26 April 2007

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To the Arab Jews: Happy Passover!

Hesham Elthouky*

In an article on the Arab reformist websites Aafaq (April 9, 2007) and Middle East Transparent (April 8, 2007), Egyptian author Hisham Al-Tuhi rejects the view that Muslims should not convey holiday greetings to non-Muslims on their holidays, reviews the history of Jews in Arab countries in the 20th century, and wishes Jews still living in Arab countries a happy Passover.

The following are excerpts: [1]

In Response to My Norouz Holiday Greetings, I Received [From Muslims] a Flood of Racism, Hatred, Ugliness, and Abuse

"In my previous article, I gave holiday greetings to the Afghanis and the Kurds on the Norouz holiday, [as well as] the Egyptian Baha'is. The letters came in from the caves: a flood of racism, hatred, ugliness, and abuse.

"This is neither out of the ordinary nor new. Here, it is only to be expected.

"The strange thing is that most of these letters… came from the caves of the Saudi Kingdom and the 'infidel' Western countries, [in] Europe, Canada, and the U.S.!

"One of the letters that caught my eye included an official fatwa by the learned Wahhabi sheikh [and] venerable Mufti of Saudi Arabia, the late [Salih] Ibn 'Uthaymayn, [who said:] 'All agree that giving holiday greetings for infidel rituals… is forbidden.' [2]

"I respond, here and now, in these days crowded with holidays - and just like I gave holiday greetings to the Egyptian Baha'is on Norouz, and to the Muslims on al-mawlid al-nabawi (Muhammad's birthday) - I give holiday greetings to the Arab Christians on noble Easter, and then - I say:

"To the Arab Jews: Happy Passover!"

Many Arabs and Muslims Are Descendants of the Jews, Even if They Say "They Crucified Christ!" or "Monkeys and Pigs!"

"Many of the sons of the Arab Middle East lived for more than 1,000 years as Jews, more than 1,000 years before the advent of Christianity, and before the advent of Islam.

"Today, many of the Arab Christians are the descendants of these Jews. Their ancestors were Jews, even if they curse them and say: 'They crucified Christ!'

"And many of the Arab Muslims today are the descendants of Jews. Their ancestors were Jews, even if they curse them and say: 'Monkeys and pigs!'"

In 1956, 60,000 Jewish Egyptians "Lived As Egyptians in Soul and in Blood… Today There Are No More Than 300"

"In Egypt in 1917, there were 59,581 Jewish Egyptians - Egyptians in flesh and in blood. They took part, together with the other Egyptians, Muslims and Christians, in the Egyptian liberal renaissance (nahdha)…

"In politics, there was Musa Qattawi, who was a member of the Egyptian Legislative Assembly, finance minister, and then transportation minister in the 1925 government. He founded the Aswan railroad line and the West Delta tramway…

"There was also Yousef Qattawi, head of the Egyptian Sephardi Council, and member of the Draft Committee for the 1923 Constitution…

"Others were members in the negotiations committee for the abolition of the capitulations [Ottoman-era accords that granted special rights to foreigners]. And then there was the lawyer Zaki 'Uraybi, member of the Draft Committee for the 1956 Constitution.

"[Jews] founded the Salt and Soda Company… the Egyptian Petrol Company… the Rice-hulling Company… the Egyptian Real Estate Bank… the Family Bank… the Commercial Bank… and 'Rico' the Jewish Egyptian participated with Tal'at Harb in founding Bank Misr…

"In the arts, there were creators and performers who took part in the revival of music and singing and in the launch of Egyptian cinema and theater… For those who don't know, Ya'qub Sanu'a, the Jewish Egyptian, was one of those who raised the slogan: 'Egypt for the Egyptians!'…

"On October 25, 1952, following the military revolt, President Muhammad Naguib visited the temple of the Qaraite Jews to give felicitations to the Jewish Egyptians on Yom Kippur.

"In 1956, there were 60,000 Jewish Egyptians, who lived as Egyptians, in soul and in blood. Approximately 20,000 of them were forced to emigrate between 1956 and 1961…

"Their money was seized, and those of them who remained after the nationalization of 1961 were deported. Many of their homes and properties were distributed to army officers, after the renaissance ended and the eternal leader [i.e. Gamal 'Abd Al-Nasser] came to despotically rule Egypt.

"Today, in 2007, there are no more than 300 of the Jewish Egyptians left..."

Jews in Iraq, Morocco, and Tunisia

"In Iraq, Nuri Al-Sa'id gave a speech at the 1939 Round Table Conference in London, in which he said: '200,000 Jews live in Iraq, the majority of them in Baghdad.' In 1950, they began to be forced to emigrate. In 1976, there remained of them fewer than 400 Jewish Iraqis.

"In Morocco, the number of Jewish Moroccans is estimated to have been 280,000 in 1950. Today, in 2007, the approximately 5,000 Jewish Moroccans live in fear of suicide bombers.

"On May 16, 2003, their possessions and cemeteries were subjected to a wave of bombings, which left 45 dead. In September 2003, one of them was killed in a stabbing, and another was killed in a shooting.

"In Tunisia, more than 3,000 Jewish Tunisians live in freedom, since the presidency of the late President Habib Bourguiba, who gave one of them, Albert Bessis, the position of minister in one of [his] governments.

"Nonetheless, they were not safe and sound -safe neither from the enmity of the Islamist Nahdha movement, nor from the suicide bombings. On April 2002, the oldest Jewish temple in Africa, which was constructed in 566 B.C. on the island of Jerba, was bombed, leaving 20 dead."

The Jews Who Remain "Still Celebrate Their Holidays in Silence, Forgotten… Is Not the Least We Can Say to Them: Jewish Arabs - Happy Passover!?"

"Despite this - despite the nationalization, the expulsion, the banishment, the bombings, the racism, the enmity, and the marginalization; despite their being reviled with the ugliest abuse in the prayers of the Muslims, in all of the Arab mosques and in some of the churches; despite their being called infidels and cursed, and being accused of treason, in the books, the newspapers, and the TV stations, [both] governmental and private - despite all this, they still live in Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Algeria, and in other countries of the Arab Middle East!

"And they still celebrate their holidays in silence, forgotten. And they still passionately love their countries who treated them cruelly, and will not accept any substitute [for them].

"Is not the least we can say to them: Jewish Arabs - happy Passover!?"

[1] www.metransparent.com, April 8, 2007; www.aafaq.org, April 9, 2007.

[2] Majmu' fatawa wa-rasa'il al-Sheikh Ibn 'Uthaymayn 3/369.

* Alexandria, Egypt

 

Translation by www.memri.org

 

 

Your Comments

 

 

GKronfli@aol.com 

Date: Sat, 28 Apr 2007 12:35:35 EDT

 

    An excellent and timely reminder by Mr. Altoukhi of what was possible in the not too distant past and may even be possible in the not too distant future. However, it must be mentioned that not all the problems were instigated by Arabs and Muslims in particular. A lot of hatreds and pressures against Arab Jews were fomented by European Jews in Palestine, in order to encourage Jewish emigration from Arab countries. I personally know of several examples of this, including the bombing of the cinema in Cairo which was carried out by Mossad.

 

 

Thu, 26 Apr 2007 16:03:51 -0400 (Eastern Daylight Time)

From: "Naim S. Mahlab" <nsm@videotron.ca> 

 

    I am thrilled to read an article, written by a Moslem, that confirms the views I have held for decades. He is absolutely correct in everything he says. The area that is now Iraq, which was mostly part of the ancient Persian Empire which extended to the Euphrates river, had a very large Jewish population. There were two major Jewish academies that instructed the group. The Bible was translated into Arabic by Saadia Gaon, the head of one of the academies which continued functioning after the Moslem conquest. In the early years, the Jews and the Moslems got along very well. Jews worked in every area and served their country well.

When King Feisal the first was installed as King of Iraq, one of the Jewish landed gentry, loaned him his house to live in until a suitable place was constructed.

King Feisal called a meeting of the wealthy Iraquis and asked them to donate money to build a Moslem orphanage. There was some hesitation among the group.

Menahem Daniel, a Jewish landowner, asked the Monarch to allow him to build it himself, which he did.

They named a street after him in Baghdad which, I am certain, has been changed. The major business street was called Al Samawaal Street, after the famous Jewish Arab whose integrity is legend in Arab lore.

One of the features of early Islam was the 'jezya' tax which was levied on non- Moslems. I am certain that this was one of the prime reasons that drove Jews and Christians to convert to Islam. No one has been able to establish the amount of the Jezya, but some believe that it was some 50% of the income, based on the settlement that the Prophet Muhammad imposed on the Beni Keybar Jewish tribe, after He defeated them in battle. I have no way of verifying this.

No child is born with hatred in its heart. Hatred is a learned emotion, which is why I have always advocated the elimination of schools run by religious groups. I have often wondered why we do not read about 'wars of religion' in the ancient pagan societies. It appears that with the success of the monotheistic religions, all of which claim that they are in possession of the only truth, wars of religion became commonplace. I can only refer to the words of Pontius Pilate who asked 'what is truth?'

I would also like the add that when Alexander the Great built Alexandria, he populated it with Jews whom he admired. When the Arabs conquered the city, the Commander sent a message to the Caliph that he had conquered a city of 40,000 Jews.

I find it difficult to hope that common sense will prevail again in the Near East. There are too many groups preaching hatred of 'the other' for any peace effort to succeed.

Naim S. Mahlab

Montreal

 

 

Date: Thu, 26 Apr 2007 05:35:26 -0700 (PDT)

From: Norma Fares norma_fares@yahoo.com

 

" We send Greetings to Muslims on Ramadan...To Christians on Easter...and now we say to Arab Jews Happy Passover"; Absolutely !

 

What an insightful article by Hesham El Toukhy from Egypt ! What a great piece that guarantees respect to people as Human Beings. While the World is trying to shift the Globe in to a small village that can embrace all the peoples with Love, Respect and Peace, I can tell you Dear Hesham El Toukhy that you have already embarked the track of Humanity.

Congratulation for your enlightening article. Thank you metransparent.

 Norma Fares

Lebanon