Dhimmitude Unveiled

a review by Jerry Gordon (August 2013)


Understanding Dhimmitude
by Bat Ye'or
RVP Press (June 2013)
244 pp.




Bat Ye’or and her late husband, David Littman, promised a collection of their papers to the New York Public library. That collection encompasses the speeches by Littman delivered at various forums, most prominently, the UN Human Rights Council, and also Bat Ye’or’s lectures and talks during the formative years of her pioneering study of dhimmitude. We befriended this remarkable couple over a decade ago during their early lectures in the US. Their oeuvre presented a prescient warning given the contemporary threat to the West posed by the stealth Jihad of the virtual Caliphate, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The OIC is seeking to impose dhimmitude on the Dar Al Harb, that is, the area of the world yet to be dominated by Islam.

In 1985 I read an English translation of Bat Ye’or’s pioneering work, The Dhimmi, about the status of Christians and Jews, the “People of the Book,” following the Jihad conquest of the Middle East, an area of the world originally composed of a predominantly Christian majority with significant minority Jewish populations. These realms were conquered and colonized by Arabs imposing a totalitarian Islamic creed. The Dhimmi presented the realities of those subjugated “protected” peoples, the Jews and Christians living as unbelievers in Dar al Islam, the realm of Islam. It ejected forever from my mind the benign view that Jews and Christians were “tolerated” under Sharia. Some critics have considered Bat Ye’or’s espousal of dhimmitude, the degradation of conquered subjects that followed in the great sweeps of Islamic Jihad, a myth. Dhimmitude was no myth. Bat Ye’or and many other recognized scholars in Europe, the UK and the US have documented its history integrated with the Shariah laws of Islam for over 13 centuries.

Fortunately, the Littmans were approached by Christian Zionists, among them Hansjorg Stuckelberger and John Eibner, co-founders of Christian Solidarity International which is vitally concerned with alleviating the persecution of minority Christians in African and Middle Eastern Countries. An early advocate of Bat Ye’or’s dhimmitude concept was Dr. Walid Phares, noted author and commentator on the threat of Jihadist Islam to the West. Others who have supported Bat Ye'or and given her forums to discuss the dhimmitude status of Christian minorities in Muslim lands here in the US are Nina Shea and Paul Marshall of the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), Co-Chairman  of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. Principal interpreters and proponents of Bat Ye’or’s counter jihadist Weltanschauung have been Hebrew University Professors and specialists in Islamic History and Middle East minorities, Raphael Israeli and Mordechai Nisan (see his Front Page Magazine review of her latest book), American scholars  Robert Spencer and Dr. Andrew Bostom, Professor Johannes J.G. Jansen, retired Professor and commentator on contemporary Islamic thought in the Netherlands,  Dr. Mark Durie in Australia and noted Koranic scholar and ex-Muslim, Ibn Warraq. Bat Ye’or has received commendation for her scholarship from the late Jacques Ellul of the University of Bordeaux. In the UK she has had the sponsorship of Baroness Caroline Cox of Queensbury and Dr. Patrick Sookdheo, director of the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity and International Director of the Barnabas Fund, because of their valued common stands drawing attention to persecuted Christian minorities in Muslim lands. Noted historian Sir Martin Gilbert has commended the Littmans for their vigorous advocacy of the plight of Jews and Christians under Islam.

Dhimmitude, we learn from Bat Ye’or, governed non-Muslim realms conquered by Arab Muslims from Andalusia and the Algarve (in the 800-year occupation of the Iberian Peninsula) to North Africa, Egypt, Persia and India through several Jihad conquests. That was followed by the arrival of the Seljuk Turks in the twelfth century, converts to Islam, who conquered what was left of the Byzantine Empire later incorporating lands in the Balkans, Hungary and Southern Poland and imposing dhimmitude on the inhabitants. The Ottoman conquest was finally stopped at the Gates of Vienna by a formidable European allied army under the joint command of Poland’s King John III Sobieski and the Hapsburg Emperor’s brother in law, Charles Sixtus of Lorraine on September 11, 1683. Relief of Balkan lands, Bulgaria and Greece under Ottoman control took nearly two hundred years until completed in the 1870’s. Under Ottoman rule, Christian communities were forced to make and annual human tribute of their children. Their conversion to Islam under the devshirme system was accommodated by local Christian clerics. The non-Muslim subjects in the Ottoman empire were dispossessed of lands, had limited legal rights, and were subject to razzias following rebellions in Greece, the Balkans and Armenian provinces. The worst excesses were the episodes of genocide committed against the Armenians in the 1890’s and during the First World War. The latter allegedly may have been spoken of as a precedent by Hitler, an admirer of Jihadist Islam, for the Final Solution that murdered six million European Jewish men, women and children during the Shoah.

The word dhimmitude is derived from the original Arabic term for pact or code, dhimma. Dhimmis were non-Muslims vanquished by jihad and subject to Islamic shariah law. The Pact of Umar established the draconian rules that governed the reduced status of Jews and Christians after Muslims conquered Byzantine Jerusalem. These rules, as Bat Ye’or has demonstrated through her scholarship, may have been adapted from those of the anti-Semitic Orthodox Christian Patriarchs and Byzantine proclamations in the 5th and 6th Centuries C.E. Ironically these were transformed into the laws imposed on both “People of the Book,” Christians and Jews, in the 7th Century by Caliph Umar.

The latest of eight published works by Bat Ye’or, Understanding Dhimmitude is a compilation of lectures and talks in the UK, Europe and America that span the period from 1984 to 2004. Through the prism of this compilation we view the unfolding of Bat Ye’or’s investigations that led to the field of study she pioneered, Dhimmitude. A measure of the interest that Bat Ye’or’s dhimmitude has engendered is reflected in a Google search that revealed more that 2.2 million hits. Ye'or's original interest was in writing a novel about her experience as an Egyptian Jew ejected from her homeland, deprived of all worldly goods and left to exist on the kindness of relatives in the UK. A fortunate outcome of her stateless refugee status was meeting her late husband David Littman, when they both attended the London University, School of Archeology. They subsequently married, formed a family with three children, and took up permanent residence in Geneva in 1960, where they shared over five adventurous and productive decades.

One of those adventures was Operation Mural in 1961, a covert mission that enabled the Littmans to bring several hundred Moroccan Jewish children via Switzerland to settle in Israel. That act opened the floodgates of immigration to Israel resulting in hundreds of thousands of Moroccan Jews leaving the Kingdom ending centuries of dhimmitude for Moroccan Jews. For that exploit, a grateful State of Israel rewarded David Littman with one of its highest honors, the order of “Hero of Silence.”

The Littmans had founded the Geneva-based Center for Information and Documentation of the Middle East (CID) in 1970. Bat Ye’or’s first work in French, published in 1971 was Les Juifs en Egypte, The Jews in Egypt.  Her first major work translated into English was Le Dhimmi (The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians Under Islam). That led to a series of books depicting how Islamic Jihad infiltrated, overthrew and subjugated indigenous peoples in pre-Islamic lands. Those who survived rape, pillage and murder, and did not convert, lived in perpetual fear for their lives, avoided only by payment of the jizya, the onerous poll tax that saved them from death. Those seminal works by Bat Ye’or on dhimmitude also included: The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude: Seventh-Twentieth Century (1996), Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide.(2001). Then in 2005, she enlarged her vision to document Jihadist Islam in a new guise infiltrating Europe unnoticed by the elites of the European Commission and later the EU, Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis, In 2011, she published Europe, Globalization and The Coming Universal Caliphate that discussed European infiltration by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a virtual global Caliphate of the Muslim Ummah, headquartered in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The OIC is prominently known in the West for its objective seeking to impose blasphemy codes negating any criticism of Islam.

Bat Ye’or’s lectures in her latest work cover a broad array of topics, among them testimonies from historical archives and Islamic rulings drawn to support her basic thesis about the manner in which dhimmitude under Sharia was applied to both Christians and Jews following Islamic conquest.

In a 1992 lecture in Berlin, Bat Ye’or identified the common characteristics of dhimmitude:

  1. The concept of jihad implies that all Laws which are not Islamic laws have no legitimacy and that governments ruling in the dar al-Harb for no legitimacy.
  2. The People of the Book, Christian and Jews had exactly the same legal status, rights and obligations. Their historical destiny in relation to Jihad and dhimmitude was identical.
  3. The rights of dhimmis were “conceded rights” that could be canceled. The right to life was conditional on annual cash payment (Jizya) to guarantee protection.
  4. Dhimmis were subjected to economic exploitation that oppressed and decimated them.
  5. Dhimmitude rules were integral to shariah that were fundamentally unjust to the People of The Book.

In a 1994 lecture at Lund University in Sweden, Bat Ye’or describes the willful collaboration and competition that occurred under dhimmitude that hastened the eventual demise and dispersal of Christian communities:

It is through the Christian patriarchs and the Jewish Community leaders that the Islamic Government imposed its authority, making them instruments of control and oppression over Christian and Jewish populations. Therefore it was the dhimmi peoples who collaborated, unwittingly, in the deification of the Islamic civilization.

There was a strong alliance between Arab Muslim invading troops and the local Arab Christian tribes and Middle Eastern Churches. Some members of the Christian clergy not only welcomed the Muslim armies, but surrendered cities to them.

Bat Ye’or notes the development of anti-Semitic Christian animus in Palestine under Islamic rule based on early Canon law favoring replacement theology that re-emerges in the 20th and 21st Centuries among Middle Eastern Christian clerics:

Palestinian and other Middle Eastern Churches were in the vanguard of anti-Zionism and theological-based Judeophobia, even attempting to block the Vatican’s efforts toward reconciliation before and after Vatican II in 1962.

She drew attention to Arab Christians allied with the Haj Amin al Husseini, resident in Hitler’s Germany during World War II, supporting recruitment of Waffen SS Bosnian and Albanian units engaged in actions against Jews and Serbs in the former Yugoslavia. She addresses secular Christians in the extremist Palestinian Nationalist groups like the Popular Front for Palestine conducting terrorist actions against Israelis. She notes: “They saw in anti-Zionism a tool to cement Muslim Christian solidarity in a common war against Israel.”

In a 1998 talk at a Miami, Florida synagogue, Bat Ye’or presciently discusses the Stockholm Syndrome of persecuted Middle East Christians and even mainline Christian Churches who blame Israel for their plight:

Israel is made accountable for Christian suffering under Muslim rule; it has become customary to hear repeatedly in the news by politicians, statesmen and journalists, that Israel is liable for the deterioration or the bad relations between Europe and the Muslim countries.

          [. . .]

The Christian anti-Zionist front was thus composed of a wide array of diverse motivations ranging from theological to international political interests. It is a Christian front that united with Muslim anti-Zionist forces. This alliance was sealed first in the Arab nationalist ideology that denied Israel’s right to existence, then in the Palestinian cause that has been, since the creation of Israel, the most popular cause in Europe.

It is noteworthy that Bat Ye’or’s arguments are supported by Dexter Van Zile, Christian Media Analyst at CAMERA, the Middle East media watch dog, in his criticism of the leadership of the National and World Council of Churches and, at the extreme, Naim Ateek of the Sabeel Center of Liberation Theology in Jerusalem. Ateek has perpetrated the ultimate convergence of dhimmitude and replacement theology. Van Zile noted the perfidy of Ateek in our 2012 interview:

In 2005, I discovered statements he made at the beginning of the Second Intifada that made it clear that he was using imagery from the New Testament to incite enmity towards the Jewish state. Ateek compared Israeli officials to modern day Herods. . . . He also said that the Israeli Crucifixion System is operating daily in the occupied territories.

This convergence of anti-Zionism and the Palestinian cause emerges in Bat Ye’or’s development of Palestinianism and at its base, Eurabian dhimmitude. In our 2011 interview with her, she says:

Palestinism is the base of the whole Eurabian construct. European dhimmitude and the submission of Western leaders. . .  This is also in obedience to the OIC who have made of Palestinism/antisemitism the base of its policy. Westerners have paid billions of jizya (tribute) to the Palestinians as protection from terrorism. The OIC obliges the West to deny Israel’s rights and adopt the Islamic conception of history where Jewish and Christian rights to their history and culture are denied.

Despite the recent setbacks in Egypt against the Muslim Brotherhood with the ousting of former President Morsi, the Coptic Christians are the latest victims of dhimmitude. Coptic women are subject to rape and forced conversion. Churches are assaulted, burned and destroyed. Coptic men are killed by rampaging Muslim Brothers and Salafists. Morsi during his candidacy for the Egyptian Presidency in 2012 said:

…he would “achieve the Islamic conquest (fath) of Egypt for the second time, and make all Christians convert to Islam, or else pay the jizya,” the additional Islamic tax, or financial tribute, required of non-Muslims.

Morsi may be gone, but the prospect of dhimmitude stalks the land of the Nile, from which Bat Ye’or derives her Hebrew nom de guerre, “daughter of the Nile.” She is a Cassandra warning the West of Islamization which is rapidly suborning Judeo-Christian values, the bedrock of our freedom and liberties.



Also see Jerry Gordon's collection of interviews, The West Speaks.


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