“I will tell you the truth about the fight between us and Jews who are the enemies of God and the descendants of apes and pigs.” That is the correct translation of a statement the controversial British-Palestinian Muslim cleric Haitham al-Haddad made in 2001, Arabic-speaking journalists at Radio Netherlands Worldwide confirm.
The cleric, who is to participate in a public debate in Amsterdam on Friday evening, has repeatedly denied making the statement, which appeared in a sermon posted on the Islamic website al-Minbar.
There is some scope for interpretation, admits RNW’s Chaalan Charif. “Strikingly, the cleric omits the definite article “the” before “Jews”. In Arabic this could be taken to mean he is not speaking about Jews in general but only about those Jews who are enemies of God and descendants of apes and pigs.”
Translated into English the anti-Semitic statement caused a storm of protest in the Dutch parliament when it was announced the cleric had been invited to give a lecture at Amsterdam’s VU University. In response, the cleric disowned the statement in interviews with several Dutch media, including RNW. “Those are definitely not my words,” he declared, saying that “words attributed to him” had been wrongly translated.
Amsterdam’s VU University has since cancelled the cleric’s lecture, which he will now deliver at Amsterdam's multicultural debating venue De Balie.
Calling Jews “descendants of apes and pigs” is not uncommon in Islamist rhetoric directed against Israel. The image derives from several Qur'anic verses such as the following one: “The example of those who were entrusted with the Torah and then did not take it on is like that of a donkey who carries volumes of books.” (62:5)
However, as Islam expert Michiel Leezenberg of the University of Amsterdam emphasises, there is one important difference: “These Qur'anic verses do not say Jews are apes or pigs or their descendants. The Qur'an makes a comparison, which is not the same as a statement.”
© Radio Netherlands Worldwide