just to introduce myself and give a bit of context, for those who haven’t come across me before. i am what you might call a “grassroots activist” particularly with regard to interfaith dialogue activities. i’m a traditionally observant jew (although i wasn’t always observant), from a sephardi/indian/baghdadi background, although i have a pretty wide acquaintance across the jewish community from the secularist ultra-left to the religious ultra-right. i don’t speak for anyone but myself and i do not hold a brief for any community or political organisation. although i’d describe myself as a “religious zionist”, that probably doesn’t mean what you think it means (i’m also a supporter of palestinian self-determination) but that’s a discussion for another day.
one of the things i like about the spittoon is that there is a more scholarly tone and more depth to the discussion here than a simple reflection on current events. i particularly like the idea that we don’t have to shy away from matters theological or stick to the politics. and, needless to say, i like talking to muslims about judaism and islam – and sticking it to the likes of HBT and the rest of the islamist peanut gallery, some of whom appear to have been ill-advised enough to show their inbred beardy little faces around thes parts.
i do like clarifying matters which are obscured by weasel words, in which extremists of all stripes display considerable expertise and i’d like to look at one of those in my first post, namely, the most intractable issue between islamists and jews. in my opinion at least, this is (perhaps surprisingly) not actually the middle east. it’s the way that judaism is misrepresented to muslims, specifically with regard to the idea of the “ahl-e-kitab” or “people of the book”. it all hinges on the oft-repeated idea which i have unfortunately heard repeated by many otherwise moderate muslims, that “the jews” possess a “corrupt” verion of the Torah and that, as a result, we have drifted away from the “original religion” of every prophet from adam to abraham – which was, of course, “islam”. that’s an assumption i will question in subsequent posts, but the interesting consequence, of course, is that it allows our friendly islamists to then go on to apply the Qur’anic verses that speak positively of the “ahl-e-kitab” and the jews selectively. and here’s the rub, in the words of the first islamist i was ever able to pin down on this issue:
If there was any Jew who followed the original Torah, he would have accepted Jesus [pbuh] as a Messenger and Muhammad [saw] too and thereby converted to a Muslim.
let me spell this one out for you, in case you missed it: any jews who didn’t accept jesus and then didn’t accept muhammad as a prophet are *by definition* “not following the original Torah”. working from this premise, therefore, one must necessarily conclude that it is logically impossible to be a jew unless one is, in fact, a muslim. logically, in fact, this also means there are no “real” jews left any more, because all the “real” jews are by definition muslims and all the “apparent” jews are therefore by definition a bunch of shirk-committing, idolatrous kuffar.
certainly these criteria apply to me: i do not accept that jesus was a) a jewish prophet or b) the messiah. nor do i accept muhammad’s prophecy as applicable to jews nor indeed as prophecy according to the halakhic (halakhah being jewish law) criteria. does that make me a kaafir? a more reasonable muslim once taught me a a subtlety of the words “islam” and “muslim” by pointing out the difference between “a conservative” and “a Conservative”; clearly, the latter is a card-carrying member of a specific group and the former merely holds certain values. clearly, if you define “muslim” this way, that makes me one. certainly i “submit to G!D”. not only that, i would agree that our patriarchs and prophets did the same. but if you mean they all anticipated the Qur’an and the sunnah and accepted the five pillars and so on, then i’m sorry, that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense without adducing this alleged “jewish distortion of the text”. presumably noah, who is an islamic prophet, was being islamic when he got drunk? or was that too a jewish “distortion”?
so where does this leave the ahl-e-kitab? clearly, according to the point of view we’re looking at, there’s not really any such thing since the arrival of “proper” islam with muhammad and that you’re either a muslim with a capital M (shahada and all) or you’re kuffar. needless to say, this is, as far as i am aware, in contradiction to what is maintained by many other moderate (i.e. non-takfiri) authorities. so, if i can say, as i do, “there is no G!D but G!D”, i can be a “muslim with a lowercase m” without continuing to say “and muhammad is the messenger of G!D” which would make me a “muslim with a capital M”. so who do all the positive statements about ahl-e-kitab in the Qur’an apply to, if there ceased to be “real jews” with its arrival?
the logical answer to this and, indeed, this is the route hardliners go down is this: the ahl-e-kitab are the people descended from those who once were jews and christians, but, obviously these are, as we’ve already seen, those who are also muslims with a capital M as well. so, actually, the only *real* ahl-e-kitab are actually muslims. since there are a very small group of identifiable people who count as this, effectively it becomes an category with no real members, which suits takfiris down to the ground, because they’re effectively seeking to condemn anyone who still calls themselves a jew or a christian. also, interestingly, it restricts the idea of judaism to an ethnic, “tribal” category – and we all know what sort of people like that sort of categorisation.
to sum up then, according to hardliners like this, anyone who calls themselves jewish nowadays (unless they are a muslim with jewish antecedents) is not of the ahl-e-kitab. for these people, the only good jew is a muslim!