To the Editor:
In their guest column (“Minorities in the Muslim world view,” 11/4), Sumeyya Ashraf ’04 and Intisar Rabb LAW ’04 demonstrate the narrow, condescending attitudes of Islamic imperialism toward its victims: the populations from Portugal to India, conquered, dispossessed, often exterminated or colonized by the armies of jihad. Jihad-wars are religious wars against infidels. Their aim, strategy and tactics are clearly stated and justified by Muslim theologians and jurists, from the eighth century till today. The simple reference to these rules which impose killings, slavery, deportation and subjugation — according to specific contingencies — can provoke a violent reaction from some Muslims. Quotations from these laws — considered as obligatory for infidels — from highly respected Muslim writers, such as Abu Yusuf and al-Mawardi caused an uproar at Georgetown, as well as slanderous accusations.
What is the “source of objective knowledge on the status of minorities in Islam” that Ashraf and Rabb have in mind, since they mention them rather mysteriously, withholding their names? These hidden authorities, devoid of references, names, books, dates, or countries — alleged to be “the majority of contemporary documentation” — are invoked to negate the countless documents published in my books from Muslim jurists and historians, as well as Christian and Jewish testimonies from Spain, Italy, Greece, Serbia, Palestine, Afghanistan, etc. — documents with names, dates and references. Moreover, the eighth-century chronicler, known as Pseudo-Dionysius of Tell Mahre — whom Ashraf and Rabb dismiss — is a most reliable source for the events he described, as these are confirmed in Armenian, Coptic, Jewish and Arabic sources.
The toleration of Jewish and Christian law courts (for non-Muslims) is not an Islamic innovation. Jews enjoyed this privilege in the Greek, Roman and Byzantine empires. Arab rule simply continued an established custom. However, contrary to the preceding empires, Islamic rule did not recognize the validity of the dhimmi legal decisions, which could be superseded by any Muslim judgement.
Only a monolithic, elitist disregard for the millions of victims of jihad, slavery, imperialism and the colonizing system it imposed on the vanquished people during a millenium and more can explain its qualification as “tolerant” and “just.” In stark contrast, Westerners, who have made their mea culpa for the Crusades, the Inquisition, slavery, imperialism, colonization, fascism, Nazism, the Shoah and Communism do not display such unabashed cynicism.
November 7, 2002