Guyanese scholar in storm over Islam and Anti-Semitism
March 17, 2004
Anti-Semitism has become an entrenched tenet of Muslim theology, taught to 95 per cent of the religion's adherents in the Islamic world, a Guyanese scholar said on Monday at an international conference in Montreal.
An article in the Montreal Gazette said Muslim leaders immediately dismissed Khaleel Mohammed's comments as false and racist, and accused him of destroying efforts at building relationships between Jews and Muslims.
The invitation-only three-day conference on anti-Semitism, which ends today, is sponsored by the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy. It features a range of scholars and politicians discussing a perceived rise in global anti-Semitism over the last few years, due largely to the conflict in the Middle East.
In an interview after his talk, Mohammed, a Muslim who is assistant professor of religion at San Diego State University, said anti-Semitic sentiments have become endemic in Muslim religious teachings.
"It has become part of Islamic theology, so the average Muslim learns anti-Semitism in probably a subtler form, not overt anti-Semitism, but learns it as part of his theology," he said.
Although the Muslim holy book, the Koran, preaches respect for Judaism, the Hadith, a collection of the prophet Mohammed's oral proclamations, contains anti-Semitic passages widely quoted by Muslim clerics, Mohammed said.
"In Hadith literature ... which Muslims have made to be part and parcel of Islamic teaching, you cannot respect the Jew, the Jew is God's enemy until the end of time. And that's ingrained." Canadian Muslims reacted with scorn and outrage, calling Mohammed inflammatory and questioning the conference's legitimacy as an objective forum. "There is not an iota of evidence that this is correct," said Salam Elmenyawi, president of the Muslim Council of Montreal.
"What he is talking about is his own understanding, which carries a lot of the baggage that he has come up with. Who knows what objectives he has?
"Why is he the only Muslim at this conference? Why are there no other Muslims to respond to this kind of claim that does nothing but burn the bridges that have been built between Muslims and the Jewish community in North America?"
Mohammed was interpreting the Hadith to suit his purposes, Elmenyawi charged, and ignoring "a mountain of evidence" that the teachings promote tolerance of other religions.
"My most positive criticism toward him would be that he does not understand what he is talking about."
Mohammed was born in Guyana and did his post-graduate studies in Islam and Judaism at McGill and Concordia universities. He is a Canadian citizen.
Mohamed Elmasry, national president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, called Mohammed's allegations "outrageous."
"I disagree totally this is actually part of the teachings of the Koran or the prophet," Elmasry said.