The Divergence of Judaism and Islam. Interdependence, Modernity, and Political Turmoil

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Introduction · 3

well into the twentieth century, and precolonial Morocco. This also
proves to be the case presently in Germany and Australia between Mus-
lim immigrants striving to adapt to their new surroundings and the more
deeply implanted Jewish communities. Jews of several Balkan states and
in post-Ottoman Turkey weathered many crises, and most of their com-
munities remained relatively intact over a long period of time—Turkey
to current days, the Balkans until the mid-1940s. The dissolution of some
Balkan communities or the significant depletion of their populations
resulted from Nazi oppression rather than Muslim-Jewish animosities.
Like their Muslim counterparts, the Jewish communities in Germany and
Australia today are asserting themselves politically and socially. This,
however, cannot be said for Jews of Arab lands in recent decades. By the
1990s, the Jewish communities of Central Asia, too, met a similar fate of
population decline and downward mobility.
Unlike modern Turkey and Iran, the Arab Middle East and Maghreb
succumbed to European colonial domination. Several lands, notably
Algeria, Tunisia, and Egypt, were colonized at different periods in the
nineteenth century. Palestine, too, was very much exposed to European
colonialism as well as to gradual demographic changes in the wake of
Jewish colonization that gained momentum under the British Mandate.
Excluded from the colonial sphere of influence was Yemen, yet a case
study about Yemeni Muslim-Jewish particularisms and commonali-
ties in a noncolonial setting is part of our book. Yemen underwent vital
transformations, some of which were evident throughout the Arab world
and included Jewish communal self-liquidation attributed to domestic
The decline of Arab and Muslim influence globally in all areas during
the twentieth century, in sharp contrast to rising European supremacy,
had dire consequences for the Judeo-Muslim relationship. At a time
when Jews and Christians lent support to foreign domination, Muslims
began to espouse political, nationalist, and Islamist ideologies that did
not bode well for these minorities. Gone were the days of intellectual and
religious convergence.
The Jews prospered under colonialism more than the Muslims, aban-
doning their old neighborhoods in favor of the modern urban agglomera-
tions built by the Europeans. Even in rural areas, such as southern Mo-
rocco, Jews adapted to modernity. They became better educated through
the colonial schools and the transnational educational network of French

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