Unmasking dhimmitude – the significance of Islam for Christians and Israel today

Andrew Tucker Saturday 2 January 2010 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share by email Printer friendly

The revival of Islam throughout the world presents the Church today with an enormous challenge, a challenge which so far it has failed to either understand or respond to in a satisfactory way. In his new book The Third choice – Islam, dhimmitude and freedom, Australian theologian, author, activist and Anglican priest Dr. Mark Durie argues that this challenge is deeply related to the concept of dhimmmitude, a notion that lies at the heart of the Islam.

In countries or regions ruled by Islamic governments, non-Muslims basically have three choices. First, they can accept Islam and become Muslims. If they refuse to do so, they should either be killed, or (the ”third choice”) they can choose to become dhimmis. There is no other way. Dhimmis are those who voluntarily accept the position of dhimmitude, an Islamic institution offered to non-Muslims under jihad conditions. In essence, dhimmis are second-class citizens in an Islamic society.

In her preface, Bat Ye’or (author of many books including Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis (2005), Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide (2001)), introduces this important book as follows:

“Durie exposes in clear language the multi-dimensional aspects of dhimmitude, a concept that pertains to a fourteen-centuries old civilization, birthed through jihad, and structured in accordance with the strict requirements of the Sharia….

Too few Westerners grasp that the concept of dhimmitude is crucial to understanding the relationship between Islam and non-Islam. As Durie argues, through a conspiracy of silence, the heads of state, church and community leaders, universities and media smother its reality under a blanket of ignorance. With numerous examples, the author denounces this intimidated concealment, which, he affirms, is undermining Western Judeo-Christian civilization and is contrary to human freedom and dignity….

[T]his specific type of evil is not something of the past, something that its promoters have renounced or agreed to relinquish; rather, this violation of human psychological and physical rights continues to develop freely in local and international politics, whether by violent jihadist threats and terrorism, or through entrenched and chronic religious discrimination.”

The best part of the book is devoted to a thorough review of the history of Islam over the past 14 centuries, an assessment of the current revival of Islam worldwide, and a textual analysis of Islamic literature. Durie analyses the life of Muhammad, and traces the historical development of Islam to the present day. He provides a detailed but clear overview of the basic literary sources of Islam, and how they are understood and interpreted within the different Islamic streams of thought. As such, it is a valuable tool for all Christians seeking to gain a better understanding of the phenomenon of Islam.

Dr. Mark Durie is well placed to do so. He is a theologian, human rights activist and pastor of an Anglican church. He has published many articles and books on the language and culture of the Acehnese, Christian-Muslim relations and religious freedom. A graduate of the Australian National University and the Australian College of Theology, he has held visiting appointments at the University of Leiden, MIT, UCLA and Stanford, and was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities in 1992.

While based on extensive research, and containing many detailed notes and references, the book is intended for the average reader and is written in an accessible style. For the lay reader there is a useful Glossary of Arabic Terms, and for those interested in further research the author has compiled an extensive Bibiography. The book contains a detailed index.

Durie demonstrates that at the heart of Islam is the notion of rejection: rejection of all those who do not submit to the demands of Muhammad. Rejection was a key factor in Muhammad’s own personal development, and as a result has characterized Islam ever since. It lies at the heart of Islamic culture today. It has resulted in Muslims themselves adopting an attitude of “victimhood”, which, amongst other things, influences the conduct of Islamic government leaders in international relations. It has also led to the systematic oppression of non-Muslims over the centuries, and especially Jews and Christians. It is this attitude of rejection, asserts Durie, that all people, and in particular the Church, must understand and oppose:

”People of many faiths and none need to find freedom from the age-old legacy of the dhimma, and Moslims too, for dhimmitude degrades oppressors and oppressed alike. This book is therefore dedicated to the healing and freedom of all those who have fallen within the reach of dhimmitude, whatever their religious convictions, non-Muslim and Muslim alike.”

Dhimmi church leaders
Durie argues, in effect, that our understanding of, and response to, Islam tells us a lot about our understanding of our own identity as Christians. He recounts many alarming stories in the book that to my mind sum up the appalling failure (refusal?) of Church leaders to date to either understand Islam or respond in a meaningful way. They have unwittingly adopted a dhimmi attitude towards Islam, and in so doing betray a deep misunderstanding of their own identity as Christians and the calling of the Church in this world. For example:

•    “In March 2003, Archbishop Frank Griswold, leader of the American Episcopalian church, was interviewed for an Islamic website www.soundvision.com. He stated that the US should not be a superpower but a “super-servant”. This well-meaning but naïve statement was consequently reproduced on a number of American Muslim websites, and applauded as a victory of Islam over Christianity.”
•    “In 2007 a letter entitled A Common Word between Us and You was addressed by 138 Muslim scholars to the Christian world. A group of Yale theologians responded by placing a full-page advertisement in The New York Times, which was endorsed by 300 Christian leaders including Yonggi Cho, Bill Hybels, Robert Schuller, Rick Warren and John Stott. “Consistent with the worldview of dhimmitude, the Yale theologians adopted a tone of grateful self-humiliation and self-inculpation, using expressions such as:

  • ‘it is with humility and hope that we receive your generous letter’;
  • the Muslims’ letter was ‘extraordinary’ and written in ‘generosity’;
  • ‘we ask forgiveness of the All-Merciful One and of the Muslim community around the world’.

No comparable expressions of humble gratitude or expression of guilt were offered from the Muslim side. No doubt the Christians believed they were relating from a position of strength, by invoking Christian virtues of humility and self-examination. However they appear not to have taken account of the dynamics of dhimmitude and the possibility that these statements could be understood by Muslims as a display of self-acknowledged inferiority.

Ironically, while this dialogue was being conducted on the pages of the New York Times, the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic thought, which had initiated and hosted the Common Word process on the Muslim side, was broadcasting fatwas on its website by its Chief Scholar which condemned converts from Islam to Christianity as apostates, characterizing them as deserving of death or else they should be stripped of all legal rights and treated legally as non-persons (because they ought to be dead).”

Dhimmitude, the Jews and Israel
This book is also important in that it exposes how Islam is so fundamentally rooted in its rejection of the Jewish people, and that this attitude still informs the approach of Muslims today towards Israel and the Jewish people. Although in some times and places their treatment was more humane than in others, Jews and Christians have always been treated as dhimmis. It is this same basic philosophy that underlies the attitude of the Muslim world towards the State of Israel, and why so many Muslims ultimately cannot accept the notion of a Jewish State.

One begins to understand why Yasser Arafat in 2000 at Camp David was unable to accept the offer by Prime Minister Barak for over 95% of the West Bank. Had he done so he would have faced certain death at the hands of his own Muslim supporters.

Durie challenges the claim of historian Bernard Lewis that Islamic hostility towards Jews is a cultural and not a theological issue. Durie: “Islamic hostility to the Jews is theological to its bootstraps…. Lewis’s astounding claim … has been relied on by many Western intellectuals, corrupting their understanding of Islamic history.”

Durie’s book is a powerful warning to both Christian and secular leaders to confront the reality of Islam, and not to adopt a dhimmi attitude of submission. This requires holding onto the truth while acting in love.

”Love for the other and truth are two attributes to be held together, the one complementing the other. Truth without love can be harsh and even cruel, but love without truth can be equally dangerous, as, lacking discernment, it steers the soul into shipwreck after shipwreck. Neither of these alternatives is acceptable.”

The Third Choice – Islam, dhimmitude and freedom is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand Islam and what it means for the Church and Israel today.

The Third Choice: Islam, dhimmitude and freedom by Mark Durie ©2010


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16 Comments to “Unmasking dhimmitude – the significance of Islam for Christians and Israel today”

  1. L. Cunningham says:

    Truly the compelling evidence around us indicates that we are living in a dark and dying world, and as predicted in the Bible, Satan is like a roaring beast, seeking whom he may devour. Nothing is more evil than a false religion that seeks to gain supporters by fear, intimidation, and violence, and Satan must take a special delight in those he has deceived and is using as tools to do his evil work in our world. They wish to spread their flawed view of God and encourage others to accept a religion of destruction and death. No one in their sound, rational mind would fall for this, unless they have a hopeless attitude toward life and are like an empty mental sponge that soaks up anything that is presented to it.

    The ignorance and naivety of so many Americans r.e. Islam is appalling. Anyone who takes the time to research history and the Quran, knows that this is a false religion that seeks to either destroy or assimilate dissenters. Islam’s view of God is based on fear, rejection, and violence, rather than love and mercy and it (Islam) grows best in intellectual and spriritual darkness rather than in the light of the knowledge of God which produces discernment.

    Those of us who have studied and now know what the last chapter of God’s plan for human civilization predicts, (specifically those of us who have accepted Christ as personal Savior and Lord) can rest our hope in the knowledge that one day every knee will bow, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord! I look forward to that day when every vestige of darkness associated with powerful false religions will be swept away into the place prepared for those who reject Jesus Christ as the Messiah and Son of God. Then Scripture tells us that God will say, “Depart from me, I never knew you” and the air will be filled with sounds of wailing and knashing of teeth. The good news is that many Muslims are seeing “visions” and some at the risk of their personal lives and fortunes, are turning to the true God. We can pray that many of them will come to know Christ as Savior before they pass on out into eternity and the shock of a totally virginless territory. As bad as the “cancer” of false religion seems in the world today, God is still on his throne and one day will settle the scores and literally will “rid the earth of this awful disease”.

    God bless Dr. Mark Durie who have prepared this report. I know it was done with integrity and bravery in spite of the enemies of the truth.


  2. Brad says:

    Criticism of Islam is forbidden in the Islamic world. I wonder how that is enforced?

    Mark Durie has written a very important book at a turning point in our history. It may be the most important book ever written on Islam. (Read what Ravi Zacharias has written about it.)

    I feel so strongly about Mark’s book that I’ve been loaning it to people after showing them the dvd “The Third Jihad.” Am I spreading fear?

    What many Christians have failed to understand is that they are spreading cowardliness. Courage is gained when a problem is acknowledged and then faced. The spread of radical Islam is a problem that is not going away. And whether we like it or not we will have to face this issue.

    The Third Jihad is a good way to introduce people to the topic as much of it is about Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, a moderate Muslim who has dedicated his life to exposing radical Islam.

    Since our journalists, academics and politicians have treated us like small children who cannot be trusted with frightening truths we must take it on ourselves to address this issue. We must spread the word about Mark’s book and go out of our way to befriend Muslims.

    May God give us the courage and wisdom to address the issue.






  5. Isn’t the initial commenter speaking the truth or what??

  6. Yasmin says:

    i just have one question,ohh by the way i live in a Muslim country, and non Muslims here are treated with the same treatment as Muslims them selfs?!!!! wake up people from where do you get all the fairy tails? JIHAD!! dig deeper in history please, and flash news Islam has a very concrete and accurate verse that is no compulsion in religion why is that because from their point, God grants the gift of faith and he doesn’t need any of us we are the ones who need him “please wake up and smell the coffee

  7. hammad says:

    why hisbulla,why hamas,why al kaida, all of them have been created by israel occupation in the arab land if bible is parmited jews to stealing lands so do not blame islam or arabs who fight for their land jihadist have been sesult by european and american for supporting israel to the keep stolen land,israel have build eight meter high wall to protect itself from hamas misiles two meter high then we use to call berlin wall,they call it protection barrier but by deviding the palestine land why not across its official border accordind to united nations,i will tell you why arabs do not reccognise israel is because they does not follow the rules of the united nations that means israel is only country in the world without border then how can you call it as complete country? israelis live in peace now with their arab neighbour then in europe during the hitler days but their propaganda and idiology is keeping our world in danger so thenks to them as choosen or special people. is israelis who have no faith on themself by killing the man who was going to bring real peace between arab and jews ex prime minister yishak rabbin. then throwing his succesor shimon peres and elect a person who is against the piece hardliner and jihadist benjamin netanyahu.

  8. Ruti says:

    Dhimmitude is dummytude! There is a fourth choice – prayers of power that shake nations and save those around them from evil.

    Christians need to love muslims & others but hate all evil created by false religion. This evil includes the persecution of countless brothers and sisters overseas, whether in islamic countries, communist nations or elsewhere. It includes all murder and hatred of people whether incited by a religious book or by wicked politicians.

    Sadly despite the alleged ‘lack of compulsion’ in religion, former muslims are often disowned and maltreated, in some cases, killed by their own families and communities. This has not been confined to one small period of history, but has been consistent down the ages and across all nations where islam is dominant.

    Why are we saying peace, peace when there is no peace? Murdering a family member does not look like peace to me!

  9. Tolhas P. Sitanggang says:

    I wanna to know situstion in Israel. May send to my e-mail.
    And i have paper what is Muhhamad and Jesus Christ.

  10. Alloptionsonthetable says:

    What a ridiculous rant. There are Jews, Christians, and Hindus living in every Muslim majority country I am aware of. Where are you getting this bogus nonsense from? How can you make these blanket statements that use guilt by religious association to terrorists? This fear mongering will not bring peace because it propagates irrational fear and demonizes entire countries and regions of the world with no basis in reality. Get over yourself and come live in the real world with the rest of us. A world where out of 1.5+ billion Muslims, there may be some people opposed to international and their own countries policies and injustices, (as there is in all countries), and then a smaller group who would consider acting on their opposition, and of those, very few, what, maybe 100,000 the world over who would act in an extremist or violent manner. Islam is not a religion of hate nor are modern Muslim countries as described in this piece. Sociopaths and mentally ill and violent people exist in every country. Muslim countries have no monopoly on screwed up people, that is for sure. And Muslims do not have any propensity to violence different from the rest of us. Over 1.4 billion peaceful Muslims are proof enough for me that there is too much fear over “here”, and not enough rational thought about living peacefully with people over “there”.

  11. M.Kabir Ud Din Nawaz says:

    This is a very false concept of dimmitude. In the traditional setup Dhimmis were given three alternatives either to accept Islam, or join Muslim armed forces or pay the jizya tax. Weak and poor were exempted from jizya. Hadith of Muhammad(S.A.W) is:
    Whoso ever oppresses non-Muslim or uses force unjustly against him will find me their advocate on the day of judgement
    Examples were set in the period of Rightly guided caliphs how Dhimmis should be treated. The punisment of killing in Sharia is same as killing a Muslim. Even today where ever you go in Muslim world Dhimmis are treated by great honour. The churches and and property of Dhimmis are responsiblity of state. Records have shown that funds have been given to churches and poor dhimmies.
    Islam is the religion of peace and does not allows people to terrify others until oneself is in danger or under threat.

  12. Kees de Vreugd says:

    Thank you, mr. Nawaz. I wish it were true. From what happens with Christians in Pakistan or Iran, to mention just a few countries, I get a different impression.

  13. Mark Durie says:

    Mr Ud Din Nawaz – I humbly submit that you are sadly mistaken on several points. Muhammad himself said the three choices were conversion, surrender or the sword.
    Also many Islamic scholars make clear that it is illegal under sharia law to kill a Muslim for putting a non-Muslim to death, although the punishment for killing a Muslim is death.
    So it is not the same punishment in Sharia. No, records do not show that Islamic authorities have normally or even often given funds to churches or poor dhimmies, but there are many examples of appropriation of churches and the property of dhimmies by Muslims. I wish your words were true. But they are not.

  14. A Christian Believer says:

    Hundreds of Christian dhimmies are kidnapped, raped and forcibly married in Pakistan, every year. The police who are of the same religion as the kidnappers, do nothing. It happens, too, in Egypt. Please, don’t say the Dhimmies are respected. They are not, Yasmin. (Muslims don’t like it if their book is criticised, but feel free to do so to everyone else’s holy books, Hammad); let us remember that through jihad all of North Africa was taken from the Byzantine Church, at the point of the sword, by Arab Muslims. The church was eradicated in those lands. Much of Iraq was Christian; so, too, Egypt and Syria. Many countries speak Arabic and are Muslim throughout the Middle East, because of the Muslim armies that came out of Saudi Arabia, in the seventh century. Their populations were FORCED to convert to Islam; the dhdimmitude belief has gradually and systematically destroyed the Christians. Their churches are not allowed to be repaired, let alone be built; they are frequently burned down and destroyed, Yasmin. Why have two prominent Pakistani politicians been killed, recently, for speaking out in favour of those weak ones of the dhimminitude.

  15. Asad khan says:

    Christians and the jews OK,where stand the hindus in the scenareo presented by the learned author–and the muslim minority of simultaneously very religious and politically secular india.

  16. Norman Shannon says:

    The appalling lack of knowledge displayed by Nawaz, Yasmin and Alloptions, both with respect to what the Koran teaches and the documented examples of the rape, torture, murder and continued harassment of Non-Muslims (especially Christians) in Egypt, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan etc, is simply staggering. May I suggest that before they contribute to such forums as this that they do some homework. It appears that they are living in a dream world where they do not think such atrocities could possibly happen or that they have been so brainwashed by propaganda that they have swallowed the whole “Islam is a religion of peace” nonsense.

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