The Protocols of the Elders of Mecca; The Final Word on the Pact of Umar

This is the second part of a three part rebuttal of Robert Spencer on the topic of dhimmitude.  Check out part 1 here, here, and here.

The Conspiracy

During the Middle Ages, a forged document–known as the Pact of Umar–came into existence; it stipulated certain very restrictive conditions that governed the lives of non-Muslims living under Islamic rule.  Robert Spencer outlines these humiliating conditions:

This Pact is worth close examination, because it became the foundation for Islamic law regarding the treatment of the dhimmis. With remarkably little variation, throughout Islamic history whenever Islamic law was strictly enforced, this is generally how non-Muslims were treated. Working from the full text as Ibn Kathir has it, these are the conditions the Christians accept in return for “safety for ourselves, children, property and followers of our religion” – conditions that, according to Ibn Kathir, “ensured their continued humiliation, degradation and disgrace.” The Christians will not:

1. Build “a monastery, church, or a sanctuary for a monk”;
2. “Restore any place of worship that needs restoration”;
3. Use such places “for the purpose of enmity against Muslims”;
4. “Allow a spy against Muslims into our churches and homes or hide deceit [or betrayal] against Muslims”;
5. Imitate the Muslims’ “clothing, caps, turbans, sandals, hairstyles, speech, nicknames and title names”;
6. “Ride on saddles, hang swords on the shoulders, collect weapons of any kind or carry these weapons”;
7. “Encrypt our stamps in Arabic”
8. “Sell liquor” – Christians in Iraq in the last few years ran afoul of Muslims reasserting this rule;
9. “Teach our children the Qur’an”;
10. “Publicize practices of Shirk” – that is, associating partners with Allah, such as regarding Jesus as Son of God. In other words, Christian and other non-Muslim religious practice will be private, if not downright furtive;
11. Build “crosses on the outside of our churches and demonstrating them and our books in public in Muslim fairways and markets” – again, Christian worship must not be public, where Muslims can see it and become annoyed;
12. “Sound the bells in our churches, except discreetly, or raise our voices while reciting our holy books inside our churches in the presence of Muslims, nor raise our voices [with prayer] at our funerals, or light torches in funeral processions in the fairways of Muslims, or their markets”;
13. “Bury our dead next to Muslim dead”;
14. “Buy servants who were captured by Muslims”;
15. “Invite anyone to Shirk” – that is, proselytize, although the Christians also agree not to:
16. “Prevent any of our fellows from embracing Islam, if they choose to do so.” Thus the Christians can be the objects of proselytizing, but must not engage in it themselves;
17. “Beat any Muslim.”

Meanwhile, the Christians will:

1. Allow Muslims to rest “in our churches whether they come by day or night”;
2. “Open the doors [of our houses of worship] for the wayfarer and passerby”;
3. Provide board and food for “those Muslims who come as guests” for three days;
4. “Respect Muslims, move from the places we sit in if they choose to sit in them” – shades of Jim Crow;
5. “Have the front of our hair cut, wear our customary clothes wherever we are, wear belts around our waist” – these are so that a Muslim recognizes a non-Muslim as such and doesn’t make the mistake of greeting him with As-salaamu aleikum, “Peace be upon you,” which is the Muslim greeting for a fellow Muslim;
6. “Be guides for Muslims and refrain from breaching their privacy in their homes.”

The Christians swore: “If we break any of these promises that we set for your benefit against ourselves, then our Dhimmah (promise of protection) is broken and you are allowed to do with us what you are allowed of people of defiance and rebellion.”

Today, the Islamophobes believe this document to be of critical importance, and it forms one of the pillars of their anti-Islam ideology.  Notice how Spencer calls the document “the foundation for Islamic law regarding the treatment of the dhimmis.”  Spencer et al. believe–or at least they would like you to believe–that Muslims are on the verge of once again implementing the Pact of Umar upon non-Muslims.  Spencer’s goal, as enunciated by his comrade-in-arms Pamela Geller, is to  “scare the bejeezus outta ya.” It is necessary then, these Islamophobic bigots argue, to get “them” before “they” get you.  (Most forms of hate revolve around instilling senseless fear.)

The Pact of Umar Has Fallen into Disuse and Obscurity

Admittedly, the Pact of Umar did reach some level of significance during the Middle Ages.  It is found in the books of many classical Islamic jurists, and was also implemented (inconsistently) to various degrees. (Please read this here.)  Yet, the reality is that the Pact of Umar has fallen into disuse and obscurity.  Whereas some of the medieval jurists gave importance to the document–such as Ibn Taymiyyah who went so far as to call it the foundation of Muslim-dhimmi relations–it is now virtually non-existent in modern day Islamic texts.  Mention of the document has now been relegated to two basic categories: reprints of medieval texts, and responses to critics of Islam.

I myself contacted several Muslim clerics, asking them about their opinion on the Pact of Umar.  The majority of them responded that they had no knowledge of the document (i.e. “I’d have to look it up”), or had only heard the name in passing.  In fact, the Pact of Umar has in the Islamic world fallen into such disuse and obscurity that the vast majority of Muslims have never heard of it.  Those who do know what it is almost invariably heard of it first from critics of Islam; many of them will then look up the Muslim responses to these anti-Islam attacks.  (How many Christians–including priests–have heard of the Church’s doctrine of Perpetual Servitude?)

The idea, furthered by lunatics like Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller, that Muslims are secretly instructed in the Pact of Umar (the “stealth Jihad” is coming to get you!) is not only conspiratorial but absurd.  Ninety-nine percent of Muslims have never heard of it–until of course Robert Spencer et al. inform them of it.  Zaid Shakir, an Islamic scholar from the Zaytuna Institute, said:

There is this absurd idea spread by these bigots that Muslims want to implement this pact today.  Most Muslims have never even heard of it! [1]

Robert Spencer et al. knows this very well.  So don’t be fooled by this Islamophobic conspiracy talk.  It is calculated fear-mongering.

But could it be that the Pact of Umar is inherently part of the Islamic religion, even if the vast majority of Muslims are not aware of this?  One only needs to read the Islamic responses to the anti-Islam ideologues to know that this is not the case.

Contemporary Muslims Recognize the Pact of Umar as a Forgery

The document is attributed by medieval jurists to Umar ibn al-Khattab, the second caliph (secular leader) of the early Muslim community.  However, modern day Islamic scholars–such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi [2], Maher Abu-Munshar, and Abdulaziz Sachedina–reject the authenticity of the Pact of Umar.  Abu-Munshar writes:

The humiliating conditions enumerated in the so-called “Pact of Umar” are utterly foreign to the mentality, thoughts and practices of this caliph…The deficiencies [in the textual integrity] support the contention that Umar was not the originator of the document.  In addition to the remarkable care and concern displayed in Umar’s attitute to dhimmis confirms the rejection of the so-called Pact of Umar as attributable to Caliph Umar Ibn al-Khattab.  The Pact of Umar was not the work of Umar Ibn al-Khattab. [3]

Sachedina writes:

It is a historical fact that the Prophet condemned oppression of the ahl al-dhimma [dhimmis] as a sinful deviation declaring in no uncertain terms, “On the Day of Judgment I myself will act as the accuser of any person who oppresses a person under the protection [dhimmi] of Islam, and lays excessive [financial or other social] burdens on him”. In the most highly rated compilation of Hadith among the Sunni Muslims, the Sahih of al-Bukhari, there is a chapter-heading that reads, “One should fight for the protection of the ahl al-dhimma and they should not be enslaved.” Under this heading Bukhari narrates the following instructions on the authority of Umar b. al-Khattab, when the latter was stabbed anddied of the wound inflicted upon him by a Persian slave: “I strongly recommend him [the next caliph] to take care of those non-Muslims who are under God and His Prophet’s protection [dhimmat allah wa dhimmat rasulih] in that he should remain faithful to them according to the covenant with them, and fight on their behalf and not burden them [by imposing high taxes] beyond their capacity. After reading these instructions, left by the caliph as the head of Muslim state to honor the sacred covenant offered by God and his emissary to the people of the Book, it is hard to believe that the Pact of Umar ascribed to the second caliph could be authentic in its representation of the situation of the non-Muslims in the early days of Islam. [4]

These Muslims argue that as a forgery the document has no religious value at all and ought to be ignored.  They believe that in actuality Umar ibn al-Khattab ratified the tolerant Umari Treaty, and not the restrictive Pact of Umar. The Umari Treaty explicitly prohibits Muslims from degrading or belittling non-Muslims; the text reads (emphasis is mine):

In the name of God, the Most Merciful, the Beneficent.

This is what the slave of God, Umar b.Al-Khattab, the Commander of the Faithful, has offered the people of Illyaa’ of security granting them amaan (protection) for their selves, their money, their churches, their children, their lowly and their innocent, and the remainder of their people:

Their churches are not to be taken, nor are they to be destroyed, nor are they to be degraded or belittled, neither are their crosses or their money [to be harmed], and they are not to be forced to change their religion, nor is any one of them to be harmed…

Upon what is in this book is the word of God, the covenant of His Messenger, of the Caliphs and of the believers if they gave what was required of them of the poll tax. [4]

Ibn Kathir, an Islamic exegist of the medieval era, writes that the Pact of Umar stipulated “conditions that ensured [the] continued humiliation, degradation and disgrace” of the People of the Book (see Tafsir Ibn Kathir, 9:29).  Surely then, argue contemporary Muslims, the Pact of Umar–which advocated “humiliation, degradation, and disgrace”–conflicted with the Umari Treaty, which categorically prohibited “degrad[ation] and belittle[ment]” of non-Muslims.

Western scholarship itself considers the Pact of Umar to be a forgery, falsely attributed to Umar ibn al-Khattab.  In fact, Umar was known for his relative mildness towards non-Muslim subjects, and the Umari Treaty is much more in line with his views than the Pact of Umar.  It is known that generally “the [Four] Rightly Guided Caliphs left the people of the protected religions alone.” [5]

Historian Abraham P. Bloch concludes:

Omar ibn al-Khattab (634-644), the second caliph, conquered Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Persia, and Egypt.  Jews and Christians were permitted to continue their communal existence.  Omar was a tolerant ruler, unlikely to impose humiliating conditions upon non-Muslims, or to infringe upon their religious and social freedoms.  His name has been erroneously associated…with the restrictive Covenant of Omar. [6]

Interestingly, not even Robert Spencer contests the doubtful historicity of the document.  Spencer writes:

Now: did I actually say the thing was historical? Nope…I wasn’t actually dealing with the question of whether or not it was a real seventh-century document. I was and am interested in the patent and manifest fact that it became the basis for Islamic law regarding dhimmis. Whether the law came first and then was read into a fictional pact Umar made, or whether there really was a Pact of Umar and the fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) regarding dhimmis was influenced by it, simply doesn’t concern me, except as a matter of historical interest.

If we were debating the historical treatment of dhimmis, then Spencer’s point makes some sense.  I conceded as much in my rebuttal.  But now I will use Spencer’s own logic and conclude as follows: the actual historicity of the document is largely irrelevant so long as contemporary Muslims view it as a forgery.  (But in this case, the matter is even clearer: the document is a forgery and contemporary Muslims agree with that.)

In other words, if you witness a debate between an Islamophobe and a Muslim–with the former claiming that the Pact of Umar is authentic and/or that the classical scholars viewed it that way, and with the latter claiming that it is a forgery and therefore religiously invalid as a source–that in itself invalidates the Islamophobic line of argumentation.  Remember: their end game is to prove that Muslims today want to reimpose the dhimmitude as defined in the Pact of Umar.  But if contemporary Muslims view the document as a forgery–and this much is evidenced by their participation in the debate–then that’s all that matters.  If contemporary Muslims don’t view it as authentic (regardless of what the true historicity of the document is and/or what the classical scholars said), they would have no reason to reimpose it.

In conclusion, contemporary Islamic responses view the Pact of Umar as a forgery, and instead look to the tolerant Umari Treaty as more in line with the Islamic view.

The Pact of Umar is not a Part of Islamic Canon

There are of course some conservative Muslims (a small minority) who have written responses to the Pact of Umar and are unwilling to reject the historicity of the document, due to the fact (as pointed out by Spencer) that many classical scholars viewed it as authentic.  Does this fact prove Spencer’s point?  No.  Just because the document is viewed as authentic does not mean it is binding upon Muslims from a religious perspective.  The Pact of Umar is not contained in the Quran nor in the Sunnah, the twin canonical sources of Islam.  In other words, the document is not a religious document at all, but a secular and temporal agreement made between a secular/temporal authority (the caliph) and his subjects.  (I say “secular/temporal” because there is no pope in Islam; the caliph of the Muslims is their leader in worldly affairs, not religious ones.)

The pact was a political agreement made between two parties, not a divinely revealed religious text from God or His Messenger.  In fact, the document was said to be dictated by the Christians themselves, who supposedly said: “We made a condition on ourselves…”  The conservative Salafi/”Wahhabi” apologist Bassam Zawadi remarked: “How can the Pact of Umar be considered religiously inspired when it was from the mouths of the Christians themselves?” [7] In other words, Muslims believe that their religious doctrines come from God (the Quran) and His Messenger (the Sunnah).  How then can a Muslim take the words of a Christian–who doesn’t even believe in the prophethood of Muhammad–as being authoritative in matters of faith?  The Christians supposedly thought of the conditions themselves and requested them; how then can a Muslim think of these conditions as being from God or His Messenger?  (The idea that the Christians themselves requested such terms is of course absurd, which is why modern day scholarship considers the pact as a forgery;  but the point here is: those conservative Muslims who refuse to reject the authenticity of the document believe that the document was from the words of the Christians and as such they do not view it as being divine, infallible, or religiously binding.)

The classical scholars did debate whether the Pact of Umar ought to be “inherited” by the children of the Christians or be renegotiated each time.  Some of them did say that it does not need to be renegotiated but remained in effect for the children.  But the document was not binding because of the religious nature of the document; as discussed above, the Pact of Umar is not considered canonical.  Rather, the document was binding because of the religious obligation to fulfill covenants.  The Pact of Umar was a (secular and temporal) covenant of security between that particular government and the residents of the area.  It was to be fulfilled, as all covenants of security are binding.  (This is why I argue here that Muslim Americans are obligated to fulfill their covenant of security with the U.S. government.)

The jurisprudential tradition of Islam is known for its (sometimes excessive) reliance on legalism, much like the Jewish rabbinical tradition.  The classical scholars did argue that the mandatory conditions of the Pact of Umar had to be enforced, but at the same time they also forbade any additions to it.  The medieval jurist Imam al-Shawkani, a follower of the heterodox Zaydi Shi’ite sect [8], decreed that dhimmis ought to be forced to clean the latrines of the city.  This came to be known as the Latrines Decree.   Interestingly, the mainstream Muslim jurists of that era refuted Imam al-Shawkani and forbade such an addition, which they considered to be a violation of the Pact of Umar.  (One cannot add conditions to a document after it has been ratified.)  Jan Platvoet writes:

The Latrines Decree became an issue of judicial controversy…It caused confrontation between Muslim scholars (such as al-Shawkani and al-Kawkabani) almost all of whom belonged to the dominant Zaydi Shi’a…Most of them criticized the Decree, arguing that nothing can be added to or modified in the dhimma status…According to this line of argument, non-Muslims should be treated neither more leniently nor more harshly…These scholars felt they could not stand aloof while seeing the ardent wish of al-Shawkani and the authorities to worsen the dhimma stipulations. [9]

The purpose here is not to justify the discriminatory views of the medieval jurists: clearly, the need to protect the rights of minorities is morally more important than blindly enforcing a document.  But the point I am trying to make here is that the Pact of Umar was enforced not because it was viewed as being divine, canonical, or infallible, but because it was a temporal/secular covenant agreed upon by two parties, and thus ought to be honored like all covenants.  This is why modern day Muslims (even conservative ones) have no right to force the Pact of Umar on non-Muslims living in Muslim majority lands, since they [the non-Muslims] did not agree to such stipulations.  Remember: the classical jurists argued that the dhimmis ought to be fulfill the conditions of the Pact of Umar because “they themselves requested these terms!”

The Objectives Resolution (now a part of the Constitution of Pakistan) reads:

Adequate provision shall be made for the minorities to freely profess and practice their religions and develop their cultures…Wherein shall be guaranteed fundamental rights including equality of status, of opportunity and before law, social, economic and political justice, and freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship and association, subject to law and public morality; Wherein adequate provisions shall be made to safeguard the legitimate interests of minorities and backward and depressed classes.

This enlightened piece of legislation is referred to as “The Islamic Provisions of the Constitution.” Clearly, contemporary Muslims believe freedom of religion and protection of minority rights to be inherently part of their religion. The Objectives Resolution is a covenant of security that guarantees protection to non-Muslims.  Enforcing the discriminatory conditions of the Pact of Umar would be impermissible in Islam because it would contradict the rights granted above.  Remember: additions to the covenant are not allowed, which is why the classical scholars forbade the Latrines Decree.  The modern day Pakistani government has a covenant that they must fulfill.

The conservative Salafi/”Wahhabi” instructor Ayman bin Khaled writes:

The Pact [of Umar] itself is just [because both sides agreed to it] and it is a contract like any other contract[;] if both sides agree to it then it is valid. No one was forced to accept such pact esp. knowing it was suggested by people of the book themselves. [10]

In other words, even the conservative Muslims who hold the document to be authentic believe that it cannot be enforced upon peoples against their will.  It was only historically applied, according to these conservative Muslims, because the Christians accepted the terms.  Not only this, but the Christians were the ones who came up with the terms to begin with.  (This, according to the traditional belief in the Islamic jurisprudential tradition.)

Precedent

Critics may argue that Umar ibn al-Khattab set a precedent, which could be emulated by Muslims today.  After all, Umar was one of the early caliphs of the Muslim community.  Yet, one could similarly argue that the manner in which the papacy treated Jews–the doctrine of Perpetual Servitude–could be considered precedent, which could be emulated by Christians today.  The papacy, unlike the caliphate, exerts far more power from a religious perspective than do caliphs.  Caliphs are not considered infallible, ever.

Furthermore, the Pact of Umar is not the only historical precedent Muslims can turn to.  Historically, there were many other covenants of security which were forged between the Islamic government and non-Muslim populations.  The very first constitution in Muslim history, the Constitution of Medina, is one such example.  In this document, signed by the Prophet Muhammad, the non-Muslims were granted “help and equality”; the document reads (emphasis is ours):

In the name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful.

This is a document from Muhammad the prophet (governing the relations) between the believers and Muslims of Quraysh and Yathrib, and those [non-Muslims] who followed them and joined them and labored with them.

They are one community (umma) to the exclusion of all men…

To the Jew who follows us belong help and equality. He shall not be wronged nor shall his enemies be aided. [11]

There are about forty-seven points enumerated in this document, and not a single one of them places any discriminatory or humiliating restrictions upon the non-Muslims.  They were not forced to wear certain clothing or hair cuts, nor forced to give up their chairs for Muslims, etc.  In all respects, they were treated as “equal[s]” and citizens of the same “nation” (ummah) as the Muslims, with similar rights and obligations as the Muslims.

After the Constitution of Medina, there is the example of the Treaty of Khaybar, signed between the Muslims and Jews of Khaybar.  Had the Prophet Muhammad wanted to “degrade” the non-Muslims with such “humiliating” restrictions as found in the Pact of Umar, then surely this would have been the time to do it, considering that–according to Islamic sources–the Jews of Khaybar had been found guilty of high treason.  Yet, we find in the Treaty of Khaybar none of the discriminatory laws of the Pact of Umar.  Similarly, the Prophet Muhammad signed the Treaty of Tabuk and the Treaty of Najran, two separate documents which afforded protection to non-Muslims without any mention of discriminatory laws, as long as taxes were paid to the government.

The Constitution of Medina promised Jews “equality”; another document attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, known as the Achtiname of Muhammad, afforded inalienable rights to Christians.  A copy of this document, sealed with an imprint representing the Prophet’s hand, is preserved in the library of St Catherine.  The Achtiname of Muhammad reads:

This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far: we are with them.

Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by God! I hold out against anything that displeases them.

No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses.

Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.

No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray. Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants.

No one of the (Islamic) nation is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day. [12]

The tone of voice in this document is 100% contrary to that in the Pact of Umar.  Nowhere does it say for Christians to be humiliated or degraded; in fact, Muslims are instructed to “hold out against anything that displeases” the Christians, and nothing can be done “that they hate.” (Surely, the humiliating conditions in the Pact of Umar would fall under this category, argue contemporary Muslims.)  Even more specifically, the Achtiname of Muhammad forbids preventing Christians from repairing their churches; the Pact of Umar violates this condition explicitly.  For the contemporary Muslim, the words and actions of the Prophet Muhammad would trump even those of the Companions such as Umar.  Furthermore, the Achtiname sets out inalienable rights that must not be violated “till the Last Day.” Whereas the Pact of Umar is restricted to a single population of a single time, the Achtiname of Muhammad is for those “near and far” and “till the Last Day.”

Dr. Muqtedar Khan, Director of Islamic Studies at the University of Delaware, writes:

The first and the final sentence of the charter are critical. They make the promise eternal and universal. Muhammed asserts that Muslims are with Christians near and far straight away rejecting any future attempts to limit the promise to St. Catherine alone. By ordering Muslims to obey it until the Day of Judgment the charter again undermines any future attempts to revoke the privileges. These rights are inalienable. Muhammed declared Christians, all of them, as his allies and he equated ill treatment of Christians with violating God’s covenant.

It should be noted that the authenticity of this document is disputed amongst Western scholarship–a fact that Islamophobes like Robert Spencer would be quick to mention.  It is strange, however, that they would so easily dismiss the Achtiname of Muhammad as a forgery, but then at the same time declare the Pact of Umar (which Western scholarship has declared to be a forgery) as the most authoritative Islamic document on the topic.  In other words, we have two documents, both of questionable authenticity, which contradict each other; one promises inalienable rights to a minority and the other invokes discriminatory conditions upon them.  The Islamophobe’s methodology is to highlight all the negative texts and dismiss the positive ones.  One could easily do such a hatchet job on Christianity, selectively quoting texts to paint a horrific picture.

Regardless of the historicity of the Achtiname of Muhammad, the fact is that contemporary Muslims view it as authentic and religiously binding (because it is attributed to the Prophet Muhammad).  In fact, the Muslim World League published the full text of the document in its journal (vol. 31, 2003).  So we can use Robert Spencer’s own logic here: the authenticity of the document is merely of “historical interest;” if contemporary Muslims view it as authentic and binding, then that’s all that matters.

Moving on, we have the example of the first caliph, Abu Bakr, who agreed to the following covenant with the non-Muslim peoples of Najran:

In the Name of God, the Most Beneficent, the Merciful.

This is the written statement of God’s slave Abu Bakr, the successor of Muhammad, the Prophet and Messenger of God.

He affirms your rights of [being] a protected neighbor: yourselves, your lands, your religious community, your wealth, retainers, and servants, those of you who are present or abroad, your bishops and monks, monasteries, and all that you own, be it great or small.  You shall not be deprived of any of it, and shall have full control over it. [13]

There is no mention of any discriminatory laws, such as found in the Pact of Umar.  Abu Bakr was the very first caliph of Islam, and as such, his example would serve as precedent over that of Umar’s.

Another example we have is of the Muslim general Khalid ibn Waleed, a Companion of the Prophet Muhammad, who wrote in his covenant with the people of Anat:

They are allowed to ring their bells at any time of the day or night, except at the Islamic prayer times. They are allowed to bear their crosses in their festivals. [14]

Both of these allowances would contradict the Pact of Umar, which forbade the Christians from loudly ringing their bells or from bearing their crosses publicly or enjoying their festivals outdoors.  Khalid ibn Waleed allowed them to ring their bells at any time day or night, so long as it did not coincide with the Islamic call to prayer (adhan) for the five daily prayers; there is no stipulation that they use clampers, a clause that would make the requirement not to ring the bells during the adhan moot.

In light of this evidence, it would seem inappropriate to focus on the Pact of Umar, and not on the more normative and prophetic Constitution of Medina, which is of undisputed authenticity.  Though the Prophet Muhammad had extensive dealings with non-Muslims, he never once advocated laws of humiliation and degradation on any minority group.  Surely this precedent is more important to contemporary Muslims than that set by the questionable Pact of Umar.  There were several covenants of security that were established in the early days of Islam, and it seems biased to focus exclusively on the most restrictive (and spurious) of them.

Turning the Tables Around

Robert Spencer’s line of argumentation is as follows: the Pact of Umar is inherently part of the Islamic religion; after all, it is attributed to the second caliph of Islam and endorsed by classical jurists.  Any attempts to dismiss the Pact of Umar by contemporary Muslims, Spencer would argue, are not only disingenuous but theologically weak.  I will now turn the tables on Spencer, and see how he likes using this same line of argumentation against his own religion: he is a Catholic and often white-washes the papacy’s legacy.  Criticism of the Catholic popes is simply not tolerated by Spencer.

In order for Spencer to prove his claim, he must establish that the Pact of Umar is inherently part of Islam.  Yet, any of his arguments are going to be weaker than arguments that could be made by critics of Catholicism with regard to the doctrines of Witness and of the Perpetual Servitude of infidels.  (I’ve discussed this Christian doctrine here.)  Pope after pope declared their belief in the doctrines of Witness and of the Perpetual Servitude of infidels, especially Jews.  Critics of Catholicism could argue that these two beliefs are inherently part of the religion, because the papal decrees are considered infallible.  Whereas Umar ibn al-Khattab was simply a temporal/secular/worldly leader without any divine authority (there is no pope in Sunni Islam), the pope was (and is) considered a religious leader with divine authority.  Whereas Muslims believe that Umar was not infallible, Catholics believe that the popes were (and are) infallible.  Furthermore, the Pact of Umar was not really written by Umar ibn al-Khattab at all (but forged by unknown persons who have no position of respect in the Islamic religion), whereas there is no doubt that the papal decrees declaring the doctrines of Witness and of Perpetual Servitude were issued from the popes.  These were official doctrines espoused by the infallible Church.

Spencer would argue back that Catholics don’t think the Church or the papacy are infallible in all aspects, only matters of theology, faith, and morals.  The Catholic Encyclopedia writes that the Church has “immunity from…error or failure; in particular in theological usage, the supernatural prerogative by which the Church of Christ is, by a special Divine assistance, preserved from liability to error in her definitive dogmatic teaching regarding matters of faith and morals.”  The encyclopedia goes on to say that “the infallibility claimed for the pope is the same in its nature, scope, and extent as that which the Church as a whole possesses; his ex cathedra teaching does not have to be ratified by the Church’s in order to be infallible.”

I’m no expert of Catholicism, but just from my outsider perspective, the papal decrees about the Jews (the doctrines of Witness and Perpetual Servitude) fit all the criteria necessary to be considered infallible.  It is, after all, a theological issue, expressed ex cathedra (“from the chair”).  Should I now run around wildly flailing my arms declaring that the doctrines of Witness and Perpetual Servitude are inherently part of the Catholic religion, and that the Catholics are about to enforce this upon us infidels?  Of course I’ve read Catholic responses which explain why these particular papal decrees are not considered infallible; however, as an impartial outsider, the explanations honestly seemed to be unconvincing mumbo-jumbo.  I in fact ask Robert Spencer to explain why these particular decrees are not infallible according to the Catholic doctrine.  I know he will respond with some complex explanation, so I am not saying that there is no explanation for why not.  I am simply saying that the explanation is neither simple, straightforward, nor very convincing to an outsider.  Meanwhile, the Islamic responses to why the Pact of Umar is not infallible are very easy to understand: the document is a forgery, the only infallible documents in the Islamic religion are the Quran and the authentic hadiths (Sunnah), etc. (If the papal decrees supporting the doctrines of Witness and Perpetual Servitude were found to be forged–and not from the papacy at all–it would suddenly become very easy for a Catholic to deny the infallibility/applicability of said doctrines.)

But let me be very clear: I am not trying to argue that the doctrines of Witness and Perpetual Servitude are inherently part of Catholicism.  I leave that decision up to the Catholic believers.  If they say these are not infallible, who am I to insist otherwise?  But I think Muslims should also be taken at their word, especially since their responses on this particular topic seem more straightforward.  If we give the benefit of the doubt to the Catholics, then why not to the Muslims?

Quranic Endorsement of the Pact of Umar?

Robert Spencer attempts to bolster his argument, by arguing that the Quran itself endorses the Pact of Umar. Spencer writes:

Verse 29 of chapter 9 of the Qur’an, as we saw last week, mandates that the Muslims fight against the Jews and Christians “until they pay the jizya [poll tax] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” …The imperative to subjugate non-Muslims as mandated by Qur’an 9:29 and elaborated by this Pact became and remained part of Islamic law.

We shall discuss this verse (9:29) in greater detail in part 3 of this series (does it really mandate Muslims to fight against the Jews and Christians?), but right now I will focus on the last line; Spencer uses the following translation: “until they pay the jizya [poll tax] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”  The Arabic word in question is “saghirun”, which some medieval jurists translated as debasement, humiliation, etc.  Robert Spencer loves these quotes, and pretends that they are the only interpretations that exist.  You can find the following quote on JihadWatch:

Dhimmis must be kept in a permanent state of abasement (saghar). This why jizya must be paid in a public ceremony in which the dhimmi at the moment of payment is given a tap on the neck and pushed forward to show him he has thus escaped the sword. This abasement is more important than the sum paid.

Yet, contemporary Muslims do not understand the verse this way.  In fact, there were many medieval Islamic jurists who rejected such discriminatory interpretations.  The classical jurist, Imam Ibn al-Qayyim, rejected the interpretation that “saghar” means debasement:

This is groundless and the verse doesn’t imply that. It is not related that the Prophet or the companions acted like that. The correct opinion regarding this verse is that the word “saghar” means “acceptance” by non-Muslims of the structure of the Muslim right and their payment of the poll tax. [15]

Ibn Qudama, another classical jurist, wrote that the Prophet Muhammad and the four rightly guided caliphs said that the poll tax ought to be taken with gentleness and respect. (see Al-Mughni, Vol. 4, p.250) [16] In fact, the classical jurist Imam al-Nawawi wrote that the majority of scholars rejected such an interpretation:

As for this aforementioned practice [of degrading or humiliating non-Muslims], I know of no sound support for it in this respect, and it is only mentioned by the scholars of Khurasan. The majority (jumhur) of scholars say that the Jizyah is to be taken with gentleness, as one would receive a debt (dayn). The reliably correct opinion is that this practice [of degradation or humiliation] is invalid and those who devised it should be refuted. It is not related that the Prophet or any of the rightly-guided caliphs did any such thing when collecting the Jizyah. [17]

If this was the case with the medieval jurists (who had no incentive to white-wash Islam), then it is no surprise that contemporary Muslims take a similar enlightened view.  They believe that the verse must be contextualized: it was revealed during a time in which the People of the Book–namely the powerful Roman empire–were seeking to snuff out the early Islamic nation-state.  In this context, the early Muslim community was instructed in the rules of war, and it was decreed that the enemy be fought until they laid down their arms and their belligerence was subdued.  But the opponents were to be left alone once they accepted the hegemony of the Islamic nation-state, just like any nation will fight its belligerent enemies until they are subdued.

Once again, when we apply the same line of argumentation to Christianity, Robert Spencer refuses to accept it.  If we point to the numerous verses used historically by the Church to justify the doctrines of Witness and Perpetual Servitude, suddenly Spencer cannot accept this methodology.  Numerous verses in the Bible can be used to justify the subjugation and exile of Jews (i.e. the doctrines of Witness and Perpetual Servitude).  For example, the Bible reads:

The Jews: Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men…the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost. (I Thessalonians 2:14-16)

And there are many others.  Can these verses be interpreted in more tolerant ways?  Sure.  But so can the Quranic verse in question.  But the Islamophobes want to use one standard for Christianity and a completely different one for Islam.

But What about Extremist Muslims?

Fine, the vast majority of Muslims have never heard of the Pact of Umar, nor do they want to enforce it upon non-Muslims.  But what about the extremist Al-Qaeda types?  Is it not this document that motivates them to fight the West?  I do not think so.  Even most extremist Muslims have never heard of the Pact of Umar.  Again, those that have would most likely have first heard it from anti-Islam ideologues.  Maybe they wouldn’t reject it outright when they hear it from the anti-Islam critics, but the point is that no Muslim–not even the extremist ones–is being raised to follow this document.  It really has fallen into disuse and obscurity.  I am unaware of any Al-Qaeda literature, speeches, or videos making any reference to the Pact of Umar.  It is not the desire to reimpose the Pact of Umar that motivates them to fight; rather, they view their war with the West in terms of defensive Jihad against Western tyranny (this much is evidenced by their view that their holy war is fardh al-ayn and not fardh al-kifaya).

But ok, there are about one billion Muslims in the world…I can’t possibly deny that there may be a handful of Muslims out of the billion that believe in enforcing the Pact of Umar.  But it is really a measly minority, a fraction of even the extremist Muslim subset.  There are indeed many opinions championed by extremist Muslims that are worrisome, but this particular one (i.e. the Pact of Umar and its enforcement) does not find any level of significance in their discourse.  In fact, the paradigm trumpeted by extremists is: the Jewish/Christian West oppresses Muslims in the land, even though Muslims had historically treated them in an ideal way; based on this, they argue, Muslims must overthrow the West in order to reestablish this interfaith utopia.  For example, Hamas writes in its charter (interestingly quoted by none other than Robert Spencer!):

Under the shadow of Islam, it is possible for the members of the three religions: Islam,  Christianity, and Judaism to coexist in safety and security.  Safety and security can only prevail under the shadow of Islam, and recent and ancient history is the best witness to that effect…Islam accords his rights to everyone who has rights and averts aggression against the rights of others. [18]

Most Muslims (extremists included) believe that historically non-Muslims lived under Islamic rule in an interfaith utopia.  (This is of course not true.)  The extremists believe that overthrowing the Western hegemony is the only way to return to this.  Therefore, they believe when they come to power, all will be treated well (unlike the Western rule).  So the idea that Muslims want to reimpose the Pact of Umar on non-Muslims is way off.  Only a handful of Muslims would believe such a thing.  This fact is illustrated by Robert Spencer’s inability to quote Muslim scholars, leaders, intellectuals, etc. who have called for the reimposition of the Pact of Umar and/or its discriminatory provisions.  In his book, Spencer is only able to quote one contemporary Islamic cleric who said such a thing.  One.  (Some guy named Marzouq Salem al-Ghamdi, who said non-Muslims ought to “rise when a Muslim wishes to sit” and that they shouldn’t “ride horses”, etc.)  That’s it.  One single quote.  (I haven’t authenticated the quote, but I’ll just give it to him.)

I think I saw one other similar quote on his site, and that’s it.  That’s all Spencer can provide.  Two or three quotes from out of the billion Muslims.  That’s the best he can do.  That’s all he’s got.  Here, I will issue a direct challenge to Robert Spencer: provide us with a list of contemporary Muslim scholars, leaders, intellectuals, etc. who have called for a reimposition of the Pact of Umar and/or its discriminatory provisions.  List as many as you can.  Every single one.  Let’s see how long your list is. I guarantee you that it will be an incredibly short list.  That is why you will avoid this challenge like the intellectual chicken you are.

The Muslim World League published the full text of the Achtiname of Muhammad in its journal.  Can Spencer provide a similar contemporary reference for the Pact of Umar?  In fact, the only contemporary texts he will find on the Pact of Umar will be responses to anti-Islam ideologues.  I challenge Robert Spencer to provide as many contemporary Islamic texts that endorse the Pact of Umar as he can.  I will then provide a list of scholars/texts that reject the Pact of Umar altogether, and definitely my list will be longer than his.

Spencer’s desperation can be gauged from what he writes in his book (emphasis is mine):

All this is still part of the Sharia today. “The subject peoples,” according to a contemporary manual of Islamic law, must “pay the non-Muslim poll tax (jizya)” and “are distinguished from Muslims in dress, wearing a wide cloth belt (zunnar)…[etc etc]” [19]

I was surprised when I saw the words “contemporary manual.”  So I checked out the footnote, which cited Umdat al-Salik as the reference.  That’s a contemporary manual?  It was written six hundred and fifty years ago.  (Tisk, tisk…How dishonest.)  Like I said earlier, the only references to the Pact of Umar you will find now are (1) reprints of medieval texts, and (2) responses to anti-Islam ideologues.  (This is where the Islamophobes use their typical deceitful argument that such-and-such medieval text is “endorsed” by such and such Islamic authority; an endorsement of a text in the Islamic tradition does not at all mean 100% agreement on every single opinion. If that is the case, then show us that Islamic authority explicitly advocating the reimposition of the Pact of Umar.)

Nowhere in contemporary Islamic texts will you find an endorsement of the reimplementation of the Pact of Umar and its discriminatory conditions; meanwhile, contemporary Muslims widely publicize the Achtiname of Muhammad as a model for the treatment of non-Muslims. If you search Muslim websites, you will find the Achtiname of Muhammad published on them. If you search Islamophobic ones, you will find the Pact of Umar. (“No no, this is what you believe!”)

Christian Extremists Continue to Believe in Perpetual Servitude

Does the fact that there might be a handful of Muslims who believe in the reimposition of the Pact of Umar justify Spencer’s agenda?  Certainly not, especially when we consider the fact that a greater number of Christians still believe in the Perpetual Servitude of Jews.  We know that the extremist Muslims are the Al-Qaeda types.  OK, so who are the extremist Christians?  The white nationalists, a sizable portion of which are extremist Christians.  But those don’t count, argue the Islamophobes.  Why not?  Because they are loonies and racists.  So let me get this straight: the Muslim extremists aren’t also loonies?  How come the Muslim loonies define the Islamic threat, but the Christian loonies don’t define the Christian threat?  As for them being racists, so?  That’s completely in line with historic Christianity.  Unlike Islam, Christianity was wedded with racist thought, with bigoted theological positions revolving around the Mark of Cain.  (But let’s not be loony about what we say: clearly, the vast majority of Christians have jettisoned such beliefs.)  Fundamentalist Muslims rigidly adhere to medieval opinions, and so do the extreme right wing Christians…And nobody can deny that such racist opinions were not alien to historic Christianity.

People always wonder why there are so many extremist Muslims, but where are the extremist Christians?  In fact, it’s quite easy to identify them: they are the white nationalists.  (Not all of them are Christians, but a sizable portion are and they base their racism in Christian belief.)  In fact, white nationalism is becoming a scourge in the world arguably greater than extremist Al-Qaeda types.  There are millions of white nationalists in the world (they are greater in numbers than jihadists), and their movement is on the rise.  But of course, our minds have been infected with “stealth racism” (to borrow a term from Robert Spencer).  So when a Muslim flies a plane into a building, it’s automatically terrorism and we’re on high alert; when someone else does, then that doesn’t count as terrorism and who cares?  Well yeah, if you’re going to always exclude all non-Muslim acts of terrorism, then it’s no surprise you can blithely ask: why are all terrorists Muslim?  Similarly, if all Christian extremists “don’t count”, then of course there will be far more Muslim extremists in your books than Christian ones.

Anyways, the fact is that there exists a rising group of white nationalists who base their racism in historic Christian belief.  And if all of the Islamic community is to be shamed because there may be a handful of Muslims who believe in reimposing the Pact of Umar, then shouldn’t we have a similar reaction to Christianity?  After all, there exist far right wing Christians who believe that the doctrines of Witness and Perpetual Servitude ought to be reinforced.  Don’t believe me?  The white nationalist website, Stormfront (which boasts an impressive membership of a couple hundred thousand), published the following article, which argues that “the theologically correct, and socially just Catholic social policy is to subjugate [the Jews], regulate them, segregate them and expel them.” If you read that article in its entirety, you will come to know that these far right wing Christians base their belief in historic Christian beliefs and the traditional interpretations of the Bible.

Conclusion

The Pact of Umar has become the Islamophobe’s equivalent to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. I understand that there are certain shortcomings to this comparison, since the Protocols of the Elders of Zion were never accepted by Jews at all. But it is an apt comparison in so far as the xenophobes spreading a conspiracy that a certain religious group seeks to establish their rule and subjugate the natives. The reality is that this conspiracy is far-fetched and outright loony.  The vast majority of Muslims have never even heard of the document, let alone engage in a “stealth Jihad” to one day implement it.  Even extremist Muslims tend to focus on the utopic image of co-existence that supposedly existed in Islamic history.  The Pact of Umar has become an obscure text, with even Islamic scholars having a hard time recalling what exactly it is.  The only contemporary references to the document are in the form of responses against anti-Islam ideologues, invariably arguing against the Pact of Umar’s authenticity and/or applicability. No country on earth–including the ultraconservative Saudi Arabia and Iran–enforces the Pact of Umar. Yes, it is true that the rights of minorities are not properly protected in many Muslim majority countries, but this has nothing to do with the Pact of Umar.

The document may have reached some level of significance in the Islamic past, but it has now fallen into obscurity.  This is easy to understand when our Christian readers think about the doctrines of Witness and Perpetual Servitude.  I gander that virtually none of the Christians who read my article on that topic had ever even heard of the doctrines of Witness or Perpetual Servitude.  The first time they heard of it was from me.  This, even though these doctrines were of utmost importance at one time in Christian history.  Yet, now even religious Christians have no idea what these doctrines are.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Robert Spencer himself was unfamiliar with them.  When contemporary Christians do hear about these doctrines, they have to look for Christian responses, which explain (in a somewhat convoluted manner) why these doctrines are not infallible.

So why–when modern day Christians have no knowledge of a once popular doctrine in their religious tradition–is it so hard for them to believe that Muslims nowadays have no idea what the Pact of Umar is?  Robert Spencer and the rest of the Islamophobic goof troop trying to prove that Muslims want to reimpose the Pact of Umar is as inane as some Muslim fanatic trying to prove that the United States is attacking Muslim majority countries because they wish to reinforce the doctrine of Perpetual Servitude upon Muslims.  But for some reason, it’s so much easier to understand this about oneself, as opposed to the demonized other. 

You are a certified loon if you go on and on about how Muslims want to reimpose the Pact of Umar, just as a Muslim would be a loon if he were to claim that Christians were seeking to reimpose Perpetual Servitude.  Spencer, you are so proud of yourself that you found one spurious document from a caliph of Islam that became important in medieval Islamic texts; I can point to dozens of 100% authentic (and arguably infallible) papal decrees that became foundational to medieval Christian theology, restricting Jews and Muslims to a status of Perpetual Servitude…And yes, there continue to exist a section of Christians today who believe in reinforcing it.

(Cue Islamophobic whining of “tu quoque, tu quoque,” which translates to “please Danios stop hitting us back so hard, waah waah waah!” I will explain in a future article why this lame tu quoque chant is inappropriate and inapplicable in this context.)

Stay tuned for part 3 of this three part series, entitled “Do Muslims want to reimpose dhimmitude?” Danios has called part 2 his jab and part 3 will be his knockout punch.

Footnotes

refer back to article 1. Personal correspondence with Zaid Shakir; quote may be verified by directly contacting Shakir: http://www.zaidshakir.com/

refer back to article 2. Yusuf Qaradawi, Ghayr Al-Muslimeen fil Mujtama` Al-Islami

refer back to article 3. Maher Abu-Munshar, Islamic Jerusalem And Its Christians: A History of Tolerance And Tensions, pp.79-80

refer back to article 4. Tabari, Tarikh At-Tabari, Vol. 3, p.609

refer back to article 5. Mawdudi, The Rights Of The People of Covenant In The Islamic State, p.22

refer back to article 6. Abraham P. Bloch, One a Day: An Anthology of Jewish Historical Anniversaries for Every Day of the Year, p.314. ISBN 0881251089

refer back to article 7. Personal correspondence with Bassam Zawadi; quote may be verified by directly emailing Zawadi: b_zawadi@hotmail.com

refer back to article 8. It should be noted that Shawkani later converted to Sunni Islam.

refer back to article 9. Jan Platvoet, Pluralism and Identity: Studies in Ritual Behavior, 178-180. ISBN: 9004103732

refer back to article 10. Ayman bin Khaled, Multaqa Ahl al-Hadeeth

refer back to article 11. Ibn Ishaq, Sirat Rasul Allah

refer back to article 12. Testamentum et pactiones inter Mohammedem et Christianae fidei cultores. Paris, 1630

refer back to article 13. Abu Yusuf, Kitab al-Kharaj, p.79

refer back to article 14. Ibid., p. 146

refer back to article 15. Ahkam Ahlul Dhimma, Vol. 1, pp. 23-24

refer back to article 16. Hat tip: Bassam Zawadi

refer back to article 17. Rawdat al-Talibin, Volume 10, p.315-16

refer back to article 18. Robert Spencer, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), p.51

refer back to article 19. Ibid.

Bat Ye’or: Anti-Muslim Loon with a Crazy Conspiracy Theory Named “Eurabia”

"The Islamic State of Eurabia"

"The Islamic State of Eurabia"

We all have them: crazy uncles or senile grandparents raving about one conspiracy theory or the other on the dinner table. “Man landing on the moon was a big hoax,” or something about Kennedy’s assassination.  We’d smile and continue eating our leftover mashed potatoes smothered in gravy, then politely ask to be excused on account of work early the next morning, the car ride back home full of mirthful post-dinner analysis of the crazy dinner table conspiracy talk.

So when we first read about Bat Ye’or, a lady with no educational qualifications to speak of, who came up with the crazy conspiracy theory entitled “Eurabia,” we here at LoonWatch barely reacted. If a zany lady comes up with some insane theory, we’re certainly not going to take her seriously, at least not any more than the crazy old McCain lady.

The sad reality, however, is that Bat Ye’or is now being used by leading Islamophobes as a primary source for their research and subsequent analysis.  So who is Bat Ye’or?  Well, first of all, her name is not Bat Ye’or.  That’s just her “screen-name.”  For many years, she kept her real identity a secret, and only wrote under this moniker, which is Hebrew for “daughter of the Nile.”  She also had another screen-name, which was Yahudiya Masriya, Arabic for “Egyptian Jewess.”  Her real name is Gisele Littman, and she’s vitriolically anti-Muslim and anti-Islam.

She has written a handful of articles and books–with the basic theme that Muslims have savagely oppressed Non-Muslims (“dhimmis”) throughout history.  These resources written by her are used as reference sources by famous Islamophobes like Robert Spencer (the face behind the xenophobic websites Jihad Watch and Dhimmi Watch). Spencer hailed Bat Ye’or as “the pioneering scholar of dhimmitude, of the institutionalized discrimination and harassment of non-Muslims under Islamic law.”  Daniel Pipes, an Islamophobic professor, cites her work numerous times. She has emerged from relative obscurity to fame, her work being the backbone of Islamophobic (mis)characterization of Islamic history.

Pamela Geller, admin of the anti-Muslim site Atlas Shrugs, declares: “Bat Ye’or is the world’s foremost leading scholar on Islam.” Amazing how the “world’s foremost leading scholar on Islam” has no educational background and absolutely no credentials at all from a recognized university; truly amazing that anyone can become the world’s leading scholar on Islam with just a library card, a keyboard and internet connection, and of course the key ingredient of all–an all encompassing hatred of Islam.  Can one imagine the world’s leading scholar on Judaism being an Anti-Semite?  This just in: the world’s foremost leading scholar on Judaism is an Anti-Semitic Hamas member. Absurd!

Bat Ye’or is Not a Scholar

Bat Ye’or is not a scholar; she does not have the credentials of a historian from any recognized university.  She is referred to as an “independent researcher,” a euphemism for a random person who goes to the library, opens up some books, and starts writing. Adi Shwartz, a journalist for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, rightfully points out Bat Ye’or’s lack of credentials:

Europe allowed the immigration of millions of Muslims to its territories…and will ultimately…transform Europe into a continent under the thumb of the Arab and Muslim world. Europe is dead, and in its stead “Eurabia” has arisen.

This controversial thesis belongs to Bat Ye’or, the pen name of a self-taught Jewish intellectual who was born in Egypt and who currently lives in Switzerland. She refuses to reveal her real name for security reasons, she says, but her thesis is just the prologue to far-reaching conclusions and extreme statements…While her ideas were once almost completely ignored, nowadays, because of the prevailing consternation in Europe regarding its complex relations with the Muslim world, she is receiving more attention, though she is still quite far from entering the European mainstream…

Bat Ye’or’s opinions have made her a controversial figure, as has the fact that she is not an academic and has never taught at any university. She conducts her research independently.

Professor Robert Wistrich, head of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, says of her:

Up until the 1980s, she was not accepted at all. In academic circles they scorned her publications…A real change toward her emerged in the 1990s, and especially in recent years.

In other words, Bat Ye’or was never taken seriously by academics; it was only recently due to the political climate of Islamophobia that her works have become oft-cited by certain elements of society.  Interestingly enough, Bat Ye’or herself admits this:

They didn’t even mention my name in publications. In the United States, I am certain that the September 11 attacks woke people up, including the Jewish community that had previously ignored me…

It truly calls to question the legitimacy of the Islamophobes that they use as their main source a woman who has no credentials and whose work was scorned and ignored by academics and only became popular due to a wave of xenophobia:

[Professor Wistrich said:] “In a survey conducted in Germany recently 83 percent gave the answer ‘fanaticism’ to the question ‘What is Islam?’ Sixty percent said there was a clash of civilizations. This is why Bat Ye’or is getting more attention these days.”

Her opinions on the integration of the Muslims and Europe’s bleak future are acquiring many supporters for her in Europe’s extreme right-wing circles.

Those numbers are staggering, and frightening.  An overwhelming majority (83%) of Germans believe that Islam is fanaticism. (One can imagine what a similar poll conducted in the early 1930’s or 40’s-during the reign of the Nazis-would have shown had it asked what their view of Judaism was.)  It is such a climate that leads to pogroms, and it seems that Bat Ye’or wishes to tap into this potential.  She admits that her works are embraced by “the extreme right and in racist movements.” She gives them the wink and nod, with the usual half-hearted disclaimer that “attacking Muslims, sometimes even physically, is stupid.” Any bigotry short of that, of course, is fine and dandy.  Wistrich, who invited her to speak at a conference in Jerusalem, cracked a crass joke:

At the conference I said half-joking that it was possible to call this [her book] ‘the protocols of the elders of Brussels.’

It is interesting that Wistrich could be so mirthful about such a serious topic, as if it is somehow comical for a person to write a document that would result in ethnic strife.  Again, a frightening idea.  Adi Schwartz, the Israeli journalist who questioned her credentials, aptly titled his article on her “The Protocols of the Elders of Brussels.”

Bat Ye’or: Neutral Academic or Biased Ideologue?

Bat Yeor: a crazy old lady

Bat Ye'or: a crazy old lady

Bat Ye’or has an axe to grind; there could be no one more biased than her.  Her antipathy towards Islam stems from her stormy past: in 1957, she was expelled from Egypt during the Israeli invasion of Sinai.  Although one can and should most definitely sympathize with her plight, it seems that she has–like so many racists before her–reacted to bigotry by becoming a bigot.  She was wronged by Muslims, and now she wants to take vengeance, which has blinded her.  Bat Ye’or said in an interview:

I wrote these books because I had witnessed the destruction, in a few short years, of a vibrant Jewish community living in Egypt for over 2,600 years and which had existed from the time of Jeremiah the Prophet. I saw the disintegration and flight of families, dispossessed and humiliated, the destruction of their synagogues, the bombing of the Jewish quarters and the terrorizing of a peaceful population. I have personally experienced the hardships of exile, the misery of statelessness-and I wanted to get to the root cause of all this. I wanted to understand why the Jews from Arab countries, nearly a million, had shared my experience.

This is not unbiased and dispassionate academic study; for Bat Ye’or, this is personal.  From the above quote alone, one can see the inconsistency in Bat Ye’or’s views.  During the Israeli occupation of Sinai, anti-Semitism surged in Egypt and within “a few short years” an end was brought to “a vibrant Jewish community living in Egypt for over 2,600 years.”  Does she not see the inconsistency here?  Over one thousand of those 2,600 years were during Muslim rule of Egypt, which began in 639 AD.  During that time period, there was a Jewish community which thrived, or as Bat Ye’or words it, was “vibrant.”  Surely then it makes no sense to generalize the “few short years” to all of Islamic history.

Conspiracy Theory: Palestinians Don’t Exist; Europeans Created Them

It is an irony that Bat Ye’or laments about “the hardships of exile, [and the] misery of statelessness,” which is exactly what the Palestinian people have suffered from.  Yet, Bat Ye’or, a fervent supporter of Israel goes even further than some of the most extreme Right-Wing Israelis and even denies the existence of a Palestinian people, arguing that “the Palestinian cause was created mainly in Europe.”   To put her quote into context, she says:

The Kurds, the Berbers, the Basques (Spain) and the Corsicans (France) have nationalist characteristics, but not the Palestinians.  The Palestinian cause was created mainly in Europe…

So Kurds, Berbers, Basques, and Corsicans are all peoples, but not the Palestinians, who are an imaginary peoples invented by Europe.  So why exactly did Europe create the Palestinian people?  She explains:

The Palestinian cause was created mainly in Europe, with the purpose to transfer onto the Palestinians the Jewish history in order to delegitimize Israel and to absolve Europe from the Holocaust by throwing onto Israel its own European history of Nazism, apartheid and colonialism.

Let us allow the reader to properly understand her conspiracy theory: she is arguing that the Palestinian people were created by Europe in order to paint Israel as being guilty of Nazism, apartheid, and colonialism–in order to absolve themselves of blame for the Holocaust which created the state of Israel.  One can imagine the European leaders convening in some secret lair–shoddy lighting and a room full of cigar smoke–contemplating how to absolve themselves of blame for the Holocaust.  “I got it!” exclaims one especially wily European intellectual.  “We’ll invent a people–let’s call them ‘Palestinians’–and say that they existed in the land of Israel!”  They passed it to a vote, and voila!  The Europeans then made a few calls and engineered the Palestinian race.  As Jon Stewart said mockingly about the Obama-being-a-stealth-Jihadist-from-Yemen theory: “It was just too easy.”

Bat Ye’or’s conspiracy theory is creative no doubt, but ludicrous.  This is the woman whom Islamophobes like Robert Spencer, Daniel Pipes, and Pamela Geller cite as a primary source for their views on Islam, thus highlighting that they have absolutely no academic integrity or credibility.

Conspiracy Theory: Europe Will Become a Vassal State to the Arab World

Bat Ye’or is a fringe conspiracy theorist who argues that “Europe will become a vassal [state], a satellite of the Arab world.” Such alarmist drivel that no sane person could take her seriously.  The irony is that the reality is the exact opposite: it is the Arab world that plays second fiddle compared to the West.  Tell us, Bat Ye’or, how will the Arabs make a vassal state out of Europe?  Them and which army?  The combined Arab might pales in front of Israel; how can the Arab world then vanquish all of Europe?  Such senseless fear mongering.

Conspiracy Theory: European Universities are Controlled by Palestinians

As part of her global conspiracy theory, Bat Ye’or argues that “[European] universities, for example, are controlled by the Palestinians.” Oh why of course!  In fact, the deans of the European universities are all “stealth Palestinians;” every year they travel to the Gaza Strip for an annual ceremony, where Hamas leaders dictate what the curriculum will be for the year, and indoctrinate them in all things jihad.  It is in fact funding from Palestine that is keeping the European universities afloat.  (deadpan face)

Can one imagine the reaction of Islamophobes if some Moozlim-looking person said that the Western universities were controlled by “the Jews?”  They would call such a person not only a crazy conspiracy theorist but a racist, and rightfully so, but the issue here is the profound double standard.  You want to say something outlandish about Jews or any other minority?  Not acceptable  (Rightfully so).  But say the same thing about Muslims?  Then you get your own show on Fox News, and your books will become best-sellers (of the “What’s Wrong with Islam” or “Why I’m Not a Muslim” variety).

Conspiracy Theory: The Rise of Eurabia

The culmination of Bat Ye’or’s theories is what she coins as “Eurabia,” a (not so) clever combination of the words “Europe” and “Arabia.”  Basically, the theory is that Arab and Muslim immigration (of “stealth jihadists”) will soon overwhelm Europe, destroy Western culture and civilization forever, and replace the democratic governments with Taliban style theocracies.   While that does sound like an interesting plot for a fictional movie, it is pure insanity to take this seriously.  Bat Ye’or is simply delusional.  David Aaronovitch, a journalist for The Times, labels Bat Ye’or as a conspiracy theorist:

Pinch me a third time while we get to grips with “Eurabia”. This is a concept created by a writer called Bat Ye’or who, according to the publicity for her most recent book, “chronicles Arab determination to subdue Europe as a cultural appendage to the Muslim world-and Europe’s willingness to be so subjugated”. This, as students of conspiracy theories will recognise, is the addition of the Sad Dupes thesis to the Enemy Within idea.

Aaronovitch would know; he wrote the book entitled Voodoo Histories: the role of Conspiracy Theory in Modern History.  (Aaronovitch is no “dhimmi” as the Islamophobes would say; he produced a pro-Israeli documentary titled Blaming the Jews.)

Conspiracy Theory: The Churches of Europe are Colluding with Muslims

Bat Ye’or’s lunacy can be ascertained by some of her even more outlandish claims.  For example, she accuses the churches in Europe of being in a state of “collusion with the Muslims,” which she says have of their own volition become “Christian slave militias” that will “spearhead…the Islamic war against Christianity.”  According to her, the churches of Europe “reject…the Bible, which they read with a Koranic understanding.”  She goes on to say that European Christians “are more inclined to follow the Koranic Muslim Jesus, called Isa, than the Jewish Jesus.” Can any sober academic–or even sensible layman–take such drivel seriously?  But perhaps the reader thinks that we have taken her words out of context (after all, who could say something so crazy!), so let us reproduce her entire nonsensical answer verbatim so that her madness can be firmly established in the eyes of the reader:

JW: You’re accusing churches of collusion with the Muslims?

BY [Bat Ye’or]: Yes. Those churches know perfectly well the dire condition of Christians in Muslim lands. But instead of denouncing it, they adopt the militancy of the Janissaries, those Christian slave militias that were the spearhead of the Islamic war against Christianity. They forbid Christians to reveal the iniquities of modern dhimmitude in Arab countries, the enslavement of Christians in Sudan, the abductions and jihadic terror against innocent population. Those churches follow an arcionist theological line which separates the Gospels from the Hebrew Bible. They reject the historical legitimacy of Israel in its own land and, therefore, reject also the Bible, which they read with a Koranic understanding. They are more inclined to follow the Koranic Muslim Jesus, called Isa, than the Jewish Jesus. In my book, I call them the Islamized churches because their rejection of Israel’s history implies their refusal of the Bible and their acceptance of the Koranic version of the Bible that considers Christianity as a deformation of Islam.

This lunacy has been affirmed by another well-known loon–Daniel Pipes–who writes:

The historian Bat Ye’or, the first person to comprehend the gradual process of Europe accepting the dhimmi status, observes that this fundamental shift began with the Arab-Israeli war of 1973, when the continent began moving “into the Arab-Islamic sphere of influence, thus breaking the traditional trans-Atlantic solidarity.”

Translation: not only has Europe fallen under the Arab-Islamic sphere of influence–and not only has it become a subservient “dhimmi” to the Arab world–it is doing so willingly and of its own volition.  Riiiight, riiiight.  So Pipes is not far behind Bat Ye’or in looniness, which explains his reliance on her work.

Voice of Reason

Adam Keller, a well-known Israeli peace activist and cofounder of Gush Shalom, wrote a letter of protest to the Israeli publisher of Bat Ye’or’s book:

In 1886 the French antisemite Edouard Drumont published ‘La France Juive’ (Jewish France), creating the false nightmarish image of a France dominated by Jews, and sowing the poisonous seeds which came to fruit when Vichi French officials collaborated in the mass murder of French Jewry…

Bat Yeor’, [is] a British inflammatory writer who presumes to be a historian and who, I regret to note, is Jewish.  In this book – which, like the other works of this writer, is little more than a rabid anti-Muslim tract – ‘Bat Yeor’ follows in notorious footsteps indeed by creating the false nightmarish image of a Europe dominated by Arabs and Muslims. As Edouard Drumont sought to arouse the French people to persecute and kill their Jewish neighbours, so does Ms. Littman intend to drive Europeans into a continent-wide orgy of hatred and violence against the Muslim immigrants who are now a significant ethnic minority throughout the continent, and the great majority of whom seek nothing but to live useful and fruitful lives in their new homelands.

Ms. Littman’s reasons for writing her racist and inflammatory book are all too obvious. The reasons why you, a respectable publishing house, have chosen to present it to the Israeli public are far more obscure. Whatever these reasons might be, surely – now that you already taken this step – it would be appropriate to complete your task and produce also a companion volume, i.e. a Hebrew translation of ‘La France Juive’? After all, the informed Israeli reading public deserves to be given the chance of comparing the classical work of a master racist demagogue with that of his loyal present-day disciple and successor.

Craigh Smith of The New York Times refers to Bat Ye’or as one “of the most extreme voices” of the right:

A curious thing is happening in Belgium these days: a small but vocal number of Jews are supporting a far-right party whose founders were Nazi collaborators. The xenophobic party, Vlaams Belang, plays on fears of Arab immigrants and, unlike the prewar parties from which it is descended, courts Jewish votes…

Those fears shape some of the most extreme voices on the new Jewish right. Giselle Littman, who was expelled from Egypt in 1957 and now publishes under the pseudonym Bat Yeor, argues in her latest book, ”Eurabia: the Euro-Arab Axis,” that Europe has consciously allied itself with the Arab world at the expense of Jews and the trans-Atlantic alliance.

Johann Hari of The Independent writes of Bat Ye’or:

There are intellectuals on the British right who are propagating a conspiracy theory about Muslims that teeters very close to being a 21st century Protocols of the Elders of Mecca. Meet Bat Ye’or, a “scholar” who argues that Europe is on the brink of being transformed into a conquered continent called “Eurabia”.

In this new land, Christians and Jews will be reduced by the new Muslim majority to the status of “dhimmis” – second-class citizens forced to “walk in the gutter”. This will not happen by accident. It is part of a deliberate and “occult” plan, concocted between the Arab League and leading European politicians like Jacques Chirac and Mary Robinson, who secretly love Islam and are deliberately flooding the continent with Muslim immigrants. As Orianna Fallacci – one of the best-selling writers in Italy – has summarised the thesis in her hymns of praise to Ye’or, “Muslims have been told to come here and breed like rats.”

Rather than dismissing her preposterous assertions, high-profile writers like Melanie Phillips, Daniel Pipes and Niall Ferguson laud Ye’or as a suppressed hero, silenced by (you guessed it) “political correctness”. Her name is brandished as a gold standard in right-wing Tory circles. It’s interesting that writers so alert to anti-Semitism have lent their names to an ideology that is so startlingly similar. In this theory, the Star of David has simply been replaced by the Islamic crescent. If the term has any meaning, this is authentic Islamophobia, treating virtually all Muslims as verminous sharia-carriers. So why are these people still treated as serious and sane by the BBC and its editors?

Selective and Shoddy “Scholarship”

Bat Ye’or’s idea of history is nothing short of propaganda.  She said in one interview:

The Arab invaders arrived in [Jerusalem in] the 7th century, devastated the country, massacred and enslaved the population and expropriated the Jewish and Christian indigenous populations, as is related by contemporaneous sources.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.

As for her actual work on dhimmis (Non-Muslims under Muslim rule) is concerned, it is selective and shoddy “scholarship.”  Professor Robert Brenton Betts, a well-renowned American historian who worked for the Library of Congress and the Department of State, criticizes Bet Ye’or’s book:

The general tone of the book is strident and anti-Muslim. This is coupled with selective scholarship designed to pick out the worst examples of anti-Christian behavior by Muslim governments, usually in time of war and threats to their own destruction (as in the case of the deplorable Armenian genocide of 1915). Add to this the attempt to demonize the so-called Islamic threat to Western civilization and the end-product is generally unedifying and frequently irritating.

(source: Robert Brenton Betts, “The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude” Middle East Policy 5-3 ; September 1997, pp. 200-2003)

Professor Michael Sells of the University of Chicago writes:

By obscuring the existence of pre-Christian and other old, non-Christian communities in Europe as well as the reason for their disappearance in other areas of Europe [due to Christian persecution], Bat Ye’or constructs an invidious comparison between the allegedly humane Europe of Christian and Enlightenment values and the ever present persecution within Islam. Whenever the possibility is raised of actually comparing circumstances of non-Christians in Europe to non-Muslims under Islamic governance in a careful, thoughtful manner, Bat Ye’or forecloses such comparison.

(source: The New Crusades: Construction the Muslim Enemy, by Professor Michael Sells, p.364)

In other words, the comparison that Bat Ye’or–and Islamophobes in general–flee from is the one between the Muslim lands in the pre-modern era with the contemporaneous Christian Europe.  Instead, they choose to compare medieval Islamdom with post-enlightenment and postmodern standards, a most unequal and unusually obtuse comparison.  Jan Platvoet sums it up best with a very nuanced answer (emphasis is mine):

Arab scholars praise the tolerance of Islam towards the ‘protected population’.  The Egyptian Qasim ‘Abduh Qasim, for instance, who has published several works on the dhimmis in Muslim lands in general, and Egypt in particular, emphasizes the positive attitude of Muslims towards non-Muslims, even under the regime of the eleventh-century Fatimid caliph al-Hakim, known for his persecution of minorities, especially the Christians.

The opposite point of view is represented by a number of researchers, notably a writer who [uses] the pseudonym Bat Ye’or, i.e. Daughter of the Nile.  She has managed to select from the body of historiographical evidence, chronicles and documents, only that material which portrays the negative aspects.  Some such materials can occasionally be found, relating to various episodes, periods, and areas; it is therefore no wonder that she has succeeded in filling a complete volume, now published in several languages, on the maltreatment of the dhimmis by Muslims.  Bat Ye’or has recently published a new book dedicated exclusively to the long history of Christians under Muslim rule; this book is characterized by the same spirit as her previous book on the dhimmis.

…It seems that the truth lies somewhere in between [Qasim and Bat Ye’or’s version]…The life of the dhimmis in the shade of Islam was certainly not easy, but at least their physical security (aman) and the safety of their property was assured, almost without exception.

(Pluralism and Identity, by Jan Platvoet, p.169)

Nazi propaganda showing Jewish octopus taking over the world, not unlike image up top of Islamic crescent taking over Europe

Nazi propaganda showing Jewish octopus taking over the world, not unlike image up top of Islamic crescent taking over Europe

In other words, Bat Ye’or scours historical texts to find all the negative points she possibly can, and then she compiles them into a book.  Naturally, the span of Islamic history was over a thousand years, so she can easily fill up hundreds of pages, giving the credulous reader the false impression that Islamic history was incredibly dastardly.  To give a suitable analogy, let’s say Rodney King were to scour all the reports throughout the country for the last fifty years for all acts of police brutality–and then compiled them into a book–he could easily fill hundreds of pages.  A person who relied on his book would get the false impression that the police were–and are–always brutal, or at least more so than not.  One gets a skewed picture from such a selective analysis.

The Islamophobe Robert Spencer argues that Bat Ye’or’s book is convincing because it is “full…[of] almost half primary source documents so that one can see the voracity of what she is saying from very ancient texts.” Yet it is convincing only because it is selective and biased; Bat Ye’or simply sifted throughout Islamic history to selectively find all the instances of anti-Jewish and anti-Christian persecution, ignoring the overwhelming majority of Islamic history which was characterized according to the overwhelming number of scholars by relative tolerance (for the times, and certainly compared to Christendom); if Bat Ye’or could fill a book with her quotes, it would only be a slight exaggeration to say that we could fill an entire anthology with quotes highlighting the relative tolerance of Muslims.  Taken selectively, Bat Ye’or’s choice of quotes seem damning, but diluted within the proper context, they would be less convincing of an argument.  One can easily carry out such a hatchet job on Christian (and even Jewish) history in a similar fashion.

World renowned Jewish-Israeli historian Nissim Rejwan warns:

By way of conclusion, a word of caution is in order…It must be pointed out that the picture has not been uniformly so rosy and that instances of religious intolerance toward and discriminatory treatment of Jews under Islam are by no means difficult to find. This point is of special relevance at a time in which, following a reawakening of interest in the history of Arab-Jewish relations among Jewish writers and intellectuals, certain interested circles have been trying to…[question the] Judeo-Arabic tradition or symbiosis by digging up scattered pieces of evidence to show that Islam is essentially intolerant…and that Muslims’ contempt for Jews was even greater and more deep-seated than that manifested by Christians…

Such caricatures of the history of Jews under Islam continue to be disseminated by scholars as well as by interested publicists and ideologues. Indeed, all discussion of relations between Jews and Muslims…is beset by the most burning emotions and by highly charged sensitivities. In their eagerness to repudiate the generally accepted version of these relations (a version which, it is worthwhile pointing out, originates not in Muslim books of history but with Jewish historians and Orientalists in nineteenth-century Europe), certain partisan students of the Middle East conflict today seem to go out of their way to show that, far from being the record of harmonious coexistence it is often claimed to be, the story of Jewish-Muslim relations since the time of Muhammad was “a sorry array of conquest, massacre, subjection, spoilation in goods and women and children, contempt, expulsion-[and] even the yellow badge…”

Informed by a fervor seldom encountered in scholarly discourse, some of these latter-day historians have gone so far as to question even the motives of those European-Jewish scholars of the past century who virtually founded modern Oriental and Arabic studies and managed to unearth the impressive legacy of Judeo-Arabic culture, a culture that was undeniably an outcome of a long and symbiotic encounter between Muslims and Jews.

…[But] by the standards then prevailing-and they are plainly the only ones by which a historian is entitled to pass judgment-Spanish Islamic tolerance was no myth but a reality of which present-day Muslim Arabs are fully justified in reminding their contemporaries…Tolerance, then, is a highly relative concept, and the only sensible way of gauging the extent of tolerance in a given society or culture in a given age is to compare it with that prevailing in other societies and cultures in the same period…

The only plausible conclusion one could draw from the whole debate is that, while Jewish life in Muslim Spain-and under Islam generally-was not exactly the idyllic paradise some would want us to believe, it was far from the veritable hell that was the Jews’ consistent lot under Christendom.

Bat Ye’or: The Pioneer of “Dhimmitude”

The Usual Suspects: Bat Yeor and Robert Spencer

The Usual Suspects: Bat Ye'or and Robert Spencer

It should be noted that the Islamophobe Robert Spencer refers to Bat Ye’or as “the pioneering scholar of dhimmitude” (emphasis is ours).  The word “pioneer” indicates that she is the first to voice such views.  In other words, the traditional and long-established understanding of academics and historians is at variance with Bat Ye’or’s assessment: Muslim history was characterized by relative lenience and tolerance towards dhimmis.  (Again, all things are relative; while certainly it wouldn’t be considered tolerant to today’s standards and norms, back then it certainly was, evidenced by historical statements from the “dhimmis” themselves.)

The fact that Bat Ye’or is the first to challenge traditional and established opinion is evidenced by what J.G. Jansen, an outspoken Dutch critic of militant Islam, says:

In 1985, Bat Ye’or offered Islamic studies a surprise with her book, The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam, a convincing demonstration that the notion of a traditional, lenient, liberal, and tolerant Muslim treatment of the Jewish and Christian minorities is more myth than reality.

While Jansen’s view that Bat Ye’or’s book is “convincing” is certainly questionable coming from him, his quote is significant in that it shows that up until Bat Ye’or’s book the traditional and predominant scholarly opinion was that Islamic history was characterized by relative tolerance, certainly in comparison to contemporaneous Christendom. Bat Ye’or is after all the one who coined the term “dhimmitude,” which Islamophobes–including Robert Spencer and Daniel Pipes–make recurrent use of.

The Usual Suspects: Bat Yeor and Pamela Geller

The Usual Suspects: Bat Ye'or and Pamela Geller

The fact that Bat Ye’or is the first to counter traditional opinion does not mean that the predominant view of scholars has changed, as Bat Ye’or “is still quite far from entering the European mainstream,” according to Shwartz.  But–according to Wistrich–”a real change toward her emerged in the 1990s, and especially in recent years,” as she became accepted in “extreme right-wing circles.”  It is this motley group which is trying through sheer force and fear to influence academia, and push pseudo-intellectuals like Bat Ye’or into the arena of historical discourse.  The fact that the leading Islamophobes reference her (including Robert Spencer, Daniel Pipes, and Pamela Geller) indicates the weakness of their sources, and calls to question their own credibility.

Spencer argues that it is only “political correctness” that prevents people from taking Bat Ye’or seriously; no, my Islamophobic friend, it is not political correctness, but academic integrity.  When you consider an Islamophobe to be the leading scholar of Islam in the world, then something is profoundly wrong.  Simply substitute the word “Jews” for “Muslims” in the following sentence and the matter becomes clear: “Muslims will take over Europe.”  Anyone who said that about Jews would be branded an Anti-Semite and academically ostracized, yet hey, it’s open season for Muslim-bashing!

The Bottom Line

Even if we were to accept the fallacious argument that Muslim history was characterized by profound and incessant intolerance, then what does that mean for us today?  The Mongols were historically known to be intolerant, at least the Genghis Khan variety; how should that affect our opinion of Mongolians today?  Do we discriminate against them based on their historical record?  What do the present day Mongolians have to do with those of the past?  Do people inherit sins?

The relevance of Islamic history to today’s popular discourse is questionable.  It is in fact designed to demonize Muslims, but the reality is that the question shouldn’t even arise.  Why is it that Muslims of today are on trial for what their ancestors supposedly did?  Should all nations now demand their pound of flesh from all who wronged their people in ancient times?  Maybe we should create a system of reparations…?

Then what is the end goal for Islamophobes like Bat Ye’or?  Why does she spend so much time pontificating about the historical record?  It all boils down to one thing: immigration. She has highlighted the negative aspects of Islamic history in order to push the argument for a tight control (or rather, full cessation) of Arab and Muslim immigration to Europe.  Indeed, Islamophobia is simply another flavor of xenophobia.

In every generation, there have been xenophobes, who have this irrational fear of the other.  In American history, it started with the Irish and Italian immigrants who were both heavily discriminated against due to their religion and skin color.  Then it was against the Chinese who were brought to build railroads, the Japanese in World War II, and so on.  What history has born out consistently however is that the xenophobes always end up with egg on their faces.  They are on the wrong side; tolerance and multiculturalism always win out over intolerance and bigotry.  The question is: which side are you on?

UPDATE: A related article on dhimmitude can be found here.