Shirley W. Madany
It was in 1953, in the seaport city of Latakia, Syria, that I had my first experience of belonging to a minority. Christians in that city belonged to that remnant of early Christianity, which had survived since the days of the early church. They came from families who had refused to take the easy road and convert to Islam when their country was conquered. I had married a “dhimmi,” which is the Arabic name given to a member of the “protected” minority. This minority was made up of Christians and Jews. (The word “dhimmi” is pronounced as if the “dh” was a “th”).
Certainly Christians had defined privileges which allowed them to continue to worship in their own church buildings, and have ordained ministers and priests in the Eastern Orthodox fashion. They were permitted to look after certain civil affairs in their own courts. But they had grown up accepting restricted freedoms. They must keep their faith to themselves. Most importantly they should never try to share Christ with a Muslim friend. This was definitely against the law. Survival thus meant compliance and the payment of a special tax, often in humiliating circumstances. Life was relatively smooth if you minded your own business. Conversion was a one-way street. Anyone was welcome to convert to Islam, but the reverse was considered a crime punishable by death under the Law of Apostasy.
As a Christian brought up in the freedom of Canada, I was distressed by these restrictions. How could people even begin to be Christians if they could not speak boldly about the faith within them? How could you obey God’s commands if this was the law of the land? It was impossible. “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” Romans 10:9 (NIV) Similar conditions were faced by Peter and John as they stood before the Jewish authorities. They were told not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4: 19, 20) (NIV).
It is not difficult to see how this kind of “protection” would ultimately change the very personality of an entire group of people. “The dhimmi’s consciousness—like that of the hostage—moves in a context of vulnerability which annuls the notion of right and condemns him to exude gratitude for being tolerated. The dhimmi is incompatible with the modern principles of inalienable and equal human rights.” This quote is from THE DECLINE OF EASTERN CHRISTIANITY UNDER ISLAM: From Jihad to Dhimmitude, by Bat Ye’or, available in the USA from Associated University Presses, 440 Forsgate Drive, Cranbury, NJ 08512.
This scholarly work is fully documented. It was originally published in the French language and appeared in 1996 in an English translation with a foreword by the well-known Protestant Jacques Ellul. The author has spent many years producing a work which is focused on the effect that Islam has had upon the nations, and peoples it has conquered. Another quote will give you an idea of the masterful way in which she portrays more than one thousand years of history:
“In the lands conquered by jihad (i.e., all the Muslim countries except Arabia), the Peoples of the Book [Jews and Christians] formed majorities, among whom the Arabs of the first wave of Islamization and the Turks of the second wave were in the minority. Presumably the complex and little-known process that transformed those majorities into minorities covered some three or four centuries, whose result—the minority condition—is taken as its starting point.”
The author concluded that “dhimmitude” is a “historical, political, social and geographical fact.” And she makes a point that the Islamization of so many nations could not have taken place without the simultaneous working of two factors: “a conquering militarist minority” and the betrayals and active cooperation of ambitious renegades.
It is to be hoped that these two words, “dhimmi” and “dhimmitude” will become familiar to your ears, just as you have undoubtedly absorbed “jihad” and “shari’a” into your conscious vocabulary. Already there are signs of a new dhimmitude developing in America. Can you recognize it?
From time to time one is amazed to hear of some atrocious denial of the historicity of the Holocaust. Keeping that attitude in mind, consider a quote from a recently published book by the World Council of Churches in Geneva, Switzerland, entitled RELIGION, LAW AND SOCIETY: A Christian-Muslim Discussion. One of the Muslim speakers, Dr. Walid Saif of the University of Jordan, had the nerve to make this comment: “To my mind, even to discuss the subject under the label of ‘rights of non- Muslims’ is misleading and probably counterproductive, because it may imply that non-Muslims in an Islamic state are signaled out as being a special category with somehow different status.” Centuries of history pointedly describe that less than second-class status of minorities in Islam!
How many Christians on tour in the Holy Land and Egypt have discovered first hand the difficulties faced by their Christian brothers and sisters? When the Egyptian Christian wants to make some minor but much-needed repairs to his church building he finds that he must get the permission from authorities who often turn down the request. Live in a Christian community in any Muslim country and experience how misleading are Dr. Saif’s comments.
In the early days of their conquest, which the Arabs euphemistically called “liberation,” conversion to Islam was the only sure way to escape the humiliation, and the unjust taxation forced upon them by the application of shari’a law. Later on, during the Ottoman occupation of Eastern Europe, the Christian population of these areas experienced the ruthless snatching of their sons for a lifetime of service in that special army called the “janissaries.” As the author of THE DECLINE OF EASTERN CHRISTIANITY UNDER ISLAM puts it: “Young Christian children abducted during “razzias” (raids), allocated within the “quint” of war booty, or by the “devshirme” (recruiting of Christian children), were reduced to slavery and converted to Islam. Subjected to an intense military and religious education, they constituted the Muslim power’s elite troops. Blind and fanatical tools of the sultan, they became the cruelest persecutors of the Christian population. The janissary incarnates the quintessence of dhimmitude, brought to its perfection.”
The early missionaries to the Middle East were under no delusions about the debilitating effects of 400 years of Ottoman oppression. What a pity then that some modern missionaries have gone out to this field, filled with zeal to initiate some new way to open things up, but ill equipped because of their inadequate grasp of history. They were inclined to call Eastern Christians a stumbling block to their work. They could not understand that those Eastern Christians lacked the benefits of the Reformation and the true freedom of expression which the Western world has enjoyed as a fruit of Christianity.
Considering the increasing Islamic presence in the Western world, Christians need to learn some of the basic facts about the Islamic conquest that went on for centuries. They need to grasp what “dhimmitude” really means. Is it too much to hope that in our atmosphere of freedom we may expect some Muslims to acknowledge this dark part of their history? As we see mosques springing up everywhere in Western Europe, Canada and the USA, we need to remember that there is no similar freedom for Christians living in Muslim lands.
Perhaps the similarity between the new dhimmitude and political correctness can be seen. We all need to recognize the terribly debilitating nature of “dhimmitude.” To ignore the past is a sure recipe for repeating its injustices and perpetuating oppressive conditions for minorities.
Bat Ye’or has produced another timely book, titled ISLAM AND DHIMMITUDE: Where Civilizations Collide, published in 2002. It can be obtained from the same address in Cranbury, NJ, referred to earlier. In thirty years of study, she has spent a great part of her life on what she obviously considers a most urgent subject. After reading either or both of her works, you will soon be able to detect the creeping effect of a new dhimmitude which is coming upon the West. Either through misguided praise, or heavy silence, various authorities give credence to the tenets of Islam or turn their back on the centuries of burdened Christians who have struggled to survive in the atmosphere and environment of an Islamic country. Be on your guard for the new dhimmitude.
Bat Ye’or has been on a short tour of the U.S., speaking about jihad and dhimmitude on college campuses. She remarked that she was stunned by the reception she received at certain of her addresses. Quoting a briefing by Rod Dreher in the National Review Online, here is what she said after speaking at Georgetown, a most prestigious Catholic university in our nation’s capital. “About three-quarters of the students who turned up to hear her speech were Muslims, and they responded abusively. All they could say was that she was defaming Islam, they couldn’t argue the facts with her.” Later when some of the Jews and Christians present came up to thank her and her husband she asked them: “Why did you not speak? Why did you let us stand alone?” This brilliant historian then warned them that this is going to be our downfall.
As another example of our lack of historical knowledge she also said: “I spoke to many Americans here, important clergymen, bishops and others. They didn’t even know that in the Muslim tradition, Jesus is a prophet who paved the way to Islam. How can they meet this challenge when they don’t understand the nature of it?”
We hope this has left you with some serious thoughts about our future as a nation.