Canada: A “Different” Kind of Antisemitism?

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  • “I have a confession to make. If you are Jewish… I used to hate you. I hated you because I thought you were responsible for the [Somali civil] war which took my father from me for so long… When we had no water, I thought you closed the tap. … If my mother was unkind to me, I knew you were definitely behind it. If and when I failed an exam, I knew it was your fault. You are by nature evil, you had evil powers and you used them to evil ends. Learning to hate you was easy. Unlearning it was difficult.” — Ayaan Hirsi Ali, quoted in The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History, by Andrew G. Bostom.
  • In Canada, Wael al-Ghitawi, the imam of Al-Andalous Islamic Centre, and Sayed al-Ghitawi “both called for the death of Jews. The sermons came to public attention in February 2017, when YouTube videos of the talks were translated into English.”
  • Let us be frank: as is all too clear from the recent European experience, importing large numbers of Muslims means importing Islamic antisemitism. Hate crimes against Canadian Jews are already on an upward trajectory. Is it the Canadian Government’s policy to encourage an increase in antisemitic hate crimes?

In Berlin, on evening of the May 17, 2018, two men wearing Jewish skull caps were attacked by three Arabic speaking men, who repeatedly cursed at them and called them “yahudi,” Jew, in Arabic. One of the Arabs knifed one of the men, Adam Armoush, with his belt. The attack was recorded, and the video widely seen.Ironically, Adam is not a Jew. He is an Israeli Arab, who was wearing the skull cap to test whether it was unsafe to show oneself as a Jew in Berlin. He was skeptical; he has now reconsidered.

One of the assailants, a 19 year old refugee, claiming he was from Syria, later turned himself into the police.

In response to the attack, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that she was saddened, and that it was depressing that antisemitism had not been destroyed for good in Germany. There were, in fact, more than 1,000 antisemitic incidents in Berlin last year alone. Merkel pointed out that, in addition to some traditional German antisemitism remaining, “We have a new phenomenon of refugees or people of Arab origin who bring another form of anti-Semitism into the country.”

Germany’s first Antisemitism Commissioner, Felix Klein, pointed out that “We’ve observed that Salafist and Islamist extremists seek to approach refugees in Germany and try to incite anti-Semitism and hatred.” Muslim Arabs speakers as well as Iranians Pakistanis, Afghans, Muslim Africans and Turkic speakers from Turkey and Central Asia, would be vulnerable to such influences.

Throughout Europe during the past decade, there have been many attacks on Jews.[1]

Christian antisemitism used to be based on Jews not accepting Jesus as the Messiah, and the belief that the Jews were responsible for Jesus’s death. Little consideration was given to the facts that both One God and the Messiah were Jewish ideas, that the Ten Commandments were given to the Jews, or that Jesus and his Apostles were themselves Orthodox Jews. Christian antisemitism frequently broke out in violence, as with Western European Crusaders slaughtering Jews in the cities they passed through on the way to the Holy Land, where they also murdered Jews, and as with the regular Pogrom attacks in Eastern Europe that were a beloved feature of Easter. Then there were the expulsions of Jews from England, Spain, Austria, Hungary, and Germany, among 109 mostly European locations that expelled them, and, in Spain, the torture and execution of converted Jews during the Holy Inquisition. Fortunately, in recent timesmany Christian churches have distanced themselves from this kind of antisemitism.

Meanwhile, Islamic antisemitism arose in reaction to the frustration of Mohammed’s fond hopes that the Arabian Jewish tribes would accept him as the final Prophet of the line of Jewish prophets. Mohammed had drawn much from Judaism: One God, the Prophets, repeated daily prayer, circumcision, and food prohibitions. When the Jewish tribes declined to accept Mohammed’s offer, that he was their final Prophet, Mohammed declared war on them, executed all of the men in one Jewish tribe, and distributed the women and children among his followers, and exiled another tribe from their traditional territory.

The foundational documents of Islam also reflect total rejection of the Jews and all “disbelievers”. In the hadith (sayings and deeds of Mohammad), there is a verse, still quoted in Article 7 of Hamas’s charter:

In Saheeh Muslim (2922), it is narrated from the hadith of Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “The Hour will not begin until the Muslims fight the Jews and the Muslims will kill them, until a Jew hides behind a rock or a tree, and the rock or tree will say: O Muslim, O slave of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Except the gharqad (a thorny tree), for it is one of the trees of the Jews.”

In the Quran, surahs referring to Jews, as well as all “disbelievers, and recommend:

And kill them wherever you overtake them and expel them from wherever they have expelled you, and fitnah is worse than killing. And do not fight them at al-Masjid al- Haram until they fight you there. But if they fight you, then kill them. Such is the recompense of the disbelievers. [Quran 2:191-193; Sahih International translation]

Islam further claims that all Jewish Prophets — Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Moses, and all — were Muslims:

Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was one inclining toward truth, a Muslim [submitting to Allah]. And he was not of the polytheists. [Quran 3:67; Sahih International translation]

Jesus and Mary were also added to this list of Muslim Prophets. Islamic antisemitism is reflected in the vast holy literature of Islamic texts, and in the almost uncountable incidents in the 1,400-year history of Islam.

What can be offered here are a few short statements that will have to suffice to illustrate Islamic antisemitism. In the Islamic Holy Book, the Quran, believed by Muslims to be the direct words of God, is the following:

Have you not seen those who have received a portion of the Scripture? They purchase error, and they want you to go astray from the path. But Allah know[s] best who your enemies are … Some of the Jews pervert words from their meanings, and say ‘We hear and we disobey,’ …twisting with their tongues and slandering religion. … But Allah had cured them for their disbelief, so they believe not, except for a few. (Quran 4:44-46, seventh century a.d.)

The famous Jewish philosopher, Maimonides, in Epistle to the Jews of Yemen, 1172, reports that:

The nation of Ishmael [Muslims]…persecute[s] us severely and devise ways to harm us and to debase us. … None has matched it in debasing and humiliating us. … We listen, but remain silent … In spite of all this, we are not spared from the ferocity of their wickedness, and their outbursts [of violence] at any time. On the contrary, the more we suffer and choose to conciliate them, the more they choose to act belligerently toward us.

According to al-Maghili, a prominent theologian in Morocco, late fifteenth century, “Love of the Prophet requires hatred of the Jews.” In a 2002 sermon at the Al-Haram Mosque in Mecca, the most important shrine in Islam, the imam and preacher Saudi Sheikh Abd Al-Rahman Al-Sudayyis, claimed the following:

Read history and you will understand that the Jews of yesterday are the evil fathers of the Jews of today, who are evil offspring, infidels, distorters of [God’s] words, calf-worshippers, prophet-murderers, prophecy-deniers, … the scum of the human race whom Allah cursed and turned into apes and pigs. … These are the Jews, an ongoing continuum of deceit, obstinacy, licentiousness, evil, and corruption.

The Somali-American human rights advocate, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, describes (May 4, 2006) what she learned as a Muslim:

I have a confession to make. If you are Jewish … I used to hate you. I hated you because I thought you were responsible for the [Somali civil] war which took my father from me for so long… When we had no water, I thought you closed the tap. … If my mother was unkind to me, I knew you were definitely behind it. If and when I failed an exam, I knew it was your fault. You are by nature evil, you had evil powers and you used them to evil ends. Learning to hate you was easy. Unlearning it was difficult.

The evidence is overwhelming that the sentiments expressed here by Muslims against Jews are, unfortunately, typical in the Islamic world.

Does Islamic antisemitism exist in Canada? We know that Jews are the most targeted religious group, with 221 antisemitic hate crimes in 2016. There were 139 hate crimes directed against Muslims. With a Canadian Jewish population of 329,500, and a Canadian Muslim population of 1,053,945, there was an antisemitic hate crime for every 1491 Canadian Jews, and an anti-Muslim hate crime for every 7582 Muslims. On a per capita basis, Jews were by far the most targeted religious group.

While the authors of many hate crimes are unknown, some cases stand out. Muslim Sleiman Elmerhebi firebombed the United Talmud Torahs Jewish elementary school in Montreal. He was convicted and jailed, and his mother given probation as an accessory after the fact.

While Muslim attackers of Jews often keep a low profile and are not found by police, Muslim religious and political figures, whose job it is to speak out, have been frank about their views of Jews:

In Canada, at the Al-Andalous Islamic Centre in the St-Laurent borough of Montreal, Wael al-Ghitawi, the center’s imam, in November 2014, and Sayed al-Ghitawi, who was visiting from the Middle East, in August 2014, both called for the death of Jews. The sermons came to public attention in February 2017, when YouTube videos of the talks were translated into English. In February 2017, two Jewish groups filed complaints against the imams with the Montreal police. Quebec’s prosecutors, however, chose not to proceed, arguing that that too much time had elapsed.

Later, in July 2017, a Quebec judge issued an arrest warrant for an imam who had made several violent anti-Semitic statements at another Montreal mosque in December 2016. Sheikh Muhammad bin Musa al-Nasr, a Palestinian-Jordanian, while visiting Canada had said in the video that Allah has ordained that Jews should be killed by Muslims “at the end of time.” He was apparently drawing on the same Jew-killing hadith (Sahih al-Bukhari Book Number 56 Hadith Number 791 – Muflihun) invoked by the U.S. imams. After an investigation by the Montreal police hate crimes unit, he was charged under Section 319(2) of the Criminal Code with the willful promotion of hatred.

Canadian campuses are home to the organizations Students for Justice in Palestine and the Muslim Students Association which actively campaign against Israel in such events as “Israel Apartheid Week,” and which sponsor boycotts of Israel and a wide array of anti-Israel speakers. Although these anti-Israel advocates, many of them Middle Eastern and Muslim in origin, claim not to be antisemitic even while denying Jews a 3,000 year history in their historical homeland, their animosity toward Jews repeatedly breaks out. For example, a Facebook post celebrating an anti-Israel event at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology asserted that “Jews are rodents.” Other media posts advised Jewish students to “Go back to Palestine.” At Toronto’s Ryerson University, Holocaust education was opposed with a staged walkout.

At McMaster University, numerous incidents have been documented of students writing antisemitic social media posts. Nadera Masad, a member of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights, tweeted “hitler should have took you all.”

[Rawan] Qaddoura — a political science and economics major who unsuccessfully ran for the SPHR presidency in 2016 — tweeted in September 2012, “i just don’t like jews lol #sorrynotsorry”

On August 2013, she wrote, “‘@judeZAdude: The whole world is controlled by Zionist Jews and until you understand that, life will never make sense.'”

Qaddoura also repeatedly praised Hitler, tweeting in January 2012, “I honestly wish I was born at the time of the second world war just to see the genius, Hitler, at work.”

She doubled down on these sentiments in June 2013, writing, “everytime I read about Hitler, I fall in love all over again.”

On July 2015, [McMaster student Esra] Bengizi tweeted a photo of Hitler — captioned with heart emojis — alongside the fake quote, “The only Religion I respect is Islam. The only prophet I admire is the Prophet Muhammad.”

A year earlier, she wrote, “‘@KMKurd: Where is hitler when u need one?’ I literally ask this every day.” On the same Twitter thread, she added, “hitler did more than just kill. He was also a great leader & role model to many…”

Bengizi’s admiration of Hitler sometimes accompanied tweets that were explicitly antagonistic towards Jews. ‘I’m actually going to the rule the world and get rid of anyone who doesn’t have basic common sense or if youre yahoodi [Jewish]’ #QueenE, she tweeted on May 2014. Bengizi praised Hitler as ‘so intelligent’ later on the same thread.

Do not worry about Jew-hatred at McMaster, however. The McMaster administration is on the case. Its “Equity and Inclusion” committee is promoting an anti-Islamophobia campaign, seeking out instances of possible hostility toward Muslims, and publicizing them widely.

When antisemitism is integral to orthodox Islam, how could it be otherwise?Undoubtedly there are Canadian Muslims who do not share the antisemitic views quoted above, and others whose prejudice is more on the mild side. But strong antisemitic views are apparently as prevalent in the Canadian Muslim community, as in the international Muslim community.

Islamic antisemitism raises serious questions about the exuberant and thoughtless support for multiculturalism and open-borders immigration celebrated among some Canadian political parties and the Canadian media commentariat. Let us be frank: as is all too clear from the recent European experience, importing large numbers of Muslims means importing Islamic antisemitism. Hate crimes against Canadian Jews are already on an upward trajectory. Is it the Canadian Government’s policy to encourage an increase in antisemitic hate crimes?

Philip Carl Salzman is Professor of Anthropology at McGill University, Senior Fellow of the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, and Fellow of the Middle East Forum.


[1] In France, a gang of African and North African immigrants led by Youssouf Fofana kidnapped, severely tortured, and eventually abandoned Ilan Halimi, whose body was 80% covered by burns, and who died on the way to the hospital. An Islamist gunman, Mohammed Merah, murdered three children and a teacher at a Jewish school in Toulouse. Four Jews were murdered in the Jewish grocery store Hyper Casher by a Muslim Tunisian immigrant, in an explicitly antisemitic attack. Dr. Sarah Halimi was a 65 year old Jewish woman, a retired physician, who was tortured by a Muslim neighbour shouting Allahu akbar, Allah is the Greatest, and then thrown out her third floor window to her death. The reluctant authorities finally acknowledged antisemitism as motive. Mirelle Knoll, an 85 year old holocaust survivor, was stabbed and set afire by a Muslim neighbour who she had known, and was on good terms with, since he was a boy.

Canada: A “Different” Kind of Antisemitism?

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AUTHOR

Philip Carl Salzman

Philip Carl Salzman served as professor of anthropology at McGill University from 1968 to 2018. He is the author of Culture and Conflict in the Middle East; the founding chair of the Commission on Nomadic Peoples of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences; the founding editor of Nomadic Peoples; and the author of Black Tents of Baluchistan; Pastoralism: Equality, Hierarchy, and the State; Thinking Anthropologically, Culture and Conflict in the Middle East; and Understanding Culture.


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