Skip to main content

Antisemitism: Special Two-Part Presentation Browse

Aron Rodrigue: Jews and Muslims


I’d like to address the issue of antisemitism in the Muslim context. I do not believe any dialogue is going to poison wells. I think that the problem is really twofold. First of all, in order to understand the emergence of what we can now legitimately call antisemitism among Islam we have to understand certain attitudes within Islam that preceded the modern period and the absolutely radical nature of what has been happening now. There is one fundamental difference between Islam and Christianity vis-a-vis the Jews. The Jew is the built-in “other” of the Christian movement from its very inception. It is absolutely linked. The Jew and the Christian is linked in a foundational way in Christianity. Islam is also supersessionist vis-a-vis the other two revealed religions. It says it is the last religion and it respects the other two religions traditionally—I’m talking about traditional Islam. But Judaism is one of two “others” in what is now called the Abrahamic religions. And therefore the Jew was not in fact a foundational “other.” Secondly, in traditional Islam there was no association of the Jew with the kind of cosmic drama of the killing of God in terms of the way that it was propagated in Christianity. The Jews together with the Christians were in many ways second-class citizens like a lot of other groups in society, but they had a built-in place in the Islamic world, and the Jews were not the obsession of Islam, if anything Islam was fundamentally almost always at war with the Christian world, and the Jews were really a relatively minor aspect of the worldview. And there is not in fact much of a developed theology about Judaism in Islam itself. All of that has changed, and all of that has changed over the last century precisely because of what starts out as a nationalist problem in terms of the emergence of the Arab-Israeli conflict. And it has changed in a direction whereby with the heated nature of that conflict the importation of the whole antisemitic tradition, a vocabulary, productions, publications, from the Christian world, and to a degree as was mentioned early on, in places where there are in fact no Jews, antisemitism has become a fixture of some radical Islam as part of its overall effort of overturning what it perceives to be centuries of humiliation. So I actually think this is a completely new development that’s not necessarily built up on what went on before but is yet another mutation, an addition of antisemitism under the events of the twentieth century, and, I would dare to say that I, I personally believe that among certain segments of the radical Islamic groups it is destined to have a very long life.

—Aron Rodrigue

Eva Chernov Lokey Professor of Jewish Studies, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California

"I do not believe any dialogue is going to poison wells"