This superbly highlights the danger of the historical revisionism that whitewashes the Ottoman Empire’s sorry record of discrimination against and harassment of non-Muslims. Now the whitewash is being held up as a model for present-day behavior. But since it is a historical fantasy, how can it possibly be implemented in the real world? Islamic law is clear, and it mandates the second-class status and institutionalized humiliation of Christians and Jews. Is that what we should implement to imitate the tolerant Ottomans? For some genuine information about Ottoman “tolerance,” see below.
And as for Esposito’s wolf-crying report about hate crimes against even “moderate Muslims,” remember that he considers the suicide-attack-endorsing jihadist Qaradawi a “moderate.”
From Zaman, with thanks to Anthony:
At a United Nations (UN) seminar, the tolerance that Ottomans showed to people of different religions was held up as an example to be adapted even today. The Ottoman social model in which different religion and nations lived under the same roof for hundreds of years was explained by Iranian philosopher Professor Seyyid Huseyin Nasr who addressed the seminar titled “Confronting Islamophobia: Education for Tolerance and Understanding.” Nasr said, “There is no 1942 in the Islamic world nor is there an Auscwitz.” During World War II, nearly 15,000 Jews were killed by Nazis at Auschwitz, but Jews from Spain escaped the inquisition and were sheltered by Ottomans. They lived with Muslims in peace for years. Nasr pointed this out saying, “European Christians and Jews escaping tyranny were not treated differently in the Ottoman model. ”
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that it is wrong to regard the Islamic world as a single body and that the Islamophobia created by this error should be eliminated as soon as possible.
John Esposito of Georgetown University said prejudice has developed against Muslims and that the opposition to Islam after the September 11th attacks has escalated and seems difficult to get rid of.
The experts speaking at the seminar which was mediated by UN General Secretariat Communication Undersecretary Sahshi Tharoor warned that political leaders, the media, NGOs and international organizations should work to prevent attacks targeting even moderate Muslims.
Annan said in his opening speech that there is a stereotype that Arabs represent the entire Islamic world while in fact the most populous Muslim countries are non-Arab. He used Indonesia and Turkey as examples.
The Secretary-General noted that as is the case in all other religions, modernists and conventionalists exist in the Islamic world and he described Islam as a rich belief that has been separated from its essence by the behavior of some. He added that some people claim Islam and democracy do not get along or that Islam contradicts with modernity and women’s rights. Prejudice grows when groups let their misconceptions about Muslims be expressed, Annan said.
Esposito said that after the end of the Cold War, some Western commentators started to say that Islam formed a threat and a fear that the “Muslims are coming” was spread by these interpretations. Citing numerous examples about Islam enmity in the media and western politics, Esposito said that as a result of these campaigns, hate crimes against Muslims have started to escalate. He said these attacks are made against even moderate Muslim individuals and organizations.
The scholar Bat Yeor notes that the Armenian quest for reforms invalidated their “legal status,” which involved a “contract” (i.e., with their Muslim Turkish rulers). This
…breach…restored to the umma [the Muslim community] its initial right to kill the subjugated minority [the dhimmis], [and] seize their property…
See also here: The Massacres of 1840-1860:
Fueled by Ottoman Turkish machination and socioeconomic/ religious differences, inter-religious massacres ensued in Lebanon and reaped thousands dead with many cities, towns and villages obliterated.
And here, about Egypt:
While there is a mosque at almost every street corner, many cities are without one single church. Also, many churches are falling apart, since obtaining a repair permit was almost impossibility until recently. The 1856 Ottoman Decree causes these problems.
There is much more. Even this article extolling Ottoman tolerance and whitewashing a good deal of contrary evidence has to acknowledge some features that modern Westerners are unlikely to think are all that tolerant:
Jews and Christians had lived in lands ruled by Islam since the time of the prophet Muhammad. Certain rules had evolved to order the relations between Muslim and non-Muslim: Islam was to be dominant; rulers were to be Muslim. Muslims were not allowed to convert to other religions, nor could non-Muslims attempt to convert Muslims. Non-Muslims were to wear distinctive clothing. In various places at various times non-Muslims were also restricted in certain ways. Perhaps the most important of the special regulations was the demand that Christians and Jews pay a special tax, the jizya, that was not paid by Muslims. This tax was paid by adult Christians and Jews who lived in Islamic states. By common belief, it was based on an agreement forged between Christians and Muslims in the first days of Muslim conquest. In return for tolerance of religious practice and the protection of the Islamic state, the non-muslims agreed to pay the tax and to accept the restrictions on their clothing, etc.
I am aware that influential Muslim apologists are preparing full-length whitewashes of the Ottoman record in order to influence the course of the public debate today. It may be time for some equally full-length work to be done to set the record straight.