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Monday, December 19, 2005
Racism and anti-semitism
David Goldenberg's The Curse of Ham is a fascinating study of the Christian and Islamic religions' shared theological justification behind the enslavement of Blacks.
It turns out that Judaism was pro-Black where Jewish sources mentioned the Kushites (c.f. Aubin's Rescue of Jerusalem) and so was original Christianity. It was the Muslims of southern Iraq who came up with the counter-theory: that when Ham sinned against his father Noah, Ham's descendents were doomed to slavery. (The Jewish Bible dooms only Canaan, leaving Ham's other descendents alone.)
The Muslims of Iraq, south of Kufa, were Arab tribes - particularly the Tamim - who traced their descent from Ishmael. The Basran Arabs were proud of their Ishmaelite heritage and of their history in conquering new lands for Allah. In southern Iraq, the locals required some way of explaining the plantation racket they were running in their sugar cane fields. They found one: not quite in the Qur'an, although it did bolster their xenophobia, chauvinism, and ignorance; but in what they still respected as the "Tawrat" - Genesis.
Xenophobia and chauvinism had always existed, as had ignorance. The Greeks thought that black peoples had gotten that way from being carbonised by the sun. The Egyptians thought of Syrians (including Israel) as treacherous and violent. The Romans viewed Huns basically as Tolkien viewed Orcs. But never before had a people classified an entire genomic branch of the human race as having been created for slavery, and traced that to an origin myth. The Basrans invented the world's first racism, as modern readers would define it.
And Sayf ibn 'Umar shows that the Basrans had also come up with the first anti-Semitism, as modern readers would define it.
It's easy enough to explain Basra's racism - they had to do it - but not so easy to define its anti-Semitism.
A Black Studies major could provide a real service by writing a thesis on the conjunction between Basran-racism and anti-Semitism. If s/he dares to...
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