Our friend Hillel Fradkin has sent out a fascinating article on the relationship between Islam and German nationalism. In two world wars both types of German nationalists, both the relatively mild sort of the Second Reich and the pathological ones of the Third, hoped that the more manly faith of Islam would come to their side against Christian weakness. It didn’t work. During World War I the Arabs were more interested in getting rid of the Turks than in fighting an artificial jihad against the British. In World War II the Muslims also lacked enthusiasm, with the exception of the notorious Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al Husseini, who survived the war to sow deeper seeds of distrust between Israeli and Palestinian at the time of the Naqba [the War of Israeli Independence, and the population exchange that followed it]. It turns out that Hitler’s favorite dictator, outside himself, was Mustafa Kemal Atatuerk, who was very far from being a good Muslim!
It is true enough that Muhammad was opposed by Jewish clans in Medina who would not accept his message, and he got rid of them. Jews ended up, with the Christians, being the “Peoples of the Book” that the Koran sometimes says to tolerate, and other times apparently not. But Christians had their difficulty with Jews in the early days, too. I, and virtually every Christian I know today, categorically reject the notion that the Jews inherit any kind of collective guilt for the death of Christ, but it cannot be denied that they made trouble for their “apostate” St. Paul, who on more than one occasion resolved that now he would “go to the Gentiles.” And he identified as a Jew; the “Apostle to the Gentiles”, almost every time he arrived in a strange city, made a beeline to the synagogue first thing.
I can’t be a Muslim; I have been convinced of the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ for 41 years, and the necessity of His life, death, and resurrection for our salvation. Plus the behavior of some Islamists in my time is not the best testimony! But if I were, rather than indulge in this Judeophobia that seems to be rampant in the Muslim world today [I consider Judeophobia a better word than “anti-Semitism,” which derives from bizarre 19th century racial theories], I would point out the times that Muslims protected Jews when Christians were exiling them. The Umayyads, when they arrived in Spain in 711, were kinder to the Jews than the Visigoths who had preceded them. This reversed itself when the “Almoravid” [al-murabitun] fundamentalists arrived in 1086; and for some centuries Jews were safer in the Christian side of Spain than in the Muslim side. After the Black Death Christian attitudes against Jews began to harden again, and in 1492 Isabella and Ferdinand, the so called Catholic Kings, ordered the expulsion of Jews from Castile and Aragon. Four years later the King of Portugal, desiring to marry a Castilian princess, did the same for his territories. So lots of people were sailing the ocean blue in 1492, and most of them were Jewish and heading for Thessaloniki and Istanbul in the Ottoman Empire! There they survived for almost five centuries, speaking a language that has the same relationship to Spanish as Yiddish does to German.
And yes, the Jews, and the Christians, were under “dhimmi” status, and had to live in low houses, never ride horses, and suffer many disabilities. But it wasn’t until the 18th and the Napoleonic era that “dhimmi” status in the Islamic world was clearly inferior to the status of Jews in the West. It was only at that time that Jews were really permitted full participation in what was still called, although increasingly hypocritically, “Christendom.” It was this example that the Muslim world failed to follow.
And then there was the whole “Judeo-Christian” meme. It became popular in America after the Holocaust, and many Jews still find the term objectionable. I am not sure that the term has ever had much use in British English, but I am willing to be corrected on that. The motives were
a. a desire to be inclusive to Jews after the Holocaust
b. a desire to define the free world as “theistic” in opposition to Atheistic Communism
and as Will Herberg wrote in his book Protestant, Catholic, Jew, white Americans were sorting themselves into three tribes, while what I have called Moralistic Stoic Deism dominated the public square, and Eisenhower declared, “America needs a faith, and I don’t care what it is.” Yes, Billy Graham was an honored figure, and Evangelicalism had a resurgence during this time as well, building many of its institutions that still stand; but the fault lines between them and the “Protestant liberals” were still a matter of theological debate and had little cultural impact till the cultural revolutions of the Sixties. Now, of course, everything has changed; first the Sixties [which really took root in the Seventies] and then the Islamist struggle starting with the capture of the American Embassy in Tehran in 1979, and peaking with 9/11, have caused Orthodox and conservative Jews to be increasingly allied with Evangelicals, conservative Catholics, and Mormons. But this is a new development. And we must not read it back into history. Any Jew would laugh at the idea, for example, that the Crusades were a war on behalf of “Judeo-Christian civilization.” If I were a Muslim, rather than indulging in this Judeophobia, I would pride myself on the many occasions when Islamdom gave shelter to Jews while those barbaric “Christians” were deporting or slaughtering them.