What is the strangest sect in Judaism

Islam Debate : The Judeo-Christian tradition is an invention

The republic speaks daily of the Judeo-Christian tradition of the West. Usually in the sense of the defense of our constitutional state and the Basic Law, the liberal values ​​of our social order, also gladly with the "equality of the sexes, freedom of art, freedom of opinion and religion". A battlefield where there is above all one opponent. Which doesn't seem to be suitable for a hyphen: Islam.

It is often reflexively equated with religion - a religion that cannot deny its “warlike Arab” origins. Experts, moderators, educators, politicians and journalists explain to us that it consists of the Sharia and the Koran, while invoking the Judeo-Christian tradition. They all deal with the terminology of a literary tradition that is alien to them without shame, which - like the rabbinical one - encompasses a whole world of casuistic judgments, whereby a threatening instructive gesture of unambiguity prevails: this is in the Koran, Islam says that, the Sharia commands this.

Around 2001 the writer Navid Kermani and I initiated a multi-year project in Berlin on the interweaving of European, Jewish, Arabic, Islamic and Persian literary traditions. With a group of Jewish and Islamic scholars, we wanted to show how complex, how ambiguous Jewish and Islamic traditions are, how inspiring - and how much it is necessary to distinguish between religious tradition and socio-political reality. In the public debate, however, everything always ends with terror, honor killing, the headscarf and the Koran. And the threatening surrender of "our culture".

More than a hundred years ago there were similar trials against the Talmud in which all rabbinic Judaism was indicted. At that time, Jewish philosophers cited an Arabic-language source from the 13th century against the unambiguousness of the public attributions, which found surprisingly clear words: The moderators of the debate “do not explain anything, never touch anything deeper in things, they are far removed from them Sciences, they do not have a spark of that human talent to think things through for themselves, therefore they also disregard the interpretations of the wise and read traditional texts according to their own limited understanding ”. And if the critics play themselves as guardians of the Enlightenment in order to make the tradition appear contemptible to others, then these are probably “even bigger idiots than the simple-minded pious, even bigger talkers who make their speeches with great influence and immense damage under the Let Intelligentsia burst ”.

The author of these sharp words is the Judeo-Arab philosopher Moses Maimonides (1135-1204). He is the greatest of the rabbinical scholars, belongs to the Arab-speaking Jews of the Maghreb, and his philosophy is part of the Arab Enlightenment. For him, the rabbinical and the Islamic are closely interwoven in many ways. Against the attempt to separate Jewish from Arabic or even to assign a Judeo-Christian story - Jacques Derrida already stood up against this error on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem in the late eighties in front of students at the Hebrew University. At that time I was working at the University of Jerusalem, based in Jerusalem. Like his predecessor, Derrida found clear words for the post-traumatic Protestant construction of the Judeo-Christian West, in the middle of Jerusalem, in the middle of the war: "Oh, if Maimonides had only known this!" A gallop through Judeo-Christian-Occidental history would be what an absurd construction!

Didn't Henryk M. Broder just remind us, unpleasantly certainly, but nevertheless true, that the hyphen in Judeo-Christian history was above all a story of religious wars, oppression, anti-Semitism and violence, not to mention the Shoah ? Derrida's question makes the phantom pain of the disappearance of Jewish-Arab alliances felt: “If only Maimonides had known this, that he and with him the entire Jewish tradition would one day be recruited for this strange struggle, that he would unwittingly sign an agreement with post-Lutheran Germany would his soul then rest in peace? "

It takes your breath away with so much historical oblivion. It is creepy to see the pathos of intellectual and moral superiority with which the self-appointed representatives of the Judeo-Christian Occident hold up the European Enlightenment to Muslim contemporaries, regardless of nationality and cultural background. The ice remains thin after just seventy years.

No, there was no Judeo-Christian tradition, it is an invention of European modernism and a favorite child of traumatized Germans. Judeo-Christian is a construction shaped by the genesis of progress that culminated in the Reformation and the French Revolution. Only after the Shoah did a Judeo-Christian dialogue begin in Germany. Paradoxically, the dividing lines in this dialogue corresponded pretty closely to the dividing lines between Muslim and Christian beliefs today. There is seldom a public testimony to the obvious similarities between these two traditions, such as at the time when the republic was in a state of excitement about Navid Kermani's remarks on the cross and advocates like Micha Brumlik finally pointed out, albeit quietly, that that even for many Jews - how should one put it - every form of the theology of the cross ultimately remains blasphemy.

At a time when there was still a Jewish scholarship in Germany that was unique in its cosmopolitan and critical spirit and closely related in spirit to the classic Jewish-Arab tradition, Jewish scholars knew about the liaison between Jews and Muslims. Until the early 1930s, Jewish scholars took the support of the thinkers of the Arab Enlightenment in defense of their universal tradition of reason and their criticism of Christology. Hardly anyone remembers that Moses Mendelssohn's political enlightenment pamphlet "Jerusalem" (1789) draws on arguments from Arab enlightenment traditions, especially where it deviates from Kant. And let us remember: In the 19th century it was the Jews whose tradition was under general suspicion of refused integration, double loyalties, primitive spirituality and pathological demarcation from their German fellow citizens.

While caricaturists who draw a bomb in the prophet's turban receive awards today, the Marburg district court brought charges against an elementary school teacher in 1886 who, in 1886, placed similar explosions in the heart of rabbinical tradition. In the midst of the discussion about parallel Jewish societies and the incompatibility of the Halakha with the values ​​of the German majority society, heated up by the Berlin anti-Semitism dispute, this teacher claimed that the Talmud allowed Jews to behave immorally towards non-Jews. The Jewish community understood this as an insult to all of Jewry and sued the teacher. Thereupon the court asked two experts whether insulting the Talmud was also insulting the entire Jewish religion and was therefore a criminal offense. Even the most assimilated among the Jewish intellectuals understood at the time: “It is time we had to confess again.” In that process, the Jewish Neo-Kantian Hermann Cohen took over the defense of Talmudic Judaism. The defendant was sentenced to 14 days in prison. Today we know that violent exclusion, murder and manslaughter could not stop this process either.

The fronts have changed. What are we reading today? "Islam is a militant monotheism that cannot deny its origins from the world of armed Arab nomads" - and "six million Muslims in the Federal Republic pose problems of assimilation and integration". In times when Muslim traditions are under general suspicion, a renewed liaison between the Jewish intellectuals and the Muslims of this country is required. It is time we had to confess again. Where Muslims are strangers, so are we.

The author is a fellow at the Käte-Hamburger-Kolleg in Bonn and a professor of Jewish philosophy with numerous publications in Germany and abroad. In 2009 she curated the exhibition “Taswir - Islamic Imagery and Modernism” in the Martin-Gropius-Bau.

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