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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Traditional Islamic Religious Tolerance

"I have a theory that the truth is never told during the nine-to-five hours." - Hunter S. Thompson

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"The traditional political and social order which flourished in the Ottoman Empire and, with some modifications, in the realms of the shahs of Iran, had its roots in classical Islamic law and custom, and beyond that in the remoter civilizations of the ancient Middle East. As in other religious cultures, it was based frankly on inequality, since it would be inappropriate and indeed absurd to accord equal treatment to those who accept God’s final revelation and those who wilfully reject it. Sorne modem apologists, in justly praising the religious tolerance of traditional Islamic regimes, have described it as a system of equal rights. It was not, and such equality would indeed have been seen at the time not as a merit but as a dereliction of duty. In refusing equality to the unbeliever, the Islamic state was following the common practice of religions in power. Where it differed from most others was in according to these unbelievers a recognized status in society, defined and maintained by Holy Law, and accepted by the mass of the Muslim populations. This was not equal status, but it did provide a level of toleration which in states guided by other dispensations was not achieved until religion was disestablished or, at the very least, deprived of much of its influence in public affairs. Muslim religious tolerance was of course limited to monotheists who accepted what Islam recognized as earlier revelations. In practice, in the Middle East this meant Christians of various denominations, and Jews. In Iran there was also a small surviving community of Zoroastrians. In the Ottoman Empire, these minorities were constituted into what were known by the name of millet."

--- The Middle East / Bernard Lewis
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