ANDREW BOSTOM: BERNARD LEWIS, THE PIED PIPER OF WESTERN CONFUSION ON ISLAM
Bernard Lewis: Pied Piper of Islamic Confusion
This summer’s Claremont Review of Books contains a featured review essay by Robert R. Reillyi which discusses Bernard Lewis’s essay collection “Faith and Power,” ii and the nonagenarian historian’s reflections upon the so-called Arab Spring unrest in the Middle East, particularly North Africa.iii As distilled by Reilly, Lewis’s views reiterate what the historian described to the Wall Street Journal’s Bari Weiss during an April 2nd interview. iv
The failure of a young journalist v such as Ms. Weiss to appreciate important glaring and irreconcilable inconsistencies in Lewis’s narrative is concerning, but understandable. It is remarkable, and unacceptable, when a writer of some stature vi (reviewed, here  vii) such as Reilly, Chairman of the Committee for Western Civilization, and senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council, blithely ignores Lewis’s extensive record of self-contradiction. viii Reilly, in his essay, “Bernard Lewis and the Arab Spring”, ix never discusses either Lewis’s contemporary evangelical, even hectoring appeals to “bring them freedom” (i.e., Muslims under the authoritarian rule their systems have always engendered), lest “they” destroy us, x or Lewis’s earlier sobering, 180-degree contradictory analyses of Islam as a totalitarian system devoid of a conceptual basis for Western individual political freedom. xi Without a mention of this intractably confused and confusing record of pronouncements from the early 1950s, through the present, Reilly invokes Lewis as the ultimate clarifying sage on such developments, for whom all owe “thanks.” xii
Lewis’s legacy of intellectual and moral confusion has greatly hindered the ability of sincere American policymakers to think clearly about Islam’s living imperial legacy, driven by unreformed and unrepentant mainstream Islamic doctrine. Reilly’s highly selective and celebratory presentation of Lewis’s understandings—the man Reilly dubs the “foremost historian of the Middle East”— is pathognomonic of the dangerous influence Lewis continues to wield over his uncritical acolytes and supporters. xiii
From Dogmatic Islamophilia to Intellectual and Moral Confusion
During several notable speeches, starting in 2003, 1 including both inaugural and State of the Union addresses, 2 President George W. Bush repeatedly stressed the paramount importance of promoting freedom in the Middle East. Speaking in an almost messianic idiom, he termed such a quest 3
…the calling of our time …the calling of our country.
He reiterated this theme while speaking to The American Legion on February 24, 2006, and offered the following sanguine assessment of progress: 4
Freedom is on the march in the broader Middle East. The hope of liberty now reaches from Kabul to Baghdad, to Beirut, and beyond. Slowly but surely, we’re helping to transform the broader Middle East from an arc of instability into an arc of freedom. And as freedom reaches more people in this vital region, we’ll have new allies in the war on terror, and new partners in the cause of moderation in the Muslim world and in the cause of peace.
Despite President Bush’s uplifting rhetoric and ebullient appraisal of these events—which epitomized American hopes and values at their quintessential best—there was a profound, deeply troubling flaw in his—and his advisers—analysis which simply ignored the vast gulf between Western and Islamic conceptions of freedom itself. 5 How did that happen?
Journalist David Warren, writing in March, 2006, questioned the advice given President Bush “on the nature of Islam” at that crucial time by not only “ the paid operatives of Washington’s Council on American-Islamic Relations, and the happyface pseudo-scholar Karen Armstrong,” but most significantly, one eminence grise, in particular: “the profoundly learned” Bernard
Lewis. 6 All these advisers, despite their otherwise divergent viewpoints, as Warren noted, 7 “assured him (President Bush) that Islam and modernity were potentially compatible.” None more vehemently—or with such authority—than the so-called “Last Orientalist,” 8 nonagenarian Professor Bernard Lewis. Arguably the most striking example of Lewis’ fervor was a lecture he delivered July 16, 2006 (on board the ship Crystal Serenity during a Hillsdale College cruise in the British Isles) about the transferability of Western democracy to despotic Muslim societies, such as Iraq. 9 He concluded with the statement, “Either we bring them freedom, or they destroy us.” This stunning claim was published with that concluding remark as the title, “Bring Them Freedom Or They Destroy Us,” and disseminated widely. 10
While Lewis put forth rather non-sequitur, apologetic examples in support of his concluding formulation, 11 he never elucidated the yawning gap between Western and Islamic conceptions of freedom—“hurriyya” in Arabic. 12 This latter omission was particularly striking given Professor Lewis’ contribution to the official (Brill) Encyclopedia of Islam entry on hurriyya. 13 The materials Lewis omits—including his own earlier writings—on hurriyya and what he has also termed the “authoritarian or even totalitarian” essence of Islamic societies 14—serve as an appropriate starting point for our discussion.
Hurriyya “freedom” is — as Ibn Arabi (d. 1240) the lionized “Greatest Sufi Master,” 15 expressed it — “perfect slavery.” 16 And this conception is not merely confined to the Sufis’ perhaps metaphorical understanding of the relationship between Allah the “master” and his human “slaves.” Following Islamic law slavishly throughout one’s life was paramount to hurriyya “freedom.” This earlier more concrete characterization of hurriyya’s metaphysical meaning, whose essence Ibn Arabi reiterated, was pronounced by the Sufi scholar al-Qushayri (d. 1072/74). 17
Let it be known to you that the real meaning of freedom lies in the perfection of slavery. If the slavery of a human being in relation to God is a true one, his freedom is relieved from the yoke of changes. Anyone who imagines that it may be granted to a human being to give up his slavery for a moment and disregard the commands and prohibitions of the religious law while possessing discretion and responsibility, has divested himself of Islam. God said to his Prophet: “Worship until certainty comes to you.” (Koran 15:99). As agreed upon by the [Koranic] commentators, “certainty” here means the end (of life).
Bernard Lewis, in his Encyclopedia of Islam analysis of hurriyya, discusses this concept in the latter phases of the Ottoman Empire, through the contemporary era. 18After highlighting a few “cautious” or “conservative” (Lewis’ characterization) reformers and their writings, Lewis maintains, 19
…there is still no idea that the subjects have any right to share in the formation or conduct of government—to political freedom, or citizenship, in the sense which underlies the development of political thought in the West. While conservative reformers talked of freedom under law, and some Muslim rulers even experimented with councils and assemblies government was in fact becoming more and not less arbitrary….
Lewis also makes the important point that Western colonialism ameliorated this chronic situation: 20
During the period of British and French domination, individual freedom was never much of an issue. Though often limited and sometimes suspended, it was on the whole more extensive and better protected than either before or after. [emphasis added]
And Lewis concludes his entry by observing that Islamic societies forsook even their inchoate democratic experiments, 21
In the final revulsion against the West, Western democracy too was rejected as a fraud and a delusion, of no value to Muslims.
Elsewhere, writing contemporaneously on democratic institutions in the Islamic Middle East, Lewis conceded that at least “equality and fraternity” between Muslims were accepted. 22 But even here Lewis included a major caveat with regard to “liberty,” whose Islamic formulation might never resemble John Stuart Mill’s conception in “Liberty,” 23 featuring a reference to “Alice in Wonderland” 24 making plain Lewis’ assessment of the likely superficial (at best) outcome of Muslim democratization efforts: 25
…perhaps it may be possible to extend them beyond it [the Muslim community] adding a redefined liberty [emphasis added], to make a new kind of democracy. Only “the question is” as Alice remarked, “whether you can [emphasis in original] make words mean so many different things.”
Western constitutional and governmental models, specifically, were ignored, 26 and ultimately, Lewis viewed this immediate post-World War II era of democratic experimentation by Muslim societies as an objective failure, with the possible exception of developments, at that time, in Turkey. 27
The machinery which works well in the West may not work in other countries. Except perhaps in Turkey, our kind of democracy appears to have failed in the Muslim Middle East.
This harsh, if apposite 1958 assessment is all the more remarkable, in retrospect, over a half century later, because Lewis was critiquing what turned out to have been the Muslim world’s high water mark towards creating indigenous, democratic institutions, and societies. 28 Bernard Lewis then was both unapologetic and pellucid in identifying the intractable obstacle to such efforts at democratization—Islam itself. 29
I turn now from the accidental to the essential factors, to those deriving from the very nature of Islamic society, tradition, and thought. The first of these is the authoritarianism, perhaps we may even say the totalitarianism, of the Islamic political tradition…. Many attempts have been made to show that Islam and democracy are identical-attempts usually based on a misunderstanding of Islam or democracy or both. This sort of argument expresses a need of the up- rooted Muslim intellectual who is no longer satisfied with or capable of understanding traditional Islamic values, and who tries to justify, or rather, re-state, his inherited faith in terms of the fashionable ideology of the day. It is an example of the romantic and apologetic presentation of Islam that is a recognized phase in the reaction of Muslim thought to the impact of the West…. In point of fact, except for the early caliphate, when the anarchic individualism of tribal Arabia was still effective, the political history of Islam is one of almost unrelieved autocracy…[I]t was authoritarian, often arbitrary, sometimes tyrannical. There are no parliaments or representative assemblies of any kind, no councils or communes, no chambers of nobility or estates, no municipalities in the history of Islam; nothing but the sovereign power, to which the subject owed complete and unwavering obedience as a religious duty imposed by the Holy Law. In the great days of classical Islam this duty was only owed to the lawfully appointed caliph, as God’s vicegerent on earth and head of the theocratic community, and then only for as long as he upheld the law; but with the decline of the caliphate and the growth of military dictatorship, Muslim jurists and theologians accommodated their teachings to the changed situation and extended the religious duty of obedience to any effective authority, however impious, however barbarous. For the last thousand years, the political thinking of Islam has been dominated by such maxims as ‘tyranny is better than anarchy’ and ‘whose power is established, obedience to him is incumbent’
Lewis provides a classical formulation of “Islamic political quietism,” i.e., authoritarianism, by quoting a frequently cited passage from the Syrian jurist Ibn Jama’a (d. 1333), who became Chief Qadi [Islamic religious judge] of Cairo: 29a
Forced homage. This happens when a chief seizes power by force, in a time of civil disorders, and it becomes necessary to recognize him in order to avoid further troubles. That he may have none of the qualifications of sovereignty, that he be illiterate, unjust or vicious, that he be even a slave or a woman, is of no consequence. He is a sovereign in fact, until such time as another, stronger than he, drives him from the throne and seizes power. He will then be sovereign by the same title, and should be recognized in order not to increase strife. Who- ever has effective power has the right to obedience, for a government, even the worst one, is better than anarchy, and of two evils one should choose the lesser.
Ibn Jama’a, Lewis reminds us, was “a pious and devout believer, putting bluntly and sadly an unpalatable truth as he sees it.” 29b And Lewis emphasizes 29c
…that the writer is a doctor of the Holy Law and speaking in terms of the Holy Law. When he prescribes recognition and obedience, he is laying down the duty of the believer under the Holy Law—that is to say, he is formulating a rule the violation of which is, in our terminology, a sin as well as a crime, involving hell-fire as well as such anticipatory chastisement as the sovereign might see fit to impose in this world.
Lewis’s analogy between Islamic and Communist totalitarianism also includes this candid observation: 29d
A community brought up on such doctrines will not be shocked by (Communist) disregard of political liberty or human rights; it may even be attracted by a regime which offers ruthless strength and efficiency in the service of a cause—anyway in appearance—in place of the ineptitude, corruption, and cynicism which in their mind, one may even say in their experience, are inseparable from parliamentary government
Even Lewis’s still hopeful assessments from this period, such as his 1952 analysis “Islamic Revival in Turkey,” 30 or broader 1955 “The Concept of an Islamic Republic,” 31 inspired by the November 2, 1953 decision of the Constituent Assembly in Karachi, Pakistan, that the country henceforth be known as The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, are punctuated with caveats based upon his expressed understanding of Islam. For example, Lewis’s most optimistic bromides regarding Turkey’s fate (in 1952) included frank language about Islam, noting how the Turkish populace would “hopefully” achieve “a synthesis of the best elements of the West and the East,” or “may yet” discover “a workable compromise between Islam and modernism.” 32 And his tenuous conclusion, contingent, ultimately, on the successful penetration of Western ideals, was reached only after acknowledging obvious Islamic threats to this roseate scenario: 33
The peasantry are still as religious as they have always been. From them there is no question of revival—the only difference is that they can now express their religious sentiments more openly. Perhaps one of the strongest elements supporting their revival is the class known in Turkey as esnaf—the artisans and small shopkeepers in the towns. These are generally very fanatical, and, like the peasants, many of them are connected with one or another of the tarikas [Sufi dervish orders].
…After a century of Westernization, Turkey has undergone immense changes—greater than any outside observer had thought possible. But the deepest Islamic roots of Turkish life and culture are still alive, and the ultimate identity of Turk and Muslim in Turkey is still unchallenged. The resurgence of Islam after a long interval responds to a profound national need. The occasional outbursts of the tarikas, far more than the limited restoration of official Islam, show how powerful are the forces stirring beneath the surface. The path that the revival will take is still not clear. If simple reaction has its way, much of the work of the last century will be undone, and Turkey will slip back into the darkness from which she so painfully emerged.
Lewis opens his subsequent 1955 essay about the Pakistani experiment with a self-proclaimed “Islamic Republic” by asking whether or not such a title is indeed “a contradiction in terms,” given 34
…the political experience and political traditions of Islam are after all almost exclusively monarchical and authoritarian—expressed in regimes of the kind associated in the minds of most people with the familiar terms Caliph and Sultan.
Once again, the body of Lewis’s essay does not shy away from acknowledging the doctrinal and historical obstacles to the modernist Islamic state envisioned by Pakistan’s Muslim reformers. 35
…Pakistan cannot pretend to be wholly secular, since its very statehood is based on Islam, the origin and reason of its separate existence. But how far is an Islamic state, of the type which Pakistanis clearly wish to create, compatible with an ideal of government that is so palpably an importation from the Western world?
He notes, candidly, for example the basic “difficulty” such an authentic Islamic state would encounter 36
…in securing acceptance for the unbeliever as a brother or even as an equal fellow-citizen.
Lewis contrasts the Pakistani ideal—an avowedly Islamic republic—with other contemporary (circa 1955) Muslim nations, who, to the extent they adopted Western models, completely or significantly abandoned traditional Sharia (Islamic law)-based systems. 37
…[T]he Turkish Republic is secular, deliberately following European patterns and rejecting traditional Islamic principles of state and law. Syria and Lebanon were formed as constitutional republics on the French model, but with Muslim citizens. As recently as 1950, when a new draft constitution of Syria was in preparation, a clause declaring Islam the religion of the state was abandoned after bitter disputes, and replaced by another simply stating that the President must be a Muslim and that the Holy Law of Islam would be the main basis of state legislation.
Along the way, Lewis dismisses hagiographic notions about the principle of “elected” Muslim sovereigns, ostensibly dating from Islam’s initial four “Rightly Guided” Caliphs, who ruled between 632-661, beginning in the immediate aftermath of Muhammad’s death. 38
If we look at the history of Islam, we find that the elective principle remained purely theoretical. The first Caliph after the death of Muhammad, Abu Bakr, was chosen by a process which we may call acclamation or coup d’etat, according to our point of view. The second, Omar, simply assumed power de facto, probably after having been designated by his predecessor. The third, Othman, was nominated by a committee of six, appointed by Omar on his deathbed to choose one from among themselves as Caliph. The fourth, Ali, succeeded after a process of revolt, murder, and civil war, which thereafter became the all too frequent methods of determining the succession. Of the first four Caliphs, all but one died by violence. Thereafter a dubious solution to the problem of preserving continuity and stability was found when the Caliphate became in effect hereditary in two successive dynasties—though the fiction of an election was maintained on each accession…
Moreover, with the possible exception of Turkey, Lewis concedes that, following the era of the French Revolution, 150 years of prior experimentation with Western secular sovereignty and laws in many Islamic countries, notably Egypt, had not fared well. 39
…[T]he imported political machinery failed to work, and in its breakdown led to the violent death or sudden displacement by other means of ministers and monarchs, all of whom had failed to replace even the vanished Sultanate in the respect and loyalties of the people. In Egypt a republic was proclaimed which in some respects seems to be a return to one of the older political traditions of Islam—paternal, authoritarian Government, resting on military force, with the support of some of the religious leaders and teachers, and apparently, general acceptance. Perhaps that is an Islamic Republic of a sort.
Although Lewis concludes on an optimistic note, even his most wishful, self-contradictory flights of fancy are tempered by a realistic acknowledgment of the profound challenges ahead. 40
An elected head of state and rule of law are familiar. It is true that the first is rely theoretical, and has never been applied in any Islamic state of high material civilization—but if the medieval jurists were able to reduce the electorate to one, there is no reason why their modern heirs should not extend it to universal suffrage. The Islamic rule of law is theocratic rather than democratic, deriving from the immutable revelation of God and not from the changing will of the people—but the principle is admitted, and the range of interpretation is vast. Equality and fraternity within the faith group are accepted—it may not be impossible to extend them beyond it, and to add a redefined liberty. But much development and much adaptation of both Islamic and democratic notions will be needed to produce a working synthesis of the two, and if such a synthesis is in fact produced it will not be a return to a mythical past but a new creation.
Lewis’s final observation from 1955 is also appropriately staid: 41
All Islam is now seeking new paths in politics and government—they will watch with sympathy and interest the outcome of the Pakistan experiment.
Six decades after Lewis made his then cautiously hopeful observations about Turkey and Pakistan, there is an historical record to judge—a clear, irrefragable legacy of failed secularization efforts, accompanied by steady grassroots and institutional re-Islamization in both countries. 42 The late P.J. Vatikiotis (d. 1997), Emeritus Professor of Politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), was a respected scholar of the Middle East, who, contemporaneous with Lewis (a SOAS colleague), wrote extensively about Islamic reformism throughout the 20th century, particularly in Egypt. Focusing outside Turkey and Pakistan on the Arab Middle East (i.e., Egypt, The Sudan, Syria, and Iraq), Vatikiotis wrote candidly in 1981 of how authoritarian Islam doomed inchoate efforts at creating political systems which upheld individual freedom in the region: 43
What is significant is that after a tolerably less autocratic/authoritarian political experience during their apprenticeship for independent statehood under foreign power tutelage, during the inter-war period, most of these states once completely free or independent of foreign control, very quickly moved towards highly autocratic-authoritarian patterns of rule…One could suggest a hiatus of roughly three years between the departure or removal of European influence and power and overthrow of the rickety plural political systems they left behind in Syria, Egypt, Iraq, and the Sudan by military coups d’etat.
Authoritarianism and autocracy in the Middle East may be unstable in the sense that autocracies follow one another in frequent succession. Yet the ethos of authoritarianism may be lasting, even permanent…One could venture into a more ambitious philosophical etiology by pointing out the absence of a concept of ‘natural law’ or ‘law of reason’ in the intellectual-cultural heritage of Middle Eastern societies. After all, everything before Islam, before God revealed his message to Muhammad, constitutes jahiliyya, or the dark age of ignorance. Similarly, anything that deviates from the eternal truth or verities of Islamic teaching is equally degenerative, and therefore unacceptable. That is why, by definition, any Islamic movement which seeks to make Islam the basic principle of the polity does not aim at innovation but at the restoration of the ideal that has been abandoned or lost. The missing of an experience similar, or parallel, to the Renaissance, freeing the Muslim individual from external constraints of, say, religious authority in order to engage in a creative course measured and judged by rational and existential human standards, may also be a relevant consideration. The individual in the Middle East has yet to attain his independence from the wider collectivity, or to accept the proposition that he can create a political order.
Unlike Vatikiotis, Bernard Lewis, has ignored these obvious setbacks—and any self-critical re-appraisal of his earlier guarded optimism. Remarkably, Lewis has become a far more dogmatic evangelist for so-called “Islamic democratization,” 44 despite such failures!
Lewis’s volte-face on the merits of experiments in “Islamic democracy,” has been accompanied by his equally troubling intellectual legacy regarding three other critical subject areas: the institution of jihad, the chronic impact of the Sharia (Islamic law) on non-Muslims vanquished by jihad, and sacralized Islamic Jew-hatred.
When discussing key doctrinal aspects of jihad, for example, the concepts of “harbi,” from Dar al Harb, 45 or jihad martyrdom, 46 Lewis’s analyses are incomplete, or frankly apologetic.
Classical Islamic jurists such as Abu Hanifa (d. 767; founder of the Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence) 47 formulated the concepts Dar al Islam and Dar al Harb (Arabic for, “The House of Islam and the House of War”). 48 The great Muslim polymath Al-Tabari’s 49 early 10th century “Book of Jihad” 50 includes extracts from Abu Hanifa (and his acolytes) affirming the impunity with which non-combatant “harbis”—women, children, the elderly, the mentally or physically disabled—may be killed. 51
Abu Hanifa and his companions said: “There is no harm in [having] night raids and incursions.” They said: “There is no harm if Muslims enter the Territory of War (ard al-harb) to assemble the mangonel [catapults] towards the polytheists’ fortresses and to shoot them musing mangonels, even if there are among them a woman, child, elder, idiot (matuh), blind, crippled, or someone with a permanent disability (zamin). There is no harm in shooting polytheists in their fortresses using mangonels even if there are among those whom we have named.
This discussion debunks Lewis’s (repeated) fatuous contention that Islamic Law proscribed the slaying of such persons during jihad. 52
Armand Abel, the leading 20th expert on the Muslim conception of Dar al Harb, highlights its salient features: 53
Together with the duty of the “war in the way of God” (or jihad),this universalistic aspiration would lead the Muslims to see the world as being divided fundamentally into two parts. On the one hand there was that part of the world where Islam prevailed, where salvation had been announced, where the religion that ought to reign was practiced; this was the Dar al Islam. On the other hand, there was the part which still awaited the establishment of the saving religion and which constituted, by definition, the object of the holy war. This was the Dar al Harb. The latter, in the view of the Muslim jurists, was not populated by people who had a natural right not to practice Islam, but rather by people destined to become Muslims who, through impiousness and rebellion, refused to accept this great benefit. Since they were destined sooner or later to be converted at the approach of the victorious armies of the Prophet’s successor, or else killed for their rebelliousness, they were the rebel subjects of the Caliph. Their kings were nothing but odious tyrants who, by opposing the progress of the saving religion together with their armies, were following a Satanic inspiration and rising up against the designs of Providence. And so no respite should be granted them, no truce: perpetual war should be their lot, waged in the course of the winter and summer ghazu. [razzias] If the sovereign of the country thus attacked desired peace, it was possible for him, just like for any other tributary or community, to pay the tribute for himself and for his subjects. Thus the [Byzantine] Empress Irene [d. 803] “purchased peace at the price of her humiliation”, according to the formula stated in the dhimma contract itself, by paying 70,000 pounds in gold annually to the Caliph of Baghdad. Many other princes agreed in this way to become tributaries – often after long struggles – and to see their dominions pass from the status of dar al Harb to that of dar al Sulh. In this way, those of their subjects who lived within the boundaries of the territory ruled by the Caliphate were spared the uncertainty of being exposed arbitrarily, without any guarantee, to the military operations of the summer ghazu and the winter ghazu: indeed, anything within the reach of the Muslim armies as they advanced, being property of impious men and rebels, was legitimately considered their booty; their men, seized by armed soldiers, were mercilessly consigned to the lot specified in the Koranic verse about the sword,and their women and children were treated like things. [emphasis added]
Abel’s lucid, detailed, and evocative description of Dar al Harb contrasts starkly with Lewis’s truncated presentation. The latter, which follows, is woefully inadequate to convey proper understanding of the doctrinally sanctioned threat posed to infidel non-belligerents: 54
The unsubjugated unbeliever is by definition an enemy. He is part of the Dar al Harb, the House of War,” and is designated as a “harbi,” an attributive form of the word for war.
Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, the widely revered contemporary Muslim cleric, “spiritual” leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, head of the “European Council for Fatwa and Research”, and popular Al-Jazeera television personality, reiterated Abel’s formulation of Dar al Harb almost exactly in July, 2003, both in conceptual terms, and with regard to Israel, specifically: 55
It has been determined by Islamic law that the blood and property of people of Dar Al-Harb [the Domain of Disbelief where the battle for the domination of Islam should be waged] is not protected…in modern war, all of society, with all its classes and ethnic groups, is mobilized to participate in the war, to aid its continuation, and to provide it with the material and human fuel required for it to assure the victory of the state fighting its enemies. Every citizen in society must take upon himself a role in the effort to provide for the battle. The entire domestic front, including professionals, laborers, and industrialists, stands behind the fighting army, even if it does not bear arms.
In fact the consensus view of orthodox Islamic jurisprudence regarding jihad, since its formulation during the 8th and 9th centuries, through the current era, is that non-Muslims peacefully going about their lives—from the Khaybar farmers whom Muhammad ordered attacked in 628, 56 to those sitting in the World Trade Center on 9/11/01—are “muba’a”, licit, in the Dar al Harb. As described by the great 20th century scholar of Islamic Law, Joseph Schacht, 57
A non-Muslim who is not protected by a treaty is called harbi, “in a state of war”, “enemy alien”; his life and property are completely unprotected by law…
And these innocent non-combatants can be killed, and have always been killed, with impunity simply by virtue of being “harbis” during endless razzias and or full scale jihad campaigns that have occurred continuously since the time of Muhammad, through the present. This is the crux of the specific institutionalized religio-political ideology, i.e., jihad, which makes Islamdom’s borders (and the further reaches of todays jihadists) bloody, to paraphrase Samuel Huntington, across the globe. 58 To validate his contention that, “Wherever one looks along the perimeter of Islam, Muslims have problems living peaceably with their neighbors,” 59 Huntington adduced these hard data: 60
The overwhelming majority of fault line conflicts … have taken place along the boundary looping across Eurasia and Africa that separates Muslims from non-Muslims…Intense antagonisms and violent conflicts are pervasive between local Muslim and non-Muslim peoples…Muslims make up about one-fifth of the world’s population, but in the 1990s they have been far more involved in inter-group violence than the people of any other civilization. The evidence is overwhelming. There were, in short, three times as many inter-civilizational conflicts involving Muslims as there were between non-Muslim civilizations…Muslim states also have had a high propensity to resort to violence in international crises, employing it to resolve 76 crises out of a total of 142 in which they were involved between 1928 and 1979. … When they did use violence, Muslim states used high-intensity violence, resorting to full-scale war in 41 percent of the cases where violence was used and engaging in major clashes in another 39 percent of the cases. While Muslim states resorted to violence in 53.5 percent, violence was used the United Kingdom in only 1.5 percent, by the United States in 17.9 percent, and by the Soviet Union in 28.5 percent of the crises in which they were involved…Muslim bellicosity and violence are late-twentieth-century facts which neither Muslims nor non-Muslims can deny.
Ibn Hudayl a 14th century Granadan author of an important treatise on jihad, elucidated the allowable tactics which facilitated the violent, chaotic jihad conquest of the Iberian peninsula, and other parts of Europe: 61
It is permissible to set fire to the lands of the enemy, his stores of grain, his beasts of burden – if it is not possible for the Muslims to take possession of them – as well as to cut down his trees, to raze his cities, in a word, to do everything that might ruin and discourage him…[being] suited to hastening the Islamization of that enemy or to weakening him. Indeed, all this contributes to a military triumph over him or to forcing him to capitulate.
Bernard Lewis, however, fails to contextualize statements attributed to the caliph Abu Bakr (in 632), ostensibly prohibiting such destructive actions. 62 Again, as recorded in Tabari’s early 10th century treatise on jihad, classical jurisprudence supports the views of Ibn Hudayl: 63
Abu Hanifa and his companions said: “Abu Bakr’s saying, ‘Do not ruin what has been built, do not burn palm trees, and do not cut down fruit-bearing trees’ [is applied] when their [enemy people] territory has been conquered and controlled [by Muslims] and it has fallen into their hands. They [the Muslims] should not do any such actions because it has become a spoil of war for the Muslims (emphasis added). But if the [Muslim] army combatants do not have the power to reside in that territory and they are not able to appoint a leader over it, and they cannot acquire it so that it becomes theirs, then they should burn their fortresses, cities, and churches, and destroy their palm trees and [other] trees and burn them down. And whatever of their animals and cattle they acquaire and cannot take out [to the Territory of Islam], they should slaughter and burn them.”
These repeated attacks, indistinguishable in motivation from modern acts of jihad terrorism, like the horrific 9/11/01 attacks in New York and Washington, DC, and the Madrid bombings on 3/11/04, or those in London on 7/7/05, were in fact designed to sow terror. 64 The 17th century Muslim historian al-Maqqari explained that the panic created by the Arab horsemen and sailors, at the time of the Muslim expansion in the regions subjected to those raids and landings, facilitated their later conquest, 65
Allah thus instilled such fear among the infidels that they did not dare to go and fight the conquerors; they only approached them as suppliants, to beg for peace.
Muhammad himself was the ultimate prototype sanctioning jihad terror, as recorded in this canonical hadith: 66
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “I have been sent with the shortest expressions bearing the widest meanings, and I have been made victorious with terror (cast in the hearts of the enemy)…”
In a February, 2010 moderated presentation, Bernard Lewis improperly conflated Islam’s prohibition against suicide for melancholia, with interdiction against jihad martyrdom operations.67According to Islam’s seminal early historian, Al-Tabari (d. 923), during Abu Bakr’s reign as Caliph, his commander Khalid b. al-Walid’s wrote a letter in 634 to a Persian leader in Iraq identified as “Hurmuz,” warning of a prototypical expansionist jihad campaign, spearheaded by Muslim warriors enamored of death. 68
Now then. Embrace Islam so that you may be safe, or else make a treaty of protection for yourself and your people, for I have brought you a people who love death as you love life. (Emphasis added)
“Martyrdom operations” have always been intimately associated with the institution of jihad. Professor Franz Rosenthal, in a magisterial 1946 essay (entitled, “On Suicide in Islam”), observed that Islam’s foundational texts sanctioned such acts of jihad martyrdom, and held them in the highest esteem: 69
..death as the result of “suicidal” missions and of the desire of martyrdom occurs not infrequently, since[such] death is considered highly commendable according to Muslim religious concepts.
Koran 9:111 provides an unequivocal, celebratory invocation of martyrdom during jihad: 70
Lo! Allah hath bought from the believers their lives and their wealth because the Garden will be theirs: they shall fight in the way of Allah and shall slay and be slain.
Finally, the Muslim prophet Muhammad is idealized as the eternal model for behaviors that all Muslims should emulate. 71 Nearly six decades ago (in 1956), Arthur Jeffery, a great modern scholar of Islam, reviewed Guillaume’s magisterial English translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah, 72 the oldest and most important Muslim biography of Muhammad. Jeffery’s review included this trenchant observation: 73
Years ago the late Canon Gairdner in Cairo said that the best answer to the numerous apologetic Lives of Muhammad published in the interests of Muslim propaganda in the West would be an unvarnished translation of the earliest Arabic biography of the prophet.
W. H. T. (Canon) Gairdner, in 1915, highlighted the dilemma posed by Islam’s sacralization of Muhammad’s timeless behavioral role model, revealed in such pious Muslim biographical works: 74
As incidents in the life of an Arab conqueror, the tales of raiding, private assassinations and public executions, perpetual enlargements of the harem, and so forth, might be historically explicable and therefore pardonable but it is another matter that they should be taken as a setting forth of the moral ideal for all time.
For example, Muhammad celebrated jihad martyrdom as the supreme act of Islamic devotion in the most important canonical hadith collection: 75
Narrated Anas bin Malik: The Prophet said, “Nobody who dies and finds good from Allah (in the Hereafter) would wish to come back to this world even if he were given the whole world and whatever is in it, except the martyr who, on seeing the superiority of martyrdom, would like to come back to the world and get killed again (in Allah’s Cause).”
Narrated Abu Huraira: “The Prophet said, ‘By Him in Whose Hands my life is! Were it not for some men amongst the believers who dislike to be left behind me and whom I cannot provide with means of conveyance, I would certainly never remain behind any Sariya’ (army-unit) setting out in Allah’s Cause. By Him in Whose Hands my life is! I would love to be martyred in Allah’s Cause and then get resurrected and then get martyred, and then get resurrected again and then get martyred and then get resurrected again and then get martyred.”
Not surprisingly then, unlike scholars who specialized in the history of the jihad conquests across Asia, Africa, and Europe—such as Moshe Gil, 76 Speros Vryonis, 77 Dimitar Angelov, 78 Charles Emmanuel Dufourcq, 79 and K.S. Lal 80—Lewis’s rather superficial surveys 81 avoid any details of the devastation these brutal campaigns wrought. As copiously documented by both triumphal Muslim historians, and the laments of non-Muslim chroniclers representing the victims perspective, jihad depredations resulted in: vast numbers of infidels mercilessly slaughtered—including non-combatant women and children—or enslaved, and deported; countless cities, villages, and infidel religious and cultural sites that were sacked and pillaged, often accompanied by the burning of harvest crops and massive uprooting of agricultural production systems, causing famine; enormous quantities of treasure and movable goods seized as “booty.” 82
Having effectively ignored the destructive, sanguinary legacy of jihad, Bernard Lewis has never recommended Muslim acknowledgement of this history, combined with mea culpa-based rejection of its doctrinal basis in Islam. Contra Lewis, historian Bat Ye’or explained in 1990 how such frank recognition by the Muslim intelligentsia is a requisite for the emergence of truly modern Islamic societies, capable of co-existing peacefully with non-Muslims: 83
…[T]his effort cannot succeed without a complete recasting of mentalities, the desacralization of the historic jihad and an unbiased examination of Islamic imperialism. Without such a process, the past will continue to poison the present and inhibit the establishment of harmonious relationships. When all is said and done, such self-criticism is hardly exceptional. Every scourge, such as religious fanaticism, the crusades, the inquisition, slavery, apartheid, colonialism, Nazism and, today, communism, are analyzed, examined, and exorcized in the West. Even Judaism- harmless in comparison with the power of the Church and the Christian empires- caught, in its turn, in the great modernization movement, has been forced to break away from some traditions. It is inconceivable that Islam, which began in Mecca and swept through three continents, should alone avoid a critical reflection on the mechanisms of its power and expansion. The task of assessing their history must be undertaken by the Muslims themselves…
The late Orientalist Maxime Rodinson (d. 2004), a contemporary of Bernard Lewis, warned forty years ago of misguided modern scholarship effectively “sanctifying” Islam: 84
Understanding has given away to apologetics pure and simple
Lewis’s bowdlerized 1974 summary portrayal of the system of governance imposed upon those indigenous non-Muslims conquered by jihad is a distressing, ahistorical example of this apologetic genre. 85
In his seminal The Laws of Islamic Governance al-Mawardi (d. 1058), a renowned jurist of Baghdad, examined the regulations pertaining to the lands and infidel populations subjugated by jihad. 86 This is the origin of the system of dhimmitude. The native infidel “dhimmi” (which derives from both the word for “pact”, and also “guilt”—guilty of religious errors) population had to recognize Islamic ownership of their land, submit to Islamic law, and accept payment of the Koranic poll tax (jizya), based on Koran 9:29. Al- Mawardi notes that “The enemy makes a payment in return for peace and reconciliation.” He then distinguishes two cases: (I) Payment is made immediately and is treated like booty, “it does, not however, prevent a jihad being carried out against them in the future.” (II). Payment is made yearly and will “constitute an ongoing tribute by which their security is established.” Reconciliation and security last as long as the payment is made. If the payment ceases, then the jihad resumes. A treaty of reconciliation may be renewable, but must not exceed 10 years. 87 This same basic formulation was reiterated during a January 8, 1998 interview by Yusuf al-Qaradawi confirming how jihad continues to regulate the relations between Muslims and non-Muslims to this day. 88
The “contract of the jizya”, or “dhimma” encompassed other obligatory and recommended obligations for the conquered non-Muslim “dhimmi” peoples. Ibn Kathir’s 89 important 14th century Koranic commentary describes the essence of the Koran’s mandate in verse 9:29 for submissive tribute, or “jizya,” under the heading, “Paying Jizya is a Sign of Kufr [unbelief] and Disgrace.” He elaborates, as follows: 90
Allah said, “until they pay the Jizya”, if they do not choose to embrace Islam, ‘with willing submission’, in defeat and subservience, “and feel themselves subdued”, disgraced, humiliated and belittled. Therefore, Muslims are not allowed to honor the people of Dhimma or elevate them above Muslims, for they are miserable, disgraced, and humiliated. Muslim recorded from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet said, “Do not initiate the Salam to the Jews and the Christians, and if you meet them in a road, force them to its narrowest alley”. This is why the Leader of the faithful ‘Umar b. Al-Khattab [d. 644; the second “Rightly Guided” Caliph], may Allah be pleased with him, demanded his well-known conditions be met by the Christians, these conditions that ensured their continued humiliation, degradation, and disgrace.
Collectively, these “obligations” formed the discriminatory system of dhimmitude imposed upon non-Muslims—Jews, Christians, as well as Zoroastrians, Hindus, and Buddhists—subjugated by jihad. Some of the more salient features of dhimmitude include: the prohibition of arms for the vanquished dhimmis, and of church bells; restrictions concerning the building and restoration of churches, synagogues, and temples; 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, Christians, and other non-Muslims, including Zoroastrians and Hindus, wear special clothes; and the overall humiliation and abasement of non-Muslims. It is important to note that these regulations and attitudes were institutionalized as permanent features of the sacred Islamic law, or Sharia. 91 The writings of the much lionized Sufi theologian and jurist al-Ghazali (d. 1111) highlight how the institution of dhimmitude was simply a normative, and prominent feature of the Sharia: 92
…the dhimmi is obliged not to mention Allah or His Apostle.. .Jews, Christians, and Majians [Zoroastrians] must pay the jizya [poll tax on non-Muslims]…on offering up the jizya, the dhimmi must hang his head while the official takes hold of his beard and hits [the dhimmi] on the protruberant bone beneath his ear [i.e., the mandible]… They are not permitted to ostentatiously display their wine or church bells…their houses may not be higher than the Muslim’s, no matter how low that is. The dhimmi may not ride an elegant horse or mule; he may ride a donkey only if the saddler-work] is of wood. He may not walk on the good part of the road. They [the dhimmis] have to wear [an identifying] patch [on their clothing], even women, and even in the [public] baths…[dhimmis] must hold their tongue.
The practical consequences of such a discriminatory system were summarized in A.S. Tritton’s 1930 The Caliphs and their Non-Muslim Subjects, a pioneering treatise on the status of the dhimmis: 93
…[C]aliphs destroyed churches to obtain materials for their buildings, and the mob was always ready to pillage churches and monasteries…dhimmis…always lived on sufferance, exposed to the caprices of the ruler and the passions of the mob…in later times..[t]hey were much more liable to suffer from the violence of the crowd, and the popular fanaticism was accompanied by an increasing strictness among the educated. The spiritual isolation of Islam was accomplished. The world was divided into two classes, Muslims and others, and only Islam counted…Indeed the general feeling was that the leavings of the Muslims were good enough for the dhimmis.
Yet over four decades after Tritton published this apt characterization, here is what Lewis opined on the subject (in 1974): 94
The dhimma on the whole worked well. [emphasis added] The non-Muslims managed to thrive under Muslim rule, and even to make significant contributions to Islamic civilization. The restrictions were not onerous, and were usually less severe in practice than in theory. As long as the non-Muslim communities accepted and conformed to the status of tolerated subordination assigned to them, they were not troubled.
The assessments of two other highly esteemed Western scholars—Professors Ann Lambton and S.D. Goitein—who were Lewis’s contemporaries (and colleagues), make plain that his flimsy apologetic on “the dhimma” does not represent a consensus viewpoint.
From 1972-78, the late Ann Lambton headed the Near and Middle East department, while contributing articles and analyses for The Cambridge History of Islam, which she co-edited with Bernard Lewis. Professor Lambton and Bernard Lewis were also both protégés of the famous School of Oriental and Asiatic Studies Islamologist, Sir Hamilton Gibb. Lambton’s obituarist, Burzine K. Waghmar, noted (on August 1, 2008), 95
Lambton was unrivalled in the breadth of her scholarship, covering Persian grammar and dialectology; medieval and early modern Islamic political thought; Seljuq, Mongol, Safavid, Qajar and Pahlavi administration; tribal and local history; and land tenure and agriculture. Her association with SOAS (School of Oriental and Asiatic Studies) in London, which lasted from her time as an undergraduate in 1930 until her death as Professor Emerita, aged 96, was one of the longest and most illustrious, and Lambton became acknowledged as the dean of Persian studies in the West. Without hyperbole, an era has passed in Middle Eastern studies.
Ann Lambton, wrote the following on the dhimmis, published in 1981: 96
As individuals, the dhimmis possessed no rights. Citizenship was limited to Muslims; and because of the superior status of the Muslim, certain juristic restrictions were imposed on the dhimmi. The evidence of a dhimmi was not accepted in a law court; a Muslim could not inherit from a dhimmi nor a dhimmi from a Muslim; a Muslim could marry a dhimmi woman, but a dhimmi could not marry a Muslim woman; at the frontier a dhimmi merchant paid double the rate of duty on merchandise paid by a Muslim, but only half the rate paid by a harbi; and the blood-wit paid for a dhimmi was, except according to the Hanafis, only half or two-thirds that paid for a Muslims. No dhimmi was permitted to change his faith except for Islam…
Various social restrictions were imposed upon the dhimmis such as restrictions of dress…Dhimmis were also forbidden to ride horses…and, according to Abu Hanifa valuable mules. The reason for this prohibition was connected with the fact that dhimmis were forbidden to bear arms: the horse was regarded as a ‘fighter for the faith,’ and received two shares in the booty if it were of Arab stock whereas its rider received one. Dhimmis were to yield the way to Muslims. They were also forbidden to mark their houses by distinctive signs or to build them higher than those of Muslims. They were not to build new churches, synagogues, or hermitages and not to scandalize Muslims by openly performing their worship or following their distinctive customs such as drinking wine…
The humiliating regulations to which [dhimmis] were subject as regards their dress and conduct in public were not, however, nearly so serious as their moral subjection, the imposition of the poll tax, and their legal disabilities. They were, in general, made to feel that they were beyond the pale. Partly as a result of this, the Christian communities dwindled in number, vitality, and morality…The degradation and demoralization of the [dhimmis] had dire consequences for the Islamic community and reacted unfavorably on Islamic political and social life. [emphasis added]
Shlomo Dov [S.D.] Goitein (d. 1985), was a historian of Muslim-Jewish relations, whose seminal research findings were widely published, most notably in the monumental five-volume work, A Mediterranean Society: The Jewish Communities of the Arab World as Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Geniza (1967-1993). 97 Goitein was Professor Emeritus of the Hebrew University, scholar at The Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and a colleague of Lewis. The New York Times obituary for Professor Goitein (published on February 10, 1985) noted, appositely, that his renowned (and prolific) writings on Islamic culture, and Muslim-Jewish relations, were “…standard works for scholars in both fields.” 98 Here is what Goitein wrote on the subject of non-Muslim dhimmis under Muslim rule, i.e., dhimmitude, circa 1970: 99
…a great humanist and contemporary of the French Revolution, Wilhelm von Humboldt, defined as the best state one which is least felt and restricts itself to one task only: protection, protection against attack from outside and oppression from within…in general, taxation [by the Muslim government] was merciless, and a very large section of the population must have lived permanently at the starvation level. From many Geniza letters one gets the impression that the poor were concerned more with getting money for the payment of their taxes than for food and clothing, for failure of payment usually induced cruel punishment… the Muslim state was quite the opposite of the ideals propagated by Wilhelm von Humboldt or the principles embedded in the constitution of the United States. An Islamic state was part of or coincided with dar al-Islam, the House of Islam. Its treasury was mal al-muslumin, the money of the Muslims. 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. [emphasis added]
Lewis’s conception of Islam’s doctrinal Antisemitism, and its resultant historical treatment of Jews, is a sham castle which rests on two false pillars. These glib affirmations, which amount to nothing less than sheer denial, are illustrated below: 100
In Islamic society hostility to the Jew is non-theological. It is not related to any specific Islamic doctrine, nor to any specific circumstance in Islamic history. For Muslims it is not part of the birth-pangs of their religion, as it is for Christians.
“dhimmi”-tude [derisively hyphenated] subservience and persecution and ill treatment of Jews… [is a] myth.
There is voluminous evidence from Islam’s foundational texts of theological Jew hatred: virulently Antisemitic Koranic verses whose virulence is only amplified by the greatest classical and modern Muslim Koranic commentaries (by Tabari [d. 923], Zamakshari [d. 1143], Baydawi [d. ~1316], Ibn Kathir [d.1373], and Suyuti [d. 1505], to Qutb [d. 1966] and Mawdudi [d.1979]), the six canonical hadith collections, and the most respected sira (pious Muslim biographies of Muhammad, by Ibn Ishaq [d. 761 ]/Ibn Hisham [d. 813], Ibn Sa‘d [d. 835 ], Waqidi [d. 822], and Tabari). The Antisemitic motifs in these texts have been carefully elucidated by scholarship that dates back to Hartwig Hirschfeld’s mid-1880s analysis of the sira and Georges Vajda’s 1937 study of the hadith, complemented in the past two decades by Haggai Ben Shammai’s 1988 examination of the major Antisemitic verses and themes in the Koran and Koran exegesis, and Saul S. Friedman’s broad, straightforward enumeration of Koranic Antisemitism in 1989. 101 Moshe Perlmann, a pre-eminent scholar of Islam’s ancient anti-Jewish polemical literature, made this summary observation in 1964: 102
The Koran, of course became a mine of anti-Jewish passages. The hadith did not lag behind. Popular preachers used and embellished such material.
Notwithstanding Bernard Lewis’s hollow claims, salient examples of Jew-hatred illustrating Perlmann’s remarkably compendious assessment of these foundational Islamic sources, and their tragic application across space and time, through the present, are summarized in the discussion that follows.
A front page New York Times story published Saturday January 10, 2009, 103 included extracts from the Friday sermon (of the day before) at Al Azhar mosque pronounced by Egyptian-government appointed cleric Sheik Eid Abdel Hamid Youssef. Referencing well-established Antisemitic motifs from the Koran (citations provided, below), Sheikh Youssef intoned, 104
Muslim brothers, God has inflicted the Muslim nation with a people whom God has become angry at [Koran 1:7] and whom he cursed [Koran 5:78] so he made monkeys and pigs [Koran 5:60] out of them. They killed prophets and messengers [Koran 2:61 / 3:112] and sowed corruption on Earth. [Koran 5:33 / 5:64] They are the most evil on Earth. [5:62 /63]
The crux of all these allegations is a central antisemitic motif in the Koran which decrees an eternal curse upon the Jews (Koran 2:61/ reiterated at 3:112) for slaying the prophets and transgressing against the will of Allah. 105 It should be noted that Koran 3:112 is featured before the pre-amble to Hamas’ foundational Covenant. 106This central motif is coupled to Koranic verses 5:60, and 5:78, which describe the Jews transformation into apes and swine (5:60), or simply apes, (i.e. verses 2:65 and 7:166), having been “…cursed by the tongue of David, and Jesus, Mary’s son” (5:78). 107 Muhammad himself repeats this Koranic curse in a canonical hadith, “He [Muhammad] then recited the verse [5:78]: ‘…curses were pronounced on those among the children of Israel who rejected Faith, by the tongue of David and of Jesus the son of Mary’ ”. 108 The related verse, 5:64, accuses the Jews of being “spreaders of war and corruption,”—a sort of ancient Koranic antecedent of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion—invoked not only by Hamas and Hezbollah leaders, but “moderate” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas who cited Koran 5:64 during a January 2007 speech which urged Palestinian Muslims to end their internecine strife, and “aim their rifles at Israel.” 109
Indeed the Koran’s overall discussion of the Jews is marked by a litany of their sins and punishments, as if part of a divine indictment, conviction, and punishment process. The Jews’ ultimate sin and punishment are made clear: they are the devil’s minions (4:60) cursed by Allah, their faces will be obliterated (4:47), and if they do not accept the true faith of Islam—the Jews who understand their faith become Muslims (3:113)—they will be made into apes (2:65/ 7:166), or apes and swine (5:60), and burn in the Hellfires (4:55, 5:29, 98:6, and 58:14-19). 110
The centrality of the Jews’ permanent “abasement and humiliation,” and being “laden with God’s anger” in the corpus of Muslim exegetic literature on Koran 2:61/3:112, is clear. By nature deceitful and treacherous, the Jews rejected Allah’s signs and prophets, including Isa, the Muslim Jesus. 111
Classical Koranic commentators such as Tabari (d. 923), Zamakshari (d. 1143), Baydawi (d. 1316), and Ibn Kathir (d. 1373), when discussing Koran 5:82, which includes the statement (“Thou wilt surely find the most hostile of men to the believers are the Jews..” , concur on the unique animus of the Jews towards the Muslims, which is repeatedly linked to the curse of Koran 2:61/3:112. For example, in his commentary on 5:82, Tabari writes, 112
In my opinion, [the Christians] are not like the Jews who always scheme in order to murder the emissaries and the prophets, and who oppose God in his positive and negative commandments, and who corrupt His scripture which He revealed in His books.
Tabari’s classical interpretations of Koran 5:82 and 2:61, as well as his discussion of the related verse 9:29 mandating the Jews payment of the jizya (Koranic poll-tax), represent both Antisemitic and more general anti-dhimmi views that became, and remain, intrinsic to Islam to this day. Here is Tabari’s discussion of 2:61 and its relationship to verse 9:29, which emphasizes the purposely debasing nature of the Koranic poll tax: 113
…“abasement and poverty were imposed and laid down upon them”, as when someone says “the imam imposed the poll tax (jizya)on free non-Muslim subjects”, or “The man imposed land tax on his slave”, meaning thereby that he obliged him [to pay ] it, or, “The commander imposed a sortie on his troops”, meaning he made it their duty.…God commanded His believing servants not to give them [i.e., the non-Muslim people of the scripture] security—as long as they continued to disbelieve in Him and his Messenger—unless they paid the poll tax to them; God said: “Fight those who believe not in God and the Last Day and do not forbid what God and His Messenger have forbidden—such men as practice not the religion of truth [Islam], being of those who have been given the Book [Bible]—until they pay the poll tax, being humble” (Koran 9:29)..
The dhimmis [non-Muslim tributary’s] posture during the collection of the jizya- “[should be lowering themselves] by walking on their hands, …reluctantly
… His words “and abasement and poverty were imposed upon them”, ‘These are the Jews of the Children of Israel’. ..‘Are they the Copts of Egypt?’…“What have the Copts of Egypt to do with this? No, by God, they are not; but they are the Jews, the Children of Israel.…By “and slain the prophets unrightfully” He means that they used to kill the Messengers of God without God’s leave, denying their messages and rejecting their prophethood.
The Koranic curse (verses 2:61/3:112) upon the Jews for (primarily) rejecting, even slaying Allah’s prophets, including Isa/Jesus (or at least his “body double” 4:157-4:158), is updated with perfect archetypal logic in the canonical hadith: following the Muslims’ initial conquest of the Jewish farming oasis of Khaybar, one of the vanquished Jewesses reportedly served Muhammad poisoned mutton (or goat), which resulted, ultimately, in his protracted, agonizing death. And Ibn Saad’s sira account (i.e., one of the important early pious Muslim biographies of Muhammad) maintains that Muhammad’s poisoning resulted from a well-coordinated Jewish conspiracy. 114
The contemporary Iranian theocracy’s state-sanctioned Jew hatred employs this motif as part of its malevolent indoctrination of young adult candidates for national teacher training programs. Affirming as objective, factual history the hadith account (for eg., Sahih Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 47, Number 786) of Muhammad’s supposed poisoning by a Jewish woman from ancient Khaybar, Professor Eliz Sanasarian notes, 115
… the subject became one of the questions in the ideological test for the Teachers’ Training College where students were given a multiple-choice question in order to identify the instigator of the martyrdom of the Prophet Muhammad, the “correct” answer being “a Jewess. ”
It is worth recounting—as depicted in the Muslim sources—the events that antedated Muhammad’s reputed poisoning at Khaybar.
Muhammad’s failures or incomplete successes were consistently recompensed by murderous attacks on the Jews. The Muslim prophet-warrior developed a penchant for assassinating individual Jews, and destroying Jewish communities—by expropriation and expulsion (Banu Quaynuqa and B. Nadir), or massacring their men, and enslaving their women and children (Banu Qurayza). 116 Just before subduing the Medinan Jewish tribe Banu Qurayza and orchestrating the mass execution of their adult males, Muhammad invoked perhaps the most striking Koranic motif for the Jews debasement—he addressed these Jews, with hateful disparagement, as “You brothers of apes.” 117 Subsequently, in the case of the Khaybar Jews, Muhammad had the male leadership killed, and plundered their riches. The terrorized Khaybar survivors—industrious Jewish farmers—became prototype subjugated dhimmis whose productivity was extracted by the Muslims as a form of permanent booty. (And according to the Muslim sources, even this tenuous vassalage was arbitrarily terminated within a decade of Muhammad’s death when Caliph Umar expelled the Jews of Khaybar.) 118
Thus Maimonides (d. 1203), the renowned Talmudist, philosopher, astronomer, and physician, as noted by historian Salo Baron, emphasizes the bellicose “madness” of Muhammad—Maimonides refers to Muhammad as “Meshugga”—and his quest for political control. Muhammad’s mindset, and the actions it engendered, had immediate, and long term tragic consequences for Jews—from his massacring up to 24,000 Jews, to their chronic oppression—as described in the Islamic sources, by Muslims themselves. 119
Muhammad’s brutal conquest and subjugation of the Medinan and Khaybar Jews, and their subsequent expulsion by one of his companions, the (second) “Rightly Guided” Caliph Umar, epitomize permanent, archetypal behavior patterns Islamic Law deemed appropriate to Muslim interactions with Jews. 120 George Vajda’s seminal analysis of the anti-Jewish motifs in the hadith remains the definitive work on this subject. 121 Vajda concluded that according to the hadith stubborn malevolence is the Jews defining worldly characteristic: rejecting Muhammad and refusing to convert to Islam out of jealousy, envy and even selfish personal interest, lead them to acts of treachery, in keeping with their inveterate nature: “…sorcery, poisoning, assassination held no scruples for them.” 122 These archetypes sanction Muslim hatred towards the Jews, and the admonition to at best, “subject [the Jews] to Muslim domination,” as dhimmis, treated “with contempt,” under certain “humiliating arrangements.” 123
Lastly, a profound anti-Jewish motif occurring after the events recorded in the hadith and sira, put forth in early Muslim historiography (for example, by Tabari), is most assuredly a part of “the birth pangs” of Islam: the story of Abd Allah b. Saba, an alleged renegade Yemenite Jew, and founder of the heterodox Shi’ite sect. He is held responsible—identified as a Jew—for promoting the Shi’ite heresy and fomenting the rebellion and internal strife associated with this primary breach in Islam’s “political innocence”, culminating in the assassination of the third Rightly Guided Caliph Uthman, and the bitter, lasting legacy of Sunni-Shi’ite sectarian strife. 124
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: 125
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 [of livestock] 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: 126
…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.
And when the Jews were perceived as having exceeded the rightful bounds of this subjected relationship, as in mythically “tolerant” Muslim Spain, the results were predictably tragic. The Granadan Jewish viziers Samuel Ibn Naghrela, and his son Joseph, who protected the Jewish community, were both assassinated between 1056 to 1066, and in the aftermath, the Jewish population was annihilated by the local Muslims. It is estimated that up to four thousand Jews perished in the pogrom by Muslims that accompanied the 1066 assassination. This figure equals or exceeds the number of Jews reportedly killed by the Crusaders during their pillage of the Rhineland, some thirty years later, at the outset of the First Crusade. 127 The inciting “rationale” for this Granadan pogrom is made clear in the bitter anti-Jewish ode of Abu Ishaq, a well-known Muslim jurist and poet of the times, who wrote: 128
Bring them down to their place and return them to the most abject station. They used to roam around us in tatters covered with contempt, humiliation, and scorn. They used to rummage amongst the dung heaps for a bit of a filthy rag to serve as a shroud for a man to be buried in…Do not consider that killing them is treachery. Nay, it would be treachery to leave them scoffing.
Abu Ishaq’s rhetorical incitement to violence also included the line, 129
Many a pious Muslim is in awe of the vilest infidel ape
Moshe Perlmann, in his analysis of the Muslim anti-Jewish polemic of 11th century Granada, notes, 130
[Abu Ishaq] Elbīrī used the epithet “ape” (qird) profusely when referring to Jews. Such indeed was the parlance.
The Moroccan cleric al-Maghili (d. 1505), referring to the Jews as “brothers of apes” (just as Muhammad, the sacralized prototype, had addressed the Banu Qurayza), who repeatedly blasphemed the Muslim prophet, and whose overall conduct reflected their hatred of Muslims, fomented, and then personally lead, a Muslim pogrom (in ~ 1490) against the Jews of the southern Moroccan oasis of Touat, plundering and killing them en masse, and destroying their synagogue in neighboring Tamantit. An important Muslim theologian whose writings influenced Moroccan religious attitudes towards Jews into the 20th century, al-Maghili also declared in verse, “Love of the Prophet, requires hatred of the Jews.” 131
Mordechai Hakohen (1856-1929) was a Libyan Talmudic scholar and auto-didact anthropologist who composed an ethnographic study of North African Jewry in the early 20th century. Hakohen describes the overall impact on the Jews of the Muslim jihad conquest and rule of North Africa, as follows: 132
They [also] pressed the Jews to enter the covenant of the Muslim religion. Many Jews bravely chose death. Some of them accepted under the threat of force, but only outwardly…Others left the region, abandoning their wealth and property and scattering to the ends of the earth. Many stood by their faith, but bore an iron yoke on their necks. They lowered themselves to the dust before the Muslims, lords of the land, and accepted a life of woe—carrying no weapons, never mounting an animal in the presence of a Muslim, not wearing a red headdress, and following other laws that signaled their degradation.
Here is but a very incomplete sampling of pogroms and mass murderous violence against Jews living under Islamic rule, across space and time, all resulting from the combined effects of jihadism, general anti-dhimmi, and/or specifically Antisemitic motifs in Islam: 6,000 Jews massacred in Fez in 1033; hundreds of Jews slaughtered in Muslim Cordoba between 1010 and 1015; 4,000 Jews killed in Muslim riots in Grenada in 1066, wiping out the entire community; the Berber Muslim Almohad depredations of Jews (and Christians) in Spain and North Africa between 1130 and 1232, which killed tens of thousands, while forcibly converting thousands more, and subjecting the forced Jewish converts to Islam to a Muslim Inquisition; the 1291 pogroms in Baghdad and its environs, which killed (at least) hundreds of Jews; the 1465 pogrom against the Jews of Fez; the late 15th century pogrom against the Jews of the Southern Moroccan oasis town of Touat; the 1679 pogroms against, and then expulsion of 10,000 Jews from Sanaa, Yemen to the unlivable, hot and dry Plain of Tihama, from which only 1,000 returned alive, in 1680, 90% having died from exposure; recurring Muslim anti-Jewish violence—including pogroms and forced conversions—throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, which rendered areas of Iran (for example, Tabriz) Judenrein; the 1834 pogrom in Safed where raging Muslim mobs killed and grievously wounded hundreds of Jews; the 1888 massacres of Jews in Isfahan and Shiraz, Iran; the 1910 pogrom in Shiraz; the pillage and destruction of the Casablanca, Morocco ghetto in 1907; the pillage of the ghetto of Fez Morocco in 1912; the government sanctioned anti-Jewish pogroms by Muslims in Turkish Eastern Thrace during June-July, 1934 which ethnically cleansed at least 3000 Jews; and the series of pogroms, expropriations, and finally mass expulsions of some 900,000 Jews from Arab Muslim nations, beginning in 1941 in Baghdad (the murderous “Farhud,” during which 600 Jews were murdered, and at least 12,000 pillaged)—eventually involving cities and towns in Egypt, Morocco, Libya, Syria, Aden, Bahrain, and culminating in 1967 in Tunisia—that accompanied the planning and creation of a Jewish state, Israel, on a portion of the Jews’ ancestral homeland. 133
At present, the continual, monotonous invocation by Al Azhar clerics of Antisemitic motifs from the Koran (and other foundational Muslim texts) is entirely consistent with the published writings, and statements of Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi—Grand Imam of this pre-eminent Islamic religious institution since 1996, until his death in mid-March of 2010. 134Tantawi’s case illustrates the prevalence and depth of sacralized, “normative” Jew hatred in the contemporary Muslim world. Arguably Islam’s leading mainstream cleric, Grand Imam Sheikh Tantawi, embodies how the living legacy of Muslim anti-Jewish hatred, and violence remains firmly rooted in mainstream, orthodox Islamic teachings, not some aberrant vision of “radical Islam.” 135
Tantawi’s Ph.D. thesis [Banu Israil fi al-Quran wa-al-Sunnah] Jews in the Koran and the Traditionswas published in 1968-69, and re-published in 1986. Two years after earning his Ph.D., Sheikh Tantawi began teaching at Al-Azhar. In 1980 he became the head of the Tafsir [Koranic Commentary] Department of the University of Medina, Saudi Arabia—a position he held until 1984. Sheikh Tantawi became Grand Mufti of Egypt in 1986, a position he was to hold for a decade, before serving as the Grand Imam of Al Azhar beginning in 1996, for the last 14 years of his life. 136
The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism includes extensive first time English translations of Tantawi’s academic magnum opus. Tantawi wrote these words in his 700 page treatise, rationalizing Muslim Jew hatred: 137
[The] Koran describes the Jews with their own particular degenerate characteristics, i.e. killing the prophets of Allah [Koran 2:61/ 3:112],corrupting His words by putting them in the wrong places, consuming the people’s wealth frivolously, refusal to distance themselves from the evil they do, and other ugly characteristics caused by their deep-rooted lasciviousness…only a minority of the Jews keep their word…[A]ll Jews are not the same. The good ones become Muslims [Koran 3:113], the bad ones do not.
Tantawi was apparently rewarded for this scholarly effort by subsequently being named Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University. These were the expressed, “carefully researched” views on Jews held by the nearest Muslim equivalent to a Pope—a man who for 14 years headed the most prestigious center of Muslim learning in Sunni Islam, which represents some 85 to 90% of the world’s Muslims. 138 And Sheikh Tantawi never mollified such hatemongering beliefs after becoming the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar as his statements on “dialogue” (January 1998) 139 with Jews, the Jews as “enemies of Allah, descendants of apes and pigs” (April 2002), 140 and the legitimacy of homicide bombing of Jews (April 2002), 141 made clear.
Tantawi’s statements on dialogue, 142 which were issued shortly after he met with the Israel’s Chief Rabbi, Israel Meir Lau, in Cairo, on December 15, 1997, provided him another opportunity to re-affirm his ongoing commitment to the views expressed about Jews in his Ph.D. thesis:
…anyone who avoids meeting with the enemies in order to counter their dubious claims and stick fingers into their eyes, is a coward. My stance stems from Allah’s book [the Koran], more than one-third of which deals with the Jews…[I] wrote a dissertation dealing with them [the Jews], all their false claims and their punishment by Allah. I still believe in everything written in that dissertation. [i.e., Jews in the Koran and the Traditions, cited above]
Unfortunately, Tantawi’s antisemitic formulations are well-grounded in classical, mainstream Islamic theology. 143 However, understanding and acknowledging the Koranic origins of Islamic antisemitism is not a justification for the unreformed, unrepentant modern endorsement of these hateful motifs by Tantawi—with predictably murderous consequences. Within days of the Netanya homicide bombing massacre on a Passover seder night, March 27, 2002, for example, Sheikh Tantawi issued an abhorrent sanction (April 4, 2002) 144 of so-called “martyrdom operations,” even when directed at Israeli civilians.
And during November, 2002 (“Tantawi: No Antisemitism” Associated Press 11/19/2002), consistent with his triumphant denial, Sheikh Tantawi made the following statement in response to criticism over the virulently antisemitic Egyptian television series (“Horseman Without a Horse”), based on the Czarist Russia forgery, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”: 145
Suppose that the series has some criticism or shows some of the Jews’ traits, this doesn’t necessitate an uproar…The accusation of antisemitism was invented by the Jews as a means to pressure Arabs and Muslims to implement their schemes in the Arab and Muslim countries, so don’t pay attention to them
January 22, 2008, it was reported that Tantawi cancelled what would have been an historic visit to the Rome synagogue by the imam of Rome’s mosque (Ala Eldin Mohammed Ismail al-Ghobash). The putative excuse for this cancellation was Israel’s self-defensive stance—a blockade—in response to acts of jihad terrorism (rocket barrages; attempted armed incursions) emanating from Gaza. The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, commenting aptly about these events, observed that the cancellation proved, “…even so called Muslim moderates share the ideology of hate, violence and death towards the Jewish state.” 146 Al Azhar, Corriere della Sera, further argued, which constituted a “Vatican of Sunni Islam,” had in effect issued “a kind of fatwah.” The paper concluded by noting that “What the Cairo statement really means is that Muslim dialogue with Jews in Italy is only possible once Israel has been eliminated.” 147
Annihilationist sentiments regarding Jews, as expressed by Hezbollah, the Iranian regime, and incorporated permanently into the foundational 1988 Hamas Charter, are also rooted in Islamic eschatology, or end of times theology. As characterized in the hadith, Muslim eschatology highlights the Jews’ supreme hostility to Islam. Jews are described as adherents of the Dajjâl—the Muslim equivalent of the Anti-Christ—or according to another tradition, the Dajjâl is himself Jewish. At his appearance, other traditions maintain that the Dajjâl will be accompanied by 70,000 Jews from Isfahan wrapped in their robes, and armed with polished sabers, their heads covered with a sort of veil. When the Dajjâl is defeated, his Jewish companions will be slaughtered— everything will deliver them up except for the so-called gharkad tree, as per the canonical hadith included in the 1988 Hamas Charter (in article 7). Another hadith variant, which takes place in Jerusalem, has Isa (the Muslim Jesus) leading the Arabs in a rout of the Dajjâl and his company of 70,000 armed Jews. And the notion of jihad “ransom” extends even into Islamic eschatology—on the day of resurrection the vanquished Jews will be consigned to Hellfire, and this will expiate Muslims who have sinned, sparing them from this fate. 148 Moshe Sharon recently provided a very lucid summary of the unique features of Shi’ite eschatology, its key point of consistency with Sunni understandings of this doctrine, and Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s deep personal attachment to “mahdism”: 149
Since the late ninth century, the Shi’ites have been expecting the emergence of the hidden imam-mahdi, armed with divine power and followed by thousands of martyrdom-seeking warriors. He is expected to conquer the world and establish Shi’ism as its supreme religion and system of rule. His appearance would involve terrible war and unusual bloodshed.
Ahmadinejad, as mayor of Teheran, built a spectacular boulevard through which the mahdi would enter into the capital. There is no question that Ahmadinejad believes he has been chosen to be the herald of the mahdi.
Shi’ite Islam differs from Sunni Islam regarding the identity of the mahdi. The Sunni mahdi is essentially an anonymous figure; the Shi’ite mahdi is a divinely inspired person with a real identity.
However both Shi’ites and Sunnis share one particular detail about “the coming of the hour” and the dawning of messianic times: The Jews must all suffer a violent death, to the last one. Both Shi’ites and Sunnis quote the famous hadith [Sahih Muslim, Book 40, Number 6985] attributed to Muhammad: The last hour will not come unless the Muslims fight against the Jews, and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and the stone or the tree would say: “Muslim! Servant of Allah! Here is a Jew behind me; come and kill him!” Not one Friday passes without this hadith being quoted in sermons from one side of the Islamic world to the other.
The rise of Jewish nationalism—Zionism—has posed a predictable, if completely unacceptable challenge to the Islamic order—jihad-imposed chronic dhimmitude for Jews—of apocalyptic magnitude. As historian Bat Ye’or has explained, 150
…because divine will dooms Jews to wandering and misery, the Jewish state appears to Muslims as an unbearable affront and a sin against Allah. Therefore it must be destroyed by Jihad.
This is exactly the Islamic context in which the widespread, “resurgent” use of Jew annihilationist apocalyptic motifs—Sunni and Shi’ite alike—would be an anticipated, even commonplace occurrence.
Such is the state of ferment we find in the Muslim world of today. It was epitomized by the openly expressed annihilationist sentiments of Muslim Brotherhood “Spiritual Guide” Yusuf al-Qaradawi which marked his triumphal return to Cairo Friday February 18, 2011. 151 After years of exile, his public re-emergence in Egypt was sanctioned by the nation’s provisional military rulers. Qaradawi, a vocal advocate of Islam’s Jew-hating mainstream canon (like the late Al-Azhar Grand Imam Tantawi), used the occasion to issue a clarion call for the jihad re-conquest of Al-Aqsa mosque, i.e., Jerusalem. 152
A message to our brothers in Palestine: I have hope that Almighty Allah, as I have been pleased with the victory in Egypt, that He will also please me with the conquest of the al-Aqsa Mosque, to prepare the way for me to preach in the al-Aqsa Mosque. May Allah prepare the way for us to (preach) in the al-Aqsa Mosque in safety—not in fear, not in haste. May Allah achieve this clear conquest for us. O sons of Palestine, I am confident that you will be victorious.
This pronouncement was met with thunderous applause by the millions assembled in Tahrir Square celebrating the so-called Arab Spring.
Sadly, if predictably, Bernard Lewis in an April 2, 2011 Wall Street Journal interview, although wary of Qaradawi, ignored the immensely popular cleric’s mainstream, canonical jihadism and Jew-hatred. 153 But Lewis did manage to reject his own repeated 1950s characterization of Islam as authoritarian, even totalitarian, while burbling his now oft repeated pieties about the putative tolerant, anti-authoritarian “tradition” of Islam, to cast a hopeful light on the Arab Spring: 154
The whole Islamic tradition is very clearly against autocratic and irresponsible rule.. We have a much better chance of establishing…some sort of open, tolerant society, if it’s done within their systems, according to their traditions.
Historian Robert Kaplan has dispassionately analyzed the views of Bernard Lewis on Islamic Jew hatred. Kaplan’s discussion provides broader insights which help elucidate how Lewis may have developed the other self-contradictory, or apologetic positions he has taken on Islamic authoritarianism, jihadism, and dhimmitude. As Kaplan explains, central to Lewis’s method are the invalid generalizations he proffers, absent any hard data, i.e., supportive facts. 155
Lewis puts Islam’s record regarding Jews in a favorable light mainly with the generalizations he makes rather than the particular facts he marshals. These generalizations, which crumble under the slightest scrutiny, are of four general types. One holds that the least onerous version of Muslim oppression is typical of Muslim practice….A second type of generalization claims that the worst of the behavior of Christians towards Jews was the norm… A third variety of generalization employed by Lewis claims that Muslim abuses are far less bad than the worst imaginable abuses by non-Muslims… A fourth type of generalization ascribes to “human nature” rather than Islam, with no basis of evidence, the unattractive characteristics exhibited by Muslims.
Kaplan describes perhaps the most egregious example of the first type of generalization, as follows: 156
Lewis writes “dhimmitude was a minor inconvenience Jews learned to live with …under Muslim rule the status of dhimmi was long accepted with gratitude by Jews.” In making this improbable claim he gives no evidence or explanation. Could he mean that the Jews were grateful for not being killed?
Kaplan also demonstrates how Lewis employs a cynical manipulation of semantics to negate the concept of Antisemitism in Islam. 157
How does Lewis reach the conclusion that Antisemitism is unknown to classical Islam? He defines Antisemitism as hatred of Jews according to Christian doctrine, not simply hatred of Jews. In doing so he distorts the ordinary meaning of “antisemitism” which in contemporary English means hatred of Jews.
Once again, it is illuminating to juxtapose Lewis’s attempt to deny the existence of Antisemitism in Medieval Islam, with the conclusions of S.D. Goitein, based upon the latter’s thorough philological and historical analyses of the primary source Geniza documents. Thus, in the specific context of the Arab Muslim world during the high Middle Ages (circa 950-1250 C.E.), Goitein’ s seminal analyses revealed that the Geniza documentary record employed the term antisemitism, 158
…in order to differentiate animosity against Jews from the discrimination practiced by Islam against non-Muslims in general. Our scrutiny of the Geniza material has proved the existence of “antisemitism” in the time and the area considered here…
Goitein cites as concrete proof of his assertion that a unique strain of Islamic Jew hatred was extant at this time (i.e., up to a millennium ago)—exploding Lewis’s spurious claim of its absence—the fact that letters from the Cairo Geniza material, 159
…have a special word for it and, most significantly, one not found in the Bible or in Talmudic literature (nor registered in any Hebrew dictionary), but one much used and obviously coined in the Geniza period. It is sinuth, “hatred”, a Jew-baiter being called sone, “a hater.”
Incidents of such Muslim Jew hatred documented by Goitein in the Geniza record come from northern Syria (Salamiyya and al-Mar‘arra), Morocco (Fez), and Egypt (Alexandria), with references to the latter being particularly frequent. 160
Three additional examples illustrate how Lewis’s Islamic apologetics—primarily via the same spurious methods of “generalization” Kaplan identifies—morph into frank moral confusion.
In 1937 Walter Fischel wrote a thoughtful analysis of the Mongol period and its impact on Jews and Christians in the conquered Abbasid Caliphate. The Mongol conquest of Baghdad (seat of the Abbasid Caliphate) in 1258 ended the domination of Islam as a state religion, and with it the system of dhimmitude—a point Fischel makes explicitly: 161
…the principle of tolerance for all faiths, maintained by the Il Khans [Mongol rulers], (depriving) the [Islamic] concept of the “Protected People”, the ahl adh-Dhimma [dhimmi system]…of its former importance; with it fell the extremely varied professional restrictions into which it had expanded, [emphasis added]…primarily those regarding the admission of Jews and Christians to government posts.
The 13th century Christian chronicler Bar Hebraeus and the Iraqi Muslim Ghazi b. al-Wasiti (fl. 1292), author of a Muslim treatise on the dhimmis, made these concordant observations from diametrically opposed perspectives—Bar Hebraeus as a dhimmi celebrating the changes wrought by Mongol conquest, and al-Wasiti as a Muslim lamenting them: 162
[Bar Hebraeus] With the Mongols there is neither slave nor free man, neither believer nor pagan, neither Christian nor Jew; but they regard all men as belonging to one and the same stock.
[al-Wasiti] A firman of the Il Khan [Hulagu] had appeared to the effect that everyone should have the right to profane his faith openly and his religious connection; and that the members of one religious body should not oppose those of another
Fischel notes that because the Mongols abolished a system Lewis contends never really existed (or a system Lewis ignores), the plight of the dhimmi Jews and Christians improved substantially: 163
For Christians and Jews, the two groups chiefly affected by the ahl adh-Dhimma policy, current until then, this change in constitutional and religious principles implied a considerable amelioration of their position; whereas for the Muslims it meant they had sunk to a depth hitherto unknown in their history.
Moreover, when the Mongols subsequently converted to Islam, a transition that took place under Mongol rulers Ghazan (1295-1304) and Uljaytu (1305-1316), Fischel maintains, 164
The concept of the ahl adh-Dhimma once again became a basic fact in the administration of the state, and it is characteristic that under Ghazan and his successor Uljaytu (1305-1316) we hear of renewed enactments against the ahl ad-Dhimma and of sumptuary laws [dress regulations, especially], as well as of the destruction of synagogues and churches, and of the persecution of Christians and Jews.
Bernard Lewis’s brief characterization of these events is selective to the point of absurdity. He entirely ignores the imposition of dhimmitude upon the non-Muslim minorities under the Abbasid Caliphate before the pagan Mongol conquests, its amelioration under pagan Mongol rule (when the system of dhimmitude was transiently abolished), or its re-imposition when the Mongols eventually converted to Islam. Neglecting all these facts, Lewis instead, perseverates on his charge of “collaboration” by the Christians and Jews with the Mongols, before the latter converted to Islam: 165
The Mongol rulers found Christians and Jews—local people knowing the languages, and the countries but not themselves Muslims—very useful instruments, and appointed some of them to high office. Afterwards, when the Mongols were converted to Islam, became part of the Islamic world, and adopted Islamic attitudes, the Christians and Jews had to pay for past collaboration with the pagan conquerors.
Lewis has also characterized, reductio ad absurdum, the quite brutal Ottoman devshirme-janissary system, which, from the mid to late 14th, through early 18th centuries, enslaved and forcibly converted to Islam an estimated 500,000 to one million non-Muslim (primarily Balkan Christian) adolescent males, as a benign form of social advancement, jealously pined for by “ineligible” Ottoman Muslim families. 166
The role played by the Balkan Christian boys recruited into the Ottoman service through the devshirme is well known. Great numbers of them entered the Ottoman military and bureaucratic apparatus, which for a while came to be dominated by these new recruits to the Ottoman state and the Muslim faith. This ascendancy of Balkan Europeans into the Ottoman power structure did not pass unnoticed, and there are many complaints from other elements, sometimes from the Caucasian slaves who were their main competitors, and more vocally from the old and free Muslims, who felt slighted by the preference given to the newly converted slaves.
Scholars who have conducted serious, detailed studies of the devshirme-janissary system, do not share such hagiographic views of this Ottoman institution. Speros Vryonis, Jr. for example, makes these deliberately understated, but cogent observations, 167
…in discussing the devshirme we are dealing with the large numbers of Christians who, in spite of the material advantages offered by conversion to Islam, chose to remain members of a religious society which was denied first class citizenship. Therefore the proposition advanced by some historians, that the Christians welcomed the devshirme as it opened up wonderful opportunities for their children, is inconsistent with the fact that these Christians had not chosen to become Muslims in the first instance but had remained Christians…there is abundant testimony to the very active dislike with which they viewed the taking of their children. One would expect such sentiments given the strong nature of the family bond and given also the strong attachment to Christianity of those who had not apostacized to Islam…First of all the Ottomans capitalized on the general Christian fear of losing their children and used offers of devshirme exemption in negotiations for surrender of Christian lands. Such exemptions were included in the surrender terms granted to Jannina, Galata, the Morea, Chios, etc…Christians who engaged in specialized activities which were important to the Ottoman state were likewise exempt from the tax on their children by way of recognition of the importance of their labors for the empire…Exemption from this tribute was considered a privilege and not a penalty…
…there are other documents wherein their [i.e., the Christians] dislike is much more explicitly apparent. These include a series of Ottoman documents dealing with the specific situations wherein the devshirmes themselves have escaped from the officials responsible for collecting them…A firman…in 1601 [regarding the devshirme] provided the [Ottoman] officials with stern measures of enforcement, a fact which would seem to suggest that parents were not always disposed to part with their sons.
“..to enforce the command of the known and holy fetva [fatwa] of Seyhul [Shaikh]- Islam. In accordance with this whenever some one of the infidel parents or some other should oppose the giving up of his son for the Janissaries, he is immediately hanged from his door-sill, his blood being deemed unworthy.”
Vasiliki Papoulia highlights the continuous desperate, often violent struggle of the Christian populations against this forcefully imposed Ottoman levy: 168
It is obvious that the population strongly resented…this measure [and the levy] could be carried out only by force. Those who refused to surrender their sons- the healthiest, the handsomest and the most intelligent- were on the spot put to death by hanging. Nevertheless we have examples of armed resistance. In 1565 a revolt took place in Epirus and Albania. The inhabitants killed the recruiting officers and the revolt was put down only after the sultan sent five hundred janissaries in support of the local sanjak-bey. We are better informed, thanks to the historic archives of Yerroia, about the uprising in Naousa in 1705 where the inhabitants killed the Silahdar Ahmed Celebi and his assistants and fled to the mountains as rebels. Some of them were later arrested and put to death..
Since there was no possibility of escaping [the levy] the population resorted to several subterfuges. Some left their villages and fled to certain cities which enjoyed exemption from the child levy or migrated to Venetian-held territories. The result was a depopulation of the countryside. Others had their children marry at an early age…Nicephorus Angelus…states that at times the children ran away on their own initiative, but when they heard that the authorities had arrested their parents and were torturing them to death, returned and gave themselves up. La Giulletiere cites the case of a young Athenian who returned from hiding in order to save his father’s life and then chose to die himself rather than abjure his faith. According to the evidence in Turkish sources, some parents even succeeded in abducting their children after they had been recruited. The most successful way of escaping recruitment was through bribery. That the latter was very widespread is evident from the large amounts of money confiscated by the sultan from corrupt…officials. Finally, in their desperation the parents even appealed to the Pope and the Western powers for help.
Papoulia concludes: 169
…there is no doubt that this heavy burden was one of the hardest tribulations of the Christian population.
Perhaps the cause of greatest disquietude—and certainly most infamous—have been Lewis’s inexplicably evolved views on the jihad genocide of the Armenians. His renowned The Emergence of Modern Turkey, originally published in 1962 (reissued in 1968, and 2002), includes these characterizations of the mass killings of the Armenians by the Turks in 1894-96, 1909, and 1915: 170
(1894-96, p. 202) The Armenian participants mindful of the massacres of 1894-96, were anxious to seek the intervention of the European powers as a guarantee of effective reforms in the Ottoman Empire [in the 20th century].
(1909, p. 216) With suspicious simultaneity a wave of outbreaks spread across Anatolia. Particularly bad were the events of the Adana district, which culminated in the massacre of thousands of Armenians…While Europe was appalled by Turkish brutality, Muslim opinion was shocked by what seemed to them the insolence of the Armenians and the hypocrisy of Christian Europe. The Turks were, however, well aware of the painful effects produced by these massacres in Europe, which had not yet forgotten the horrors of the Hamidian repression [i.e, the 1894-96 massacres]
(1915, p. 356) Now a desperate struggle between them [i.e., the Turks and Armenians] began, a struggle between two nations for the possession of a single homeland, that ended with the terrible holocaust [emphasis added]of 1915, when a million and a half Armenians perished.
Thus when Lewis first wrote his authoritative history of modern Turkey, he understood, and made explicit, that the Armenians had been massacred under successive Ottoman governments in 1894-96, and 1909. Moreover, he maintains that the Armenians were subjected in 1915 to a “holocaust,” during which 1.5 million “perished.”
By 1985, however, Lewis was the most prominent signatory on a petition to the US Congress protesting the effort to make April 24 — the date the Armenians commemorate the victims of the genocide — a nationwide Armenian-American memorial day, which would include the mention of man’s inhumanity to man. Both this petition drive and a simultaneous high profile media advertisement campaign were financed by the Committee of the Turkish Association. 171 Speros Vryonis has raised, unabashedly, the appropriate historical questions and accompanying moral concerns regarding Lewis’s actions: 172
When was Professor Lewis expressing an objective opinion: when he wrote the book [i.e., The Emergence of Modern Turkey, 1962/68 versions], or when he signed the political ad? To phrase it more bluntly, what shall we believe? Certainly, the data available to him in the writing of the book were sufficiently clear and convincing for him to proceed to these three clear and unequivocal statements [i.e., describing the 1894-96, and 1909 events as massacres of the Armenians by the Turks, and the 1915 slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians by the Turks as a holocaust]. What had changed? The subject had entered the sphere of politics, and Prof. Lewis, along with so many other signers of the ad, had decided to take sides where their economic, professional, personal, and emotional interests lay: with the Turkish government, and not with history.
In Lewis’s revised text of The Emergence of Modern Turkey, circa 2002, “slaughter” replaces “holocaust,” the estimate of the Armenians who “perished” is changed from 1.5 million to “according to estimates, more than a million,” and a concluding remark is added referring to the “unknown number of Turks” who also died in the putative struggle for possession of a single homeland. 173 Peter Balakian makes these germane observations: 174
…without any substantiation, Lewis dispenses of the Armenian Genocide in a couple of sentences, calling it a “a struggle between two nations for the possession of a single homeland.” Lewis never explains how an unarmed, Christian ethnic minority in the Ottoman Empire could be fairly called a “nation,” that could engage in a “struggle” with a world power (the Ottoman Empire) for a single homeland. In a recent interview, “There Was No Genocide: Interview with Prof. Bernard Lewis,” by Dalia Karpel, Ha’aretz (Jerusalem, January 23, 1998), Lewis asserts that the massacres of the Armenians were not the result “of a deliberate preconceived decision of the Turkish government.” These evasions are aimed at trivializing the Armenian Genocide.
Furthermore, during the past decade, as Yair Auron has observed, when Lewis was requested, 175
…to make available the academic research published in recent years, which, in his professional opinion, constitute the basis for the change from his original position to his new position that there was no state-planned or administered genocide/mass murder of the Armenians…Lewis did not respond to this demand, even though he noted that letters to him and his reply would be published.
Auron’s final assessment is apt: 176
Lewis’s stature [has] provided a lofty cover for the Turkish national agenda of obfuscating academic research on the Armenian Genocide.
Lewis’s wildly fluctuating opinions aside, a consensus among bona fide genocide scholars has emerged which is consistent with Professor Richard Rubenstein’s conclusion from 1975, that the 1915 Turkish massacre of the Armenians was, 177
…the first full-fledged attempt by a modern state to practice disciplined, methodically organized genocide
And also contra Lewis, who never placed the mass killings of the Armenians in their Islamic religious context, Bat Ye’or reminds us why the Armenian genocide was a jihad genocide 178 committed against a non-Muslim people “violating” the ancient dhimma, a “…breach…[which] restored to the umma [the Muslim community] its initial right to kill the subjugated minority [the dhimmis], [and] seize their property…”. Moreover, the ultimately genocidal massacres of the World War I era, were, she notes 179
…the natural outcome of a policy inherent in the politico-religious structure of dhimmitude. This process of physically eliminating a rebel nation had already been used against the rebel Slav and Greek Christians, rescued [i.e., during the 19th century] from collective extermination by European intervention, although sometimes reluctantly. The genocide of the Armenians was a jihad. No rayas [non-Muslim dhimmis] took part in it. Despite the disapproval of many Muslim Turks and Arabs, and their refusal to collaborate in the crime, these massacres were perpetrated solely by Muslims and they alone profited from the booty: the victims’ property, houses, and lands granted to the muhajirun, and the allocation to them of women, and child slaves. The elimination of male children over the age of twelve was in accordance with the commandments of the jihad and conformed to the age fixed for the payment of the jizya. The four stages of the liquidation — deportation, enslavement, forced conversion, and massacre — reproduced the historic conditions of the jihad carried out in the dar-al-harb from the seventh century on. Chronicles from a variety of sources, by Muslim authors in particular, give detailed descriptions of the organized massacres or deportation of captives, whose sufferings in forced marches behind the armies paralleled the Armenian experience in the twentieth century.
The German scholar Karl Binswanger concluded his brilliant 1977 analysis of 16th century Ottoman dhimmitude with a valid moral critique of the “dogmatic Islamophilia” epitomized by Bernard Lewis, and Orientalists of Lewis’s persuasion. 180
It is absolutely scientifically justifiable to call cynicism and “evil” by their names.
…We were able to confirm these rational errors because they were in a domain which was susceptible to rational argument. This rational access is not given for another domain. We would like to call this domain “religious,” but prefer “dogmatic,” because it is not just a question of expressing the irrational but of stubbornly clinging. That this domain is Islamophilic follows from the fact that there is an attempt to present the moral aspect of an Islamic fact as ethically valuable (not value-neutral!), even if historic (and any other) sense does not support such an interpretation.
It is understandable that the Orientalist has a predilection for those peoples with whose history and culture he is concerned and wishes to present them in a good light. All the same, such a process has nothing to do with science.
…[W]homever—consciously or not—downplays or misrepresents the morally negative aspects of the Dhimma or even distorts it into its (moral) opposite, because he would otherwise have to partially revise his pre-conceived evaluation of Islamic culture, he is behaving like the Marxist “researcher” who simply demonizes every manifestation of “evil” feudalism, instead of, or without (even therefore) investigating the functional accomplishments of feudalism. The Marxist “researcher” acts this way, because there is no place for critical examination of his own position in his pre-conceived conception of the world and science. For him “scientific socialism” is a dogma. Orientalist studies must defend itself from degenerating into an obstinate “scientific Islamophilia.” Or it will deserve the teasing name of “orchid specialty” (obscure and unimportant specialty) and not that of a science.
Ibn Warraq, underscoring the crucial need for a consistent application of intellectual honesty in historical scholarship, sought to “remind Bernard Lewis, his students, and his admirers” of the following words Lewis had written about the “moral and professional obligation” of Western historians, and other intellectuals: 181
There was a time when scholars and other writers in communist eastern Europe relied on writers and publishers in the free West to speak the truth about their history, their culture, and their predicament. Today it is those who told the truth, not those who concealed or denied it, who are respected and welcomed in these countries. Historians in free countries have a moral and professional obligation not to shirk the difficult issues and subjects that some people would place under a sort of taboo; not to submit to voluntary censorship , but to deal with these matters fairly, honestly , without apologetics, without polemic, and, of course, competently. Those who enjoy freedom have a moral obligation to use that freedom for those who do not possess it. We live in a time when great efforts have been made, and continue to be made, to falsify the record of the past and to make history a tool of propaganda ; when governments , religious movements, political parties, and sectional groups of every kind are busy rewriting history as they would wish it to have been, as they would like their followers to believe that it was. All this is very dangerous indeed, to ourselves and to others, however we may define otherness—dangerous to our common humanity. Because, make no mistake, those who are unwilling to confront the past will be unable to understand the present and unfit to face the future
The ironies abound—consider only Lewis’s former uncompromising descriptions of both Communism and Islam as totalitarian ideologies, 182 or the World War I era Armenian massacres as a “terrible holocaust,” i.e., a genocide 183—now summarily redacted. It is apparent Lewis has fallen quite short of the standard set by his own rhetoric.
This discussion began with Bernard Lewis’s July, 2006 admonition, “Either we bring them freedom, or they destroy us.” 184 Consistent with his admonition, the US military, at an enormous cost of blood and treasure, 185 liberated Afghanistan and Iraq from despotic regimes. However, as facilitated by the Sharia-based Afghan and Iraqi constitutions the US military occupation helped midwife—which have negated freedom of conscience, and promoted the persecution of non-Muslim religious minorities—“they,” i.e., the Muslim denizens of Afghanistan and Iraq have chosen to reject the opportunity for Western freedom “we” provided them, and transmogrified it into “hurriyya.” 186 Far more important than mere hypocrisy—a ubiquitous human trait—is the deleterious legacy of his own Islamic confusion Bernard Lewis has bequeathed to Western policymaking elites, both academic and non-academic.
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