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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Anti-Semitic views can be changed

Anti-Semitic views can be changed
by Julia Duin Sunday, June 22, 2008 Washington Times

Years ago, while reporting for the Houston Chronicle, I realized I'd better wise up in terms of covering Muslims, many of whom were employed with the local oil industry.

This was years before reporters got serious about covering Islam. The first thing I did was read the first five chapters (suras) of the Koran, Islam's holy book.

What struck me was the passages comparing Jews to apes or pigs. I could not miss the deep invective against Jews for their hard-heartedness against Allah. The Koran built a case for the Jews - and the Christians as well - as being replaced by the followers of Allah.

For instance, Sura 3:67 claims the patriarch Abraham "was not a Jew nor yet a Christian," but a Muslim. Sura 5 is full of imprecations against Jews and Christians.

Which is why, when Andrew Bostom's new book, "The Legacy of Islamic Anti-Semitism" landed on my desk a few weeks ago, I took notice.

This enormous 700-page-plus read catches one's attention with cover art depicting the beheading of a 17-year-old Moroccan Jewish girl. The French painter portrayed an actual incident that happened in Fez, Morocco, in 1834 when Sol Hachuel, the daughter of a Talmudic scholar, was executed. The culprit was a female Muslim friend who claimed Sol had secretly become a Muslim, then apostacized.

Apostasy, that is, leaving Islam, was punishable by death back then and still is considered a capital crime today in some Islamic republics. Although Sura 2:256 says, "Let there be no compulsion in religion," Sura 3:85 says "If anyone desires a religion other than Islam, never will it be accepted of him."

That jogged something in my brain. While an exchange student in Strasbourg, France, I was assigned to live with a Jewish family that had fled Morocco years before. Mr. Bostom's book tells of the nonstop assaults on Jewish Moroccans that only ceased when the French colonized Morocco in 1912. When the French began pulling out in the 1950s, Jews left too, guessing bad times would return.

Years later, I sponsored a Kurdish family from Iraq. When they first arrived, I could not get over what seemed an in-born hatred for Jews. Mr. Bostom's book, which has pages of verses extracted from the Koran and the Hadith (commentary on the Koran), makes the case that anti-Semitism is indigenous to the religion.

"It was so preposterous to claim [the anti-Semitism] is not doctrinal," he told me recently. "You can be deprogrammed from this stuff, but that is different than saying the program does not exist."

A 2005 Pew survey gives some credence to his claim. "Anti-Jewish sentiment is endemic in the Muslim world," the survey said. Ninety-nine percent of all Jordanians and Lebanese have a "very unfavorable" view of Jews, it said, as do inhabitants of majority Muslim countries that do not border Israel: Indonesia, Morocco, Pakistan, even Turkey.

"The attitudes are the same everywhere," Mr. Bostom said, "so it's got to be doctrinal," that is, based in the teachings of Islam.

But attitudes change. My Kurdish friends had not been here a year when they began to encounter Jews at their workplaces; something that never occurred when they lived in Iraq. The most vociferous anti-Semite among them ended up with a Jewish boss who treated her kindly.

So I was not too surprised when she asked me if I could find a local synagogue we could visit. Maybe the Jews weren't so bad after all.

Julia Duin can be reached at Her "Stairway to Heaven" column runs Thursdays and Sunday