Several articles have recently appeared exploring the development of Muslim influence in Europe. Now a book entitled Eurabia: the Euro-Arab Axis has been published by Farleigh Dickinson University Press. The author is Bat Ye’or (a pen name) who has written in the past describing the plight of Jews and Christians who have lived through the centuries under Muslim rule. The term for such people was dhimmi – those who were legal inferiors. This earlier work was written to debunk the myth that non-Muslim people living in Arab countries enjoyed freedom and prosperity. They were, in fact, always just tolerated at best and treated as second-class citizens.
The new old Europe
The author’s concern today is how contemporary Europe is being transformed under Muslim influence. In her view, it is becoming a dhimmi world. Observers have noted for some time the heavy influx of Muslims into Europe, especially Germany and France. We see this also in North America, but the Islamic influence seems more effective in Europe. There the author sees a “new civilization” which she calls Eurabia. It is built on acceptance of the Palestinian cause and upon views of anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism. One result is a fueling of the latent anti-Semitism that has always existed in European culture.
Reviewing the theme of this book, Jonathan Tobin writes in Jewish World Review (Feb. 22, 2005): “The creation of Eurabia is the coming together of a number of diverse factors. Combine the persistence of hatred for Jews on the far right, the animus of the left for Israel and America, and a general refusal to see the rise of Islamism as a threat – and what you get is a political and cultural snowball that is overwhelming the ability of the West to defend itself.”
A columnist for the Washington Times, Diana West, has also reviewed this book. She cites the author’s use of material generated by the Euro-Arab Dialogue (EAD). Created some thirty years ago at the instigation of France and the Arab League, this organization has provided underpinnings to a Euro-Arab axis – Eurabia. It has fostered political, economic and cultural bonds between Europe and the Arab world designed to create “a global alternative to American power.” Fears of European conservatives about the Islamization of Europe are dismissed.1
Bat Ye’or believes that as the inevitable result of this process, Europe, during the next few decades, will fall more and more under the control of the Islamic world. Her purpose in writing is to raise an alarm with the hope of preventing the catastrophe she foresees. We are interested in the situation she describes, but for different reasons.
The Jews in Europe
Anti-Semitism has a long history in both Europe and the Middle East. In the latter case it is something of a misnomer since the Arabs are actually Semitic – they are descendants of Shem and Abraham like their Jewish cousins. In fact, both Muslims and Christians should feel some kindredship with the Jews because of their (assumed) mutual regard for Israel’s one God and the Bible. Historically the opposite has been the case.
Even before the Romans devastated the Jewish homeland, the children of Israel were widely dispersed. Large numbers of them were scattered amongst the nations of Europe and the Middle East. At first Christians treated Jews with some respect, but in time this attitude diminished. Efforts were made by the Catholic Church to forcibly convert them, and persecutions resulted. By medieval times, the Jews lived under a shadow, ostracized and forced into ghetto living with limited means of livelihood. There were times when in one country or another there would be a measure of relief and there would be a “Jewish golden age” of some duration. It would happen sometimes that rulers would find their Jewish subjects could be valuable to them. These factors led to the congregating of Jews at different times in Spain, Germany, Poland and Eastern Europe.
Although Jews were considered second-class citizens in Arab countries, they often had better living conditions under Islam than did their brothers in Europe. The Jewish culture that developed and flourished in Muslim Spain was such a case. When, in 1492, their Catholic majesties, Ferdinand and Isabella, drove the Muslim Moors from Spain, they also decreed that all Jews in their realm would either convert or emigrate. (Those who converted were always suspected of practicing Judaism in secret, which many actually did.) As Columbus was setting forth from Spain for the New World, other ships were transporting Spanish Jews away from Europe to North Africa and the Middle East.
Jews and Christians living under Islamic rule, called dhimmis, were considered unbelievers and just slightly better than idolaters. They had to pay a poll tax, and the Koran (9:29) insists that this tax would be paid as part of their humiliation.
Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which had been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the Religion of Truth, from among the People of the Book2 until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.
The Koran’s view of the Jews
“A few koranic verses consider the ‘Children of Israel’ the chosen nation. But the others refer to the Jews as deceivers, treacherous, distorters of the truth, and – above all – infidels. The term ‘infidel’ means all those who do not embrace Islam, whether Jews, Christians or pagans. The interest of the Koran in Jews, and its reaction against them, its criticism and defamation, can be explained in the light of Mohammed’s interaction with the Jews of Medina.
“The city of Medina [at first] had tribes of pagans and Jews. Within a few years, the pagan tribes accepted Mohammed’s teachings and embraced Islam while the Jews were expelled or massacred. When Mohammed first came to the city he thought the Jews would join him, and he made overtures towards them. He adopted the Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, and he prayed facing Jerusalem as he saw Jews doing.
“Only after some 18 months, with no favorable response from the Jews, did Mohammed begin to turn against them, first by changing the feast day to the month-long Ramadan, then by changing the direction of prayer from Jerusalem to Mecca, and later on by getting rid of the Jews, first by expulsion and then by massacre. Within a few years, the Arab peninsula was cleared of non-Muslims. Mohammed was able to abolish the presence of any religion except Islam on the Arab peninsula.”3
Islam and territory
Islamic traditions instituted by Mohammed created an important, fundamental rule about territory. Any land that comes under Islamic rule cannot be de-Islamized. Even if others take over the territory that had been under Islamic rule, it is considered to be perpetually Islamic. This rule makes it impossible for Muslims ever to really accept a Jewish state in what they consider Palestine.
Islam was created to be the army of Allah, and every single Muslim is a soldier in this army. He dies in fighting for the spread of Islam and is a shaheed (martyr). It is not a war that can ever end until its goal is achieved — because it was decreed by Allah. It has been correctly pointed out by students of Islam, that the terms war and peace do not have the same meaning for Muslims as they do for others. Any peace between Muslim and Jew or Christian can only be temporary – until the end can be achieved. An attempt to interpret the Koran or the teachings of Mohammed according to western concepts is against reality.
The plan of God
We know, of course, that everything relating to developing world affairs is under the Creator’s control, and He will direct the final outcome. Our interest is in our effort to discern these times in the light of what has been revealed in His word. The reawakening of anti-Semitism in Europe should not surprise us. The time will come when the world will again cast out the children of Israel, leading to their final and full restoration in the land of promise.
The term “Eurabia” is significant. We know that we are living in the last days – the time of the phase of the feet, speaking of the image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. We have seen the reality of this vision developing through time. The world’s great empires have passed, one by one, until finally the iron Roman power has been mingled in the feet with miry clay. The Euro-Arab axis may bring a new dimension as this last phase of the prophecy is fulfilled.
Joseph Banta, Austin, Texas
1 “Explaining the Euro-Arab axis,” Diana West, townhall.com
2 The Koran often uses the term “People of the Book” to describe the Jews, but it is not intended in a complimentary way. The idea was that their possession of the Old Testament should have made them accepting of the Prophet Mohammed and his message.
3 From “Jews in the Koran and Early Islamic Traditions” by Dr. Leah Kinberg, Lecture delivered in May, 2003, Monash University, Melbourne.