Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Dhimmitude in North Africa and Yemen

Writing in Front Page magazine Dr Andrew G Bostom savages Matthias Kunzel's new book: Jihad and Jew hatred, accusing him of failing to present the Islamic, doctrinal foundations for historic anti-Jewish hatred:

Kuntzel’s fleeting characterization of the dhimmi condition for Jews—the actual plight of Jews subjected to the discriminatory legal and social effects of the combined anti-dhimmi, and specific anti-Jewish hatred of Islam’s core texts—is equally wanting. The intimate doctrinal connection between the institution of jihad war, and its corollary institution, dhimmitude (most notably via Koran 9:29, and centuries of voluminous Islamic jurisprudence produced across the length and breadth of Islamic civilization), is ignored entirely (and perhaps not even understood) by the author. Kuntzel further endorses (on p. 66) the complete bowdlerization of dhimmitude as a form of benevolent, paternal “generosity,” which rewarded “appropriate humility”—ignoring the conclusions of serious scholars of the dhimmi condition in general, and for Jews in particular, S.D. Goitein, and Bat Ye’or. Both have amply demonstrated the vacuousness of such apologetics. Gotein for example (in 1970), stated explicitly,

Christians and Jews were not citizens of the state, not even second class citizens. They were outsiders under the protection of the Muslim state, a status characterized by the term dhimma, for which protection they had to pay a poll tax specific to them. They were also exposed to a great number of discriminatory and humiliating laws...As it lies in the very nature of such restrictions, soon additional humiliations were added, and before the second century of Islam was out, a complete body of legislation in this matter was in existence...In times and places in which they became too oppressive they lead to the dwindling or even complete extinction of the minorities.

With regard to North African Jewry, specifically, under Islam, Goitein, in a 1974 paper, described the Jews’ cultural narrowing to an “exclusively Talmudic sphere” as a result of “...the almost permanent state of oppression and vexations, if not outright persecutions.

Bat Ye’or’s extensive analyses of the dhimmi condition for both Jews and Christians published (in English) in 1985 and 1996, concluded:

[1985]…These examples are intended to indicate the general character of a system of oppression, sanctioned by contempt and justified by the principle of inequality between Muslims and dhimmis…Singled out as objects of hatred and contempt by visible signs of discrimination, they were progressively decimated during periods of massacres, forced conversions, and banishments. Sometimes it was the prosperity they had achieved through their labor or ability that aroused jealousy; oppressed and stripped of all their goods, the dhimmi often emigrated.

[1996]…in many places and at many periods [through] the nineteenth century, observers have described the wearing of discriminatory clothing, the rejection of dhimmi testimony, the prohibitions concerning places of worship and the riding of animals, as well as fiscal charges- particularly the protection charges levied by nomad chiefs- and the payment of the jizya…Not only was the dhimma imposed almost continuously, for one finds it being applied in the nineteenth century Ottoman Empire…and in Persia, the Maghreb, and Yemen in the early twentieth century, but other additional abuses, not written into the laws, became absorbed into custom, such as the devshirme, the degrading corvees (as hangmen or gravediggers), the abduction of Jewish orphans (Yemen), the compulsory removal of footware (Morocco, Yemen), and other humiliations…The recording in multiple sources of eye-witness accounts, concerning unvarying regulations affecting the Peoples of the Book, perpetuated over the centuries from one end of the dar al-Islam to the other…proves sufficiently their entrenchment in customs

Two particularly humiliating “vocations” that were imposed upon Jews by their Muslim overlords in Yemen, and Morocco—where Jews formed the only substantive non-Muslim dhimmi populations—merit elaboration.

Moroccan Jews were confined to ghettos in the major cities, such as Fez (since the 13th century) called mellah(s) (salty earth) which derives from the fact it was here that they were forced to salt the decapitated heads of executed rebels for public exposition. This brutally imposed humiliating practice—which could be enforced even on the Jewish Sabbath—persisted through the late 19th century, as described by Eliezer Bashan:

In the 1870's, Jews were forced to salt the decapitated heads of rebels on the Sabbath. For example, Berber tribes frequently revolted against Sultan Muhammad XVIII. In order to force them to accept his authority, he would engage in punitive military campaigns. Among the tribes were the Musa, located south of Marrakesh. In 1872, the Sultan succeeded in quelling their revolt and forty-eight of their captives were condemned to death. In October 1872, on the order of the Sultan, they were dispatched to Rabat for beheading. Their decapitated heads were to be exposed on the gates of the town for three days. Since the heads were to be sent to Fez, Jewish ritual slaughterers (Hebrew, shohetim) were forced to salt them and hang them for exposure on the Sabbath. Despite threats by the governor of Rabat, the Jews refused to do so. He then ordered soldiers to enter the homes of those who refused and drag them outside. After they were flogged, the Jews complied and performed the task and the heads of the rebels were exposed in public.

Yemenite Jews had to remove human feces and other waste matter (urine which failed to evaporate, etc.) from Muslim areas, initially in Sanaa, and later in other communities such as Shibam, Yarim, and Dhamar. Decrees requiring this obligation were issued in the late 18th or early 19th century, and re-introduced in 1913. Yehuda Nini reproduces an 1874 letter written by a Yemenite Jew to the Alliance Israelite in Paris, lamenting the practice:

…it is 86 years since our forefathers suffered the cruel decree and great shame to the nation of Israel from the east to sundown…for in the days of our fathers, 86 years ago, there arose a judge known as Qadi, and said unto the king and his ministers who lived in that time that the Lord, Blessed be He, had only created the Jews out of love of the other nations, to do their work and be enslaved by them at their will, and to do the most contemptible and lowly of tasks. And of them all…the greatest contamination of all, to clear their privies and streets and pathways of the filthy dung and the great filth in that place and to collect all that is left of the dung, may your Honor pardon the expression.

See No Hatred, Record No Consequences: Kuntzel’s woefully inadequate “presentation” of Islam’s doctrinal anti-Jewish (and overlapping anti-dhimmi) hatred is accompanied, not surprisingly, by a complete failure to illustrate any of the historical consequences of these sacralized hatreds. Some brief examples are adduced in the following discussion.

Rigid conformity to a motif in the hadith (and sira) based on the putative death bed wish of Muhammad himself, as recorded by Umar (the second Rightly Guided Caliph), “Two religions shall not remain together in the peninsula of the Arabs,” had tragic consequences for the Jews of Yemen. (The hadith and sira further maintain that Umar did eventually expel the Jews of Khaybar.) Thus a pious 17th century Yemenite ruler, Al-Mahdi wishing to fulfill the mandate of this hadith in Yemen, as well, in 1679-1680, expelled the entire Jewish population of Yemen – men, women and children— deporting them to the inhospitable wastelands of the plain of Tihama. This expulsion was accompanied by the destruction of synagogues, desecration of Torah scrolls, and inducements for conversion to Islam. Three-quarters of the thousands of Jews expelled perished from exposure to the intense daytime heat (and evening cold), absence of potable water, and the subsequent spread of epidemic disease. The major Yemenite Jewish community in San’a experienced a 90 percent mortality rate from this catastrophic exile—of about 10,000 persons exiled, only about one tenth, i.e. 1,000, survived.

Read article in full

Irene Lancaster's review of Kuentzel's book


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