Politics & Policy

Islamic Encounters

Beware historical pitfalls.

Over the last three decades, the West has been flooded by misleading books on Islam. Concealing the complexities inherent to an accurate portrayal of Muslim theology and the history of Islamic civilization, some Muslim groups have aggressively marketed a simplistic, roseate image of Islam to universities and other intellectual domains, as well as to the mass media.

Muslims specifically trained to teach non-Muslims were sent to Western universities. Since the 1970s, the Euro-Arab Dialogue apparatus — a complex Euro-Arab propaganda lobby that involved the highest political levels of the two sides — has encouraged this policy, conducted by local and immigrant professors. It is also thanks to this complex structure, based on oil, market interests, and arms sales, that many millions of Muslim immigrants were encouraged to settle in Europe over the last 30 years. This is one of the main causes that prevented Europe, until recently, from denouncing and fighting Islamic terror. The immigration policy also neutralized Europe’s defenses and contributed to its drifting away from America.

Weakened by two world wars and obsessed with its immediate economic interests, the European Union has deliberately adopted an ostrich-like policy since the 1970s. Rather than confronting the real dangers of radical Islam, the EU chose to deny them and implicitly endorsed the Arab war against Israel. Over decades, this policy has boomeranged and further weakened Europe, rekindling a widespread antisemitism which is in turn exacerbated by Arab immigrant fanaticism.

Since September 11, 2001, many ideas have been presented to the American public concerning Islam and it is perfectly true that one cannot encompass a billion people in a single judgment. If one should not pre-judge people and individuals, one can nevertheless form an opinion on Islam according to its religious scriptures, its jurisdiction, its political institutions, its long history, and its doctrinal injunctions concerning Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslims. One should not label people by generalizing, but one can — and must — examine and ponder over the Islamic historical and political legacy, especially in the domain that relates to non-Muslims.

It is traditional Islam that for 14 centuries has mandated against infidels a jihad-war on land, and piracy at sea. Its political and military institutions have devastated the Islamized lands and were used to justify the traditional laws of dhimmitude, which are not much different than present-day Wahhabism. In fact, it is difficult to disentangle them, since the rules concerning infidels are nearly the same in four schools of Islamic jurisprudence (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafii, Hanbali). These four schools specify the same rules concerning Arabia in relation to non-Muslims. Arabia has a privileged status, being the land of the Arabs where the last Revelation was recorded in Arabic to an Arab prophet, while all the other lands are kuffar (infidel) lands Islamized by jihad.

It is of course easy to demonstrate an Islamic record of perfection if one overlooks its victims, whitewashing its history and the present policy of global terror or discrimination against its religious minorities — which survive today as remnants from centuries of oppression. This simplistic view of history functions in a Manichean way: Traditional Islam is tolerant and broad-minded; militant Islam is perverse. Similar distortions appear in some generalizations of the complex relations of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Affirmations that Christianity has always persecuted the Jews, while Islam protected and “tolerated” them, borrows from the Islamic propaganda campaign that uses the Jews to criticize Christianity. The 2,000 years of Judeo-Christian relations on different continents and countries are far too complex to be dovetailed into this primitive view.

Christians have persecuted Jews, but they have also protected, respected, and appreciated them. Thousands of Christians have endangered or lost their lives defending Jews in different times and places, especially during World War II. Many are honored in Israel, as being the Just among the Nations, but many more died unknown. Christian authorities have apologized for antisemitism and for the persecutions they inflicted on Jews. Since Vatican II (1962-65), the Catholic Church has completely reformed the traditional teaching concerning the Jews and all incitement to hate has been suppressed. The same policy of rapprochement developed in the Protestant churches. Not only did modern Christian Zionism precede Jewish Zionism, but today millions of Christians stand in solidarity with Israel. Israel came into existence from Egyptian bondage in Biblical times. Its freedom has symbolized liberation from slavery for all peoples. And today, though many of those Christians who love Israel do not realize it, Israel’s struggle to abolish in its homeland the bondage of dhimmitude, testifies to man’s liberation from a dehumanized jihad ideology that includes Jews, Christians, and others in the same system.

Conversely, the relationship of Islam with Jews and Christians that has set the pattern of the jihad-dhimmitude institutions on all continents, cannot be reduced to a simple Islamic magnanimity to Jews. These relations encompassed the jihad conquests of numerous countries and peoples, including mass deportations, enslavement, massacres, and subjugation, all sanctioned by traditional Islamic law. Reducing this complex historical record — carefully documented in countless volumes by Muslim and non-Muslim chroniclers alike — to a “benevolent Islamic protection of Jews,” amounts to propagandistic lunacy. Moreover, most official Muslim bodies have never apologized for the suffering they have inflicted on other peoples; on the contrary, they call this system of oppression both just and tolerant.

In the past, to advance their own ends, Muslim propagandists have often used Jews against Christians, provoking thereby Christian anti-Jewish reprisals, just as they are currently using Europe against Israel and America. Spreading animosity between Jews and Christians will obstruct their rapprochement and maintain the poisonous relations of dhimmitude, fomenting mutual hatred among non-Muslim groups in general, to the great benefit of the dominant Islamic power. Such a deliberate, cynical campaign — a jihad against Judeo-Christian rapprochement — cannot be permitted to degrade the over 50 years of serious post-Shoah reconciliation efforts between Christians and Jews. This remarkable conciliatory process, epitomized by the Nostra Aetate declaration of 1965, has been furthered by subsequent ecclesial documents and by a fruitful and ongoing Judeo-Christian dialogue.

Using Jews in order to attack Christians is a cynical and dangerous policy, and Jews should be careful not to become pawns in this Muslim-Christian polemic, whose aim is not ecumenical understanding but the destruction of the Judeo-Christian values through the undermining of both the Jewish-Christian rapprochement, and the undeniable Jewish roots of Christianity.

The politics of a cynical negationism, based on deceit and ignorance, is being coupled with an even more grave moral violence. The obfuscation of jihad, a war continually pursued on three continents and qualified as “just,” implies the abolition of the human rights of its victims. Only by the criteria of justice established in Islam can the jihad — a war to impose Koranic law on the world — be considered just.

Likewise, dhimmitude can be considered tolerant only through the dehumanization of millions of non-Muslims: Jews, Christians, and others who endured this religious, apartheid-like system for over 1,000 years. It is arrogant to dismiss those countless masses whose children were enslaved, or the distress of the deported young victims — or to disregard the suffering of those dispossessed and condemned to exploitation and humiliation. Their testimonies, which can still be heard today from the Sudan and elsewhere, cannot simply be ignored. Because such a system has been cloaked in “justness,” today the lives of Jews, Christians, Hindus, and others are held so cheap that they can be dispensed with by the thousands in Israel, America, Russia, Sudan, Kashmir, Indonesia, and elsewhere; it is under the excuse of jihad that such crimes against humanity are perpetrated with impunity. Only a frank mea culpa — denouncing jihad campaigns as genocidal wars rather than “liberations,” welcomed by those conquered — would foster true reconciliation between peoples and religions.

Bat Yeor is the author of three books on jihad and “dhimmitude.” Her latest study Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide will be reprinted this month.


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