Zuhdi Jasser's Predicament -- And Ours

Andrew Bostom and Alyssa A. Lappen
Dr. Zuhdi Jasser is a decent man conflicted by what he wishes to be mainstream Islamic reality, as manifested in doctrine and practice since the creed's 7th century foundation, through the present.

Dr. Jasser gave a one hour interview with Pamela Geller that aired on 5/22/2007, which must be heard in its entirety to understand his Weltanschauung, as well as his predicament -- and ours.

Although Dr. Jasser made some noble comments, and expressed views certainly worth championing, there were unsettling aspects of some of his statements and arguments. Dr. Jasser's apologetics regarding Islamic Jew-hatred and misogyny were counterfactual. Such comments are delusive at best, perhaps out of Dr. Jasser's apparent genuine embarrassment regarding the tenets of  mainstream Islam as practiced since its advent.

From minutes 20:00 through 27:30, Jasser's  discussion of Islamic Jew hatred is punctuated by ahistorical and doctrinally false apologetics (including "Golden Age" mythology; ridiculous claims about "bad Koranic translations"...etc.), possible taqiyya about what "allowing" a Muslim man to marry a Jewish woman actually means -- it is not "ecumenical," i.e., Jasser fails to acknowledge that a Jewish woman married to a Muslim man must allow the children to be raised as Muslims. Jasser then asserts that I share a "Wahhabist/Al Qaeda interpretation" of Koranic Jew hatred at 26:30-26:50. Specifically, Jasser objects stridently to what he claims are,

...the [Koranic] passages that Mr. Bostom and others are insisting on taking the interpretations of the Wahhabists...I will not allow my faith to be interpreted by Al Qaeda or the Wahhabists [i.e., like Mr. Bostom does]
Again at minutes 58:00 to 59:00 of the audio, Jasser asserts Islam has a "respect for Judasim" for Jews apparently self-evident "in the way we're raised...on how we read our scripture":

Interviewer: "Islamic Antisemitism is irrefutable..."

Jasser: "I will not accept that Antisemitism is part of Islam...the vast majority [emphasis added] of Muslims have a respect for Judaism that is ingrained in the way we're raised...on how we read our scripture."

Interviewer: "That statement you made is opposite to reality."

In addition, Dr. Jasser offers an apologetic for Islamic misogyny at ~ minutes 44:00 to 47:00 of the interview. For a better grounded discussion of Islamic misogyny, see Ibn Warraq's "Lifting the veil of tears," and Reza Afshari's "Egalitarian Islam and Misogynist Islamic Tradition: A Critique of the Feminist Reinterpretation of Islamic History and Heritage."

Jasser's claims about Islamic Jew hatred are thoroughly debunked in this lengthy presentation "Antisemitism in the Qur'an: Motifs and Historical Manifestations", April 7, 2008 which demonstrates exactly how the greatest classical Koranic commentators in Islam -- who antedated the "Wahhabi" movement by 500 to 1000 years -- interpreted the Koranic verses on Jews discussed during the interview.  And the late Grand Imam of Al Azhar -- the Sunni Muslim Pope, Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, who was not a "Wahhabi" -- wrote a 700 pp. treatise that concurred with these Jew-hating interpretations of the classical Koranic commentators.

An abstract of this paper which derives from my The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, is provided below:

The essential nature of the Qur'ranic "revelation," as understood by Muslims, was elaborated in 1891 by Theodore Nöldeke (whose seminal 1860 Geschichte des Qorans remains a vital tool for Qur'ranic research): "To the faith of the Muslims...the Koran is the word of God, and such also is the claim which the book itself advances..."

And to this day, as the contemporary Qur'anic scholar Ibn Warraq notes, for all believing Muslims, and not merely "fundamentalists, " the Qur'an remains Allah's "uncreated" words, "...valid for all times and places; its ideals are, according to all Muslims, absolutely true and beyond any criticism."

The Qur'anic depiction of the Jews -- their traits as thus characterized being deemed both infallible and timeless-highlights, in verse 2:61 (repeated in verse 3:112), the centrality of the Jews "abasement and humiliation", and being "laden with God's anger," as elaborated in the corpus of Muslim exegetic literature on Qur'an 2:61, including the hadith and Qur'anic commentaries. The terrifying rage decreed upon the Jews forever is connected in the hadith and exegeses to Qur'an 1:7, where Muslims ask Allah to guide them rightly, not in the path of those who provoke and must bear His wrath. This verse is in turn linked to Qur'anic verses 5:60, and 5:78, which describe the Jews transformation into apes and swine (5:60), having been "...cursed by the tongue of David, and Jesus, Mary's son" (5:78). Moreover, forcing Jews, in particular, to pay the Qur'anic poll tax "tribute," (as per verse 9:29) "readily," while "being brought low," is consistent with their overall humiliation and abasement in accord with Qur'an 2:61, and its directly related verses.

An additional much larger array of anti-Jewish Qur'anic motifs build to a denouement (as if part of a theological indictment, conviction, and sentencing process) concluding with an elaboration of the "ultimate sin" committed by the Jews (they are among the devil's minions [Qur'an 4:60], accursed by God [Qur'an 4:47]), and their appropriate punishment: If they do not accept the true faith (i.e., Islam), on the day of judgment, they will burn in the hellfire (Qur'an 4:55). As per, Qur'an 98:7: "The unbelievers among the People of the Book and the pagans shall burn forever in the fire of Hell. They are the vilest of all creatures"

After presenting a full spectrum of the major anti-Jewish motifs in the Qur'an, additional illustrations demonstrating their persistent influence on Muslim attitudes (and resultant behaviors) towards Jews, are provided. Four themes are considered, and their historical application illustrated, across space and time, through the present: (I) the Jews being associated with Satan and consigned to Hell (Qur'an 4:60, 4:55, 58:14-19, and 98:6); (II) the imposition of the Qur'anic poll-tax (jizya; Qur'an 9:29) on Jews, specifically, and (III) the related enforcement of the Qur'anic (2:61) "curse" upon the Jews for killing the Prophets, and other transgressions against Allah's will, meriting their permanent humiliation and abasement; and, last in connection to this curse, (IV) the Jews' transformation into apes/swine, as punishment (Qur'an 2:65, 5:60, and 7:166).

The contemporary case of Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, author of a 700 page scholarly treatise rationalizing Muslim Jew hatred, Banu Isra'il fi al-Qur'an wa al-Sunna [Jews in the Qur'an and the Traditions], and current [note: died in March 2010] Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University, demonstrates the prevalence and depth of sacralized, "normative" Jew hatred in the contemporary Muslim world. Even if all non-Muslim Judeophobic themes were to disappear miraculously overnight from the Islamic world, the living legacy of anti-Jewish hatred, and violence rooted in Islam's sacred texts-Qur'an, hadith, and sira-would remain intact. The assessment and understanding of Islamic antisemitism must begin with an unapologetic analysis of the anti-Jewish motifs contained in these foundational texts of Islam.

See also: American Islamists Find Common Cause with Pamela Geller
Dr. Zuhdi Jasser is a decent man conflicted by what he wishes to be mainstream Islamic reality, as manifested in doctrine and practice since the creed's 7th century foundation, through the present.

Dr. Jasser gave a one hour interview with Pamela Geller that aired on 5/22/2007, which must be heard in its entirety to understand his Weltanschauung, as well as his predicament -- and ours.

Although Dr. Jasser made some noble comments, and expressed views certainly worth championing, there were unsettling aspects of some of his statements and arguments. Dr. Jasser's apologetics regarding Islamic Jew-hatred and misogyny were counterfactual. Such comments are delusive at best, perhaps out of Dr. Jasser's apparent genuine embarrassment regarding the tenets of  mainstream Islam as practiced since its advent.

From minutes 20:00 through 27:30, Jasser's  discussion of Islamic Jew hatred is punctuated by ahistorical and doctrinally false apologetics (including "Golden Age" mythology; ridiculous claims about "bad Koranic translations"...etc.), possible taqiyya about what "allowing" a Muslim man to marry a Jewish woman actually means -- it is not "ecumenical," i.e., Jasser fails to acknowledge that a Jewish woman married to a Muslim man must allow the children to be raised as Muslims. Jasser then asserts that I share a "Wahhabist/Al Qaeda interpretation" of Koranic Jew hatred at 26:30-26:50. Specifically, Jasser objects stridently to what he claims are,

...the [Koranic] passages that Mr. Bostom and others are insisting on taking the interpretations of the Wahhabists...I will not allow my faith to be interpreted by Al Qaeda or the Wahhabists [i.e., like Mr. Bostom does]
Again at minutes 58:00 to 59:00 of the audio, Jasser asserts Islam has a "respect for Judasim" for Jews apparently self-evident "in the way we're raised...on how we read our scripture":

Interviewer: "Islamic Antisemitism is irrefutable..."

Jasser: "I will not accept that Antisemitism is part of Islam...the vast majority [emphasis added] of Muslims have a respect for Judaism that is ingrained in the way we're raised...on how we read our scripture."

Interviewer: "That statement you made is opposite to reality."

In addition, Dr. Jasser offers an apologetic for Islamic misogyny at ~ minutes 44:00 to 47:00 of the interview. For a better grounded discussion of Islamic misogyny, see Ibn Warraq's "Lifting the veil of tears," and Reza Afshari's "Egalitarian Islam and Misogynist Islamic Tradition: A Critique of the Feminist Reinterpretation of Islamic History and Heritage."

Jasser's claims about Islamic Jew hatred are thoroughly debunked in this lengthy presentation "Antisemitism in the Qur'an: Motifs and Historical Manifestations", April 7, 2008 which demonstrates exactly how the greatest classical Koranic commentators in Islam -- who antedated the "Wahhabi" movement by 500 to 1000 years -- interpreted the Koranic verses on Jews discussed during the interview.  And the late Grand Imam of Al Azhar -- the Sunni Muslim Pope, Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, who was not a "Wahhabi" -- wrote a 700 pp. treatise that concurred with these Jew-hating interpretations of the classical Koranic commentators.

An abstract of this paper which derives from my The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, is provided below:

The essential nature of the Qur'ranic "revelation," as understood by Muslims, was elaborated in 1891 by Theodore Nöldeke (whose seminal 1860 Geschichte des Qorans remains a vital tool for Qur'ranic research): "To the faith of the Muslims...the Koran is the word of God, and such also is the claim which the book itself advances..."

And to this day, as the contemporary Qur'anic scholar Ibn Warraq notes, for all believing Muslims, and not merely "fundamentalists, " the Qur'an remains Allah's "uncreated" words, "...valid for all times and places; its ideals are, according to all Muslims, absolutely true and beyond any criticism."

The Qur'anic depiction of the Jews -- their traits as thus characterized being deemed both infallible and timeless-highlights, in verse 2:61 (repeated in verse 3:112), the centrality of the Jews "abasement and humiliation", and being "laden with God's anger," as elaborated in the corpus of Muslim exegetic literature on Qur'an 2:61, including the hadith and Qur'anic commentaries. The terrifying rage decreed upon the Jews forever is connected in the hadith and exegeses to Qur'an 1:7, where Muslims ask Allah to guide them rightly, not in the path of those who provoke and must bear His wrath. This verse is in turn linked to Qur'anic verses 5:60, and 5:78, which describe the Jews transformation into apes and swine (5:60), having been "...cursed by the tongue of David, and Jesus, Mary's son" (5:78). Moreover, forcing Jews, in particular, to pay the Qur'anic poll tax "tribute," (as per verse 9:29) "readily," while "being brought low," is consistent with their overall humiliation and abasement in accord with Qur'an 2:61, and its directly related verses.

An additional much larger array of anti-Jewish Qur'anic motifs build to a denouement (as if part of a theological indictment, conviction, and sentencing process) concluding with an elaboration of the "ultimate sin" committed by the Jews (they are among the devil's minions [Qur'an 4:60], accursed by God [Qur'an 4:47]), and their appropriate punishment: If they do not accept the true faith (i.e., Islam), on the day of judgment, they will burn in the hellfire (Qur'an 4:55). As per, Qur'an 98:7: "The unbelievers among the People of the Book and the pagans shall burn forever in the fire of Hell. They are the vilest of all creatures"

After presenting a full spectrum of the major anti-Jewish motifs in the Qur'an, additional illustrations demonstrating their persistent influence on Muslim attitudes (and resultant behaviors) towards Jews, are provided. Four themes are considered, and their historical application illustrated, across space and time, through the present: (I) the Jews being associated with Satan and consigned to Hell (Qur'an 4:60, 4:55, 58:14-19, and 98:6); (II) the imposition of the Qur'anic poll-tax (jizya; Qur'an 9:29) on Jews, specifically, and (III) the related enforcement of the Qur'anic (2:61) "curse" upon the Jews for killing the Prophets, and other transgressions against Allah's will, meriting their permanent humiliation and abasement; and, last in connection to this curse, (IV) the Jews' transformation into apes/swine, as punishment (Qur'an 2:65, 5:60, and 7:166).

The contemporary case of Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, author of a 700 page scholarly treatise rationalizing Muslim Jew hatred, Banu Isra'il fi al-Qur'an wa al-Sunna [Jews in the Qur'an and the Traditions], and current [note: died in March 2010] Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University, demonstrates the prevalence and depth of sacralized, "normative" Jew hatred in the contemporary Muslim world. Even if all non-Muslim Judeophobic themes were to disappear miraculously overnight from the Islamic world, the living legacy of anti-Jewish hatred, and violence rooted in Islam's sacred texts-Qur'an, hadith, and sira-would remain intact. The assessment and understanding of Islamic antisemitism must begin with an unapologetic analysis of the anti-Jewish motifs contained in these foundational texts of Islam.

See also: American Islamists Find Common Cause with Pamela Geller