The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude : Seventh-Twentieth Century Paperback – August 1, 1996
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- Paperback : 522 pages
- ISBN-13 : 978-0838636886
- ISBN-10 : 0838636888
- Item Weight : 1.54 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.25 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
- Publisher : Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Pr; 0 edition (August 1, 1996)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,647,186 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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In short, this is an eminently well-researched and meticulously documented scholarly book rather than a polemical or popular work of history — which perhaps explains why it has not received the prominence it is due. Another factor contributing to the apparent neglect of this important work is that it depicts the fate and represents the views of the victims, who are now for the most part exterminated, forgotten and powerless, in contrast to narratives written from Arab/Islamic or Western European perspectives. I can’t help but wonder if the fact that Ms. Ye’or is an Egyptian, a woman, and a Jew (but not a professor) had not likewise contributed to her work being unjustly slighted by academics, without anyone undertaking a serious refutation of her basic findings.
Ye’or notes that the most common terminology for describing Jews and Orthodox Christians in Islamic states is “protected minorities.” This very term, she argues, is misleading. The Orthodox Christians were throughout most of the 1,300 years covered in this book the majority population of the states in which they lived. Second, they were not ‘protected’ but rather gradually driven to near extinction. This book describes in great detail how that came about.
Ye’or is careful to note the acquiesce and indeed collaboration of key elites in the conquered communities. In the beginning, “treaties” with the ravaging nomadic tribes from the Arabian Peninsula seemed merely like common sense and self-defense once the imperial powers of Byzantium and Persia became too weak to protect the local population. Paying “tribute” seemed like the lesser evil, to hopeless defiance.
Ye’or likewise describes without apology the rivalries and hatred between the various Christian sects and their anti-Semitism, factors that enabled the Muslim conquerors to effectively play the groups off against one another. She makes no secret of the religious fanaticism of some Christian monks, which led to bitter hatreds and rivalries between various Orthodox churches. These, in turn, undermined the sense of solidarity among the Christian subjects of Islam.
Ye’or is also quick— and nowhere more bitter — than in pointing out that it was above all the religious leadership that profited from the new situation. Christian and Jewish leaders alike became the representatives of their respective communities and were made responsible for collecting the tribute and paying their Arab masters. This gave them greater autonomy than under the former Byzantine regime, while also offering multiple opportunities to enrich themselves. Last but not least, Ye’or freely acknowledges and highlights the degree to which some elites — secretaries and translators, accountants and bankers, merchants and professionals — adapted to the new situation and, in exchange for collaboration, were allowed to prosper — at the expense of the vast majority of the co-religionists.
Yet Ye’or musters overwhelming and almost numbing evidence that the vast majority of Christians and Jews living under Islamic regimes were subjected to frequent waves of violence punctuated by periods of oppression and humiliation. She describes how the repeated extortion of money, goods, livestock, and even children, reduced entire populations to such destitution that they abandoned their lands altogether and fled into the mountains to be hunted down like outlaws and wild beasts. She describes how the repeated raids by nomadic tribes turned entire regions into wastelands because no crop could be sown much less harvested. “The once-flourishing villages of the Negev had already disappeared by about 700, and by the end of the eighth century the population had deserted the greater part of the region stretching from south of Gaza to Hebron, fleeing back northwards, abandoning ruined churches and synagogues.” (102) This depopulation and desertification of once-flourishing and densely populated regions, described in full by both Muslim and Christian chroniclers, was the result of the massive deportation of captives — that is the enslavement of entire populations.
No one with a serious interest in the Middle East should ignore this book. Indeed, it ought to be required reading in every university course on the topic of Islam, the crusades, and the Middle East. The fact that its conclusions are not politically correct is all the more reason to read and discuss this book seriously — albeit critically.
Sadly, the translation appears to be the work of someone whose grasp of English idiom is flawed in the extreme. The reader is constantly having to translate the text into English from "English." It's like trying to bicycle on a mountain road covered with big cobbles and the occasional pile of boulders.
Don't be intimidated, whether you are a Muslim, Christian, Atheist or call yourself something else, read the book.
Top reviews from other countries
I find this book very appropriate for our time and it goes a long way to revealing the true context behind the politicisation of racial prejudice, segregation, apartheid and indeed genocide which have become quite common-place in the Middle East with reference to the selective and erroneous use of these terms by Islamic entities against Israel in relation to the Palestinian issue.
This book reveals how these claims lack any true substance and fall flat on their face when compared with the realities of 'dhimmitude', (which the writer describes as the status of conquered Jews & Christians under Islam), that reveal the painful, disturbing policy of prejudice, racial hatred and segregation of countless people who were classed as inferior on the basis of their religion alone.
No actions here being taken as deterrents against the terrorism and violence of today's Mid-East. Just socially acceptable Islamic conduct against peoples who were classed as inferior.
The book, drawing heavily on quotes from the Quran, the Hadith and writings from many renowned Islamic historians, reveals many distinctions drawn and prejudices applied upon Jews and Christians who refused to accept and bow to Islam. The veracity behind any profession of Islam as a tolerant and peaceful religion will soon reveal itself to the reader.
One example revealed by the writer is that Islamic legislation does not even recognise any validity in the sworn oath of a 'dhimmi' against that of a Muslim. The principle being based on the Islamic belief in the 'perverse and mendacious' character of the Jewish/Christian 'infidel', which even extends into matters involving the frequent allegations of blasphemy directed against 'dhimmis' which were punishable by death !
Other reviewers have commendably dealt with the wealth of detail and information here. Suffice to say that this book is highly recommended for anyone who wishes a further insight into the Islamic/Muslim mindset and much of the culture of the Middle East. It will send chills down the spines of readers when they consider that Islamic activists today still seek the 'Islamisation' of the West.