Since the earliest days of Islam, the institution of jihad ("holy war") and its corollary institution, dhimmitude, have combined with specific anti-Semitic motifs in Islamic theology to inspire Muslim efforts to oppress or eliminate the Jewish people and (more recently) the state of Israel.
Islam's founder, the prophet Muhammad, himself waged a series of proto-jihad campaigns to subdue the Jews as well as the Christians and pagans of seventh-century Arabia. Numerous modern-day pronouncements by leading Muslim theologians -- such as Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and popular Al-Jazeera television personality -- confirm that Muhammad has been the major inspiration for jihadism against Jews, past and present.
Muhammad had a penchant for assassinating individual Jews, and for destroying Jewish communities by expropriation, expulsion, massacre, or mass enslavement. Just before subduing the Medinan Jewish tribe Banu Qurayza and orchestrating the summary execution of their adult males, Muhammad invoked perhaps the most striking Koranic motif for the Jews' debasement when he addressed these Jews as “You brothers of monkeys.”
Subsequently, Muhammad ordered the slaughter of the Khaybar Jews' male leadership; then he plundered their riches. The terrorized Khaybar survivors, the industrious Jewish farmers who became prototypes of the subjugated dhimmis whose productivity was extracted by the Muslims as a form of permanent booty.
There is a central anti-Semitic motif in the Koran (2:61/ reiterated at 3:112) which decrees an eternal curse upon the Jews for slaying the Muslim prophets and transgressing against the will of Allah. (It should be noted that Koran 3:112 is featured in the preamble to the foundational Covenant of the terrorist group Hamas.) This central motif is coupled to Koranic verses 5:60, and 5:78, which describe the Jews' transformation into apes and swine, or simply apes (verses 2:65 and 7:166).
Muslim exegetic literature on the Koran makes it clear that the Jews’ permanent “abasement and humiliation” has caused them to be “laden with God’s anger.” This literature contends that because the Jews are by nature deceitful and treacherous, they rejected Allah’s signs and prophets.
The Koran’s overall discussion of the Jews is marked by a litany of their sins, which include a a lack of faith; disobedience and corruption; violence against the prophets; disrespect for Muhammad; "perverse" behavior; fraud; disobedience; distortion; envy, usury; sorcery; hedonism; and idol worship. These alleged justifications for Jew-hatred and jihad have continued to exert a profound influence on Muslims even in modern times.
The rise of Jewish nationalism—Zionism—posed a profound challenge to an Islamic order wherein jihad-imposed dhimmitude was the norm. As the scholar Bat Ye’or has explained: "[B]ecause divine will dooms Jews to wandering and misery, the Jewish state appears to Muslims as an unbearable affront and a sin against Allah. Therefore it must be destroyed by Jihad."
Historian Saul S. Friedman, also citing the emergence of Zionism as an ideology anathema to the Islamic system of dhimmitude for Jews, concluded that this modern movement, and the creation of the Jewish State of Israel, unleashed a torrent of annihilationist Islamic anti-Semitism -- “the brew of thirteen centuries of intolerance.”
In April 1948, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Sheikh Muhammad Mahawif, issued a fatwa declaring jihad in Palestine obligatory for all Muslims. The Jews, he maintained, intended “to take over ... all the lands of Islam.””
Eight years later, another fatwa written by then-Grand Mufti of Egypt, Sheikh Hasan Mamoun -- and signed by the major representatives of all four Islamic schools of jurisprudence -- stated that because "Jews have taken a part of Palestine and there established their non-Islamic government" it followed logically that jihad against the Jews was "the duty of all Muslims."
The Islamic jihad against the Jews continues to this day, promoted by the leaders and foot soldiers of such organizations as al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Hamas. They are merely carrying on a longstanding Muslim tradition that is rooted in foundational Muslim texts and echoing their language. Hamas cleric Yunis Al-Astal, for instance, calls for jihad against "the brothers of apes and pigs" [i.e., Jews].
The orthodox Islamic archetypes of Jew-hatred promulgated by Hamas and its ideological kin are not confined to the rhetoric of terrorist groups, but are also being disseminated by the most respected, mainstream Islamic scholars and institutions. For example, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi has legitimized jihad by ruling that innocent, non-combatant Israelis can be killed with impunity.
Similarly, in 1968 the scholar Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi wrote the following words in his 700-page treatise rationalizing Muslim Jew-hatred:
"[The] Koran describes the Jews with their own particular degenerate characteristics, i.e. killing the prophets of Allah [Koran 2:61/ 3:112], corrupting His words by putting them in the wrong places, consuming the people’s wealth frivolously, refusal to distance themselves from the evil they do, and other ugly characteristics caused by their deep-rooted lasciviousness…”
In 1996 Tantawi was rewarded for this and similar scholarly efforts by being named Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University, the most prestigious center of Muslim learning in Sunni Islam (which represents some 90 percent of the world’s Muslims). In this post, he is the nearest Muslim equivalent to a Pope.
As Grand Imam, Tantawi continues to issue statements describing Jews as "enemies of Allah" and "descendants of apes and pigs," and condoning permanent jihad against them by any means at Muslims' disposal.
Adapted from "Jihad and Islamic Antisemitism," by Andrew G. Bostom (May 22, 2008).