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This is an excellent book on the 17 "Oriental" Jewish communities in Asia and Africa, namely those of Kurdistan, Crimea, Georgia, Daghestan, Bukhara, Afghanistan, China, Morocco, Libya, Tunisia, Ethiopia as well as the two communities each in India, Yemen and Persia. As this book is confined only to exotic communities, the larger 'mainstream' and better-known Jewish communities such as the Ashkenazim, Sephardim, Greek-speaking Romaniotes and even the Mizrachim are outside the purview of this book. The terms 'Sephardim' and 'Mizrachim' in this book are used in a technical sense and as such refer only to the Ladino-speaking Jews of Spanish origin and the Arabic speaking Jews of Iraq and Egypt respectively.
The author describes in great detail the physical appearance, customs, religious practices, social status, common occupations of the members of each Jewish community as well as the relationship with and the treatment by their gentile neighbours. The Jews of these exotic communities are very similar in physical appearance, cuisine, lifestyle, customs, and even in language (which is normally a variant of the local language mixed with Hebrew words) with the indigenous peoples who they live among, which challenges the concept of Jews as a race. For example, the Jews of Kaifeng, Malabaris and Beta Israel are physically indistinguishable from the Chinese, Indians and Ethiopians respectively. Even the Krimchaks of Crimea are Caucasians with Mongoloid features not unlike their Crimean Tatar neighbours. This shows that intermarriages between Jews and the locals as well as conversions to Judaism must have been substantial at one point.
Eleven of the Seventeen Jewish communities live in a Muslim milieu. Unlike most books written by Western apologists of Islam, this book describes the persecution and decimation of the Jews by their Muslim rulers/conquerors. On the eve of the Muslim conquests, the Jews must have formed a very substantial part of the population in North Africa and West Asia. In Persia for example, they once numbered in the millions. Jewish Berber tribes such as the Jerava Berbers under El Kahina in Morrocco and the Ureshfani under Fanana in Libya played a prominent role in fighting the Muslim invaders. After the conquests, thousands of Jews were killed and even more escaped annihilation by embracing Islam. This book briefly mentions that many of the ancestors of the Muslim Pathans (the main ethnic element of the Taliban), Tats, Kurds (who played a prominent role in the 1895 and 1915 Turkish-orchestrated Armenian massacres), Yemenis (Osama bin Laden and a fair few of the Al-Qaeda members are of Yemeni origin) and the various Berber groups in North Africa (many of them are now supporters of Islamic fundamentalist movements) were of the Jewish faith.
The Jewish remnants who remained in the Islamic lands during the medieval period were subjected to all kinds of indignities, abuses and not to mention institutionalized contempt. Many a times they were on the brink of extinction. Under Islam, Jews were made to do the most humiliating and repugnant tasks in society. A Jew was not allowed to defend himself when attacked by Muslims and almost all Muslims who murdered Jews went unpunished. The Jew was never out in the street with his wife because he could not intervene on her behalf if she was assaulted. During times of religious violence, everything a Jew owns is snatched from him, his children taken away and he himself would be killed or auctioned off. Sometimes, the Jews were lucky. They were given the choice of converting to Islam and many did while secretly practicing Judaism. The numbers of forced converts to Islam must have been considerable, as there were at least 20,000 Meshedi New Muslims [cum]Crypto-Jews (whose ancestors "converted" generations ago) of Iran who openly returned to the Jewish faith in more recent years after fleeing Iran.
Islamic history is revisionist and subjected to propaganda. On one hand Islam institutionalizes the discrimination of Christians and Jews for rejecting Muhamad as a prophet of God but on the other hand claimed that they were never persecuted. It is like the anti-Semitic Neo-Nazis who say "did 6 million Jews really died" whilst working towards the destruction of the Jewish people. I hope that there would be more such books which give a fair and objective account of the history of the Jews living under Islam. More often than not, Western writers while emphasizing the expulsion of the Sephardim from Spain and the massacres perpetrated by the Crusaders in medieval Germany and the Cossacks in Ukraine, give a distorted account of how Jews lived happily under Islam. What is intentionally concealed is the fact that the religion in which the great Spanish-Jewish philosopher, Maimonides, was compelled to convert to was Islam and not Christianity and that Sabbetai Zevi (the "Jewish Messiah"), a Sephardim in the Ottoman Empire was forced to accept Islam on the pain of death and commissioned to evangelize the Jews for Islam.
This book is a must buy for all those who are interested not only in the history of the Jewish diaspora but also if they are interested in exotic cultures in hidden corners of the world.