Stephen Schwartz has published a piece entitled "Reductio ad Jihadam" in Tech Central Station today. Although Schwartz does not name me in the piece, he calls into question some of the core premises of my work, so I feel compelled to reply -- although I am somewhat reluctant to do so. Stephen Schwartz has interpreted my earlier attempts to engage him in dialogue as personal attacks, which was unfortunate for several reasons: they were not personal attacks by any stretch of the imagination, but sincere questions about assertions he has made publicly; for Schwartz to have characterized them as attacks and refused to answer them only further poisoned an already poisonous public discourse about Islam, and left the questions, which I still consider important, unanswered. It was also disheartening to see a prominent and influential moderate Muslim like Schwartz engage in the same reply-by-smear tactics that groups like CAIR, which he has fought indefatigably, employ with such skill.
Some people also have asked me why I should spend any time at all taking issue with Schwartz, since he does such good work opposing the jihadist depredations of the Saudis, and is after all "on our side." I am not in the least interested in denying or diminishing his excellent work in exposing the Saudis for what they are, and I have great respect for his courage and persistence in doing so, and high regard for him personally. But because his writings in other areas are just as influential as is his work on the Saudis, it is important to set the record straight on matters where his contribution is, in my view, less accurate and less beneficial overall to the anti-jihad resistance. The anti-jihad resistance is in no way aided by ignoring the uncomfortable aspects of Islamic history and law.
If this response were to initiate a mutually respectful dialogue and exchange with Stephen Schwartz, that would be all to the good, and would no doubt serve to illuminate many matters of pressing moment in today's political debate. But at this point I have no hope of that.
Schwartz begins by decrying "a certain style of popular argument" that "seeks to win debating points by associating any adversary, especially if the latter is a conservative, with Nazism or fascism." He then goes on to assert that
A new and comparable trope has emerged from the discussion of Islam, which could be called the "reductio ad Jihadam." This is an argument that forces every debate over any aspect of the 1,400 year history of the religion of Muhammad into a framework in which Islam is said to be inseparable from, exclusively defined by, and universally characterized by violence against non-Muslims.
All right. No one I know who is doing any serious work about Islam and jihad actually does this, so this has a whiff of the straw man to me, but let's move on:
There are variations on this metonymy, which might be called the "reductio ad shariam" and the "reductio ad dhimmam." In these instances, Islam exists only to support the exclusive application of Islamic law, or shariah, to all residents of a Muslim-majority society, and/or to impose the dhimma, a contract for the rule of non-Muslims under Muslim authority.
Once again, Schwartz is setting up a straw man. "Islam exists only to support the exclusive application of Islamic law?" This seems to be a bit of a reductio of his own; no scholar of Sharia or dhimmitude that is worth his or her salt is really saying it.
But in characterizing expositions of the dhimma in this way, he casts aspersions upon the legitimate work of people like Bat Ye'or and A. S. Tritton, for he seems to allow for no genuine research in this area -- it is all exaggerated:
In reality, jihadism and devotion to shariah as an exclusive legal system are rare doctrines among today's Muslims. Were they not, the present conflict between radical Islam and the world would be conducted, from the extremist side, by armies and nations, rather than by small conspiracies. Serious extremist movements are visible only in Saudi Arabia, Iraq (where they are imported, mainly from the south), Iran, Pakistan, regions of Nigeria and Malaysia, and a tiny number of war zones like Chechnya and southern Thailand.
Really? Not Indonesia, where jihadists used the tsunami to agitate for Sharia rule, and threatened non-Muslim aid workers? Not the Philippines, where the struggle between the government and the jihadists is edging toward all-out war? Not Egypt, in which even Egyptian writers complain that the venerable Al-Azhar University "encourages extremism and terror"? Not Uzbekistan, where jihadists bombed the American and Israeli embassies? Not Bangladesh, where jihadists threaten to bring about the "Talibanization" of the country? Not even Afghanistan, where the Taliban itself still roams all too freely? I would respectfully suggest that "jihadism and devotion to shariah" is a bit more extensive that Schwartz claims.
Everywhere else belief that jihad and exclusive shariah are central to Islam is a minority opinion among Muslim believers. That is, except in the U.S., where both the majority of American Sunni Muslims who have submitted to the domination of the Wahhabi lobby, and a large number of non-Muslims who have developed hostility toward all Muslims, share the conviction that Islam without violence and imposed conformity are impossibilities.
I am heartened to the extent that Schwartz is correct that the idea that "jihad and exclusive shariah are central to Islam is a minority opinion among Muslim believers." However, ultimately it is not so much a question of whether an opinion is held by a majority or a minority, but of the basis of that opinion. If violent jihad and Sharia rule are mainstream elements of Islam, and jihadists can prove that, then they can treat the majority of Muslims who are not currently waging violent jihad as one large recruiting ground. And this is what we see happening -- notably in Lackawanna, New York, where an Al-Qaeda recruiter convinced six quite secularized Muslims to go to Afghanistan to join Al-Qaeda. He did it using the Qur'an and Sunnah. If that can be done again, and it most certainly can, then it makes no difference that a majority of Muslims don't see jihad as central now. Unless that majority has a sustainable theological basis within Islam for what it believes, those beliefs are vulnerable before those who do have Islamic theology and law on their side. As Ibn Warraq says and as I have repeated many times, there are moderate Muslims, but Islam itself is not moderate. And not even a majority of moderates can make it so, unless those moderates can appeal to Islamic texts to convince jihadists to stop waging jihad. I've seen claims that this has been done, but no hard evidence.
Reductio ad dhimmam is, in the West, a particularly popular expression of this fallacious style of analysis. According to this theory, Islam is defined by the contract of Umar, or dhimma, which dictated relations between Muslims and "People of the Book" -- a group enumerated in Qur'an as comprising Jews, Christians, and an unknown group known as Sabaeans, but later extended by historical conditions to include Zoroastrians, Hindus, and others.
Once again, Schwartz is setting up a straw man to knock down instead of dealing with what scholars of dhimmitude really say. No one says "Islam is defined by the contract of Umar." But that contract did exist, and it was repressive, and jihadists would like to reinstitute it today. I established those three points with abundant evidence in my book Onward Muslim Soldiers.
The contract originally mandated protection of those who received God's revelations before Muhammad. Under Muslim rule in India, Hindus were shielded in maintaining a religion based on a multitude of idols. But the contract of Umar, and dhimma, attract even fewer enthusiasts in today's Muslim world than jihadism and belief in exclusive shariah. The contract of Umar is currently propounded by advocates of an Islamic legal regime, but without much seriousness, and now obtains only in Iran.
Right. Although it would obtain in Saudi Arabia, except that non-Muslims aren't even allowed to practice their faiths there. And contrary to Schwartz's reductive analysis, elements of it persist, as cultural and sometimes legal hangovers, all over the Islamic world: in Egypt, where the noted democracy activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim has faced pressure from the government after speaking out about the oppression of Christians; in Jordan, where a Christian widow has had to struggle to keep custody of her children in the face of a spurious claim that her late husband converted to Islam before his death -- and despite the king's support; in Pakistan, where innumerable Christians have been terrorized and victimized by Sharia blasphemy laws; in Indonesia, where Christians face all manner of official harassment; and elsewhere. All this is the consequence of viewing Christians as despised inferiors, which comes from Sharia provisions on the dhimma. It is true that Sharia is not fully enforced today outside of Saudi Arabia and Iran; it is not true that that means that Christians live as equals in Muslim nations. Some of my close friends are Syrian Christians who saw that there was no future for them in that "secular" state; they had come up against discrimination too often.
The provisions of the dhimma were restrictive in some ways. They included a bar on the construction of new religious structures, whether monasteries, convents, churches, or synagogues. In most Muslim dominions, this regulation was not strictly enforced. For example, after the Jews were expelled from Christian Spain and Portugal in the 15th century, they were welcomed into Morocco and the Ottoman empire. Many new synagogues were then established in the Islamic world.
It was not strictly or uniformly enforced; that is true. Sometimes this was because of Islamic legal rulings establishing that dhimmis were only forbidden to build new house of worship in areas where Muslims were a majority, but could do so where they were a majority. But in any case, a law that is not enforced is no less a law. It remains on the books to be enforced by any ruler with the will and means to do so. And that is the problem that no amount of anecdotal evidence of good treatment from Schwartz can erase: antebellum Southern U.S. history is full of instances of slaves being well treated. But no matter how well treated, a slave is still a slave, and no matter how comfortable life may have been for dhimmis here or there, they were still dhimmis. They never enjoyed the full rights of citizens.
In fact, Schwartz grants this:
However, public manifestations of faiths other than Islam were typically restricted, and solicitation of conversion forbidden. Crosses and Christian holy books could not be displayed on the roads or in the markets controlled by Muslims. Non-Muslims could not be buried in close proximity to the Muslim dead. Many of these regulations had a political flavor. The granting of sanctuary to spies or other enemies of the Muslims was naturally forbidden.
The contract also required Jews and Christians to show respect for Muslims by standing in their presence, and to refrain from dressing or parting their hair in the manner of Muslims. They could not ride horses, carry arms, or lift their hands to threaten Muslims. They were forbidden to use Arabic calligraphy on their seals, sell fermented beverages (a ban also enforced inconsistently), or build houses higher than those of Muslims. Nor could they employ Muslims as servants. At the same time, the People of the Book maintained order within their communities, settling their own disputes so long as Muslims were not parties to the disagreement. Islamic law was considered to apply only to Muslims. Because the protected communities were defined religiously, their clergy had the right to tax them for their collective needs. Their chief divines -- Christian bishops and Jewish rabbis -- were functionaries of the Islamic state.
In return for the protection of the Muslim order, and exemption from military service, the People of the Book paid a poll tax, or jizya, collected by the priests and rabbis. Acceptance of Islam by members of the protected communities would free them from this burden. Under the contract, the People of the Book could not dissuade their kinfolk from entering Islam, in which case as new Muslims they would cease to be protected and would assume ordinary rights and duties. But numerous Islamic rulers, however intense their devotion to the faith, found it convenient to encourage the Jews and Christians to remain outside Islam, as a financial resource.
It is good of Schwartz to acknowledge all this. I should note that on various occasions, Jews and Christians were not just "encouraged" to remain outside Islam, but were flogged if they wanted to convert to Islam: too many converts would diminish jizya revenue and destroy the tax base. Schwartz can find this in a biography of Muhammad highly regarded by Muslims, Maxime Rodinson's Muhammad, p. 296.
Certain non-Muslim commentators have criticized the contract for protection of the People of the Book, on the grounds that it imposed second-class citizenship on Jews and Christians. These critics seldom note that the concept of citizenship as we now know it did not exist until the 18th century, when it was proclaimed in France. Certainly, until after the French Revolution, Jews had no citizenship in Christendom, even in such enlightened societies as Holland, which welcomed Jews as residents but maintained legal curbs on them. Until the 19th century no Muslims had liberties of any kind, including residence, in Christian Europe, except as diplomats and others possessing a safe-conduct. Indeed, at present, restrictions on minority religious rights are a significant problem in Sudan and Saudi Arabia, but are by no means found only in Muslim lands: Catholics have very limited rights in Orthodox Russia.
Students of Hugh Fitzgerald will recognize that last little rhetorical trick. What do we call that, class? All together now: tu quoque! In other words, Christians did worse things, therefore what Muslims did wasn't so bad. Well, it doesn't follow; nor is the development of the concept of citizenship particularly important to this argument: today there is a thing called the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It guarantees minority religious rights and freedom of conscience. Are Christian states, even "Orthodox Russia" (which is hardly Orthodox in any meaningful way these days), dissenting from it? No. There are indubitably violators all over, but only Islamic states saw fit to draft an alternative document, The Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam. This was adopted by the member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference -- that is, all 56 Islamic nations in the world today. This document declares that "all the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Shari'ah." What was that Schwartz was saying about the idea that Sharia is "central to Islam is a minority opinion among Muslim believers"?
One clause in the contract of Umar discouraged the imposition of walled Jewish urban quarters, or ghettoes, in the Islamic world, by requiring that the gates of the protected communities be always left open. Umar also decreed the expulsion of non-Muslims from the vicinity of the Holy Places in the Arabian Peninsula. But this stricture was not completely enforced before the 18th century, and even then unevenly. Christians stayed in Mecca and Medina until the final triumph of Wahhabism in the 1920s, and a large number of Jews remained in Yemen up to the 1950s.
Again: as long as a law is a law, it can be enforced. To point out that it was not enforced says something about human nature, but nothing about Islam. If Muslims are going to live in peace with non-Muslims, these laws must be rejected as such, in so thoroughgoing a fashion that no Sharia proponent will ever think of reviving them. I do not believe this will happen; but if it does not, these things could return at any time, no matter how good Christians had it in Mecca before the 1920's.
After recently writing on Sufism, or Islamic spirituality, on TCS and in The Weekly Standard I received a handful of communications from self-styled experts on Islam who argued that because Sufism is part of Islam, this mystical tradition cannot be divorced from violent jihad, the imposition of shariah, and the subjection of non-Muslims to the dhimma.
I did not send Schwartz any message after he wrote about Sufism, and I don't know who did. But this makes me wish that I had sent him this crystalline refutation of his assertion that Sufism is intrinsically tolerant and peaceful -- not simply because it is part of Islam, but because Sufi leaders past and present -- including the great Al-Ghazali -- have clearly affirmed the principles of violent jihad and the inferiority of the dhimmis. I would have been interested to see what Schwartz would have made of the quotations there adduced from respected and mainstream Sufi authorities -- but since he has declined to discuss such matters with non-Muslims, evidently unless a Muslim brings him those quotations, Schwartz will not deign to reply.
And that's why a reply from him is all the more necessary: Schwartz's incomplete and inadequate picture of Sufism was widely reproduced, and clearly gave people a good deal of hope -- at last, here are some Muslims we can deal with. I am all for hope, but I am not for false hope. False hope just leaves those who engage in it vulnerable and more likely to be blindsided by their enemies. Neither Schwartz nor anyone else should purvey it.
The dhimma is now held out by a demagogic element in the West as a terrifying symbol of Islamic domination, and Western advocates of any rational approach to Islam short of a crusader war are regularly insulted as "dhimmis," or people who have surrendered to Muslim rule. One almost expects some of the anti-dhimma fanatics to label President George W. Bush a "dhimmi," but that may be left to the same liberal Democrats who proclaim that the democratic election in Iraq will lay the foundation for a theocracy. In reality, the two abusive propositions are the same, so there is no reason conservative Islam-haters should not adopt such an attitude about the situation in Baghdad, but for whatever reason, they have not.
It's hard for me to ascribe concern about the dhimma to a "demagogic element in the West" when Walid Fitaihi of the Islamic Society of Boston said in 2001 that Jews "will be humiliated wherever they are found, unless they are protected under a covenant with Allah..." The dhimma is precisely that covenant of "protection," mandating discrimination and second-class status. Is Fitaihi a non-Muslim demagogue? Are Sheikhs Yusuf Salameh and Ibrahim al-Mahdi of the Palestinian Authority, both of whom have recently called for "turning Christians and Jews into dhimmis under Muslim rule"? And is it really only "liberal Democrats who proclaim that the democratic election in Iraq will lay the foundation for a theocracy"? Didn't "one of Iraq's most powerful Shia leaders, Grand Ayatollah Mohammad al-Fayad," issue a statement "demanding that the Koran be the reference point for all government legislation"? And now it seems they have the votes to do it.
I do not support the dhimma. As a Sufi, I believe it is a part of the Islamic past that is best left to the past. It should be abolished in Iran and outside consideration elsewhere. Muslims must prove respect for all religious believers by guaranteeing them the same rights as followers of Islam, everywhere that Islam is the majority religion. This is reality in many countries, ranging from Morocco to Indonesia.
This is a fine sentiment, but is it really a reality? Let's take Morocco and Indonesia, since Schwartz mentions them. The International Coalition for Religious Freedom says this about Morocco: "Islamic law and tradition calls for strict punishment of any Muslim who converts to another faith. Any attempt to induce a Muslim to convert is similarly illegal. Foreign missionaries either limit their proselytizing to non-Muslims or conduct their work quietly. According to the State Department, in 1995, at least seven Moroccans were arrested, and in some cases sentenced to jail terms, for offenses related to their Christianity. In addition, a Salvadoran man and an American family were deported for evangelistic activities." Perhaps Schwartz can provide some figures of how many Muslims were arrested in Morocco for proselytizing among Christians.
And as for Indonesia: "A 1969 regulation states that local residents must grant their permission and a license must be obtained from the Ministry of Religion before a place of worship can be built. Some Christians claimed that this law was aimed at preventing them from building more churches. House worship is banned unless approved by the local community and a regional office of the Ministry of Religious Affairs. Proselytizing and door to door witnessing are forbidden."
The "same rights as followers of Islam"? Really? I am all for the idea that "Muslims must prove respect for all religious believers by guaranteeing them the same rights as followers of Islam, everywhere that Islam is the majority religion," but this isn't true in the two geographical extremes of the Islamic world that you name. Is it anywhere in between? Some places are better than others, but nowhere do Christians and other non-Muslims enjoy full equality with Muslims. If there is, I hope Schwartz will specify where it is -- but it certainly isn't Morocco or Indonesia.
But I also oppose the use of the dhimma, a historical system of regulation of religious communities, as a pretext for prejudice against Islam. Those obsessed with the reductiones ad jihadam, shariam, et dhimmam cannot answer many important historical questions, except by the citation of marginal and mendacious works:
OK. Unlike some people, I am happy to respond to challenges of my positions. Answers follow.
If Islamic authorities, as under the Ottomans, were compelled by shariah and even, according to some, assisted by the Sufis, in carrying out massive forcible conversions, how did so many Greeks, both in Asia and Europe, maintain their Christianity? There were some Muslim conversions among the Greeks, but they were few. There were more among the Bulgarians and Macedonians, and far more among Bosnians and Albanians, where they were motivated by religious sincerity, according to believers; by a desire to maintain landlord status, according to some, and by a need to avoid the tax on non-Muslims under the dhimma, according to others. But Christians survived under the Ottomans in the millions. Romanians were ruled by the Turks for hundreds of years, and almost none accepted Islam. Hungarians were also conquered, and governed by the Ottomans, for many decades, but did not become Muslims. How could this happen if forced conversions were widespread? Recourse to aggrieved nationalist polemics on these topics is insufficient. (I will deal with the Christian Armenians and their conflict with the Turks below.)
Schwartz knows as well as I do that forced conversions are forbidden by Islamic law, and are not an essential or inherent part of the dhimma. Nor is anyone saying anything to the contrary. Certainly there were forced conversions, but there was never a general program meant to induce them. Indeed, conversions were sometimes discouraged by flogging, as noted above. The survival of non-Muslim communities in Muslim states is not at issue. Institutionalized second-class status for those communities, as Schwartz himself delineates above, is.
If the dhimma dictated that Jews and others should be strictly humiliated under Islamic rule, why did the Ottoman sultans rescue the expelled Jews from Spain and Portugal, provide them with economic resources, and allow them to construct new synagogues all over the empire? The Ottoman sultan Selim II appointed the Portuguese Jew Joseph Nasi the ruler of a number of islands in the Aegean sea, including Naxos and Andros. How would this be allowed if the Ottomans were rigid adherents of the dhimma?
The Jews' entry into Islamic lands would easily be allowed, because of the tax boon that non-Muslims provided to the Ottoman state -- as Schwartz himself notes above. As for Joseph Nasi, he is not singular: another Jew, Samuel ibn Naghrila, served as a vizier in Muslim Spain -- that is, until Muslims rioted in Granada, killing hundreds of Jews over this "breach of Sharia." (For details, Schwartz can consult Richard Fletcher, Moorish Spain, p. 108 -- a book I'm sure he will agree is neither "marginal" nor "mendacious.")
In the 19th century, the Ottoman dominion of Mount Lebanon, i.e. the later country of Lebanon, which had a large Christian population, was divided and governed by Christian Maronites and Druzes, the latter being members of an esoteric religion derived from Shia Islam. In 1861, the Ottomans agreed to a reunification of the country under a non-Lebanese Christian governor. How could this take place if Muslim-Christian relations were uniformly oppressive? One of the most famous governors of Lebanon was an Albanian Catholic, Pashko Vasa Shkodrani.
It could take place because, as Schwartz correctly noted above, in areas populated by dhimmis, "the People of the Book maintained order within their communities, settling their own disputes so long as Muslims were not parties to the disagreement. Islamic law was considered to apply only to Muslims." These Lebanese districts were populated almost entirely by Christians, so they had a Christian governor. But in relation to the Muslims in the empire, that governor and those he governed were still second-class citizens. In the Christian districts, a man might behave like a king; but when he ventured into Muslim areas, he still had to step off the sidewalk to allow a Muslim to pass.
Lebanon is seldom mentioned by those obsessed with reductio ad dhimmam, because it offers so many counter-examples to their theory. Much more propagandistic energy has been expended in libelling the Ottoman record in the Balkans, including that of the Sufis who resided there. I should recommend to such "scholars" an unfortunately obscure classic of serious religious ethnology, F. W. Hasluck's Christianity and Islam Under the Sultans, published in 1929. This volume, ignored by the "dhimma" experts, demonstrates through direct observation and record how Sufis protected and honored Christian spiritual monuments and how Christians adopted the habit of visiting Islamic shrines.
I haven't ignored Hasluck's two-volume work at all. In fact, it is right here on the shelf in my office, and I read it with pleasure. It is an intriguing and often engaging record of folk spirituality and popular religion, documenting, as Schwartz notes, considerable interaction between Muslims and non-Muslims. Hasluck was an archaeologist, not a historian or student of Islamic law, but he was an honest and thorough scholar -- honest and thorough enough to note that Muslims who converted to Christianity were frequently killed: "The Turkish law was explicit and their doom, if they persisted, was certain" (Hasluck, vol. II, p. 372). Why would this be? Didn't the "Turkish law" guarantee non-Muslims "the same rights as followers of Islam"? If not, why not?
Many changes took place in the Ottoman empire during the 19th century, and one was the general abolition of the dhimma under a series of reforms known as the Tanzimat. But getting rid of the dhimma meant that Jews and Christians were subject to service in the Ottoman, i.e. Muslim army. This provoked rebellions in 1844, in such locations as the towns of Prishtina in Turkish-ruled Kosovo and Tetovo and Skopje in Ottoman Macedonia, where Christians opposed the Tanzimat and the new demand for army service. They rebelled not against the dhimma, but against its removal. They were then granted exemption from military responsibilities. How does this square with the picture of Islamic treatment of religious minorities as an undiluted system of suppression?
This is how: they were afraid that if the dhimma were removed, they would have no protection at all, and would be massacred outright. And they saw that their "emancipation" was hollow, as related by the acting British Consul in Sarajevo, James Zohrab, in an 1860 letter:
The hatred of the Christians toward the Bosniak Mussulmans is intense. During a period of nearly 300 years they were subjected to much oppression and cruelty. For them no other law but the caprice of their masters existed. In the belief that the direct administration of the Porte would materially ameliorate their position, they were induced, in 1850, to lend a hearty assistance to Omer Pasha, and to their aid must be attributed the rapid success of the Turkish arms. Their hopes were disappointed....Their hopes had been raised high to be cruelly disappointed; their pecuniary position was aggravated, while their social position was but slightly improved....Oppression cannot now be carried on as openly as formerly, but it must not be supposed that, because the Government employés do not generally appear as the oppressors, the Christians are well treated and protected. (Quoted in Bat Ye'or, The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam, p. 423.)Schwartz continues:
Albanians had long included a small community called laramani, or crypto-Catholics, in which the heads of families became Muslims, but the rest of the family remained Catholic. This phenomenon was much more controversial among the Roman clergy, who criticized the male laramani for accepting Islam, than the Ottoman authorities. Typically, laramani became Muslims because they did not live in a money economy and could not pay taxes under the dhimma. With the coming of the Tanzimat, some 8,000 of them chose to reaffirm their primordial Christianity in 1845. After a legal controversy within the Ottoman bureaucracy, they were permitted to return to their ancestral Christian faith. How does this conform to a universally evil vision of Muslim-Christian relations? And what does it say about the claim, heard widely in the West, that apostasy from Islam was universally punished by death? (Source for the events of 1844-45: Gasper Gjini, The Shkup-Prizren [Catholic] Diocese Through [the] Centuries, Prizren, 1999, based on ecclesiastical archives.)Apostasy is punishable by death under Islamic law. Like any law, it is not always enforced. And obviously a case of pseudo-converts such as the Laramani, who were regularly visited by disguised Jesuit priests and clearly maintained their Christianity in secret, would raise legal difficulties revolving around the question of whether or not they were ever really Muslims at all. But the resolution of this case doesn't change Islamic law, or the current fear in which those who leave Islam must live -- as documented in UN testimony that can be found in my book The Myth of Islamic Tolerance.
It has been stated in some polemics that conflicts between the Turks and Armenians, which broke out late in the 19th century, represented a revolt against the dhimma, even after the dhimma had been done away with. The Armenian national rebellion aimed at an independent Armenian state, not equal rights under the Ottomans. "National oppression" should not be conflated with "religious suppression." Armenians may have chafed under some aspects of the dhimma, but the old system provided them with a Christian ecclesiastical and governing authority of their own, separate from that of the Greeks, who otherwise represented Christians -- as well as the previously-mentioned exemption from service in war. The ensuing massacres of Armenians by the disorganized Turkish authorities were unquestionably criminal. But Western pressure and anti-Ottoman nationalist agitation had contributed to the chaotic state of the Ottoman regime at the time the Armenian massacres took place. Up to a million Armenians still live in Turkey.
A "revolt against the dhimma, even after the dhimma had been done away with"? Sure. See Zohrab, above, and the data about present-day anti-Christian discrimination in Muslim lands, for evidence that elements of the dhimma are distressingly persistent. "'National oppression' should not be conflated with 'religious suppression'"? Sure. But the Armenian genocides were unquestionably fueled by religious fervor stirred up by Islamic clerics. In 1895, in the town of Urfa, home to a sizable Christian minority, the Armenians asked (after enduring a siege that dragged on for two months) for protection from the government. In response, the Turks slaughtered all the men in the town -- because the Christians had violated the dhimma, and thus had no protection. One group of Armenian youths was taken to a sheikh, who "had them thrown down on their backs and held by their hands and feet. Then, in the words of an observer, he recited verses of the Koran and 'cut their throats after the Mecca rite of sacrificing sheep.'" A contingent of troops (along with a mob of enflamed civilians) stormed the cathedral, where a large crowd had gathered for sanctuary. Crying, "Call upon Christ to prove Himself a greater prophet than Muhammad," they murdered the men and burned the women and children alive in the cathedral. Eight thousand men, women, and children were dead in Urfa by the time the afternoon bugle call signaled that the troops' work was done for the day. (See Lord Kinross, The Ottoman Centuries: The Rise and Fall of the Turkish Empire, pp. 559-60).
Finally, it is alleged that under the dhimma, Jews and Christians never had standing within the Islamic legal system. However, Salonica: City of Ghosts, a new book by Mark Mazower, an expert in Greek and Balkan studies, recounts the remarkable history of the eponymous port-city on the Aegean. It notes some curious facts. Salonica, until it passed from Turkish to Greek control at the end of the first world war, was overwhelmingly made up of Sephardic Jews. It functioned as an autonomous municipality under the Ottomans, with justice dispensed by shariah courts, Jewish rabbinical courts, and Christian ecclesiastical courts, according to the religion of those involved. Christians were dissatisfied because they had to pay bribes to get favorable rulings in the "Greek" courts, and had no standing in the Jewish courts. Thus, some of them turned to the shariah courts for justice. This hardly supports the argument of unmitigated injustice of the Islamic rule over Christians.
No, but once again it's simply not on topic. Each community had its court: that is indeed Islamic law for dhimmis. That law is plain, and it allows non-Muslims a certain measure of autonomy. But were Christians in Salonica equal to Muslims? By no means. Was it surprising that they would turn to Islamic courts if denied justice in their own? Of course not -- any more than it would be surprising for any underling denied justice to appeal to an authority higher than the one who had denied him. How many Muslims, meanwhile, appealed to Christian or Jewish courts? If not, why not?
In a subsequent contribution, I plan to address the contributions of the Islamic philosopher al-Ghazali to Sufism, his view of the dhimma, and his immense influence on Jewish mysticism.
Great. I look forward to it. I hope you will address Al-Ghazali's endorsement of violent jihad and second-class dhimmi status for non-Muslims, documented here.
I will also discuss the history of "Jewish Sufism," a phenomenon commented upon by Paul Fenton, a scholar who has written quite bitterly against the dhimma. The aim of those obsessed with reductiones ad jihadam, shariam, et dhimmam is to turn the agenda of the West away from the liberation of Muslims from extremism, and toward the destruction of Islam in the name of protecting Christians and others.
On the contrary, I have never endorsed calls for the "destruction of Islam," calls which I believe are genocidal and impractical, and I have been bitterly attacked and cravenly misrepresented for refusing to do so. I am all for the "liberation of Muslims from extremism," but how is this to be done? That is a topic for another time, but surely it cannot be accomplished by whitewashing Islamic law and history.
But regardless of the strictures of Islamic law, Jews, Christians, and Muslims interacted intellectually and spiritually for many centuries. They can do so again without conflict, and while maintaining the integrity of their faiths. Neither should think of conquering the other. That is why reductive arguments are so dangerous for all, whether they bear the mark of jihad or of the crusades.
Interaction is indisputable, but interaction does not equal equality. I hope Schwartz will address that in future communiques, and explain how he intends to convince his fellow Muslims that they shouldn't "think of conquering the other."