A Sufi Sheikh and the Fine Line of anti-Semitism

Alaa al-Din Abul Azayim

Alaa al-Din Abul Azayim

From my article at Arab West Report, from before Egyptian presidential elections but pertinent now with the escalation in Gaza:

Arab West Report, Editor-in-Chief Cornelis Hulsman recently highlighted the mutual recourse to anti-Semitic accusations on the part of both opponents and supporters of the current government. He referenced research complied by MEMRI, in which General Sīsī and the Muslim Brotherhood are simultaneously declared to be Jewish in origin and committed to a Zionist agenda.

The prominent Sufi sheikh, ‘Alaa al-Dīn Abū al-‘Azā’im, recently offered an example of such rhetoric. In an interview designed to explore both the Sufi contribution to the June 30 revolution deposing President Mursī, and the motivation thereof, ‘Azā’im consistently inserted accusations of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis being allied to Israel. Despite efforts to focus on the local issues involving Sufi citizens, ‘Azā’im could not help himself from resorting to international conspiracies.

Examples include the following:

The article lists his charges, but here is an excerpt from his response at the end of the interview about whether or not the Western world is right in considering such comments anti-Semitic:

First, he said the Qur’an commands us to be merciful to everyone – Jews, Christians, the whole world, even unbelievers. Mohamed’s constitution in Medina was civil, giving everyone the right to choose his own religion and pray as he wishes, again, emphasizing this right was given even to unbelievers. Jews are welcome to live in Egypt, and before 1967 when they were plentiful, he had good relations with them. While a student in Asyut University, ‘Azā’im’s Jewish colleague tried to persuade him to marry his sister. He referenced Pope Shenouda, stating he said we all worship one God – Muslims, Christians, and Jews – so he should gather us together rather than us fighting each other.

But second, this fighting is what earns Israel his animosity. Jihad in the Muslim sense may only be waged if a country attacks you, or has attacked you. Look at what Israel does, he said, killing Muslims every day. They occupied our land, so it should be jihad, until they leave.

There is a necessary difference between Israel and the Jews. Arabs often conflate the two; do Westerners as well? Where is the line properly drawn?

Please click here to read the full article at Arab West Report.

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