Friday, 3 July 2009

More from Bat Ye’or

Bat Ye’or, The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam (Associated University Presses, London, 1996)

On hostage taking:

Hostage-taking is a classic tactic of the jihad. At the theological-juridical level, it is legal and moral. The hostage - a harbi prisoner - represents a military asset for the exchange of prisoners or for obtaining a ransom to finance the war effort. In both cases, the harbi (American, European or any other), becomes a dehumanized object, deprived of the inalienable rights attached to any human being. This dehumanization is a fundamental aspect bound up with the concept of the harbi. A particular occasion can transform any harbi, no matter who, into a hostage. In the past, frontier raids and piracy at sea, particularly from the Maghreb, provided a considerable reserve of hostages destined for slavery, if they were not redeemed financially. Until 1815, Morocco and the Barbary Coast constituted veritable pirate states, growing rich on the human booty carried off from the dar al-harb. (p. 217-8)


On the remarkable assimilative capacity of Islam:

This stream of converts to Islam was swelled by the throng of freed men and captured slaves. Ibn Ishaq, biographer of the Prophet, was the grandson of a Christian captured in 633 by Khalid b. al-Walid at Ayn al-Tamar (Iraq). Abu Hanifa (d. 767), founder of the school of Hanafi law, was the son of a Zoroastrian slave; the Persian Ibrahim al-Mawsili (742-804), who composed classical Arabic music, had been taken captive as a child at Mosul; Jawhar al-Siqilli (the Sicilian), who conquered Egupt (969) for the Fatimid al-Mu'izz and founded al-Qahira (Cairo) and the al-Azhar mosque (972), was a Christian slave sold at Qairuan. (p.234)


On manageability of the Dhimmi:

Several factors help to prepare a situation propicious to the manipulation of communities or individuals. Among these, one could mention vulnerability, ideological conditioning, corruption, loss of identity, or historical amnesia.

Vulnerability is integrated into dhimmitude, since the dhimmi, conquered by war and defenseless, is reduced to perpetually repurchasing his life. In addition, the right claimed by the Muslim authority to ratify the appointment of the spiritual leader of the dhimmi community enabled it to interfere in this choice to its own best interests, impose its own candidate, and deepen the schisms of a venal nature which were corrupting the institutions. Thus the morality and cultural level of the communities declined, and this domestic discredit increased the contempt of the outside environment.

Ideological conditioning grafts itself onto vulnerability. The janissaries provide the most perfect example of this situation. Young Christian children abducted during razzias, allocated within the quint of war booty or by the devshirme, were reduced to slavery and converted to Islam. Subjected to an intense military and religious education, they constituted the Muslim power’s elite troops. Blind and fanatical tools of the sultan, they became the cruellest persecutors of Christianity, which was henceforth attacked by its own sons. The janissary incarnates the quintessence of dhimmitude, brought to its perfection. (p. 236-7)

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