By Aylin Kocaman
Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s new head of state., called the Jews in 2010 “sons of apes and pigs”
Morsi addresses Jews in this way in a video clip that has recently appeared in the press, together with an even worse expression. Morsi, who has been trying to create an impression of a peaceable attitude to the Jews since taking over in Egypt, who promised that the Jews would be guaranteed freedom of worship under the new constitution and who declared that he was not responsible for his adviser’s words who said to the Jews that “There won’t be a thing called Israel anymore; so occupiers (Jews) will have to return their homelands”, said those words in 2010. Is that really what he thought? Does he still think like that? And I wonder if Morsi, who has placed the Jews under protection now, has elected to behave tactically instead of explicitly setting out his ideas? Have his ideas changed, or his tactics?
It is not easy to speak on Morsi’s behalf. He comes, after all, from a background closely entwined and associated with radicalism. He took over from a dictatorship. The popular uprising in Egypt was certainly justified, but it is difficult to govern a people in rebellion. Tired of dictatorship and the impositions of socialist nationalism, the public were hopeful of the new arrival, but also suspicious. The possibility of a new dictator terrified the Egyptian people, and that fear rose before Morsi with every step he took. It is not easy to take over in such a country. But what such a country needs, rather than politicians who hide their true faces and act in the light of expectations rather than what is right, is politicians who defend the truth and right.
So which of these reflects Morsi’s true thinking? Understanding this is the key to understanding Morsi, in my opinion. Because if Morsi still bears the marks of his radical past, then he will have much to hate, and it goes without saying that Jews come at the top of the radicals’ hate list. But if his efforts to protect Jews and guarantee their right to worship are sincere, then we can allow ourselves some guarded optimism for Egypt.
Let us now look at Morsi’s statement from 2010. The insulting words “descendants of apes and pigs,” aimed at Jews reflects the logic of radicals who claim to represent Islam (our Jewish brothers/sisters are beyond that). But how do these fundamentalists draw such an interpretation from the Koran?
The Koran speaks of a community that God makes apes and pigs: This community is one that has emerged from those who have been given a Book, in other words, from Christians and Jews (5:60–
7: 166). Another verse (2:65) speaks of “…those who broke the Sabbath,” who are told to “Be apes.” It appears from this that the community in question emerges from among the Jews. These communities that are despised in those verses have one very important characteristic: They are deniers and aggressive. The rebellious nature of this community is described in the previous verses as their mocking believers’ faith and acts of worship and their making problems for believers. One verse reads:
You who have faith! do not take as guardians any of those given the Book before you or the disbelievers who make a mockery and a game out of your religion. (5: 57)
The words “…who make a mockery and a game out of your faith” require closer inspection: Only those of the people from the People of the Book (Christians and Jews) who mock religion being elevated as rulers and administrators is condemned in the Koran. But what about those who don’t mock religion?
A couple of verses after the above verse, the position of those people is described:
Those who have faith and those who are Jews and the Sabaeans and the Christians, all who have faith in God and the Last Day and act rightly will feel no fear and will know no sorrow. (5: 69)
The same verse is repeated in verse 2:62, just before verse 65, which speaks of “apes.”
In this verse, God imparts glad tidings to Jews who believe in God and do good deeds (and also to Christians). They are freed from fear in this world and the hereafter and they are rewarded. This is the glad news of paradise. In other words, God loves them. How can a Muslim not love those whom God loves?
Finally, just before verse 7:166, in which God says “Be apes”, He praises good Jews in these terms:
Among the people of Moses there is a group who guide by the truth and act justly in accordance with it. (7: 159)
In these sections of these verses, it is unbelieving Jews who mock religion, that are aggressive and make difficulties for believers who are despised, while honest and pure Jews are praised and rewarded. Just like Muslims who mock religion, are aggressive and make things difficult for believers are despised in the Koran, while pure and honest Muslims are praised…
Numerous verses that praise Jews and Christians are rejected in the polluted world of the fundamentalists; many are totally unaware of these verses. Others have described Jews in these terms. They cannot know that it is aggressive mockers who are described as apes, not immaculate Jews. There is no Koran in these people’s lives. They live isolated from the outside world in tiny ghettos, and they are surrounded by a fundamentalist worldview pervaded by hatred. Their religion is not Islam, though they think it is. For that reason, the greatest scourge in the world is radicalism, a scourge on all religions and ideas, and the main source of this is ignorance.
Was Morsi caught up in this ignorance? Maybe. But hearing this from a Muslim head of state, albeit in the past, shows the dimensions of this ignorance. Is it really so hard to understand the Koran? No. But the problem is they don’t know Koran. And people who do not know the Koran cannot know their faith. That has to be established first. And that cannot be done with bombs and aggression and rage. Upstanding people like us must come together and make use of our greatest weapons, love and patience. We must be teachers who wipe away their hatred. We must know we are dealing with ignorance, not with an enemy. Those who disagree and favor war must not forget that if the problem is ignorance, then guns, rockets, war, rage and hatred are of no use. They just encourage the ignorant to be more hateful.
The writer is a commetator and religious and political analyst on Turkish TV and also a peace activist. She is a host on the Building Bridges Show (http://en.a9.com.tr/showdetails.php?id=86) She writes as an op-ed columnist for the Jerusalem Post, the Washington Post and several online newspapers in Turkey.