The first contacts between Islam and the Western world consisted of clashes between Arab-Islamic and Byzantine as well as Caucasus-area populations.
Islamic-European relations started with Arab-Islamic invasions in Europe in the late 7th century CE, followed by the Umayyad conquest of Southern Spain in the early 8th century.
The expansion of Arab-Islamic rulers in Spain toward the West was halted by the European-Christian victory in the 721 CE Toulouse battle, led by the Duke of Aquitaine.
Sicily also fell under Arab rule, being an Arab Emirate between 9th and 11th centuries, when Normans invaded and conquered it.
Islamic, Christian and Jewish relations in Middle Ages Arab-ruled Spain
Bernard Lewis, Middle East historian
The cultural exchange among Muslims, Christians and Jewish communities in Arab-ruled Spain, and in al-Andalus in specific, has been object of a large debate that comprises different voices.
The traditional position considers al-Andalus a case of multicultural harmony, called “convivencia”. According to this view, tolerant Islamic rule contributed to the flourishing of Jewish culture, to peaceful development of Christian communities, and to Muslim advancement in science.
Other authors deny that al-Andalus is a case of peaceful coexistence. Mark Cohen argues that interreligious dialogue constitutes an historical myth, serving the purpose to condemn anti-Jewish persecutions by Christians.
Dario Fernández-Morera also claims that he “convevencia” is an historical myth; according to the author, portraying Middle Ages Islamic rule in Spain as an example of tolerance serves the purpose to support multiculturalism and attack Christianity.
Finally, Bernard Lewis argues that Islamic positive acceptance of diversity is a-historical and theologically erroneous.
These authors point out that non-Muslims, called “dhimmi”, were subject to the special legal status of “dhimma”, regulating limited rights and duties of non-Muslims under Islamic rule, including the payment of jizya (poll tax on the infidels), the prohibition to ride horses, limitations of worship, and sometimes the obligation to wear distinctive signs.
Moreover, these authors stress that anti-Jewish and anti-Christian violence took place, although it was not institutionalized in policies of minority persecution as happened under Christian rule.
Islam and the West in Modern Time
The Ottoman Empire
After years of clashes, invasions and wars, Islamic Turkish populations conquer Constantinople in 1453. With the fall of the Byzantine Empire, Islamic rule develops into the mighty Ottoman Empire, expanding both westward, conquering Hungary and the Balkans, and eastward, toward Persia, Arabia and Northern Africa.
Ottoman sea and land invasions concerned all of Europe: in the Mediterranean, the Turks face Venetian influence and power; in Central Europe, Turks clash with Austro-Hungarians; while Turkish invasions reach even Poland and Iceland.
The first setback of Ottoman expansion in Europe is the defeat of the 1571 Battle of Lepanto, when the Turkish navy was defeated by the Venetian-led coalition of Southern European armies aiming to consolidate “Italian” influence in the Mediterranean and preserve Christian supremacy in Europe.
Eugene von Savoy
The second setback of Ottoman expansion in Europe is the defeat of the Ottoman army in the 1699 Battle of Zenta, led by Prince Eugene von Savoy, followed by the Treaty of Karlowitz, which sets forth the progressive decline of Ottoman influence in Central Europe.
After the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1922, newly born states progressively adopted Western institutions, including constitutions, parliaments and governments, as well as ideologies, including Fascism, Socialism and nationalism. Among these countries, Turkey has undergone an impressive process of secularization and Westernization.
Contemporary Islamic Communities in Europe
Islamic communities in Europe comprise historical Muslim communities, originating from Ottoman times, and recent Muslims communities constituted of migrants and their descendants.
Historical Muslim communities are present in Greece (Thrace), Bulgaria and other non-EU States (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro).
Recently established Muslim communities originate from Northern African countries (Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya and Egypt), sub-Saharan countries (mainly from Mali, Cameroun and Sudan), Arab countries (mainly from Egypt, Jordan and Iraq) and Asian countries (mainly from Iran, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh).
Major Islamic communities reside in France (Marseille, Paris) of Arab origin, in Austria (Vienna) and Germany (Berlin) of Turkish origin, in the Netherlands (Amsterdam) of Turkish and Arab origin, in Belgium (Brussels) of both Turkish and Arab origin, in Denmark and Sweden (Copenhagen, Stockholm and Malmö) of Turkish and Arab origin, and in the UK (London and Birmingham) of Arab and Asian origin.
Within the context of minority protection, Islamic minorities seek the implementation of shari’a (Islamic law), pursuing communal autonomy. The UK has recognized Islamic courts of arbitration with (voluntary) jurisdiction in matters of family and, to a certain extent, also contractual law.
In many European States, institutions face the dilemma whether to recognize Islamic legal institutions such as polygamy, for instance, and are confronted with requests for family reunion for polygamous women and children.
Islamic communities enjoy freedom of religious presence, although are not always granted freedom of building new religious sites. Examples are the mosque controversy in Switzerland, where a 2009 referendum introduced the ban on building new minarets; the UK, where the yet non-implemented project for the expansion of the Stratford mosque would lead to the creation of the largest religious building in Europe; Germany, where protests spread for the project to build a new mosque in Munich; and Italy, where political activists seek to impede Islamic communities from building new mosques.
Islamic mobilisation in Europe has increased in the aftermath of 9/11, including Islamist terrorism, protests, and clashes.
Islamist terrorist attacks in Europe include European targets in retaliation for European foreign policy, such as the 2004 commuter train attack in Madrid and the 2005 London tube bombing, as well as non-European targets, such as the attack on Israeli tourists in Bulgaria. A specific form of Islamist terrorism is directed against Jewish targets in Europe, such as the attack on the Jewish school in Toulouse in March 2012.
Theo van Gogh
Islamic mobilisation also concerns protests against behavior or attitudes by Europeans perceived as disrespectful. Such is the case of the controversy following the satiric cartoons portraying the Prophet published by the Jyllands-Posten in Denmark and republished by several other newspapers, including the French “Charlie Hebdo”, which was bombed. The Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered in 2004 because of his film “Submission” allegedly was disrespectful of Islam. Similar cases of anti-European mobilization took place in occasion of the controversial film “Innocence of Muslims”, considered highly contemptuous of Islam and the Prophet. A number of European politicians and intellectuals live under death threat because of their stances on Islam and the question of Islamic integration in Europe.
In order to favour Islamic integration in European society, many institutions have been created for supporting dialogue between Islamic communities and hosting States, including the French Council of the Muslim Faith, the Islamic Commission of Spain, the Islamic Council in Italy, the Muslim Council of Britain, the Central Council of Muslims in Germany. Often, these institutions are accused of including militant Islamist organizations, questioning the model of integration fostered by “institutionalized dialogue”.
Writer and researcher, pioneer in studies on dhimmitude
Bat Ye’or was born in Egypt in 1933. She was expelled for being Jewish in 1957 ad settled in Great Britain, where she studied archaeology before moving to Switzerland, where she studies social sciences in Geneve
Bat Ye’or is a writer and a researcher, known for her pioneer studies o dhimmitude and jihad.
Bat Ye’or defines jihad as a theological-legal conception, which regulates relations between Muslims and non-Muslims (dhimmi) in terms of belligerency, temporary armistices and submission.
By analysing the universality of jihad as theologically mandatory, the author illustrates the connection between jihad and dhimmitude, which consists of the voluntary submission and acceptance of oppression (dhimma, the legal statute applied to dhimmi, non-Muslim subjects under Islamic rule) in exchange for protection and in order to avoid death or enslavement.
According to Bat Ye’or, dhimmitude is also a psychological status of submission, which develops in the progressive Islamization of Europe, subjugated by the energy policy of Arab and Islamic countries, the influence of which affects Europe’s relations with Israel, with the Jews and with Islamic immigrants.
Among her publications:
2011. Europe, Globalization, and the Coming of the Universal Caliphate. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press;
2005. Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press;
2001. Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide, Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.
1996. The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.
Islamic minorities in Europe are increasingly claiming for more independence to manage their internal affairs. What is, in your opinion, the cause of their discontent toward the legal, political and social accommodation provided by European states?
Muslims immigrants come from countries governed by traditional Islamic rules and belong to a civilization that has fashioned mental attitudes, thought and behavior according to shari’a values and conceptions. Some immigrants have the strength to break away from this mental conditioning but most remain faithful to their tradition.
Shari’a rules create a society that contradicts in almost every domain Western way of life. This does not apply only to gender equality and sexual freedom, but also to politics, religion, education, science. Moreover the Koran and the Hadiths (the sacred religious Muslim scriptures) absolutely forbid Muslims to adopt the ways of Christians and Jews. This prohibition is proclaimed in the Koran’s first surah which must be repeated five times a day at each prayer. For these reasons, the Muslim world has not adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (December 1948) inspired by universal and not religious European values, but instead has proclaimed the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights (1990) whose articles conform strictly to the religious tenets of shari’a.
Besides the rejection of Western mores, there are two main other reasons for this refusal to integrate: 1) the traditional religious contempt for Christians whom must be submitted to Islamic supremacy as this was done during 13 centuries and continues till now; and 2) the religious obligation to impose shari’a governance on non-Muslim countries, in order to implement the Islamic system of justice and peace and the rule of Allah over the world.
A growing number of European states are in favour of the adoption of shari'a law, at least in arbitration courts of family law as in the UK. What will this change lead to?
In a democracy justice and law must be the same for all. Different rules according to the diversity of population will break the cohesion of the nation and nurture conflicts. Especially in the case of Muslim immigrants: we are speaking of several millions in most European states and not of a few thousands. In France speculations affirm that they amount to over ten millions, this is like a nation within a nation.
In its spirit and source shari’a jurisdiction—which is based on the uncreated word of the Koran and therefore cannot be discussed, changed or criticized (blasphemy)—contradicts the rational framework of European law and the freedom of speech and scientific research. It also discriminates between women and men, Muslims and non-Muslims, as we can see it currently in modern Muslim countries and even in Europe. Religious separation between populations living in the same country will increase. The shari’a, in its spirit and rulings, represents a systemic total system. If you accept some elements—for instance regarding the school education of girls or their segregation from society—where will you stop?
The adoption of shari’a law in many European countries will undoubtedly accelerate the Islamization of the continent—an evolution that Europeans refuse. In other words, as we import more tenets from Muslim civilization in our countries we will resemble more to Muslim societies. This situation needs serious thinking and public discussions, because it might bring irreversible changes and social conflicts. It cannot be shelved under the carpet.
One of the arguments in favour of the adoption of shari’a asserts that by recognising Islamic law under supervision of states’ civil courts, there will be more chances to advance Western standards and, consequently, internal illiberal practices implemented by shari’a will be more probably abandoned. Do you share this argument?
You cannot base a policy on wishful thinking. This argument affirms the contrary of truth. It reveals the weakness of governments that cannot or fear to impose on Muslims immigrants the law of their countries because they know they oppose it on the grounds that European laws contradict shari’a.
In your books, you define dhimmitude as the submission to Islam and the acceptance of an inferior status in society in order to avoid death or enslavement and contemporary dhimmitude as the subjugation to Islam in order to avoid anti-Western violence. Beyond fear, how does the dhimmitude attitude express itself?
Many motivations induce people, particularly politicians, to accept dhimmitude without even being conscious of their passivity. First let me point out that politicians as well as the large public totally ignore the meaning of dhimmitude. They have a vague notion of the special condition of non-Muslims, usually Christians, in Islamic countries, but they do not have a name for it. They do not see it as resulting from a specific military and theological obligatory legislation that has at its core an inner ideological justification. Being ignorant, they are therefore particularly vulnerable to it.
Furthermore, we are prisoner of a systemic social indoctrination spread throughout the media, books, films, and publicity that continuously and in every way preach multiculturalism, relativity of cultures, deconstruction of Western fundamental cultural criteria, interfaith dialogue, Western guilt, Europe’s scientific and artistic debt to the magnificent Islamic civilization of tolerance and peace. Notions of jihad and dhimmitude are totally rejected and forbidden. European specific identities and history are purposely blurred, dismissed in order to please foreigners who despising them maintain proudly their own traditions and beliefs.
Let me specify that dhimmitude is not only a military, political, legal, social and religious condition; it is also the perverted mental conditioning of a person who justify his own subjugation. Intellectual dhimmitude precedes and facilitates the physical realization of dhimmitude.
Dhimmitude in the West appears in the official and free adoption by the elite of the Islamic narrative of history. I recognize that prejudices being frequent in historical accounts must be suppressed. However the historical structure of data and documents should not be dismissed but preserve being the foundations of learning and civilizations. In schools and universities, we see the permanent clash between Western and Islamic conceptions of history—the latter one suppressing any criticism of jihad since it is a religious sacred command. Jihad is not perceived as an aggressive war but as peaceful Muslim activities to take back from the miscreant occupiers countries that should revert to Islam.
Do you refer to Israel as well?
The Islamic narrative adopted by Europe is particularly shocking regarding Israel, since it refutes Israel’s rights in its own ancestral homeland and submits to jihad strategic and ideological criteria. Obsessed with an anti-Israeli revengeful hatred, Europe together with Arab-Muslim countries, conducts at every level a war to delegitimize and demonize Israel with the final goal of destroying it. I consider this policy a significant sign of dhimmitude. Europe knows very well the history of the people of Israel in its own land because for twenty centuries it remained the base of its spirituality and values. Yet it embraces the jihadist ideology that denies it even if jihad aims at Europe’s destruction as much as Israel. In other words, Europe is complying with Islamist goals toward its own destruction like a vassal continent.
Another sign of dhimmitude is the creation of a whole European industry falsifying Israel history, archeology, and Biblical sites, in order to Palestinize, hence Islamize, them. In museums in Paris and London Palestine and Palestinians are mentioned on items referring to Hebrews two thousand B.C. whereas the Roman Emperor Hadrian named the Jewish country “Palestine” after having defeated its Jewish inhabitants in 135 A.C.!
Then does dhimmitude also affect Europe’s reaction to the mobilisation of Islamic minorities?
Besides its dhimmi subservient policy to the Muslim world regarding Israel, immigration and textbooks, European governments have imposed over their citizens the shari’a law on blasphemy. The EU willful denial of terrorism and insecurity evokes the dhimmi peaceful resignation to his demise. Freedom of speech and thought has disappeared from universities and media. Aggressiveness and intolerance replace them. Those who resist, like Geert Wilders, Magdi Christiano Allam and others, are targeted by murderers. Recently, Lars Hedegaard, the Danish champion of free speech, just escaped from a criminal attempt at his life—although only speculations can be made here, the suspect having not been found. Europe is becoming less European and more Islamized with of course an unconscious habituation to dhimmitude—insecurity, aggressions, and insults—by indigenous non-Muslims.
The trend toward dhimmitude flourishes in a Europe that chose the disaggregation of its foundations and the destruction of the Nation-state.
Radical Islam is an anti-liberal ideology. You argue that European ambivalent attitude, dhimmi attitude, toward radical Islam indirectly supports it. How do you explain that European countries has progressed in science, technology, welfare, culture, societal issues such as minority or gender rights, and simultaneously open the gates to anti-liberal ideologies?
There are many contradictions in politics and history; a multiplicity of trends suppresses coherence and uniformity. Great discoveries and artistic achievements have in the past coexisted with wars and social injustice. Under the Nazis, intellectual and artistic life continued; in occupied France, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, as well as many other great authors and artists, flourished unconcerned by the inhumanity of the period. The progresses in science, technology and other sectors result from the devoted efforts of doctors, scientists, researchers and other individuals, not from politicians.
Like in totalitarian regimes, opposition to European pro-Islamic policy existed but it is locked. Dissidents are indicted as racists and Nazis by an international media campaign of witch-hunt. They are victims of boycott, discrimination, social and professional ostracism, and suffer material insecurity because they fight against dhimmitude. Not only do their own governments and the state apparatus persecute them, but also jihadists who apply in Europe the shari’a law of blasphemy target them.
Many NGOs, such as One Law for All, advocate against the adoption of shari'a and in favour of the integration of Muslim groups in European societies, preventing radicalisation that stems from separate education, separate legal systems and underground religious-political activities. Do you see in these activities an emerging social movement that counteracts institutional passiveness?
Yes, it is a positive initiative; for Muslims too, because it will avoid conflicts and resentment against them. There are 56 Muslim countries, plus the Gaza Strip, which apply the shari’a. Muslims who want to live under the rule of shari’a must immigrate to these countries not to Western countries.
Contemporary Middle-East countries inherited the Ottoman system of the “millet”, which consisted in self-government of ethno-religious communities, including family law. Israel has adapted this system, by recognising religious courts, including rabbinical and Islamic courts, with extensive power in terms of family law. The supervision of the Supreme Court over religious courts’ decisions has influenced religious jurisprudence, including shari’a judges. In your opinion, could this be a model to be adapted in Europe for the recognition of shari’a courts, as already happened in UK?
The so-called “millet” system was first designed by the Romans. As their Empire expanded by the conquests of numerous peoples and territories, the Roman emperors accepted that their subjects kept their particular national religion, their gods and their own laws. In this context, Judaism, as the religion of a nation allied and friendly with Rome, was recognized religio licita, and guaranteed juridical autonomy. Even after the destruction of Jewish independence by the Roman armies, and the incorporation of their country as a new colony named Palaestina within the Roman Empire (135 c.e.), this autonomous statute remained, but with some changes.
It is the Christianization of the Roman Empire that transformed this “liberal” situation into an obligatory condition of misery and wretchedness for Jews. However, while all pagan cults were prohibited, Judaism was tolerated within legal discriminatory and oppressive rules intended to humiliate and incite hatred. This anti-Jewish legislation was inscribed in the Byzantine legal codes from the fifth century onward. It constituted the Jewish statute, applied throughout Europe until the 18-19th century when it was abolished with the French Revolution; some of its rules were re-enacted in the racist anti-Jewish status proclaimed by the French Vichy government during the Second World War.
When in the seventh century the Arabs invaded Byzantine territories, they adopted this Jewish statute under an Islamized and aggravated form and integrated it into the shari’a books, applying it to Jewish and Christian populations. It is known in the Ottoman Empire as the “millet” system. This is the legal condition that I have studied under the name of dhimmitude, which is still valid today in Islam as it is obvious to everyone who knows it.
Now let me tell you why I object to introduce the millet system in Europe in the 21st century. First, the millet system does not just mean religious and civil autonomy for minorities. It stems from a jihadist conquest and is correlated to jihadist rules. It is linked to territorial conquests, being under its mild Roman form or in the oppressive shari’a legislation against the conquered population of the Islamic Empire. Second, it is inseparable from the whole dehumanizing system of dhimmitude, which, in short, requires:
Economic, social, religious, cultural and legal inequality between Muslims and non-Muslims;
Collective responsibility of the non-Muslim community;
Discriminatory legal disabilities;
Protection conditional to the submission to an inferior status; and
Prohibition to own lands and so forth.
European colonization of Muslim countries and the nationalist Arab governments have abolished it, but its discriminations against non-Muslims, having being integrated into the shari’a are still valid today even in Turkey. It was never established in the Arab peninsula where non-Muslims could not live.
The situations of Muslim immigrant communities in Europe are quite different from the subjected indigenous millets. They are not indigenous European submitted nations but foreigners who chose to immigrate from their free will. I think that lawyers should work out a system that respects their religious requirements in accordance with the national legislation of the host countries.
You describe with great competency the millet system adapted to the Israeli jurisdiction. But this system was imposed by the former British colonizer and was never adopted by any of the people who after centuries of struggle, succeeded to free themselves from Islamic colonization: Spain, Sicily, Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and Armenia.
European lawyers and politicians should consider three points that relate only to Islam:
The mandatory association of religion and policy;
The uncreated origin—and therefore unchangeable character—of Islamic sacred scriptures;
The religious imperative of a universal jihad.
When we speak of Islam, we also speak of Muslim-Jewish relations and Muslim attitude toward Israel. I dare to ask an apparently naïf question. Why are Jews asked to assimilate into the majority culture of their countries of residence, while Muslims are encouraged to ask for more independence and autonomy under the tenets of minority protection and human rights? Why are Jews considered unrepentant “diverse people” sticking to ancient traditions, while Muslim practices are welcomed as a positive expression of diversity, somehow romanticised?
European relations with Muslims fit into the pattern of dhimmitude. European politicians do not dare to confront the powerful Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which is, indeed, the source that dictates to Europe its anti-Israeli policy, its Muslim immigration strategy regarding education, textbooks, non-integration, separate Muslim schools, positive discrimination, promotion of diversity, blasphemy law, shari’a banking and so forth. The European Union and its European leaders are just the conveyor of OIC orders that they impose to their people. The OIC has recruited and paid, in Europe, countless lobbies and collaborators to implement its quiet jihadist strategy.
Israel has no such strategy toward Europe, or such financial power and no leverage over European policy. As for anti-Jewish animosity, it is a combination, in some milieus, of traditional Christian antisemitism but mainly it is the spread of Muslim judeophobia and Palestinism.
Carrying Jewish symbols has become increasingly dangerous in Europe, for both radical Left and Islamic anti-Jewish violence. The anti-Semitic predicament within Islamic groups, mosques and Muslim schools is well known. What is the reason of the disinterest that authority shows toward this phenomenon?
I do not know if we can speak any more of authority. Thanks to the European Union and the OIC, European states are in a condition of delinquency, incapable of imposing order and security on their own territories, which constitutes the first duty toward their citizens. Now they plan to abolish borders and reject the constraints of the nation-state, opting for welcoming massive immigration—hence, the necessity of promoting multiculturalism and the relativism of values. The economic crisis will worsen the situation.
Regarding antisemitism, it was promoted by the European Commission from 1999 in order to frighten the small Jewish communities that survived the Shoah. The aim was to force them to denounce Israel and increase the isolation of the Jewish state. The BDS campaign, the economic boycott, the apartheid and “occupation” accusations thrown at Israel, which trigger antisemitism, emanates from the EU, the OIC and its European collaborators, as well as from the Palestinian dhimmi Churches.
Political Europe has always been hostile to the Jewish National Liberation movement. Except for some individuals and isolated politicians, governments collaborated in a way or another to the Shoah. European exoneration of radical Islam is integrated in its support for Palestinism, which ideology impregnates its deceitful war against Israel.
Hezbollah has organized a terrorist attack against Israeli tourists in Bulgaria. Previously, Arafat's PLO has repeatedly attacked Jewish and Israeli targets in Europe backed by radical left terrorist organizations. The EU and other member states refuse to enlist Hezbollah in the terrorist list organization. Is that an example of dhimmitude?
Sure. Dhimmis fear of terrorist retaliations in Europe or other countries. This example illustrates how ludicrous is the mask of human rights’ champion the EU pretends to wear. France, the great enemy of Israel’s self-defense policy declared in a grandiloquent way that in Mali terrorists must be eradicated. And why not in Gaza?
Radical left and Islamic groups converge on another issue: the delegitimisation and demonisation of Israel. What are the reasons of this ideological commonality? In the end, the two groups are indeed different in terms of consideration for religion, conception of gender rights and politics.
Virulent antisemitism always existed in Leftist parties. Communist states supported Arafat, the Palestinians and Third-Worldism in a big coalition against democracies. Now the moribund radical Left survives by recruiting its adherents among Muslim immigrants and by anti-Israel campaigns well-paid in petro-dollars.
One last question: how do you see the future of Europe? What has to be done to stop dhimmitude?
It is difficult to foresee Europe’s future, since it is in a transitional state having lost its references by its deliberate choice to destroy itself by renouncing to territorial stability, history and cultural roots. But a civilization who denies its values, its history and culture is a civilization without soul and a prey to be devoured by others. Changes and adaptation to evolving situations are necessary, but Europe’s survival requires preserving its fundamental Judeo-Christian and humanist values.
In order to stop dhimmitude, which endorses the suppression of human freedoms and dignity, we must first be able to recognize it. You cannot fight against something you don’t see nor understand. We have to overcome the policy of ideological denial imposed by the EU elite, and the Fascist control of culture and opinion aiming to mould them within the politically correct discourse. We must support the politicians, writers, journalists and common people who put their life in danger and accept sacrifices to preserve fundamental democratic values.