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The Middle East. Religion & Politics. Judaism, Christianity & Islam. Similarities Belief in one God (monotheism) All 3 trace their roots to Abraham Palestine is the holy land Social Justice is key part of all 3 religions. Judaism. Pentateuch / Torah 1 st 5 books of the Old Testament

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the middle east

The Middle East

Religion &


judaism christianity islam
Judaism, Christianity & Islam
  • Similarities
    • Belief in one God (monotheism)
      • All 3 trace their roots to Abraham
    • Palestine is the holy land
    • Social Justice is key part of all 3 religions
  • Pentateuch / Torah
    • 1st 5 books of the Old Testament
  • Talmud – collected decisions of the rabbis
  • Forgiveness of sins depends on one’s willingness to repent and do good deeds
  • Orthodox vs Reform
  • Zionism – Jewish homeland
  • Theodor Herzl: Der Judenstaat
    • West created after WWII to ensure a safe haven for Jews after the Holocaust (part a long history of anti-Semitism in Europe)
  • Belief that Jesus was the son of God differentiates it from Judaism
    • Jews do not believe he was the Messiah prophesized in the Old Testament
  • Tensions between Christians & the other major religions
    • Crusades –for 300 years, Christians tried to wrest control of the holy land from the Muslims
      • Brutal treatment of both Muslims & Jews
      • Holy Warriors: Richard & Saladin
    • Inquisition– tortured Jews to get them to convert
    • Holocaust – Hitler’s determination to wipe out Jews
  • 622 C.E. (common era) is Muslim year 1
  • Koran is the Holy book of Islam
    • Like other two, stresses the importance of social justice
  • Key tenet: unity of God (rejects the Trinity)
  • Muhammad received revelations from the Angel Gabriel
    • Abraham, Jesus & Muhammad were prophets
    • Jews & Christians are also “people of the book”
manji the trouble with islam
Manji – “The Trouble with Islam”
  • Unlike Christianity,there has not been a Muslim reformation
  • Manji argues that Islam has actually regressed
    • Women used to play a larger role in Muslim society
  • ijtihad –lost tradition of independent thinking
    • Unlike Judaism & Christianity, only in Islam is literalism “mainstream”
  • Islam needs to deal with treatment of women & minorities (such as Jews)
arab israeli conflict
Arab-Israeli conflict
  • European colonial domination began to ebb by the 20th century
    • led to a rise of nationalism of Jews & Arabs
  • Palestine is the “twice promised land”
      • Promised to both Arabs & Jews
    • Arabs refused to recognize Israel (which was created by European powers) & attacked
    • Israel won independence & 1967 war conquered West Bank & Gaza Strip
  • Egypt, Jordan & Turkey have decent relations now

For more on Palestine, go to

jewish arab nationalism
Jewish & Arab Nationalism
  • Dreyfus affair illustrated anti-Semitism in France
    • Jewish Nationalism was originally not about religion, but ethnicity
      • Balfour declaration – promised the creation of Jewish state in Palestine
  • Arab Nationalism was also originally about self-determination, not religion
    • Emir Faisal accepted the Balfour declaration, but only paired with Arab independence, which was reneged upon by the British
    • “the fact that the leader of the Arab nationalist movement and the Zionist movement could reach an understanding is significant because it demonstrated that Jewish and Arab aspirations were not necessarily mutually exclusive.“ from
israel a jewish state or a state made of jews
Israel–A Jewish State or a State made of Jews?
  • Parliamentary democracy
    • Israeli Arabs can vote, but discrimination is getting worse
    • Palestinians in the West Bank & Gaza cannot vote
  • Likud (hard-line party) currently dominates
    • Minor parties play an important role
  • Settlements & the Palestinian issue
    • Undivided Jerusalem?
      • Al Aqsa incident
  • Israel is a modern, mostly democratic country
    • Settling the Palestinian issue is most important for getting Israel’s economy back on track
comparative islam egypt
Comparative Islam --Egypt
  • dictatorship since Sadats 1981 assassination
  • Stable only b/c of repression
    • Mubarak has never ended the state-of-emergency
    • Islamic fundamentalism is a major problem
      • esp. since Egypt signed 1979 peace treaty with Israel
    • July 2000, Egypt’s High Constitutional Court ruled that judges must oversee elections
  • Go here for more info on Islam in the Middle East

  • Sharia is foundation of Iranian law
    • Struggle between reformers & fundamentalists
      • 1997 : Khatami (reformer) won elections, but wasn’t able to get laws through
    • Council of Guardians—religious leaders that oversee the government
      • 2004 : reformers boycotted elections after hardliners blocked many of their candidates from running
  • Ataturk – westernized (secularized) Turkey
    • democratic, but some human rights issues
      • Kurds
      • Why was Turkey so opposed to US invasion of Iraq?
    • Recep Erdogan (Muslim “Justice & Devel Party”) won 2002 election
      • 34% of the vote; got 363 of 550 seats, but has not made any radical changes
      • in the past, the military has often stepped in when Turkey moved away from secularism
saudi arabia
Saudi Arabia
  • Saudi family dynasty
    • King Faud suffered a stroke in 1995, so Crown Prince Abdullah runs the show
  • Rigidly traditional political & social system
    • Wahhabi interpretation of Islam (strict)
    • Therefore, no need for a constitution
    • Mistreatment of women & minorities
  • Dependence on oil revenues keeps its economy overly linked to oil prices
    • “reverse oil crisis” in the 1980s caused a drop in oil revenues by ½
    • Made huge profits during Iran-Iraq war
    • Dependent on US for protection
      • ironically, US support for Saudi Arabia’s corrupt regime is one reason for Bin Laden’s anger at the US