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Valar Qringaomis

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Islam and Religious Tolerance (3/3)

(Continued from:

Islam and Religious Tolerance (1/3)
Islam and Religious Tolerance (2/3))

"From the beginnings of Islam, the Muslim authorities are virtually unanimous in their instruction to the believers: "Khalifuhum"—differentiate yourselves from them—that is, the unbelievers—in dress as in manners and customs. And since Muslims might not dress like unbelievers, it follows that unbelievers should not adopt or imitate the attire of Muslims...

The dhimmi cannot and indeed may not defend himself even against such petty but painful attacks as stone throwing, done mainly by children—a form of amusement recorded in many places from early until modern times. The dhimmi had to rely on the public authorities to protect him from attack or other harm, and while this protection was often, indeed usually, given, it inevitably faltered in times of trouble or disorder. The resulting feeling of endangerment, of precariousness, is frequently expressed in dhimmi writings...

Free Muslim women going out of doors were required to keep their faces covered by some sort of veil. Dhimmi and slave women were permitted to go barefaced, and sometimes even required to do so. There are some sets of regulations that actually forbid the women of the dhimmis to wear veils. The association of the uncovered face with slave women and of the veiled face with virtue and propriety is clear. The sentiment expressed in these rules is clearly the same as that which inspired Western conventions, in the recent past, concerning the exposure of the female bosom. At a time when standards in the cinema and television were stricter than they are now, it was acceptable to display bare-breasted women if they were regarded as primitive natives of some remote place. It was forbidden to display them if they were white and, so to speak, civilized...

A consideration of the highest importance was that the dhimmis should show respect not only for Islam but also for each and every individual Muslim...

A set of conditions the mullahs wished to impose on the Jews of Hamadan in Iran, in about 1892, are even more specific:

A Jew must never overtake a Muslim on a public street. He is forbidden to talk loudly to a Muslim. A Jewish creditor of a Muslim must claim his debt in a quavering and respectful manner. If a Muslim insults a Jew, the latter must drop his head and remain silent."

... the dhimmi who publicly insults the Prophet must be put to death, since "it is not for this that we granted him the dhimma."

There were indeed some seekers for martyrdom who attained their wishes in this way. Often, the offenders were demented or drunk; sometimes the accusation and punishment might be due to political needs, popular pressures, or even private vengeance. In general, prosecutions and condemnations for this offense were not common, but they occurred, from time to time, until well into the nineteenth century, and the fear of denunciation must have been a big factor in keeping the dhimmis in their place...

Shi'ites in Iran were far less tolerant than their Sunni contemporaries in the Ottoman Empire. Expulsion, forced conversion, and massacre—all three of rare occurrence in the Sunni lands—were features of life in Iran up to the nineteenth century. Western travelers comment frequently on the abject and miserable status of the non-Muslim subjects of the shahs. In general, it is significant that, with the striking exception of Spain and Arabia, Islamic regimes were more tolerant at the center than at the periphery, indeed becoming more repressive the further they were from the heartlands of Islamic civilization. Life for non-Muslims was usually better in Egypt or Turkey, Syria or Iraq than in North Africa and Central Asia...

Sometimes, when a persecution occurred, we find that the instigators were concerned to justify it in terms of the Holy Law. The usual argument was that the Jews or the Christians had violated the pact by overstepping their proper place. They had thus broken the conditions of the contract with Islam, and the Muslim state and people were no longer bound by it...

From time to time, especially in periods of great upheaval and disorder, Messianic and millenarian movements have appeared in the lands of Islam, which sometimes destroyed old regimes and swept new rulers and even dynasties into power, through revolution often followed by conquest. One of the most successful of these was the movement known as the Almohads... The Messianic fervor of the Almohads could not tolerate any deviation from their particular version of Islam. Muslims who would not submit were ruthlessly purged, while Jews and still more Christians were denied the tolerance prescribed by the Shari'a. It was probably at this time that Christianity was finally extirpated from North Africa. Jews, too, suffered badly in both North Africa and Spain and—exceptionally in Muslim history west of Iran—were given the choice between conversion, exile, and death...

The Muslim attitude toward heresy, which differs very radically from the Christian attitude. In the history of the Christian churches, heresy has been a matter of profound concern. Heresy meant a deviation from correct belief as defined by authority, the deviation being recognized and defined as such by authority. In Islam there was less concern about the details of belief. What mattered was what people did—orthopraxy rather than orthodoxy—and Muslims were allowed on the whole to believe as they chose so long as they accepted the basic minimum, the unity of God and the apostolate of Muhammad, and conformed to the social norms. Even heresies deviating very considerably from mainstream Islam were accorded tolerance. Heresy was persecuted only when it was seen to offer a substantial threat to the social or political order.

Much the same considerations regulated Muslim attitudes toward the non-Muslim subjects. Trouble arose when Jews or Christians were seen to be getting too much wealth or too much power, that is to say, more than was thought proper or appropriate for them, and more particularly when they were enjoying them too visibly. The best-known example of this is the massacre of Jews in Granada in 1066, usually ascribed to a reaction among the Muslim population against a powerful and ostentatious Jewish vizier...

Broadly speaking, Christians and Jews were treated in the same way. Sometimes we find the one better off, sometimes the other, but this was due to specific circumstances and not to general principles. The Qur'an shows an unequivocal preference for Christians; the Muslim tradition, reflecting the circumstances of the Prophet's career, shows even more. In general, the portrayal of the Jew in hadith is negative—less so in discussing his beliefs and practices, more so in reference to Jewish relations with the Prophet and Muslims. According to the great ninth-century Arab author al-Jahiz, the Muslim masses preferred Christians to Jews for a number of reasons. The most important, he notes, was that the Jews, unlike the Christians, had actively opposed the Prophet in Medina:

... the hearts of Muslims are hardened toward the Jews, but inclined toward the Christians.

... Another reason for the popular Muslim preference is that the Christians, though ugly, are less ugly than the Jews, whose ugliness is accentuated by inbreeding... Al-Jahiz was famous as a humorist, satirist, and parodist and it is often difficult to know whether he is speaking in jest or in earnest. In any case, apart from the early religious literature, there is no evidence that Jews were viewed with greater hostility or accorded worse treatment than were Christians under Muslim rule. On the contrary, there are some indications that Christians were more open to suspicion than Jews. For most of the fourteen centuries of Islamic history, the major external enemy of Islam was Christendom...

In most respects the position of non-Muslims under traditional Islamic rule was very much easier than that of non- Christians or even of heretical Christians in medieval Europe, not to speak of some events in modern Europe or, for that matter, the modern Middle East. But their status was one of legal and social inferiority or, as we would say nowadays, of second-class citizenship. At the present time this expression conveys a formal condemnation and has become a catch phrase to denote unacceptable discrimination by a dominant group against other groups in the same society. But the phrase deserves a closer look. Second-class citizenship, though secondclass, is a kind of citizenship. It involves some rights, though not all, and is surely better than no rights at all. It is certainly preferable to the kind of situation that prevails in many states at the present time, where the minorities, and for that matter even the majority, enjoy no real civil or human rights in spite of all the resplendent principles enshrined in the constitutions, but utterly without effect. A recognized status, albeit one of inferiority to the dominant group, which is established by law, recognized by tradition, and confirmed by popular assent, is not to be despised.

Under Muslim rule such a status was for long accepted with resignation by the Christians and with gratitude by the Jews. It ceased to be acceptable when the rising power of Christendom on the one hand and the radical ideas of the French Revolution on the other caused a wave of discontent among the Christian subjects of the Muslim states, an unwillingness to submit to the humiliations or even to the threat or possibility of humiliation, which existed in the old order...

The ending of the classical Islamic system and the abrogation of the status it accorded the non-Muslims brought a considerable improvement in the formal and legal state of these communities in their respective countries. The actual working out of their emancipation, in an age of imperialist domination and nationalist revolt, of secular challenge and Islamic response, is a very different matter"

--- The Jews of Islam / Bernard Lewis
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