A Jewish organisation has called for ‘trigger warnings’ to be added to some passages in the Bible and the Koran that promote antisemitism, causing Matthew Wright to question whether other groups may demand similar.
The European Jewish Congress produced a guide to combating antisemitism, a line in which states: “Translations of the New Testament, the Koran and other Christian or Muslim literatures need marginal glosses and introductions that emphasise continuity with Jewish heritage [and] warn readers about antisemitic passages in them.”
The Times’ religious affairs correspondent Kaya Burgess joined Wright on talkRADIO, and explained that there are passages that could be considered antisemitic in the Bible.
“It is certainly true to say that a lot of antisemitism does actually stem from, well, Christianity particularly,” Mr Burgess said.
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“The Archbishop of Canterbury said in 2016 hat the church has been guilty for the rise of antisemitism; all of these suggestions in the Bible that Jewish people were somehow responsible for Jesus’s death, and the fact that they didn’t all convert to Christianity en masse when Jesus came along shows they’re the enemy of Christians, have actually fed through into the background noise of antisemitism.
“You do get versions of the Bible and the Koran which are known as study versions, which will have footnotes and explainer text to provide a bit of context.
“A lot of the experts I spoke to had some sympathy with the idea that these weren’t trigger warnings for Jewish people, more for potential racists reading it.”
'If we start here, where does it end?'
“But the whole story of the New Testament is about the persecution of Christians, therefore would have to carry trigger warnings to that effect,” countered Wright.
“If you’re sensitive to the needs of fish, for example, then seeing a fish divided and given to people to eat without a thought to the sensitivities of vegans and other people, that should be warned against too.
“And heaven help me if you’ve got problems with stables being rented out and given to pregnant women when there are decent NHS hospitals, we’ll have to have trigger warnings about that! If we start there, where does it end?”
Mr Burgess pointed out that there has never been a “genocide” against vegans, but agreed that other forms of prejudice could be traced back to Bible text.
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“There are very clear passages in the Old Testament which promote homophobia, on which centuries of homophobia has been founded, and clearly misogyny in all forms,” he said.
“So yes, you’re quite right, large parts of the Bible need this health warning on them.”
But the push to highlight antisemitism was, he said, due to the fact that it can present itself as a cultural tradition rather than overt prejudice.
“The point here is to highlight the fact that sometimes, there needs to be a particular focus on how antisemitism isn’t just the preserve of mad racists, but it is embedded in certain cultural norms,” he added.