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47 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding and important, 19 Sept. 2010
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This review is from: In Ishmael's House: A History of Jews in Muslim Lands (Hardcover)
This is an important and well-written book which should be widely read, not only by those interested in Jewish history but by those interested in the history of Islam. The US Amazon site has (September 19, 2010) two excellent reviews by James Comfort and L. King with which I entirely agree and which I cannot better.
Gilbert is far from the first to write a more balanced account than is implied by the myth that "Christians and Jews were always treated well under Muslim rule". This myth was not true in the earliest period of Islam, is not true today (with local exceptions) and as for the periods in between please consult the book. There were indeed periods and places in which oppression by Muslims was markedly less severe than oppression by Christians, but the opposite has also commonly been true. Discrimination has been the rule and attacks, killings and massacres of non-Muslims have occurred throughout Muslim history. Exceptions have occurred mainly during periods of strong European influence. Themes of irrational hatred of Jews have passed freely between Europe and Arab lands, such as the enforced use of discriminatory clothing copied from the Muslim past into Nazi policy and the widespread promotion of translated European antisemitic literature in Arab lands in the present. The number of Jews who fled Arab lands with good reason after 1947 was greater than the number of Arabs who fled Israel when it became independent.
But Gilbert's account is not a demolition job. He recounts the good as well as the bad. The good includes heroic actions by Arabs to protect Jews when their lives were in danger and principled actions by Muslim rulers when Muslim mobs were conducting a Pogrom.
If you want to read nice fairy tales, there are plenty of sources you can use. If you want to understand real history, read Gilbert's book.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 16 May 2011 01:28:25 BDT
S Wood says:
The idea that the Nazis went to "Muslim anti-semitism" for their genocidal policies is a ludicrous proposition, not least for the reason that Christianity's had it's own bloody tradition of anti-semitism stretching back millenia. For anyone interested in a balanced account of, for instance, Arab views of the Nazis i would refer them to Gilbert Achcars excellent "The Arabs and the Holocaust".

In reply to an earlier post on 16 May 2011 05:23:10 BDT
observer100 says:
I'd recommend reading the book reviewed (many other books make the same point). Your opinion on Achar (and Chomsky and Ramadan whom you support elsewhere) differs from mine. If you restrict your reading in this way, of course your opinions will be like those you express.

Posted on 22 May 2011 21:31:47 BDT
Last edited by the author on 22 May 2011 21:33:56 BDT
S Wood says:
Who is this "Ramadan" whom i support? Possibly the man (whoever he is) is real enough but my support for him is a figment of your imagination.

In reply to an earlier post on 22 May 2011 22:56:36 BDT
Last edited by the author on 22 May 2011 23:09:12 BDT
observer100 says:
I do so apologise; it was Trotskyist Tariq Ali rather than Islamist Tariq Ramadan of whose work you approved. I plead the confusion of fatigue and note you are in addition a supporter of Norman Finkelstein. I do find ideologyology confusing.

Posted on 29 Jun 2011 00:45:24 BDT
Last edited by the author on 29 Jun 2011 00:51:50 BDT
S Wood says:
@o100

I'm aware of Ali's "Trotskyist" views, but they have no bearing on my more or less favourable reviews of his books. A cursory reading of either the books or the reviews would have made this quite clear, and would also have saved you from your muddling up of Tariq Ali with Tariq Ramadan.

I'm quite happy to be known as someone who has a degree of admiration for Norman Finkelstein, rather him than say Alan Dershowitz.

And on ideology, of course how could a supporter of Zionism have anything to do with such a crude and ungentlemanly thing as ideology!?

Ps- you might have acknowledged that you have edited your review to tone down the linkage between Islam and the Nazis. Glad to have assisted you in even that small movement towards reality.

Posted on 22 Jan 2015 09:02:21 GMT
Last edited by the author on 22 Jan 2015 09:07:09 GMT
There were also Bishops who protected the Jews in Germany during the first Crusade- not a fact that is widely mentioned in the media, who prefer to present all Medieval Europeans as having been rabid anti-Semites.

When people harp on about how Muslims were 'tolerant' of Jews and Christians in the past, I tend to think there is an issue of semantics.
Today we think of 'tolerance' as meaning equal rights and respect afforded to all religions and lifestyles, but in the past all 'tolerance' might mean was that you wouldn't be killed if you agreed to live as a second-class citizen or concede to the demands of an overlord. So tolerance in past centuries may not have guaranteed much freedom at all...

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Jan 2015 12:14:02 GMT
S Wood says:
" not a fact that is widely mentioned in the media, who prefer to present all Medieval Europeans as having been rabid anti-Semites." - bizzare comment. I don't know which media your perusing but it's a bit much to accept that it's a widely accepted view? Historical evidence does point to widespread anti-semitism in a that era even if they were some brave and honourable exceptions.

on tolerance you make a reasonable point re differing interpretations of the word but I think its fair to say that tolerance in say Muslim Spain was significantly ahead of that in Catholic Spain.
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