On Sunday, September 25, I addressed the Glasgow Friends of Israel Conference in the city, with the words; Aslaam -o- Alykum (Peace and blessings be upon you all)
Reading into the history of my faith and the history of Islam I came to realise that the perspective adopted by many Muslims today towards Israel and the Jewish people is completely distorted and often deliberately misinformed, for political not religious reasons.
While Christianity held historic animosities towards Jews, it was never a phenomenon amongst Muslims. In reality Muslims frequently supported their Jewish cousins throughout Islamic history.
During the Islamic era in Spain, Jewish people were not only protected, but were free to exercise their beliefs. They held high level government positions in the state of Andalusia. Meanwhile, a virulent form of anti-Semitism afflicted much of Europe. That disease has now, unfortunately, become endemic in the Islamic world. As Europe colonised the Middle East, its anti-Jewish ideas infiltrated the Arab world.
We Muslims cannot and should not be anti-Semitic. Our holy book, the Quran supports Judaism. The Prophet of Islam, Muhammad is mentioned only a few times, but the Prophet Moses is mentioned 25 times.
In the words of one historian “it was European converts to Islam who brought anti-Semitism into the Arab world.”
A new wave of political and religious hatred rose in the 19th century when the Jewish state of Israel emerged. Muslims were told by Europeans, that Jews had taken our holy land and would persecute Muslims, but in fact, this land, especially the city of Jerusalem was a more sacred place to the Jewish people than us Muslims. Muslims were never persecuted under the Jewish state of Israel. The Jewish state of Israel is a reality now as is the Muslim state of Pakistan. Israel is a land of peace and prosperity where peoples of all faiths live together and exercise their religion without fear of persecution or hate. The state of Israel protects the rights of minorities and their places of worship.
The pre-eminent medieval Jewish philosopher and one of the greatest Torah scholars of the Middle Ages, served Saladin as his physician in Twelfth century. Jews such as Maimonides became personal physicians of governors in Islamic era. The most famous example is Shmuel Hanagid, who was not only vizier of the Muslim king of Granada, but also a commander of his armies.
It also guarantees freedom of religion for all. Every religious community is free to observe its holidays and weekly day of rest and to administer its internal affairs. Each has its own religious council and courts, recognised by the law of Israel and with jurisdiction over all religious affairs.
There are nearly two million Arab citizens of Israel and there are more than 400 mosques in the state of Israel and are about 350 Muslim Imams who are getting their salaries and pension from the Israeli government. These Mosques are protected by the Jewish State and their Muslim citizens have full and equal rights in the state. They live side by side with their Jewish cousins in peace and unity.
Israel is home to a widely diverse population from many ethnic, religious, cultural and social backgrounds. The Israeli society is relatively young and is characterised by social and religious commitment, political ideology, economic resourcefulness and cultural creativity, all of which contribute momentum to its continuing development.
Hundreds of Israeli Muslims serve in the IDF to protect their land of Israel and its people.
While Muslims face many challenges across the globe one of them being Islamophobia we cannot stop and counter this hateful behaviour until we tackle the menace of anti-Semitism. Muslim and Jewish communities in the UK must unite and fight against the intolerance of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. We need to sit together and listen to each other, we must never let the extremists win by spreading hate and creating division.
If ever there was a time to be a fundamentalist for peace, this is the time. If ever there was a need for fanatical belief in a shared future for Palestinians and Israelis, the need is now. There can be a peace process between Israelis and Palestinians but both nations need to work on it very seriously, there are barriers but it’s not impossible at all. There are always two kinds of people in the world: Those who believe in the possibility of peace and those who do not.
Apology and Forgiveness will be central to progress, without forgiveness, no any peace plan will work. The apology was a key to peace in South Africa and both nations, Israelis and Palestinians should forgive each other and take a positive step in future.
Recognition and Acceptances is just as important. Palestinians and Arabs have to accept Israel as a Jewish state. The Palestinians must recognize the Jewish historical, religious and emotional connection to the Temple Mount. This is consistent with Islamic traditions. At the same time, Israelis have to accept that there is a Palestinian people—not merely “West Bankers”— and acknowledge the historical memory of the Palestinians even it is only a 70 years old but the reality is this they exist now. Israel must also see it as a Middle Eastern country, not a western country.
Through mutual religious tolerance, great progress can be made, though the anti-peace groups will do everything to brainwash, blackmail and persuade us that peace is not possible.
I hope, we can educate a new generation in the language of peace and dialogue, rejecting the boycotts, barriers and divisions of the past.