical and emotional abuse of captives by the Sudanese Army and allied militia and army. The captives were "sold as slaves or forced to work under conditions amounting to slavery". The Sudanese government responded with "fury", accusing the author, Gaspar Biro of "harboring anti-Islam and Anti-Arab sentiments". In 1999, the UN Commission sent another Special Rapporteur who "also produced a detailed examination of the question of slavery incriminating the government of Sudan." [131] At least in the 1980s, slavery in Sudan was developed enough for slaves to have a market price – the price of a slave boy fluctuating between $90 and $10 in 1987 and 1988. [132]

Saudi Arabia Edit

In 1962, [133] Saudi Arabia abolished slavery officially however, unofficial slavery is rumored to exist. [134] [135] [136]

According to the U.S. State Department as of 2005:

Saudi Arabia is a destination for men and women from South and East Asia and East Africa trafficked for the purpose of labor exploitation, and for children from Yemen, Afghanistan, and Africa trafficking for forced begging. Hundreds of thousands of low-skilled workers from India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Kenya migrate voluntarily to Saudi Arabia some fall into conditions of involuntary servitude, suffering from physical and sexual abuse, non-payment or delayed payment of wages, the withholding of travel documents, restrictions on their freedom of movement and non-consensual contract alterations. The Government of Saudi Arabia does not comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. [137]

Libya and Algeria Edit

Libya is a major exit point for African migrants heading to Europe. International Organization for Migration (IOM) published a report in April 2017 showing that many of the migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa heading to Europe are sold as slaves after being detained by people smugglers or militia groups. African countries south of Libya were targeted for slave trading and transferred to Libyan slave markets instead. According to the victims, the price is higher for migrants with skills like painting and tiling. [138] [139] Slaves are often ransomed to their families and in the meantime until ransom can be paid tortured, forced to work, sometimes to death and eventually executed or left to starve if they can't pay for too long. Women are often raped and used as sex slaves and sold to brothels and private Libyan clients. [138] [139] [140] [141] Many child migrants also suffer from abuse and child rape in Libya. [142] [143]

In November 2017, hundreds of African migrants were being forced into slavery by human smugglers who were themselves facilitating their arrival in the country. Most of the migrants are from Nigeria, Senegal and Gambia. They however end up in cramped warehouses due to the crackdown by the Libyan Coast Guard, where they are held until they are ransomed or are sold for labor. [144] Libyan authorities of the Government of National Accord announced that they had opened up an investigation into the auctions. [145] A human trafficker told Al-Jazeera that hundreds of the migrants are bought and sold across the country every week. [146] Dozens of African migrants headed for a new life in Europe in 2018 said they were sold for labor and trapped in slavery in Algeria. [147]

Jihadists Edit

In 2014, Islamic terrorist groups in the Middle East (ISIS also known as Islamic State) and Northern Nigeria (Boko Haram) have not only justified the taking of slaves in war but actually enslaved women and girls. Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Nigerian extremist group Boko Haram said in an interview, "I shall capture people and make them slaves". [148] In the digital magazine Dabiq, ISIS claimed religious justification for enslaving Yazidi women whom they consider to be from a heretical sect. ISIS claimed that the Yazidi are idol worshipers and their enslavement part of the old shariah practice of spoils of war. [149] [150] [151] [152] [153] The Economist reports that ISIS has taken "as many as 2,000 women and children" captive, selling and distributing them as sexual slaves. [154] ISIS appealed to apocalyptic beliefs and "claimed justification by a Hadith that they interpret as portraying the revival of slavery as a precursor to the end of the world." [155]

In response to Boko Haram's Quranic justification for kidnapping and enslaving people and ISIS's religious justification for enslaving Yazidi women, 126 Islamic scholars from around the Muslim world signed an open letter in late September 2014 to the Islamic State's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, rejecting his group's interpretations of the Qur'an and hadith to justify its actions. [156] [157] The letter accuses the group of instigating fitna – sedition – by instituting slavery under its rule in contravention of the anti-slavery consensus of the Islamic scholarly community. [158]

"Supply" zones Edit

There is historical evidence of North African Muslim slave raids all along the Mediterranean coasts across Christian Europe. [159] The majority of slaves traded across the Mediterranean region were predominantly of European origin from the 7th to 15th centuries. [160]

Slaves were also brought into the Arab world via Central Asia, mainly of Turkic or Tartar origin. Many of these slaves later went on to serve in the armies forming an elite rank.

    and Ethiopia were also "exporting" regions: in the 15th century, Ethiopians sold slaves from western borderland areas (usually just outside the realm of the Emperor of Ethiopia) or Ennarea, [161] which often ended up in India, where they worked on ships or as soldiers. They eventually rebelled and took power in the dynasty of the Habshi kings.
  • The Sudan region and Saharan Africa formed another "export" area, but it is impossible to estimate the scale, since there is a lack of sources with figures.
  • Finally, the slave traffic affected eastern Africa, but the distance and local hostility slowed this section of the Oriental trade.

Barter Edit

Slaves were often bartered for objects of various kinds: in the Sudan, they were exchanged for cloth, trinkets and so on. In the Maghreb, slaves were swapped for horses. In the desert cities, lengths of cloth, pottery, Venetian glass slave beads, dyestuffs and jewels were used as payment. The trade in black slaves was part of a diverse commercial network. Alongside gold coins, cowrie shells from the Indian Ocean or the Atlantic (Canaries, Luanda) were used as money throughout sub-saharan Africa (merchandise was paid for with sacks of cowries). [162]

Slave markets and fairs Edit

Enslaved Africans were sold in the towns of the Arab World. In 1416, al-Maqrizi told how pilgrims coming from Takrur (near the Senegal River) brought 1,700 slaves with them to Mecca. In North Africa, the main slave markets were in Morocco, Algiers, Tripoli and Cairo. Sales were held in public places or in souks.

Potential buyers made a careful examination of the "merchandise": they checked the state of health of a person who was often standing naked with wrists bound together. In Cairo, transactions involving eunuchs and concubines happened in private houses. Prices varied according to the slave's quality. Thomas Smee, the commander of the British research ship Ternate, visited such a market in Zanzibar in 1811 and gave a detailed description:

'The show' commences about four o'clock in the afternoon. The slaves, set off to the best advantage by having their skins cleaned and burnished with cocoa-nut oil, their faces painted with red and white stripes and the hands, noses, ears and feet ornamented with a profusion of bracelets of gold and silver and jewels, are ranged in a line, commencing with the youngest, and increasing to the rear according to their size and age. At the head of this file, which is composed of all sexes and ages from 6 to 60, walks the person who owns them behind and at each side, two or three of his domestic slaves, armed with swords and spears, serve as guard. Thus ordered the procession begins, and passes through the market-place and the principle streets. when any of them strikes a spectator's fancy the line immediately stops, and a process of examination ensues, which, for minuteness, is unequalled in any cattle market in Europe. The intending purchaser having ascertained there is no defect in the faculties of speech, hearing, etc., that there is no disease present, next proceeds to examine the person the mouth and the teeth are first inspected and afterwards every part of the body in succession, not even excepting the breasts, etc., of the girls, many of whom I have seen handled in the most indecent manner in the public market by their purchasers indeed there is every reasons to believe that the slave-dealers almost universally force the young girls to submit to their lust previous to their being disposed of. From such scenes one turns away with pity and indignation. [163]

Africa: 8th through 19th centuries Edit

In April 1998, Elikia M'bokolo, wrote in Le Monde diplomatique. "The African continent was bled of its human resources via all possible routes. Across the Sahara, through the Red Sea, from the Indian Ocean ports and across the Atlantic. At least ten centuries of slavery for the benefit of the Muslim countries (from the ninth to the nineteenth)." He continues: "Four million slaves exported via the Red Sea, another four million through the Swahili ports of the Indian Ocean, perhaps as many as nine million along the trans-Saharan caravan route, and eleven to twenty million (depending on the author) across the Atlantic Ocean" [164]

In the 8th century, Africa was dominated by Arab-Berbers in the north: Islam moved southwards along the Nile and along the desert trails.

  • The Sahara was thinly populated. Nevertheless, since antiquity there had been cities living on a trade in salt, gold, slaves, cloth, and on agriculture enabled by irrigation: Tiaret, Oualata, Sijilmasa, Zaouila, and others. [citation needed]
  • In the Middle Ages, the general Arabic term bilâd as-sûdân ("Land of the Blacks") was used for the vast Sudan region (an expression denoting West and Central Africa[165] ), or sometimes extending from the coast of West Africa to Western Sudan. [166] It provided a pool of manual labour for North and Saharan Africa. This region was dominated by certain states and people: the Ghana Empire, the Empire of Mali, the Kanem-Bornu Empire, the Fulani and Hausa.
  • In the Horn of Africa, the coasts of the Red Sea and Indian Ocean were controlled by local Somali and other Muslims, and Yemenis and Omanis had merchant posts along the coasts. The Ethiopian coast, particularly the port of Massawa and Dahlak Archipelago, had long been a hub for the exportation of slaves from the interior by the Kingdom of Aksum and earlier polities. The port and most coastal areas were largely Muslim, and the port itself was home to a number of Arab and Indian merchants. [167] The Solomonic dynasty of Ethiopia often exported Nilotic slaves from their western borderland provinces, or from newly conquered southern provinces. [168] The Somali and Afar Muslim sultanates, such as the Adal Sultanate, also exported Nilotic slaves that they captured from the interior. [169]
  • In the African Great Lakes region, Omani and Yemeni traders set up slave-trading posts along the southeastern coast of the Indian Ocean most notably in the archipelago of Zanzibar, along the coast of present-day Tanzania. The Zanj region or Swahili Coast flanking the Indian Ocean continued to be an important area for the Oriental slave trade up until the 19th century. Livingstone and Stanley were then the first Europeans to penetrate to the interior of the Congo Basin and to discover the scale of slavery there. The Arab Tippu Tip extended his influence there and captured many people as slaves. After Europeans had settled in the Gulf of Guinea, the trans-Saharan slave trade became less important. In Zanzibar, slavery was abolished late, in 1897, under Sultan Hamoud bin Mohammed.<< [170] >>

The history of the slave trade has given rise to numerous debates amongst historians. For one thing, specialists are undecided on the number of Africans taken from their homes this is difficult to resolve because of a lack of reliable statistics: there was no census system in medieval Africa. Archival material for the transatlantic trade in the 16th to 18th centuries may seem useful as a source, yet these record books were often falsified. Historians have to use imprecise narrative documents to make estimates which must be treated with caution: Luiz Felipe de Alencastro states that there were 8 million slaves taken from Africa between the 8th and 19th centuries along the Oriental and the Trans-Saharan routes. [171]

Olivier Pétré-Grenouilleau has put forward a figure of 17 million African people enslaved (in the same period and from the same area) on the basis of Ralph Austen's work. [172] [ page needed ] Ronald Segal estimates between 11.5 and 14 million were enslaved by the Arab slave trade. [173] [174] [175] [ page needed ] Other estimates place it around 11.2 million. [176]

There has also been a considerable genetic impact on Arabs throughout the Arab world from pre-modern African and European slaves. [177]

Medieval Arabic sources Edit

These are given in chronological order. Scholars and geographers from the Arab world had been travelling to Africa since the time of Muhammad in the 7th century.

The hate that will not die

On September 18, Al-Manar television based in Beirut broadcast a news item that subsequently appeared on its English-language website: "With the announcement of the attacks at the World Trade Centre in New York, the international media, particularly the Israeli one, hurried to take advantage of the tragedy and started mourning 4,000 Israelis who work at the two towers. Then suddenly, no one ever mentioned anything about those Israelis and later it became clear that they remarkably did not show up for their jobs the day the incident took place . Arab diplomatic sources revealed to the Jordanian al-Watan newspaper that those Israelis remained absent that day based on hints from the Israeli general security apparatus, the Shabak, the fact which evoked unannounced suspicions on American officials who wanted to know how the Israeli government learned about the incident before it occurred."

This is the first recorded account of an urban legend that has swept the Arab world. Not a single fact in it has ever been substantiated. It appears to be based on concern expressed by the Israeli government for the fate of 4,000 Israelis resident in New York, a small number of whom worked at the World Trade Centre. Within a matter of days it was no longer 4,000 Israelis who were supposed not to have turned up to work, but 4,000 Jews then reports appeared that "not a single Jew" died on September 11. The story dug itself into the official version of events, appearing in the mainstream Arab press as well as on neo-Nazi and white supremacist websites based in America. An opinion poll conducted on October 1 by Paknews.com, a sophisticated English-language online news site, asked how readers regarded the story of the 4,000 Jews not reporting to work. Fully 71 % thought that it was a "possible fact".

Possible fact soon became established fact among government ministers in the Arab world. According to a report in the Jerusalem Post on October 19, "At a meeting in Damascus last week with a delegation from the British Royal College of Defence Studies, [Syrian Defence Minister Mustafa Tlass] said the Mossad planned the ramming of two hijacked airliners into the WTC's towers as part of a Jewish conspiracy. He also told the British visitors that the Mossad had given thousands of Jewish employees of the WTC advance warning not to go to work that day." Yosri Fouda, deputy executive director of the London bureau of the television station Al-Jazeera, dismisses these conspiracy theories as the work of "half-educated people". Al Manar, the source of the story, according to its website is "the first Arab establishment to stage an effective psychological warfare against the Zionist enemy." Fouda describes it as "Hezbollah TV". "There are hundreds of conspiracy theories in the absence of compelling evidence," he says. "These ideas hit a nerve with those who don't enjoy very basic human rights and liberties."

Does it matter to the west that absurd conspiracy theories like this one have taken hold, not just in the Middle East but throughout the Arab and Muslim world? Aren't they just the posturing of the powerless? Perhaps, but three months after September 11, some of its complex causes are starting to be revealed. As we dig deeper we find that one root of the assault lay in the emergence of the doctrine of Islamism, a fusion of a narrow, intolerant fundamentalist reading of the Koran with a political movement opposed to all western social, economic and cultural influence. One of its central beliefs is in the enduring evil of Judaism and the Jews, irrespective of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and transcending borders or national disputes. Why Jews? Because if America has been branded the enemy, the Great Satan, and Jews are widely believed to "control" America, in the gruesome logic that follows, it becomes "obvious" that Jews have a "secret plan" to destroy Islam and the Arab world.

These ideas are neither of recent origin, nor confined to the Middle East. In 1983, in his Pakistan-set novel Shame, Salman Rushdie wrote of anti-semitism among those who had never met a Jew. More worryingly, alliances are being made between Muslims who buy into such theories, and the American neo-Nazi and white supremacist parties that have found in them a gullible new audience to advance theories discredited in the west for more than 50 years.

In the week before September 11 there were already disturbing signs that anti-semitism was reaching a new pitch. The attack on New York took place three days after the chaotic close of the Durban Anti-Racism Conference in which delegates from Arab governments and NGOs sought unsuccessfully to have Israel designated as a racist apartheid state, and called for the establishment of a UN committee to prosecute Israeli war crimes and to isolate totally the country. The NGO resolution was not backed by major human rights groups such as Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch. The European Roma Rights Centre issued its own statement, written by Dimitrina Petrova, its executive director: "The aggressive exclusion of Jewish participants and the accompanying, blatantly intolerant anti-semitic spirit plaguing the entire process, prompted us firmly to distance ourselves from this forum's unfortunate outcome."

The language was so intemperate that Mary Robinson, the UN human rights commissioner, refused to present it to the governmental conference. The atmosphere at the conference has been described as saturated with anti-semitism. In the exhibition area, a book of cartoons reminiscent of the Nazi era, depicting Jews with talons for hands and clutching blood-soaked money, was distributed by the Arab Lawyers Union. One of the union's leaflets, in which the Star of David (a religious symbol of Judaism, as well as an emblem of the Israeli flag) was superimposed on the Nazi swastika, so shocked Robinson that she declared at an official dinner: "When I see something like this, I am a Jew." A session on anti- semitism at the conference was broken up by protestors. There was opposition to having anti-semitism designated a hate crime and Robinson was booed when she referred to the holocaust against the Jews. Karen Pollock, director of the Holocaust Education Trust, which provides schools in Britain with resource materials and teacher training, represented the Board of Deputies of British Jews at the conference. In a briefing to the board on her return, she reported on the NGO forum: "Session after session seemed to provide platforms for extreme anti-Jewish propaganda. A session on hate crime not only had a speaker whose thesis was that Israel's existence was a 'hate crime', but when one person asked a question, he was heckled with shouts of, 'Jew! Jew! Jew!'."

That the campaigners on behalf of Palestinian rights were surprised at the negative reaction to the blatantly anti-semitic material they brought with them, indicates how commonplace such hate speech has become in the Arab world, the extent to which it now forms a normal part of political discourse. I asked Rina Attar Goren, European director of the Middle East Media and Research Institute (an independent organisation that monitors and translates the Middle East press) if she could provide any recent examples of anti-semitic, as opposed to anti-Zionist, material from the Arab and Palestinian media. "How many do you need?" she asked me. "Five, 10, 100?" A few hours later she emailed me 20 articles, dating from February 2000 to this month, revealing an anti-semitic propaganda campaign that went far beyond the limits of the Palestinian cause. Several were from the state-sponsored Egyptian press. They included a number of pieces on Holocaust denial (claiming that the Nazi genocide against the Jews was a lie made up by Jews to wring money out of western governments, and to justify taking over Arab lands) and repeated reiterations of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", an anti-semitic forgery originating in 19th-century tsarist Russia that invented a secret cabal of Jews plotting to take over the world.

The "Protocols" are enshrined in the Charter of the Palestinian organisation Hamas: "After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates," it says. "When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying." An Arabic translation of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf is being distributed by Al-Shurouq, a Ramallah-based book distributor, to East Jerusalem and territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority. According to an Agence France Presse report on September 8, the book, previously banned by Israel, had been allowed by the PA and was sixth on the Palestinian bestseller list.

The PA, with EU funding, has been updating schoolbooks that had not been replaced since the time of Jordanian rule. Most of the anti-semitic stereotyping and incitement against Israel has gone, but last year Israel and the PA met in Cyprus to discuss how the Holocaust against the Jews should be represented. Dr Musa Al-Zu'but, chairman of the Palestinian Legislative Council education committee, writing in the PA newspaper Al-Risala on April 13, 2000, said: "There will be no such attempt to include the history of the Holocaust in the Palestinian curriculum . The Holocaust has been exaggerated in order to present the Jews as victims of a great crime, to justify [the claim] that Palestine is necessary as a homeland for them, and to give them the right to demand compensation."

The most extreme example I received was written by Dr Ali Aqleh Ursan, chairman of the Arab Writers Association, in the Syrian publication Al-Usbu' Al-Adabi on February 5 2000: "The covetous, racist, and hated Jew Shylock, who cut the [pound of] flesh from Antonio's chest with the knife of hatred, invades you with his money, his modern airplanes, his missiles, and his nuclear bombs. You must face a hard question: Do you, Christians and Muslims, wish to live, survive and fulfill your convictions? Or are you Abraham's bleating lambs on the threshold of the Jewish altar, who are led to be sent to the Hereafter?"

Much of this is no more than empty rhetoric the only weapon of those who are helpless, dispossessed and preyed on by corrupt, undemocratic governments. It stems in part from rage at poverty and the lack of human rights (and for the Palestinians, experience of the humiliation and brutality of occupation), and partly from religious fundamentalism, which in all faiths tends to produce violent extremism, Judaism being no exception. Last week, two members of the Jewish Defence League, a far-right racist organisation banned in Israel, were arrested by the FBI on charges of plotting to bomb the King Fahd mosque in Culver City, California, as well as the offices of Darrell Issa, an Arab-American congressman from southern California. The JDL was founded by the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, a racist demagogue whose follower Baruch Goldstein murdered 29 Palestinians in Hebron in 1994. Nor are secular movements immune. "Death to the Arabs" is a familiar cry on the Israeli football terraces among supporters of the Betar teams, which originated in right-wing Zionist youth movements.

But the prevalence and intensity of anti-semitism in the Arab world make it an altogether more chilling phenomenon. Hasem Saghiyeh, a columnist on Al Hayat, a London based pan-Arab newspaper who has written on and studied anti-semitism in the Arab and Muslim world, describes it as dangerous and increasing at an unprecedented speed. "There are no historic roots for anti-semitism in Islam," he says. "It's a new-born phenomenon that began with contact between Arabs and European Christians in the late 19th century. It really emerges this century not out of myths about Jews, as it did in Europe, but in a real and concrete fight for land. The process of translating books like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion on a popular scale started in Egypt in Nasser's time [the 50s and 60s], but only the fundamentalist movement incorporated them into its literature. Arab and Muslim anti-semitism is rooted in a certain uneasiness with modernity because deep down it is seen in connection with colonialism, and [to the fundamentalists] Jews are associated with both communism and capitalism."

On September 11 many Americans discovered to their amazement that large parts of the world hated their country. During the week in Durban, many Jews discovered that the old hostility against them had not died or been driven to the extreme, unrepentant margins. The question they began to ask was whether there was a serious chance of history repeating itself. Addressing a conference early in November, Dr Jonathan Sacks, the chief rabbi of Britain, warned that Islamic extremists were in danger of reawakening the same anti-Jewish hatred that had led to the Holocaust: "The same demonisation, the same evil fantasies . as if humanity had learned nothing from the past." But a major difference between the 30s and today is that there can be no mass genocide against the Jewish populations of the countries that produce the most virulent anti-semitism, because those countries have few or no Jewish citizens. Between 1948 and 1956, half a million left, fled or were expelled from the Arab world in the aftermath of the creation of Israel, quarter of a million from Morocco alone. The export of these ideas is the danger, when they enter the mainstream of British, European and American Muslim communities through newspapers, websites and sermons in mosques.

White supremacist hate-groups, such as America's neo-Nazi National Alliance, have seen in the anti-semitism of the Arab and Muslim world an opportunity to make strategic alliances under the pretence of support for Palestinian rights. According to the Anti-Defamation League, the US organisation that campaigns against anti-semitism, Muslims, a weekly English-language newspaper based in New York, reprinted on October 5 an article by William Pierce (leader of the alliance), under the headline: "Israel Wants America to Send Ground Troops, Whip Muslim Armies, Take Over their Countries and Install Puppet Governments That Will Follow the Jews' Orders." In November, the alliance organised a march on an Illinois mosque with the purpose of attacking Muslims. At the march hundreds of members of an organisation called the World Church of the Creator handed out recruitment leaflets quoting Bin Laden's call for a war on Jews and demanding an end to American support for Israel. But the same organisation has another leaflet showing a picture of the WTC attack, asking: "Are you prepared to fight the Arab holy war on American soil? End Muslim immigration now!"

The anti-semitic canards and forgeries originate in Christian Europe, (some centuries old, such as the Norwich blood libel that accused Jews of the ritual killing of Christian children for the Passover seder) and were exported from the west to the Muslim world. Long ago discredited here, those myths and conspiracy theories are being sent back again, where they are used as a propaganda tool by a hard core of racists.

The perception here in the UK that British Jews - affluent, influential, successful - have little now to fear from serious racist attack is not mirrored inside the Jewish community. Mike Whine, director of defence for the board of deputies, says: "Generally, Jews are more settled and more economically comfortable than ever before in history, but there is an acute growing sense of being under threat and that this is changing its form. More copies of the Protocols are being sold in Malaysia and Pakistan than among the far right in Germany. The level of physical attacks against us has increased substantially and this is a marked international trend. In France and the US, synagogues now have to be protected by the police and the army." On December 2, the largest neo-Nazi march since the end of the second world war took place in Berlin. The Bulawayo Chronicle, which supports the government of Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, recently published a 3,000-word article alleging Jewish responsibility for the ongoing economic problems facing the country.

The Jewish community in Britain has referred to the police 13 cases of written incitement to murder Jews. A leaflet distributed in October last year in Stamford Hill, north London included a quote from a commentary on the Koran that states: "The hour [ie the Messianic age] will not come until the Muslims kill the Jews." So far there seems to be no political will to prosecute. Meanwhile, on the advice of the police acting on operational intelligence, the community is on maximum security. In the US, 73% of all reported hate crimes on the basis of religion in 2000 were against Jews, according to official FBI figures, though this may reflect a greater confidence in reporting them than among other groups of more recent immigrants. Attacks on mosques since September 11 will undoubtedly transform those figures dramatically.

Whine argues that anti-semitic attacks have not gone away, they are merely held in check by ferocious security arrangements that create an image of a defensive, paranoid, suspicious religion. Rabbi Tony Bayfield, chief executive of the Reform Movement of British Jews, says: "The Sternberg centre where I work is supposed to be a major face of the Jewish community to the outside world, and I don't like having high gates and security cameras. What kind of message does it send out? But every synagogue has to be guarded for Sabbath service, and there is no question that the police think it's necessary."

Until now, when Jews looked for support at a time of rising anti-semitism, their natural allies were the anti-racist left. But because anti-semitism is now inextricably linked with the situation in Israel and Palestine, and because of the resurgence of the Zionism is Racism argument, which rejects a two-state solution, some critics of Israel no longer seem willing to make a distinction between those Jews who support and those Jews who oppose the Israeli occupation. Any support of Israel's right to exist as a sovereign state under any conditions at all is branded as Zionism, and hence collusion in racism and apartheid. In October, the poet Tom Paulin wrote to the Guardian to demand that if it employs journalists who hold such views, they should declare their "Zionist credentials". Beyond the left there is a widespread belief in Britain, reinforced by news reporting and comment pieces, that the attack on September 11 would never have happened if it had not been for Israeli brutality in Gaza and the West Bank. Others go further and argue that the existence of Israel and its support by the US is a threat to world peace. Many Jews now feel that they are being made the scapegoats for a complex phenomenon combining globalisation, the rise of fundamentalism, oil interests, anti-Americanism and Middle East politics - that if the third world war begins it will, as usual, be blamed on "the Jews".

The anti-semitism unleashed in the past three months poses complex questions for Jews, Muslims and those who campaign against injustices suffered by others. It will be interesting to see, in time to come, how well any of us does in addressing them. As a British Jew I can offer some ways in which some of us can begin to construct a defence against ant-semitism. It would involve the left realigning itself: ceasing the demonisation of the Jewish majority who defend Israel's existence making alliances with Jews, such as those who support Peace Now and Gush Shalom, which are actively seeking an end to the horrific violence of the past year, one which would provide a just solution to the long agony of the Palestinians. Both the left and British Muslims would have to begin to recognise the massive rise of anti-semitism in the Arab and Muslim world for what it is: anti-semitism rather than any cogent analysis of the problems of the Middle East. It would involve British Muslims announcing in their press, their mosques and their community centres that Muslims are being manipulated into believing myths, urban legends and racist slanders peddled by those with no interest in tolerance, human rights or justice that Islamophobia and anti-semitism fall under the same heading - racist scapegoating. In fact, hearteningly this process is already beginning to occur. Writing in this week's edition of the Egyptian newspaper Al Haram, the columnist Hani Shukrallah discusses the imminent televisation throughout the Arab world of a new dramatisation of the Protocols. How, he asks, can the Arab world preserve its civilisation "by reproducing one of the ugliest products of the west's?"

British Jews have long been embroiled in an argument among themselves that mirrors the fierce debates inside Israel. It seems axiomatic to some of us who have maintained our faith with the peace activists of Gush Shalom and Peace Now that if justice were to be delivered to the Palestinians in the form of a state based on UN Resolution 242, and solutions found to the problems of the division of Jerusalem and the status of the refugees, most of the Arab anti-semitism would wither away. Not all Jews, particularly on the right, are convinced that a two-state solution will fully satisfy the Palestinian demand for the return of their homeland, particularly when the maps in the new textbooks in Palestinian schools explicitly refer to the whole of Israel as Palestinian territory. After the recent bloodbath perpetrated by Hamas, who have the most virulent anti-semitism enshrined in their charter, the tendency is for the slogans of peaceniks to turn to ashes in the mouth. Instead we think of the assault by the Holocaust deniers of the Arab and Palestinian world on our right to remember the dead of Shoah, and if we wish to speak now, it is to say, defiantly: "Am Yisroel Chai" - the children of Israel live.

But these are not the only Hebrew words that are important to us. My own belief - which deepens with each incursion by the Israeli army into Palestinian territory - is that we can survive without the settlements and the policies of Ariel Sharon, whose endgame is to foment civil war among the Palestinians as an excuse to re-occupy and turn Gaza and the West Bank into Lebanon. We cannot survive without what animates our culture: Jewish morality. Not without "Tzedek" (justice) or "Rachmanut" (compassion.) We cannot survive if we forget that they apply not only to ourselves but to others. To all of us - Jews, Muslims, activists on behalf of Palestinian rights - Primo Levi's urgent message still applies: "Shutting his mouth, his eyes and his ears, he built for himself the illusion of not knowing, hence not being an accomplice to the things taking place in front of his very door."

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Thank You Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

This week, after 12 years as prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu left office. During his tenure, I was privileged to work.

Jews and Christians can be protected under Muslim rule by becoming subservient to Islam in what is known as dhimmi status, which means that they are legally deprived of many rights, including the right to own land and bear arms. Dhimmis are forced to pay a head tax (jyzia) and are to be kept in a downtrodden state, as is mandated by the Koran. In Islam’s view, Jews are not a nation but a collection of religious communities to be found in various countries: a Jew in Poland is a “Pole of the Mosaic religion” and a Jew in Morocco is a “Moroccan Arab of the Mosaic religion.”

Suddenly, towards the end of the 19th century, everything changed. Jews began coming to Palestine in ever-growing numbers. The Zionists “invented” a new nation — the “Jewish people” — and decided that a certain part of the House of Islam was their homeland, known as Eretz Israel. They built communities and a protective fighting force even though, as dhimmis, they were not supposed to be allowed to bear arms and were subjected to Islam’s protection.

In 1948, the Jews actually declared a state, despite the fact that they did not deserve sovereignty. Then, in 1967, they “conquered” the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Jews now attempt to pray on the Temple Mount, suggesting that Judaism has returned to being an active, living and even dynamic religion. This brings the very raison d’être of Islam into question. After all, Islam came into the world in order to make Judaism obsolete.

Muslims loyal to their religion and aware of this danger cannot possibly accept the existence of a Jewish state, not even a tiny one on the Tel Aviv coast. To them, Israel as the state of the Jewish people is a theological threat to Islam and only secondarily, a national, political, judicial or territorial threat.

President Trump’s acknowledgement of Israel’s existence by recognizing Jerusalem as its capital was a double whammy for Islam: Trump, a Christian, had granted recognition to the Jews. The outraged Muslim world thought this must be a Christo-Judaic plot against Islam. Trump’s declaration reminded them (along with several Jews) of the November 1917 Balfour Declaration, about which the Arabs continue to rail at the world: “You made the promises of non-owners to those who did not have the right to be given those promises.”

In the weeks following Trump’s declaration, Muslims all over the world expressed their fury at the seal of approval granted the Jewish state — despite its very existence being opposed to that of Islam. Leaders and ordinary citizens, men and women, took to the streets to demonstrate their inability to live with the fact that the most prominent Christian head of state had recognized the capital chosen by the Jewish nation, and, by extension, its right to its own land.

The disturbances in Wadi Ara, in central Israel — rioters attempted to block the main road and damaged a public bus — were another manifestation of Muslim fury. The location is not surprising, because the Wadi Ara area includes the city of Umm al-Fahm, where the main concentration of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement, headed by the infamous Raed Salah, is to be found. The Northern Branch has been declared illegal, along with some of the smaller organizations it has fostered, resulting in its members having no lawful way to express their fury at the existence of the state of Israel. With little alternative, they act in the public space as individuals without an organizational identity.

It is generally accepted that the logic underpinning the Palestinian national movement is wholly based on the negation of the Jewish people’s right to its land and state. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was established in 1964 when the only “occupied” areas were Tel Aviv and Haifa. Its mission was to destroy the State of Israel, a goal Arabs expressed openly before and after the 1948 War.

Despite what some people think, the PLO has never amended its charter calling for the destruction of Israel, as Yasser Arafat pledged to Yitzhak Rabin. The Oslo Accords, and the agreements with the PLO that followed in their wake, were therefore worth nothing. Those persisting in this false belief about the PLO’s intentions despite abundant evidence of the perfidy of Arafat and his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, continued to foster the illusion of peace in the hearts of war-weary Israelis and anesthetize them in the process.

The goal of the Palestinian national movement is the creation of an artificial Palestinian nation (from scratch, because historically, there has never been such a nation). It is to be made permanent by constructing an Arab state on Israel’s ruins, not alongside it. This is why there is not one map of Israel to be found in the West Bank or Gaza. Every Palestinian map portrays a Palestine in the colors of the PLO flag, extending from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.

Note the PLO keffiya, which displays the words “Our Jerusalem” on the right and “Falestin” on the left.

The world, and especially Europe, is divided between a) innocent know-nothings who support a Palestinian state in order to achieve peace and b) Jew-haters who fully grasp the PLO’s intentions and support them wholeheartedly. The entire Arab world, including those who signed peace treaties with Israel (Egypt and Jordan), willfully ignores the PLO’s real plans and treats the organization as the only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. If the PLO succeeds in carrying out its plans, no one in Jordan or Egypt is going to mourn Israel’s demise.

Arafat’s followers believe that if they succeed in moving Jerusalem outside the borders of Israel, many Jews will lose all hope and leave Israel for the countries from which they or their parents came. This will be the beginning of the end for the Zionist enterprise, because there is no Zionism without Zion — or Jerusalem. That is why they expend so much energy on Jerusalem. As long as most countries refuse to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the city will be the weak link in the chain holding Israel together.

Arafat attempted to frighten Israelis with the slogan, “A million shaheeds will march on Jerusalem,” meaning that millions are willing to put their lives on the line to free the city from Zionist clutches. This mantra has been internalized in Islamic society, and can be heard at anti-Israel demonstrations all over the world.

Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city dealt the Palestinian nationalist narrative a serious blow, and gave Israel a kind of insurance policy. This maddens the Arabs who flourished on the dream of destroying Israel during the Oslo years. It has now become clear that a very powerful nation, the US, does not see itself as a partner in that dream — and is even willing to act against it.

The Arabs in general, and particularly the Palestinians, can already see the dominos falling. The Czech Republic, Hungary, and other important states are considering moving their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in recognition that that city is Israel’s capital. In April 2017, even Russian President Vladimir Putin declared his recognition of Western Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city. There was no outcry in response to Putin’s declaration for one simple reason: the Arabs are deathly afraid of Putin after he made crystal clear to what lengths he is willing to go during the war in Syria, and they carefully refrain from reacting to his statements or decisions.

For both religious and nationalist reasons, the Arabs and Muslims are incapable of accepting Israel as the Jewish state that it is.

The question that Israelis, both Jewish and Christian, are forced to ask themselves is whether they are going to recognize the Muslim and Arab problem but tell them in no uncertain terms that Jerusalem belongs to the Jews, and that they are going to have to learn to live with it — or whether they are going to give in to the Arab and Muslim dreamers who refuse to accept the reality that the Jewish religion is alive and well.

An earlier version of this article, translated by Rochel Sylvetsky, was published on December 14, 2017, by Israel National News.

Dr. Mordechai Kedar is a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. He served for 25 years in IDF military intelligence specializing in Syria, Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups, and Israeli Arabs, and is an expert on the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups.

BESA Center Perspectives Papers are published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler Family.

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