On December 8—the Friday following the American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital—three imams in the U.S. delivered virulently anti-Semitic sermons at their mosques. Ben Cohen comments on the Islamic texts cited in these sermons, the reactions to complaints about the sermons’ contents, and what hope there is for change in Muslim attitudes toward Jews:
On the one hand, . . . Islam regards the Jews as “enemies” of Muhammad’s prophecy; on the other, Islam realizes only too well that, without the existence of the Jews and their practices to begin with, there would have been no subsequent prophetic tradition and faith to follow. . . .
[Take, for instance,] the sermon delivered at the Islamic Center of Jersey City by Sheikh Aymen Elkasaby, who told those gathered for prayers that the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem was “under the feet of the apes and pigs”—a commonly expressed derogatory term for Jews, that is based upon a sura (chapter) in the Quran which claims that in his anger toward the Jews, God “made some as apes and swine.” . . .
In the aftermath of all three sermons, . . . I came across some reassuring signs that in America, [it’s possible to] deal with these issues with an honesty that is absent in much of Europe and certainly in the Middle East. . . . In the case of [the preacher who gave an anti-Semitic sermon at a Houston mosque], the Islamic Society of Greater Houston condemned him for making “inflammatory remarks about our Jewish community in a deeply disturbing tone.” . . .
In each of these cases, I spoke to Muslim leaders who expressed some degree of remorse or condemnation, and did not deny—as would often be the case in Europe—that such rhetoric is . . . an actual threat to the Jews living here, and therefore a potential threat to most precious norms and conventions of the nation at large. . . .
Nobody can pretend that these anti-Jewish texts, beliefs and traditions do not exist. But the experience of Jews with the Catholic Church during the last half-century—in which fundamental doctrines about the demonic nature of the Jews dating to the time of St. Paul have been dispensed with—suggests that there is very little in this world that is immovable.
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