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Jews in Islamdom

Reader comment on item: Two Decades of the Rushdie Rules
in response to reader comment: I Second The Motion

Submitted by Erich Wieger (United States), Oct 10, 2010 at 19:45

The refrain that Jews under Islamic rule were better off than under Christian Kingdoms should probably be examined. I have not done so, but I did read The History of the Jewish People by Ben Sasson (Harvard U. Press,1096 pages in my edition). It seemed to me at the time I read it, that there must have been comparatively very little to say about the Jewish people under Islamic Caliphates and Emirates. There was the episode of the false Messiah from Smyrna who became a Muslim under threat of death, and many of his followers also converted. I think there was some material from Andalusia, but "the Jewish People" were not evident in any wide spread way, in the History which I read, in Islamdom; though their populations under that system were, they say, greater than under the Christian Kingdoms and Empires. Did they write no history there, or was life as a dhimi people so monotonous that there was not much to write about?

Maybe Ben-Sasson was just not interested...His story line seemed very much to follow the sources and destiny of European Jewry. It made me wonder if the relatively better treatment that is spoken of under Islamdom was that kind of suffocating treatment of being barely tolerated, and having no wiggle room to do much of historical significance as a community. One gets the idea that over time the large Jewish populations under Islam whithered away. Did many of them leave for the West? Or did they just become Muslims? Or did they lose interest in reproducing themselves? The Church under Islam also tends to be a near blank in historical works. It cooperates in its own slow strangulation, punctuated by occasional outbursts of mass violence against it. Great historical things are not done by dhimmi churches, unless they have had a chance to participate in political/military efforts at liberation. That of course, gets very messy. Otherwise, they are famous for survival and endurance of massacres.

Submitting....

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