Category Archives: judaism

God’s law and the law of the State

What happens when you have a particular group in society who are not minded to follow the law of the State, but prefer to follow God’s law as they interpret it?

Recently this question has come up in relation to Sharia law, particularly after the Archbishop of Canterbury said that some aspects of sharia law would inevitably be adopted in Britain. But the question doesn’t just arise in relation to Islam. Many religions have a group within who prefers the laws of God to the laws of the State. For example, orthodox Jews in Australia may take some disputes between one another to the Beth Din, a religious court where rabbis hand out judgment. And some indigenous Australians may prefer that a dispute be dealt with under traditional law rather than “whitefella law”.

My personal opinion is that as long as the law of God does not transgress fundamental human rights, then parties can consent to that particular law binding their actions. It is rather like an agreement to arbitrate in a contract where any disputes are referred to a mutually agreed arbitrator. The problem occurs when a particular practice or punishment which is said to be required by the law of God or tradition is illegal under the laws of the State: eg, stoning, spearing through the leg, promise of child brides etc. My personal opinion is that such things should not be allowed. The issue is slightly more vexed with indigenous tradition than it is with other religious laws because indigenous people didn’t “choose” to move here and to be subject to our laws, they were imposed upon them from colonisers. Nonetheless, as I have explained in one of my very early posts, as a feminist, I just cannot countenance the assault and rape of a teenage “promised bride” by her tribal husband, for example. Cultural relativism be damned.

It is a difficult question however, because it is a balance between religious tolerance and universal human rights (which should apply to all, regardless of race or religion or anything else).

Consequently, I was really interested to read this article in Slate about the American legal system and the Amish and the Mormons. I hadn’t really thought deeply about the conflict that would arise between State law and the traditions and laws of these two groups.

Amish are Anabaptists of Swiss-German origin who live in separate communities. They dress in conservative dress, do not use much modern technology and do not educate their children beyond 8th grade because of the “worldly values” they might learn. Study is focussed on the Bible, and children are expected to work in the fields with their parents once they leave school. They do not believe in Social Security, and do not either make payments or accept payments from the government. The educational practices and expectation that children will work in the fields has brought them in to conflict with US education and child labor rules. In Wisconsin v. Yoder 406 U.S. 205 (1972) three Amish parents were fined by the Wisconsin authorities for taking their children from school before the age of 16, but the US Supreme Court ultimately upheld the right of the parents to do this. Amish refuse to participate in wars, and their conscientious objection has also gotten them into trouble. As the article in Slate observes, the Amish have been given a fair degree of latitude, in part because they are peaceful and because they have managed to broker compromises with the State.

Mormons are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. They believe in the Book of Mormon. The Church of the Latter Day Saints officially abandoned polygamy after pressure from law enforcement in 1890, but some other fundamentalist groups continue to practice polygamy. The practice of taking multiple wives and taking child brides has brought the Fundamentalist Mormon Church into conflict with the law. In the last few weeks, Texan authorities raided a Fundamentalist Mormon compound after a 16 year old girl called authorities to say that she had recently borne a child to her 50 year old husband. Other US States are concerned that this raid may ruin their efforts to make Fundamentalist Mormons trust them and cooperate with them. As the Slate article outlined, a large raid on a Short Creek Fundamentalist Mormon community in 1953 was ultimately counterproductive. The Slate article concludes that the Mormon groups are in a different situation to the Amish:

But the fundamentalist Mormons groups are in a state of evasion. The ban on bigamy functions as a zoning ordinance: Plural marriage is fine in isolated communities, but not in Salt Lake City, and certainly not on TV talk shows, as Tom Green found. So long as the fundamentalists remain in hiding, the extreme ugliness of conducting raids creates a form of tolerance. They are thus in a “don’t ask, don’t tell” state of legal limbo that could break open at any time. They are outside the law in a different way.

It will be interesting to see whether the Texan raid is counterproductive or forces the Fundamentalist Mormon church into submission.

These situations remind us that the conflict between God’s law and the law of the State has many facets, and there are different ways of resolving the issue. Have a read of the Slate article and see what you think.

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Filed under children, christianity, feminism, human rights, indigenous issues, islam, judaism, law, marriage, politics, religion, society, tolerance, USA


The other day, I watched the film Fitna on YouTube, a film about Islam by Dutch right wing politician Geert Wilders.  I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I had read some interesting reviews by Skepticlawyer at Catallaxy, Pommygranate at Australian Libertarian Society Blog and Saint at Dogfight At Bankstown.

I must say that I felt considerable ambivalence about it. I’ve waited over a week to write on it.

On the one hand, I support freedom of speech. Furthermore, there is no denying the fact that there are extremist Muslims who in the world who advocate terrorism or jihad (as I’ve argued previously). I think this kind of behaviour is unacceptable from anyone of any religion, and should be condemned.

But on the other hand, I wonder what this film will really achieve other than deepening the divide between the West and Islam. Among other things, it extracts news, film and photographs of all the worst instances of Islamist extremism and terrorism, and juxtaposes them against sura from the Qu’ran. It has a scaremongering feel which I do not like at all – it makes broadbrush generalisations and depicts the worst of a particular group. As I have said in a previous post, I find scaremongering propaganda to be problematic, regardless of whether it is on the Left or the Right, or from the West or Islam. It makes people behave in an irrational manner.

As Pommygranate noted in a post at the Australian Libertarian Society Blog, there is a rather odd dichotomy in this film – Wilders preaches Western values of tolerance and free speech, but he is essentially calling for intolerance of a certain religion. Pommy says:

He [Wilders] is essentially a hypocrite as on the one hand he champions Holland’s proud history of tolerance and freedom, yet on the other, seeks to introduce discrimination back into the Constitution (by banning further immigration of Muslims), wishes to ban the Koran as a fascist book comparable to Mein Kampf, and wants a complete ban on the wearing of the headscarf. 

The ironic thing, as with the Danish cartoons, is the way in which various Islamic groups and countries are claiming that the film is offensive and inaccurate for saying their religion is intrinsically violent and intolerant, but radical Muslims are also making death threats against LiveLeaks for posting the video… Don’t those guys who make the death threats have any sense of irony whatsoever? Any violent retaliation against Wilders will prove his point rather nicely.

The film makes me think of a book by Chester Porter called The Gentle Art of Persuasion. He argues that using fear to get your point across is not an intelligent way to put an argument. I concur. The central message I got from the film was “Muslims are terrorists, intolerant people, anti-Semites, bashers of homosexuals, genital mutilators and oppressors of women’s freedom.” But I am still wondering: what was the point? How are people (Muslim, Dutch and others) meant to respond to that message? How does this film fix anything?

If this film’s central message is that Muslims need to rethink the violent and unpleasant aspects of their religion, which is one of the film’s claims, then I don’t think a vehicle such as this would be the way to achieve it. It would immediately make even a moderate Muslim defensive of his or her religion, rather than open to reasonable criticism.

I suspect there were two responses Wilders wanted – to provoke a backlash among Dutch people to Islam (or at least, some extreme practices of some Islamic groups), and to make a point that the response to films or writings which criticise Islam is often violence (although I note that the Dutch Muslim population seems to have sensibly decided that the best response is to be moderate).

I’ve noticed in blog comments threads that a common response to the film is that “Christianity is just as bad” (see for example the comment thread which has developed at Iain Hall’s post). Yes, one could do the same with Christianity and find some nutbag Bible bashers who wanted to stone homosexuals or whatever, and intersperse it with Biblical quotes (particularly chapters like Leviticus). But I think that misses the point of the film. As Skepticlawyer has indicated in her post at Catallaxy, I think one of the particular concerns Wilders is focussing on is the interaction between Muslim immigrants in Holland and the mainstream Dutch culture, which is tolerant of homosexuality, prostitution, drug-use etc. Thus, it’s obviously not relevant for him to make a film on the shortcomings of Christianity, because the Dutch Christian attitude is generally tolerant; or at least, most Dutch Christians turn a blind eye to those things in Dutch culture which they disagree with. If a whole slew of US Southern Baptists emigrated to Holland and started questioning Dutch values, it would obviously be relevant to question Christianity, but that’s not the particular conflict he has in mind.

And ultimately, so what if you can do the same with Christianity? It doesn’t make the conduct of Islamists who espouse the same views right. It cannot be denied that there are a proportion of radical Islamists who believe many or all of the things in this movie. A plague on all the houses of those who seek to convert by the sword, kill and persecute those of different religions or oppress and use religion to justify violence towards women and homosexuals.

What is the best thing to do about Islamist terrorism and intolerance? I’m just not sure that this movie is a constructive solution to the problem: it may just make things worse. Yes, it is important to be honest about the problems of Islamist extremism, but it is also important to find ways to solve those problems rather than to inflame them.


Incidentally, I heartly agree with Skepticlawyer that many Muslim commentators, politicians and imams need to get over calling anyone who disagrees with Islam’s tenets “Zionist”. A Jordanian media coalition described Wilders as “extremist and Zionist deputy Geert Wilders” in a press release. Wilders is not Jewish, and I don’t know if he supports the establishment and/or expansion of the State of Israel or not. Even if he does, that wasn’t the point of the film anyway. As soon as I hear insane frothing at the mouth about Zionists such as this, I start to doubt the credibility and sanity of the source.


Filed under blasphemy, christianity, freedom of speech, islam, judaism, politics, racism, society, terrorism, tolerance

Dance of the seven robes

The title to this post could also be “Anything you can do, I can do better.” I’ve long believed that bickering and conflict between the three Abramic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) is a bit like sibling rivalry, as I’ve said before, and the story below just confirms that belief. The three are very similar, but the differences are all the more contentious because of that.

Apparently there is a new trend among ultra Orthodox Charedi women in Israel. Inspired by Rebbetzin Bruria Keren, these ultra Orthodox women wear ten skirts, seven long robes, five kerchiefs knotted at the chin, three knotted at the back of the head, hide their faces behind a veil and then cover themselves with several thin shawls. Whew! I’m surprised that these women can walk after putting all those clothes on.

The effect is somewhat like a niqab, or a full Islamic veil revealing only the eyes. I refer to and repeat my comments about the niqab (here and here). An outward show of inner faith, or a display of modesty before God are, to my mind, acceptable reasons for wearing religious costume. But as a feminist, I draw the line at religious costumes which impede women from interacting with the outside world. If a woman cannot engage in face to face communication, cannot drive, cannot run, cannot drink a glass of water in public…then I think it’s just plain wrong. It makes her less of a person than a man. I also dislike the idea that layers of clothing must be worn because a woman’s body is peculiarly seductive, or because it is thought that women’s bodies are unclean or lewd.

There are a number of interesting things about this phenomenon. First, the ultra Orthodox men tend to dislike the practice, despite their emphasis on tzniut, or modesty, in women. Thus it has been considered to be a kind of “counter revolution” – women saying, “Well, if you’re going to ask us to be modest, we’ll do that to the maximum degree possible.” I still don’t think that it can be considered “empowerment”, except in a very negative way.

The other interesting thing is that the women are apparently mistaken for Arab Muslims or Arab Christians, and are somewhat offended by this. They don’t feel any solidarity with their Arab sisters. I wonder, as foreshadowed by the alternative title to the post, whether there’s a sense of “oneupwomanship” here: “You Muslims think you’re modest? We Jews can be ten times more modest, and wear even sillier outfits, just watch us.” I’m waiting for some fundamentalist Christian women to start wearing old fashioned metal diving suits, just to show that they are the most modest of all.

In the end, it’s up to all these women (of whatever religion) to choose to wear whatever they please. I don’t really mind, as long as they don’t judge me for what I choose to wear, and don’t impose their standards on me or my daughter. My body is not dirty, thank you very much, and nor am I a harlot because I show my ankles. To me, empowerment is being able to move and communicate freely.

(Via Indyblogs)


And it’s stories like the one of Indian tennis player Sania Mirza which make me believe that requiring women to cover up cannot be empowering or “feminist”. Mirza is an Indian Muslim, and some radical clerics have issued a fatwa against her. She has just withdrawn from the Bangalore Open after receiving threats because she wears short skirts and sleeveless tops.


Filed under christianity, feminism, islam, judaism, sexuality, society, tolerance

When PC = “Pretty Clueless”

Ham / Supplied

What is wrong with this picture? Hmm. Think about it for 5 seconds.

A posh New York food store apparently tried its best to be inclusive and politically correct, but missed the important point that any Jew who is likely to be celebrating Chanukah is unlikely to be eating ham. It’s just not kosher. Yeah, of course I know some non-observant Jews who eat ham, but as far as I’m aware they don’t bother to celebrate Chanukah in a big way.

It’s quite sweet really that the store tried to think of customers who would be celebrating festivals other than Christmas, but oh so clueless. Still, they should feel some nachas for trying.

Incidentally, I have to say that so far this year, I have received two Christmas cards…from Jewish friends. Maybe they’re the only ones who have patience for it all any more. I’ve only visited one large shopping centre so far in the last month, but already I was getting a bad case of the ol’ Bah Humbugs again. It always seems to hit around this time of year. In fact, it’s almost a year to the day from that Bah Humbug post.

When attending the large shopping centre (aka “Hellhole”) I thought I should take the kidlet to see Santa, but she ran screaming from the poor Santa-man, shouting “No, no, no! GO ‘WAY!” I felt a bit sorry for the Santa, he must get that all day. So I waved and smiled at him as I ran to catch the bubba. What a job.


Filed under christianity, Christmas, crazy stuff, food, humour, judaism, religion, tolerance

From the sublime to the ridiculous

Hmm, maybe that should be just from the ridiculous to the ridiculous…

First ridiculous legal snippet:

An American millionaire has left US$14.8M on trust for her white Maltese terrier, Trouble. But two of her grandchildren get nothing. The other two get $5M each (still less than the dog…) as long as they tend their father’s grave.

This was a great example for class yesterday. We were able to conclude that non-charitable purpose trusts for dogs and tombs are exceptions to the general rule against such trusts, and therefore these trusts are probably valid.

Second ridiculous legal snippet:

A Kenyan religious group, Friends of Jesus, has lodged an application before the Kenyan High Court to declare Jesus’ conviction and crucifixion null and void.  As the article notes, there are a number of different legal questions on this one. First, does the Kenyan High Court have jurisdiction on this question, given that the conviction and sentence did not occur in Kenya? Secondly, is the action time-barred, given that it has been brought some 2000 years after the original conviction?

I would think that the Kenyan High Court would not have jurisdiction over this question. None of the persons involved were in Kenyan nationals or in Kenya at the time, and in fact, Kenya was not then a nation at that time. The question is then what court would? According to the accounts in the Bible, the Sanhedrin convicted Jesus of blasphemy, and the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, famously passed the death sentence on Jesus because the mob demanded it. The Friends of Jesus allege that the relevant sentence in Jewish law at the time should have been stoning to death, but that He was crucified instead, in violation of Jewish law. Unfortunately, the mention of the Sanhedrin led to anti-Semitism by Christians. In fact, it seems to me that there’s a taint of this in the comments of the representative of the Friends of Jesus.

Obviously, there is no Roman empire any more, and there is no modern equivalent of the Sanhedrin. The suggestion by a Kenyan constitutional lawyer in the newspaper article is that perhaps the International Criminal Court has the jurisdiction to hear the case, but Article 11 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court 1997 states that the ICC only has jurisdiction over crimes which occurred after the date of the Statute (being 1 July 2002). Therefore the ICC would not have jurisdiction over this matter either.

In any case, such a legal action would surely be beyond any reasonable limitations period.

I am really not sure what such a legal action would achieve. Surely one of the tenets of Christianity is that Jesus had to die to save our souls, and accordingly, the Sanhedrin and Pilate were only doing what God intended to happen? The Friends of Jesus say that it is necessary to clarify that Jesus was not a criminal, and that He advocated the rule of law. Hmm. Sounds to me like they’d be better off putting their money and their energy into better causes.


Filed under blasphemy, christianity, courts, crazy stuff, judaism, law, religion

National Day of Secularism

Bruce has tagged me for the National Day of Secularism meme.

He’s interested to see what I will say because of a comment I made to him when discussing those stupid citizenship questions…namely:

The Ten Commandments can be regarded as forming one of the precedents for modern law, canon law, and all kinds of other law. So to the extent, our legal tradition is based in part upon notions expressed in the Old Testament (which is broadly equivalent to the Tanakh), we can be said to have a legal system which depends on “Judaeo-Christian” values and notions.

Now, those of you who read my blog know that I was not brought up with any particular religion. I must confess to a bit of an obsession with millennial cults and heresies. I love it when people predict the end of the world or the arrival of a new Messiah and it doesn’t happen. Maybe I’m just mean. But I always wonder how the cult leader explains it away. I imagine, for example, the Fifth Monarchy Men during Oliver Cromwell’s rule of England, standing on a hill waiting for the Rapture to pick them up. Apparently they had their hands in the air all night, waiting for the Second Coming. What happened the next day? Apart from, of course, the fact that they had sore arms? How did they explain it? (“Oh, we must have made a mistake, the Second Coming is a month away….oops, no, a month after that…“)

So Bruce has asked me to put my money where my mouth is. Do I think religion has a place in the law? Do I think it has a place in our wider society?

As Paul at A Roll of the Dice has pointed out, s 116 of the Australian Constitution states:

The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.

This is a good thing. I support the separation of church and state in Australian society and law. It means that everyone can be equal in Australia, regardless of whether they believe in one God, many Gods or no God at all. This is how it should be.

What position, then, does religion play in the law? On a practical level, the main way in which religion still comes into the law is in relation to the oaths people swear upon giving evidence. These days, you don’t have to swear upon the Bible. There are procedures for many different religions, and affirmations for those who choose not to swear an oath at all. Personally, I’m an “affirmer” which is always a little bit controversial, even in these secular days, but if I swore on the Bible I feel like a hypocrite. In the Victorian Supreme Court, sometimes the Tipstaff also announces “God Save the Queen! I now declare this honourable court open.” Those are the only two ways in which religion comes into the courtroom.

When I was young and angry, I used to be a staunch atheist. I would go so far as to say that I was a fundamentalist atheist. I think this arose in a number of ways:

  • The prominence of science and reason in my upbringing.
  • In Grade 2, a Religious Education teacher told Cherryripe and I that our parents were going to go to hell. It put me off religion big time (and, if I’m not mistaken, Cherryripe was put off as well). I decided that if the teacher was right, I’d rather be in hell with Mum and Dad than in heaven with her, and if she was wrong, well, it didn’t matter.
  • In Grade 4, a Religious Education teacher told me that Jesus resurrected her dead goldfish after she prayed to Him. She had placed the goldfish in a saucepan and stirred it with a wooden spoon, praying as she stirred. (No, I’m not being funny here, this really happened. Cherryripe will back me up. We had some doozies).
  • Some bad experiences with religious people who talked about holiness, but were all about hate and excluding others.
  • A dislike of groups, and a natural desire to be contrary.
  • A perception that religion led to hatred and war (the Middle East, Northern Ireland) as well as bad treatment of women, homosexuals and minorities.
  • That old chestnut: Why do bad things happen to good people? How can there be a just God or Gods if He/She/They let bad things happen to good people? (I’ve explored this a little already in my post on the Virginia Tech shootings)

It was only really until I got to university that I mellowed. I looked at my friends, who come from very varied backgrounds, and saw that religion can be both a positive and a negative. It can inspire people to great deeds and creations. Some religious figures can be truly inspirational and good people. But religion can also give people an excuse or a reason to do great cruelty. It can screw with people’s minds totally, for example, where someone who is religious discovers they are homosexual, but this is not sanctioned by their religion. However, atheism can also be both a positive and a negative. A fundamentalist atheist is as bad as a fundamentalist anything else. These days, I would say I am agnostic. I am accepting of all religions, as long as those who follow them are accepting of me and my traditions and background. I have found that people are very welcoming if you are open and ready to learn. I have been a bridesmaid at a Jewish wedding and a Muslim wedding in the same month. I have gone to Sunday lunches, Eid celebrations, Passover seders, Sikh weddings, Buddhist weddings, Christian funerals…you get the picture. I do think that religion has an important part in our society, and I would not want to deny that.

What of religion and the law? I see the place of religion in our law as a historical one. In Australia, we do not have religious courts or religious laws that we have to follow, unless we choose to submit to the dictates of a particular religious body (eg, the Jewish Beth Din in Australia). I do think, however, that religion has had an important historical impact on the development of the law. The thing which amazed me when I studied the halakah (Jewish religious laws), the hadith (Islamic religious laws) and a little bit of canon law is the similarity which they bore to modern day laws. Much of the subject matter was the same as that which comes up every day in courts today. When is it okay to break a contractual agreement? When is murder legal, if ever? What is the penalty for stealing a man’s cow? Is divorce permitted? How many witnesses are required to prove certain things? Funnily enough, they each developed in an organic way which is very similar to the English common law.

Religion has played a important part in the way in which our law has developed, and it cannot be fully understood without knowing something about that historical background. Many religions provide moral guidelines for how we live our lives, and I believe that the notions expressed in the Old Testament or Tanakh and the New Testament have been an important influence on the way in which our law and our notions of governance have developed, along with many other factors. I am not suggesting that we should rely on the Bible or the Talmud for legal precedent in this modern day and age. (Dare I say, “God Forbid!”? ;-D) I am just noting a historical fact.

I am glad our present-day law and our state are secular. If the state privileges a particular religious ideal, this means that those who do not believe in that ideal are somehow less a part of the state.

That being said, I am wary of relying too much on reason as a source of law. As a lawyer, I know how easily reason can be manipulated. After all, us lawyers make a living from trying to persuade people that the unreasonable is actually reasonable. Reason cannot be the be all and end all of our law. Even if we do not believe that religious ideals should presently inform our law, there must be some kind of moral basis to it. This tension is known in legal circles as the divide between positivism and natural law. Positivism says that the law is what you say it is. If a statute is properly enacted, it is legal, regardless of the content of that statute. Natural law says that the law is what is good and moral. If a statute does something that is immoral, it cannot be law, even if it is validly enacted. I do believe that there are some things which are fundamentally wrong or immoral. That is why I believe in human rights. To me, an element of morality or natural law is essential – not for religious reasons, but just because it’s the right thing to do.

Update – 27/5/07

Just watched the second half of Richard Dawkins’ television series, The Root of Evil. It was interesting. I think Dawkins is a little too hardcore for me.

I don’t have a problem with religion generally, as long as it doesn’t prevent people from questioning why things are. Some of those people in that documentary were pretty scary – they were so sure that they had the absolute truth, and that one could not question it.

Religion gives those with an inflexible mind a schedule to which to adhere, but I wonder whether religion is to blame. I suspect that if they didn’t have religion, they’d find some other doctrine to which they had to adhere (political or otherwise). I am reminded of a friend who was brought up in a very strict religious household. He rejected his upbringing, but kept seeking substitutes. At one point he was an evangelical scuba diver, and tried to convince me to become a scuba diver too. I think he was just evangelical in general, regardless of religion.

Update 2

Feel like having a bet both ways? Apparently a US Creationist museum has put two dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark. Craziness.


Filed under Australia, christianity, history, human rights, islam, judaism, law, morality, religion, tolerance

Yet more thoughts on Anti-Semitism

A long time ago (when I was still at university), I was doing a cryptic crossword with a friend. The clue was something about Jews and Arabs. We puzzled over it. Triumphantly, I shouted the answer: “Semite!”
“Arabs aren’t Semites!” said my friend, who happened to be Jewish.
“Go back and read the Old Testament again,” I said. “Remember all that stuff about Abraham having a son called Ishmael with Hagar? Ishmael, the one from whom the Arabs were descended?”
[In fact, the traditions differ somewhat, with the Jews and Christians believing that Abraham was asked to sacrifice Isaac, and the Muslims believing that Abraham (Ibrahim) was asked to sacrifice Ishmael.]
“Well, how come some Arabs are anti-Jewish and some Jews are anti-Arab?” asked my friend. “Does this mean that they’re both being anti-Semitic?”
“Technically, yes.”

Anyway, I just looked up “Semite” in the dictionary, and yes, I was correct. It can be used to refer to Jewish people, but it can also refer to the Akkadians, the Canaanites, the Phoenicians and the Arabs. It is derived from “Shem” (as in the first son of Noah), because all these peoples are believed to have descended from Shem.

I thought of this when I read about Professor Raphael Israeli’s recent comments that Muslim immigration should be limited and that Muslims are intrinsically violent. I am glad to see that the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council has dropped its support for Professor Israeli. Such comments are divisive, unhelpful and inaccurate.

I also thought of this when I looked at the anti-Jewish comments on the “Mission Islam” website for a previous post and Sheikh Feiz Mohammed’s comments on Jews for another post. As I have noted elsewhere, Hamas and Hezbollah use the so-called “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” as “proof” that there is a Zionist conspiracy to control the world.

All this stuff has its antecedents in white supremacism. Professor Israeli’s comments are precisely the sort of attitude that Jews had to fight against for generations in Europe and elsewhere – the sort of attitudes that led to the Holocaust and to the slaughter of millions of Jews. By the same token, it lies ill in the mouths of radical Muslims to complain about “Islamophobia” if they use and advocate “Judaeophobia” in their own writings and works.

If I were a Jew or a Muslim, I’d be very wary of taking on board these kind of notions. Why? Well, the genesis of these ideas comes from white supremacy, according which neither Jews nor Muslims are acceptable. Adolf Hitler would say that they all should be eradicated. After all, there’s so much in common between Jews and Muslims:

  • Both refuse to eat pork, and require meat to be ritually slaughtered;
  • The men wear skull caps when at in holy places;
  • Both have religious laws developed by religious scholars (Jewish: halakah; Muslim: hadith);
  • Both say “Shalom” or “Salaam” in greeting;
  • Both forbid idols and religious iconography; and
  • Both share many of the same prophets and holy places. In fact, they come from the same area.
  • Both openly admit in their histories that they are related.

Interestingly, Irfan Yusuf noted in a post that one of Mohammed’s wives, Safiyya, was Jewish, and Mohammed criticised another of his wives for being cruel to her on this basis.

When adopting ideas that have their origins in white supremacism, Jews and Muslims risk giving those ideals legitimacy…and allowing third parties to use those ideas successfully against their own people. Imagine if a Ku Klux Klan leader saw Professor Israeli’s comments: “Yeah, he’s exactly right…let’s stop any of them getting in, Jews and Muslims!” Or a right wing shock jock saying people should be violent towards Muslims – after all, that’s the sort of behaviour Sheikh Mohammed recommends towards Jews and Christians.

Maybe everyone should think about the ethic of reciprocity for a few moments: do unto others as you would have them do to you! It’s a fundamental tenet of Judaism and Islam, not to mention Christianity and many other religions.

Looking in Wikipedia, I found various interesting expressions of the ethic of reciprocity.

Torah/Old Testament, Leviticus 19:18:

“Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.”

Hillel the Elder, Talmud, Shabbat 31a:

“A certain heathen came to Shammai and said to him, “Make me a proselyte, on condition that you teach me the whole Torah in the time I can stand on one foot.” Thereupon he repulsed him with the rod which was in his hand. When he went to Hillel, Hillel said to him, ‘What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah; all the rest of it is commentary; go and learn.”

Mohammed in the hadith:

“None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”

Let’s not leave out Jesus in the Bible, Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31, (see also Luke 10:27, referring to Leviticus)

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

The Mahabhrata (5:15:17):

“This is the sum of duty; do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you.”

And some other wise fellows agree…

“What you do not wish upon yourself, extend not to others.”


“We should bear ourselves toward others as we would desire they should bear themselves toward us.”


“May I do to others as I would that they should do unto me.”


“What stirs your anger when done to you by others, that do not do to others.”

Seneca the Younger, Epistulae morales ad Lucilium 47:11:

“Treat your inferiors as you would be treated by your superiors.”


Filed under islam, judaism, religion, tolerance