Friday, September 15, 2006

More on the Caliphate

It would appear that others have noticed the barefaced example of terminological inexactitude on which I commented yesterday and, further, have followed David T's most excellent advice. The Times has seen fit to print three of the resulting letters.
 
The first, from Katherine Barlow, questions whether, historically, caliphates have displayed the properties that Mr Waheed expects a modern version to exhibit and notes the historical concept of the special tax for non-Muslims:
Minorities were never treated as full citizens in caliphates. Some forced Jews and Christians to wear identifiable visible insigna, excluded them from educational and government posts and, subjected them to a jizyra (shame tax) which, sometimes between 80-150 per cent of the unbeliever's income, was intended as a punitive measure that would eventually force conversion in order to survive.
A fair point and well put, but the historical nature of the Caliphate is irrelevant to the manner in which HuT would like it to be set up today.
 
The second is a somewhat mixed bag. Theodora Nurick quotes from "The Greek Fathers" by Adrian Fortescue - no link, I'm afraid: this appears now to be out of print - to support the idea that the caliphate was a pretty good thing:
The khalifahs . . . were neither unjust nor harsh to their Christian subjects. And we find that the tolerance of these khalifahs, though it did not go as far as putting unbelievers on an equal footing with Muslims, allowed both Christians and Jews to fill important places and often to amass great fortunes.
There is no doubt that Islam went through a very tolerant period and that that very tolerant period was largely contemporaneous with Islam's ascendancy and greatest contribution to civilisation and learning. I will leave it to others to discuss the direction of causation.
 
But even our correspondent here cannot bring himself to agree with the original assertion that a modern day caliphate would be a state where "minorities are treated as full citizens"
 
The second part of the quote is similarly tendentious:
"The life of our saint (John of Damascus) will show us the curious sight of a Christian father of the Church protected from a Christian emperor and able to attack that emperor's heresy without fear, because he lived under a Muslim khalifah."
You don't mean to say? A Muslim Caliph would, entirely out of the goodness of his own heart and desire for the strict observance of the freedom of religion, allow dissidents of a competing empire to operate to undermine said competing empire? I can't possibly see any other benefit that might accrue to him for allowing that sort of thing to go on.
 
The third letter is equally interesting. It is from a Mr Ibrahim Faizal who, it is fairly safe to assume from the text of his letter, is a Muslim himself.
Your correspondent claims that millions of Muslims want a caliphate. I do not want one. No Muslim I know wants one.
Short of some decent opinion polling data, let us at least grant that there is "division within the ranks" as to the desirability of a return of a Caliphate. Division within the ranks of Muslims that is, let alone any of the rest of us - a point neatly skipped over by Mr Waleed.
 
However, Mr Faizal is prepared to go further and provide a bit of real world analysis to support his thesis. What would actually happen and what sort of state would the Caliphate actually turn out to be? The answer, as far as Mr Faizal is concerned, is a clusterphuque of the first water:
If the Shia and the Sunni cannot agree on a president, how in the world can they accept a caliph?
Ouch.
 
This is all good stuff but all three missed the main point: Mr Waleed was lying through his teeth. The greatest argument against the Caliphate is that its most active proponents are very obviously dishonest to the core. None of the letters, or at least the letters published, showed that this is undeniably the case.

7 comments:

james higham said...

...There is no doubt that Islam went through a very tolerant period and that that very tolerant period was largely contemporaneous with Islam's ascendancy and greatest contribution to civilisation and learning...

Yes, this is so and particularly over in my neck of the woods here. Then it all turned sour and naturally the muslims put that down to fear of the Ottomans and so on.

On another matter - today's business - you are in very grave danger, sir, of being accused of being an absolute gentleman. Promise I'll never intentionally split an infinitive again.

james higham said...

...Those who are guilty of apostasy (murtadd) from Islam are to be executed according to the rule of apostasy, provided they have by themselves renounced Islam...

See what you mean.

dearieme said...

"very tolerant period was largely contemporaneous with Islam's ascendancy and greatest contribution to civilisation and learning": some argue that that was a period dominated by Persians who paid lip service to Islam and took more interest in Greek Philosophy, Persian Poetry, Wine, Women and Song.

The Pedant-General in Ordinary said...

James,

No probs. Blimmin' Blogger.

Your second comment: is that meant to be here or the earlier post? Or would you like to elaborate?

dearieme,

That was rather my point.

Do you have in mind some other definition of "tolerant"?

qtaqudah: Preposition: An indication of the direction in which one might find the waiting area prior to gaining admission to the "pre-entry reception line" to some attraction or other.

Usage:
Visitor to Alton Towers (or somesuch - for our American cousins, substitute "Universal Studios" or "DisneyLand" or equivalent hellhole): Good Sir! I am most anxious to avail myself of a trip upon your magnificent "MegaDeth Brain Kruncher (tm)" horseless carriage ride. I understand that there is a substantial waiting line. Could you direct me there?"

Greeter (for it is he), pointing vaguely in the general direction of a demoralised and squalid mob: "qtaqudah"

james higham said...

P-G, you twist my brain round with in the general direction of a demoralised and squalid mob: "qtaqudah". You sure you haven't joined Coleridge on the substances? 'See what you mean' was a reference to Mr. Waleed and his happy departures form the truth.

By the way, i was deserted completely by the Brits yesterday. Was there some major event going on over there, such as an Iain Dale list?

dearieme said...

'Do you have in mind some other definition of "tolerant"?' Well, I don't think that it must necessarily mean "Do what you like, matey, I'm only faking this Islam stuff anyway."

DavidP said...

If the Shia and the Sunni cannot agree on a president, how in the world can they accept a caliph?

Simple. The Shi'a don't really have a place in the Caliphate. They are apostates, almost as bad as the Jews.

Oops, perhaps we shouldn't have told them that yet.