February 19, 2005

Letter to the Paper IL

Tech Central Station has an ultimately disappointing examination of dhimma from a muslim perspective called Reductio ad Jihadam. I wrote the author a letter expressing my dissatisfaction.

I read with interest your TCS column on dhimma from a muslim perspective (http://www.techcentralstation.com/021705B.html). Unfortunately, I find it filled with straw men and other disappointments. An analogy to US practices on race makes the real objection to dhimma more clear. In the era of slavery, an advocate of Jim Crow would have been considered a radical progressive, lumped in with the abolitionists as a threat to the even more oppressive slavery system. But after the Civil War and the freedom of blacks under Reconstruction, the same policies were a method of partial re-enslavement, a reactionary movement that increased suffering and was a form of evil.

In the time of christian intolerance the dhimma system was jim crow in a world of cross-confessional harsh repression and admirable by comparison to many christian practices. In the time of universal human rights, dhimma is still jim crow and a black mark against Islam where it is still practiced.

But where is dhimma still practiced? I would suggest that a habitual repression is hardly noticed by the masters in a system. It is felt far more keenly by the people at the bottom of the heap. Ask the Copts of Egypt whether it is true that the Pact of Umar has no relevance to their lives. You will find that Copts can only build churches with special permission. Liberalization on this matter means that instead of a church repair or construction being personally approved by Hosni Mubarak, in recent years he has increased the number of people who can issue such approvals to two. You cannot say that it is as bad as before but it is also certainly repression and worthy of condemnation that mosques not only have easy approval but public subsidy while the remnants of the Egyptian christian community struggle for simple things. Sticking to just Egypt, the apostasy laws are certainly still in force and muslims who convert to christianity receive a very hostile reception from the Egyptian state. Those whose spiritual journey is in the other direction have no such impediments as changing their ID card or worrying about christian assassins killing them. Muslims killing apostates is a real issue.

Today, in the US, to openly call for the reestablishment of Jim Crow is not just a small minority opinion. Publicly advocating such is a sure route to social ostracism, political unpopularity, and a multi-racial economic boycott. Openly calling for the worldwide establishment of a dhimma system as Osama bin Laden has done seems to lead to rock star status from Indonesia to Morocco. When the reaction to wearing an Osama bin Laden t-shirt is the same in Indonesia as wearing a 'Bull Conner' or Lester Maddox t-shirt is here (ie you'd have to explain who he is and would get a hostile reaction thereafter), Islam can claim to have caught back up to the civilized world.

Posted by TMLutas at February 19, 2005 08:18 AM