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
In brief, in the area where Christ preached the gospel of love, everyone
seems to hate everyone else.
Ronald Hilton - 03/19/98