A conservative friend of mine posted an Islamophobic anti-refugee Meme on Facebook the other day. The text on the image claims that the Prophet Muhammad, the Jesus of Islam, was taken in by the Jewish city of Medina and within five years he had driven out, killed, or enslaved all the Jews. The accusation sounded so ridiculous I had to try and verify it. Of course the ‘facts’ in the meme were very wrong.
A copy of the meme is to the right of this article (and a full size version is at the end of this post) but if you can’t see the image below is the full quote used:
Muhammad Was Once A Refugee Taken In By The Jewish City Of Medina [622 AD]. Within Five Years, He Had Driven Out, Executed, Or Enslaved Every Jew Living In Medina
The implication is that if we let Muslim refugees into the country they will kill or enslave us in a short time. There isn’t any other interpretation one can put on the words in that image.
Not only is the text Islamophobic and anti-refugee, the “facts” described are completely false.
Judaism was already well established in Medina two centuries before Muhammad’s birth. Although influential, the Jews did not rule the oasis. Rather, they were clients of two large Arab tribes there, the Khazraj and the Aws Allah, who protected them in return for feudal loyalty. Medina’s Jews were expert jewelers, and weapons and armor makers. There were many Jewish clans-some records indicate more than twenty, of which three were prominent-the Banu Nadir, the Banu Qaynuqa, and the Banu Qurayza.
Muhammad arrived in Medina in 622 believing the Jewish tribes would welcome him. Contrary to expectation, his relations with several of the Jewish tribes in Medina were uneasy almost from the start. This was probably largely a matter of local politics. Medina was not so much a city as a fractious agricultural settlement dotted by fortresses and strongholds, and all relations in the oasis were uneasy. In fact, Muhammad had been invited there to arbitrate a bloody civil war between the Khazraj and the Aws Allah, in which the Jewish clans, being their clients, were embroiled.
Yet Muhammad did not confuse the contentiousness of clan relations in the oasis with the religious message of Judaism. Passages in the Qur’an that warn Muslims not to make pacts with the Jews of Arabia emerge from these specific wartime situations. A larger spirit of respect, acceptance, and comradeship prevailed, as recorded in a late chapter of the Qur’an
Medina was not a “Jewish” town although Jews did live there. Muhammad was invited to live in Medina to hopefully mediate between clans who were at war. Muhammad didn’t enslave and kill the Jews in Medina as a matter of course but did approve the execution of a group of Jews who violated a written agreement to protect the town. The two other Jewish tribes who couldn’t work with the Muslims left town.
The person who created the false meme did it to make Muslims look bad, play up Jewish and Muslim animosity, and to raise the specter of killer refugees roaming around unchecked. The person was trying to do a modern version of the old “Willie Horton” ad.
In a later separate status update the friend who posted the image made the claim that he wasn’t tying to be Islamophobic or anti-refugee. But why post the false Islamophobic anti-refugee meme? My friend actually uploaded it to his timeline – he didn’t share it from someone else.
If you don’t want people to assume the worse then take the time to verify a meme before you post it or understand the implication of what you are supporting by posting it.