"The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews, when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdullah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, [the Boxthorn tree] would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews."
So says an infamous Muslim hadith that is often quoted by radical Islamists, and is in some schools in the Middle East. It is also often used as an example of how ingrained antisemitism and Jew-hatred is in the Muslim faith.
However, this is not the case, Texas-based Islamic scholar Sheikh Yasir Qadhi has argued. Rather, it is an attempt by Western media to paint Islam in an inherently bad light, as reported by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
Speaking at the East Plano Islamic Center (EPIC Masjid) in Plano, Texas, Qhadi described what he perceived as a grave misconception.
"Every once in a while, some innocent preacher somewhere in the Western world gives a sermon and quotes this hadith, and MEMRI jumps on him." He said, adding: "You know what MEMRI is? If you don't, then you were blessed by Allah.
"Or, Fox News... or Pamela Geller jumps on him, and takes this small clip and goes viral with it, and says: 'Oh, this is an antisemite, and he is calling for the destruction [of the Jews], and he is Hitler version 2.73."
He explained that "The hadith mentions that every tree and every rock will say to the believer: 'Come, there is – that person – behind, come, and he is hiding.' So that there is no use to hide anymore, because the creation of Allah will publicly humiliate [the Jew] and say: 'Oh, he is hiding here, come and deal with this person.'
"This raises a very difficult topic. Are these hadiths antisemitic?"
His argument was no. In fact, according to Qadhi, not only are the hadiths not antisemitic, but antisemitism as a whole isn't native to Islam, and was unseen in Muslim lands until 1947.
"Lets be frank and honest here," he argued, explaining: "Antisemitism is a European phenomenon. It is not a Muslim phenomenon."
He addressed the complaints people have about the Koran that don't mesh well in today's politically correct society.
"Are you, oh you people who are criticizing books of the past, going to censor your own books and not teach them when they have misogyny, when they have race issues and when they... might be politically incorrect?" Qadhi asked, and gave Shakespeare as an example.
"Read The Merchant of Venice – it is a purely antisemitic tract. Are you going to ban The Merchant of Venice?... Are you going to take it and make it non-available? The hypocrisy is ludicrous."
Qadhi, it should be noted, never once denied that the hadith referred to the death of Jews. However, they are "predictions, not prescriptions," and are simply used to describe events that will occur in the End of Times. While this may be seen as problematic, Qadhi argued that censoring problematic parts of history and texts was equivalent to white washing. "You don't go back and sanitize history just because you don't like it. Even if you don't like it, it needs to be taught and explained and clarified. That is a matter of principle, and that is what liberalism stands on."
He also slammed accusations of antisemitism towards Muslims as being impossible, for two simple reasons: Most are semites, and their religion was founded by semites.
"We Muslims cannot be antisemites because our Prophet was a semite and Abraham was a semite," Qadhi explained. "The majority of semites are Muslims. How can Muslims be antisemites?"
However, he added that "we can be anti-Zionists, and we are anti-Zionists."
It should be noted, however, that this view isn't universally accepted among Muslims. In June, French Imam Hassen Chalghoumi told The Jerusalem Post that anti-Zionism is simply a mask, and is "used to say antisemitic things in a more polite manner."