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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Are anti-semitic Muslim texts "hate speech"?

From the (Los Angeles) Jewish Journal:
USC Muslim Group Removes anti-Semitic Passage From Its Internet Site

Until earlier this month, the Muslim Students Association (MSA) at USC included on its Web site the complete texts of the Quran, Islam's holy book, and the Hadith, which are the oral traditions associated with the life of the prophet Muhammad.

This database included a saying attributed to Muhammad that calls on Muslims to kills Jews:
"The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him; but the tree Gharqad would not say, for it is the tree of the Jews," Book 41, No. 6985 stated.
The MSA is a university-sanctioned student group and its Web site is hosted on the USC server. When Rabbi Aron Hier, director of campus outreach at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Reut Cohen of the Horowitz Freedom Center discovered the passage, they sent a letter to Alan Casden, a USC trustee and co-chair of the Wiesenthal Center's board, urging him to have the university remove that portion of the Hadith.

Casden quickly contacted Provost C.L. Max Nikias, who ordered the passage removed, saying it was "truly despicable" and that it violated the university's Principles of Community.

"This is an important reminder that when free speech becomes a platform to encourage violence, then it has crossed the line," Hier said. "We commend USC for having the moral courage to stand up against those who hijack speech and religious freedoms and the good will of the campus community in order to spread a message of hate and extremist violence."
I have mixed feelings about this.

In general, I think it would be a bad idea for USC to host any religious material on its own website. The fact that some of the hadiths are anti-semitic is not the reason they should be removed; the reason is because by not removing them it appears that USC is promoting a religion.

If the MSA wants to provide a complete searchable list of Hadith on its own web server space, that is a worthy endeavor, and they should not feel constrained by the fact that some of the hadiths are objectionable. It is a valuable resource, to be sure, and I'd rather that the verses stay up there so that people can see for themselves some of the source materials of Islam.

For example, besides the infamous tree verse mentioned above, other mentions of the Jews in the Hadiths at USC include:
Volume 2, Book 23, Number 472:

Narrated 'Aisha:

Allah's Apostle in his fatal illness said, "Allah cursed the Jews and the Christians, for they built the places of worship at the graves of their prophets."

Or the many variants of the hadith quoted above which are still there (Bukhari):

Volume 4, Book 52, Number 176:

Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Umar:

Allah's Apostle said, "You (i.e. Muslims) will fight wi the Jews till some of them will hide behind stones. The stones will (betray them) saying, 'O 'Abdullah (i.e. slave of Allah)! There is a Jew hiding behind me; so kill him.' "

Volume 4, Book 52, Number 177:

Narrated Abu Huraira:

Allah's Apostle said, "The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say. "O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him."

Volume 4, Book 56, Number 791:

Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Umar:

I heard Allah's Apostle saying, "The Jews will fight with you, and you will be given victory over them so that a stone will say, 'O Muslim! There is a Jew behind me; kill him!' "

So let's try to be a bit consistent. If hadiths that call for the genocide of Jews are offensive, then they should be repudiated by Muslims altogether, not just temporarily removed from some public websites. If the Muslims stand by these hadiths, let them be visible for everyone to see, along with the ability for others to criticize them. But just removing them does not do anything to stop "hate speech" - the problem isn't hate speech; the problem is the belief system of a large percentage of the world's population.