Jewish schools in the UK: The apes and pigs dilemma
Jewish schools in the UK: The apes and pigs dilemma

Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, the Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth has recommended that Islam be taught in Jewish schools in the UK. This follows a decision obligating British schools in the framework of religious studies to teach two faiths.[1]

The chief rabbi’s proposal raises many questions. Jewish children are taught the Ten Commandments from an early age, which explicitly forbid murder. How are teachers at Jewish schools going to explain that leading Muslim religious authorities issue fatwahs (religious legal decisions) to murder certain individuals? A case in point is the fatwa issued in 1989 by Iran’s highest Muslim leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini against Salman Rushdie, the British Indian author of the Satanic Verses. This merits to be mentioned in schools as the UK was Rushdie’s country of residence at that time.

Will Jewish schools in the UK teach the falsehood that some Islamists are not Muslims, for instance adherents of Islamic State or Hamas genocidal movements? Even if the spiritual leaders of these movements remain outside the curriculum, many deeply racist statements by other prominent Muslim clerics and leaders will have to be tackled.

Various leading Muslim clerics present a number of evil concepts as integral to Islam. Noticeable among these is the Koran-related view of Jews as pigs and apes. According to Islam, ancient Jews were turned into animals for disobeying the word of Allah. The Koran mentions this punishment in three verses, one of which says, “They are those whom Allah has cast aside and on whom His wrath has fallen and of whom He has made some as apes and swine... (5:60).”

Although the Koran says that Christians received the same punishment, throughout history the term “apes and swine” has largely been reserved for Jews, in both Shiite and Sunni traditions, from the founding of Islam nearly fourteen hundred years ago to today.[2]

The Saudi sheikh Abdul Rahman al-Sudais, imam at the Grand Mosque in Mecca (Masjid al-Haram) called Jews pigs and monkeys. He also preached that Jews are “the scum of the human race, the rats of the world, the violators of pacts and agreements, the murderers of the prophets, and the offspring of apes and pigs.”[3]

Al-Sudais is just one among many Muslim preachers promoting the same message.  Many other leading Muslim clerics in the Middle East have also been preaching that Jews are swine and monkeys.

The Salafist Jordanian Sheikh Ali Halabi had issued a fatwa against the killing of Jews in February 2015. He changed his opinions after facing intense backlash. In a video released in November 2015 he announced that it is acceptable to kill someone who attacks you, “all the more so when the aggressor is an evil Jew, from among the brothers of apes and pigs.”[4]

Taking the Koranic text literally means considering Jews animals. The Nazis held similar views, asserting that Jews were subhuman.

Will Jewish children be told that the highest religious Muslim authority in pre-war Palestine, the Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al Husseini, listed the points of similarity and overlap between Islam and Nazism in detail? He did so in a lecture to the imams of the Bosnian SS unit, which he had helped to set up.[5]

Will Jewish pupils also be taught that religious leaders of Hamas, the largest Palestinian party, share the views enshrined in that party’s charter, calling for genocide against the Jews and Israel?[6]

Many other prominent Muslims call Jews apes and pigs. Perhaps the best-known politician to do so was former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi in 2010. A video of this was released in 2013.[7]

Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) has collected a number of examples of Jews being called apes and pigs in Palestinian media. It has translated numerous interviews and statements by Hamas and Fatah officials in Palestinian media where the same trope is used. PMW have also compiled various cases where Palestinian children call Jews apes and pigs in the same media, particularly during programs where they recite original poetry.[8]

In 2002 The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) translated a clip from a Saudi TV show where a three year old girl calls Jews apes and pigs. She is described by the program’s adult host as “a true Muslim.” That host also says, “May God give us the strength to give our children the same education."[9]

Some Muslims, on immigrating to the West, bring this hateful ideology with them. In 2014, MEMRI published a translated video of Danish Imam Mohamad al-Khaled Samha, a cleric who has been linked to terrorists in the past. In the sermon he asks, “how can we – or any free Muslim with faith in his heart – accept the division of Palestine between [the Palestinians] and a gang of Jews, the offspring of apes and pigs?”[10]

Teachers will have to answer questions such as whether the Chief Rabbi, as a Jew, is a pig or an ape in accordance with Muslim texts.
There have also been several incidents in the UK where Jews have been called apes and pigs by Muslims and Muslim organizations. The Luton Islamic Center’s website has in the past published on its website that Jews are the “brethren of swine and pigs”[11]

A British Salafist preacher Haitham Al-Haddad has called Jews “apes and pigs” and “enemies of god.” Haitham is affiliated with the Claystone lobby group, which has held audiences in the House of Commons.[12]

British schools run by the Tauheedul charity, which has Taliban connections, have in the past invited speakers like the afore-mentioned Sheikh Al-Sudais. In 2010 a BBC Panorama program disclosed that 40 Muslim weekend clubs and schools in the UK use Saudi textbooks. These describe Jews as descended from "monkeys" and "pigs" and mention other "reprehensible qualities of Jews".[13]

If Islam is to be taught at Jewish schools in the UK, it seems that there are three ways of doing so. The first option would be to teach a sanitized and thus falsified Islam – which conflicts with what the students see on television. The second option would be to teach the truth, but by rote, without allowing questions. The third option is to teach the mains aspects of Islam to students, warts and all.  

Teachers will then have to learn to answer questions such as whether the Chief Rabbi, as a Jew, is a pig or an ape in accordance with Muslim texts.

On reflection, the suggestion to teach Islam in Jewish schools may be very astute. It may help those British Jews who still prefer to lodge their heads in the sand understand that Nazi-like anti-Semitic incitement is deeply sourced in parts of the Islamic world.


[1] Simon Rocker, “Teach Islam in our schools, says Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis,” The Jewish Chronicle Online, 16 December 2015.

[2] “Muslim Clerics - Jews Are the Descendants of Apes, Pigs, And Other Animals,” Jewish Virtual Library, November 2002.

[3] Charles Moore, “Where is the Gandhi of Islam?” The Telegraph, 9 July 2005.

[4] “Jordanian cleric walks back fatwa against killing Jews,” The Jerusalem Post, 4 November 2015.

[5] Matthias Küntzel, Djihad und Judenhass (Freiburg: ça ira-Verlag, 2003), 39. (German)

[6] “Hamas Covenant 1988,” Yale University Law School, 2008.

[7] Jeffrey Goldberg, “Egyptian President Calls Jews 'Sons of Apes and Pigs'; World Yawns,” The Atlantic, 14 January 2013.

[8] “Case Study: Portraying Jews as "Apes and Pigs", Palestinian Media Watch.

[9] “Three-Year-Old Egyptian Basmallah: Jews Are Apes and Pigs,” MEMRI, 7 May 2002.

[10] Tamar Pileggi, “Danish imam calls Jews ‘offspring of apes and pigs,’” The Times of Israel, 13 October 2014.

[11] Andrew Gilligan, “The rising tide of anti-Semitism,” The Telegraph, 25 January 2015.

[12] Samuel Westrop, “Are British Salafists Gaming the System?” The Gatestone Institute, 16 January 2015.

[13] David Goldberg, “Saudi Arabia's intolerable antisemitic textbooks,” The Guardian, 24 November 2010.