When Muslims talk to Zionists

Our friend Abdullah Antepli was interviewed for Christian Century and the resulting Q&A is fascinating and informative. Please read and pass along.

When Muslims talk to Zionists

Some highlights:

Christian Century: There seems to be a strong strain of anti-Judaism and anti-Zionism in many streams of Islam. Where does that come from?

Abdullah Antepli: Islam has its own theological, scriptural, and doctrinal anti-Semitism, but it is very different from Christian anti-Semitism. Because of Judaism’s unique relationship to Christianity, the way the church evolved, and the heated debates about who Jesus is, anti-Semitism very quickly moved into the heart of Christianity. The very symbol of Christianity, the cross, has pumped anti-Semitism into Christianity in subtle and unsubtle ways. The central story of Christianity can be distorted in an anti-Semitic direction.

Islam has not had anti-Semitism at its heart in that way. But unfortunately a kind of anti-Semitism has moved into Islam, and I was a victim of it. I grew up staunchly anti-Semitic.

The first book I read about Jews was a children’s version of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The second book was Henry Ford’s The International Jew. The third was Mein Kampf. These were my introductions to Judaism.

CC: You’ve mentioned how central the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is. How can Christians, Muslims, and Jews in the West be constructive in addressing this seemingly intractable conflict?

AA: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is like a bitter divorce case. When a couple after 20 years of marriage goes through a bitter divorce, they bring up all the negative memories they have about each other and they rewrite the history of the relationship. All they can remember is the horrible stuff that they said and did to each other. In order to get out of this vicious cycle, we have to try to create some empathy toward the other.

That’s what I’m trying to do with the Muslim Leadership Initiative. Can we Muslims learn to see the world through the eyes of Jews? Can we show that we are capable of walking in their shoes and at least create a respectful language by which we can speak and hear each other? Can we see each other as something other than an existential threat?

And so much more. Read it.