Were Jews living in Islamic societies victims of antisemitism? If so, to what extent? How did conditions for Jews in the Moslem East compare with those in Christian Europe? Is Islam intrinsically antisemitic? Are today’s Moslems more antisemitic than those of the past and if so, why? These questions have been the subject of vigorous discussion over the past few decades.
“On the whole, in contrast to Christian anti-Semitism, the Moslem attitude toward non Moslems [including Jews] is not one of hate or fear or envy but simply contempt.”
“Jews of Christendom suffered incomparably greater persecution [than the Jews of Islam]. Persecution, that is to say violent and active repression was rare and atypical. Jews and Christians [dhimmis] under Moslem rule were not normally called upon to suffer martyrdom for their faith.”
“They [the Jews] were not often obliged to make the choice which confronted Muslims and Jews in reconquered Spain, between exile apostasy and death.”
In addition to his generalizations Lewis employs clever reasoning to arrive at conclusions that are at least semantically if not in substance favorable to Islam. To reach the conclusion that Moslems were not until recently “anti-Semites” he begins by stating that
“anti-Semitism” [has] “hitherto been regarded as a specifically Christian disease – a certain attitude to Jews arising from the gospel narratives of the foundation of the Christian faith”
“…anti-Semitism [is] a hatred which is unique in its persistence, its universality, its profundity and above all its theological and psychological origins…. In what follows the term anti-Semitism will be limited to…that special and peculiar hatred of Jews which has its origins in the role assigned to Jews in certain Christian writing and beliefs concerning the genesis of their faith, and which has found modern expression in such works as the Protocols and similar portrayals of a universal Jewish plot against both God and mankind. In this special sense anti-Semitism did not exist in the traditional Moslem world.”
“the Nazi war against the Jews won enthusiastic support…Hatred was deep and violent, and expressed in the strongest language, but it was still in the main traditional rather than anti-Semitic in its terms.”