Prime Minister Mohamad's comments have made me think long and hard about the origin of such anti-Jewish sentiments in the minds of some Muslims. Many say they originate in the Qur'an. In fact, some Muslims (and non-Muslims) have gone so far as to say the Qur'an "curses" the Jews. I strongly differ. Although the conflict in the Holy Land has placed a burdensome strain on Jewish-Muslim relations--one which I lament deeply--it should never cause any Muslim to put words into God's mouth.
The Qur'an is an amazingly sophisticated document, and this sophistication is evident in how the Qur'an treats Jews. The Jewish tribes of Medina instantly rejected the Prophet's message almost as soon as he arrived in the city. One would think, then, that the Qur'an would be awash with verses attacking Jews and their faith. This is simply not true.
Some verses in the Qur'an call on Jews and Christians to believe in the message of Muhammad (2:41, 5:19). Other verses recount many parts of Jewish sacred history (2:40-85, 3:33-60). Still other verses praise the Torah of Moses (3:3), the Gospel of Jesus (5:46), and a good number of the Hebrew Prophets (3:84, 6:84-87). Many of these Prophets--such as Moses and Jesus--are mentioned by name in the Qur'an many more times than Muhammad himself. An entire chapter (12:1-104), in fact, is devoted to the story of Joseph and his brothers. Moreoever, one verse challenges the Jews and Christians to follow their own scriptures appropriately: "Say [O Muhammad]: 'O People of the Book! ye have no ground to stand upon unless ye stand fast by the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that has come to you from your Lord'..." (5:68). There is absolutely no statement in the Qur'an that issues a blanket condemnation of all Jews or Christians. None. So when someone tells me otherwise, I simply scratch my head in confusion.
Now, if one wants to misquote, mistranslate, or quote verses of the Qur'an out of context, he will find ample "evidence" to support the fallacious claim that the Qur'an is anti-Jewish. But anyone with sinister intentions can quote a verse of scripture out of context to seemingly prove a point.
For instance, in Numbers 31:14-27 it says, "And Moses was angry with the officers of the army, the commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds, who had come from service in the war. Moses said to them, 'Have you let all the women live? Behold, these caused the people of Israel, by the counsel of Balaam, to act treacherously against the Lord in the matter of Pe'or, and so the plague came among the congregation of the Lord. Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him."
Not only has the conflict in the Holy Land caused some Muslims to put words in God's mouth, it has led others to do some truly silly things. According to the Middle East Media Research Institute, Nabil Hilmy, an Egyptian professor of international law and human rights, announced in the weekly Al Ahram that he and an Egyptian legal team are planning to sue the "Jews of the world" over gold allegedly stolen just before the famous Exodus out of Egyptian bondage.
When I read of the lawsuit, I almost laughed out loud. Hilmy, however, was not joking. He is reportedly seeking to collect trillions of dollars from "the Jews of the world" and the "Jews of Israel in particular." Perhaps as a goodwill gesture, he has offered to reschedule the debt over 1,000 years with "the addition of cumulative interest during that period."
When asked by the Jewish weekly The Forward to comment on the case, Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz replied, "I'd be happy to defend the Jews." So would I, and I am not even a lawyer--nor Jewish. A Muslim defender of the Jews of Egyptian descent? Absolutely.
Do not be surprised--for Moses, you see, figures prominently in Muslim belief. He is one of the five mightiest Messengers of God, along with Noah, Abraham, Jesus and Muhammad. The Qur'an says that God bestowed His grace upon Moses and Aaron (37:114), that he was "specially chosen" by God (19:51) and that God bestowed on Moses "wisdom and knowledge" (28:14) as a reward for doing good. At least 73 Qur'anic passages - many of them encompassing several verses at a time - talk of Moses.
I was so intrigued by the whole idea of a lawsuit over the Exodus that I did some research. The Qur'an does not contain any reference to the Hebrews' taking gold and silver from the Egyptians. So I went to the book of Exodus: "And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment; And the Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians" (Exodus 12:35-56). No evidence of "theft" whatsoever.
In fact, according to Exodus, it was God Himself who made the Egyptians look upon the children of Israel with favor so that they could take said gold and silver. Should Mr. Hilmy, therefore, amend his suit to name God as an unindicted co-conspirator? What ridiculous rubbish indeed. At a time when the blood of innocents continues to poison the Holy Land each and every day, the last thing that is needed is a frivolous lawsuit over ancient texts and time periods.
We live in trying times. The forces of hatred and terror conspire to bring madness and mayhem to the world around us. Extremists everywhere, of every stripe and creed, threaten to destroy every bridge of understanding and respect that have been built between all faith communities. Now is the time for bold courage and tenacious determination to prevent Islam's legacy of peace and love to be replaced with one of murder and terror.
Rather than unite against the Jews--as the Prime Minister suggested--Muslims should unite with Jews, Christians, and all other people of faith to work together for the common good of humanity and the world. The Prophet Muhammad was the first among Muslims to do such a thing, and Muslims today must not allow themselves to abandon that noble tradition.