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Jihad and Human Rights Today

An active ideology incompatible with universal standards of freedom and equality.

By Bat Yeor

Human rights and the concept of jihad are two incompatible ideas. In Judeo-Christian societies, the concept of human rights is based on the biblical interdiction against killing, and the equality of all human beings. Though it has religious roots, this notion of human rights evolved  mainly from the 19th century in a secular European and American framework.  It then acquired a universal character, proclaiming the equality of all human beings and the inviolability of their natural human rights. But it was only after World War II that this concept became the core of an international legal system, as a tool to prevent political abuses and to protect civil populations from genocidal policies.

Other major civilizations  including the Chinese, Hindu, and Islamic  have also conceived legal systems which protect the rights of their citizens. However, in the Islamic case, specifically, the 54 Muslim countries of the Organization of the Islamic Conference have conceived their own human-rights charter, contained in the 1990 Cairo Declaration on  Human Rights in Islam.

This document states in its preamble, and in articles 24 and 25, that all its provisions are in conformity with the sharia, the religious Islamic law, which has primacy. Moreover, it proclaims that God has made the Islamic community (umma) the best nation  and, hence, its role is to guide humanity. We can see here the differences between the Cairo Declaration and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which does not refer to any religion or to the superiority of any group over another, but  stresses the absolute equality of all human beings.

The institution of jihad belongs to a religious, Islamic domain, outside the realm of Western universalism and secularism. These two domains do not  meet. Secular laws can be changed, abrogated, or ameliorated, but jihad regulations are believed to express divine commands. By definition, human beings can neither discuss nor scrutinize the divine will, and so those jihad obligations  attributed by the theologians to Allah  place jihad in the domain of faith. I would like to emphasize strongly that jihad  is a special domain of Islamic law. Not all Muslims know it, and many reject its ideology. It would be a great mistake to believe that each and every Muslim identifies with the jihad-war ideology.

The ideology of jihad was formulated by leading Muslim theologians and scholars from the 8th century onward. Their voluminous writings make clear the notion of jihad as a holy war of conquest. Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani (d. 966), for example, stated,

Jihad is a precept of Divine institution... We Malikis [one of four schools of Muslim jurisprudence] maintain it is preferable not to begin hostilities with the enemy before having invited the latter to embrace the  religion of Allah, except where the enemy attacks first. They have the alternative of either converting to Islam or paying the poll tax (jizya),  short of which war will be declared against them...

Jihad ideology separates humanity into two hostile blocs: the community of  Muslims (Dar ul-Islam), and the infidel non-Muslims (Dar ul-Harb). Allah commands the Muslims to conquer the entire world in order to rule it according to Koranic law. Hence Muslims must wage a perpetual war against those infidels who refuse to submit. This is the motivation for jihad. It is based on the inequality between the community of Allah and the infidels,  as was re-emphasized in the Cairo Declaration. The first is a superior group, which must rule the world; the second must submit. The current relevance of this ideology is apparent, and disturbing.

For example, Al-Muhajiroun, an Islamist newspaper in London, published an article on January 27, 2001, which declared:

Upon the establishment of the Islamic State, the whole world will potentially be Dar ul Harb since the foreign policy of the Islamic state is aimed at conquering the world... Once the Islamic State is established  anyone in Dar ul Harb will have no sanctity for his life or wealth hence,  a Muslim in such circumstances can then go into Dar ul Harb and take the wealth from the people unless there is a treaty with that state. If there  is no treaty, individual Muslims can even go to Dar ul Harb and take women  to keep as slaves.

Such an attitude assumes that the infidels have no rights and are totally dehumanized. It breeds hatred and contempt and has led to historical negationism, and the destruction of non-Muslim cultures. Moreover, such views are not confined to the most radical Islamists. They were confirmed in the Proceedings of the Fourth Conference of the Academy of Islamic Research, held in 1968 (General Organization for Government Printing Offices, Cairo, 1968), and regularly since then by eminent Islamic scholars. These authoritative pronouncements have recapitulated the theory  of jihad in a manner completely consistent with the Al-Muhajiroun statements.

The theory of jihad against the infidels is composed of two parts: the ideology, and the military institutions aimed at implementing this ideology. According to these rules the infidels without a treaty have no rights at all: they can be deported, reduced to slavery, abducted for ransom, or killed. Women and children can be taken into slavery. Infidels can be spared by a temporary treaty which should not go beyond ten years. The treaty must conform to Islamic rule and serve Islamic interests, hence  a ransom should be paid. The infidels who submit to Islamic rulers are given a pledge of security against the rules of jihad, so long as they accept a condition of humiliation, and of total inferiority to Muslims.  Jihad is therefore a genocidal war, according to the modern definition of genocide. It encourages terrorism against civilians and does not differentiate between innocent civilians and soldiers. All infidels without  a treaty of protection can be killed. Jihad does not recognize universal human rights, for there is no equality between Muslims and infidels, and no  reciprocity between Muslims and infidels in legal matters. Jihad warriors do not accept that either the Geneva Conventions or the conventional rules  of war have any validity for them.

Jihadists have associated the notion of a reward in paradise with the practice of killing infidels. Killing at war was, and still is, practiced by all societies. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, wars, because they imply the acts of killing, are hateful and peace is praised. In the jihadist ideology, it is war that is praised, along with the killing of the  infidels. Tragically, jihad ideology will not disappear soon. It is shaping  the minds of a generation of young Muslims in many countries. Jihad ideology is a well-constructed system, created after the death of the prophet Mohammed. It has remained alive and well since then  except  under secularized Muslim governments like that of Turkey, after the Kemalist revolution. It is delusional and dangerous to maintain that this ideology is rooted in social deprivation, backwardness, injustice, or despair. Moreover, paying subsidies to suspend global jihad terrorism is tantamount to paying a tribute to terrorist states, and buying one’s own peace and security as temporarily ransomed privileges  instead of living by the principles of universal human rights, which proclaim the inviolability of every human being. Societies that pay a tribute to survive  are destined to disappear.




From Jihad to Dhimmitude

In this masterly study, newly translated into English with additional documents, Bat Ye'or provides a lucid analysis of the dogma and strategies of jihad, offering a vast panorama of the transformation of Christian civilizations under Islam. This epic story sheds light on the areas of fusion, interdependence, and confrontation between Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. A pioneer in a virgin field of research for which she coined the word "dhimmitude," the author has included in this essential work a valuable documentary section illuminating the decline of Eastern Christianity over the centuries.

In two waves of Islamic expansion, the Christian and Jewish populations of the Mediterranean regions and Mesopotamia, who had developed the most prestigious civilizations of the time, were conquered by jihad. Millions of Christians from Spain, Egypt, Syria, Greece and Armenia; Latins and Slavs from southern and central Europe; as well as Jews, henceforth lived under Islamic law (shari'a). They now formed what the author calls: the civilization of dhimmitude. In these societies, the various dynamics of Islamization developed according to the same pattern determined by the ideology and laws of jihad and shari'a. Bat Ye'or analyzes the interactions on several levels of a process that would transform native Christian majorities into "religious minorities." She also examines the conflicts between the different Churches that contributed to this result.

This study includes extracts from Armenian and Syriac medieval chronicles, many of which are here available in English for the first time. Hitherto unpublished reports from British diplomatic sources of the eighteenth and nineteenth century provide insights that will fascinate academics and the general reader.

Through these documents we learn about this history from the actors themselves, who inform us of the various aspects of this irreversible process of transformation, providing flesh and spirit to the momentum of history. Many illustrations, some contemporary to the events described, add a vivid touch.

An important section of the book is devoted to the Christian rebellions against the laws of dhimmitude and the consequences of these uprisings. In the nineteenth century, these struggles escalated into wars of national liberation for Greeks, Serbs, Bulgars, Rumanians and Armenians, as well as for agonists. The author analyzes the similarities and the differences at the cultural and political levels of those national movement as well as their internecine conflicts.

A knowledge of this history is essential in order to understand contemporary events and developments, so that future challenges can be faced within a context of positive religious dialogue and reconciliation.

From the foreword by Jacques Ellul: "This book allows us to take our bearings so as to understand more easily the present situation .... I venture to say it is a great historical work."

An American academic's opinion of the author's latest study on the challenge of contemporary Islamic fundamentalism (Paris, 1994): "The author of two powerful books on the historical experience of the dhimmi; Bat Ye'or brings her unique prism to bear on current issues."
-Daniel Pipes, Middle East Quarterly (Philadelphia)

About the Author: Born in Egypt, Bat Ye'or is a recognized specialist on the dhimmis and "dhimrnitude".. She broke new ground with The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam (French, 1980; English, 1985; 4th printing, 1996). The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam: from Jihad to Dhimmitude is a translation of her second book on the subject. Its French publication five years ago established the author's reputation as an innovative thinker in a new field of research.

Critical Acclaim the French edition of The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam

"Dhimmitude is the legal, economic, and social incarnation of the inferiority of Jews and Christians, destined in any case to become minorities in the newly Islamized territories."
-Jean François Tiercy, Le Nouveau Quotidien (Lausanne)

"[T]he author is the first writer to raise the issue of 'Dhimmitude' as a social, psychological, and cultural phenomenon that deserves serious historical study, in both the medieval and modern periods.
-Sidney H. Griffith, Speculum (Cambridge, Mass.)

"Bat Ye'or . . . provides a series of texts from diverse sources showing what dhimmitude was—and what it often still is today."
-Jean-Pierre Péroncel-Hugoz, Le Monde (Paris)

"A scholarly book in which Islam is not only [the embodiment] of tolerance; it is having the effect of a bomb in academia."
-Le Figaro (Paris)

"The work of Bat Ye'or echoes a cry of distress for the Christians of the Middle East."
-Hugues Rondeau, France Catholique (Paris)

"Bat Ye'or has written a monumental work on Eastern Christianity, backed by numerous and invaluable documents."
-Michel Kubler, La Croix (Paris)

"It seems difficult to see how the idyllic vision of a dhimma [protection pact], beneficial to the subjected population, can still be opposed to the carefully researched picture described by Bat Ye'or."
-Jean-Marie Gaudeul, Islamochristiana (Pontifical Institute, Roma)

"[T]he basic question raised by Bat Ye'or's book—the condition of the Peoples of the Book under Muslim rule—ties up with contemporary problems. . . . does the shari'ah allow Muslims to live peaceably with non-Muslims in the 'one world' . . . ? To have an answer to these questions may be a matter of urgency in a few years time."
-William Montgomery Watt,Journal of Semitic Studies (London)

"Few books will prove more useful to understanding the contemporary conflicts in which the Arab-Muslim countries are involved than this new study by Bat Ye'or."
-Paul Giniewski, Politique Intemationale (Paris)

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May 1, 1997

Basic text of oral Statement; more passages in brackets to be omitted. Fuller text to be used for Freedom House Briefing Seminar on 30 April.]

Mr. Chairman, Members of Congress,. Ladies and Gentlemen.

"Past is Prologue." These words are engraved on the pediment of the Archives building in Washington. The English source is probably Shakespeare's The Tempest, and the original perhaps Ecclesiastes (1:9). I have chosen this motto for my Statement today and shall first give:

An Historical Overview of the Persecution of Christians under Islam.

To fully understand the present tragic situation of Christians in Muslim lands, one must comprehend the ideological and historical pattern that is conducive to violations of human rights, even though this pattern does not seem to be a deliberate, monolithical, anti-Christian policy. However, as this structure is integrated into the corpus of Islamic law (the shari'a), it functions in those countries that either apply the shari'a in full, or whose laws are inspired by it. The historical pattern of Muslim-Christian encounters developed soon after the Prophet Muhammad's death in 632.

The historical pattern of Muslim-Christian encounters developed soon after the Prophet Muhammad's death in 632. Muslim -- Christian relations were regulated by two legal-theological systems: one based on jihad, the other on the shari'a. A Jihad should not be compared to a Crusade -- or to any other war. The strategy and tactics of jihad are minutely fixed by theological rules, which the calif or ruler wielding both spiritual and political power -- must obey. The jihad practised now in Sudan is conducted according to its traditional rules. One could affirm that all "jihad" groups today conform to these decrees.

It is an historical fact that all the Muslims countries around the southern and eastern Mediterranean were Christian lands before being conquered, during a millenium of jihad under the banner of Islam. Those vanquished populations -- here I am referring only to Christians and Jews - were then "protected," providing they submitted to the Muslim ruler's conditions- Therefore, "protection" in the context of a conquest is the consequence of a war, and this is a very important notion.

In April 1992, for instance, religious leaders in Sudan's Southern Kordofan region -- who were "publicly supported at the highest government level" -- issued a fatwa, which stated: "An insurgent who was previously a Muslim is now an apostate; and a non-Muslim is a non-believer standing as a bulwark against the spread of Islam, and Islam has granted the freedom of killing both of them." This fatwa appears in a 1995 Report to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights by the U.N.'s special Rapporteur on Sudan, Dr. Gaspar Biro. (ECOSOC, E/CN.4/1996/62, para.97a). This religious text gives the traditional definition of a harbi (someone living in the Dar al-harb, the "region of war"), an infidel who has not been subjected by jihad, and therefore whose life and property -- according to classical texts of Islamic jurists -- is thus forfeited to any Muslim. (It also gives a definition of an apostate who can be killed -- the case of Salman Rushdie in 1989, Farag Foda in 1992, and Taslima Nasreen 1994, are other examples where the death sentence was decreed.)

Non-Muslims are protected only if they submit to Islamic domination by a "Pact" -- or Dhimma -- which imposes degrading and discriminatory regulations. In my books, I have provided documents from Islamic sources and from the vanquished peoples, establishing a sort of classification so that the origins, development and aims of these regulations can be recognized when they are revived nowadays. I am only referring to Christians and Jews because they share the same Islamic theological and legal category, and are referred to in the Koran as "People of the Book" -- the word "people" is in the singular. If they accept to submit to a Muslim ruler, they then become "protected dhimmi peoples" -- tributaries, since their protection is linked to an obligatory payment of a koranic poll tax (the jizya) to the Islamic community (the umma).

This protection is abolished: - if the dhimmis should rebel against Islamic law; give allegiance to non-Muslim power; refuse to pay the koranic jizya; entice a Muslim from his faith; harm a Muslim or his property; commit blasphemy. Blasphemy includes denigration of the Prophet Muhammad, the Koran, the Muslim faith, the shari'a by suggesting that it has a defect, and by refusing the-decision of the ijma -- which is the consensus of the Islamic community or umma (Koran III: 106). The moment the "pact of protection" is abolished, the jihad resumes, which means that the lives of the dhimmis and their property are forfeited. Those Islamists in Egypt who kill and pillage Copts consider that these Christians -- or dhimmis -- have forfeited their "protection" because they do not pay the jizya.

In other words, this "protector-protected" relationship is typical of a war-treaty between the conqueror and the vanquished, and this situation remains valid for Islamists because it is fixed in theological texts. But it should be emphasized that other texts in the Koran stress religious tolerance and peaceful relations, which frequently existed. (Nonetheless, early jurists and theologians - invoking the koranic principle of the "abrogation" of an earlier text by a later one - have established an extremist doctrine ofjihad, which is a collective duty.)

The protection system presents both positive and negative aspects: it provide security and a measure of religious autonomy. On the other hand, dhimmis suffered many legal disabilities intended to reduce them to a condition of humiliation and segregation. Those rules were established as early as the 8th and 9th centuries by the founders of the four schools of Islamic law: Hanafi, Malaki, Shafi'i and Hanbali.

The shari'a is a complete compendium of laws based on theological sources, principally the Koran and hadiths - that is, the sayings and acts of the Prophet. The shari'a comprises the legal status of the dhimmis: what is permitted and what is forbidden to them. It sets the pattern of the Muslims' social and political behavior toward dhimmis and explains its theological, legal and political motivations.

It is this comprehensive system, which lasted for up to thirteen centuries, that I have analyzed in my last book The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam] as the "civilization of dhimmitude." Its archetype - the dehumanized dhimmi - has permeated Islamic civilization, culture and thought and is being revived through the Islamist resurgence and the return of the shari'a.

The main principles of "dhimmitude" are:
1) the inequality of rights in all domains between Muslims and dhimmis;
2) the social and economic discrimination of the dhimmis;
3) the humiliation and vulnerability of the dhimmis.

Numerous laws were enacted over the centuries in order to implement these principles, which remained in practice throughout the 19th century and in some regions into the 20th century.

Arab-Islamic civilization developed in conquered Christian lands, among Christian majorities, which were eventually reduced to minorities. The process of the Islamization of Christian societies appears at all levels. It is part and parcel of the Christian suffering embodied in laws, customs, behavior patterns, and prejudices that were perpetuated during many centuries. Christianity could survive in some countries like Egypt and the Balkans where their situation was tolerable, but in other places they were wiped out physically, expelled, or forced to emigrate.

During the whole of the 19th century, European governments tried to convince Muslim rulers -- from Constantinople to North Africa -- to abolish the discriminations against dhimmis. This policy led to reforms in the Ottoman Empire from 1839 -- known as the Tanzimat -- but it was only in Egypt, under the strong rule of Muhammad Ali, that real progress was made. Improvements in the Ottoman Empire and Persia, imposed by Europe, were bitterly resented by the populace and religious leaders.

European laws were introduced in the process of Turkish modernization, and in some Arab countries, but it was only under colonial rule that Christian and Jewish minorities were truly liberated from centuries of opprobrium. Traditionalists however resented the Westernization of their countries, the emancipation of the dhimmis and the laws imported from infidel lands. The fight for decolonization was also a struggle by the Islamists to re-establish strict Islamic law.]

Why is this persecution ignored by the Churches, governments and media?

The 19th century -- and even after World War I -- was a traumatizing period of genocidal slaughter of Christians, spreading from the Balkans (Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria) to Armenia and to the Middle East. In this context of death, the doctrine of an Islamic-Christian symbiosis was conceived toward the end of the 19th century by Eastern Christians as a desperate shield against terror and slavery. This doctrine -- which also included anti-Zionism -- had many facets, both political and religious. In the long term, its results were mostly negative.

It is this doctrine -- still professed today -- that is responsible for the general silence about the ongoing tragedy of Eastern Christians. Any mention of jihad and of the persecutions of Christians by Muslims was a taboo subject because one could not denounce persecution and simultaneously proclaim that an Islamic-Christian symbiosis has always existed in the past and the present. It is in this cocoon of lies and of a deliberately imposed silence, solidly supported by the Churches, governments, and the media -- each for its own reasons -- that persecution of Christians could develop freely, during this century, even until now, with little hindrance. Moreover, this doctrine also blocked the memory of dhimmitude, leaving a vacuum of thirteen centuries whose emptiness was filled with a myth that was useless as a means to prevent the return of old prejudices and persecutions.

For this reason, dhimmitude -- which covers several centuries of Christian and Jewish history, and which is a comprehensive civilization englobing legislation, customs, social behavior, and prejudices -- has never been analyzed, nor publicly discussed. It is this silence for which academia in Europe and America bear much responsibility that allows the perpetuation of religious discrimination and persecution today. There are many factors that explain this silence of governments, Churches, academia, and the media, on such a tragic issue concerning persecuted Christians in the Muslim world; they are interrelated and although their motivations are different they have solidly cemented a wall of silence that has buried the historical reality.

Proposals for redressing these violations of fundamental human rights:
1. To define the ways and means to end this tragedy:

1) Not to foster an anti-Islamic current which would be wrong, as the vast majority of Muslims are themselves victims of Islamists in Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan, Egypt, Turkey, Algeria, etc.

2) Christians must continue to live in their historical lands because it is their right, and only they can transform traditional Muslim mentalities. These dwindling communities should be encouraged to stay, as their presence will signify that Muslims have accepted that Jews and Christians also possess the right to life and dignity in their ancient homelands -- and not under a dhimmi protection, but with human rights equal to those of Muslims. If they fail, it will be our loss in the West too. Islamic countries that once had a Judeo-Christian culture should not become monolithically Islamic -- that is, Christianrein, as they have become virtually Judenrein -- through a policy of ethnic cleansing that followed a long historical period of discrimination.

3) If the human rights -- and the minority rights -- of Christians are not respected in those countries that formerly had Christian majorities, then the rights of all non-Muslims will be challenged by the Islamists' resurgence. It is for Christians worldwide -- particularly in America and Europe, and for the international community also -- to assure that the human rights for all religious minorities are respected worldwide.

II. We should realize that those populations are in grave danger and that even Muslim governments cannot protect them from mob violence -- sometimes they pretend to be unable to do so in order to stop foreign pressure or public campaigns. We should also remember that, from the late 1940s, the Jewish communities in the Arab-Muslim world -- then more than a million, now 1% of that number, under 10,000 and fast dwindling -- were the victims of persecution, terrorism, pillage and religious hatred that forced them to flee or emigrate. Christians were left as the only non-Muslims on whom religious fanaticism and hatred could be focused. Each Christian community tried to resist the return of the old order, following the path of secularism or communism.

The Islamists reproach Christians in their countries of:
1) being against the implementation of the shari'a;
2) demanding equal rights, basing themselves on International Covenants;
3) seeking foreign help to achieve equality with fellow Muslim citizens.

For the Islamists, these three accusations alone are tantamount to rebellion. It was these same motives that had justified the first great massacres of the Armenians a century ago in 1894-96, punished for having rebelled and for claiming the reforms that were promised.

This is why dhimmis communities were always careful to proclaim their enmity to Europe. An outward opposition to Christian countries being their life-saving shield against threats from their environment, they have interiorized this animosity to the point that they often strive for the triumph of Islam, some of them even becoming the best and most perfect tools of Islamic propaganda and interests in Europe and America. (The late Father Yoakim Moubarac and Georges Corm in France, and Edward Said in America, are but three examples out of many.)

III. In order to avoid mistakes and be more effective, one has to realize the difference of contexts between the campaign for Soviet Jewry in the 1970s and 1980s, and the promotion of human rights for Christians in Islamic lands today. The main difficulty arises because the discrimination or persecution in some countries cannot be ascribed to a deliberate government policy. It is rather a fact of civilization: the traditional contempt for dhimmis -- not so different from that of African Americans in the past -- and irritation because they are out-stepping their rights and must be obliged to return to their former status.

Sometimes, however, it is imposed by the Islamists, and a weak government doesn't dare to protect the Christians, fearing to become even more unpopular because anti-Western, and anti-Christian prejudices have imbued Muslim culture and society for centuries.

1) There are many ways to persecute Christians; some are by legal means, like the laws concerning the building or the repair of churches; others, by terror. A Christian can be killed, not because he committed a crime, but simply because he belongs to a group of infidels, whom, allegedly, are in rebellion; or for reasons of "spectacle-terrorism" that can serve as a deterrent policy to fulfill the terrorists' aims.

2) Another point concerns the use of a fatwa. If a fatwa is decreed against an individual, any Muslim is authorized to kill him, and by so doing he is the executor of what is considered the sentence of Allah.

IV. The problem is multifarious; it is not only religious but also cultural. This aspect is more acute with Christian than with Jewish communities because Muslims conquered Christian lands and civilization that were then subjected to a deliberate policy of Arabization and Islamization. Take, as an example, Christian pre-Islamic Coptic history: language and culture are a neglected, if not forbidden, domain because it would imply that Muslim history had been imperialistic. But Culture and history are important elements in a group's identity, and there are many Muslim intellectuals who are proud of Egypt's Pharonic and Coptic past. It is the Islamists who reject this past as an infidel culture, a part of the jahaliyah, what existed before Islam, considered taboo. Therefore, I would also suggest further goals, such as:

1) Recovering "Memory," the long history of the dhimmi peoples, of dhimmitude -- the collective, cultural patrimony of Jews and Christians for without their memory and without their history, people fade away and die.

2) Preventing the destruction of Christian historical monuments, either by local governments, or as was done with Abu Simbel, and other sites that now belong to the World's cultural legacy.

V. Discussing "dhimmitude" in academia and elsewhere. This is a Judeo-Christian historical patrimony and those whose heritage it is are entitled to know about it. The discussion of dhimmitude with Muslims, however, is fraught with difficulties. In the eyes of Islamists, and criticism of Islamic law and history is assimilated to a blasphemy. For a dhimmi, it is forbidden to imply that Islamic law has a default, or to contradict the ijma, the consensus. Moreover, the court testimony of a dhimmi against a Muslim is not accepted. Therefore, as dhimmitude is the testimony of dhimmi history -- of Christians and Jews -- under Islamic oppression, it would not be considered valid in traditionalist circles. Besides, the unification of religious and political power transfers the political domain into the religious one, therefore any criticism of Islamic civilization may become, for Islamists and others, a blasphemy.

The case of Farag Foda, and Egyptian Muslim intellectual, who defended the Copts and strongly criticized some Muslim religious authorities was exemplary: he was assassinated in 1992 after a fatwa. In giving his testimony, the late Sheik Muhammad El-Ghazali implicitly justified Foda's assassination on the grounds of apostasy; he stated that anyone opposing the sharia was an apostate and thus deserved death.

VI. Encourage Muslim intellectuals to strive in their own countries and in the West for the defense of equal human rights for Christians and others. The 1981 UNESCO Declaration of Islamic Human Rights and that of Cairo, both conditional on the sharia, are insufficient.

VII. Creation of a team of experts and lawyers -- and not apologists in order to discuss the problem, always stressing that the aim is not to foster anti-Muslim nor anti-Islamic feelings, but to create peace and reconciliation between religions and people, without which the next century will become a bloodbath and clash of civilizations.


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Dhimmitude: Jews and Christians Under Islam

Bat Ye'or

Except for Asia, all the countries that were conquered by jihad (Muslim holy war) in the course of history— from Arabia to Spain and the Balkans, including Hungary and Poland—were peopled by innumerable Christians and by Jewish communities. This geographical context is therefore the true terrain of interaction between the three religions. Actually, it was in Islamic lands that they opposed, or collaborated with one another for up to 13 centuries. I have called this vast political, religious, and cultural span the realm of "dhimmitude," from dhimma, a treaty of submission for each people conquered by jihad.

The historical field is generally studied in the context of "Islamic tolerance," but "tolerance"—or "toleration"—is an ambiguous word since it implies a moral and subjective connotation. Moreover, this word "toleration" cannot encompass the historical density and the complexities of the numerous peoples vanquished by Islam over the centuries, as it is a vague and general notion used irrespective of space and time.

Instead of "toleration," I have proposed the concept of "dhimmitude," derived from the word dhimma. The vanquished, subject to Islamic law, become a dhimma people, protected by the dhimma pact from destruction.

Islamic legislation governing dhimma peoples was the same for Jews and Christians, although the latter suffered more from it—declining from majorities, at the dawn of the Islamic conquest, to tiny minorities in their own countries. The domain of dhimmitude comprises all aspects of the condition of the dhimmis: that is, the Jews and Christians tolerated under Islamic law. Dhimmitude as an historical category is common to, but not identical for, Jews and Christians under Islam.

Islamic law governing Christian dhimmis developed from Byzantine Christian legislation enacted from the fourth to the sixth century. It aimed at imposing legal inferiority on native Jews of Christianized countries—lands that were subsequently Islamized. These early Christian influences on Islamic law are not limited to the juridical domain but also appear at the theological level.

The study of the Jewish dhimma condition necessarily encompasses the theological and political interaction between the three religions. During Vatican II (1963-1965), for instance, the Arab Churches—yielding to pressure from their governments—strongly objected to the proposed suppression of the "deicide" accusation against the Jews. Yet the crucifixion of Jesus is not recognized in the Koran, therefore the accusation of deicide is meaningless for Islam. Such interferences by Arab governments in a strictly Judeo-Christian theological matter were intended to maintain the delegitimization of the State of Israel in a Christian context. Indeed, it was the deicide accusation that had structured Byzantine policy of Jerusalem's dejudaization and the promulgation of a specific, degrading Jewish status. It was that same status that Muslim jurisconsults adapted to the jihad context with harsher modifications, imposing it equally on Jews and Christians. Clearly, Jewish-Muslim relations also comprise those Jewish-Christian relations that were transposed within an Islamic context—particularly the Jewish status in Christian legislation. Similarly, the Islamic-Christian relationship cannot obscure its Jewish dimension because Islam associates Christians and Jews in the same dhimma category—a specific category that was first enacted by Christians for Jews in a quite different theological context.

The study of dhimmitude comprises these multifarious aspects and requires an approach devoid of apriorisms. One can try to define the ideology that imposes dhimmitude on non-Muslim peoples: Their obligatory submission by war or surrender to Islamic domination. One could examine its origin, the legal and political means used to dominate other peoples, the causes of its expansion or of its regression. Actually, it is a study of the ideology of jihad, whose jurisdiction—based on the modalities of battles and conquest— must be imposed on the vanquished peoples. How this or that land or city was conquered will determine for all time the laws to be applied there. Centuries after the Islamic conquest, Muslim jurists still consulted ancient chroniclers to determine whether churches and synagogues were legal or forbidden in towns or regions that had formerly been conquered, whether by surrender or by battles and treaties. Such regulations concerning religious buildings are still enforced in many Muslim countries today. So one discovers, throughout the ebb and flow of history that dhimmitude is composed of a fixed ideological and legal structure. It constitutes an ideological, sociological, and political reality since it is integrated into every aspect of those human societies, which it characterizes. This is proved by its geographical development, its historical perennialism and its present resurgence.

The body of law prescribing dhimmitude originated from a single source: Islamic power. Apart from a few minor differences regarding the shari'a's (Islamic law's) interpretation, the dhimma status constituted a homogeneous unit applied in the dar al-Islam. But the peoples of dhimmitude comprised all the ethnic, religious, and cultural variations of the Islamized regions of Africa, Asia, and Europe—thereby implying regional differences. One must therefore study the local history of each dhimmi group in order to detect if the causes of differentiation were of a geographical or a demographical nature, or the result of pre- Islamic local factors. Thus, dhimmitude should encompass the comparative study of all dhimmi groups, for territories were not just conquered; their Islamization could take three or even four centuries, while some regions had already been Islamized by migrations prior to their military and political conquest. The study of dhimmitude, then, is the study of the progressive Islamization of Christian civilizations. In this evolution, one detects permanent structures and also different local factors that facilitated, or temporarily checked this process.

The confusion of the political and economic domain is an important element in the development of the mechanism of dhimmitude. In exchange for economic advantages, non-Muslim rulers conceded to the Islamic power an essential political asset: territory. This policy appears at the start of the Islamic-Christian encounter. In modem times, the financial interests of Lebanese Christian politicians with the Muslim world were decisive in the inter-communal struggle that led to the final destruction of Lebanese Christianity. In this context of political concessions in exchange for financial gains, one should emphasize that the economic domain belongs always to the short term and the conjunctural, while the political sphere is long-term and implies power, notably military power. Hence, this feature of corruption—paramount in the whole system of dhimmitude—which is, in fact, the surrender of political power (territorial independence) for the economic control by the dhimmi Church leaders over their communities.

It is evident that the civilizations of dhimmitude are extremely complex. The process of Islamization of such societies rested on several factors, the most important being the demographical one that transformed Christian majorities into minorities. This result was achieved through several means that combined legal disabilities and economic oppression in times of peace, destruction, deportation, and slavery in wartime and during riots or recurrent political instability. Such a transformation of civilization and of peoples also implied an extensive mechanism of osmosis, including collaboration and collusion by the elites of those Christian nations that were engaged in the painful process of their self-destruction. Without this perennial collusion, the Islamic state could never have survived. Christians had collaborated in its development on all social levels and in every field, either by free choice or otherwise.

It was through Christian patriarchs and Jewish community leaders that the Islamic government imposed its authority, making of them its instruments in the control and oppression of their respective populations. Thus, entire dhimmi groups collaborated in the growth of the Islamic civilization. One could also investigate the way in which different Christian and Jewish groups reacted to dhimmitude. We know that there was a strong alliance between Arab-Muslim invading troops and the local Arab-Christian tribes, as well as with the Oriental Churches. Some members of the Christian clergy not only welcomed the Muslim armies, but also surrendered their cities. The Eastern Churches were always associated with Islamic rule and benefitted from it becoming thereby the sole administrators of millions of Christians. One can examine the role of the clergy, the military class, the politicians, and the intellectuals in assisting the Islamic advance that placed their own peoples under the yoke of dhimmitude. Documents of this kind abound concerning the later Ottoman conquest of the Balkans.

The conflict of interests within the dhimmi populations indicates that different forces were at work in each community forces of collaboration and forces of resistance. Thus, dhimmitude encompasses. various types of relationships at all levels between the Muslim community and the dominated, tolerated, dhimmis—relationships that were regulated by laws ensuring Islamic protection and that embraced politics, history, and conjunctural situations. Modern studies on the Turkish advance in the Balkan peninsula have mentioned the mental climate that prepared a society for its surrender. One finds an evolution at all social levels, combining compromise, collusion, and the corruption that facilitated the final submission.

A similar process could have been detected in the modem history of Lebanon from the beginning of the 20th century to the recent disintegration of Christian resistance. Here, the internecine conflict between the forces of collusion and resistance brought about the collapse of the targeted Christian groups. The situation in southern Sudan and in the Philippines provides contemporary examples of such internecine conflicts that could lead to similar situations.

Dhimmitude also encompasses the relationship between each dhimmi group, the religious rivalry between Churches seeking to use the Muslim power in order to diminish or destroy rivals. This domain also overlaps with the dynastic, political, and national conflicts between Christian rulers who obtained power through Islamic help. Since the status of dhimmitude lasted from three to thirteen centuries, depending upon regions, it allows one to study numerous cases of different peoples—all theoretically subject to the same Islamic jurisdiction, with differences here and there.

What were the results of Muslim interference on the inter-community relationships between the dhimmi peoples themselves? Did it keep their conflicts alive? How did the Muslim power manifest its protection? (The dhimmis were, of course, protected by Islamic law.) There is also the conflict between jurists, inclined toward a more severe interpretation of the law, and the caliphs or rulers whose policies were sometimes more lenient—a problem still topical today. Therefore, the domain of dhimmitude consists of the interaction of the dhimmi peoples among themselves, with the Muslim power, and with the outside world. What were the consequences of the protection afforded to each dhimmi group by the European Christian countries? How did their political and commercial rivalries affect the interrelationship of the dhimmi peoples and their situation within their Muslim environment? And to this should be added the consequences of proselytism among the various contending Churches.

One might think that the history of dhimmitude had long since disappeared into a forgotten past, but this is not so. Specialists have called political Islamic radicalism a "return," thus implying the existence in the past of a political ideology that had disappeared and is now resurfacing. Optimistic analysts focus only on the economic and political factors that have contributed to the emergence of Islamic radicalism, although its ideologico-religious causes and traditional roots are so obvious that they alone would justify the use of the term " return."

Jihad militancy and the reintroduction of some of the shari'a's provisions in countries where they had been abolished are now threatening indigenous Christians and other non-Muslim populations. The most tragic cases are found in Iran, Pakistan, Sudan, and Upper Egypt (by Islamists). Aspects of the dhimmi condition—abolished under European pressure from the mid-19th century on—is resuming in these countries, and elsewhere.

Even antisemitic statements made by Abbe Pierre in April 1996, firmly condemned by the French episcopate and public opinion, are a reminder of a pervasive Christian dhimmitude. Abbe Pierre—one of France's most popular public figures—reiterated that, because of their iniquities since the time of Joshua, the Jews had forfeited God's promise. Apart front being a classic example of the Church's judeophobia, such a declaration was clearly aimed at pleasing the Muslims. Since the Judeo-Christian reconciliation initiated by Vatican II, the Arab Churches requested from the Vatican a strictly symmetrical attitude toward Jews and Muslims. This requirement establishes, in fact, a false symmetry between totally different theological, historical, and political contexts: the Judeo-Christian relationship and the Islamic-Christian relationship. The Jews were oppressed in Christian lands but never had any ambition to conquer them and impose their own laws there, whereas Islamic armies seized innumerable Christian lands in which only small, vulnerable, and scattered Christian communities survive today.

Abbe Pierre's earlier meditations at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem were thus symmetrically balanced by a visit to Yasir Arafat in Gaza, where he begged forgiveness for the West's creation of the State of Israel. But the good Abbe could have spared himself such scruples, for Israel's rebirth occurred despite the genocide of European Jewry, and from the start the Vatican only supported the Palestinian cause. But a "Palestinian genocide" has become a symbolic necessity to balance the genocide of the Jews. Overlooking a span of more than three millennia, Abbe Pierre chose to link—anachronistically and in a delirious amalgamation—today's Arab Palestinians with biblical Philistines and Amalekites in the time of Joshua.

It is this desire for a specious symmetry that reduced to oblivion the tragic and painful domain of Christian dhimmitude, which could not be paralleled with a similar Jewish domination over Christian populations. Indeed, much effort has been deployed in Europe to establish similarities between Palestinians in Israel and dhimmis, especially by blaming Israeli security measures to counter Palestinian terrorism, which was conveniently glossed over as "freedom fighting." This attitude not only expresses a traditional Christian judeophobia—now totally rejected by the Vatican and other Churches—but also the complexity of Europe's relations with Israel and with Arab countries, where Christian lights are challenged by Islamists. As Europe's policy is determined mainly by its own strategic and economic interests, it shows no more sympathy to Eastern Christians than it does to Israelis. Islamic radicalism is feared, as it could provoke in Europe anti-Muslim reactions leading to economic retaliation and terrorism from Muslim states.

Since the beginning of this century, starting with the Armenian genocide (1896-1917), then the massacres of Christians in Iraq (1933) and Syria (1937), the condition of the Eastern Christians (in spite of their involvement in Arab politics) has constantly deteriorated. Thus, one can see how dhimmitude still influences the interaction of different religious groups. To be sure, many scholars have studied their histories separately, but the concept of dhimmitude provides a wider and unified framework for all those varied communizes that have undergone the same experience throughout history.

It is interesting to examine the different paths that each dhimmi group felt compelled to adopt, either by historical circumstances or geography, to regain its liberty and dignity. The national liberation of dhimmi peoples meant that the jurisdiction of dhimmitude, imposed by jihad, was abolished; they could then recover their proscribed language, their history, and their culture. The Christian peoples of the Balkans fought for their national sovereignty, as did the Armenians later, and the Jews in their own homeland: but Christians of the Middle East chose assimilation in a secularized Islamic socials and became Arabized.

As a result of European colonialism in Arab lands, as well as the rebellions and struggle for the national liberation of Christian peoples in the Ottoman Empire, hundreds of thousands of Christians were killed during the 19th and early 20th centuries in Muslim-dominated regions. Christians lived in constant fear of further atrocities. The Greeks were saved from a genocide in the early 19th century by the intervention of the Anglo-French and Russian armies. Their uprisings throughout that century were punished by massacres and the slavery and conversion of women and children. Similar reprisals struck both Serbs and Bulgarians in their own lands.

The genocide of the Armenians and atrocities in Iraq and Syria compelled the Lebanese Christians to create a refuge country for their persecuted brethren from neighboring lands. Some Lebanese were favorable to the restoration of a Jewish state in its historical homeland and were sympathetic to the Zionist cause, for they knew that the position of Jews and Christians under Islam was similar. But this current, led by the Maronite Patriarch Antun Arida and Beirut's Archbishop Ignace Mubarak, represented a small minority among the Eastern Christians, who remained, like the Vatican, adamantly hostile to a Jewish state in Palestine, and especially to any Jewish sovereignty in Jerusalem. Within the context of the Jewish national liberation movement, one should remember that Muslims and the Oriental Churches were hostile to a massive return of Jews to their homeland. Jews had been condemned to suffering and exile by both Christianity and Islam, and therefore Jewish sovereignty in Palestine-Israel was totally unacceptable. How much European opposition to a Jewish state had helped the execution of the Final Solution is a question that concerns historians of the Shoah. Clearly, antisemitism is intrinsically linked to the concept of Jewish evilness, which justifies a judenrein Palestine, especially Jerusalem.

Thus, one finds, in both the political and religious spheres, a hostile Islamic-Christian front against Zionism and later against the Sate of Israel. Many of these Oriental Christian leaders thought that this Islamic-Christian front against Zionism would help secure their position in the Arab world, best under the banner of pan-Arabism, and then under the slogan: "the just Palestinian cause." Palestinian anti-Zionist Christians, especially their clergy, were in the vanguard of the battle for the destruction of Israel. Some proudly participated in the worst acts of terrorism. Much of the anti-Israeli propaganda was formulated by Christian Palestinians in order to exacerbate traditional judeophobia in the West. Among them were clergymen from the Levant. such as Greek-Catholic Archbishop Hilarion Capucci. In fact, many in the West justified the jihad aims and tactics against Israel—and even against Jews everywhere.

The responsiveness of post-Shoah Europe to anti-Zionism has many geo-strategic and economic reasons, but it also derives from the easy channeling of traditional judeophobia into anti-Zionism. Thus, it is not surprising that the PLO's official Christian representatives were much appreciated by politicians, intellectuals, and the European media. In antisemitic circles, they were endowed with a holy mission, embodied in the historic role of the Palestinian clergy. In Byzantine Palestine, the clergy had forbidden Jews to reside and pray in Jerusalem. One of the worst massacres of Jews occurred at the instigation of the Jerusalem Patriarch Sophronius, who suggested it in 628 to the Emperor Heraclius (610-641). Some years later, when the Arabs conquered Jerusalem from the Greeks, Sophronius tried to persuade Caliph Umar Ibn al-Khattab to forbid any Jewish presence in Jerusalem. So we see that even at this moment of the terrible defeat, slaughter, and anguish for Christians, the Palestinian Patriarch was obsessed by judeophobia. Sophronius, later canonized, died a few years after surrendering Jerusalem to the Muslim conquers, When welcoming Yasir Arafat in 1995 to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem for the traditional Christmas Mass, Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah was happy to recall how Sophronius had delivered Jerusalem to Umar in 636; 40 years later—and until the 1869s —no cross could adorn a church in Jerusalem.

Throughout the centuries, Christian judeophobia in Jerusalem and Palestine was virulent. In my books, I have reproduced 19th-century reports from French and British consuls who were shocked by this hatred, which did lead to criminal acts. In this century, anti-Zionism cemented the Palestinian Islamic- Christian alliance with Hitler's ideology; this collaboration with Nazi Germany is well known.

Whereas the Shoah developed in a European context, anti-Zionism belongs to the domain of dhimmitude. Here, the powerless Palestinian Christians—like Sophronius—had to rely on the Arab-Muslim force to prevent the restoration of a Jewish state. Among the multitude of events from the 20th century, his torians in the next millennium may well be intrigued be two particularities: the first concerns the relentlessness shown by many European politicians in exterminating and pillaging European Jewry, the second concerns post-Shoah Europe, which is linked to the first by a similar desire of many to demonize Israel. Yet, this 20th century has witnessed important Western strategic defeats in the Middle East. Armenian independence, promised at the end of World War I (Treats of Sevres) was never implemented; the same applies to the Kurds. Lebanon, considered as a paragon for the realization of an Islamic-Christian symbiosis, finally collapsed in a bloody tragedy. Massacres and slavery continue to ravage the Christian and Animist populations of southern Sudan; the war in the Philippines fueled be a secessionist Muslim minority group has claimed 120,000 lives over the past 20 years. Genocidal massacres have been perpetrated in numerous countries, but for 30 years the main target—constantly highlighted in the media—remained Israel. This extraordinary blindness was in part caused by the Palestinian clergy which, with its numerous religious and secular channels in Europe and elsewhere, helped to uphold the Palestinian issue as the world's first priority.

However, the militancy against Israel of the Islamic-Christian front paradoxically led to increased instability and anguish for Arab-Christians. The reasons are not difficult to find. In order to maintain this anti-Zionist front, Oriental Christians were obliged to make continual compromises. They were afraid to mention their own history of suffering and dhimmitude under Islam for fear of irritating the Muslim world; it became a taboo subject even in Europe. Eastern Christians, especially the Palestinians, thought that their support for the anti-Israeli jihad would secure their safety in a hostile environment. But this policy brought negative results: 1) The encouragement of an anti-Israeli jihad has fueled and developed a rhetoric of war- hatred against Christians because the dogma of jihad associates them with Jews. The more the Christians fought to delegitimize Israel, the more they weakened their own lights; 2) this factor had dramatic consequences for the Lebanese Christians. Like the Jews, their war for freedom in their own country was a struggle to impose on the Islamic world the respect for their rights to dignity—not to be considered as an inferior group, ready for a modernized dhimmitude. And as a result of their common destiny with Jews in Islamic dogma, the jihad aggressivity rebounded against the Lebanese Christians inadequately prepared for such a confrontation. And since the history of dhimmitude and jihad was obfuscated in Europe—thanks to the Christian pro-Islamic, anti-Zionist lobby—and as the Palestinian cause became the sacred cause of the international community, when the PLO fought the Christians in Lebanon, the latter were soon abandoned.

Hence, the concealment of dhimmi history and of the ideology of jihad—a deliberate policy maintained for decades in the Test—has facilitated a return of the past, as the same political system is now inscribed in the program of today's Islamists.

There is another, no less important, aspect of dhimmitude: the psychological and spiritual one. The dhimmi mentality appears with no great differences in its Christian or Jewish version. One could examine it either in relation to the concept of rights or to that of toleration. One should bear in mind that the study of dhimmitude necessitates an examination of the common condition of both Jews and Christians who form one entity: the "People of the Book." They are thus complementary, and the rules applied to one group concern likewise the other. Another aspect of this complex historical domain relates to their mutual relationship in the world of dhimmitude, and to the manner in which each group viewed the other. Solidarity and mutual aid in time of persecutions existed, as did denunciation and revenge motivated by fear and greed. But, in general, a similar condition contributed to created mutual bonds of understanding.

Thus, one realizes that the concept of dhimmitude— rather than the term " tolerated minorities" —covers a wide domain of research. One can study its dynamic, its evolution, its modalities, and the interactions of diverse elements within this context that shed light on the areas of fusion, interdependence and confrontation between Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Dhimmitude is a neutral concept and therefore a tool for historical investigation.

For me, as a Jew, this insight into Christian dhimmitude represented an intellectual experience that was not easy to undertake. This was not the domineering face of European Christendom, persecuting and triumphant, but the discovery of its persecuted, humiliated, and suffering other side. In short, Eastern Christianity's history of dhimmitude under Islam is a sort of "Jewish experience" endured this time by Christians. This is why this history was so resolutely and intensely denied by most Eastern Christians, especially Palestinians. For a Jew, this quest constitutes a moral ascesis because it is no easy task to find expressions of the same suffering in one's persecutor. But this companionship gives a new approach to human trials and opens common perspectives of reconciliation with Muslims. It makes it easier for Jews and Christians to solve with liberal Muslims, thus freeing them from prejudices of the past and from the concepts of jihad and "tolerance," replacing them with new bonds of friendship and esteem between equals.

For the Jewish people—liberated from Christian antisemitism in its own homeland, as well as from dhimmitude imposed on them by Islam—this long task of reconciliation with Christianity and Islam could strengthen respect between the three religions and their respective peoples.

BAT YE'OR, born in Egypt, is the author of The Dhimma: Jews & Christians Under Islam (French, 1980; English 1985; fourth reprint, AUP, 1996). Her latest book in English, The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam. From Jihad to Dhimmitude: 7th to 20th Century (Associated University Presses, 1996), was reviewed in Midstream, January 1997.

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Myths and Politics
Origin or the Myth of a Tolerant Pluralistic Islamic Society


(Ramada Congress Hotel - Chicago, Illinois)


Dinner Address delivered on 31 August 1995


Myths and Politics: Origin or the Myth of a Tolerant Pluralistic Islamic Society

Ladies and gentlemen:

My subject this evening is: Myths and Politics: Origin of the Myth of a Tolerant Pluralistic Islamic Society. I stress the world "Tolerant", which was omitted from the program.

Ten years ago, when I came to America for the launching of my book: THE DHIMMI, JEWS AND CHRISTIANS UNDER ISLAM, I was struck by the inscription on the Archives Building in Washington: "Past is Prologue". I had thought -- at least at the beginning of my research -- that my subject related to a remote past, but I realized that contemporary events were rapidly modernizing this past. Muslim countries where Islamic law -- the SHARI'A -- had been replaced by modern juridic (imposed by the European colonizing powers,) were abandoning the secularizing trend, replacing it with Islamization in numerous sectors of life. This impression of the return of the past became even more acute when I was working on my next book, published in 1991, the English edition which will appear in a few months under the title: THE DECLINE OF EASTERN CHRISTIANITY UNDER ISLAM - 7th TO 20th CENTURY: FROM JIHAD TO DHIMMITUDE (Associated University Presses).

In this study, I tried to analyze the numerous processes that had transformed rich, powerful Christian civilizations into Islamic lands and their long-term effects, which had reduced native Christian majorities into scattered small religious minorities, now slowly disappearing. This complex Islamization process of Christian lands and civilizations on both shores of the Mediterannean - and in Irak and Armenia - I have called: the process of "dhimmitude" and the civilization of those peoples who underwent such transformation, I have named the civilization of "dhimmitude". The indigenous native peoples were Jews and Christians: Orthodox, Catholics, or from other Eastern Christian Churches. They are all referred to by Muslim jurists as the "Peoples of the Book" - the Book being the Bible - and are subjected to the same condition according to Islamic law. They are called dhimmis: protected peoples, because Islamic law protects their life and goods on condition that they submit to Islamic rule. I will not go into details here for this is a very long and complex subject, but in order to understand the Serbian situation one should know that the Serbs were treated during half a millennium just like the other Christian and Jewish DHIMMIS. They participated in this civilization of dhimmitude. It is important to understand that the civilization of dhimmitude grows from two religious institutions: JIHAD and SHARI'A, which establish a particular ideological system that makes it mandatory - during the jihad operation -- to use terror, mass killings, deportation and slavery. And the Serbs -- because I am speaking of them tonight -- did not escape from this fate, which was the same for all the populations around the Mediterannean basin, vanquished by JIHAD. For centuries, the Serbs fought to liberate their land from the laws of JIHAD and of SHARI'A, which had legalized their condition of oppression.

So while I was analyzing and writing about the processes of dhimmitude and the civilization of dhimmitude, while listening to the radio, watching television, reading the newspapers, I had the uncomfortable feeling that the clock was being turned back.

Modern politicians, sophisticated writers -- using phones, planes, computers and all the modern techniques -- seemed to be returning several centuries back, with WIGS or STIFF COLLARS, using exactly the same CORRUPTING ARGUMENTS, the same tortuous short-term politics that had previously contributed to the gradual Islamization of numerous non-Muslim peoples. I had to shake myself in an effort to distinguish the past from the present.

So, is the past always prologue? Are we doomed to remain always prisoners of the same errors? Certainly, if we do not know the past. And this past -- the long and agonizing process of Christian annihilation by the laws of JIHAD and dhimmitude -- is a taboo history, not only in Islamic lands, but above all in the West. It has been buried beneath a myth, fabricated by Western politicians and religious leaders, in order to promote their own national strategic and economic interests.

Curiously, this myth started in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 19th century. It alleges that Turkish rule over Christians in its European provinces was just and lawful. That the Ottoman regime, being Islamic, was naturally "tolerant" and well disposed toward its Christian subjects; that its justice was fair, and that safety for life and goods was guaranteed to Christians by Islamic laws. Ottoman rule was brandished as the most suitable regime to rule Christians of the Balkans.

This theory was advanced by European politicians in order to safeguard the balance of power in Europe, and in order to block the Russian advance towards the Mediterannean. To justify the maintenance of the Turkish yoke on the Slavs it was portrayed as a model for a multi-ethnical and multi-religious empire. Of course, the reality was totally different! First the Ottoman Empire was created by centuries of JIHAD against Christian populations; consequently the rules of JIHAD, elaborated by Arab-Muslim theologians from the 8th to the 10th centuries, applied to the subjected Christian and Jewish populations of the Turkish Islamic dominions. Those regulations are integrated into the Islamic legislation concerning the non-Muslim vanquished peoples and consequently they present a certain homogeneity throughout the Arab and Turkish empires.

The civilization of dhimmitude in which the Serbs participated had many aspects that evolved with changing political situations. In the 1830s, forced by the European powers, the Ottomans adopted a series of reforms aiming at ending the oppression of the Christians.

In the Serbian regions, the most fanatical opponents of Christian emancipation were the Muslims Bosniacs. They fought against the Christian right to possess lands and, in legal matters, to have equal rights as themselves. They pretended that under the old system that gave them full domination over the Christians, Muslims and Christians had lived for centuries in a convivial fraternity. And this argument is still used today by President Izetbegovic and others. He repeatedly affirms that the 500 years of Christian dhimmitude was a period of peace and religious harmony.

Let us now confront the myth with reality. A systematic enquiry into the condition of the Christians was conducted by British consuls in the Ottoman Empire in the 1860s. Britain was then Turkey's strongest ally. It was in its own interest to see that the oppression of the Christians would be eliminated in order to prevent any Russian or Austrian interference. Consul James Zohrab sent from Bosna-Serai (Sarajevo) a lengthy report, dated July 22, 1860, to his ambassador in Constantinople, Sir Henry Bulwer, in which he analyzed the administration of the provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He stated that from 1463 to 1850 the Bosniac Muslims enjoyed all the privileges of feudalism. During a period of nearly 300 years Christians were subjected to much oppression and cruelty. For them no other law but the caprice of their masters existed.

The DEVSHIRME system is well known. Begun by the Sultan Orkhan (1326-1359), it existed for about 300 years. It consisted of a regular levy of Christian children from the Christian population of the Balkans. These youngsters, aged from fourteen to twenty, were Islamized and enslaved for their army. The periodic levies, which took place in contingents of a thousand, subsequently became annual. To discourage runaways, children were transferred to remote provinces and entrusted to Muslim soldiers who treated them harshly as slaves. Another parallel recruitment system operated. It provided for the levy of Christian children aged six to ten (ICHOGHLANI), reserved for the sultans' palace. Entrusted to eunuchs, they underwent a tyrannical training for fourteen years. (A system of enslaving Black Christian and Animist children, similar to the DEVSHIRME existed in Sudan as is shown from documents to be published in my book. A sort of DEVSHIRME system still exists today in Sudan and has been described and denounced by the United Nations Special Report on Sudan and in a recent article last Friday's TIMES OF LONDON.) In 1850, the Bosniac Muslims opposed the authority of the Sultan and the reforms, but were defeated by the Sultan's army aided by the Christians who hoped that their position would thereby improve, "but they hardly benefited." Moreover, despite their assistance to the sultan's army, Christians were disarmed, while the Muslims who fought the sultan could retain weapons. Christians remained oppressed as before, Consul Zobrab writes about the reforms: "I can safely say, they practically remain a dead letter".

Discussing the impunity granted to the Muslims by the sultan, Zohrab wrote:
"This impunity, while it does not extend to permitting the Christians to be treated as they formerly were treated, is so far unbearable and unjust in that it permits the Muslims to despoil them with heavy exactions. Under false accusations imprisonments are of daily occurrence. A Christian has but a small chance of exculpating himself when his opponent is a Muslim."
"Christians are now permitted to possess real property, but the obstacles which they meet with when they attempt to acquire it are so many and vexatious that very few have as yet dared to brave them. Although a Christian can buy land and take possession it is when he has got his land into order [...] that the Christian feels the helplessness of his position and the insincerity of the Government. [Under any pretext] "the Christian is in nineteen cases out of twenty dispossessed, and he may then deem himself fortunate if he gets back the price he gave."

Commenting on this situation, the consul writes:

"Such being, generally speaking, the course pursued by the Government towards the Christians in the capital of the province Sarajevo where the Consular Agents of the different Powers reside and can exercise some degree of control, it may easily be guessed to what extend the Christians, in the remoter districts, suffer who are governed by Mudirs generally fanatical."

He continues:

"Christian evidence in the Medjlises (tribunal) as a rule is refused. Knowing this, the Christians generally come forward prepared with Mussulman witnesses (...), twenty years ago, it is true, they had no laws beyond the caprice of their landlords."

"Cases of oppression are frequently the result of Mussulman fanaticism, but for these the Government must be held responsible, for if offenders were punished, oppression would of necessity became rare."

In the spring of 1861 the sultan announced new reforms in Herzegovina, promising among other things freedom to build churches, the use of church bells and the opportunity for Christians to acquire land.

Commenting on this, Consul William Holmes in Bosna-Serai writes to Ambassador Sir Henry Bulwer that those promises rarely applied. He mentions that the Serbs, the biggest community were refused the right to build a church in Bosna-Serai. Concerning the right to buy land, he writes; "Every possible obstacle is still thrown in the way of the purchase of lands by Christians, and very often after they have succeeded in purchasing and improving land, it is no secret that on one unjust pretext or another, it has been taken from them."

Consul Longworth writes, from Belgrade on 1860 that by its Edicts the "Government may hasten such a reform but I question very much whether more evil than good will not arise from proclaiming a social equality which is, in the present stage of things and relations of society, morally impossible."

The biggest problem, in fact, was the refusal to accept either Christian or Jewish testimony in Islamic tribunals.

Consul Longworth comments on "the lax and vicious principle acted upon in the Mussulman Courts, where, as the only means of securing justice to Christians, Mussulman false witnesses are permitted to give evidence on their behalf."

The situation didn't change, and in 1875 the Grand Vizier Mahmud Pasha admitted to the British Ambassador in Constantinople, Sir Henry Elliot, the "impossibility of allowing Christian testimony at courts of justice in Bosnia." Thus, the Ambassador noted: "The professed equality of Christians and Mussulmans is, however, so illusory so long as this distinction is maintained."

This juridical situation had serious consequences due to the system of justice, as he explained: "This is a point [the refusal of testimony] of much importance to the Christians, for, as the religious courts neither admit documentary nor written evidence, nor receive Christian evidence, they could hope for little justice from them."

The difficulty of imposing reforms in such a vast empire provoked this disillusioned comment, from Sir Francis, consul-general, judge at the British Consular Court in 1875 Constantinopole: "Indeed, the modern perversion of the Oriental idea of justice is a concession to a suitor through grace and favor, and not the declaration of a right, on principles of law, and in pursuance of equity."

From Consul Blunt writing from Pristina on 14 July 1860 to Ambassador Bulwer, we learn about the situation in the province of Macedonia: "[...] For a long time the province of Uscup [Skopje, Macedonia] has been a prey to brigandage: [...] Christian churches and monasteries, towns and inhabitants, are now pillaged, massacred, and burnt by Albanian hordes as used to be done ten years ago."

"The Christians are not allowed to carry arms. This, considering the want of a good police, exposes them the more to attacks from brigands." "Christian evidence in law suits between a Mussulman and a non-Mussulman is not admitted in the Local Courts."

Ten years before he said: "Churches were not allowed to be built; and one can judge of the measure of toleration practiced at that time by having had to creep under doors scarcely four feet high. It was an offense to smoke and ride before a Turk; to cross his path, or not stand up before him, was equally wrong." [...]

Fifteen years later, in another report from Bosna-Serai, dated December 30, 1875, from consul Edward Freeman, we learn that the Bosnian Muslims had sent a petition to the sultan stating that before the reforms, "they lived as brother with the Christian population. In fact, wrote the Consul, "their aim appears to reduce the Christians to their former ancient state of serfdom." So once again we go back to the myth. When reading the literature of the time, we see that the obstruction to Serbian, Greek and other Christian liberation movement was rooted in two main arguments:

1) Christian DHIMMIS are congenitally unfitted for independence and self-government. They should therefore remain under the Islamic rule.
2) The Ottoman rule is a perfect model for a multi-religious and multi-ethnical society.

Indeed these are theological Islamic arguments that justify the JIHAD since all non-Muslim people should not retain political independence because their laws are evil and must be eventually replaced by the Islamic rule. We find the same reasoning in the Palestinian 1988 Covenant of the Hamas. Those arguments are very common in the theological and legal literature and are exposed by modern Islamists.


The myth didn't die with the collapse of the Turkish Empire after World War I. Rather it took another form: that of the National Arab Movement, which promoted an Arab society where Christians and Muslims would live in perfect harmony. Once again, this was the fabrication of European politicians, writers and clergyman. And in the same way as the myth of the Ottoman political paradise was created to block the independence of the Balkan nations, so the Arab multi-religious fraternity was an argument to destroy the national liberation of non-Arab peoples of the Middle East (Kurds, Armenians, Assyrians, Maronites and Zionists.)

And although from the beginning of this century until the 1930s, a stream of Christian refugees were fleeing massacres and genocide on the roads of Turkey, Irak and Syria, the myth continued to flourish, sustained mostly by Arab writers and clergyman. After the Israelis had succeeded in liberating their land from the laws of JIHAD and DHIMMITUDE, the myth reappeared in the form of a multi-cultural and multi-religious fraternal Palestine which had to replace the State of Israel (Cf. Arafat's 1975 UN speech). Its pernicious effects led to the destruction of the Christians in Lebanon. One might have thought that the myth would end there.

But suddenly the recent crisis in Yugoslavia offered a new chance for its reincarnation in a multi-religious Muslim Bosnian state. What a chance! A Muslim state again in the heartland of Europe. And we know the rest, the sufferings, the miseries, the trials of the war that this myth once again brought in its wake.

To conclude, I would like to say a few last words. The civilization of dhimmitude does not develop all at once. It is a long process that involves many elements and a specific conditioning. It happens when peoples replace history by myths, when they fight to uphold these destructive myths, more then their own values because they are confused by having transformed lies into truth. They hold to those myths as if they were the only guarantee of their survival, when, in fact, they are the path to destruction. Terrorized by the evidence and teaching of history, those peoples preferred to destroy it rather than to face it. They replace history with childish tales, thus living in amnesia.

=== The end of the speech

* About the author:

Madam BAT YE'OR, author and scholar, born in Egypt. A British citizen living in Switzerland, she is a specialist on the DHIMMIS and "DHIMMITUDE" (a new word which she coined), and the subject of her pioneer research for the past twenty-five years. Author, since 1971, of numerous articles on non-Muslims under Islamic rule, she broke new ground with her book:

THE DHIMMI: JEWS & CHRISTIANS UNDER ISLAM, preface by Jacques Ellul (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press & Associated University Presses, Cranbury, N.J./London/Toronto, 1985), Enlarged English edition.

Her second major work...

LES CHRETIENTES D'ORIENT ENTRE JIHAD ET DHIMMITUDE: VIIe-XXe siecle, preface de Jacques Ellul (Paris, La Cerf, 1991) (English edition published by AUP in early 1996, English title: THE DECLINE OF EASTERN CHRISTIANITY UNDER ISLAM; 7TH TO 20TH CENTURY. FROM JIHAD TO DHIMMITUDE) - Associated University Press, 440 Forsgate Drive, Canbury, New Jersey 08512, tel: (609) 655-4770, 520 pages, cloth and paper cover option... ...established the author's reputation as an innovative thinker in a virgin field of research. The significance of her latest book in French JUIFS ET CHRETIENS SOUS L'ISLAM: LES DHIMMIS FACE AU DEFI INTEGRISTE (Paris, Berg international, 1994) is revealed by its subtitle: The Dhimmis faced with the challenge of Fundamentalism. Here, she covers the period of Turkish rule in the Balkans and analyses contemporary events. An English edition is scheduled for 1997.

======== End - about the author =========

Excerpt from author's interview for daily Politika....

Politika: What is your experience in relation to Dhimmitude having in mind the fact that your are a Jew born in Egypt?

Madam Bat Ye'Or: "I was witness of expulsion of the Jewish community from Egypt (85,000 persons). It was done in the ambient of hatred, terrorism, pillage and robbery. It started in 1945 and had its peak in 1948 and 1956. Anyhow, this is common experience of Jews in the entire Arab world. There used to be some 1,000,000 Jews there. Today only 10,000 remained. I wrote about it in one of my books. Contacts with Arab Christians helped me a lot in my strive to widen the understanding of the problem..."

========= End of the excerpt


To learn more on how the myth of the Muslim tolerance occurred, please open any encyclopedia and look for "EASTERN QUESTION".

To simplify it: The super power of the 19th century, Great Britain, waged a "space game" with the other potential super power: Russia. Where interests of the two crossed was - Balkans (then under Turkish occupation).

It would be most natural that Russia should have the influence in the the area. Most of the subdued Balkan nations (Serbs, Greeks, Rumanians, Bulgarians) are Eastern Orthodox - like Russians. That did not fit British interests. That is how Britain allied itself with Turkey and invented the myth of the Muslim tolerance.

When Turks cut throats, raped women and steal children of Balkan Christians - it was OK for the Brits - it was an expression of tolerance... As long as Russians do not get influence in the Balkans.

The history repeats itself. Super powers play again with the destiny of the Balkan peoples. They play with fire.

The truth belongs to us all.

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Last revised: March 20, 1997