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The Religious Minority Of Islam In Israel

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Islam has existed for about 1400 years in the Middle East and other parts of the world. One of first places to have become fully populated with Muslims was the Levant. Jerusalem (also known as al-Quds) was often regarded as the most Islamic city in the Levant, due to its possession of Islam’s third holiest site, the al-Aqsa Mosque. For centuries, Muslims were the overwhelming majority religious group in Jerusalem and the strip of land we all know today as Israel and Palestine.

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During the Ottoman Empire, Palestine was the location of many Islamic travels who sought to enrich themselves in the fully Islamic-Arab society. Of course, other places in the Middle East were Islamic and Arab, but Palestine had a reputation for being excellent at balancing both religion and culture together. After 1948, the Jewish population grew extraordinarily in Palestine, and as a result the country became Judaized. Not long before, the State of Israel was created, and Jews from around the world immigrated and made Aliyah to their historic homeland. Aliyah is the Jewish belief that it is their own right to return to their homeland, as God promised them in the Torah.

As the decades of wars, conflict, and massive refugee emigration occurred, the Muslim population in Israel/Palestine has decreased dramatically, causing the country to become a prominent Jewish state. This phenomenon has become strange, since it’s the only Middle Eastern country to not possess a Muslim-majority population. The accusations of mass expulsion and genocide towards Muslims are thrown at Israeli Jews because of this. My understanding of this conflict is not based on the belief of religious tension between Muslims and Jews, but of an ethnic one, since my conclusions came based on the way Muslims were treated in Israel. It’s a complex answer, but I will explain it as much as I can. In this essay, I will compare and contrast Muslims as a religious minority in Israel, to that of other religions in Israel. I will also compare those subjects to religious minorities in Muslim countries, as well and religious minorities in all other countries in general. Relating to ethnic groups as minorities is gravely important too, as sometimes their treatment can relate heavily with religion.

The world of Islam in Israel is unlike any other religious minority in the Middle East. Muslims have been participants in Israeli politics and society, but with major exceptions. In author Rayan’s Journal “Diversity in Arab Society in Israel: The Islamic Movement” he outlines the dramatic religious growth and attachment among Arab youth, particularly Muslim Arabs. The piece provided here is the best source I have found to tackle the topic of religiosity among Muslims in Israel. In the journal, Rayan outline the different layers there are in the Arab minority in Israel. They come from different religious backgrounds, and most importantly different tribes (ethnic identities; such as Aramean, Gazan, Greco-Arab, Druze, Turkic-Arab). Rayan extensively mentions the growing Islamic movement among the Arab demographic in Israel. It revisits the aged theory that if you grow up in a society where the majority do not share your beliefs, you become more attached to your personal beliefs, even if they are in the minority.

Rayan also releases the fact that Arab Christians are less likely to care much about their religion once they become fully Hebraized. Hebraized is the term used in Judeo-Christian circles that applies to those who have not only become affluent in a Hebrew society, but have also managed to move and reside in the Judeo-Christian homeland. Christians who are Israeli have become integrated in a Jewish, Hebrew-speaking, Judeo-Christian world. Hence their “Christian-ness” is less prominent and crucial to them as they now live on a piece of land where their religion is “indigenous”, so therefore it’s not “unique” or “different”. For Muslims, the story is flipped. Arab Muslims have become even more attached to their religion since they have been placed (or forced to be placed) in a society that is unlike theirs, and force to speak a language that is dissimilar to their native one, Arabic. Islam offers them the gateway towards Arabic; since Islam’s original language is Arabic.

In comparison to other non-Muslim countries, Muslim minorities do almost exactly the same thing. They have not been accepted by the majority population, so their isolation has led them to become even more religious. In France, French Muslims are a sizable minority with significant populations in places in France, but they have almost no representation in the French entertainment nor do they have a stronghold in French politics. In fact, they have opposition parties that have summoned a movement that is created for the sole reason of weakening their existence in France. The National Front is a far-right French political party that conducts and promotes anti-Muslim policies and anti-refugee sentiment. Many French Muslim citizens have shared their concerns with that party, and have formed, essentially, a spiritual coalition to unite with one another to prevent a scattered and collapsed French Muslim community. In America, the same pattern is found. After anti-Muslim politicians like Trump have risen to power and seized control of the country, Muslims have banded together through their religion to stay united and in control of their destiny.

In some cases, Muslims as a minority in Israel have become solidified not only through their religion, but through their common ethnicity as well. In Israel, Muslims are mostly Arab (Palestinians), however some Muslims of other ethnicities have immigrated to Israel from other countries, such as the Circassians from Russia, the Sudanese migrants, and Ethiopian Muslims who have families with Ethiopian Jews. Although not Arab, Circassians have been closely tied with Arabs due to the common Arabic language (of Islam and the Muslim world). Some Israeli-Circassians have even identified as Arab because they have grown up in Arab neighborhoods of Israel, so they subsequently see themselves as Arab. In the 2015 journal, The Other Peace Process: Inter-Religious Dialogue in the Service of Peace in Israel and Palestine, Dr. Rabbi Ron Kronish examines the other part of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Kronish, provides insights on the facets of interreligious dialogue in bringing conflict resolution in Palestine and Israel. The article discusses the significance of peace-building projects in mirroring the peace-making process on a political level as well as the features of multiple models of peace-building which include personal interaction, interreligious learning, and discussion. Understanding the religious foundation of the conflict is essential to find solutions. Kronish implies that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not simply an ethnic-geographical issue, but a stringent ethnoreligious divide. Besides the ethnic Jewish-Arab division, the religious differences must find a common ground. He stresses the fact that Muslims and Jews have had a problematic relationship in the past, especially in the Arab world (post -Israel). He states that ‘mending the bond between the Mizrahi (Middle Eastern Jews) and the Muslim is critical for the peace to be established’.

In The Identity of Religious Minorities in Non-Secular States: Jews in Tunisia and Morocco and Arabs in Israel, Historian Mark Tessler wrote a detailed journal comparing Mizrahi Jews in North Africa to Arab in Israel. The journal here is written in great detail about the history of Mizrahi Jews in Northern Africa and Arab peoples in Israel. It is a comparison between the two minority groups and how each has had their own individual experiences with oppression and discrimination. Piece by piece, it breaks down the historical events preceding and following the creation of the State of Israel. The author implies that the two oppressions faced by both groups have been similarly severe. This relates to my next point of non-Muslim minorities in Muslim countries.

To begin with, many political theorists have done extensive research on religious and ethnic minorities and how the politics of that country plays a huge role on how these communities are preserved or not. The same has been done by Middle Eastern scholars, who have done extensive research into the non-Muslim melting pot of communities within the Muslim world. Abdullahi An-Naim, a Sudanese scholar of Islamic studies, as put extensive study into the rights of religious minorities in the Muslim world. He reveals that Jews and Christians, while have been prominent in Muslim countries for centuries, have had their communities decimated, singled out, and often flustered away from the majority Muslim population. He cites Iraq as an example, particularly during the War on Terror. He affirms that Iraq has possessed a significant Christian community, but during the war they’re safety has been threatened on multiple occasions. The Assyrians, who are staunch Orthodox Christians, have been targeted by ‘Islamists and other Arab-Islamic Militias’ and have allegedly ‘suffered mass killings and atrocities with no help from the Iraqi government’. An-Naim believes that Muslim societies are doing very little to cater to their non-Muslim communities who reside within their countries. He states that ‘Islamic law in the modern age is not compatible with Universal belief of human rights’. He says Muslims must reform their laws to make sure it’s suitable for all religions in their countries, not just for Muslims. He cited other examples of non-Muslim communities who have been harmed by their Muslim counterparts in their countries; The Jews in Persia, the Christians in Syria, and the Yazidis in Iraq. An-Naim focuses heavily on the idea that Muslim countries cannot be given the label of a ‘free country’ if they do not offer the same freedom towards their non-Muslim citizens.

Other scholars have a dissenting view from that of An-Naim’s. Turkish Scholars Somer and Kesebir write theoretically on whether Islamic law is the answer to the plight of religious minorities in Muslim countries. This article is a comparison between Turkish Islamic views and secular thinking on ethnic and religious minorities present in Turkey. Comparisons are made on the comprehensive content analysis of Islamic and secular media as well as other evidence derived from reports based on political parties and opinion polls. Additionally, the paper examines nationalism and conflict resolution from 1996-2004 and 2007-2010, in the Middle East respectively. Kesebir believes secular government is the answer and only viable solution to religious conflict in the Middle East, while Somer disagrees and theorizes that a fully Islamic government (based on the Ottoman legal system and Sufi Islamic principles) can greatly improve the lives of non-Muslims by offering them a better life than the Baathist/Sunni dictatorships in the past. By following the Islamic law, and remain in adherence to the country’s Islamic culture, non-Muslims will be able to live a satisfying life while practicing their religion. Both theories have contradicting views, but Turkish society have been vying for both systems to be enacted, to satisfy both religious and secular parties in Turkey.

Religious minorities in Muslim countries aren’t always silent within the political system. Take the Kataeb party in Lebanon. It’s a right wing, pro-Christian political party situated in South Lebanon, which claims to advocate for Lebanese Christians and Catholics, and their rights in the entire country. Ceren Belge and Karkoc Ekrem, contributors to the Political Research Quarterly, provide a different take from An-Naim as well. They detail the many instances of non-Muslims forming coalitions and political organizations in the Muslim world. Under what conditions do minorities in the Middle East appreciate despot coalitions? Research on despot quality in the Middle East has been for the most part calm on phonetic and religious minorities’ slants over organization sorts. Here, they dissect whether minorities differentiate in their assistance for tyranny from the majority in four Middle Eastern states. They believe that minorities whose status is undermined by a change to majoritarian essential authority establishments are more disinclined to be consistent with democratization. They take a gander at how changed cleavages impact the slants of minorities over organization sort and perceive three real legacies in the Middle East that have framed these cleavages: the Ottoman-Islamic legacy of minority settlement, the ethnic class structure that rose as a result of the area’s coordination to world markets in the nineteenth century, and a post-opportunity case of dictator secularism. In light of study inspect and a connection of minorities in Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, and Jordan, we watch those semantic minorities tend to be less enduring of oppression while religious minorities tend to be more satisfied of autocracy.

In Persistent Cultural Systems, the topic of ethno-religiosity is brought up often. The journal, written by E. H Spicer, points out many obvious facts about the repetition and attributes of societies. He explains that religion has mostly influenced the solid foundation of many cultural worlds, particularly Western Europe and the Middle East. Based on religious teachings, cultures may have the same types of cultural norms and practices. In Islam, Men and Women do not interact as often with each other than their same sex. This religious teaching is found in most Middle Eastern societies, like Iran and Egypt. In Judaism, the Sabbath is days of rest, where Jews are obligated abstain from sinful things. In modern Israel, many religious Israelis wear their kippahs on Saturday and abstain from fish and pork. Muslims do eat fish, so this is seen as an act of defiance against their Jewish neighbors, which fuels anti-Muslim rhetoric in Israel. In Situational Ethnicity, J. Y Okamura details the root of ethnic conflict and how it relates to religious conflict. The book highlights the conflict of ethnic identities and whether they have the ability to coexist with other identities. Okamura examines different intersecting identities, and in this case the author chose religious and political groups. The author questions how ethnic groups can live amongst each other without devastating conflict, if those ethnic groups have other intersecting identities which formulate their groups to be completely different from their neighbors. Those two sources help solidify what ethnic and cultural issues have to do with religion, and what it means for intersectionality. This relates greatly with the 2014 Aramean identity controversy in Israel. In that year, Israel was having a Knesset ‘clean-out’, which means that Politicians will be voted out for brand new ones to represent parties. One politician, an Arab Christian, has voiced his concern that Christians in Israel are not well-represented. He argued that they were often labeled as simply ‘Arab Christians’ and nothing more. He offered a solution that could benefit the Israeli Christian community. Arab Christians could identify as ‘Arameans’ rather than ‘Arabs’ on their voter identification cards. This grew immense backlash from the Palestinian community as well as other Israelis. People argued that this was a malicious tactic used to divide the Palestinian community. However, he affirmed in his stance despite months of scrutiny. This brings up the issue of self-intersectionality. Arab Christians weren’t satisfied with their label in Israeli society, so they wanted to register as Arameans. They didn’t want to have a Palestinian identity while residing in Israel, since that could be considered socially unacceptable.

With ethnic and religious intersectionality, comes an obstacle, at least that’s what J. V Montville sees. Self-determination stems from that, and self-determination is the primary cause for resistance against majority populations from minorities. Conflict and Peacemaking in Multiethnic Societies details the issues arising from self-determination. Montville’s article describes the ethno-religious standing in certain countries, one of them being “Iraq and the Levant”. In that section, he illustrates how the Levant was surprisingly able to stand as a large ethnically-diverse society for thousands of years without grappling into major conflict (this is before the 2000’s). He briefly mentioned the “eastern Levant” and “Jewish Lebanon”. As I read further, he mentioned that the prior to the creation of the State of Israel, Mizrahi Jews partially lived in Southern Lebanon. This is to outline how many ethnic groups lived in the same area for centuries but have not erupted in major violence until self-determination became widespread in the 20th century. Ethnic nationalism usually does not coexist with another nation due to the fact that self-determination plays a heavy role in it. Muslims in Israel are ethnically different from the Jewish majority. Palestinians view themselves as simply an ethnic group, and a nation. At times, Israeli Muslims consider themselves to be an ethnoreligious group. By their Arab ethnicity and Islamic religion, they marry only those who are like them, thus having a shared DNA and forming their own ethnoreligious community. This might have been the reason why Arab Christians seceded from the Arab community and formed their Aramean coalition. Situations like these almost always embroil in ethnic conflict.

In Religious Causes of Discrimination against Ethno-Religious Minorities, J. Fox of the International Studies Quarterly explains the root causes of mistreatment against ethnoreligious groups. Most existing extensive cross-sectional investigations of ethnic conflict concentrate on the conduct of the ethnic minority instead of the conduct of the state. That is, they tend to endeavor to foresee or clarify the level of dissent or resistance in which ethnic minorities connect with to the detriment of deciding the reasons for the conduct of the legislature of the state in which these minorities live. Past examinations have confirmed that victimization minority bunches are one of the real reasons for ethnic dissent and insubordination. Likewise, a significant part of the writing on ethnic clash does not adequately manage the religious reasons for that contention. In like manner this investigation concentrates on the reasons for separation with a specific accentuation on the religious causes. This investigation dissects two populaces from the Minorities at Risk informational index: the 105 religiously separated minorities and the 163 minorities that are not religiously separated. The outcomes demonstrate that religious variables impact the procedure that prompts segregation and that the reasons for religious separation are unmistakable from the reasons for different sorts of separation. Furthermore, the flow of this procedure is particularly extraordinary between the two populaces examined here. The greater part of this, alongside different variables, infers that religion isn’t simply an impression of general social contrasts, but instead affects ethnic conflict. Fox alludes to Yugoslav war during the 1990’s and the genocide against Bosnians and Croats. During that time the Serbian army have created and expulsion of non-Christians and non-Serbians out of what they believed to be ‘the rightful Serbian borders’. This, of course, heavily affected the Bosnian Muslims and the Croatians, resulting in genocide and mass deportations. The cause of this is the failure of bi-nationalism and the extremist upholding of self-determination. The article summarizes this area well and carefully, as it shouldn’t de-legitimatize an ethnic groups’ need for self-determination.

Bi-nationalism and religious coexistence in a singular society can be difficult to achieve, especially when crammed in a small space on a holy land. Two journals, both written from Arab perspectives, outline what bi-nationalism is and how religious coexistence of Muslims and Christians in Israel/Palestine should operate.

Haddad’s Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Anglicans in Palestine/Israel and Christian-Muslim Relations and Ghanam’s Seeking an Egalitarian State in Palestine/Israel: The Recent Debate about Binationalism. I chose to pair both of these articles together because there are similarities between them on an ethnoreligious level, in relation to Muslims. Haddad’s article is a brief introduction on the current Christian-Muslim relations in the geographical regions encompassing Palestine and Israel. The study examines the challenges of establishing a dialogue between the people of Palestine and Israel while being under the Israeli occupation. The article has brought focus on the disaster of establishing of the State of Israel on Christians in the Holy Land, the oppression that it brought on the them due to their expulsion, the Israeli anti-goyim policies, and the current theology being taught by the Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, as well as the effect of Israeli advocacy by Western Christians in support for dialogue. Ghanam’s journal examines the concept of “binationalism” as the answer to bring an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict following the non-fulfillment of the Oslo agreement. The article explores the support of bi-nationalism by Palestinians who believe this may compensate the injustice that was done during their expulsion from their lands. In contrast, the paper discusses the opposition by the Israeli Jews believing this may lead to their persecution. As a Jewish state will preserve their right over the country’s laws and culture, and will prevent the ‘Islamization from the Arabs’.

Muslims have been a minority in Israel since the 60’s, as this is when the Jewish population has overtaken the Muslim one. It was not until the 1980’s was when Muslims were able to participate in Israeli politics, due a vote in the Knesset. This is a staunch difference to other religions in Israel. Despite being larger in population size than Christians or Druze, Muslims are often discouraged from participating in politics or anything that is crucial to Israeli society, like the military. Islam is the majority religion of Palestinians, and so Israeli-Muslims have a label of being ‘Arabs’ or ‘Palestinians’, which further isolates them from the society. Unlike Muslims, the Druze are known to be heavily involved in the Israeli government and the Military. They are technically Arabs, but they refer to themselves as Druze so they can distance themselves and launch ahead in Israeli society without reaching obstacles regarding their religion or ethnicity.

To conclude, the minority status of Muslims in Israel has resulted because of the major population exchange in the 20th century. From mass emigration of Palestinian refugees out of Palestine, to large numbers of Jews making Aliyah to Israel; the Muslim population in Israel has shrunk because of it. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the way I see it, is of ethnic dispute. Ethnic-hatred of the other side is the prominent issue. Israelis disliking Palestinians because they are Arab, and Palestinians returning the favor because they are Jewish. It cannot be a religious conflict, because Jews and Muslims have lived together for centuries without dispute. Of course, there was persecution of Jews by Muslims at one point; however Jews lived very comfortable lives in Muslim countries, long before Israel showed up. If this were to be a conflict grounded on religious means, then the Muslims world would have been chaotic from the very beginning, which it wasn’t thanks to the peaceful coexistence between Muslims and non-Muslims. Muslims are mistreated in Israel because they are seen as Arabs, “Non-Israelis”, and invaders. This is an ethnic division, with religion playing a small role in it.

10 December 2020

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