It has become quite rare to hear about zero anti-Semitism in a country, city, town or village with a predominantly Muslim populace especially after the creation of Israel in 1948 and after the subsequent Arab-Israeli conflict which unfortunately has lost its original secular and ethnic nature and has embraced a more radical religious form after non-Arab nations like Iran (after Islamic revolution of 1979) also adopted an anti-Semitic rhetoric. Many Muslim countries including my country Pakistan has not even recognized the existence of Jewish state and has always espoused anti-Semitic policies promulgated by its Arab and Iranian Muslim brothers. Many Muslims consider it almost a religious obligation to lambaste Israel and call every incident in world illogically consequence of a dangerous “Jewish conspiracy”. Many Muslims succumb easily unfortunately to the anti-Semitic propaganda propagated by Mullahs and politicians in their country in the guise of salvaging Islam and Islamic nations and this propaganda makes it difficult sometimes even for many moderate liberal Muslims to sustain a positive image of Israel and Jews in their mind.
But hopefully Muslim world isn’t all anti-Semitic and there still exist places like Tunisian island Djerba and Azerbaijani Red Village where Muslims don’t espouse anti-Semitic practices in the name of salvaging Islam and are tolerant of their Jewish neighbors. It is a common scene in mesmerizing Tunisian island of Djerba to see men wearing Kippah and Tallit strolling freely along the mazelike alleys and sun-kissed glistening streets and white sands. Apart from having in its possession the Mediterranean warm waters and dozens of enthralling historic sites, Djerba has another jewel on its crown which is that it is home to one of the world’s oldest Jewish settlements and that too in a predominantly Arab Muslim country. Tunisia has defied the Anti-semitic norms of its Arab brothers by pursuing a different path which is the path of peaceful coexistence between adherents of two great Abrahamic religions. Tunisian Muslims inhabiting Djerba along with their Jewish neighbors have shown to the world that not every Arab Muslim is responsible for killing Jews through stabbing and vehicle ramming on the streets of Jerusalem or for blowing a bus on Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street. Every year thousands of Jews from around the world flock to Djerba’s Ghriba synagogue during the annual pilgrimage of Lag BaOmer after Passover. These Jewish pilgrims don’t just visit Djerba for praying but they also relish the traditional Tunisian Arabic music along with relishing several local delicacies at different feasts organized by their Muslim hosts who by doing so consolidate their island’s repute as an oasis of Jewish-Muslim peaceful coexistence in a predominantly Arab Muslim country. Azerbaijan also has its own oasis of Jewish-Muslim peaceful coexistence and that oasis is its Red village which is located 165 km North-West of Azerbaijani capital Baku. About 4,000 Jews live in Azerbaijan’s Red Village (surrounded by several Azerbaijani Muslim towns and villages). Red Village is the largest all-Jewish settlement outside the State of Israel. This must be surprising for many who are coming across for the first time about presence of the largest all-Jewish settlement outside the State of Israel in a predominantly Shiite Muslim country and that too situated next to Holocaust denier and Israel’s mortal enemy Iran which shares the same Shiite Islamic faith with Israel’s Muslim friend Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has made a clear decision of not embracing Anti-Israeli “Little Satan” rhetoric which has been vehemently pursued by Mullahs in neighboring Iran for decades. The Red village itself was founded as a safe haven for Mountain Jews in 1742 by Fatah Ali Khan, the Muslim emir of the town of Quba, located in a relatively flat area just south of the modern day border with the Russian province of Dagestan. The Mountain Jews trace their lineage to ancient Persia and they also speak Juhuri which is a blend of Farsi and Hebrew.
Azerbaijani government also renovated in 2000 two important synagogues from 1880’s in the Red village to facilitate the local Jewish populace. Jews have always been an integral part of Azerbaijani society and there are not just Jewish members of Azerbaijani parliament like Yevda Abramov (A Mountain Jew) but Jewish community has also been very consistent in giving Azerbaijan great writers, philanthropists, scientists and soldiers.
I wish one day Muslims from other parts of Muslim World will also follow the footsteps of their Muslim brethren in Tunisian Djerba and Azerbaijani Red village.