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An HIR Series

Historical and Investigative Research - 14 October 2007
by Francisco Gil-White
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Dhimmitude and slavery


  The fates of non-Muslims (and Muslims, too) in
  Islamic society


As Islam continues to encroach upon the West, and as Westerners continue to not defend themselves from the growth of Islam, we can open a window into what our (fast approaching) future will be like, by considering what the oppressive conditions of non-Muslims, and even of most Muslims, in Islamic society traditionally have been, and continue to be. ___________________________________________________________

Table of Contents
( hyperlinked < )

< Short Preface

< Dhimmitude

< Slavery

Short Preface

In the previous piece in this series, we have seen the influential medieval Muslim jurist Ibn Hazm explaining that jihad is a terrorist, even genocidal, war against infidels. However, Muslim armies did not always murder or enslave everybody who refused conversion to Islam. Especially in the cases of Jews and Christians -- for supposedly having a common ancestry with Islam -- Muslims would allow some infidels to live and continue with their faiths, so long as these infidels accepted a contract, called dhimma, which turned them into the semi-slaves of the Muslims. Such semi-slaves were called dhimmis, or ‘people of protection.’ Their life was the condition of dhimmitude, a term coined by the scholar Bat Ye'or.

I will consider first the traditional condition of dhimmitude, and then the reality of modern outright slavery in today's Muslim states.


Muslims consider the Qur’an (Koran), their holy book, to be the word of God (Allah), and this book speaks clearly on the question of the ‘people of protection.’ I will quote here a few Quranic passages on Christians and Jews so that readers can get a general feeling for how they are perceived:

“Allah has cursed them [Jews] for their Unbelief; and but few of them will believe” (4.46); “(Both) the Jews and the Christians say: ‘We are sons of Allah, and his beloved.’ Say: ‘Why then does He punish you for your sins? ...’ ” (5.18); “...the Jews [are] men who will listen to any lie... it is not Allah's will to purify their hearts. For them there is disgrace in this world, and in the Hereafter a heavy punishment” (5.41); “O ye who believe! take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: They are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them [i.e. an infidel]” (5.51); “The Jews say: ‘Allah's hand is tied up.’ Be their hands tied up and be they accursed for the (blasphemy) they utter... [T]he revelation that comes to them from Allah increases in most of them their obstinate rebellion and blasphemy. Amongst them we have placed enmity and hatred till the Day of Judgment. ...[T]hey (ever) strive to do mischief on earth. And Allah loves not those who do mischief” (5.64); “Allah’s curse be on them [Christians and Jews]: how they are deluded away from the Truth!” (9.30); “Allah let their hearts [of Jews] go wrong. For Allah guides not those who are rebellious transgressors” (61.5); “Say: ‘O ye that stand on Judaism! If ye think that ye are friends to Allah, to the exclusion of (other) men, then express your desire for Death, if ye are truthful!’” (62.6).

If dhimmis have been cursed by Allah, as the Qur’an repeatedly says, then it will be pious to oppress them. The dhimmi may not bear arms. He generally has no rights to property. He may not erect new houses of worship nor may he restore the old ones. He may not testify in court. He must wear special, distinctive clothing. His house may not be taller than a Muslim’s house, however low a Muslim’s house may be. He may not ride a horse or an elegant mule. He may ride on a donkey only if the saddle is made of wood. He may not walk on the good side of the road. He must remain quiet whenever prudent.[1]

Often the restrictions are considerably more severe. In the treatise Lightning Bolts Against the Jews, al Majlisi, perhaps the most influential Muslim cleric in the Savafid Shi’ite theocracy in Persia, made a list of the laws concerning the dhimmis that recall the revulsion towards blacks that white racists in the United States once openly and officially expressed. It’s as if the Jews and other dhimmis were composed of an entirely alien and polluting substance.

“And, that they [the dhimmis] should not enter the pool while a Muslim is bathing at the public baths. ...It is also incumbent upon Muslims that they should not accept from them victuals with which they had come into contact, such as distillates, which cannot be purified. If something can be purified, such as clothes, if they are dry, they can be accepted, they are clean. But if they [the dhimmis] had come into contact with those clothes in moisture they should be rinsed with water after being obtained. ...It would also be better if the ruler of the Muslims would establish that all infidels could not move out of their homes on days when it rains or snows because they would make Muslims impure.”[2]

Andrew Bostom, a scholar of Islam, explains that in the Laws of Islamic Governance the Muslim jurist al Mawardi (d. 1058) detailed how the non-Muslim subjugated population “had to recognize Islamic ownership of the land, submit to Islamic law, and accept payment of the poll tax (jizya).” Bostom says there is a “critical connection between jihad and the payment of the jizya because, as Al Mawardi says, “the enemy makes the payment in return for peace and reconciliation.” Al Mawardi adds that if the dhimmis pay the jizya annually it will “constitute an ongoing tribute by which their security is established.” But security is never conceived of as a permanent arrangement: “a treaty of reconciliation,” Bostom explains, “may be renewable, but must not exceed ten years.” And he points out, with emphasis: “if the payment ceases, then the jihad resumes.” By way of conclusion, Bostom cites the opinion of the Arab lexicographer E.W. Lane on the meaning of the word jizya: the imposition of this tax is “as though it were compensation [from the dhimmis] for not being slain.[3]

An obvious parallel is to gangsters in many Western cities. These extort their victims at gunpoint, explaining that the alternative is death, and so the income they perceive is called, with irony, ‘protection money,’ and their business is called a ‘protection racket.’ You pay the gangster so that he will protect you from himself. It is in this sense, too, that dhimmis are ‘people of protection.’

For Muslims it is important that the payment of the jizya be done in the most humiliating manner possible. An Nawawi, a Shafi’ite jurist from the 13th century, explained it like this:

“The infidel who wishes to pay his poll tax must be treated with disdain by the collector: the collector remains seated and the infidel remains standing in front of him, his head bowed and his back bent. The infidel personally must place the money on the scales, while the collector holds him by the beard, and strikes him on both cheeks.”[4]

The jizya was a poll tax, and Bostom explains that every head was counted: “it was demanded from children, widows, orphans, and even the dead.” Says An Nawawi: “Our religion compels the poll tax to be paid by dying people, the old, even in a state of incapacity, the blind, monks, workers, and the poor, incapable of practicing a trade. As for people who seem to be insolvent at the end of the year, the sum of the poll tax remains a debt to their account until they should become solvent.” Such fiscal oppression would naturally produce resistance, and therefore the “tax collectors were accompanied by soldiers.” They were also accompanied by inspectors, auditors, and money changers, and they were all “paid, fed, and lodged for several days at the taxpayer’s expense.”[5]

For Westerners -- who hear all the time that Islam is the religion of peace, tolerance, and compassion, and also that the violence of Muslims is a ‘fundamentalist’ distortion against the true Islamic teaching and tradition -- it will be instructive to read the chronicle of Ghevond, an Armenian Christian writing in the 8th century under Abbasid rule:

“One saw... horrible scenes of every sort of torture; nor did [they] forget to tax the dead; the multitude of orphans and widows suffered the same cruelty; priests and ministers at the holy sanctuary were forced by the vile punishments of flogging and whipping to disclose the names of the dead and their parents; in short the whole population of the country, smitten with enormous taxes, after having paid large sums of zuze [silver coins], also had to wear a lead seal around their necks... as for the lower classes of the population, it had been exposed to different sorts of torture: some suffered flagellation for being unable to pay exorbitant taxes; others were hanged on gibbets, or crushed under presses; and others were stripped of their clothing and thrown into lakes in the depths of an extremely cold winter: and soldiers spaced out on the banks prevented them clambering ashore and forced them to perish wretchedly.”[6]

Now, one commonly hears, even from Jews, that in Muslim lands Jews used to live relatively well. What accounts for such statements? In part they result from the propaganda about Islam that comes at us from every direction (examined in the previous piece), and which assures us that Islam is the ‘religion of peace’ and that Jews and Christians were ‘people of protection’ or ‘protected peoples’ in Muslim lands, phrases that an ignorant public interprets literally.

There is also the following phenomenon, which Ibn Warraq highlights:

In an important essay, ‘The pro-Islamic Jews,’ [the scholar of Islam] Bernard Lewis recounts how the romantic cult of Spain reaching its peak in Victor Hugo's Hernani influenced Jews who now nourished the illusion that they ‘had flourished in Muslim Spain, had been driven from Christian Spain, and had found refuge in Muslim Turkey.’ But, as Lewis points out, ‘The golden age of equal rights [in Spain] was a myth, and belief in it was a result, more than a cause, of Jewish sympathy for Islam. The myth was invented by Jews in nineteenth-century Europe as a reproach to Christians.’ ”[6a]

Ibn Warraq goes on to point out that “Something of the myth of the Golden Age of Spain persists to this day,” because European politicians and the European media, especially, will “invite only those scholars who believe in the myth of Islamic tolerance.” As a result, says Warraq, this myth has become something of an orthodoxy among Western students of Islam. The consequence is that “there are a number of scholars writing in the West whose works are widely read, respected, and influential but who, for various reasons, wish to play down the history of the dhimmis, including the Armenian genocide [carried out by the Ottoman Turks], and the periodic but persistent massacres of not only Jews and Christians, but the oft-neglected Hindus, Zoroastrians, and Buddhists, living under Islam.”

Then there is the myth about the Ottoman Empire, which supposedly treated Jews well. Towards the end, in modern times, the condition of Jews in Istanbul and areas close to Europe did improve because the Ottoman Empire was dying and the modern Christian states, getting stronger all the time, could exert pressure to protect the rights of Christian communities in the empire, with benefits accruing also to the Jews. It is true, also, that in earlier times the Ottoman Sultan Mejmet II was relatively tolerant, and Bayezid II received many Jews who had been expelled from Spain. But this does not change the fact of the wholesale destruction of Jewish communities during the Ottoman jihad that conquered Bizantium, nor does it erase the outbursts of oppression under the same Bayezid II and Selim I, though Jewish writers in the 16th c. may have wanted to forget all that.[7] It is absurd to propose that the Ottomans were always tolerant, because a few rulers were (sometimes) less repressive, just as it is absurd to propose that the Polish population of the first half of the 20th c. was not antisemitic because earlier the Polish kings had allowed many Jews to settle in Polish lands and had been tolerant. One fact does not erase the other.

Another important effect distorting modern perceptions is that, in North Africa, and also in Syria and Lebanon, right before the Jews were expelled from Arab lands -- an expulsion motivated by the successful Israeli War of Independence of 1948 -- the Jews had been doing relatively well, and this is the memory that those who left these lands took with them, transmitting it also to their descendants. But these improved conditions for Jews were a consequence of French interventions in the 19th c. and in the early 20th. The French conquest of Algeria, for example, happened in 1830, and “in 1870 the Jews, as a class, were given full rights of citizenship.” This continued the policies of the French Revolution of 1789, which had fully emancipated the French Jews, followed by Napoleon Bonaparte’s emancipations in the rest of Europe. The same author I just quoted, writing in 1909, commented concerning the Jews of Morocco that they favored France because “France gave them freedom and security and citizenship in Algeria, and the Jews of Morocco look for the time when French control of that country will give them the same benefits.”[8] It is difficult to argue that the Jews in the Muslim countries of North Africa were doing well if they lacked liberty, security, and citizenship -- that is to say, if they were dhimmis. And this oppression was not a question of Ottoman rule versus not because Morocco (but not Algeria) had managed to stay independent of the Ottomans.

As for 'Palestine,' conditions for Jews there were never good, even with the arrival of the British. To see what Jewish life in 'Palestine' was like, consult:

Was Arab anti-Jewish racism in the first half of the 20th c. fundamentally different from the European variety?; from UNDERSTANDING THE PALESTINIAN MOVEMENT; Historical and Investigative Research; 22 April 2006; by Francisco Gil-White.


Many people believe slavery has disappeared in the modern world but this is not true, and certainly not in the case of Muslim societies.

In 1964, in a short article that appeared in International Migration Digest titled “Forced Migration: The Slave Trade Still Flourishes,” the author wrote that,

“Slavery countenanced by law or custom may be found today in Africa, Asia, and Asia Minor. Specific sites include Aden, Kuwait, Muscat, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia (which has announced its ‘termination,’ but whether that means that their 500,000 old slaves are freed or no new ones may be purchased is not clear), parts of the Sudan, and Yemen.”[9]

The list of states where slavery was practised as late as 1964 is a list of Muslim states.

Aharon Layish, writing in the Journal of the American Oriental Society stated in 1987 that:

“Slavery and concubinage, firmly anchored in the shari'a and in reality, were abolished in 1962, mainly in deference to world opinion. ...At the same time it appears that slavery, and especially concubinage, have not yet completely disappeared”[10]

I must confess to not having the slightest idea what Layish means by slavery and concubinage being “firmly anchored... in reality.” But it is interesting that in 1987, 25 years after the supposed abolition of slavery in Saudi Arabia, scholars of this country conceded the point in print that slavery there had not ended. The admission is quite significant because, as mentioned above, Western scholars of Muslim countries in recent times tend to be quite deferential to these countries and work hard to diminish the impression that there is anything wrong with them. Layish's article is in fact a defense of the view that Saudi Arabia is becoming more moderate! Given this bias, one is entitled to wonder if perhaps Layish has distorted matters when he states that in Saudi Arabia “slavery, and especially concubinage, have not yet completely disappeared.” Perhaps the truth is that these abuses remain rampant.

Of course, it is possible that Layish can claim, strictly speaking, to be stating matters correctly because he is referring to outright, official slavery, and not to other forms of slavery that are not ‘on the books,’ so to speak. In this connection it is important that a very large population of foreign workers, including many non-Muslims, live as ‘guest-workers’ in the Muslim oil-producing countries of the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula. In 1982, Myron Weiner wrote in Population and Development Review that “In the five small oil-producing states that line the Persian Gulf -- Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman -- two thirds of the labor force is imported.”[11] Two thirds. Astounding: already in 1982 there were more foreigners than nationals. And yet matters have become more extreme. Eight years later Frans Schuurman & Raouf Salib would write in Social Scientist that in the United Arab Emirates the proportion of foreign workers was now almost 3/4 of the population. But this was not the most extreme case. “Of the 250,000 inhabitants in Qatar 75 per cent is non-Qatari, with an even higher figure (86 per cent) for foreign participation in the economically active population.” It is only in the context of such comparisons that Saudi Arabia is a bit less shocking: “In the whole of Saudi Arabia 30 per cent of the population is of foreign origin,” wrote Schuurman and Salib, whereas in some cities, like Jeddah, “52 per cent are foreigners.” And here is the key point: the same authors explain that “labor migrants in many [Arab] countries are denied the same services and rights as the national population, e.g. there is no juridical protection whatsoever, there is discrimination and the housing conditions in many instances are very bad.”[12]

A small aristocracy ruling a mass of oppressed foreigners. This is the time-worn Islamic model, following a Muslim conquest. Now it happens through the importation of foreign workers.

A 2003 article in The Middle East Report didn't mince too many words on this question. Focusing on Saudi Arabia, they wrote:

“Augmenting anxieties generated by economic futility and the specter of total social disarray is the authoritarian regime itself, long at the vanguard of the world's oppressive governments. Religious minorities are marginalized. The Shi'a, who live mostly in the oil-rich eastern province of al-Hasa and make up between 10-20 percent of the population, have been ruthlessly oppressed. The monarchy's record on women's rights and most other measures of human rights is worse than abysmal, as documented by Human Rights Watch, the State Department and others. Foreign laborers toil in virtual slavery, subordinate to vague labor laws that allow their unlimited exploitation. Arrest without formal charge is frequent, the torture of criminal and political prisoners is common, and due process is mythical. Forced confessions fill the police records, while capital and corporal punishments are handed out with frightening regularity. The top-heavy regime is corrupt and cruel, and maintains domestic order through fear and the threat of violence.”[13] (emphasis added)

The above portrayal of Saudi Arabia, note, is based on the assertions of Human Rights Watch, which has been shown to be a NATO lapdog,[14] and from the State Department, the foreign relations ministry of the United States, which has a close alliance with the Saudi regime. In other words, these are hardly hostile sources.

Consider the following statements from the US State Department, made in early 2007:

“Saudi Arabia is a destination country for men and women trafficked for the purposes of involuntary servitude and, to a lesser extent, commercial sexual exploitation. Men and women from Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Kenya, and Ethiopia voluntarily travel to Saudi Arabia as domestic servants or other low-skilled laborers, but subsequently face conditions of involuntary servitude, including withholding of passports and other restrictions on movement, non-payment of wages, threats, and physical or sexual abuse. Women from Yemen, Morocco, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Tajikistan were also trafficked into Saudi Arabia for commercial sexual exploitation; others were reportedly kidnapped and forced into prostitution after running away from abusive employers. In addition, Saudi Arabia is a destination country for Nigerian, Yemeni, Pakistani, Afghan, Chadian, and Sudanese children trafficked for involuntary servitude as forced beggars and as street vendors.

The Government of Saudi Arabia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. Saudi Arabia is placed on Tier 3 for a third consecutive year. The government failed to enact a comprehensive criminal anti-trafficking law, and, despite evidence of widespread trafficking abuses, did not significantly increase the number of prosecutions of these crimes committed against foreign domestic workers. The government similarly did not take law enforcement action against trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation in Saudi Arabia, or take any steps to provide victims of sex trafficking with protection. Saudi Arabia also continues to lack a victim identification procedure to identify and refer victims to protective services.”

I must point out that this oppression is carried out against a large population of Muslims as well as non-Muslims. This, too, is traditional. Islam is a predatory ideology that oppresses everybody except for the tiny aristocracy at the top. The oppression against Muslim women, half the population, is already infamous. But a good many men fare poorly, as well. The French scholar of Islam Clement Huart wrote in 1907 -- long before the present wave of pro-Muslim political correctness in the West -- that a Muslim conquering state, when considering persons in the conquered population, applies the following rule: “The status of slave is presumed until the contrary is proved... Conversion to Islam does not alter that status since it is legal to own a Muslim slave.”[16]

Now you have a good window into the future of the West, if present trends continue.

The following piece in this series will examine the growth of Islam in Western countries (much of it subsidized by Saudi Arabia), the policies of Western ruling classes, and the reaction of Western citizenries.


Footnotes and Further Reading

[1] Bostom, A. G. 2005. “Jihad Conquests and the Imposition of Dhimmitude -- A Survey,” in The legacy of jihad: Islamic holy war and the fate of non-Muslims. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, pp.24-126. (p.32).

[2] quoted in “Jihad Conquests and the Imposition of Dhimmitude,” (p.33)

[3] “Jihad Conquests and the Imposition of Dhimmitude,” (p.29)

[4] quoted in “Jihad Conquests and the Imposition of Dhimmitude,” (p.29)

[5] “Jihad Conquests and the Imposition of Dhimmitude,” (p.30)

[6] quoted in “Jihad Conquests and the Imposition of Dhimmitude,” (p.30)

[6a] Foreword, by Ibn Warraq, to The legacy of jihad: Islamic holy war and the fate of non-Muslims. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, pp.20-23. (p.21).

[7] “Jihad Conquests and the Imposition of Dhimmitude,” (p.65)

[8] Andrews, G. F. 1909. The North African Question and Its Relation to European Politics. The American Political Science Review 3:20-29. (pp.21-22)

[9] Forced Migration: The Slave Trade Still Flourishes
International Migration Digest, Vol. 1, No. 1. (Spring, 1964), pp. 69-70.

[10] Layish, Aharon 1987. "Saudi Arabian Legal Reform as a Mechanism to Moderate Wahhabi Doctrine," Aharon Layish, Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 107, No. 2., pp. 279-292. (p.283)

[11] Weiner, Myron 1982. "International Migration and Development: Indians in the Persian Gulf"; Population and Development Review, Vol. 8, No. 1., pp. 1-36. (p.1)

[12] Schuurman, Frans J. & Salib, Raouf 1990. "Labour Migration to the Middle East: A Review of Its Context, Effects and Prospects," Social Scientist, Vol. 18, No. 5., pp. 19-29. (p.23)

[13] Jones, Toby. 2003. "Seeking a 'Social Contract' for Saudi Arabia," Middle East Report, No. 228. (Autumn, 2003), pp. 42-48. (p.43)

[14] Human Rights Watch will lie about supposed human rights violations when this is convenient for NATO's interests. See, for example:

THE ROAD TO JENIN: The Racak “massacre” hoax, and those whose honesty it places in doubt: Helena Ranta, NATO, the UN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, The Associated Press, and Human Rights Watch; Historical and Investigative Research; October 2005; by Francisco Gil-White

[15] Extracted from U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2007.

[16] Huart, Clement 1907. "Le droit de la guerre." Revue du monde musulman 2:331-46.

English translation in: The legacy of jihad: Islamic holy war and the fate of non-Muslims. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, pp.282-292. (p.286).

<  Part 1 -  What, exactly, is "moderate Islam"?

<  Part 2 - The fates of non-Muslims in Islamic society

<  Part 3 -  The progress of Islam in the Western world

<  Part 4 -  The role of Western ruling elites in the sponsorship of Islam

































































































































































































































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