Other Discussions on Religion

Muslims, Jews and Americans



The image, fair or unfair, one people has of another plays an important role in national and international affairs. The vision of the Jews in Nazi Germany had terrible consequences. The Holocaust is no longer a reality to the new generations around the world, but the plight of the Palestinians is. The condemnation of Israel in the U.N. General Assembly, with only the U.S., Israel and a Pacific island voting against the resolution, reflects world opinion. The physical attacks by Israelis on visiting British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook made matters worse, especially as he came as representative of the European Community.

What about the Muslims? Historically the West's vision of them was divided. While Voltaire's play "Mohammed, or Fanaticism" represented the predominant anti-Muslim view, there was also an idealized vision of a tolerant medieval Muslim world contrasted with Roman Catholic fanaticism. Of all European countries, Spain is the one with closest ties to the Arab world. Neo-Catholic Emilia Pardo Bazan debunked the idealization of Arab culture, and especially of Moslem Andalusia, by men like Fernando de los Rios.

Both views are correct, as is evident from the film "Destiny", about Averroes by Egyptian director Youssef Chahine. Averroes was a tolerant scholar persecuted by Islamic mobs. Chahine was really making the 12th-century Andalusian a symbol of the struggle in the modern Islamic world. The difference between the 12th and the 20th century is that Averroes was protected the Muslim rulers. He would certainly get little protection today from the rulers of the Muslim world. Chahine's film on Averroes was well received in Europe--it won a major prize at the Cannes Film Festival--but I have no reports on its distribution and success in the Islamic world.

In brief, in the area where Christ preached the gospel of love, everyone seems to hate everyone else.

Ronald Hilton - 03/19/98


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