I met Muhammad Al-Hussaini at Limmud Colorado last year (2009). A soft-spoken man who firmly believes in his viewpoint, he is a Muslim scholar who lives in the Jewish community in Britain because he and his family are at risk of violent attack if he remains in the Muslim community. He expressed to me three important points:
1. The Qur’an unequivocally gives Israel to the Jews for all time as long as they follow the Torah. He believes the Jews have fulfilled this commandment.
2. This idea is taught in serious institutions of Islamic scholarship, as he was taught.
3. He is so comfortable with this point of view that he would be willing to debate anyone, including the Islamists, about it.
For their part, the Islamists not only challenge this point of view, but obviously have the upper hand. Though Al-Hussaini can point to Sura 5:1 as the exegesis of his argument, which seems to side with him, there also exists other Suras of the Qur’an and the Hadith (commentaries on the Qur’an) that validate otherwise. Robert Spencer, an opponent of Islamism and a well known expert on the Islamist theology, is adamant that Al-Hussaini’s interpretation is wrong and that Muslim theology explicitly supports Muslim imperialism, particularly against the Jews. Ironically, Spencer agrees with the Islamists that Islam’s theology gives it a basis for attacks against the West in general and the Jews in particular.
Spencer says, “This…negative attitude toward Jews is expressed in sacred texts and in the body of Shari’a (Islamic law) where Jews, like all non-Muslims, are assigned a status that does not permit their becoming rulers over Muslims or over Muslim territory.” Middle East Quarterly Fall 2009, pp. 3-8
In the same article, Spencer points out that ‘”the Hamas charter asserts that ‘the Islamic Resistance Movement [i.e. Hamas] regards Palestine as an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future generations until Judgment Day.'” Ibid
Daniel Pipes points out that when Ehud Olmert, as Israeli Prime Minister, called for recognition by the Palestinian government of Israel as a Jewish state, ‘”Palestinian leaders responded, with howls of outrage, declaring that they ‘absolutely refused’ to accept Israel as a Jewish state. They even pretended to be shocked at the notion of a state defined by religion, although their own ‘Constitution of the State of Palestine,’ third draft, states that ‘Arabic and Islam are the official Palestinian language and religion.’ Olmert’s efforts went nowhere.” National Review Online May 11, 2010
In a recent poll commissioned by the Middle East Forum and conducted by Pechter Middle East Polls, one question was asked, “Islam defines [your state]; under the right circumstances, would you accept a Jewish State of Israel?” and the results were, “…26 percent of Egyptians and 9 percent of urban Saudi subjects answered (in November 2009) in the affirmative, as did 9 percent of Jordanians and 5 percent of Lebanese (in April 2010).” Ibid
Daniel Pipes goes on to state, “Polls and other evidence suggest a long-term average of 20 percent acceptance of Israel, whether in the Mandatory period or now, whether Muslims in Canada or Palestinians in Lebanon.” Ibid
But Al-Hussaini concludes that, “… although the Jews come in for severe criticism in the works of Muslim apologists and theologians, there are no grounds in religious law to entertain the conceit that God’s promise to the Children of Israel has been broken, and none to support the view that Israel is now the property of the Muslims.” Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2009, pp. 9-14
However, there should be little doubt that the theological basis for Muslim extremism, such as it is, drives the ability of the Islamists above all other reasons to promote, perpetrate and perpetuate radical Islam. This is the central driving force of the Islamist movement. It is based in the theology and must have a theological answer. This is the proverbial elephant in the room and yet there is little in the way to counteract it. Many so-called Muslim moderates are in agreement that Islam and Sharia Law must dominate, but being against this is the real test of moderation. This is why dialogue between the West and the Muslim world is problematic: we have a theological disagreement which must be broached, but we or they won’t or can’t.
Except for Muslims like Muhammad Al-Hussaini. A true moderate. Good luck Muhammad, and stay safe.