Dhimmitude Dominates

by Jerry Gordon (February 2010)

The Third Choice- Islam, Dhimmitude and Freedom

by Mark Durie
Deror Books, 2010, 288 pgs.

While browsing through a Barnes and Noble in Westport, Connecticut in 1988, I chanced upon a book on the bottom shelf of the Judaica section with the curious title, The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam, by Bat Ye’or. Bat Ye’or is a nom de plume meaning in Hebrew “daughter of the Nile.” I perused the paperback volume shocked by the revelations that the Muslim realm was not the tolerant Islam that Medievalist scholars had conveyed.  I bought the book and it remains a vital part of my personal library along with several of her others works, including Eurabia: The Euro Arab Axis. Subsequently, I have been privileged to both meet and befriend the author.

Bat Ye’or’s pioneering work is about the consequences following the great wave of Arab Islamic conquest that created Dar al Islam – the realm of ‘submission;’ submission to the will of Allah and his Messenger, the prophet Mohammed, as expressed in the Quranic canon:  the Quran, Hadiths (alleged sayings of Mohammed), Sira (biography of Mohammed ) and legal rulings. Dar al Islam at its peak stretched from Al Andaluz in Muslim Spain through Africa, the Middle East, and Asia to the Indonesian archipelago. The brutal enforcement choices offered conquered peoples – Jews, Christians, Mandeans, Zoroastrians, Buddhists and Hindus – was death, conversion or subjugation decreed by Sharia Islamic law. 

The term dhimmi in Bat Ye’or’s pioneering volume referred to those subject to a dhimma or treaty decreeing their status and obligations including a jizya or poll tax that effectively amounted to onerous payments made in lieu of being beheaded – blood money. As Bat Ye’or noted:

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” 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.

Bat Ye’or noted the dynamics of dhimmitude:

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.

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.

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.

Bat Ye’or’s pioneering publication of
The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam  spawned a growing group of Islamic scholars discussing Islam’s intolerance, suppression, and repression of unbelievers. These include works by Robert Spencer, Andrew Bostom, Raphael Israeli, and now, Australian theologian, Anglican pastor and human rights advocate, Dr. Mark Durie, in a new book, The Third Choice: Islam, Dhimmitude and Freedom

The Third Choice
 should be considered an important and timely complement to Bat Ye’or’s, The Dhimmi. (View
this presentation on the Third Choice by author Durie at The Heritage Foundation.) He elucidates dhimmitude via discussion of basic Islamic Sharia law contained in the Quranic canon based on the example of Mohammed. What Durie means by the model of Mohammed is captured in an essay by him on the impossibility of Islamic reformation:

. . . Muhammad combined within himself the offices of king, judge, general and religious leader, thus unifying politics, law, the military and religion. To follow his example means creating a theocratic political order, where the laws of the land are controlled by Islamic theology.

That definition aptly defines the Mahdist Shia Islamic Republic of Iran founded by Ayatollah Khomeini and Sunni Wahhabist Saudi Arabia. It is also at the core of the Jihad doctrine of the radical Islamists, including the works of 20th Century Egyptian Muslim ‘reformer,’ Sayyid Qutb (see  Dr. Richard L. Rubenstein’s discussion of Qutb in this edition of New English Review) and Pakistani extremist Islamist Sayed Maududi. Their ideological acolytes include the Taliban, Osama bin Laden and the various al Qaeda affiliates wreaking havoc on the West – the Dar al Harb –the place yet to be conquered.

Durie plumbs the Sharia doctrine, history of the dhimma and its realities in the current world. 

Bat Ye’or notes the value of The Third Choice in the book’s forward:

The strict scholarly rationalism of the author is particularly evident in the chapter on the theological significance of jizya, the head tax paid by non-Muslims under Islamic rule. Here Durie brings numerous and irrefutable sources illustrating the meaning, implications and religious justification of the jizya, which is the cost paid by non-Muslims for the right to live, albeit in humiliation. The jizya ritual, writes Durie, forces the dhimmi subject – through his participation in it – ‘to forfeit his very head if he violates any of the terms of the dhimma covenant, which has spared his life’. The author sheds new light on the jizya ritual, which he calls an ‘enactment of one’s own decapitation’. His discussion of this virtual beheading brings new depth to the Muslim-non-Muslim relationship. Still today – in the jihad wars throughout the world, or the jihadists’ threats against the West – the jizya’s symbolism expresses a fundamental dimension of the theological and political relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims.

Too few Westerners grasp that the concept of dhimmitude is crucial to understanding the relationship between Islam and non-Islam. As Durie argues, through a conspiracy of silence, the heads of state, church and community leaders, universities, and media smother its reality under a blanket of ignorance. With numerous examples, the author denounces this intimidated concealment, which, he affirms, is undermining Western Judeo-Christian civilization and is contrary to human freedom and dignity.


Durie conveys the ritualized brutality of jizya –a virtual beheading:


For the dhimmi, the annual jizya payment was a powerful and public symbolic expression of the jihad-dhimmitude nexus, which fixed the horizon of the dhimmi ’s world. Although the ritual varied in its specific features, its essential character was an enactment of a beheading, in which one of the recurrent features was a blow to the neck of the dhimmi, at the very point when he makes his payment.  (p. 131)


Durie goes on to note the devastating impact of the jizya on dhimmis:


The intended result of the jizya ritual is for the dhimmi to lose all sense of his own personhood. In return for this loss, the dhimmi was supposed to feel humility and gratitude towards his Muslim masters. Al-Mawardi said that the jizya head tax was either a sign of contempt, because of the dhimmis’ unbelief, or a sign of the mildness of Muslims, who granted them quarter (instead of killing or enslaving them) so humble gratitude was the intended response.


The remarks of al-Mawardi and Ibn ‘Ajibah make clear that its true meaning is to be found in psychological attitudes of inferiority and indebtedness imposed upon non-Muslims living under Islam, as they willingly and gratefully handed over the jizya in service to the Muslim community. (p. 141)


He notes this from the Koranic commentary of Ibn Kathir:


Allah said,

‘until they pay the Jizyah’, if they do not choose to embrace Islam, ‘with willing submission’, in defeat and subservience,

‘and feel themselves subdued.’ disgraced, humiliated and belittled.

Therefore, Muslims are not allowed to honor the people of Dhimmah or elevate them above Muslims, for they are miserable, disgraced and humiliated.  (p. 142)


Durie details examples of the manifold restrictions exerted on the dhimmi covering conversion, marriage, worship and practice of faith, opposition to Muslims, vulnerability and legal disability, assistance and loyalty to Muslims, bars against criticizing Islam, exercising authority, housing, public appearance, status and behavior. These restrictions are worse than Jim Crow laws prevalent in the post Reconstruction era in the American South. Sharia ‘dikats’ hobbled life for dhimmis making them lesser subjects in Muslim regimes.


Illustrative of the low estate and humiliation under Sharia dhimma rules are these examples of the treatment of Moroccan Jews in the 19th Century:


For example, in Morocco in the nineteenth century, Jews were required to perform humiliating professions, such as cleaning sewers, removing dead animals, and salting the heads of executed criminals; they had to walk bare-footed outside the ghetto; they had to work for the public authorities for low pay whenever this was demanded of them; they could not drink from public water fountains; and a Jew subjected to a flogging had to pay the fees of the person implementing the punishment. (p. 146)


Durie notes many of these dhimma rules may have had Byzantine origins and were later adopted by the Norman conquerors of Arab occupied Sicily (in a kind of reverse dhimmitude). There were also Spanish adaptations of the jizyah following the Reconquista of Muslim occupied Andalusia in which they extracted tributo from the conquered Muslims.


Durie distinguishes between two types of jihad: that committed against non-Muslim states, which is a communal obligation, and jihad within Muslim states perpetrated against non-Muslims which is generally considered a personal obligation. He further elaborates on extra judicial attacks on dhimmis condoned by a culture of abuse. 


Jihad violence was perpetrated in the 20th Century and continued in the 21st Century against non-Muslims minorities within the Muslim ummah.  Durie notes the 1907 pogroms against Jews in Casablanca and the heinous prototype of the Turkish genocide committed against Armenians during WWI:


In 1907 an attack on European interests in Casablanca led to a bombardment of the city by a French warship, the Galilee. As soon as the first canon shot was fired, ‘as if the Arabs were only waiting for this sign’, thousands of Muslims began to pillage and destroy the Jewish quarters of the city. This continued for three days until the French soldiers disembarked. A Jewish leader, Isaac Pisa, who conducted an investigation after the incident, reported that thirty Jews were killed, 60 wounded, an ‘unlimited number of rapes’ took place, and more than 250 young women, girls and children were abducted.


The most heinous anti-dhimmi reprisal in recent history was the genocide of the Armenians during the First World War, following massacres of hundreds of thousands in the 1890’s. It was the aspirations of the Armenians for equal treatment – the ultimate rejection of the dhimma – which triggered their wholesale destruction by Muslims under the Ottomans. In this case also, the massacre was especially directed at the men. Another jihad feature was the often-reported offer of conversion to Islam as a means of escaping death. Many women and girls were abducted into the homes of Muslims.  (pp 159-160)


Noted Holocaust studies scholar, Dr. Richard Rubenstein, in his book, Jihad and Genocide, has a definitive description of the Jihad perpetrated against the Armenians by the reformist Young Turks of the waning Ottoman Empire during the Great War.


What Durie describes as a personal obligation to commit jihad befell Coptic Christians communally when they were sprayed with automatic weapons fire by Muslim extremists in the Egyptian community of Nag Hamadi as they exited Church on Orthodox Christmas Eve, January 6, 2010. Note this Sphere report:


Drive-by shooters sprayed automatic gunfire into a crowd of churchgoers in southern Egypt, killing at least seven people at they streamed out of church after midnight Mass, officials said Thursday.

The attack took place overnight in Nag Hamadi, about 40 miles from popular tourist sites at the ancient ruins of Luxor. It was in apparent retaliation for the rape of a 12-year-old Muslim girl by a Christian man in November, according to an Interior Ministry statement carried by news agencies.

“I had expected something to happen on Christmas day,” the bishop was quoted as saying. “It is all religious now. This is a religious war about how they can finish off the Christians in Egypt,” he said.


The Christian community as a whole must “pay” for the alleged crime of one man. Then there is this recent incident  of a Pakistan Christian accused of “blaspheming” the Quran:


A young Christian shopkeeper was sentenced to a life term in prison and fined more than $1,000 last week following a dubious conviction of desecrating the Quran, according to Pakistan’s National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP).

Neighboring shopkeeper Hajji Liaquat Abdul Ghafoor accused Masih of tearing out pages of the Quran and burning them on July 1, 2009. Denying that he burned any pages of the Quran, Masih told investigators that the papers he burned were a heap of old merchandise records he had gathered while cleaning his store.

Durie notes the insidious concealment of the dhimma under the doctrine of Sharia:

The dhimma myths and spin, which have been concocted to conceal the reality of the dhimmis’ condition, are a phenomenon of the modern era. The reality is that where there have been hard-won improvements to dhimmis’ conditions in recent centuries, these were imposed upon

Muslim societies under considerable external pressure, or as the result of European military occupation.

In the penultimate chapter, The Dhimma’s Return (see his updated version published in this edition of the NER) Durie chronicles a range of topics:

·        the occurrence of religious persecution under dhimmitude,

·        the reimplementation of Sharia in the Muslim ummah,

·        the rise of racism and blasphemy charges against non-believers,

·        the Stockholm Syndrome of some middle eastern clergy and threatened minorities,

·        the objections to historic views that the dhimma “worked well’,

·        the appeasement by church and political leaders in the West, and,

·        the futility of Muslim inter-religious dialogue.

At the conclusion of The Third Choice, Durie quotes
William Montgomery Watt in his review of Bat Ye’or’s, The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam: from Jihad to Dhimmitude, in the Journal of Semitic Studies:

There are undoubtedly some Islamic states which treat non-Muslim citizens in ways which can only be described as oppressive …

It is of the utmost importance that Muslim jurists should consider whether such treatment of non-Muslims is in accordance with the Shari’ah or contrary to it. More generally, does the Shari’ah allow Muslims to live peaceably with non-Muslims in ‘one world’ or must they regard it as dar al-harb? To have an answer to these questions may be a matter of urgency in a few years time.
(p 225).

Durie notes:

These prophetic words of Watt, written in the last decade of the twentieth century, speak a warning message which urgently needs to be attended to, and not only by Muslim jurists. The dhimma and its conditions are returning as an integral part of the global Islamic resurgence, which aims to revive the Sharia. How will the world respond? (p. 225)


Andrew Bostom, author of The Legacy of Jihad and The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism notes:


Mark Durie has written a wise and remarkably compendious study inspired by the urgent question Watt posed in 1993. The Third Choice challenges non-Muslims and Muslims alike to lift the shroud of silence and reject the steady revival of Islam’s ancient, discriminatory system of dhimmitude. Although Durie demonstrates unabashedly how Islam’s doctrines have led too many Muslims to impose intimidation and self-rejection upon others, his ultimate message is one of hope: that truth, applied with love will release a deep-seated compassion and healing between peoples.


Despite Durie’s hope that his revelations might beget understanding, healing and reconciliation between conflicted opposites, the reality as he notes may be unnerving:


This, Bin Ladin alleges, is the crux of the West’s hostility to Islam: ‘the West avenges itself against Islam for giving infidels but three options: either submit, or live under the suzerainty of Islam or die’


As Raymond Ibrahim has pointed out, this position has ‘nothing to do with reciprocity’. Ibrahim’s conclusion is stark:


Thus even if Muslims are being oppressed, as long as these grievances are being articulated through an Islamic paradigm that perceives justice solely through Shari’a and not through anything universal or innate to the human condition, the West – in the interest of self-preservation as well as the preservation of freedoms – has no choice but to reject all accusations, offers, and threats from Islamists, and fight.


One can only agree that as long as there are Muslims who, like Bin Ladin, accept and act upon Sura 9:29’s call to fight against non-believers until they convert or surrender, conflict is unavoidable. (p. 230)


Durie in The Third Choice has produced a remarkable lucid compact, well annotated, comprehensive and enduring book complementary to Bat Ye’or’s The Dhimmi.  It is a volume that should be read by all Western leaders ignorant of the perils of dhimmitude in their midst.


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