Islam must adopt the Moroccan model – The Spectator US

Posted By on December 18, 2020

After becoming the latest Arab state to formalize ties with Israel, the fourth in as many months, Morocco has gone a step further; it will startteaching Jewish history as part of the school curriculum. Morocco is now the first modern Arabic state to embrace its tradition of religious pluralism a pluralism that has over the decades faded into mono-cultural Sunni Islam. Over the last 70 years, the number of Jews living in Morocco hasfallenfrom half a million to just 2,000.

In January, Moroccan King Mohammed VIvisiteda Jewish museum and synagogue in Essaouira to celebrate the countrys pluralistic past as well as the Moroccan monarchs recentattemptsto restore Jewish heritage sites. Indeed, in the 18thcentury, Sultan Mohammed Ben Abdellah oversaw thebuilding of nearly 40 synagogues in Essaouira, a city where once four in 10 of its population was Jewish. Before that, Morocco welcomed Iberian Jews cast out of modern-day Spain by the 1492 Alhambra decree, giving them legal autonomy over their worship.

As the Muslim world begins toreconcilewith Israel, so too must it acknowledge the full history of Islams relationship with Judaism. This wont be easy, of course, since the past is loaded with animosity for Jewish peoples but there are also neglected, older tales of Islamic multiculturalism. Islam, as its more liberal proponents like to remind us, was theharbingerof the European Enlightenment.

The exodus of Jews from the Muslim world began in in earnest in the 1940s, eventually evolving in some countries from persecution to slaughter. Nazi Germanys Holocaust extended into Axis controlled north African territories during the second world war. Hundreds of camps like the one in Jadu, Libya illustrate tales of barbarism reserved exclusively for Jews in the Arab world under the Axis rule. Many local Muslims didnt find Jewish discrimination particularly repulsive, perhaps owing to the preceding Ottoman rule which had already established Jews as inferior dhimmis, legally upholding Muslim supremacism, while overseeing multiple pogroms. Indeed, many Arabs cheered in Tunis when the Jews were paraded by German occupying forces. Under the Nazi-allied French Vichy regime, Algeria became the second country where Jews werestrippedof their citizenship after Germany.

Even so, amid instances of Arabcollaborationwith the Third Reich, there were many, lesser-acknowledgedstoriesof Arabs safeguarding Jews. Tunisian landowner Khaled Abdul Wahab, the Arab Schindler,riskedhis life to protect many Jewish families. Similarly, Moroccan Sultan Mohammed Vsavedthe Jews of Casablanca, as he resisted the anti-Semitic laws promulgated under the Vichy rule. There aresimilar tales from Turkey, Iran and other parts of the Muslim world, with over 60 Muslims honored as righteous at theYad Vashem memorial. And it is easy to understand why theirs are lesser-known stories.

After the war, the Jewish populations of Tunisia, Sudan, Libya, Morocco, Algeria and Egypt were pressured to leave, some had their passports stamped exit with no return as anti-Semitism spiraled in the Muslim world. While geopolitical commentators often point to the creation of Israel in what was seen as Arab land, the anti-Jewish feeling is in fact millennia old. Quranicversestelling Muslims not to take Jews as friends and Hadithsmandatingthe killing of Jews hiding behind stones and trees continue to be taught across the Muslim world.

Just as Judeophobia mandated by scriptures became the root of the Arab and Muslim worlds antagonism towards Israel, the ongoing formalization of ties is also backed by an Islamic rationale. It is this reformist interpretation of Islam, coupled with recognition of the crimes perpetrated by their states and empires similar to the ideological course correction undertaken by Europe after world war two that will help Muslim states progress. And today, the biggest threat to such progression comes not from Arab monarchs or dictators, but democratically elected populists in the Muslim world. Judeophobia dominates all from the largest Muslim stateIndonesiato the officially secularBangladesh.

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Today, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Imran Khan and Mahathir Mohamad are waging a hypocritical war against Islamophobia while perpetuating anti-Semitic tropes. Mahathir is aself-confessedanti-Semite while Erdoganthreatens to suspend ties with the UAE after it recognized Israel. Khan, meanwhile, accuses domestic political opponents of colluding with the Israeli lobby. He callously equatesblasphemy against Islam in the West with the Holocaust, without ever bothering to address the reasons for PakistansdwindlingJewish population.

Instead of owning up to Jewish persecution in Muslim countries, these leaders are busy sowing the seeds of division. Such denialism is only possible by ignoring the past. The existing Islamist animus againstTunisian,Algerian,Sudaneseor Moroccan bids to retrace their Jewish past is similarly rooted in bigotry.

Embracing the Middle Easts ancient Jewish heritage will help inculcate a spirit of tolerance and pluralism in the Arab world. And the Arab world should take a lead as it often does in Muslim affairs, for better or worse in uprooting its anti-Semitism. Such a commitment will eventually pave the way for other Muslim states to shun their anti-Semiticconspiracy theoriesas they stepcloser to recognizing Israel. Its time for the Muslim world to follow the Moroccan example.

This article was originally published on The Spectators UK website.

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Islam must adopt the Moroccan model - The Spectator US

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