M. Cherif Bassiouni, Distinguished Research Professor of Law Emeritus and President Emeritus, International Human Rights Law Institute, DePaul University, is not as bad as some. He does, after all, acknowledge that for more than a millennium, the four schools of Sunni jurisprudence have recognized that death is a suitable punishment for apostasy — from Islam, bien entendu, the Only True Religion.
Apostates from other faiths, to Islam, have been encouraged, not least by the constant threat of death. See K. S. Lal, among other historians, for what happened to tens of millions of Hindus under Muslim rule. Apostates from other faiths have also been encouraged by the threat of force, or the fate of being forced to endure conditions of life that, over time, many Christians and Jews and — as honorary members of the Ahl al-Kitab — Zoroastrians, escaped in the only way they could, by converting to Islam. Why, M. Cherif Bassiouni, presumably of Moroccan (Berber) descent, should perhaps begin to ponder — why not? — about the conditions that caused Berbers to become Islamized (and a great many to be arabized as well, forcibly or otherwise) in what had been a Christianized North Africa. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine, he of Hippo, was a Berber. This took place after the Arabs invaded, bringing or rather imposing “the gift of Islam” (as Azar Nafisi ironically puts it in some of her public readings and talks).
But M. Cherif Bassiouni, Distinguished Research Professor of Law Emeritus and President Emeritus, International Human Rights Law Institute, DePaul University, is illogical in pretending that his own personal opposition to death for apostates from Islam somehow modifies or weakens the fact that Islam itself teaches and inculcates (for the teaching is not so much teaching as repeated, and quite effective, brainwashing, from cradle to grave) the notion that those who leave Islam, and especially those who do not leave quietly but openly give voice to their apostasy, are to be treated as traitors, as defectors from the Army of Islam.
He knows this, and he even states this, more or less. But then he becomes furious, with ill-concealed hysteria, when he is asked to forthrightly admit this, and to stop hinting, or promising, that somehow his view, a view no doubt shared by some others — especially those keenly aware of how non-Muslims are now finding out about Islam, reading about it, going to Islamic websites, reading the works of such articulate apostates as Ibn Warraq, Ali Sina, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and the book that is about to be published by Wafa Sultan. They are also consulting not the works of the apologists, either the venal espositos or the ignorantly tendentious armstrongs, but rather the works of Snouck Hurgronje, and Henri Lammens, and Joseph Schacht, and Arthur Jeffrey, and Georges Vajda, and St. Clair Tisdall, and Samuel Zwemer and others, of whom M. Cherif Bassiouni is surely aware — or is he?
Even in the ranks of MESA (see MESA Nostra) there are those who are unhappy with its takeover by Muslim and non-Muslim apologists for Islam. Not everyone born into Islam and living in the free West is going to avoid taking advantage of that mental freedom. M. Cherif Bassiouni might be quite surprised to learn about those who, while not openly declaring their apostasy from Islam (they aren’t that brave), are doing what they can to enlighten the naÃ¯ve non-Muslims about the reality of Islam. And there are more such people around than he thinks, perhaps in places he hardly suspects. Not everyone, for example, is taken in by the hollow credentialism of M. Cherif Bassiouni’s own absurd c.v., nor with his ostentatious “friendliness” to students — those freshly-baked cookies for example, that some young visitors are so enchanted with — which is no substitute for the higher pedagogic responsibility of a teacher, which is to tell the truth about the subject he purports to be expert on, and not to be an apologist. This difference escapes the m.-cherif-bassiounis of this world.
One finds, unsurprisingly, most of the usual clichÃ©s of Interfaith-Racketeering (Muslim-Christian and Muslim-Jewish Divisions) in M. Cherif Bassiouni’s response. For example, his passing allusion to “the three abrahamic faiths” — a phrase that tells us nothing, because of course the “Abraham” of Islam is completely different from the Abraham of Judaism and Christianity, just as the Moses of Judaism, and the Jesus of Christianity, are very different from the versions of them — Moussa and Isa — to be found in Islam.
M. Cherif Bassiouni, Distinguished Research Professor of Law Emeritus and President Emeritus, International Human Rights Law Institute, DePaul University, knows this perfectly well. And he knows just how deceptive that “three abrahamic faiths” business is, just as that business of all “three monotheisms” is deceptive, for it implies that there is some benign relation between Islam and the two prior-in-time monotheisms. But while Christians and Jews do, as “People of the Book,” ahl al-kitab, receive special treatment — they are allowed to stay alive, and even, under very onerous conditions of course, to practice their religions — rather than being subject to immediate forcible conversion, or to death (as are those who are not “People of the Book”), their lives were, and obviously are, difficult under Islam. And that is why, over the centuries, many converted to Islam — to avoid the difficult, and sometimes horrific conditions (which could include forcible mass conversions overnight, if a Muslim ruler took it into his head to insist upon it), including permanent physical insecurity, because a Muslim could kill a non-Muslim with impunity, and because, if even one member of a dhimmi community did not fulfill his duties — say, did not pay the Jizyah — the entire community could be punished.
The history of the non-Muslims under Islam, the history of the Dhimmi, has begun in modern times, thanks to the pioneering and lonely works of analysis and synthesis by Bat Ye”or, who recognized that this part of the history of Islamic conquest had been ignored. See, for example, the disgraceful scanting of the dhimmi in Bernard Lewis”s “The Middle East: the Last 2000 Years,” in which, in a volume of 400 pages, the dhimmi is mentioned in exactly three (consecutive) paragraphs, two of them exculpatory, with a great deal of vagueness about exactly what was demanded of the dhimmi (Christians and Jews under Islam, from ahl al-dhimma, or “the People of the [soi-disant] Pact”).
M. Cherif Bassiouni, Distinguished Research Professor of Law Emeritus and President Emeritus, International Human Rights Law Institute, DePaul University, did not, thank god, dare to invoke Qur’an 5.32 (“He who kills an innocent man, it is as if”¦” etc.) as Bush used to do, and as others have done, to show that Islam is a “religion of peace.” As we all know, 5.32 is lifted from a Jewish text, but immediately after it comes, in the Qur’an, 5.33, which modifies 5.32 by providing a list of those who can (and should) be killed.
But M. Cherif Bassiouni did offer, as was predictable, Qur’an 2.256, because Muslims understand that very few non-Muslims know what the phrase actually means or, even if they don’t know what the phrase actually means, what it must necessarily mean given 1350 years of Muslim history, and the ways in which “compulsion in religion” are shown.
Here is M. Cherif Bassiouni:
The Qur”ān’s overarching principle enunciated in chapter 2 is that there can be “no compulsion in religion.”
Really? Do you think that the “overarching principle” of the Qur’an, and hence the “overarching principle,” of Islam itself, is that there should be “no compulsion in religion”? Bat Ye”or has written about the amazing disappearance of Christians, and decline of Jews, in North Africa, in the centuries after the Arab conquest, and about the steady, great, seemingly inexorable decline in both Christians and Jews in the Middle East, here: http://www.dhimmi.org/1.pdf. And you can just imagine the circumstances in which Hindus lived. Tens of millions were killed by the Muslims, not all at once but steadily, until such time as their Muslim masters decided it made more sense to keep Hindus alive and even accord them a kind of unstated “People of the Book” status, so that they could be used as jizyah-paying slaves of the Muslim state (see K. S. Lal, The Muslim State).
Of course, if you are a Muslim, you will assert that all these non-Muslims disappeared because Islam was so obviously, so self-evidently, wonderful in every respect, and there was no force, no threat of force, and the condition of the dhimmi obviously so splendid that no one needed to try to get out of it by converting to Islam. No, in the official Muslim narrative people converted to Islam because, you see, Islam was so splendid. And don’t dare to try to seek proof of its obvious splendor, its magnificent and well-run polities, its thriving economies, the harmony of Muslim and non-Muslim, the full equality granted to women. As for the latter, how many Muslim apologists, when the subject of the treatment of women is raised, suddenly, hysterically, tell you that in the seventh century Muhammad “improved the condition of women” and expect you not only to not question that assertion, but to stop discussing the treatment of women since Muhammad improved the condition of women in the seventh century. Apparently that statement is supposed to end all further discussion, with a bizarrely confident “Case Closed.”
What Sura 2.256 means, to Muslims, is that true adherence to the Faith (the Islamic Faith) must come from within, and cannot be compelled. But what can be compelled is outward and visible submission to Islam — that is a matter for “compulsion.” There is no freedom of conscience in Islam, if by ”conscience” we mean that you, if born into Islam, have a right to leave the faith, and if, by conscience, we mean that no ill or unfair treatment is meted out to non-Muslims to such a degree that many non-Muslims would find the situation so intolerable, over time, that they would convert to Islam, even if — because “there is no compulsion in religion” — inwardly they might, for a generation or two, continue to adhere to their prior, perhaps still deeply felt, beliefs.
I don’t think it illegitimate at this point to end with a re-posting of a piece, “There Is No Compulsion in Religion,” that I put up at JW two years ago:
Islam is all about “compulsion” in religion, as that word is commonly understood by non-Muslims. But Muslims know that the translation into English, or French, of 2.256 will be endowed with a meaning it simply does not possess. Islamic propagandists frequently bring out the old chestnut about there being “no compulsion in religion.” Another one did so here recently. Perhaps he is unaware that in the lands conquered by Muslims they offered, as Qur’an and Sunnah tell them to offer, only three possibilities to non-Muslims: death, conversion, or the status of humiliation, degradation, and physical insecurity known as that of the “dhimmi.”
That third option was open, of course, only if the conquered people happened to be ahl al-kitab, People of the Book, that is Christians or Jews, or came to be treated as such at some point, as happened to Zoroastrians and, after some 60-70 million of them had been killed, even the Hindus — so as to keep the Jizyah flowing.
Isn’t that a form of “compulsion” in religion? If one is forced to pay a burdensome tax, forbidden from suing Muslims at law, forbidden from repairing or building new houses of worship, forbidden from marrying a Muslim woman without converting to Islam first, forbidden from all kinds of things that add up to a condition that in many cases was nearly unendurable, isn’t that compulsion in religion? Over time, those Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians who constituted, outside of Arabia proper, the original population of the Middle East and North Africa, steadily became more and more islamized.
That certainly constitutes “compulsion in religion.” And in any case, the meaning traditionally given to that over-quoted line (a favorite of apologists who assume that Infidel audiences will simply take it at face value) does not mean what it appears to say. It means merely that you cannot compel deep inner belief, but you can certainly compel outward conformity with it (i.e. outwardly showing belief in Islam, whatever one inwardly might feel).
The history of Islamic conquest shows that there has been, from Spain to the East Indies in space, and from the seventh century until now in time, a great deal of “compulsion in religion” by Muslim rulers on the non-Muslims they conquered. And there is to this day, with intolerable pressures put on the most helpless, such as the Mandeans in Iraq, or to a lesser extent, the Copts in Egypt, the Christians in Lebanon and in the “West Bank,” and the Chaldeans and Assyrians of Iraq.
Of course in Islam there is “compulsion in Islam.” It’s all over the place, and not only in the Middle East. When Christian schoolgirls are decapitated in Indonesia, and thousands of churches burned, or Buddhist villagers decapitated all over southern Thailand, or Hindus beaten to death in Bangladesh, or attacked in Pakistan, or driven out by the hundreds of thousands from Kashmir, when if they converted to Islam they would be left alone, surely over time that has its effect. Not everyone can heroically withstand such persecution and threat of murder and actual murder.
That may be defined as “compulsion in religion.”
Remember the Fox journalists Centanni and Wiig, who were kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam? Their comments after they were freed were deplorable. They were full of misplaced gratitude to assorted local Arabs (i.e. “Palestinians”). Haniya and other big shots were around to greet them, to embrace them, to make sure that under no conditions would anyone think such a thing as this kidnapping and the forced conversion might have any larger significance. My god, those “Palestinians” were thinking, this could be very bad for us, what if Westerners start thinking of us as…as Muslim Arabs, disguising the Jihad against Israel as a “struggle for the legitimate rights of the ‘Palestinian’ people”! That would be terrible. We must do everything we can, as quickly as we can, to stop that idea.
And of course we will thoroughly condemn, with as great a mock outrage as we can muster, that forced even if ephemeral conversion. In Muslim states, without the cameras of the world press whirring, forced conversions occur all the time. Ask the Christian and animist blacks in the southern Sudan, or the Hindus of Bangladesh and Pakistan, or any number of helpless non-Muslims trapped, with no one to pay attention, deep within Muslim countries.
Wiig’s wife began her little presentation with an “inshallah” — my, how native we all go with such alacrity. How quickly the two of them seemed to forget (or at least Centanni did) what had actually happened. He expressed his firm belief that it would be a pity if other journalists were to be frightened off from covering the story — their side of the story, in Gaza.
Disgust. One hopes they will be never again be allowed to cover any Muslim-related subject, and that the display they put on after being freed, so unnatural, so full of stockholm-syndrome syndrome (diplography sometimes comes in handy), will discredit them as well as the “Palestinians.” Along with the scandal of how so many journalists and press agencies covered the Hizballah War last year, not forgetting the fauxtographic record, one hopes that Western audiences will henceforth treat with skepticism and scorn all those who report knowing full well what would happen to them if they failed in the slightest to play ball and please to the utmost the Arab Muslim side — the side that kidnaps, and then sometimes frees, journalists, but which also has been known on many occasions to kidnap, torture, and then end with a decapitatory flourish.
Nothing reported from an Arab or Muslim area of conflict can, given such a record, be simply received as offered. It must be analyzed and the contents weighed against other evidence that we possess.
For there is, in reality, a great deal of “compulsion in religion.”
The performance of M. Cherif Bassiouni, Distinguished Research Professor of Law Emeritus and President Emeritus, International Human Rights Law Institute, DePaul University, in his correspondence with Robert Spencer shows a great deal about one of the most outwardly “moderate” of Muslims, even one who recognizes certain unpleasant truths about Islamic doctrine as formulated and accepted for more than a thousand years, since the Gates of Ijtihad were, as he admits, slammed shut with a bang.
Now perhaps he, along with Mustafa Akyol and other Bright Young Muslim Reformers who are very good at getting grants and fellowships and promoting themselves but who seem tongue-tied when asked to explain just how it is that whatever “reform” of Islam they are working on will be accepted by the masses — the most primitive masses — of Muslim Believers, will somehow manage to convince a few thousand, or a few tens of thousands, or perhaps even a million or a few million Muslims, to accept these reforms. That might be in ten or twenty years. That would still leave more than a billion Muslims still adherents of what the four schools of jurisprudence lay down. They will remain once and for all entirely unconvinced of what M. Cherif Bassiouni thinks should be official Muslim doctrine about the treatment of apostates, or renegades, from Islam.
Those Muslims, some of them perhaps attaining to the condition of “cultural Muslims” or “Muslims-for-identification-purposes-only” Muslims, may not bravely become apostates. Most will instead prefer to remain Muslim, no doubt, perhaps out of residual filial piety (even Magdi Allam recalled, with great feeling, his quietly humble Muslim parents), or out of civilisational embarrassment (this may be less likely if you are a non-Arab, and have some other pre-Islamic identity to cling to, or to resurrect, as do Iranians), or out of fear of ostracism from their families and societies, or out of fear of physical harm, even of death. They will insist on remaining Muslims even if they have come dimly or clearly to recognize — but will never fully admit to non-Muslims — many of the things that are wrong with Islam. They may even have concluded, not without some inward melancholy and regret, that Islam does indeed stunt moral and mental growth. And how sad for them, if they also come to recognize, and be envious of, the easy mental freedoms of the West, and think — surely the thought must come to some — that had they themselves not been born into Islam and felt “compelled” to stay with it, they might have done far more with whatever native abilities they possessed.
So here is M. Cherif Bassiouni, Distinguished Research Professor of Law Emeritus and President Emeritus, International Human Rights Law Institute, DePaul University, rich in (resume-listed) honors, the beneficiary long ago of so many Western gifts. In the first place, he was given the gift of the beautiful and expressive French language, his portal, his gate, his bab of all babs, to the wider world. And then, enduring an unimaginable (imaginable!) Cairo law school, the real thing, a legal education in Europe. And then decades of being coccolato by the Western world, churning out compendia of cases. Those compendia, or those books full of reprinted documents, are given the title of “books.” And with their titles swelling a resume like nobody”s business, M. Cherif Bassiouni becomes known as the “scholar” to call on, a kind of Arab or Muslim attendant lord, to swell a progress, or start a scene or two, if you want that scene or two to express that Diversity, the Idol of the Age, that so many find so de rigueur these days, in everything from nursery schools to law faculties.
Affirmative Action, and quotas, take many forms, even avant la lettre, and — judging by the powers of logic, capacity to assemble evidence, and ability to adhere to something like the truth in his telling contretemps with Robert Spencer — one may be justified in suspecting that M. Cherif Bassiouni, despite those freshly-baked cookies he makes for student visitors, may well have been, these many years, such a beneficiary. But you can read what he has written, or in many cases, “edited,” or gathered up for publication works by divers hands, and see what you think. What does he make you think of? Lauterpacht? De Visscher? Julius Stone? Paul Freund? Cardozo? Richard Baxter? Sir Wellington Koo?
The missive-missiles that fell so wanly short, in the pixilated ether, of their intended mark, these last few days have not been the first example, nor will they likely be the last, of a barrage of blague from M. Cherif Bassiouni, Distinguished Research Professor of Law Emeritus and President Emeritus, International Human Rights Law Institute, DePaul University. But he may be more careful about the selection of targets next time. And he may also be surprised, in salutary fashion, to discover just how many articles, books, and websites there are, expressing a grasp of Islam not different from that held by Robert Spencer, and other contributors, and visitors, to this website — including, we may allow ourselves charitably to believe, not different either, were he to dare, if only inwardly, to be quite sincere with himself, M. Cherif Bassiouni.
La lutte continue.