Lecture examines difficult issue of Jewish/Muslim relations

By Robert Fulton

Next week offers an opportunity to hear thought-provoking San Diego State University professor Khaleel Mohammed speak on a subject few locally are more qualified on which to speak: the relationship between Jews and Muslims.

On Oct. 4 at the Astor Judaica Library of the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, Mohammed will give a talk titled, “The Image of Jews in Islam and Its Impact on Current Affairs.”

“I’m dealing with the religion itself,” said Mohammed. “There are two concepts that cover the Koran and modern Muslim tradition.”

The two concepts in Islam that Mohammed refers to are what appears in the Koran and what contemporary Islam teaches.

The relationship between Jews and Muslims and the way each perceives the other is obviously complicated. Mohammed’s position is that the original image of Jews in Islam, through the teachings of the Koran was peaceful and did not contain the hatred present today. Then with the Crusades, Christianity spread its anti-Semitism into the Arab world thus planting the seeds of the negative image of Jews in Islam.

“The impact came from Christians and their anti-Semitism,” said Mohammed. “I’m not saying that Arabs had no anti-Semitism, but it made it easier. Take the term anti-Christ, for example. It’s not in the Koran. Where do you get that? It came from Christianity.”

From that point on was an institutionalized negative image of Jews. With the developments of the modern era, that negativity increased.

The impact on current affairs is an intensive, taught hatred of Jews in Islam completely institutionalized and not found in the original teachings of the Koran.

“It’s worldwide because the image of Jews is in the Muslim tradition,” said Mohammed. “Literature goes everywhere. (The center of) Islam is no longer just on the Arab peninsula. It has shifted to Syria and Iraq.”

Mohammed sees the battles and struggles of Jews and Muslims to be two sets of circumstances. Jews must adapt and survive while Muslims are looking to convert those not like them.

“Through twists and turns of what the Bible says, (Jews) struggle to survive and must learn to survive with the Gentiles,” said Mohammed. “Islam is not struggling to survive. A Muslim has to look at non-Muslims and how best to make the non-Muslims conform.”

Mohammed’s mission is for Islam to return to the accurate teachings and interpretations of the holy book Koran and combat the radicalized political teachings of institutionalized modern Islam.

“It’s not in the immediate foreseeable future,” said Mohammed. “Something has to a happen in Islam. There needs to be a reformation in Islam. There needs to be a renaissance in Islam.”

Khaleel Mohammed earned his Ph.D. from McGill University in 2001. He is an assistant professor at SDSU with specialties in Islam, Islamic law and comparative religion.

To say some consider Mohammed controversial is an understatement. He believes that the land of Israel, as stated in the Koran, belongs to the Jewish people and not the Muslims. He does not apologize for the literal concept of Jihad, as used to mean a defensive war.

Mohammed’s reasons for his positions are not personal or political, he maintains. They are the statements of an academic, of a professor who has solid proof of his beliefs and positions in the Koran.

“My whole perception of that on Israel, whether right or wrong, I have no agenda,” said Mohammed. “I have nothing to gain except my own academic progression. Even with the way modern Muslims read (the Koran), my ideas are perceived as new. Modern Muslims look at the Koran to ... read through traditions.”

The fact that Mohammed is challenging and intriguing is without doubt.

“Professor Mohammed as an academic and as an Imam is uniquely qualified to present Islam to a non-Islamic audience,” said Noah Hadas, director of adult education at the Agency for Jewish Education.

“The Image of Jews in Islam and It’s Impact on Current Affairs” is Monday, Oct. 4, at 7 p.m. Call Noah Hadas at (858) 268-9200.