Skip to comments.Damned if you do: Historians dare to criticize Islamic dhimmitude at Georgetown and pay a price
Posted on 10/29/2002 11:30:34 AM PST by Utah Girl
Will Jews and Christians on American college campuses have the freedom and more importantly, the courage to speak out against oppression of their people in Islamic nations? Not, it seems, at Georgetown University, where Jewish student leaders turned on the leading historian of dhimmitude the state of formal discrimination historically imposed on Jews and Christians living under Islamic occupation when Muslim students became angry and emotional over her remarks.
Bat Yeor, who occasionally contributes to National Review Online, made her reputation by documenting the tragic fate of the dhimmi Christians of the East, in lands conquered by Islam. Classical Islam prescribes a state of existence for subject Jews and Christians under which they must live as second-class citizens, paying a special tax to their Muslim rulers, living under special rules, and not granted the same basic human rights enjoyed by Muslims. Bat Yeor, born a Jew in Egypt but exiled to Europe, is the best-known historian of what she has termed dhimmitude, and has written three books on the subject.
A coalition of Jewish and Christian student groups at Georgetown invited the historian and her husband, historian David Littman, to deliver a lecture a week ago today on the stated topic of "Ideology of Jihad, Dhimmitude and Human Rights" which was the title of the speech, according to flyers the event organizers produced. If statements the Littmans provided to National Review Online are accurate, it is hard to believe that their hosts were unaware of the nature of their work in the field.
"The various flyers in my possession that were prepared, posted, and widely circulated via e-mail by the organizers (I considered some of them somewhat provocative and said so), confirm that all were fully aware of the subjects and themes to be addressed by both speakers," David Littman said.
Littman says the organizers agreed to provide special security for the event, indicating that they anticipated the possibility of trouble. Littman says he and his wife met with Ben Bixby, one of the Jewish student organizers, a week before the lecture, gave him copies of Bat Yeor's books, as well as copies of her recent articles. "Anyone glancing at these publications would know exactly the thrust of subjects and themes of the evening lectures," he tells NRO.
On the morning of the lectures, says Littman, he and Bat Yeor met Bixby and fellow students Julia Segall and Salamon Kalach-Zaga for breakfast. They spoke about the planned speeches. Littman says he decided to present a version of a talk he had given at the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, and provided a copy to the organizers. For her part, Bat Yeor says it is impossible for her to believe that she would have been invited to speak by students who were unfamiliar with her work.
Of her lecture, Bat Yeor says, "I explained the roots of jihad according to Muslim theologians and jurists, its aim, strategy, tactics and rules. This was followed by a short description of the jihad war of conquest on three continents over a millennium: from Portugal to India, from Budapest to Sudan, as those war operations, victories and conquests were described in Muslim and Christian chronicles. Dhimmitude is the direct consequence of jihad. It embodied all the Islamic laws and customs applied over a millennium on the vanquished population, Jews and Christians, living in the countries conquered by jihad and therefore Islamized.
"Then I spoke of the return of the jihad ideology since the 1960s, and of some dhimmitude practices in Muslim countries applying the sharia [Islamic] law, or inspired by it. I stressed the incompatibility between the concept of tolerance as expressed by the jihad-dhimmitude ideology, and the concept of human rights based on the equality of all human beings and the inalienability of their rights."
According to a letter written to the campus newspaper by Scott Borer-Miller, a Jewish student who was present at the lecture, students "openly laughed and made comments" during Bat Yeor's half-hour lecture. In the question-and-answer period that followed, Bat Yeor reported "sometimes vehement" opposition from Muslim students in the audience. She describes it as "religiously motivated."
"They wouldn't accept a word of criticism on jihad and dhimmitude," she says. "I had approached and explained the subject as a matter of human history, like any other such subject. My vision was pluralistic, and based on countless testimonies, including Muslim ones. It was clear that the students who objected would not accept nor even tolerate the perception of jihad's victims."
Bat Yeor describes the Jewish students as looking "miserable and stunned." David Littman told me last week in New York that one of the Jewish students came to him and asked him not to deliver his lecture. He refused, and faced another outcry from Muslim students, particular when he mentioned disapprovingly that Muhammad's favorite wife, Aisha, was a small child when she was married off to the Prophet. Bat Yeor told me last week that several Jewish and Christian students approached her and her husband after the event and thanked them for their testimony. "I asked them, 'Why didn't you stand up for us when we were being attacked?'" she said. "They didn't have an answer."
Three days after the lecture, a story appeared in The Hoya, the campus newspaper, in which Kalach-Zaga, spokesman for the Georgetown Israel Alliance, alleged that Bat Yeor and her husband misled the organizers. "We wanted an event that talked about authoritarian regimes and how they twist and distort Islam to justify repression against minorities. The information that [Yeor and Littman] provided us with was about this topic, but their presentation wasn't concerned at all with this," the paper quoted Kalach-Zaga as saying.
"The speakers gave us certain ideas about what they would speak about so that they could get in the door, and once they were in, they gave a completely different idea of what we had wanted. It was two-faced and manipulative," he continued.
In a letter to The Hoya, Jewish student leaders Julia Segall and Daniel Spector called the event "a disaster, and [we] denounce the views brought forth by Bat Yeor and David Littman." The pair called their guest speakers "hateful, slanderous and a crude surprise to us." They accused the speakers of making "no effort to make a clear distinction between pure, harmonious Islam, and the acts of a few who falsely claim to act in the name of Islam."
"This is pure nonsense," Bat Yeor replies. "When one studies the Inquisition or the Crusades, one does not feel obliged to make a clear distinction between 'pure' Christianity and those historical events. In a university, the examination of several analyses of history should be encouraged. The Muslim view is exclusively religion-based, and proceeds from the assumption that there is only one valid interpretation of history: the Islamic one. No criticism of jihad is accepted because it is a just war according to Muslim dogma.
"This attitude imposes the worst law of dhimmitude on non-Muslims: the refusal of their evidence. The historical testimony of the millions of human victims of jihad is rejected on its face by this doctrinal attitude."
It strains credibility to believe that the Jewish student organizers thought that Bat Yeor, whose work makes plain that jihad and dhimmitude are inextricably linked to Islamic doctrine and practice, would present them with a lecture saying the codified oppression of non-Muslim peoples is a peculiar distortion of Islam. None of several Jewish students involved with putting the event together responded to NRO's request for comment. David Littman says that unless the student organizers retract their accusations that he and his wife deceived the event's organizers, he will consult a lawyer about a libel suit.
Rabbi Harold White, the Jewish chaplain at Georgetown, said he was visited by several of the "horrified" organizers the day after the presentation. "They didn't have problems with the facts [Bat Yeor and David Littman] were presenting," says Rabbi White. "They believed [the historians] were very rude. From what the students said to me, it was their mannerisms, and cutting off questions, that led to the apology. No [student] said to me that they doubted what she said was true. The just didn't like the presentation."
That contrasts starkly with the complaints the three students Spector, Segall, and Kalach-Zaga made for public consumption, in the pages of the campus newspaper, in which they mostly complained about the content of the Yeor-Littman speeches ("we in no way agree or support what was said"), and in Kalach-Zaga's case, accused the husband-wife team of being "two-faced and manipulative."
Rabbi White at first told NRO he suspected that the Jewish students had not read any of Bat Yeor's work prior to bringing her to campus, but corrected himself when he recalled that a Palestinian student group had requested of the Jewish student leaders that they cancel Bat Yeor's talk. "I know [the Jewish students] were provided with the material in advance, because in justifying the program to the leadership of the Arab group, they said they had read it and were convinced the program wouldn't be offensive."
When Muslim students in attendance reacted angrily to the speakers' presentations on jihad and dhimmitude, the Jewish students apparently changed their tune. "I don't think it was intimidation," says Rabbi White. "I think it was based on the fact that the week before, they had participated in a successful program on Jewish-Palestinian dialogue, and I think they must have figured it would endanger dialogue in the future."
As for Chi Alpha, the lone Christian group co-sponsoring the event, Shawn Galyen, the group's (non-student) chaplain, said he had never heard of Bat Yeor, but agreed to co-sponsor the lecture when Jewish organizers told him she would speak on the human rights situation of persecuted religious minorities in Islamic countries. Galyen said he was "disappointed" when her speech took up Islamic theology.
"I didn't think I heard a clear distinction when there could have been one between religion and people using religion for bad purposes," Galyen tells NRO. "If I would have known that was her work, I would have never been involved in it. It just isn't helpful, that kind of presentation."
But if what Bat Yeor and David Littman said about Islamic doctrine and history is true, I put it to Galyen, isn't it "helpful" as opposed to a lie that keeps social peace? Galyen demurred, saying that his group isn't political, and that he only wishes that Bat Yeor had shown more "graciousness." The chaplain added that he wasn't sure that her voice belonged on a college campus, but when pressed, couldn't explain why.
All this, say Bat Yeor and Littman, shows how the Jews and Christians of Georgetown have embraced a dhimmi mentality, by abasing themselves before the sensibilities of Muslims, whose co-religionists persecute and oppress Jews and Christians abroad. Political correctness demands that Islam be thought of as inherently peaceful and tolerant, and no explorations of its history and doctrines that would lead to a contrary view may be presented.
Walid Phares, a professor of Middle Eastern studies and ethnic-religious conflict at Florida Atlantic University, calls the Georgetown controversy "significant, but not unique."
"In the past two decades, any intellectual who advocates the fact that Middle Eastern Christians have suffered, or presented their research on this phenomenon, has been repressed," said Phares, who is a Maronite (Lebanese Catholic). "After 9/11, and continuing jihadist attacks on Christians around the world, it's very sad that students at a prominent university would try to suppress voices of academics, of researchers who are just trying to shed light on a very difficult issue. History is history, and in the same way Christians have criticized their own history, including the Crusades, it's time for the Muslim intellectuals to start criticizing the Islamic conquests and the jihad."
It's notable that this controversy erupted at Georgetown, says Phares, given the role its influential, Islamophilic Middle Eastern Studies department has played in what Phares calls "the erasing of the plight of Middle Eastern Christians under Islamic regimes."
Charles Jacobs, director of the Boston-based American Anti-Slavery Organization, says Bat Yeor's historical argument must be heard because she is describing the basis for laws and ideology today in Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iran, parts of Nigeria, and other Muslim nations, that determine how non-Muslims are governed.
"In most of the Middle East, the legacy of this religious inequality exists today," he says. "How can centuries of religious discrimination cemented in daily practices through the requirement to wear distinctive garb, through the enforced custom of not looking at a Muslim in the eye, of not being able to defend yourself in court against a Muslim for any charge conceivable how could this disappear overnight? This is what stokes the jihadi fires, and this is what Bat Yeor is calling attention to."
Could it be that Jews and Christians at Georgetown and other elite universities, who are among the small number of Americans in a position to do something to draw attention to the plight of the dhimmi peoples, may not want to hear about their suffering, past and present, because it upsets the social peace on campus? Because it gainsays the comforting multiculturalist nostrum that any unpleasant manifestation of Islam is not Islam at all? Because preserving good relations with Muslim groups requires not noticing dhimmitude and, if it comes to it, possibly even dishonestly trashing the reputations of two scholars who do?
Any peace built on a lie is no peace at all, and a dialogue based on anything but the truth is self deception. It is to be hoped that the Georgetown debacle may result not in Bat Yeor's voice being silenced by dhimmitized Americans, but amplified by Americans who are tired of the silence on Islamic persecution of dhimmis. There is a nascent effort underway in certain Washington circles to establish an institute affiliated with Bat Yeor to promote scholarship on dhimmitude. This distressing incident at Georgetown underscores the need for such an institute, so Eastern Christians and Jews of dhimmi heritage can preserve and defend their history. "Ignorance is the enemy of reason," says FAU's Phares. "Maronites, Copts, Syriacs and others have been victims of jihad for centuries. After 9/11, the role of these communities in the West is extremely important. They can tell what has happened to them."
"...when Muslim students became angry and emotional over her remarks.
This has an Islamist smell to me.
All American Muslims should renounce Islamism. If they don't, they are, "adhering to (America's) enemies, giving them aid and comfort."
That's Treason, plain and simple.
They were sorely disappointed to find out that no twisting or distortion of true Islam was required to justify repression of minorities.
I have had it with these gutless, self-abominating, crawling, grovelling, Stockholmed-up-the-wazoo leftist Jewsies.
These Jewish students were guilty of appeasement. They held themselves back because they wanted to maintain a favorable dialogue with Muslims in the future. Hah! Muslims do not allow dialogue that is favorable to anyone but themselves.
Seems the Left wants freedom only for those THEY select.
I would suspect the opposition to her work comes primarily because the Moslems simply will not look at anything relating to Islam through the sort of historical paradigm that the West has used for the past 200 years. Bernard Lewis speaks to this in his useful little book: What Went Wrong: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response.
I can't see how you can make this distinction. Have you ever had a college-freshman level Western Civ course? It's ALL about Christianity--from the rise of the early Roman Catholic Church to the Holy Roman Empire to the various schisms and heresies all the way up through the Reformation.
Western art (Michelangelo, Rafael), music (Gregorian chant, Palestrina, Bach), literature (Bunyan, Donne, Milton) and architecture (Leonardo, Wren) are completely subsumed by Christian tradition. In fact, they existed and developed solely because of the Christian religion.
It wasn't until the "Enlightenment" in the mid-to-late 1700s that Western institutions began to part ways with the Church to any extent--and even now, religion in the Christian world is as important a factor in its development as it is in the Muslim world.
I know you can draw many contrasts between Islam and Christianity, but you can also draw quite a few parallels. Islam was not ALWAYS the scourge and bane of the earth; there was a time when it was the repository and caretaker of the learning of the ancient Near East, and the contribution of Muslim Arabs in the sciences and mathematics is inestimable.
Of course, that was then and this is now. The poverty, ignorance and social backwardness of the Islamic world today has to be laid at the feet of that religion and especially, the "enlightened" potentates who use it to further their own ends, from Libya to Saudi Arabia to Iraq to Iran.
Let us engage the present threat, yes, of course, but let us not rewrite history to justify our doing so.
That says it all. Universities have become islands of repression and suppression.
Inestimable. I keep hearing this line. All I ever heard that the Muslims contributed is the concept of zero and algebra. For me the discovery of the concept of zero is a bit overblown; it's like hearing mathematicians make a big to-do about null, nil, and the like. I'm sure even a caveman knew when he had nothing that he really had nothing. I recollect the Greeks discovered and developed geometry and formulae. By the way the Pythagorean theorem is an algebraic expression. So the Arabs generalized the concept. Big deal.
The Arabs contributed to medicine and astronomy? I think much of their medicine had already been discovered by the Greeks. Im much more impressed with Kepler and Galileos venture into astronomy where the science is verifiable and results predicatable. Maybe the Arabs helped to maintain classical knowledge. I think the Eastern Holy Roman Empire would have done as good or better had they not been overrun and ravaged by the Muslims.
My big doubt about the value of Islamic contribution comes from the observation that Muslims pillaged and ran down the conquered until the earth lay barren. Every one of their nations now are devoid of accomplishment. How could an ideology as good as Islam wreak such havoc? Simple, it never was any good in the first place.
Sneer all you want, but it's true. When Europe was wallowing in the Dark Ages, the Muslim world was in the full flower of high civilization.
Now, things are completely the opposite: Their Dark Ages are here, and have been around for a few hundreds of years.
But because the era WE live in (a razor-thin slice of time compared with the span of human civilization) contains their dark ages, doesn't mean that Islam has never made its contributions. It has.
It doesn't mean that the Christian world doesn't have its own ignorant and bloody past: It does.
So what? Sounds like human beings, to me.
Sounds like SOMEONE might have gotten "skunked"!
What did we (in America) learn from September 11, 2001 and the deaths of 3,000 people. I am tempted to admit: Absolutely nothing.
Among the many unlearned lessons of Day-Which-Will-Live-In-Infamy-II-- the necessity to control our borders, the need for a patriotic renewal and the importance of combating multiculturalism -- the most significant is the nature of Islam. You will note that I do not say militant Islam, or radical Islam, or Islamic extremism or other such weasel words but Islam, period.
Every one of the hijackers who flew airliners into the World Trade Center and Pentagon were professing and practicing Moslems, as is Osama bin Laden. The Al Qaeda terrorist network, is based in Moslem countries and supported financially by the so called pious Moslem leadership of Saudi Arabia.
The overwhelming majority of Moslem religious authorities who have spoken out on the subject, including those at the main mosque in Mecca and Egypts prestigious Al Azar University, either endorse or rationalize acts of terrorism. On a day when Americans were incinerated or buried under tons of rubble, Muslims from Nigeria to Indonesia, celebrated in the streets.
Sept. 11 was one chapter in a 1400-year jihad. Every day, the World Trade Center massacre is reenacted on a smaller scale somewhere in the world. Jewish women and children are burned alive in a bus in Israel. A missionary is beheaded in the Philippines, gunmen shoot up a church in Pakistan (deliberately firing into the prostrate bodies of women trying to shield their children). Ancient monasteries and convents are destroyed in Kosovo. Women are sentenced to death for adultery in Nigeria, Hindus are murdered in the Kashmir. In Denmark, the Muslim community there has put a $30,000 bounty on the heads of Jews and those who support Israel. Nuns are beheaded in Baghdad, Christians in Sudan are forced into slavery, and in Britain, Islam openly states it is going to take over not only the UK, but the whole world -- and the beat goes on.
Genocide in the Sudan, ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, religious persecution in Saudi Arabia, calls for another holocaust in mosques from Mecca to Gaza, the imposition of Islamic law in Nigeria, forced conversions in Indonesia, synagogues burned in France, Jews attacked across Europe these are everyday events, as Third World and much of the First slowly turns Islamic green.
Sadly our leaders, from President Bush on down, insist on peddling the absurdity that Islam is a religion of peace a creed of kindness and benevolence tragically and inexplicably corrupted by fanatics.
Why is the leadership of the West reluctant to confront manifest reality? The reason lies partly with our absurd foreign policy. We have declared certain Moslem nations to be our loyal allies including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. We would not want to offend these dear friends by saying something unflattering about their bloody, butcherly, dark ages faith.
Americans are naturally benevolent. Most of us are taught from childhood that is religion is good (and it does not matter which religion). As long as little Johnny believes in God and goodness, its inconsequential whether he lights candles, wears a skull cap to services or prays in the direction of Mecca.
This works with every religion except Islam.
Consider the following: Of the three major western religions: one was started by a lawgiver who helped to free slaves; one by a man of peace; the last one by a man who loved war and having sex with children. Mohammed not only led men into battle, he enjoyed marrying girls as young as six years old (it is in the Koran). The essence of his message is sick and disgusting. A holy war where you slaughter your enemies, while at the same time encouraging followers to have sex with the children they capture (as he did) for the glory of Allah. He even advised his followers to negotiate false peace treaties in order to lull their enemies.
For almost 1,400 years, that has been the reality of Islam. Within a century after the death of Mohammed, Islam spread throughout the Middle East and across North Africa. It overran the Iberian peninsula and was finally stopped in southern France. It spread eastward as far as the southern Philippines. It was not propagated by fresh-faced young men knocking on doors and announcing: Hello. Im from your local mosque. Have you considered the Koran? It was and is spread by force conversion by the sword or death. This is still in practice today.
Some will respond that all religions go through periods of violence, usually in their infancy. Christianity had its crusades and Inquisition, its forced conversions and expulsions. The evil committed in the name of Christ happened centuries ago. The evil committed in the name of the Prophet is going on now, as you read these words. Of 22 conflicts in the Third World, 20 involve Moslems versus someone else. Coincidence? In his brilliant book, Clash of Cultures and the Remaking of World Order, Samuel Huntington speaks of Islams bloody borders.
There is no Methodist Jihad, no Jewish Hasidic holy warriors, no Buddhist monk wanting to have 72 virgins waiting for him after a suicide bombing, no Hindu Holy men plotting to blow up people, no Southern Baptist suicide bombers, no Mormon elders preaching the annihilation of members of other faiths.
Islam is a warrior religion the perfect vessel for fanatics, the violence-prone, the envious and haters of all stripes. This is one reason why Islam is making so many converts among the peaceable denizens of our prison system.
Still, much of the West is addicted to a fairy-tale version of Islam. Christian and Jewish clergy fall all over themselves to have interfaith services with imams. Representatives of Moslem groups are invited to the White House. The president signs a Ramadan declaration. In California, public schools ask children to role-play at being Moslems. Our universities take carefully selected verses from the Koran and present them as the essence of the faith. All thats needed is a Moslem character on Sesame Street. Look its the Jihad Monster!
This perspective engenders a fatally false sense of security. Imagine, in 1940, Winston Churchill taking to the airwaves to announce Nazism is an ideology of peace which, regrettably, has been perverted by a few fanatics like Hitler and Goebbels. But most storm troopers and SS men are fine follows your friends and neighbors.
For the first thousand years of its history from the death of Mohammad to the 17th. century decline of the Ottoman empire, Islam was an expansionist force. For the next 300 years, as the West rose to preeminence, Islam receded. For the past four decades fueled by Arab oil wealth, a surplus population in the Middle East, the waning of the West and the rise of more virulent strains of the faith (Shiism, Wahhabism, Sunni fundamentalism) Islam is expanding once more.
Due to Moslem immigration and aggressive proselytizing, Islam is being exported to the West. Moslem populations are burgeoning throughout Western Europe. (In southern France, there are more mosques than churches.) In Judeo-Christian America, Islam is the fastest growing religion. It is also spreading down the coast of West Africa, through the Balkans (after Serbia, Macedonia is the next target) and up from Mindanao in the Philippines.
Wherever it comes, Islam brings its delightful customs child marriages, female circumcisions, rabid hatred toward Christians, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists and every other non-muslim, terrorism and support for terrorism and a virulent intolerance of other faiths.
Am I suggesting we declare war on over 1 billion million Moslems? The question is moot Islam has declared war on the rest of the human race. When one side knows its at war and the other thinks peace and brotherhood prevail, guess who wins?
Ultimately, it is not about Jews in Israel, or Orthodox Serbs in Kosovo, or Hindus in Kashmir, Buddhists in Thailand, or Maronite Catholics in Lebanon, Taoists in China, or Christians in Sudan and Nigeria, but all of us. As Ben Franklin would have it Either we will hang together, or surely we shall all hang separately.
And I want to look him straight in the eye and I want to tell him what a cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, d#ckless, hopeless, heartless, fat-a$$ed, bug-eyed, stiff- legged, spineless, worm-headed sack of monkey $hit he is! Hallelujah! Holy $hit! Where's the Tylenol?
A life-size poster of the guy ought to really psych 'em out!