Islam, Political Islam, and the Diaspora Jewish Divide

One cannot stand up for the Jewish people, today, if one fails to speak out against political Islam.

This assertion represents a significant dividing line among Jewish people, particularly throughout the diaspora.  The Jews of Israel do not need much convincing that political Islam is a threat.  The reason for this is the obvious reason that they live in the Middle East and have a far better understanding of their neighbors – who are doing a terrific job of murdering one another these days – than do either diaspora Jews or the dithering Obama administration.

The so-called “Arab Spring,” which was (and is) the rise of political Islam, is not the great up-welling of Arab democracy – as we were so enthusiastically informed by naive western progressives, including many naive western progressive Zionists – but represents a murderous political movement that stones women to death on the grounds of adultery and that is chasing the Christian population out of the Middle East entirely.

The question is, however, just what is the source of the problem?  Is the problem with Muslims, in general?  Is the problem with the religion of Islam?  Or is it, as I maintain, the problem of Islam as a rising political movement throughout the Middle East.

The biggest geo-political problem facing the Jewish people in the world today, particularly Jews in the Middle East, is political Islam.  The problem is not Muslims, in general, nor is it the religion of Islam as it is practiced by many millions of Muslims throughout the world.

As someone who lives in an exceedingly diverse community, I know this first-hand.

Although there is unquestionably elements within the American Muslim community that represent the Jihad, stealth or otherwise, the great majority of American Muslims have no particular interest in harming either their fellow Americans or in any way undermining the well-being of the Jewish people or in introducing al-Sharia into the United States.  This, of course, is a tad different from what we see in Europe and miles apart from what we see in the burning Arab-Muslim Middle East.

It is therefore necessary to consider the nature of Islam as it manifests itself differently in different parts of the world.  Islam in the United States does not express itself in the same way that it does in Europe or the Middle East or India or Australia or elsewhere.

Thus, it has to be understood that Muslims as people are not the problem.

There is nothing in the Muslim people that is essentially, or inherently, hostile to either Americans or Jews.  This should not even need to be said and I absolutely refuse to consider the nice lady across the street to be an enemy to the Jewish people merely because she happens to be Muslim.  There are something like 1.5 billion Muslim people in the world.  To consider each and every one of them an enemy of the United States, and the west, and the Jewish people, not to mention Gay people, if not women, is not helpful, nor is it accurate.

It’s also simply not true.

Some would argue, however, that the problem is not with the Muslim people, per se, but with the religion of Islam.   While almost everyone who concerns themselves with such things, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, do not blame the entirety of the Umma for the Jihadi hostilities in recent decades, there is an ongoing conversation around the question of whether the riots and the violence and the murders and the wars and the genocidal chatter against the Jews and hatred towards Gays and oppression of women and the subjugation of Christians is due to Islam, the religion, or because of some radical, extremist interpretation of the religion.

That’s the question that counts and the latter has been the stance of consecutive American governments.  George W. Bush called Islam “the religion of peace” and Barack Obama was outspoken in his appreciation of Islam and said the Islamic call to prayer was “one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset.” 

I don’t doubt that it is.

Nonetheless, there is also little doubt that the religion of Islam is, today, retrograde when it comes to questions of human rights as it is practiced in the Middle East and much of Europe.  The same, of course, can be said for particular parts of the Jewish community and the Christian community.  The difference is that Islam is very, very big and Judaism is absolutely tiny.  The difference is that Islam controls many countries and Judaism informs only one.  The difference is that while Evangelical Christianity opposes abortion, it controls no central governments, while political Islam hangs Gay people from cranes and controls, or is gaining the control, of a number of important governments throughout the Middle East.

Yet another difference is that the Bible does not call for violence against either Muslims or Christians and the violence in that book is descriptive, not prescriptive.  The Koran and the Hadith, on the other hand, call quite specifically for violence against both Jews and Christians when those Jews and Christians refuse to bow to the rules of dhimmitude.  Islamic jurisprudence holds Jews and Christians as beholden to inferior doctrines and as people who must be held low in submission to the religion that carries that name.

But the primary source documents of any religion are only meaningful to the extent that the followers act upon the essential views.  While it is true that the doctrines of political Islam are not inconsistent with mainstream Islamic doctrine, this is irrelevant if those beliefs are not acted upon by the Muslim people, and the leadership, as they pursue their daily interests.

What this means is that the problem is not Muslim people.  It is not.

Nor is the problem the Islamic faith.

But the movement to politicize that faith, as we have seen in recent years from Morocco to Tunisia to Libya to Egypt to Syria, and to establish al-Sharia as the form of government within either individual countries or through a larger united Muslim caliphate, is the problem.  As people who care about the well-being of Israel, it is that which should represent our primary concerns on this question.

Islam, after all, is far less dangerous if it doesn’t wield heavy weaponry, as it does in Iran and did, until very recently, in Egypt.

Thus we should be grateful to the Egyptian military and the Egyptian people for giving the Muslim Brotherhood the boot.

The Obama administration has been reprimanded by the Egyptian people and that’s a good thing because no American administration should be in the business of supporting political Islam.

Political Islam in its contemporary form started with Hassan al-Banna and Sayyid Qutb in the late 1920s in Cairo, but gained its most impressive victory with the Iranian revolution of 1979.  In recent years the movement’s fortunes were bolstered under the misnamed “Arab Spring” and, in part, through the offices of the president of the United States under the Obama administration.

The movement to politicize Islam is the most racist and backward-looking large-scale political movement in the world today.  Throughout the Middle East, and certain parts of Europe, large numbers of Muslims wish to see Islam as the basis of government.  What this means is oppression for Muslim women and all non-Muslims and eternal hostility toward the Jewish people.  And what that means is that political Islam must be opposed and the first way it must be opposed is through speaking out against it and simply not funding it.

The EU and the UN and the US fund various Islamist organizations and that is a terrible mistake because those organizations do not support the civil liberties of anyone who does not support Islamic Supremacist ideology.

It is thus a matter of basic human rights.

Yet the Obama administration is waiving a ban on arming terrorists for the alleged purposes of helping the Islamist authoritarian forces to stand against Assad and the secular authoritarian forces in Syria.

One of the dividing lines within diaspora Jewry – if not the Jewish people as a whole – is between those of us who acknowledge political Islam as a highly significant threat and those of us who prefer to turn our eyes away.  Given the fact that political Islam, as a movement, is now, since the “Arab Spring,” taking over entire countries, it would serve the Jewish people well to recognize it and oppose it and and strategize against it.

If those of us who wish to do so are castigated and condemned in malicious terms by our fellow Jews as “racist” then we have far less chance against a rising political movement that is directly in opposition to the well-being of the Jewish people, not only in the Middle East, but throughout the world.


Michael Lumish is the editor of Israel Thrives.

About the Author
Mike Lumish is a PhD in American history from the Pennsylvania State University and has taught at PSU, San Francisco State University, and the City College of San Francisco. He regularly publishes on the Arab-Israel conflict at the Times of Israel and at his own blog, Israel Thrives ( He has in recent years given conference papers on American cultural and intellectual history at The International Society for the History of Behavioral and Social Sciences in Dublin, Ireland, as well as at the Western Historical Association in Phoenix, Arizona and the American Cultural Association in New Orleans, Louisiana. Lumish is also the founding editor of the scholarly on-line discussion forum H-1960s. He can be contacted at