- Published on Tuesday, 21 July 2009 09:35
- Written by John Draper
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The Status of Non-Muslim Minorities Under Islamic Rule
1. What is a Dhimma?
Muslims have a concept known as dhimma, which originally referred to the pact of surrender between non-Muslims and their Muslim conquerors. Today, a dhimmi is a non-Muslim citizen of a country governed in accordance with sharia, Islamic law; At one time, the status of dhimmi was available only to people of the book (Jews and Christians), but later it was extended to include Zoroastrians and certain others, Muslims characterize dhimma as a contract that protects dhimmis, allowing them to retain their religion and guaranteeing their personal safety and the security of their property. In theory, Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance. In practice, dhimma imposes an extra tax on the Jew, Christian, or Zoroastrian for the privilege of living in Islamic territory. Forcing non-Muslims to pay for protection is financial extortion.
Armed with this protection(!), the dhimmi enjoys civic rights that are almost nonexistent. In a tribal society, where ownership of a horse makes it possible to exist, to travel, to fight, to display one's social rank, the non-Muslim owns no such thing. He is permitted to ride an ass or mule (degrading mounts), but he has to ride sidesaddle, woman-style. He may walk in the street, but is not allowed to overtake a Muslim. Bearing arms is of course categorically forbidden - more or less implying that, being disarmed, the dhimmi is at the mercy of the first bandit to cross his path. Sometimes, beyond wearing the yellow fabric of sinister memory, he has a lion tattooed on his forearm, just as a later generation of Jews sported a tattooed number there.
In theory, the abolition of dhimmitude dates from 1839. In fact it was not until the end of the First World War that the Ottoman Empire finally abandoned a practice whose observance it was no longer able to impose ... Obviously, the famous protection guaranteed on paper was not invariably granted not by a long shot-to non-Muslim believers, who nevertheless conscientiously paid the tax and consented to live as sub-humans.
From "In Defense of Atheism" by Michel Onfray
2. Dhimmitude: the Islamic system of governing populations conquered by jihad wars, encompassing all of the demographic, ethnic, and religious aspects of the political system. The word "dhimmitude" as a historical concept, was coined by Bat Ye'or in 1983 to describe the legal and social conditions of Jews and Christians subjected to Islamic rule. The word "dhimmitude" comes from dhimmi, an Arabic word meaning "protected". Dhimmi was the name applied by the Arab-Muslim conquerors to indigenous non-Muslim populations who surrendered by a treaty (dhimma) to Muslim domination. Islamic conquests expanded over vast territories in Africa, Europe and Asia, for over a millennium (638-1683). The Muslim empire incorporated numerous varied peoples which had their own religion, culture, language and civilization. For centuries, these indigenous, pre-Islamic peoples constituted the great majority of the population of the Islamic lands. Although these populations differed, they were ruled by the same type of laws, based on the shari'a.
This similarity, which includes also regional variations, has created a uniform civilization developed throughout the centuries by all non-Muslim indigenous people, who were vanquished by a jihad-war and governed by shari'a law. It is this civilization which is called dhimmitude. It is characterized by the different strategies developed by each dhimmi group to survive as non-Muslim entity in their Islamized countries. Dhimmitude is not exclusively concerned with Muslim history and civilization. Rather it investigates the history of those non-Muslim peoples conquered and colonized by jihad.
Dhimmitude encompasses the relationship of Muslims and non-Muslims at the theological, social, political and economical levels. It also incorporates the relationship between the numerous ethno-religious dhimmi groups and the type of mentality that they have developed out of their particular historical condition which lasted for centuries, even in some Muslim countries, till today.
Dhimmitude is an entire integrated system, based on Islamic theology. It cannot be judged from the circumstantial position of any one community, at a given time and in a given place. Dhimmitude must be appraised according to its laws and customs, irrespectively of circumstances and political contingencies.