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BBC’s Big Questions or Big Contradictions?

bbc_big_questions

By Garibaldi

There have been several debates on threads here regarding whether or not Jews are a race or religion or both. It’s a complicated question, further complicated by the fact that differences exist among Jews in how they answer that question, though a great many see being Jewish as both race/ethnicity and religion.

I’m not interested in rehashing that debate here but wanted to highlight a blatant contradiction and tension between two shows from this year on the BBC program, “The Big Questions.”

BBC’s, “The Big Questions,” hosted by Nicky Campbell claims to delve into questions relating to “moral, ethical and religious debates.” However, quite often the show is simply an exercise in which guest can deliver the best soundbite and applause line.

Unresolved contradictions abound in the program, such as the one displayed in the video below. Self-styled “counter-extremism” guru, Maajid Nawaz implies that the difference between Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia is the issue of racism, though he doesn’t explain how this makes it a lesser form of bigotry and xenophobia.

Nawaz claims one can be racist against Jews but not Muslims because Jews are a “race.” This is contradicted on another show by Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner who states explicitly that, “Jews are not a race” but a “religious civilization.”

The contradiction and lack of nuance remains, and goes to a point we (and others) have made quite often: racism against, and racialization of, religious groups whether in the guise of Islamophobia or Anti-Semitism is not only conceivable but a well documented fact.

When a Sikh or an Arab Christian is mistaken for Muslim because of their “look” this points to racism and racialization. When an Indian man is shoved off a train platform to his death or a Sikh man is repeatedly stabbed because of the perpetrator’s conflation of Brownness with Islam it points to racism and racialization.

Clearly then, at the heart of much of both Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia is an undeniably virulent racism, which talking heads such as Maajid Nawaz and Douglas Murray unfortunately are all too happy to undermine with short soundbites.

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  • Just_Stopping_By

    Interesting.

    But, I think the demography is not quite as you say. http://www.pewforum.org/2013/10/01/jewish-american-beliefs-attitudes-culture-survey/ (For the US: “Though Orthodox Jews constitute the smallest of the three major
    denominational movements, they are much younger, on average, and tend to
    have much larger families than the overall Jewish population. This
    suggests that their share of the Jewish population will grow. In the
    past, high fertility in the U.S. Orthodox community has been at least
    partially offset by a low retention rate: Roughly half of the survey
    respondents who were raised as Orthodox Jews say they are no longer
    Orthodox.”)

    Anyway, the current Orthodox are often reformers in their own right, as many seem to forget, for example, that Hillel split both wood and his time between Torah and a secular occupation. They may dominate their own life, but in many ways, they are becoming insular and less relevant to much of the remainder of the Jewish community. Chabad does, however and to their credit, manage to bridge this divide pretty well.

    I agree that Irshad Manji is not going to succeed as a Muslim reformer, but there are many reasons why she alienates many Muslims (and probably most of those who have heard of her). But, others who have different approaches to ijtihad may have more success because they work within the established traditions rather than seem to be trying to denigrate them.

  • el turco

    So, the idea of “Reform Islam” has been brought up by Daniel Pipes, certainly no friend of religious Muslims. A closer look at how he views Reform Judaism helps explain why Sefardic and Orthodox Ashkenazi Jews still view the Reform movement with suspicion and why religious Muslims will view these kinds of reformists (i.e. Irshad Manji) warily. He is very clear that this type of reform is the equivalent of “christianizing” other religions:

    “As the Halakha lost its central place in Jewish life, much of Jewish tradition disappeared. By now, most Jews have become, effectively, Christianized, concerned more with attitude and intention toward God than with divine law.”

    http://www.danielpipes.org/160/the-jewish-muslim-connection-traditional-ways-of-life

    P.S. This article was written in the 80s and demography is proving Pipes’s thesis wrong as Reform and Conservative Judaism slowly disappear and more traditional/holistic orthodox communities (i.e. Chabad, Modern Orthodox, Sefaradim, etc…) come to dominate Jewish life globally.

  • el turco

    I am at best an amateur student of Christo-Islamic Civilization, but as a longtime China expat and “returnee” to orthodox judaism I am more familiar with the language, culture, and “religion” of the Hebrew and Chinese peoples. Just some short points:

    1. While your depiction of Chinese “religious systems” clashing is the traditional “orientalist” reading of Chinese philosophical history, modern sinologists both academic (Derk Bodde, Nathan Sivin, Roger Ames, etc…) and actual believer/practitioners (Andrew Nugent-Head) see Confucian, Daoist and other schools as interlocking parts of a larger syncretistic tradition similar to how you describe Hinduism.

    2. While this is a traditional misreading of Judaism, the Jews never believed G-d was ours alone. From the stories of Yitro (Exodus 18) and Naaman (II Kings 5) to the prophecies of Isaiah that all the nations shall stream towards G-d (Isaiah 2:2) or Davids cry that all nations praise G-d (Psalm 117) the Jews have always dreamed of uniting the world in praise of G-d, one might even say that we were “chosen” for this mission. Similarly, many Jewish thinkers throughout history have viewed Islam and Christianity as a “dress rehearsal” for the Messianic age (much the way we see our current Jewish practices).

    3. See Mehdi’s 3rd installment of the Jews and Muslims series for a deeper exploration of European Jewish identity in the age of Nationalism 😉

  • ShunTheRightWhale

    It’s hard to classify World Religions by Nationalism, every religion becomes nationalized when observed from a country level. Islam and Christianity both are missionizing, the have a ideal forms of worldly rule, be it Papacy or the Caliphate. In a world where Nationalism is the strongest force, such forms of Empire-Building are nearly impossible. Both religions have adapted to new forms of organization as nation states become the norm. Even the IS has some sort of a nation in its concept. Chinese religious systems clashed more than once against each other, Konfuzianism was abolished for a Socialist state and society model, Taoism and Buddhism survived in redirigated forms concerning themselves primarly with the mystical. Hinduism on the other side is so diverese and syncretistic that any standardization attept fails right out because of the fact that every believer often has several schools.
    The Jews are special amongst the Abrahamitic religions as they are a people which share a covenant with God, but thanks to Mohammed and Jesus this God became the God for all Mankind. In the diaspora Jews retained their religious and ethnical identity which is inseperatly intertwined. This was a great problem for West European Jews wether they understood themselves as part of the forming Nations they lived in or if all Jews have their own Nation, Zion. With these thoughts the idea of a territory, a vital component in the definition of a Nation, in which Jews are junited was born.

  • Friend of Bosnia

    Very true, but nobody is free of ill feelings towards others. I do despise bigots and racists. The difference between me and them is that I don’t hate anybody for their being what they are, for their ethnicity and/or religion. I hate those who commit evil and despicable deeds, who follow an evil and destructive ideology. And I don’t suffer fools gladly. Those who conflate Islam with IS are all three things, bigots, racists and idiots. IS, Al Qaida, Taliban, Boko haram, etc, they are all just evil and foolish at the same time, and that’s the most destructive kind of human being there is.
    Needless to say, I don’t hate any Serbs for their being Serb, or Orthodox, I have no problem with that. I hate the cetniks for their genocidal, destructive and xenophobic ideology and their deeds. Having said that, not every Serb is a cetnik, and not all Cetniks are Serbs; there were more than enough foreigners with them, for example the Russian would-be poet Limonov or the Golden Dawn fiends who took part in the Srebrenica genocide. Auch people have a problem with me and such as me, just for our being around, and even so I do not hate them for that. But if they harbor any hostile intentions against me, why should I turn the other cheek? I’ll never do that. Also, I do not hate the Russians for being Russians, but I do hate them for blindly following Putin’s reconquista. Who would become a danger for my existence, I can have no consideration for him but see that I fetch him before he fetches me.

  • Just_Stopping_By

    Here’s Mehdi Hasan’s latest: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/may/17/islam-reformation-extremism-muslim-martin-luther-europe .

    I’ll say that I find this one of his weaker pieces. MH’s strongest points, I believe, are that reformations can turn out well or poorly and that not every reformation is in the direction that you would want. For example, I’ll agree with him that the Wahhabi and al-Baghdadi/ISIS movements are “reformations” of a sort. Those points are true, but also pretty basic.

    Moreover, I think that MH’s arguments oversimplify, as the arguments could easily be extended to say that nothing should ever be changed because some changes in the past have turned out poorly. The real question is what type of change one is looking for, whether in understandings of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, or anything else, and the likelihood of success. A more interesting piece would have been about different movements for change within Islam (his topic), something he only touches upon briefly.

    Alternatively, his point that Christianity and Islam are very different religiously is an interesting starting point to say that Judaism and Islam are relatively similar and that Judaism had reform movements, one giving rise to what is literally called Reform Judaism, in the past 200 years. That does not mean that the same could happen in Islam, but MH could have done an interesting analysis of why he believes that that is or is not a good analogy to consider.

  • Just_Stopping_By

    Ditto.

  • Mehdi

    I remember watching and really enjoying this debate…

  • el turco

    A much more honest discussion of these issues is a panel discussion between Mehdi Hassan and Jonathan Freedland about their own controversial positions within their Muslim and Jewish communities in the UK.

    One fascinating distinction they make is between “ethnic” Muslims and Jews who take controversial positions but are not members of their respective religious communities versus people like themselves who may criticize Israel/Iran and then have to face down fellow worshipers at the Synagogue/Masjid.

  • el turco

    Ok, I think I understand the confusion. The “Jews” are not descended from Judah alone, despite this name Jews throughout history have mostly referred to ourselves in Hebrew as “Yisrael” or “Benei Yisrael” (“Banu Israil” in Arabic). Jewish communities still include members who can identify themselves as Levites and the Levite sub-tribe of Cohanim (who actually share a common genetic marker).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Y-chromosomal_Aaron

    I’m not sure which map you are looking at but the ancient Kingdom of Judea only included the southern part of the land (the portions of Judah, Simon and Benjamin) but due to the ensuing instability and destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel many other tribes, including Levites and others, fled to Judea and in our day most of the tribes (apart from the Levites) are one indistinguishable mass which is why we call ourselves “Benei Israel”. This is why the Zionists call the state “Israel” instead of “Judea” so I’m not sure why you say they claim the entirety of the land because of Judah. If this were true wouldn’t they call the state “Judea” rather than the more inclusive “Israel?

    Here are some maps to compare the tribal allotments versus the split Southern and Northern Kingdoms:

    http://www.biblestudy.org/maps/kingdoms-of-judah-and-israel.html

    http://www.biblestudy.org/maps/division-of-promised-land-to-twelve-tribes-israel.html

    p.s. I’m very jealous, I haven’t set foot on a sailboat in nearly a decade!!

  • Just_Stopping_By

    You should probably calm down and reread your own comments, because both el turco and I seem to keep getting conused.

    “I told you that the word “Jew” doesn’t come from “Judah” for Arabs and
    Jews. Somehow you simply can’t grasp that notion. I stated that the word
    “Jew” is derogatory for Jews yet you can’t comprehend that either. I
    told you the origin of the word “Jew” and still you are having great
    difficulty in understanding it.”

    For all the Jews I know, “Jew” does come from “Judah.” Same for every etymology source I have seen. You and Iman have said that it is similar to another word in Arabic, but haven’t shown ancome claiming that that is the etymology. The fact that the Hebrew text of the Bible uses the term “yehudaia” to refer to the Jews (after the Ten Lost Tribes, something you seemed unaware of when you said that all the other tribes would have had to have assimilated) pretty much proves the origin of the trm.

    Jews don’t consider the word “Jew” to be derogatory. That’s why I don’t comprehend that. If others use the word in a derogatory way, that still does not make it derogatory. I don’t consider the word “Muslim” at all derogatory, even though some people use it as an insult.

    It’s not worth pointing out all your errors until you calm down and recognize that you keep thinking that Zionists are doing things that are not original to them. The word “Jew” came into common use centuries before modern Zionism.

    Do calm down before you strain yourself.

  • Capt. J.B. Hennessy

    I don’t think you have the ability to comprehend anything that is being said to you.

    Instead of engaging in hysterical accusations of calling others liars, you need to firstly comprehend what is being said.

    I told you that the word “Jew” doesn’t come from “Judah” for Arabs and Jews. Somehow you simply can’t grasp that notion. I stated that the word “Jew” is derogatory for Jews yet you can’t comprehend that either. I told the origin of the word “Jew” and still you are having great difficulty in understanding it.

    And amusingly enough you seem to be under the impression that the Bible in Latin was written by Jews and the Roman use of the word “Jew” was because the Jews used that word to describe themselves.

    “No one who knows history would have used that quote to argue that Zionists developed the term Jew for political purposes.”

    I never stated Zionists developed the word “Jew”. I stated:

    “Zionist Jews remove Joseph and use Judah in order to give Palestine the name Judah.”

    I clearly stated that Zionists “use” the term “Jew”. Exactly how dumbed down do you need me to make it in order for you understand that. Reason I aks is because I stated it twice:

    “This is what Zionists Jews claim. They use the name “Judah” to verify that Jews were in Palestine originally.”

    And yet you have still not managed to comprehend what I telling you.

    As a matter of fact I shouldn’t even bother to ask you how dumb you need something to be before you can grasp it because your ignorance is staggering and it is proven by your statement:

    “Your original argument was that the word “Jew” didn’t come from “Judea.” You haven’t refuted that, but instead moved to a new argument: it’s a neologism created by Zionist Jews.”

    I don’t need to refute it. It was done by Iman:

    “I know that ancient israelians were called “Yahud” because it means those who are on the right path.”

    To which you replied:

    “See my recent comment in this string: Yahud (Arabic) comes from Yehudi (Hebrew) from Yehudah (Judah).”

    Your assessment of the origins of the term “Yahudi” is completely and utterly wrong and in fact it is based on the Zionists belief as I clearly have pointed out to you in several of my posts. But you just don’t get it. You keep thinking I’m telling you that Zionists invented the word “Jew”.

    Secondly I just can’t figure out how you managed to insistingly believe I said Zionists created the word “Jew”.

    Not only are you hysterical and lack comprehension skills but you are incredibly delusional.

  • Just_Stopping_By

    Your original argument was that the word “Jew” didn’t come from “Judea.” You haven’t refuted that, but instead moved to a new argument: it’s a neologism created by Zionist Jews.

    As for your quote, it says “until after the 13th century.” Modern Zionism is a political movement started in the 19th century. (“Zionism emerged in the late 19th century …” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zionism)

    Thus, the popular use of Jew as a term preceded modern Zionism by about 600 years, refuting your revised claim, unless of course you believe in time-traveling Zionists. No one who knows history would have used that quote to argue that Zionists developed the term Jew for political purposes. Much better to argue that the etymology of the term confers no political rights today than to misplace the emergence of modern Zionism by hundreds of years.

  • Capt. J.B. Hennessy

    “in every etymological source I have found online, and is just obvious if you know that what you say had to happen (“all the other tribes of Israel suddenly decided to drop their tribal linkage”) did roughly happen. . .”

    Well why don’t you take a look at this online source and correct them as you see fit:

    “Jews almost never referred to themselves collectively as “Jews” until after the 13th century. In the Hebrew Torah, Prayer Book and Talmud they call themselves “Children of Israel”, “Children of Jacob”, “Israel”, etc. but never “Jews”.”

    http://www.eretzyisroel.org/~jkatz/quranhadith.html

    “Even anti-Zionist Jews like Neturei Karta agree that the word Jew comes from Judah.”

    They use the word “Jew” to keep the matter simple for people like you. You simply can’t grasp what I’m telling you about where the word “Jew” comes from how can you possibly grasp what they will tell you about the word. Your thought process is exceedingly narrow minded and borderline hysterical as per:

    “ten tribes disappeared from history when their kingdom was defeated and they were exiled and assimilated elsewhere, leaving Judah, the smaller tribe of Benjamin, some Levites, and some minorities from other tribes.”

    Utter nonsense.

  • JD

    Steve King: There Is No Anti-Muslim Discrimination In America
    http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/steve-king-there-no-anti-muslim-discrimination-america

    Submitted by Miranda Blue on Thursday, 5/14/2015 12:35 pm

    Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said yesterday that Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson’s promise
    earlier this year to “give voice to the plight of Muslims living in
    this country and the discrimination that they face” was “just
    appalling,” adding that he does not believe Muslim-Americans face any
    discrimination.

    Iowa talk radio host Jan Mickelson played King a clip of Johnson’s remarks at a February summit on violent extremism, asking incredulously,
    “So the guy that we put in charge of homeland security thinks that it’s
    his job as chief of the homeland security to give voice to Muslims
    while calling Islam the religion of peace?”

    “This is just appalling to think that the man who’s in charge of
    protecting Americans domestically would take a position like that, Jan,”
    King responded.

    “The president can dredge up his Crusader history and try to leverage
    that back against us to guilt us,” he said, referring to President
    Obama’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast,
    “but what’s this discrimination that’s going on against Muslims in this
    country? I’m not seeing it. I mean, they’re beheading Christians on the
    shores of the Mediterranean Sea, and some people are speaking ill of
    that component. So where are the moderate Muslims speaking up?”

  • Just_Stopping_By

    See my reply to Iman. Or look up the Ten Lost Tribes, because that’s pretty much exactly what happened and why the etymology of Jew (Yehudi) from Judah (Yehudah) was known well before modern Zionism.

    Even anti-Zionist Jews like Neturei Karta agree that the word Jew comes from Judah.

    Or perhaps the Zionist Jews wrote the King James Bible, which, for example translates “Yehudaya” in Ezra (e.g., Ezra 5:1) as “Jews.”

    You can fairly argue that the etymology should have no political value nowadays, but it’s ridiculous to say that the Zionists created some link that is in the King James Bible, in every etymological source I have found online, and is just obvious if you know that what you say had to happen (“all the other tribes of Israel suddenly decided to drop their tribal linkage”) did roughly happen when (roughly) ten tribes disappeared from history when their kingdom was defeated and they were exiled and assimilated elsewhere, leaving Judah, the smaller tribe of Benjamin, some Levites, and some minorities from other tribes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_Lost_Tribes

  • Capt. J.B. Hennessy

    No need to apologize el tuco. I’m probably not making myself very clear on the subject matter. I’m in the midst of having to move a sailboat from Port Huron to Port Credit and technically I shouldn’t even be yapping online.

    If you look at the map in the Bible the map claims all of Palestine is Judea and Zionists claim that Judea is Jewish land because the Jews were all called Judah (Yahodi) by the Jews, Greeks, Romans and by the Arabs. But they weren’t called Judah (Yahodi) because they all became one tribe suddenly. And the hint is there is no tribe named “Yahodi” they retained their tribal linkage.

    Its akin to Christians calling Muslims “Mohammadeans” to mean worshipper of Mohammad but it’s an inaccurate, non-existing definition of “Muslim” in the Muslim world.

  • Capt. J.B. Hennessy

    This is what Zionists Jews claim. They use the name “Judah” to verify that Jews were in Palestine originally.

    But that is not what the the Jews are named after unless one insists on believing that all the other tribes of Israel suddenly decided to drop their tribal linkage and become the tribe of Judah.

  • Iman

    Affwan, ya achi

  • Just_Stopping_By

    Shukran, ya achti!

  • Just_Stopping_By

    Do you have a source for “Yahud” meaning those who are on the right path? See my recent comment in this string: Yahud (Arabic) comes from Yehudi (Hebrew) from Yehudah (Judah).

    The Israelites didn’t get along and created two separate kingdoms. One was defeated and its inhabitants exiled. There is no clear evidence of what happened to their descendants. The other kingdom was mostly from the tribe of Yehudah (Judah) with minorities from other tribes, and therefore called its citizens Yehudim, which gives us the Arabic Yahud and the English Jew. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_Lost_Tribes

  • Iman

    I know that ancient israelians were called “Yahud” because it means those who are on the right path. How can the israelians be called “Yehudah” because one of the tribes carry the name?

  • Just_Stopping_By

    “The tribe of Judah does exist but its not whom the Jews are named after.”

    “The Jewish ethnonym in Hebrew is יהודים Yehudim (plural of יהודי Yehudi) which is the origin of the English word Jew. The Hebrew name is derived from the region name Judah (Yehudah יהודה).
    Originally the name referred to the territory allotted to the tribe descended from Judah the fourth son of the patriarch Jacob (Numbers).”
    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jew_%28word%29#Etymology

    “Middle English: from Old French juiu, via Latin from Greek Ioudaios, via Aramaic from Hebrew yĕhūḏī, from yĕhūḏāh ‘Judah’ (see Judah).”
    Source: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/Jew

  • Iman

    Arabs are the cousins of the Israelites not the Jews. Jeudisim is a religion . Israelites is a tribe.

  • el turco

    Ok, I apologize if I misundertood your point. It seemed that you were saying “Zionist Jews” replaced Joseph with Judah and therefore used the term? Also that Palestine is not included in Judah’s portion (of which the capital was Hebron/Al-Khalil)? I’m sorry I’m not sure I understand your original point can you clarify?

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