The Third Choice: Islam, Dhimmitude and Freedom

Mark Durie, Deror Books

Critiquing Islam, some can be so “truthful” they come across as bigoted (one Christian politician wants “no more Muslim immigrants”); others are so “politically correct” they can be guilty of appeasement. Mark Durie, in this well-researched book, works hard to “speak the truth in love”.

An expert on the language and culture of the Acehnese, Dr Durie has published several books and many articles on Christian-Muslim relations.

Throughout Islamic history, conquered peoples could convert to Islam, die by the sword, or accept “dhimmi” (inferior) status and pay tribute under sharia law. A benign explanation of dhimmitude (like Wikipedia’s) emphasises protection and guarantee of minority peoples’ rights.

Mark isn’t so sure. Rather, these subjects — Christians, Jews and others — are often denied basic rights and personhood. Consider, for example, the two million lives lost (many of them Christians) in the Sudanese jihad. In Egypt or Turkey it’s difficult (and in Saudi Arabia impossible) for Christians to get permission to build churches. Many other examples are cited.

Dr Durie tells it like it is. First example:

  • Why do Muslims — one in twenty of Denmark’s population — comprise the majority of the country’s convicted rapists?
  • “Even in non-Muslim societies some Muslims can be aggressive and confrontational in pressing for their rights, and yet take offense when non-Muslims insist on theirs.”
  • Three: “The Muslim world has not to this day apologised to non-Muslims for jihad and dhimmitude. Muslims have not confronted their bitter past.”
  • “The precedents for violence in Muhammad’s life have absolutely no parallels in the life of Christ.”

But what about the Old Testament and the sometimes bloody history of Christian forced conversions and crusades? I’d also have wished for more insights from Muslims living in Western countries (like the mysterious US-based Turkish educator Fethullah Gulen, who asserts that, “Terrorists are as bad as atheists, and both will go to hell”). A fascinating chapter links historic Islamic psychology to episodes of rejection in Muhammad’s life.

It’s a great read and I learned a lot from chasing many of the excellent footnotes on the web.

Rowland Croucher




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