In the United States, there is a well-established constitutional order of freedom of religion where her people are allowed to practice dozens of different religions. Members of one religion do not prohibit the practice of other religions. Francis Mention in Manhattan Contrarian reminds readers that freedom of religions was not an easy order to establish. People from all over the world come to the United States and “from many different religions to live among each other in peace.”
Not so principled are the Muslim countries.
… the record of Muslim countries (regarding) treatment of members of other religions is universally abysmal, in every case far worse than anything Israel can possibly be accused of. Yet somehow in the torrent of criticism of Israel for “apartheid” or “genocide,” this subject never comes up.
Mr. Menton has gathered information on the treatment of members of minority religions in Muslim countries. He focuses on the countries of North Africa, and on their treatment of their Jewish populations because that information is particularly relevant to the situation involving Israel today.
The North African countries once had substantial and thriving Jewish communities, none of which exist anymore. Nor was the abysmal treatment by the Muslims limited to Jews. Similar (if perhaps not quite as bad) treatment has befallen members of other religions like Christians or Baha’is by Muslims both in North Africa and also in places like Pakistan or Iran or Nigeria.
The Jewish Virtual Library has pages on its website on the status of Jews in Islamic Countries.
Libya – How did Libya go from 38,000 Jews in 1948 to today’s count of 0?
A savage pogrom in Tripoli on November 5, 1945, killed more than 140 Jews and wounded hundreds more. Almost every synagogue was looted. On June 12, 1948, rioters murdered another 12 Jews and destroyed 280 Jewish homes. Thousands of Jews fled the country after Libya was granted independence and membership in the Arab League in 1951. . . . When Muammar Gaddafi came to power in 1969, all Jewish property was confiscated, and all debts to Jews were canceled.
Algeria – 140,000 Jews in 1948 – to fewer than 200 in 2020?
In 1955, there were 140,000 Jews in Algeria. After being granted independence in 1962, the Algerian government harassed the Jewish community and deprived Jews of their economic rights. As a result, almost 130,000 Algerian Jews immigrated to France. Since 1948, 25,681 Algerian Jews have immigrated to Israel.
Ill treatment of minority religions, expands Mr. Menton, “extends not only to Jews and Christians, but also even to branches of Islam other than the dominant Sunni branch.”
Egypt – 75,000 Jews in 1948 to fewer than 10 in 2020?
In 1956, the Egyptian government used the Sinai Campaign as a pretext for expelling almost 25,000 Egyptian Jews and confiscating their property. Approximately 1,000 more Jews were sent to prisons and detention camps. On November 23, 1956, a proclamation signed by the Minister of Religious Affairs, and read aloud in mosques throughout Egypt, declared that “all Jews are Zionists and enemies of the state,” and promised that they would be soon expelled. Thousands of Jews were ordered to leave the country. They were allowed to take only one suitcase and a small sum of cash and forced to sign declarations “donating” their property to the Egyptian government. Foreign observers reported that members of Jewish families were taken hostage, apparently to insure that those forced to leave did not speak out against the Egyptian government.
The Manhattan Contrarian explains, “In more recent years Egypt has reached an accommodation with Israel, and the two countries have even exchanged ambassadors. However, the Jewish community has been … eliminated, so there are no Jews left to persecute.”
[T]he Egyptian constitution . . . establishes Islam as the official state religion. . . . Christians are barred from holding jobs and prominent positions in Egyptian academia, which often require their faculty to study the Quran or adhere to tenants of Islam. . . . Within society, apostasy from Islam is not tolerated. . . . Human rights activist and Coptic Christian, Ramy Kamel has been in prison since 2019. Kamel has defended the rights of Coptic Christians in Egypt by documenting attacks on Christian churches by Islamic extremists. . . .
Syria – 40,000 Jews in 1948 to 4 Jews today?
In 1944, after Syria gained independence from France, the new government prohibited Jewish immigration to Palestine, and severely restricted the teaching of Hebrew in Jewish schools. Attacks against Jews escalated, and boycotts were called against their businesses. When partition was declared in 1947, Arab mobs in Aleppo devastated the 2,500-year-old Jewish community. Scores of Jews were killed and more than 200 homes, shops, and synagogues were destroyed. Thousands of Jews illegally fled Syria to go to Israel. Shortly after, the Syrian government intensified its persecution of the Jewish population. Freedom of movement was severely restricted. Jews who attempted to flee faced either the death penalty or imprisonment at hard labor. Jews were not allowed to work for the government or banks, could not acquire telephones or driver’s licenses, and were barred from buying property. Jewish bank accounts were frozen. An airport road was paved over the Jewish cemetery in Damascus; Jewish schools were closed and handed over to Muslims.
Mr. Menton concludes by posing a question: “Can anyone give a single example of a Muslim country treating members of minority religious communities in a manner that we would consider appropriate?”
Perhaps, offers Mr. Menton, the most honorable example is Morocco. An ex-partner of Mr. Menton’s— a Jew born in Morocco whose family left for France in the 1970s — has only good things to say about current King Mohammed VI and his predecessors, who have been very supportive and protective of the Jewish community.
However, even support from the top does not prevent Jews and other religious minorities from being treated like second class citizens, in areas like ownership of property, ability to conduct business (enforcement of contracts), and right to intermarry. The Jewish community in Morocco has shrunk from about 265,000 in 1948 to only about 2,100 in 2019.