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Choosing Which Language to Live In

“I feel closer to an Arab from Morocco than to a Jew from Brooklyn or Boston.”

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Mimouna: Moroccan Jews Trusting Their Muslim Neighbors

The vast majority of people in the Christian and Muslim world know very little, or nothing at all, about the history of the Jewish communities in the Muslim world. The only thing most Jews know about this 1400-year history is that Jews in North Africa and the Middle East were not persecuted as much in Muslim countries as they were in European Christian ones.

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Islam, Arabs and the Hijra

The traditional account of Muhammad’s life tells us that in June of 622, upon getting wind of an assassination plot against him at Mecca, he escaped with some of his loyal followers and eventually made his way to Yathrib/Medina. The traditionally accepted reference for this event is in Surah 9: 100, which in the translation of Pickthall reads:

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Comparative Table of Semitic Scripts: Phonemic inventory of graphemes

The Language of the Koran

When we look at Late Antique Syro-Palestine and Arabia in the early seventh century, the time when Islam is said to have become a religion, an interesting yet complex mosaic of cultures and languages can be observed. Linguistically, various languages were spoken and written. Here we confront a common long-persisting misconception, namely that the Arabs were largely illiterate before Islam. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Roughly speaking, Arabia in Antiquity was divided into three geographical regions: Arabia Felix, Deserta and Petraea.

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