THE FLIP SIDE of the discriminatory regulations imposed upon Jews is that they (as well as Christians) were a "protected people," ahl al-dhimma or dhimmis in Arabic, who enjoyed security of life and property, religious freedom, freedom from forced conversion, communal autonomy, and equality in the marketplace. For all its religious exclusivity and hostility towards the Jews, expressed in the Koran and in other Islamic literature, Islam contains a nucleus of pluralism that gave the Jews in Muslim lands greater security than Jews had in Christian Europe. For other important reasons, too, Jews in the Islamic orbit were spared the damaging stigma of "otherness" and anti-Semitism suffered by Jews in
Bat Ye'or, the pioneering historian of dhimmitude, wrote this in response and sent it to the Post:
Response to Mark Cohen's article in the
In his article "The New Muslim anti-Semitism" (
This reductionist mental attitude upholds the dogma of Islamic goodness and tolerance versus Christian timeless evilness in all places. Cohen is not troubled by the complexities involved in comparing utterly different civilizations, religions, jurisdictions, political ideologies and transformations over a millennium. Faithful to himself over the years, he remains deaf to the Islamists' Judeophobic references in their religious texts, praising the system of dhimmitude as one would admire slavery, since the slave might escape death if he obeys his master's orders. As in his earlier article, Cohen pretends that the persecutions Jews suffered under Islamic jurisdiction are an invented myth, a mimicry of Ashkenazi sufferings in order to grab more than Oriental Jewry deserves of the "Zionist pie". Thus Oriental Jewry not only should be grateful to its Muslim rulers for not having been wiped out entirely, but it is not even entitled to have its own history without being accused of posturing as Ashkenazim, thereby obtaining undeserved advantages by out-stepping its position in Israel.
Maybe Mark Cohen has never heard of the Human Rights Declarations promulgated in Europe and
The current fanaticism and mass killings perpetrated in Lebanon, Algeria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, Darfur, Indonesia and the Philippines evoke the continual tribal wars that have permanently ravaged the dar al-Islam with their religious-cleansing, the exodus or the deportation of populations, mainly non-Muslim, and the associated pillage, destruction, abduction and enslavement. Jihadist terrorism that has, over the centuries, eliminated the indigenous Jewish and Christian populations from their Islamized homelands continues unabated today, giving us a glimpse of this past, rosy time of dhimmitude. It is strange that Cohen remains at Princeton instead of emigrating to
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* The latest book by Bat Ye'or, Eurabia: the Euro-Arab Axis, (English, French, Italian, Dutch) will be published in a Hebrew edition by Schocken in spring 2008.
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