Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mufti Pronouncement

The Mufti of Syria has a message of peace between Jews and Muslims:
Syria's foremost Muslim leader declared on Tuesday that Islam commands its followers to protect Judaism, according to Army Radio.

"If the Prophet Mohammed had asked me to deem Christians or Jews heretics, I would have deemed Mohammed himself a heretic," Sheikh Ahmed Hassoun, the Mufti of Syria, was quoted as telling a delegation of American academics visiting Damascus.

Hassoun, the leader of Syria's majority Sunni Muslim community, also told the delegates that Islam was a religion of peace, adding: "If Mohammed had commanded us to kill people, I would have told him he was not a prophet."

Intriguing.

3 comments:

N. Friedman said...

How is this message remotely intriguing? The Mufti has merely stated traditional the traditional Islamic position about Judaism and Jews and about Christians.

This has nothing remote to do with making peace between Arabs and Jews.

Charlie H. Ettinson said...

It's interesting because he says Jews as distinct from taking a position on Israel or Israelis. On the other hand, in the Arab world, the "Jews" and the "Israelis" are mere synonyms. It's hard to know what he really means by this.

N. Friedman said...

Charlie,

The Islamic tradition - most especially Islamic law - commands Muslims to protect Jews and Christians, so long as they pay the jizya (i.e. poll tax) so as to be made to feel subdued, as set forth in the Koran. In the Hamas covenant, it notes that Jews and Christians can live peacefully among Muslims - in its phrasing, "under the wing of Islam." This is no different in spirit than what the Mufti has written.

This protection of "acceptable" religions is the side of Islam as tolerant religion, as understood in the historical context of pre-modern society. This was not always or even nearly the reality. There was often hatred of Jews - justified now and previously by other passages from the Koran and Haditha. This typically came to the forefront when Jews overstepped their "place" in society by, for example, obtaining political prominence in government. Or, when economic hardship required a scapegoat, etc., etc.

And, there were, often and depending on the place, other non-Koranic regulations, based on the Haditha or other formulas, forced upon Jews and Christians, such as rules about clothing, about standing to the side of the road in the presence of a Muslim, about not being armed, about not being able to give testimony against a Muslim, etc., etc. Some of the regulations find their origin in Byzantine regulations.

These are all the means by which Jews and Christians were "tolerated." This should not be underestimated. Other civilizations simply killed off those they conquered. Islam saw its conquests as a means of permanent expansion, giving the tolerated a way to join the conqueror by accepting the conqueror's religious ideology.