Jane S. Gerber
The study of anti-Semitism in the Muslim world is more than a definitional and semantic exercise. It is a study in theology and politics and their unique amalgam in time and space. Jews and Muslims have coexisted continuously since the birth of Islam, sometimes symbiotically and at other times antagonistically. Their interaction has been on such a wide historic canvas and in such a variety of circumstances that any generalization about the status of the Jews will be schematic at best. Even during its era of greatest unity (ca. 800-1200) the Islamic empire was not one historical entity but rather a dynamic human reality composed of a mélange of different languages, people, cultures, and regimes. Disparities in time, attitude, and general cultural level characterize the Jews under Islam so palpably that comparison even within the Muslim orbit is extremely difficult.
By juxtaposing the situation of the Jews in smoothly functioning, pluralistic, sixteenth-century Ottoman society1 and the virtual caste system of rigidly stratified nineteenth-century Yemen,2 or the exuberant Jewish life of Fatimid Egypt and the degradation of nineteenth-century Cairene Jewry,3 the historian is confounded. Although the same theoretical framework regarding Jews prevailed in the courts and bazaars of fourteenth- and eighteenth-century Morocco, the quality of Jewish life in the two