Americans should educate themselves about jihad's "culture of hate," says WSRC speakerReleased on February 28, 2002
Contact: Donna Desrochers (781) 736-4204
By Donna Desrochers
Americans tempted to treat Sept. 11 as a passing event that can be explained away as the work of fanatics or the product of social and economic conditions, should think again, according to Bat Ye'or, author of Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide. Bat Ye'or spoke at the Women's Studies Research Center (WSRC) at Brandeis Feb. 26.
She said Sept. 11 was part of a global jihad, a centuries old "culture of hate."
A fearless advocate for raising awareness of the religious forces behind jihad and its continuing threat, Bat Ye'or (daughter of the Nile) is a researcher, writer, and lecturer. Her Egyptian nationality revoked, she became a British citizen more than 40 years ago. She's also the architect of a new field of research, which she calls, the "civilization of dhimmitude," taken from dhimma, a word for vanquished people and the terms of their submission as outlined by Islamic law.
According to Bat Ye'or, the concept of jihad encourages Muslims to conquer lands peopled by Christians, Jews and other non-Muslims, who are seen as infidels with no history of their own, no religion, and no rights. Their wealth can be taken; they can be enslaved or killed - all in the name of Islam.
The jihad movement is experiencing a revival, she said, and once again Christians in Islamic lands are being forced to submit to Islamic law or face enslavement or death. The most tragic cases can be found in Iran, Pakistan, Sudan, and Upper Egypt. And in her writings, she examines the possibility of a "dhimmitude of the West."
"On Sept. 11, you had this experience for the first time," she said, "but we in Europe are familiar with it."
Bat Ye'or urged Americans to educate themselves on the history of Islam, to learn the roots of Islamic fundamentalism, and to become familiar with the more pluralistic view originally advocated by the prophet Muhammad.
"It is important to guard against anti-Muslim sentiment," she cautioned. "Not all Muslims are motivated by hatred. Many are fighting against this ideology, which is medieval," and which "prevents the Muslim world from establishing normal relations with the rest of the world." Indonesia, Malaysia and Turkey are examples of moderate Islamic nations.
According to Bat Ye'or, the motivation for jihad was fomented around the 8th century by Muslim theologians after the death of Muhammad and led to the conquest of large swaths of three continents over the course of a long history. It's based on the simple, yet treacherous idea that non-Muslims are not equal to the people of Allah, she says. Under the fundamentalist prescriptions of jihad, it is Muslims' duty to conquer infidels, take their land. "They don't see it as an aggressive war, but as a war of self-defense. Muslims are taking back what god has promised them."
David Gil, professor and director of the Center for Social Change at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, expressed discomfort with Bat Ye'or's statements, pointing out "this ideology is not unique" to Islam. Judaism and other religions also have fundamentalist sects.
"I don't believe in putting all ideology into the same bag," replied Bat Ye'or. "There is no symmetry here. This is an ideology of world conquest. You don't have that in Judaism. Nor does it exist in Christianity." In the case of Christians, who colonized people all over the world, she said, they eventually came to see their actions as wrong. "It took a long time, but they apologized," she said, just as they've apologized for anti-Semitism. The Muslim world, on the other hand, "has not recognized it has oppressed people."
Others in the audience wanted to know how non-Muslims should react towards Muslims, asking, "how can we tell whether they support jihad ideology" or a liberal Islam?
"We cannot know," replied Bat Ye'or. "This ideology has been around for centuries. It will take decades" to remove it.
But she encouraged people to engage with Muslims. "If we speak about it, Muslims will show us whether they support it."
Ultimately, said Bat Ye'or, we must work towards building respect among Muslims, Christians and Jews. And that can only happen with education, and a continued adherence to American values of "plurality of culture, race, equality, freedom of thought and speech -- all of which are negated by jihad."
"America is a privileged place. America is strong. America can lead this battle," she said.