Skip to comments.THE DHIMMI - JEWS AND CHRISTIANS UNDER ISLAM
Posted on 07/25/2003 5:57:35 AM PDT by dennisw
THE DHIMMI - JEWS AND CHRISTIANS UNDER ISLAM
Today we often hear Muslims in the Middle East charging Israel with unfairness and discrimination in regard to the administration of Israel's Muslim populations. At times, there may seem to be some justification for these charges. However, there is no way to fairly assess today's situation without looking back over the last 1,300 years. Then the present tables were turned and Muslims ruled exclusively in the Middle East. The little-known facts of this dark and gruesome history have been well concealed and are only now gradually being brought to light. One excellent source book has become available in English over the last few years. This epic work was written by Bat Ye'or and is entitled, The Dhimmi (this is a term reserved for Jews and Christians under Islam). This work is not just a volume of idle speculation, but reflects the painstaking presentation of nearly 200 documents verifying the condition of both Christians and Jews under the rule of Islam. There are other works, of course, but in this article we will rely heavily upon this fine and comprehensive work of Bat Ye'or.
During the first half of the seventy century AD, Islam was becoming entrenched in the desert area which we know today as Saudi Arabia. Islam's ugly side was quickly made apparent as the prophet turned against the Jews at the oasis of Khaybar, near Medina. After much destruction and bloodshed, the Jews surrendered under the terms of a treaty known as the dhimma. Subsequently, all the Jews and Christians of Arabia submitted to the Muslims under the terms of a treaty similar to the one granted at Khaybar.
It was during this early period that the concept of jihad, or holy war, began to be developed. The Muslims considered all areas controlled by Islam as the dar al-Islam, or the "territory of Islam," while all areas controlled by infidels were known as the dar al-harb, or the "abode of war." Since Muslims felt Islam was destined to control all the earth, there could be no permanent peace made with infidels.
As Islam and its holy war burst from the confines of Arabia, many peoples were forcefully confronted with it. Islam swept across the Holy Land, Syria, Egypt, and North Africa in its early years. Generally, polytheists were given the choice of conversion or death. However, Jews and Christians, or "the people of the Book" as they were known to Muslims, came under special consideration. Based upon the previous treaty at Khaybar they were called dhimmi, people who were allowed to live and even to adhere to their religions, but all this for the benefit of Islam. They were doomed to remain second-class citizens, living, it seemed, for the sole purpose of demonstrating to all, the superiority of Islam over conquered religions.
From this point on the dhimmi were always at the mercy of the Muslim rulers, and subject at all times to the whims of Muslim mobs. The dhimmi status seemed to always hang in peril. In fact, in AD 640, the status of the dhimmi was revoked throughout the whole Arabian peninsula and the remaining Jews and Christians were expelled.
Soon the dhimmi status, for what it was worth, was applied to Jews and Christians in many conquered lands of the Middle East. The dhimmi began to be more clearly defined by Muslim law and by common practice. There were several things that came to define the dhimmi status in Muslim lands.
ASPECTS OF THE DHIMMI STATUS
1. Oppressive taxation
In each conquered land, the Jews and Christians were allowed to remain and cultivate the land in exchange for the payment of a tax to the local Muslim ruler. This tax was called the Kharaj. This system was designed to remind the tenants that Islam owned the land. Their national identities and histories were blotted out and soon became virtually nonexistent. They were forbidden to possess arms and thus became totally dependent upon the occupying Muslim power. In some areas, such as Morocco, this system became so oppressive that the Jews of that area were virtual serfs even as late as 1913, and were, literally, the property of their Muslim masters.
In addition to the Kharaj tax, the dhimmi were subjected to the poll tax or Jizya. This tax had to be paid in person by each subject, and it had to be paid in a public and humiliating manner. It was common for the dhimmi to be struck on the head or on the nape of the neck as he paid the tax to demonstrate the superiority of Islam.
The dhimmi were also victimized by higher commercial and travel taxes. In addition they were often victims of extortion and blackmail at the hand of their own rulers. Often, greedy rulers required them to pay an avania, or protection money. This was simply a sum of money extorted from the Jewish or Christian communities, under the threat of persecution. This practice of having to pay for their own protection soon became the norm for dhimmi communities in Muslim lands.
2. Social and legal discrimination
Dhimmi peoples were generally excluded from holding public office; were kept from many professions and high positions; or from being elevated, in any way, over Muslims. The most degrading jobs, such as cleaning the public latrines, fell to the dhimmi. Yemenite Jews, until they immigrated to Israel in 1950, were still required to clean the public latrines and remove dead animals from the city streets.
In the courtroom, the evidence of a dhimmi could never be accepted in testimony against a Muslim. Thus it was often necessary for the dhimmi to hire Muslim "witnesses" for his court appearance. The dhimmi was not allowed to raise a hand against his Muslim masters, even if raised in self defense. Such a thoughtless act would often result in the death penalty. In many Muslim lands, Jews were routinely beaten and abused in the streets. They could only beg for mercy and attempt to flee their persecutors. They did not dare defend themselves.
To further clarify their inferior status, the dhimmi were required to wear special clothing. The type of clothing varied from country to country, but always it seemed to be designed to make Jews and Christians appear inferior and foolish. In many countries the Jews were even required to go barefoot. They were also required to walk to the left of the Muslims. They were almost universally forbidden to ride horses, and even when riding donkeys, they were required to dismount upon meeting a Muslim. Jews and
Christians were often confined to special quarters, and these areas were usually shut up after dark. They were not allowed to enter certain streets of Muslim cities. This practice continued in Persia, Yemen, and North Africa until the nineteenth century. These dhimmi ghettos were frequently the scenes of awful pogroms and persecutions by infuriated Muslim mobs. At the whim of local rulers these pitiful quarters could be confiscated and emptied on short notice. Whether they lived inside or outside of these quarters, the houses of dhimmi could never be taller or more elaborate than the houses of their Muslim neighbors.
3. Religious discrimination
In Muslim lands, the construction of new churches and synagogues was generally forbidden. The restoration of certain pre-Islamic structures was permitted so long as they were not enlarged or transformed. Dhimmi places of worship were often ransacked, burned or demolished at the whim of the Muslims. This trend has continued right up through modern times. In Saudi Arabia, the government bulldozed the last Christian church in the kingdom in 1987. It was a unique 12th century structure found near the Yemen border.
Liturgical forms were strictly controlled. It was generally prohibited to ring church bells, sound shofars (ram's horns used in Jewish ceremony), publicly display crosses, icons, banners and other religious objects. Early photos taken during the middle of the nineteenth century confirm that even the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem had been stripped of both its cross and belfry.
In many Muslim lands, Jews and Christians had to bury their dead without mourning. Dhimmi graves had to be specially marked lest a Muslim should accidentally pray over the grave of an infidel. The cemeteries of dhimmi were not respected since they were considered as being from the realm of hell. Commonly they were desecrated or even destroyed completely, as occurred in Jerusalem during Jordanian rule (1948-1967). At that time the Jordanian army used Jewish gravestones from the Mount of Olives to line their latrines.
The dhimmi had to take great care to show respect to Muslim holy places. In North Africa, if Jews and Christians entered a mosque it was considered a capital offense. It was not even permitted for them to look into a mosque when passing by. Any such accusation, whether true or false, could cost the dhimmi his life. This was especially the case in all charges of blasphemy. The dhimmi communities were religiously harassed and sometimes forced to convert. For instance, in Yemen, it was required that every Jewish orphan child be converted to Islam.
Of course, marriage or sexual relations between dhimmi and Muslim women called for the death sentence, although Muslim men could marry a dhimmi woman. To the Muslim, there was something about the dhimmi that was unclean and impure. This concept affected all Muslim relations with dhimmi peoples.
THE DHIMMI CONCEPTS AND MODERN-DAY JIHAD
Muslim concepts concerning the dhimmi may seem primitive and grossly discriminatory to the modern mind. However, these concepts are still very much alive in Muslim thinking, and are particularly evident in current ideas of jihad. The Islamic idea of world dominion has changed very little since the days of Muhammad. Involved in the Islamic concept is the complete military, religious and political domination of conquered peoples (which should ultimately include the whole world); Arabization of these peoples and nations; the absolute claim to their lands; the suppression of their historical, religious, and political traditions; and the extinguishing of their cultural and social aspirations.
It is unthinkable for Muslims that conquered peoples should rise up and throw off the yoke of Islam or that land once in the domain of Islam should ever be lost to that domain. According to Islamic thinking, once a region has been conquered for Islam, it is always Islamic and must be re-conquered from the infidel, regardless of the passage of time.
HOW DO THESE CONCEPTS AFFECT ISRAEL?
These territorial concepts are best illustrated by the jihad which has raged against Israel. Israel is a tiny island surrounded by a sea of Islam. Not only was Israel once within the domain of Islam, but until the current immigration wave, over 60 percent of her inhabitants were descendants of dhimmi, whether they were refugees from Arab countries or indigenous to the land. Israel's declared independence and her subsequent victories over confederated Islamic armies in 1948, 1967 and again in 1973 shook the Islamic world to the core. Egypt's President Nasser well expressed Islamic feeling when he said, "To the disaster of Palestine there is no parallel in human history."
Since jihad can be expressed in many ways, including military, economic, political, educational means, etc., it is not surprising that the modern jihad against Israel embodies and promotes many of the age-old dhimmi concepts. The tiny nation of Israel has been oppressed militarily since its birth by surrounding Muslim nations. There have already been five major wars in the Middle East over this matter, and there continues to be a very active campaign of terrorism against Israel even as peace conferences are in session.
Israel is also oppressed economically. It has been estimated that the Arab economic boycott of Israel has cost the tiny nation some $45 billion in the past forty years. This does not include an additional $24 billion lost in foreign investments. This boycott also continues despite all the current peace processes.
Israel is considered a pariah, an outcast, in the Muslim Middle East. The presence of a sovereign Jewish people on the land is considered a defilement and a sin. Thus, the only solution open to Islam is that the Jews must be pushed into the sea and the land cleansed.
As in the ancient days of the dhimmi, the history and culture of Israel is denied and even eradicated whenever possible. Rich Arab nations have exerted considerable pressure in this regard. Airline and even US State Department maps have been known to exclude Israel entirely. Reference books have often presented slanted views. In recent months Hannan Ashwari, spokeswoman for the Palestinians, has boldly stated for the worldwide TV audience that she is a true descendant of the first Christians, and that they were Palestinians. This of course is lie, since her Arab people did not inhabit the land of Israel for almost six hundred years after the New Testament era. By such statements, history is murdered and so is truth. These are just other sophisticated attempts to deny a supposed dhimmi people their own culture and history.
Thus the jihad rages on and on, even in this modern day. But for Islam to succeed in its plan of total world domination, there must be a people who are willing to play the part of the dhimmi. There must also be a people who have somehow allowed the love for truth to slip from their hearts.
- Jim Gerrish
"The Dhimmi," by Bat Ye'or, Associated University Presses, Cranbury, N.J., English edition 1985.
This updated article offered courtesy of Bridges For Peace, Jerusalem.
Interesting point you make about Islam's concern with being "dissed" (disrespected) -- a symptom of powerlessness, I think. Consider that those most concerned wtih not being "dissed" are the Ghetto blacks, the lumpenproletatriat underclass who have nothing but an exaggerated sense of self-importance. One thinks of the Arabs rather that way: they know no one would take Arabs or Islam seriously at all if it weren't for oil, and that even at best, only the ones who control the oil are at all regarded. They know they have no power, so they demand a respect they cannot earn.
The Lucifer Principle
Book excerpt by Howard Bloom
Some readers will be outraged by my presumption. How dare I regard any group as barbaric? What appalling ethnocentrism! there are no barbarians. There are simply cultures we haven't taken the time to understand. Cultures to whom we haven't given sufficient aid.
Cultures in need of development. Beneath the skin, all men and women are the same. They have the same needs, the same emotions, and the same ideals. If you simply took those folks you speak of so contemptuously out for a cup of coffee, you would discover that they are just like you and me.
But there are barbarians--people whose cultures glorify the act of murder and elevate violence to a holy deed. These cultures portray the extinction of other human beings as a validation of manliness, a heroic gesture in the name of truth, or simply a good way to get ahead in the world. Islamic societies tend to be high on this list.
Holiness, righteousness, and even day-to-day propriety in Islamic cultures are based on the example of Mohammed. Though Islamic literature praises Mohammed as a man of peace, he was anything but. In A.D. 624, the Prophet announced the concept of the jihad-the holy war. He said in the blessed book the Koran, "Kill those who join other gods with God (e.g., Christians) wherever you shall find them, and seize them and slay them, and lay in wait for them with every kind of ambush." In the next nine years, the man of peace ordered at least 27 military campaigns, personally leading nine of them.
It is not surprising that Moslem jurists would later declare that there are two worlds; the world of Islam, Dar al-Islam, and the non-Islamic World, Dar al-Harb. These two territorial spheres, explained the Moslem scholars, are in a state of perpetual war. According to the Koran, any leader who fails to "make wide slaughter" in the land of the infidel is committing a sin. A statesman is only allowed the temporary expedient of peace if his forces are not yet strong enough to win. This may explain why Elias Canetti, in his Nobel Prize-winning book "Crowds and Power," calls Islam a killer religion, literally a religion of war.
In the West, we think of scholars as meek little men with glasses, leading peace marches. In the lands of Islam, famous scholars often spent years studying every nuance of their Koran, then rounded up an army, and went out to make war in the name of Allah.
In the thirties, one of them labored diligently to become an Islamic scholar. He poured over the Koran for years. As he demonstrated his superior knowledge of Allahs pronouncements, he rose in the ranks of Iranian holy men. Finally, he achieved the penultimate title - ayotollah (roughly equivalent of a Catholic cardinal). His name was Ruhollah Khomeini, and he wrote books, pamphlets, and even taped and distributed his speeches to inspire the citizens of Iran with sacred virtue. The ayotollahs words roused Iranians to overthrow the shah and usher in a government based on strict Islamic doctrine.
What did the ayatollahs pronouncement say? Among other things, that infidels are like dogs. Their existence is an affront to Allah. Heres how the ayatollah himself put it:
"Moslems have no alternative...to an armed holy war against profane governments...Holy war means the conquest of all non-Moslem territories...It will...be the duty of every able bodied adult male to volunteer for this war of conquest, the final aim of which is to put the Koranic law in power from one end of the earth to the other.
"The leaders of the USSR and of England and the president of the United States are ... infidels ... Every part of the body of a non-Moslem individual is impure, even the hair on his head and his body, his nails, and all the secretion of his body. Any man or woman who denies the existence of God, or believes in His partners (the Christian Trinity), or else does not believe in His Prophet Mohammed, is impure (in the same way as are excrement, urine, dog, and wine).
Concluded the ayatollah (Ruhollah Khomeini), "Islam does not allow peace between...a Moslem and an infidel."
(From here, only excerpts are posted because of its length)
For six hundred years after the fall of the Crusader states, Islamic forces returned to the attack, capturing Greece and chunks of eastern Europe, raiding towns in Sicily and the Italian coasts for goods and slaves, preying on Mediterranean shipping, chaining Europeans like Miguel Cervantes to the oars of their galleys, and until 1826 forcing the Christian citizens of Yugoslavia and Albanian to give up their children to Moslem overlords (who brought up the males on the Koran, then turned them into soldiers known as Janissaries).
. . . The ground is ripe for worldwide Islamic fundamentalist expansion. Mohammedanism is currently the fastest-growing religion on the planet. There are a billion Moslems and that number is increasing daily.
. . . Allah is rapidly equipping Khomeinis followers with a sword to carry out their masters wishes. He has offered Islam the fire in which the Koran says those who follow false faiths are destined to burn: nuclear weaponry. He has also provided the long-range missiles needed to use it. According to the late imams logic, there may be only one just and righteous thing to do; employ this technology to wipe out recalcitrant heathens like you and me.
During the siege in Bethlehem, the Muslim terrorists who took refuge in the Church of the Naivity, had devoured all the food in two to three weeks that had been intended to last for three months. They left the holy site with debris, urine and feces and the entire church was filled with a sickening odor.
Within a few years there will be no Christians left because the Christian West, that doesn't care a fig about the Christians of the East, is remaining silent just as it remained silent after the desecration of the Church of the Nativity.
I should add about dhimmitude that it is deliberately nastier than apartheid. This fact surprises many people, but it's true. Under the old South African regime, apartheid was purportedly intended to promote separate but equal societies, and, despite spectacular acts of racism, the Bantu did have their own colleges and some political rights, and were able to rise in rank in business and civil service employment.
On the other hand, dhimmitude is openly intended to make sure that the dhimmi never have anything approaching equality; they are never allowed to go to college, nor have any but the lowest jobs, nor have any say in the government, etc. In fact, a few years ago, in response to some gentle Western inquiries about easing back some of the restrictions of dhimmitude, the mullahs (in, I think, Saudi Arabia) made it very clear that EVERY indignity and injustice inflicted by dhimmitude was decreed in the Koran and therefore devout Moslems will never be permitted to compromise on even one of the forms of nastiness.
And we are helping sustain and protect this system.
Isn't this also very similar to the thinking of communist idealogy?
In addition to Bat Yeor, Joan Peters writes about Dhimmitude in "From Time Immemorial." She tears apart the myth that the Arabs always treated the Jews well prior to the existence of the State of Israel.
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