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Myths and Politics
Origin or the Myth of a Tolerant Pluralistic
STRATEGIC STUDIES ASSOCIATION
SYMPOSIUM ON THE BALKAN
(Ramada Congress Hotel - Chicago, Illinois)
YUGOSLAVIA: PAST AND
Dinner Address delivered
on 31 August 1995
Myths and Politics:
Origin or the Myth of a Tolerant Pluralistic Islamic Society
Ladies and gentlemen:
My subject this evening is:
Myths and Politics: Origin of the Myth of a Tolerant Pluralistic Islamic
Society. I stress the world "Tolerant", which was omitted from
Ten years ago, when I came
to America for the launching of my book: THE DHIMMI, JEWS AND CHRISTIANS
UNDER ISLAM, I was struck by the inscription on the Archives Building in
Washington: "Past is Prologue". I had thought -- at least at
the beginning of my research -- that my subject related to a remote past,
but I realized that contemporary events were rapidly modernizing this past.
Muslim countries where Islamic law -- the SHARI'A -- had been replaced
by modern juridic (imposed by the European colonizing powers,) were abandoning
the secularizing trend, replacing it with Islamization in numerous sectors
of life. This impression of the return of the past became even more acute
when I was working on my next book, published in 1991, the English edition
which will appear in a few months under the title: THE
DECLINE OF EASTERN CHRISTIANITY UNDER ISLAM - 7th TO 20th CENTURY: FROM
JIHAD TO DHIMMITUDE (Associated University Presses).
study, I tried to analyze the numerous processes that had transformed rich,
powerful Christian civilizations into Islamic lands and their long-term
effects, which had reduced native Christian majorities into scattered small
religious minorities, now slowly disappearing. This complex Islamization
process of Christian lands and civilizations on both shores of the Mediterannean
- and in Irak and Armenia - I have called: the process of "dhimmitude"
and the civilization of those peoples who underwent such transformation,
I have named the civilization of "dhimmitude". The indigenous
native peoples were Jews and Christians: Orthodox, Catholics, or from other
Eastern Christian Churches. They are all referred to by Muslim jurists
as the "Peoples of the Book" - the Book being the Bible - and
are subjected to the same condition according to Islamic law. They are
called dhimmis: protected peoples, because Islamic law protects their life
and goods on condition that they submit to Islamic rule. I will not go
into details here for this is a very long and complex subject, but in order
to understand the Serbian situation one should know that the Serbs were
treated during half a millennium just like the other Christian and Jewish
DHIMMIS. They participated in this civilization of dhimmitude. It
is important to understand that the civilization of dhimmitude grows from
two religious institutions: JIHAD and SHARI'A, which establish a particular
ideological system that makes it mandatory - during the jihad operation
-- to use terror, mass killings, deportation and slavery. And the Serbs
-- because I am speaking of them tonight -- did not escape from this fate,
which was the same for all the populations around the Mediterannean basin,
vanquished by JIHAD. For centuries, the Serbs fought to liberate their
land from the laws of JIHAD and of SHARI'A, which had legalized their condition
So while I was analyzing and
writing about the processes of dhimmitude and the civilization of dhimmitude,
while listening to the radio, watching television, reading the newspapers,
I had the uncomfortable feeling that the clock was being turned back.
Modern politicians, sophisticated
writers -- using phones, planes, computers and all the modern techniques
-- seemed to be returning several centuries back, with WIGS or STIFF COLLARS,
using exactly the same CORRUPTING ARGUMENTS, the same tortuous short-term
politics that had previously contributed to the gradual Islamization of
numerous non-Muslim peoples. I had to shake myself in an effort to distinguish
the past from the present.
is the past always prologue? Are we doomed to remain always prisoners of
the same errors? Certainly, if we do not know the past. And this past --
the long and agonizing process of Christian annihilation by the laws of
JIHAD and dhimmitude -- is a taboo history, not only in Islamic lands,
but above all in the West. It has been buried beneath a myth, fabricated
by Western politicians and religious leaders, in order to promote their
own national strategic and economic interests.
this myth started in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 19th century. It
alleges that Turkish rule over Christians in its European provinces was
just and lawful. That the Ottoman regime, being Islamic, was naturally
"tolerant" and well disposed toward its Christian subjects; that
its justice was fair, and that safety for life and goods was guaranteed
to Christians by Islamic laws. Ottoman rule was brandished as the most
suitable regime to rule Christians of the Balkans.
This theory was advanced by
European politicians in order to safeguard the balance of power in Europe,
and in order to block the Russian advance towards the Mediterannean. To
justify the maintenance of the Turkish yoke on the Slavs it was portrayed
as a model for a multi-ethnical and multi-religious empire. Of course,
the reality was totally different! First the Ottoman Empire was created
by centuries of JIHAD against Christian populations; consequently the rules
of JIHAD, elaborated by Arab-Muslim theologians from the 8th to the 10th
centuries, applied to the subjected Christian and Jewish populations of
the Turkish Islamic dominions. Those regulations are integrated into the
Islamic legislation concerning the non-Muslim vanquished peoples and consequently
they present a certain homogeneity throughout the Arab and Turkish empires.
The civilization of dhimmitude
in which the Serbs participated had many aspects that evolved with changing
political situations. In the 1830s, forced by the European powers, the
Ottomans adopted a series of reforms aiming at ending the oppression of
Serbian regions, the most fanatical opponents of Christian emancipation
were the Muslims Bosniacs. They fought against the Christian right
to possess lands and, in legal matters, to have equal rights as themselves.
They pretended that under the old system that gave them full domination
over the Christians, Muslims and Christians had lived for centuries in
a convivial fraternity. And this argument is still used today by President
Izetbegovic and others. He repeatedly affirms that the 500 years of Christian
dhimmitude was a period of peace and religious harmony.
us now confront the myth with reality. A systematic enquiry into the condition
of the Christians was conducted by British consuls in the Ottoman Empire
in the 1860s. Britain was then Turkey's strongest ally. It was in its own
interest to see that the oppression of the Christians would be eliminated
in order to prevent any Russian or Austrian interference. Consul James
Zohrab sent from Bosna-Serai (Sarajevo) a lengthy report, dated July 22,
1860, to his ambassador in Constantinople, Sir Henry Bulwer, in which he
analyzed the administration of the provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
He stated that from 1463 to 1850 the Bosniac Muslims enjoyed all the privileges
of feudalism. During a period of nearly 400
years Christians were subjected to much oppression and cruelty. For them
no other law but the caprice of their masters existed.
DEVSHIRME system is well known. Begun by the Sultan Orkhan (1326-1359),
it existed for about 300 years. It consisted of a regular levy of Christian
children from the Christian population of the Balkans. These youngsters,
aged from fourteen to twenty, were Islamized and enslaved for their army.
The periodic levies, which took place in contingents of a thousand, subsequently
became annual. To discourage runaways, children were transferred to remote
provinces and entrusted to Muslim soldiers who treated them harshly as
slaves. Another parallel recruitment system operated. It provided for the
levy of Christian children aged six to ten (ICHOGHLANI), reserved for the
sultans' palace. Entrusted to eunuchs, they underwent a tyrannical training
for fourteen years. (A system of enslaving Black Christian and Animist
children, similar to the DEVSHIRME existed in Sudan as is shown from documents
to be published in my book. A sort of DEVSHIRME system still exists today
in Sudan and has been described and denounced by the United Nations Special
Report on Sudan and in a recent article last Friday's TIMES OF LONDON.)
In 1850, the Bosniac Muslims opposed the authority of the Sultan and the
reforms, but were defeated by the Sultan's army aided by the Christians
who hoped that their position would thereby improve, "but they hardly
benefited." Moreover, despite their assistance to the sultan's army,
Christians were disarmed, while the Muslims who fought the sultan could
retain weapons. Christians remained oppressed as before, Consul Zobrab
writes about the reforms: "I can safely say, they practically remain
a dead letter".
Discussing the impunity granted
to the Muslims by the sultan, Zohrab wrote:
"This impunity, while it does not extend to permitting the Christians
to be treated as they formerly were treated, is so far unbearable and unjust
in that it permits the Muslims to despoil them with heavy exactions. Under
false accusations imprisonments are of daily occurrence. A Christian has
but a small chance of exculpating himself when his opponent is a Muslim."
"Christians are now permitted to possess real property, but the obstacles
which they meet with when they attempt to acquire it are so many and vexatious
that very few have as yet dared to brave them. Although a Christian can
buy land and take possession it is when he has got his land into order
[...] that the Christian feels the helplessness of his position and the
insincerity of the Government. [Under any pretext] "the Christian
is in nineteen cases out of twenty dispossessed, and he may then deem himself
fortunate if he gets back the price he gave."
Commenting on this situation,
the consul writes:
"Such being, generally
speaking, the course pursued by the Government towards the Christians in
the capital of the province Sarajevo where the Consular Agents of the different
Powers reside and can exercise some degree of control, it may easily be
guessed to what extend the Christians, in the remoter districts, suffer
who are governed by Mudirs generally fanatical."
"Christian evidence in
the Medjlises (tribunal) as a rule is refused. Knowing this, the Christians
generally come forward prepared with Mussulman witnesses (...), twenty
years ago, it is true, they had no laws beyond the caprice of their landlords."
"Cases of oppression
are frequently the result of Mussulman fanaticism, but for these the Government
must be held responsible, for if offenders were punished, oppression would
of necessity became rare."
spring of 1861 the sultan announced new reforms in Herzegovina, promising
among other things freedom to build churches, the use of church bells and
the opportunity for Christians to acquire land.
Commenting on this, Consul
William Holmes in Bosna-Serai writes to Ambassador Sir Henry Bulwer that
those promises rarely applied. He mentions
that the Serbs, the biggest community were refused the right to build a
church in Bosna-Serai. Concerning the right to buy land, he writes; "Every
possible obstacle is still thrown in the way of the purchase of lands by
Christians, and very often after they have succeeded in purchasing and
improving land, it is no secret that on one unjust pretext or another,
it has been taken from them."
Consul Longworth writes, from
Belgrade on 1860 that by its Edicts the "Government may hasten such
a reform but I question very much whether more evil than good will not
arise from proclaiming a social equality which is, in the present stage
of things and relations of society, morally impossible."
biggest problem, in fact, was the refusal to accept either Christian or
Jewish testimony in Islamic tribunals.
Consul Longworth comments
on "the lax and vicious principle acted upon in the Mussulman Courts,
where, as the only means of securing justice to Christians, Mussulman false
witnesses are permitted to give evidence on their behalf."
The situation didn't change,
and in 1875 the Grand Vizier Mahmud Pasha admitted to the British Ambassador
in Constantinople, Sir Henry Elliot, the "impossibility of allowing
Christian testimony at courts of justice in Bosnia." Thus, the Ambassador
noted: "The professed equality of Christians and Mussulmans is, however,
so illusory so long as this distinction is maintained."
This juridical situation had
serious consequences due to the system of justice, as he explained: "This
is a point [the refusal of testimony] of much importance to the Christians,
for, as the religious courts neither admit documentary nor written evidence,
nor receive Christian evidence, they could hope for little justice from
The difficulty of imposing
reforms in such a vast empire provoked this disillusioned comment, from
Sir Francis, consul-general, judge at the British Consular Court in 1875
Constantinopole: "Indeed, the modern perversion of the Oriental idea
of justice is a concession to a suitor through grace and favor, and not
the declaration of a right, on principles of law, and in pursuance of equity."
From Consul Blunt writing
from Pristina on 14 July 1860 to Ambassador Bulwer, we learn about the
situation in the province of Macedonia: "[...] For a long time the
province of Uscup [Skopje, Macedonia] has been a prey to brigandage: [...]
Christian churches and monasteries, towns and inhabitants,
are now pillaged, massacred, and burnt by Albanian hordes as used to be
done ten years ago."
"The Christians are not
allowed to carry arms. This, considering the want of a good police, exposes
them the more to attacks from brigands." "Christian evidence
in law suits between a Mussulman and a non-Mussulman is not admitted in
the Local Courts."
Ten years before he said:
"Churches were not allowed to be built; and
one can judge of the measure of toleration practiced at that time by having
had to creep under doors scarcely four feet high. It was an offense to
smoke and ride before a Turk; to cross his path, or not stand up before
him, was equally wrong." [...]
Fifteen years later, in another
report from Bosna-Serai, dated December 30, 1875, from consul Edward Freeman,
we learn that the Bosnian Muslims had sent a petition to the sultan stating
that before the reforms, "they lived as brother with the Christian
population. In fact, wrote the Consul, "their
aim appears to reduce the Christians to their former ancient state of serfdom."
So once again we go back to the myth. When reading the literature of the
time, we see that the obstruction to Serbian, Greek
and other Christian liberation movement was rooted in two main arguments:
DHIMMIS are congenitally unfitted for independence and self-government.
They should therefore remain under the Islamic rule.
2) The Ottoman rule is a perfect model for a multi-religious and multi-ethnical
these are theological Islamic arguments that justify the JIHAD since
all non-Muslim people should not retain political independence because
their laws are evil and must be eventually replaced by the Islamic rule.
We find the same reasoning in the Palestinian 1988 Covenant of the Hamas.
Those arguments are very common in the theological and legal literature
and are exposed by modern Islamists.
The myth didn't die with the
collapse of the Turkish Empire after World War I. Rather it took another
form: that of the National Arab Movement, which promoted an Arab society
where Christians and Muslims would live in perfect harmony. Once again,
this was the fabrication of European politicians, writers and clergyman.
And in the same way as the myth of the Ottoman political paradise was created
to block the independence of the Balkan nations, so the Arab multi-religious
fraternity was an argument to destroy the national liberation of non-Arab
peoples of the Middle East (Kurds, Armenians, Assyrians, Maronites and
although from the beginning of this century until the 1930s, a stream of
Christian refugees were fleeing massacres and genocide on the roads of
Turkey, Irak and Syria, the myth continued to flourish, sustained
mostly by Arab writers and clergyman. After the Israelis had succeeded
in liberating their land from the laws of JIHAD and DHIMMITUDE, the myth
reappeared in the form of a multi-cultural and multi-religious fraternal
Palestine which had to replace the State of Israel (Cf. Arafat's 1975 UN
speech). Its pernicious effects led to the destruction of the Christians
in Lebanon. One might have thought that the myth would end there.
But suddenly the recent crisis
in Yugoslavia offered a new chance for its reincarnation in a multi-religious
Muslim Bosnian state. What a chance! A Muslim state again in the heartland
of Europe. And we know the rest, the sufferings, the miseries, the trials
of the war that this myth once again brought in its wake.
To conclude, I would like
to say a few last words. The civilization of dhimmitude does not develop
all at once. It is a long process that involves many elements and a specific
conditioning. It happens when peoples replace history by myths, when they
fight to uphold these destructive myths, more then their own values because
they are confused by having transformed lies into truth. They hold to those
myths as if they were the only guarantee of their survival, when, in fact,
they are the path to destruction. Terrorized by the evidence and teaching
of history, those peoples preferred to destroy it rather than to face it.
They replace history with childish tales, thus living in amnesia.
=== The end of the speech
* About the author:
Madam BAT YE'OR, author and
scholar, born in Egypt. A British citizen living in Switzerland, she is
a specialist on the DHIMMIS and "DHIMMITUDE" (a new word which
she coined), and the subject of her pioneer research for the past twenty-five
years. Author, since 1971, of numerous articles on non-Muslims under Islamic
rule, she broke new ground with her book:
THE DHIMMI: JEWS & CHRISTIANS
UNDER ISLAM, preface by Jacques Ellul (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press
& Associated University Presses, Cranbury, N.J./London/Toronto, 1985),
Enlarged English edition.
Her second major work...
LES CHRETIENTES D'ORIENT ENTRE
JIHAD ET DHIMMITUDE: VIIe-XXe siecle, preface de Jacques Ellul (Paris,
La Cerf, 1991) (English edition published by AUP in early 1996, English
title: THE DECLINE OF EASTERN CHRISTIANITY UNDER ISLAM; 7TH TO 20TH CENTURY.
FROM JIHAD TO DHIMMITUDE) - Associated University Press, 440 Forsgate Drive,
Canbury, New Jersey 08512, tel: (609) 655-4770, 520 pages, cloth and paper
cover option... ...established the author's reputation as an innovative
thinker in a virgin field of research. The significance of her latest book
in French JUIFS ET CHRETIENS SOUS L'ISLAM: LES DHIMMIS FACE AU DEFI INTEGRISTE
(Paris, Berg international, 1994) is revealed by its subtitle: The Dhimmis
faced with the challenge of Fundamentalism. Here, she covers the period
of Turkish rule in the Balkans and analyses contemporary events. An English
edition is scheduled for 1997.
======== End - about the author
Excerpt from author's interview
for daily Politika....
Politika: What is your experience
in relation to Dhimmitude having in mind the fact that your are a Jew born
Madam Bat Ye'Or: "I was
witness of expulsion of the Jewish community from Egypt (85,000 persons).
It was done in the ambient of hatred, terrorism, pillage and robbery. It
started in 1945 and had its peak in 1948 and 1956. Anyhow, this is common
experience of Jews in the entire Arab world. There used to be some 1,000,000
Jews there. Today only 10,000 remained. I wrote about it in one of my books.
Contacts with Arab Christians helped me a lot in my strive to widen the
understanding of the problem..."
========= End of the excerpt
To learn more on how the myth
of the Muslim tolerance occurred, please open any encyclopedia and look
for "EASTERN QUESTION".
To simplify it: The super
power of the 19th century, Great Britain, waged a "space game"
with the other potential super power: Russia. Where interests of the two
crossed was - Balkans (then under Turkish occupation).
It would be most natural that
Russia should have the influence in the the area. Most of the subdued Balkan
nations (Serbs, Greeks, Rumanians, Bulgarians) are Eastern Orthodox - like
Russians. That did not fit British interests. That is how Britain allied
itself with Turkey and invented the myth of the Muslim tolerance.
When Turks cut throats, raped
women and steal children of Balkan Christians - it was OK for the Brits
- it was an expression of tolerance... As long as Russians do not get influence
in the Balkans.
The history repeats itself.
Super powers play again with the destiny of the Balkan peoples. They play
Become an instant expert in Bosnia. Just let these slides wiz by.
Who are Bosnian Muslims
See how "Bosnians" got invented...
Bosnian Muslim SS
Expressing their intolerance toward Serbian Christians and Jews, Bosnian Muslims
volunteer en masse into Nazi SS during WWII.
In the name of
For Allah to win and for Islam to spread across the globe everything is allowed.
In staged atrocities in Sarajevo Muslims murder civilians in order to blame Christian Serbs.
[ 1875: Serbian uprising in Bosnia ]
[ Centuries of Islamic tyranny ]
[ Bosnian Muslims ]