Thursday, April 17, 2014

  • Thursday, April 17, 2014
  • Elder of Ziyon
Dr. Navras Jaat Aafreedi is an Indo-Judaic Studies Scholar and Muslim-Jewish Relations Activist, employed as an Assistant Professor in the School of Humanities & Social Sciences, Gautam Buddha University, Greater NOIDA, India.

He writes in Café Dissensus:
I grew up in Lucknow, a major centre of Muslim scholarship and culture, home to prestigious institutions of Islamic studies, Nadwātul Ulamā and Firangi Mahal. Except for a Jewish writer from Ahmedabad, Sheela Rohekar, who publishes in Hindi and has settled in Lucknow, and a few American and Israeli Jewish converts to Hinduism, there are no Jews in the city. Yet they find frequent mention in the Muslim discourse there. The mention is almost always negative in nature. Anti-Israel protests are common in the city and, during the American led invasion of Iraq, flags of Israel and America were drawn on the floor at the entrance to the biggest tourist attraction there, the Shia Muslim monument, Asafi Imambara (also called Bara Imambara), so that nobody could enter it without trampling the flags.

The attitudes of the Muslims of Lucknow towards Jews, like anywhere else in India, except in Mumbai, where they happen to be neighbours, are shaped by secondary sources of information and not as a result of any direct contact with them. The Muslim press in Lucknow is openly prejudiced against them. Its bias against Jews can be illustrated by a number of examples.

My doctoral research on “The Indian Jewry and the Self-Professed ‘Lost Tribes of Israel’ in India”, was misrepresented in the Urdu (the lingua franca of a large number of South Asian Muslims) press as a Zionist conspiracy against Islam aimed at depriving it of its bravest followers, the Pathans/Pashtuns, as they see themselves, by convincing them of their Israelite roots and then persuading them to migrate to Israel and populate the disputed territories there. The Freemason Temple in Hazratganj in Lucknow is perceived by Muslims to be Jewish-owned and that is exactly how it is represented by the Muslim journalists in Lucknow. A movement has been initiated to liberate its building, which used to be an imāmbārā before being leased to the Freemasons, from the alleged Jewish control....

While a Holocaust film retrospective, the first ever in South Asia, was in progress at two universities in Lucknow – the Bābāsāhéb Bhīmrāo Ambédkar University and the University of Lucknow – in September – October 2009, the two most popular Urdu daily newspapers there, Rāshtriya Sahāra and Aag, published stories denying the Holocaust. The articles were largely based on the arguments made by the well-known Holocaust deniers, viz., David Irving, Harry Elmer Barnes, David Hoggan, Paul Ressinier, and Arthur R. Butz. A large section of South Asian Muslims deny that the Holocaust ever took place, or raises doubts about its magnitude and scale, and even if it does acknowledge it as a historical fact, any serious reference to the Holocaust is often accompanied by a comparison with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Maulana Kalbé Sādiq, the veteran Shia cleric, once said in an interview, “…the Bush administration certainly is anti-Islam. This owes, in large measure, to the power of the Zionist lobby in America. Pro-Zionist Jews control large banks, many industries and much of the media in America, and if they leave America, the country will collapse. And it is this lobby, in addition to the extreme right-wing Christian lobby, that is behind the clearly anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim policies of the Bush government.”

Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi, who was the rector of Nadwatul Ulama in Lucknow and Founding Chairman of the Trustees of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, wrote in his book, Islam and the World (u.d.): “…they [Jews] were destined always to live in subjection to other nations and ever to be exposed to injustice, oppression, chastisement, extradition, troubles and hardships. Political serfdom, oppression and anguish suffered indefinitely had produced in them a typical racial character. They were notorious all over the world for excessive pride of blood and greed. Meek and submissive in distress, they were tyrannical and mean when they had the upper hand. Hypocrisy, deceit, treachery, selfishness, cruelty and usuriousness had become the normal traits of their nature. In the Qur’an we find repeated references to the extent to which they had sunk into degradation in the sixth and the seventh centuries” (pp.22-3).
Because of wonderful organizations like MEMRI and Palestinian Media Watch, Muslims in the Arab world are a bit more careful about openly espousing hatred for Jews, instead pretending that they are only against Zionists. When you get out of the Middle East, however, you can often see that Muslim hatred of Jews is endemic.

Aafreedi does end his piece on an optimistic note mentioning a few Indian Muslims who are reasonable and open-minded about Jews. It is always nice to see that there are some Muslims who can think independently and who can shake off the hatred they grew up with, even to a small extent. The New York Times just featured one such tiny group in Gaza which is somewhat more moderate than their fellow Gazans. Certainly such people should be applauded, if for nothing else than their bravery.

But no one should mistake the existence of such small, anomalous pockets of sanity as a trend.


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