A whole new generation of Muslims are growing in their understanding and support of the Jewish Nation. Muslim leaders across the Middle East are beginning to see Israel from a new and positive perspective.
Out of Egypt
Former terrorists and their sympathizers disagree on whether hatred of Jews is at the roots of Islam, or whether the religion has been abused by fanatics. This was discussed five years ago by Egyptian President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi in his speech to spiritual leaders at the Islamic University of Azhar.
“It is unacceptable that the ideology we have sanctified (Islam) should become the source of concern, fear, death and destruction of other peoples,” El-Sisi said. “It is impossible for 1.6 billion Muslims to stop the rest of the world’s population, 7 billion people in number, from living.”
El-Sisi told his listeners that the problem lies in ideology, not faith. His speech was unique, but unfortunately it was quickly forgotten. At the time, El-Sisi called on Muslim leaders in his country to reexamine the Islamic way of thinking from a new perspective in order to reshape the religious dialogue. This the Egyptian president said at a time when Islamic terror was spreading around the world.
Kill the Jews!
From 2014 to 2016, Palestinian terrorists carried out attacks across Israel, many of them in Jerusalem. After the Gaza war in the summer of 2014, Palestinians rushed to kill Jews because they were told in mosques that the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount was in danger. They were brainwashed by Islamic clerics to believe that Israel wants to destroy the mosque in Jerusalem and introduce a new status quo. Young Palestinians were willing to commit suicide, convinced that they were liberating the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the hands of the Jews.
In the shadow of these events, El-Sisi’s words were a sensation. Middle East experts say El-Sisi encouraged many Muslim publicists to call out the atrocities of Islam. He pointed out that Islamic fanatics are abusing their religion and contorting it to suit their own evil purposes, while others believe that Islam is fundamentally biased, a religion that incorporates violence, terror and blood shed from the outset. (See: “Coronavirus Vs. the Virus of Islamic Jihad”)
Either way, El-Sisi called for a major reform in Islam. Since then, there have been numerous voices within Islamic communities calling for Israel’s presence in Jerusalem and on the Temple Mount to be legitimized in accordance with the Koran. Some are even demanding that Israel’s preservation of religious autonomy in Jerusalem, which offers freedom of religion to Muslims, should be appreciated.
Muslims for Israel
Renowned Israeli Druze writer Salman Masalha once said, “Terrorists kidnapped Islam when they conquered the world stage with terror decades ago.” Many Muslims have claimed that terror has tainted Islam. Masalha asked the question, “Who kidnapped whom?” Perhaps it was the Islamic texts in the Koran that kidnapped and seduced the terrorists? Masalha had also come to the conclusion that Islam must be shaken up and reformed.
Similarly, albeit much harsher, in 2015 the son of an Egyptian imam, Hamed Abdel-Samad, who now lives in Germany, wrote the book “Mohammed – A Settlement” in which he explained that Mohammed had two problems with the Jews:
- The Jews did not accept him as a divine ambassador;
- Nor would they heed the prohibition against killing him, which the Jews insisted on.
Since Jews are compared to monkeys and pigs in the Koran, Samad pointed out, Mohammed dehumanized his enemies, which in turn made their total annihilation acceptable. “Mohammed himself cut off the heads of numerous Jews who refused to capitulate,” Samad said. “That is why today Muslims who capture infidels do exactly what Mohammed did and behead their captives. We have to talk about it and break the taboo once and for all.”
Well known Palestinians like Sandra Solomon, Walid Shoebat, Mosab Hassan Yousef (the Green Prince) and others explain publicly how growing up as Muslims they were educated to hate and kill Jews. It was only after they found their faith in Yeshua (Jesus) that they began to appreciate the people of Israel from the Bible.
The Hebrew media often reports on these Palestinians who converted to Christianity and found love for Jews. It was noted in one article that a convert to Christianity declared that “the main victims of Islamic terror were first the Muslims themselves. Since the founding of Israel, some 60,000 Muslims have died in all wars [with Israel], while 11 million Muslims were killed by Muslims in the Middle East at the same time.”
In Israel, too, similar voices are now heard more often.
Nail Zoabi, chairman of the local council for the Galilee Arab town of Tamra, said: “Our public is being fed lies. Arab leaders say the Al-Aqsa Mosque is in danger and Jews want to destroy it. It’s absolute nonsense.”
The Mukhtar of Tzur Baher in East Jerusalem, Dr. Ramadan Dabash, also warns that “a cocktail of religion and politics creates a dangerous mixture that fosters terror.”
Arab Christian advocate Jawad Bolus warned of the growing willingness of young Arabs in Israel to sacrifice their lives for the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
In addition, there are many conversations with the Palestinians from our Israel Today offices here in Jerusalem that tell us how much they appreciate Israel. Even if they cannot always admit this publicly, these sentiments are always reflected in our private conversations. Most Arabs live in fear, so our Palestinian employees don’t want to be photographed.
And beyond our borders…
The Saudi publicist Abed al-Hamid Hakim, who until 2018 was the director of the Middle East Institute for Strategic and Legal Research in Jedda, Saudi Arabia, underlined the extent to which the Israeli government is crucial to religious freedom in Jerusalem. He said this after US President Donald Trump moved the US embassy to Jerusalem.
“I thanked Allah that Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem are under the administration of regimes that respect the sanctity of these cities and make them the most beautiful cities in the world. Under the Israeli government, Muslims can visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Under an Arab government, Jerusalem would be a devastated city and a third world country,” he declared.
Hamid Al-Sharifi is a Shia Muslim born in Baghdad who founded the Organization of Liberal Muslims in London.
“I was blind at the time of the stabbing in 2015. I identified with the 13-year-old Muslim who takes a knife and wants to kill a Jew,” he said. “If I had had this opportunity as a teenager, I would have used it. At this young age spiritual clerics can tell you all sorts of things from the Koran and you swallow everything down. This is how it works,” Sharifi continued. “A cleric asks, ‘Who are your enemies? The Jews. Don’t think. Kill as many as you can and then you’ll immediately go to heaven.’ It turns you into a ticking bomb.”
Al-Sharifi agrees with Salman Masalha that Friday prayers were hijacked by fanatical Muslims in order to seduce the mobs.
When Saudi blogger Mohammed Saud visited Jerusalem last year, he was sharply criticized and even violently attacked by Palestinian hardliners for his pro-Israel stance. “For those who hate Israel,” Saud responded, “I want them to think deeply. I invite you to visit Israel. They will have a different experience and find that most of the propaganda and bad media reports about Israel are not true.”
Kasim Hafeez, a British Muslim citizen of Pakistani origin, has also become a pro-Israel activist. He grew up in a family in Nottingham that worshipped Adolf Hitler. “It’s not about whether you’re for Israel or for the truth. I want the facts to be heard first,” Hafeez said. “Israel is a democratic state. Muslims in Israel have more rights than most Muslims in the Arab world. We cannot prevent rockets being fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip, but we can fight and prevent the delegitimization and demonization of Israel,” he said.
Comparatively speaking, there may still only be a small percentage of Muslims who are courageous enough to speak positively about Israel in public. But there are far more than ever before, and their numbers are growing.