Last month President Obama noted, as he does with all major religious events, the start of the Muslim holy month Ramadan and commemorated the holiday by calling it a time to “cherish family, friends, and neighbors, and to help those in need.” That was an appropriate statement but in much of the Islamic world, it also appears to be a time to indulge in Jew hatred. While holiday specials in the United States are noted for their saccharine tone, Ramadan specials appeal to a very different sort of sentiment. As the Anti-Defamation League noted on Thursday, the 30 days of fasting and prayer has been marked in a number of Muslim countries with special television programs that are rife with anti-Semitism and intended to foment hatred of Jews and Israel.
The significant factor about these shows is not just that they are drenched in the traditional tropes of anti-Semitism in which Jews are portrayed as cheap as well as cheats and villainous victimizers of Muslims. It is that these programs are clearly crafted to appeal to a popular audience throughout the Middle East. While they can be rightly accused of promoting hatred at the same time they must also be understood as a reflection of the attitudes prevalent in Muslim societies. The producers of these shows are guilty of pandering to the deeply ingrained prejudices of the Islamic world as much as they are feeding them. That some of these shows like the Egyptian “Firqat Naji Attalha” are comedies in which the bias against Jews is merely the backdrop for humor tells us more about popular opinion in these countries than anything else. According to the MBC network, which is broadcasting the show throughout the Middle East, “Firqat Naji Attalha” gives audiences “the sweetest jokes about the ‘cheap Jew.’” Read More