There’s an old piece of folk wisdom among the hucksters and snake oil peddlers of this world:
If you can’t beat ’em, assimilate ‘em!
And this is certainly relevant to the ‘People of the Book’ (Ahl-al-Kitab) forgery libel, commonly applied to Jews and Christians.
Two questions spring to mind.
What are the main problems with the deeply insulting ‘People of the Book’ (Ahl-al-Kitab) slur?
What strategies can be weaponized to undermine jihadism, political Islamism and Islamic fundamentalism, by way of challenging this libel?
Provisional thoughts for now, rather than a full essay:
1. There is less than zero historical evidence that Jews or Christians have forged either the Torah or the New Testament.
Indeed, if anyone had found any scandalously ‘different’ manuscripts, it’s pretty likely people would have heard of it by now. Imagine the fame and fortune you could make from finding a ‘smoking gun!’ Or at least something you could speciously present as such.
2. In much of the Arab world today, as well as the Muslim diaspora, conspiracy theories about ‘Jews’ and ‘Zionists’ abound. Muhammad’s conspiracy theory about forging the scriptures now grants legitimacy to such evil ideas.
3. It is likely that Muhammad ended up projecting his own insecurities, as an impostor of genius. I.e. he probably projected such anxieties onto the earlier religions and religious groups that he envied, feared, and hated. This undoubtedly has implications for the supposed moral perfection of the man.
4. Jews and Christians are not ‘People of the Book.’
Some Jews and Christians may be ‘bibliocentric’ or even ‘bibliolators,’ but it is not true of all.
There is, admittedly, a Young-Earth Creationist bias and all sorts of fallacies among a proportion of Jews and Christians.
However, all intelligent people of faith are insulted to hear that they are ‘getting all the answers’ out of a single book of relatively short length. If anything, the more or less standard Sunni view of the Quran is a form of bibliolatry; and as for the various Takfiri/Salafi sects, how much more so!
5. There is indeed such a phrase as ‘People of the Book’ in Judaism; but this means something completely different in a Jewish context. For it reflects the individual self-understanding of many Jews, as part of a shared traditions; rather than being merely an alien and external imposition from other people.
Jews do not believe that Muhammad is the Prophet, any more than they believe Jesus is the Messiah. Why would they?
It follows from this that they no more consider themselves ‘People of the Book’ than they consider themselves ‘Christ-Killers.’
6. The fact that some Jews or Christians consent to being called Bookies doesn’t mean all Jews or Christians should be called Bookies. Throughout history, Jews or Christians have practiced all kinds of ‘pragmatic accommodations’ (the ‘polite’ version!) towards those who have more power than they have.
On the other hand, there is also the example of the woman and her seven children who preferred to be martyred than to be dishonored and degraded, as discussed one of the books of the Maccabees.
For it is well enough understood that individual Jews and Christians have believed, and have accomplished, all kinds of weird and wonderful things; so, pointing to the example of unrepresentative eccentrics simply will not do.
AsAJew will not do, and neither should the testimony of the AsAChristian be considered adequate.
7. Regardless of how ‘complimentary’ people claim the notion of ‘People of the Book’ is supposed to be, it’s no better than a Christian patronizing a Jew by telling them:
Wow! OMG! You’re Jewish! So you’re already half a Christian! Let me tell you now how you can be complete in Christ, your true Messiah!
The Ahl-al-Kitab libel teaches that Judaism and Christianity have no merit or value in and of themselves, but they are merely earlier and far-surpassed milestones on the way to the final revelation.
In light of the Ahl-al-Kitab libel, Judaism and Christianity do not merely represent the blessing and bounty and of God; they ultimately represent the perfidious betrayal and treachery that Jews and Christians have perpetrated, and are still perpetrating up to this very day and hour.