Sara R. Farris writes at Al Jazeera English:
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In 1844, Karl Marx published a short but dense text entitled “On the Jewish Question”. It was a critical review of two essays by the-then famous philosopher Bruno Bauer, who had argued against equal rights for Jews if granted on religious grounds. If Jews wanted to be considered full citizens – Bauer maintained echoing the widespread opinion of the time – Jews would have to abandon their religion and embrace Enlightenment. According to this logic, there was no room for religious demands in a secular society.
As Bauer’s position suggests, anti-Jewish racism in Germany and elsewhere in Europe in the first half of the 19th century, was justified mainly on cultural and religious grounds. Jews were discriminated and regarded with suspicion because they were considered an alien “nation within the nation”. In fact, it was not until the second half of the 19th century and the rise of “social Darwinism” that “racial anti-Semitism”, framed in biological terms, appeared on the political scene and Jews were openly discriminated against on the basis of their alleged genetic inferiority.