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EXCLUSIVE: UNESCO Acknowledges Labelling Maimonides as Muslim

August 17, 2011 12:51 pm 10 comments

Rambam's (Maimonides) grave compound in Tiberias, Israel. Photo: Almog.

Maimonides, also known as RaMBaM, Rabbi Moshe, ben (son of) Moshe, is hailed as one of the greatest Jewish scholars, writers and philosophers in history. His legal work covers most areas of Jewish faith and law, and he is often cited as the father of modern Jewish intellectualism. However, some are accusing UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) of casting doubt over Maimonides’ religious affiliation

Elder of Ziyon blog reported that in a December 2010 report on science in the Arab world, UNESCO printed in its French version: “[L]es noms de quelques savants européens apparaissaient dans la littérature scientifique à côté d’un grand nombre de savants musulmans, parmi lesquels Ibn Rushd (Averroès), Moussa ibn Maïmoun (Maïmonide), Tousi et Ibn Nafis.”

The translation provided: “[T]he names of some European scholars appeared in scientific literature next to a large number of Muslim scholars, including Ibn Rushd (Averroes) [who contended the Islamic claim that philosophers were outside the Quranic scripture; Maimouna Ibn Moussa (Maimonides); Tousi [Persian philosopher and doctor]; and Ibn Nafi [Arab physician].

The blog Elder of Ziyon and website, Jews for Sarah, both posted articles assailing UNESCO, of what they saw as an attempt to reconstruct history. “This is not the first time that UNESCO has changed history to replace Jews with Muslims,” wrote William A. Jacobson. “They have been prolific in Islamicizing sites long considered to have religious and historical importance to the Jewish people.”

The English version of the original document, which UNESCO provided, is slightly different than the one provided by Elder of Ziyon: “The names of a few European scientists appear in scientific literature alongside a string of Muslim scientists, whose numbers include Ibn-Rushd; Musa Bin Memoun; Tusi and Ibn-Nafis.”(Editor’s note – see above.)

Similar claims criticizing UNESCO’s political agenda have been made by Jewish organizations in the past regarding its categorization of Jewish holy sites, such as Rachel’s Tomb (Kever Rachel) and The Cave of the Patriarchs (Me’arat HaMachpelah).

When contacted directly by the Algemeiner for comment a UNESCO spokesperson replied,  “UNESCO acknowledges that there was indeed an important and regrettable error in the chapter devoted to Arab States in the UNESCO Science Report published in 2006, which refers to Maimonides as a Muslim scholar,” they said. “Despite the vigile [sic] of our editors, errors unfortunately do occasionally occur.”

The representative declined to comment further.


  • So, Tachlis, did they retract it and apologize? Or will their mistake live on for the gullible masses that believe their garbage?

  • Marv Hershenson

    Just reading the few comments…please note to Mr. Smith: The Jewish nation is not a race…we are an incredibly diverse group with many pigmentations. Are Christians a race? Of course not… The UN and its associated bodies are filled with anti-semites and will do anything to disparage our great tradition.

  • Outside of the Jewish world Maimonide is not well known so it is an innocent mistake. Why would anyone set out on purpose to falsely categorise a man few people have heard of as a Muslim? Its not like they’re claiming Einstein was a Muslim.

    • saying that Rambam is not known outside of a few scholars is laughable as there were several major celebrations of his 850th birthday in both Spain and
      anyone familiar with philosophy knows that his works were translated into latin and that most of his writings were in arabic,well-studied by other scholars.
      in his time he was greater than einstein.
      Rambam dominated the thought process of Jews and those who study religion of that time and ever since.
      he revolutionized Jewish thought and belief as well as all religion’s beliefs in G-D as his ideas were publicized well beyond our community. no one today
      imagines G-D as having human form and the one responsible for this change was Maimonedes.
      this is not an innocent mistake.

      • I said he’s not well known outside of the Jewish world. I didn’t say outside of a few scholars. Ask 100 random non-Jews if they’ve heard of him. I’d be surprised if any have.
        Nobody I just asked has heard of him.

  • Maimonides was born in Spain under Muslim rule, educated in Morocco, and died in Europe. He wrote and published in Arabic and therefore is in my opinion both a European and quite appropriate for inclusion in a book on science in the Arab world. There are of course many other people in history who were of the Jewish race, who lived in countries in which Arabic was the common language,and who spoke Arabic.

    • It seems that the complaint is not that he was included in the publication, but rather that he is described as a Muslim.

    • Emmanuel Sanders

      Maimonides did not die in Europe, he died in Egypt and is supposedly buried in Israel (although this is contested by some). Please check your facts before posting and spreading more misinformation.

  • But this report was in 2010, not 2006.

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