Since 9/11 the concept of dhimmitude – first elaborated in the 1970’s and initially known only to a handful of specialists – has become widely recognized as its complexities and implications have been investigated and popularized. The first path breaking, iconoclastic presentations of dhimmitude as an aspect of history are being transformed into rich and diverse analyses of modern history and sociology. Mark Durie’s book belongs to this new trend, but has the added distinctive that it seeks the healing of those affected by dhimmitude.
Although conceived and written with a profound Christian sensitivity, Durie’s book can be read with the greatest profit by people from all persuasions, including atheists. In The Third Choice, the author examines the most crucial challenges of this new century. Today, whoever does not have a clear understanding of the complexities of the word dhimmitude can be considered an illiterate in matters of modern international policy, and blind to present and future realities.
Durie exposes in clear language the multidimensional 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. Dhimmitude has produced endless wars and suffering, and left its mark on countless historical and literary documents. Dhimmitude is the captive history of captive non-Muslim peoples, conquered by jihad and distributed across Africa, Asia and Europe. The author examines with rigorous precision the basic foundations of Islam – the Quran, hadiths, sira and Sharia – and exposes their inner connections with the political, economic and social system of dhimmitude for which they are the basis, and over which they exercise religious guardianship.
The strict scholarly rationalism of the author is particularly evident in the chapter on the theological significance of jizya, the head tax paid by non-Muslims under Islamic rule. Here Durie brings numerous and irrefutable sources illustrating the meaning, implications and religious justification of the jizya, which is the cost paid by non-Muslims for the right to live, albeit in humiliation. The jizya ritual, writes Durie, forces the dhimmi subject – through his participation in it – ‘to forfeit his very head if he violates any of the terms of the dhimma covenant, which has spared his life’. The author sheds new light on the jizya ritual, which he calls an ‘enactment of one’s own decapitation’. His discussion of this virtual beheading brings new depth to the Muslim-non-Muslim relationship. Still today – in the jihad wars throughout the world, or the jihadists’ threats against the West – the jizya’s symbolism expresses a fundamental dimension of the theological and political relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims.
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.
While the author’s study encompasses a wide register of political and legal areas, he does not neglect the human impact of dhimmitude, with its painful manifestations of moral abjection, self-destruction, fear, denial and loss of dignity. Durie reminds us, with compassion and empathy, that scholarly studies on dhimmitude should not mask the physical and moral sufferings of populations living in perpetual denial of their most basic rights and personhood. The dimension of this human tragedy, perpetuated through generations, is a predominant concern of his mission, since he dedicates his book ‘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.’ His purpose is ‘to offer resources for understanding these subjects and the links between them. The ultimate purpose of the book, to which the chapters take the reader in stages, is to offer resources for securing freedom from the legacy of dhimmitude.’
If Durie goes so deeply and consistently to confront dhimmitude, it is because this 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.
For Durie, liberation from dhimmitude requires the rejection of the gratitude and admiration of victims toward their oppressors. Consequently, the author considers it imperative that non-Muslims know Islam. In clear language, free from political correctness, and backed by an impressive scholarly knowledge, he unfolds step-by-step the basic foundations of Islam and exposes their inner correlations with jihad and dhimmitude, two theological and legal Islamic institutions that shape traditional Muslim behavior toward non-Muslims. Moreover, the concealment of dhimmitude confronts us with the moral and political consequences of denying evil. There is a danger, Durie points out, that undiscerning acceptance of a narrative of Muslim victimhood, brought into focus by a doctrinal necessity of Islam, is used as the moral validation of jihad. The appeal to Muslim victimhood as incitement to jihad and dhimmitude against non-Muslims needs to be unmasked, as a step toward world peace.
In wondering how to dismantle dhimmitude, the author provides a discussion of its ideologues and its deniers, and a detailed classification of its diverse manifestations in Muslim countries today, by examining it at different levels. Being a pastor, he is concerned with healing the souls and bodies of numerous present-day victims of jihad; but the more complex wounds also worry him, those that internalize resignation and engender self-debasement.
This book by an Anglican minister brings many innovative views. Durie takes his place among the handful of Christians who have not hidden the common bondage of Jews and Christians in dhimmitude – he even underscores the central significance of Muhammad’s wars against the Jews of Arabia for the development of the jihad-dhimmitude strategy, which was later to be directed against Christians and others. Durie’s book is a milestone in overcoming a long overdue lack of awareness of Christian martyrdom under Islam, as linked to and mirrored in a twin Jewish ordeal still denied by many Christians.
Durie not only provides a strong denunciation of dhimmitude and, thereby a forceful confrontation with its reality, he also offers a path to escape from the tyranny of evil and recover one’s freedom. Throughout this reflection on dhimmitude, the reader is confronted with the question of how to recognize evil, how to live with it while preserving one’s own moral probity, and how to overcome it by developing inner spiritual forces. And while drawing nearer to the oppressed, one also draws nearer to the oppressor and may ask: can victims be healed if they do not go toward their oppressors and try to heal them also? Is this not the existential meaning of suffering, to bring about the healing of the world?