The debate over whether Islam has been hijacked by fundamentalists -- or whether the religion itself preaches the kind of hatred that leads to terrorism -- has been raging since the 9/11/2001 attacks on the United States. Although this issue has not been resolved, one thing is clear: in the Muslim world, the demonization of Jews and Christians is commonplace.
Take Turkey, for example, where anti-Semitism has been exhibited publicly for decades by prominent members of government, the religious establishment and the media. In June this year, the head of the government's Religious Affairs Directorate -- the "Diyanet" -- joined the chorus.
In a speech he delivered in Gaziantep -- a transcript of which was posted on the Diyanet's official Twitter account -- Prof. Dr. Mehmet Görmez announced that Islam was brought to the world by Allah to correct the "distortions" of Judaism and Christianity. At the center of Judaism, he said, was "material, money and wealth." Christianity, he asserted, took the opposite, albeit equally "wrong," interpretation of the divine, as it "came up with an understanding that denigrated the world and deemed property and wealth almost forbidden [haram]."
Mehmet Görmez, President of Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), announced in June that Islam was brought to the world by Allah to correct the "distortions" of Judaism and Christianity. (Image source: Tezkiretul/Wikimedia Commons)
The Diyanet was established in 1924 by the founding government of Turkey, under the Republican People's Party, after the abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate, as a successor to Sheikh ul-Islam, the previous religious-affairs authority. It has many departments, chief among them the High Board of Religious Affairs, whose duties include:
"[M]ak[ing] decisions, shar[ing] views and answer[ing] questions on religious matters by taking into consideration the fundamental source texts and methodology, and historical experience of the Islamic religion as well as current demands and needs."
Not only does no other religion in Turkey, other than Islam, have the power, influence or financing of the Diyanet -- whose budget surpasses that of most ministries; other religions are either not officially recognized (as in the cases of Alevism and Yazidism), or are on the verge of complete governmental elimination -- as in the cases of Judaism, Greek Orthodoxy, and Assyrian (Syriac) and Armenian Christianity.
Turkey is not alone in this practice, which brings us back to the question of why "Muslims hate Jews so much."
According to Andrew Bostom, author of The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History, the answer lies in the Koran, whose "central anti-Jewish motif... is found in verse 2:61 , repeated at verse 3:112."
They have been put under humiliation [by Allah] wherever they are overtaken, except for a covenant from Allah and a rope from the Muslims. And they have drawn upon themselves anger from Allah and have been put under destitution. That is because they disbelieved in the verses of Allah and killed the prophets without right. That is because they disobeyed and [habitually] transgressed. (3:112) SAHIH INTERNATIONAL
In a 2008 interview, Bostom says:
"This is where the Jews are accused of slaying the Prophets and transgressing against the will of Allah, and so they are condemned and cursed eternally. Verse 2.61 says 'shame and misery' are 'stamped upon them.' And this verse is coupled to verses like 5:60, and other verses about the Jews being transformed into apes and pigs, which is part of their curse. Verse 5:78 describes the curse upon the Jews by David and Jesus, Mary's son. There is a related verse, 5:64, which accuses the Jews of being spreaders of war and corruption, a sort of ancient antecedent of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. (Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas cited this verse during a diatribe against the Jews of Israel, in 2007.) More generally, the Koran's overall discussion of the Jews is marked by a litany of their sins and punishments, as if part of a divine indictment, conviction, and punishment process."
Taking this beyond the Koran, Moshe Sharon, Professor Emeritus of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, explains that the
"basic attitude is that all history is in fact Islamic history...that all major figures of history basically are Muslim − from Adam down to our own time. So, if the Jews or Christians are demanding something and basing it on the fact that there was a king called Solomon or a king called David, or a prophet called Moses or Jesus, they say something which is not true or, in fact, they don't know that all these figures were basically Muslim figures."
"In fact, since the creation of the world there is only one religion and it is the religion of Islam. So, if anybody says 'Look, there is a place connected with Solomon and that is the place where the Temple of Solomon stood,' a true Muslim would tell you: 'Yes, you're absolutely right. But don't forget that Solomon was a Muslim and David was a Muslim. And Abraham was a Muslim. And Isaac was a Muslim, and Jesus was a Muslim.' This is what they mean by the Islamization of history."
Sharon says that through this "Islamization of history," there is also an "Islamization of geography," such that,
"Anywhere which was connected with these people or with these prophets who were all Muslims becomes a Muslim territory. And therefore, when Islam was not in that area before Mohammed came to it, it should have been there. By that area, I mean the Middle East or other parts outside of the Middle East which are now Muslim. So any place like this had to be freed, not to be conquered. They had to be liberated. So, Islam appeared in history in the time of Mohammed -- or reappeared in history from their point of view -- as a liberator. And therefore, there is no Islamic occupation. If somebody occupies anything, it will always be somebody else, not the Muslims. So, there is no Islamic occupation. There is only Islamic liberation."
This combination of hate-filled Koranic verses, as highlighted by Bostom, and revisionist Islamist history, as illustrated by Sharon, have created a monster in the form of an existential threat to the Judeo-Christian world. To counter it, the West needs to implement unapologetic policies to safeguard the religious liberty of both non-Muslims and non-extremist Muslims, wherever they reside.
To be effective, however, these policies must include conducting an honest and open discussion of the history and doctrine of Islam, as well as its contemporary iteration, not as a "religion of peace" – which, in Islam, is to occur only after the entire world has accepted Allah as well as Islamic law, Sharia -- but as one of war and terror.
Uzay Bulut, a journalist born and raised a Muslim in Turkey, is currently based in Washington D.C. She is a writing fellow of the Middle East Forum.