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Theoretically, if (Gd forbid) ISIS took over Israel, and the Jew in question was not immediately killed because he was Jewish and was not in the financial situation to pay the required taxes, should the Jew allow himself to be executed or become a practicing Muslim?

  • What about in chutz la'aretz? – Noach MiFrankfurt Aug 17 '14 at 1:23
  • What is chutz? I need to brush up on my Hebrew. – Ely Beau Eastman Aug 17 '14 at 1:31
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    @ElyBeauEastman "chutz" means "outside." "Chutz la'aretz" means "outside the land of Israel." The question would [presumably] be the same if some random hapless Jew got lost and wandered into the wrong part of Iraq. – Shalom Aug 17 '14 at 1:47
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    I can imagine that the requirement to refuse conversion could be stronger in Israel, where -- in addition to the usual factors -- there's the very public presumption that Israelis are Jews so there's potentially a bigger "PR" aspect (for the nations, I mean). So while the answer might be the same as in the diaspora (chutz la'aretz), I think a more-specific question here is valid. – Monica Cellio Aug 17 '14 at 2:44
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    Wikipedia says that non-muslims convert to Islam by saying the Shahada meaning, "There is no g-d but G-d, Muhammad is the messenger of G-d.". Obviously the first clause is equivalent to the Shema, the second would mean that you accept the Quran as revealed on the same level as the Torah, which would be hard for just about every Jew I have ever met. Still, I vote for paying lip-service and staying alive. @Michael-Meir is right when he says it is not idolatry. – Mike Supports Monica Aug 17 '14 at 3:09
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As Mark Twain (supposedly) said, history may not repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme.

Lo and behold, there was Islamic extremism 800 years ago, when Rabbi Moses Maimonides was alive -- and he left a paper trail.

If you were to open up the Yad HaChazaka (his code of law), it would appear that if there is a time when there is a concerted effort to wipe out Judaism, then we would demand a Jew give up his life even for small things -- which would mean he couldn't claim to convert to another faith. (Now ask an interesting question, is a group like ISIS considered "a time of concerted effort", or just a band of individual rogues -- my sense is that if some poor hapless Jewish tourist got lost and found himself in the middle of ISIS-controlled Iraq, he could claim he bumped into some rogues and preserve his own life; whereas if God forbid an extremist Islamic group took over Israel, I'd call that "a time of concerted effort against our faith.") Yet in Maimonides' letters to Jews actually in such situations, of massive forced conversions to Islam (it was in Yemen then, I believe?), he told them to do whatever they needed to stay alive. There are some suggestions on how to resolve this, but at first glance, there may be a theoretical law on the books, but practically we recommend that people stay alive.

Note that the Jews of medieval France and Germany chose death over conversion to Christianity, whereas many from Spain a few centuries later chose to become crypto-Jews. It's been observed that the Ashkenazic vs. Spanish commentaries on the Binding of Isaac actually mirror these differing attitudes towards martrydom.

  • So, in theory, better for Jews to die as Jews than to eliminate Jews by conversion and have them forgotten. However, in reality people usually choose to stay alive? – Ely Beau Eastman Aug 17 '14 at 3:26
  • I don't know the history in depth but I think that in the case of Igerret Teiman no one was neither killed or converted as the RamBam was able to put a stop to the decree. As mentioned above Igerret HaSHamad would be the more appropriate source for the answer. – eramm Aug 19 '14 at 14:09
  • @eramm thank you. To whom was Igeret HaShmad addressed? – Shalom Aug 19 '14 at 16:00
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    It's unknown. The impetus for Maimonides to write Igeret HaShmad was a particular rabbi living outside Spain who wrote a letter condemning the Spanish Jewish community for converting to Islam. The letter was written in response to a question by a secret Spanish Jew on the status of forced Jewish converts to Islam. – eramm Aug 19 '14 at 16:09
  • could be there are other factors involved today. this is a question for the highest halachic authorities of our times – ray Oct 3 '14 at 13:39
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The rambam wrote responsa concerning this. See igeres hashmad where he clearly says choose islam not death, as apposed to Christianity which is complete heresy, where one must give up their life for kiddush Hashem.

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    This was mentioned in the other answer already – Double AA Aug 19 '14 at 14:11
  • For a full review of the Igerret HaShmad see ajewishvoice.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/… – eramm Aug 19 '14 at 14:18
  • @ Aa- I saw that but from all the superfluous wordage and ideas thrown around, it seemed the intent of the letter to the Morrocan Jews was not portrayed properly. Especially pointing to martyrs of Cristian violence as if that was somehow contrary to the letter. – user6591 Aug 19 '14 at 15:09
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Convert to Islam and practice Islam outwardly without getting caught.

Rambam himself was a victim of such an ISIS like group, he feigned conversion when in danger.

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    Was he living in Israel at the time? Any reason to think that does or doesn't make a difference? – Monica Cellio Oct 3 '14 at 12:57
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    I'd never heard that about the Rambam before. Do you have a better source for that than some person's blog? – MTL Oct 13 '14 at 3:40

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