Leaving Islam




A Wahhabism Problem
Misleading historical negationism.

By Andrew G. Bostom

In his recent writings on NRO (here and here) and elsewhere, and in his new book, The Two Faces of Islam, Stephen Schwartz appropriately draws the attention of policymakers and the public at large to the dangerous, unsavory interactions between the Saudi royal family, Wahhabi Islam, and international terrorism. Unfortunately, however, Mr. Schwartz identifies Wahhabism as the source of all Islamic terror and injustice. He does not mention that the twin institutionalized scourges of Islam at the crux of the violent, nearly 1,400-year relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims — i.e., jihad and dhimmitude — were already well-elaborated by the 8th century, 1,000 years before Wahhabism arose in the 18th century.

Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406), perhaps the preeminent Islamic scholar in history, summarized five centuries of prior Muslim jurisprudence with regard to the uniquely Islamic institution of jihad:

In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the [Muslim] mission and [the obligation to] convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force... The other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the holy war was not a religious duty for them, save only for purposes of defense... Islam is under obligation to gain power over other nations.

In "The Laws of Islamic Governance," al-Mawardi (d. 1058), a renowned jurist of Baghdad, examined the regulations pertaining to the lands and infidel (i.e., non-Muslim) populations subjugated by jihad. This is the origin of the system of dhimmitude. The native infidel population had to recognize Islamic ownership of their land, submit to Islamic law, and accept payment of the poll tax (jizya). Some of the more salient features of dhimmitude include: the prohibition of arms for the vanquished non-Muslims (dhimmis), and of church bells; restrictions concerning the building and restoration of churches and synagogues; inequality between Muslims and non-Muslims with regard to taxes and penal law; the refusal of dhimmi testimony by Muslim courts; a requirement that Jews and Christians wear special clothes; and their overall humiliation and abasement. Furthermore, dhimmis, including those living under "enlightened" Turkish and Bosnian Muslim domain, suffered, at periods, from slavery (i.e., harem slavery for women, and the devshirme child levy for Balkan Christian males), abductions, deportations, and massacres. During the modern era, between 1894-96, the Ottoman Turks massacred over 200,000 (dhimmi) Christian Armenians, followed by the first formal genocide of the 20th century, in 1915, at which time they slaughtered an additional 600,000 to 800,000 Armenians. Contemporary accounts from European diplomats confirm that these brutal massacres were perpetrated in the context of a formal jihad against the Armenians who had attempted to throw off the yoke of dhimmitude by seeking equal rights and autonomy. For example, the Chief Dragoman (Turkish-speaking interpreter) of the British embassy reported regarding the 1894-96 massacres:

…[The perpetrators] are guided in their general action by the prescriptions of the Sheri [Sharia] Law. That law prescribes that if the "rayah" [dhimmi] Christian attempts, by having recourse to foreign powers, to overstep the limits of privileges allowed them by their Mussulman [Muslim] masters, and free themselves from their bondage, their lives and property are to be forfeited, and are at the mercy of the Mussulmans. To the Turkish mind the Armenians had tried to overstep those limits by appealing to foreign powers, especially England. They therefore considered it their religious duty and a righteous thing to destroy and seize the lives and properties of the Armenians…"

The scholar Bat Yeor confirms this reasoning, noting that the Armenian quest for reforms invalidated their "legal status," which involved a "contract" (i.e., with their Muslim Turkish rulers). This

…breach…restored to the umma [the Muslim community] its initial right to kill the subjugated minority [the dhimmis], [and] seize their property…


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