No amount of ink has been spared by anti-Muslim ideologues fear-mongering about the traditional Islamic concept (now long abandoned and not implemented in a single Muslim country–not even in the ultraconservative Saudi Arabia or Iran) of jizya and dhimmi–the latter which is pejoratively (and incorrectly) referred to as “dhimmitude”. It is an incorrect usage (and certainly not academically accepted) since “dhimmitude” is an amalgamation of the words “dhimmi” and “servitude”; the dhimmi system was second-class citizenship but not servitude–a significant difference, as noted by Prof. Mark R. Cohen:
The dhimmi enjoyed a kind of citizenship, second class and unequal though it was…[in contrast to] Jews living in Latin Christian lands, where…[they were] legally possessed [as slaves] by this or that ruling authority.
On the other hand, the traditional Christian concept of Perpetual Servitude of heathens was, as the name itself indicates, servitude. It was a form of slavery that heathens were subjected to (including Jews and Muslims). The term “dhimmitude” was coined by a loony old lady named Bat Ye’or, a conspiratorial pseudo-scholar and extremist Zionist Jew. The term was popularized by Catholic apologist Obama-may-be-a-Muslim Robert Spencer. It is quite ironic that in attempting to coin a demeaning enough term to demonize Islam, the Zionist Jew and Catholic apologist accidentally used a term that is actually found in their own religious tradition!
The historical experiences of dhimma and of Perpetual Servitude have been compared here.
Perpetual Servitude in the Bible
In his book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), Robert Spencer cited a passage from Deuteronomy (20:10-17) to prove that the Bible’s commandments to wage holy war apply only to the Seven Nations and not to anyone else. We have proven this claim to be completely false (see here). In fact, this Biblical passage advocates genocide for those heathens living inside of Israel, and Perpetual Servitude for those outside of it. This injunction implies “the nations”, by which is meant the entire world.
On pp.35-36 of his book, Spencer cites a hadith (saying attributed to Muhammad) that urges Muslims to offer their enemies Three Choices: (1) “Invite them to accept Islam”; (2) “If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya”; or (3) “If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah’s help and fight them”. The text itself (and the academically dishonest use of ellipses by Spencer) will be discussed in a future article in the Series. For now, however, we will–simply for argument’s sake–accept Spencer’s claims that Muhammad offered unbelievers these Three Choices only (conversion, tribute, or death).
Is it not odd that the Catholic apologist Robert Spencer, along with his extremist Jewish Zionist and Christian Crusader-wannabe comrades, are so indignant of Muhammad for offering these Three Choices and yet are completely silent when it comes to Moses who restricted infidels to these choices long before Muhammad ever did? Moses is alleged to have said (almost two millennia before the idea ever came to a man named Muhammad):
Deuteronomy 20:10 When you approach a city to fight against it, you shall offer it terms of peace.
20:11 If it agrees to make peace with you and opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall become your forced labor and shall serve you (as tributaries).
20:12 However, if it does not make peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it.
20:13 When the LORD your God gives it into your hand, you shall strike all the men in it with the edge of the sword.
20:14 Only the women and the children and the animals and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourself; and you shall use the spoil of your enemies which the LORD your God has given you.
Moses and the Bible thus offered infidels only Two Choices: (1) become forced labor (Perpetual Servitude) or (2) war. Both resulted in slavery. And in both circumstances, conversion was necessary. (The Gibeonites, for instance, were forced to give up their native religion and renounce idolatry for the God of Israel.)
Even if we accept Spencer’s argument about the Three Choices (again, simply for argument’s sake), this was still better than the Two Choices of Moses and the Bible. There are at least a few reasons why:
1) If an unbeliever paid the jizya, he could retain his religious affiliation. Meanwhile, an unbeliever under the Biblical model was forced to worship the God of Israel.
2) Dhimmis were considered free persons as opposed to slaves, and it was forbidden to enslave them. On the other hand, perpetual serfs were “owned” by the state. For example, the Gibeonites became the slaves of Joshua, the leader of Israel. Similarly, Jews became perpetual serfs of the Church and/or Christian state.
3) Dhimmis were free to choose their form of livelihood, barred only from military and high governmental positions. For example, Jews in the Islamic world were known to be physicians, lawyers, scientists, merchants, traders, bankers, and agriculturalists. Under the Biblical model, an unbeliever became “forced labor” and could no longer choose his own profession. This is the essence of servitude and why it’s so much worse than second-class citizenship. The Gibeonites, for instance, were forced to become “wood cutters and water carriers for the [Jewish] community” (Joshua 9:27), “which was a very low and mean employment.” Similarly, Jews in Christian Europe were banned from virtually all fields and restricted to the “hated” profession of money-lending, considered at that time to be worse than prostitution.
4) Dhimmis retained the legal right to own property. This contrasted sharply with the case of perpetual serfs.
5) If an unbeliever opted to convert to Islam, he was to be considered an equal. Meanwhile, perpetual serfs were forced to convert and still considered unequal serfs.
6) If the unbelievers chose to fight off the Muslims and if the Muslims won, the conquered population–including the men–weren’t massacred. Instead, they still became a dhimmi population–with all the rights associated with that position. If, on the other hand, the unbelievers didn’t submit to Perpetual Servitude, the Biblical model called for the slaughter of every single man.
To conclude, the concept of dhimmitude Perpetual Servitude is found in the Bible, and originated from Moses. Most importantly, the Bible contains “prescriptive, open-ended, and universal commandments” to wage holy war against infidels, and to enslave them, to subjugate them to Perpetual Servitude–something far worse than the dhimmi system.
The obsession over the concept of dhimmis and jizya by the self-proclaimed defenders of the Judeo-Christian tradition certainly does seem to be a case of projection or simply of wholesale ignorance. What the Islamophobes attribute to the Prophet Muhammad and the Quran is still better than what Moses or the Bible advocated. This fact will of course be ignored, obfuscated, or downplayed by Robert Spencer et al.–which is consistent with the Islamophobic methodology of “whatever violence is found in Islam always ‘counts’ and whatever violence is found in Judaism or Christianity ‘doesn’t count’ and never counts.”
Always remember: Jewish or Christian Violence Never Counts, and Muslim Violence Always Counts.
Editor’s Note: Due to the length of this article, it will be split into four pages, the next page to be published tomorrow.
Update I: Page 4 is now available here.