Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Slow Noose

It's quiet here - a place to think.
I had meant to post about holidays - but Facebook is immediate and those interested can look there for whatever details entertain them about my recent travels.
I picked up an old, well-used hunting rifle the other day. It had been abandoned for some time. French-made, the triggers a little worn but the barrelling still smooth and the catches sharp, I realised that I still remembered how to use one. It reached quickly to target, its balance good and quick in my hands. I remembered the requisite care to make sure safety was on and the weapon correctly transported. Curiously, it set in train some thoughts about wars, defensive and aggressive, the Syrian conflict uppermost in my mind. I was reminded of a film – oddly - since its action could not take place further than these hectares of wild land. "The Kingdom"  - made in 2007 - is an strange American take on the impenetrabilities of Middle Eastern life. Very well worth a look, depressing though its outcome was. It is this very depression, a realisation that guns and bullets are not the primary currency of warfare here; instead the imperviousness to Western ideology lying at the heart of the Middle Eastern mindset, which prompted these thoughts. 

The Saudis are in many ways the elder brothers of the Kuwaitis - what happens in Riyadh and Jeddah is frequently mirrored in Kuwait, the long reach of the Wahhabist ideology which spawned Al Qaeda (yes, it did, for those who howl 'foul') crosses the northern border without much dilution. I was there for six years, long enough, one might suppose, to have penetrated the outer echelons of society, politics and finance. Truth was, with hindsight, I hardly scratched the surface, but, sadly, imagined that I had. Kuwaiti friends, almost all Westernised or, at least, Western educated, treated me as their friend and brother - the man in the street however, the stallholder or merchant, the electors of  the strict Islamic majority now presiding in government, superficially treated me with respect as is customary in Islamic cultures, the elaborate protocols of guest and host followed punctiliously,  yet I was no nearer to their souls the day I left than the day I first arrived. Islam in the Peninsula is different than Islam overseas. The Holy Places are revered above all else there and the infidel is to be respected but not trusted. He worships a foreign god - his dissolute, immoral ways anathema to the soul of Islam. He is to be kept apart. The notion of Dhimmitude, originating in the 7th century, still applies today to non-Muslims under Islamic rule—whether Jews, Christians or whatever, whether in Saudi Arabia or elsewhere. It began in 628 CE when Mohammed and his forces conquered the Jewish oasis at Khaybar. They massacred many of the Jews and forced the rest to accept a pact, or dhimma which rendered them inferior to their Muslim conquerors. Over the centuries, the ideology expanded into a formal system of religious apartheid. Although many Islamic countries, including Kuwait, do not practise a full-blown variety, the writing on the wall suggests that some would prefer it to be so. There have been rumblings in the Kuwaiti parliament and church building is disapproved of, pursuant to a deathbed hadith of the Prophet that there be only one religion in the Peninsula, namely Islam.  When free speech and human rights clashes with Islam, human rights take second place and First Amendment expressions of tolerance are disregarded.

In Shari’a law, there are official discriminations against the dhimmi, such as the poll-tax or jizya, not curently practised in Kuwait, but the principle remains.

The infidel has fewer legal rights. Jews may not testify in court against a Muslim and have no legal right to dispute or challenge anything done to them by Muslims. There is no such thing as a Muslim raping a Jewish woman; there is no such thing as a Muslim murdering a Jew (at most, it can be manslaughter). By contrast, a Jew who strikes a Muslim is killed.

Originally, a policy of humiliation and vulnerability was followed. Jews and Christians had to walk around with badges or veils identifying them. The yellow star that Jews wore in Nazi Germany did not originate in Europe. It was borrowed from the Muslim world.

The conditional protection of the Dhimmi is withdrawn if the Dhimmi rebels against Islamic law, gives allegiance to a non-Muslim power (in particular, Israel), refuses to pay the poll-tax, entices a Muslim from his faith, or harms a Muslim or his property. If the protection is lifted, jihad resumes. For example, Islamists in Egypt who pillage and kill the Copts can do so because they no longer pay their poll-tax and therefore are no longer protected. There is clear evidence that Morsi's government are at best turning a blind eye to social and religious injustices and at worst encouraging a more muscular application of the principle - a slow noose. Patrick Sookhdeo - well worth a look at his distinguished bibliography -  published a book in 2002 which examined the condition known in Pakistan as “bonded labour”. [A People Betrayed: The Impact of Islamisation on the Christian Community in Pakistan, Christian Focus Publications; Isaac Publishing, ISBN 1-85792-785-0] It illustrates the subservience maintained by fiscal exploitation and indebtedness which led to expropriation and a system of slavery. Likewise, Sookhdeo demonstrates how the inferior status of the non-Muslim can validate an abuse, in theory forbidden by law, and make it irreversible, as for example the accusation of blasphemy or the abduction of Christian women. This crime, still perpetrated in Egypt today, has been a permanent feature of dhimmitude. As Syria shifts on its axis, it remains to be seen whether the inevitable fall of Assad will create a power vacuum which once again will be filled by the hardliners. If so, the slow noose or stranglehold around Israel will tighten as the new masters in Damascus will take their orders from Iranian ayatollahs for whom the medievalist protocols for dhimmi are enshrined in tradition and shari’a law. I am not, characteristically, optimistic, but by way of a final parry, this came to mind. (thanks to SJ and JR via Facebook)


  1. I just got around to reading this. (Are there still those who dispute the origins of Al Qaeda? ...wow) I thought about that yesterday when our mutual friend was speaking of the position her husband is in as a Bidun. Which engendered a conversation about slavery and dhimma and the consequences of economic and geographical coercion. No one calls it slavery anymore, but if it walks like a duck... quacks like a duck... (in the interests of sensibilities you'll note I eschewed the similar truism which is based on piglets).

    In any case, what I actually thought when I read your post is that while other faiths have 'gone off the rails' so to speak, temporarily resorting to the insanity of murdering non-adherents, by and large it really was a temporary aberration brought about by a specific leader or group of leaders. With Islam, this system of "second-class/no-class" divisions (dhimmitude) is mandated as a part of the tenets of the faithful.

    Can you think of any other religion/religious system where this is true?

  2. John I enjoy your posts immensely. They are usually well reasoned and thought provoking explorations of ideas. When it comes to Islam I don't see it. I find it difficult to understand that someone who has spent so much time in the middle east has a view of Islam that seems a bit myopic. Are we to hold Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism and every other religion responsible for those who use them to promote their own worldly interests? I find it useful to distinguish between governments and faiths. Sociology is useful in viewing religions as part of the glue that holds societies together. From a spiritual perspective I see the value of all of the world's "great" religions. The Quran provides guidance on how to treat the other known religions with tolerance and respect. Clearly Christ gave us guidance in the Gospels regarding our individual behaviors, but the history of the Church's lack of holding to these "suggestions" does not in my view undo the good that the Church accomplished during the medieval period. I prefer not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Having said that there are severe and deep seated problems with the governments in many middle eastern countries. The changes brought about by World War I, Balfour Declaration, and illegitimate governments have resulted in a great deal of dissatisfaction in the middle east. Hate to play the blame game, but British colonialism has a significant role here in how these countries and societies have, or have not developed. Clearly in the post-colonial period economics has contributed as well. But if the potential of "real" democracy emerging in the region is unlikely, the growth of empowered peoples there is encouraging in the long term.
    Finally (tongue inserted deeply in cheek) I also blame the British for sending your loony Puritans to burn witches and muck up our sex lives for the past 300 years here in America;)And how uptight does one have to be to get kicked out of 16th century England anyway?

  3. I think, Noah, that Islam is unique amongst world faiths insofar as it intersperses literal textual interpretation with jurisprudence. Whichever Islamic sect holds political power, its particular take on application of Shari'a determines the sociopolitical milieu, hence to some extent drives foreign policy. Not being 'allowed' to post about Islam while resident - criticism can be punished by remarkably draconian methods - it comes as some relief to be able to speak one's mind without resort to the usual logical fallacies which beset apologists everywhere. Where, I wonder, in the Quran is Judaism specifically held in respect, despite the fact that Jews do not proselytise outside of their own national group? I rather doubt it can be found.


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