Anti-Semitism (hatred for Jewish people) is not a new or unique phenomenon for us Pakistanis. We love to hate the Jews and to blame all our ills on the ugly, hideous, nefarious designs of the Zionist Jews. After all, Jews control the world and it is only because of them that we Muslims are so far behind the rest of the world. It’s all a big conspiracy.
Journalist and Political advocate Tarek Fatah described and analyzed the reasons for this anti-Semitism in his book, “The Jew is Not My Enemy: Unveiling Myths that fuel Muslim Anti-Semitism”. Following is an excerpt from the Preface to that excellent book by Tarek Fatah.
The words were as pungent as could be, the message seething with unmistakable hate. Jews, he said, were “diseased and filthy”. Salman Hossain’s article, published in March 2010 on the website Filthy Jewish Terrorists, did not end here. Hossain went on to describe Jews as “the scum of the earth”, labeling them “psychotic” and “mass murderers”. Elsewhere Hossain called for “genocide” that “should be perpetrated against the Jewish population of North American and Europe”.
Had Salman Hossain been spouting anti-Semitism from an Al-Shahab hideout in Somalia or an Al Qaeda cave in Yemen, one could have simply shrugged off the hatred as just another clichéd rant from a frustrated Jihadi. However, Hossain’s hared had originated in one of Canada’s leading educational institutions-Toronto’s York University, where he was a student. It was not as if he came from a dispossessed Palestinian Family or had lost his loved ones in an Israeli attack. No, this young man’s roots were in Bangladesh, where the only genocide ever committed was by his fellow Muslim Pakistanis, in 1971. Yet this Bangladeshi Canadian reserved his odious hatred for the Jew, not the Pakistani army that had massacred a million of his parents’ generation. The only Pakistani he did vent his wrath was me, calling me a traitor. My crime? Despite my solidarity with the Palestinian cause, I denounce antisemitism and refuse to hate either Israel or the Jewish people.
Salman Hossain is not an isolated case of a Western Muslim youth imbued with antisemitism. Websites and social-networking forums such as Facebook are littered with posts by young Muslims in Canada, the United States, and Europe who openly espouse hatred for Jews. Take, for example, the British Muslim who posted a comment on my Facebook page, saying, “Muslims who drink alcohol are Jews in reality”. This single sentence spoke volumes about how the word Jew is used as a slur by so many Muslims.
Today, a growing number of Islamists and Muslim Intelligentsia accept that the Jews control the world, that everyone, from David Cameron to Barack Obama, from Stephen Harper to Nicholas Sarkozy, dances to the tune of the Jew. When one of the towering political leaders of the Muslim World joins in the talk of Jewish conspiracies, it is time to be concerned-not for the sake of Jews, but for Muslims. Mahathir bin Mohammad, the former prime minister of Malaysia, stands, for all his faults, like a giant among the Muslim world’s ragtag army of pompous, over-dressed, self-conscious, self-righteous, ego-laden leaders. A product of a democracy and the leader of a multiracial and multi-religious society, Mahathir led Malaysia for twenty-two years, from 1981 to 2003, and is credited not only with engineering Malaysia’s rapid modernization but with rescuing the country from the 1997 Asian economic crisis.
The son of an Indian father and a Malay mother, Mahathir is widely respected and admired in the Muslim World. I was shocked when I read his remarks at a 2010 conference in Indonesia. In his speech, Mahathir voiced his disappointment that Barack Obama had not yet ended the war in Afghanistan, and suggested that it was the Jewish lobby in the United States that was behind the President’s decision not to pursue peace. He said, ‘There are forces in the United States which prevent the President from doing some things. One of the forces is the Jewish Lobby.” That was bad enough, but it was what he said next that made me shudder. Jews, he said, “had always been a problem in the European countries. They had to be confined in ghettos and periodically massacred. But still they remained, they thrived and they held whole governments to ransom..Even after their massacre by the Nazis of Germany, they survived to continue to be a source of even greater problems for the world”.
Beyond the young Salman Hossain of Toronto and the former Prime Minister of Malaysia, there are over one Billion Muslims worldwide, and they are constantly being told by the clerics about the essential deviousness of the Jew and the global conspiracies he weaves. Adding to this global paranoia is the global Muslim community’s false sense of victim-hood, which is leaving a deep scar on our consciousness. As the rest of the world makes rapid advances in technology, culture, arts, literature, and social development, the Muslim World seems frozen in time, obsessed with the past, and outpaced by such developing nations as Brazil, India, South Africa and China. The Muslim community-better known as the Ummah-is left paralyzed in the quagmire of stagnation. In the absence of any rational explanation for this malaise, all we can do is indulge in blame, self-pity, or hate.
And at the top of the Muslim blame game is the continued occupation of the Palestinian territories. Irrespective of who is responsible for the sorry state of the Palestinians, after thirty-five years of occupation, the cause of Palestine is still invoked around the Muslim world, both to distract the community from its own needs and to blame all our shortcomings on some fictitious Jewish conspiracy. By refusing to recognize not just the legality of the state but also the rights of Jews to have a state of their own in the Holy Land, the Arab leadership has failed the Palestinian people time after time.
For me, a discussion about Muslim-Jewish relations or the Arab-Israeli dispute becomes a non-starter the moment the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state is challenged. Having said that, I firmly believe Israel, in continuing its occupation of the West Bank, is in serious violation of International Law. I am against the occupation not because I am a Muslim, but because I am against occupation of any people by a Foreign country. Whether it is Morocco’s continued occupation of Western Sahara, Sudan’s occupation of Darfur, Indonesia’s now ended occupation of East Timor, or the refusal by four Muslim countries-Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran-to permit the Kurdish people a state of their own, for me, they all merit equal attention. For the Muslims of the world, the 1925 invasion of the Kingdom of Hejaz by the Sultanate of Nejd by the Saudi Royal Family should be our primary reason for anger. But it is not. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find any scholar or sheikh who would dare mention this sad part of contemporary Islamic history.