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The Myth of Islamic Tolerance

I much appreciated the publication in BOOKS & CULTUREof Michael Cromartie's interview with me ["The Myth of Islamic Tolerance," September/October]. As I have a very pronounced French accent when speaking English, this would account for problems in the transcription of the interview. I would like to correct three errors.

First, there is a distinction between the avaniasor awarid, which are forms of ransom money, extorted illegally from the dhimmis (Jews and Christians) and their community leaders; and the jizya (poll tax), which has a Qur'anic origin (9:29). If the jizya was not paid, then the laws of jihad resumed, and the dhimmi's life and property—sometimes that of the community—were forfeited. This distinction is explained in my book, The Decline of Eastern Christianity.

Second, the dhimmis' clothes, from head to foot, had to be different from that of Muslims—in texture, shape, and in color. The "enormous collars" mentioned in the interview are a misinterpretation.

Finally, as to the profound intellectual and spiritual ferment in the Islamic world today, I referred to it "In Algeria[not Nigeria], in Egypt, in France, everywhere."

In her interview with Michael Cromartie, Bat Ye'or stated that a "myth of Islamic tolerance" has grown up in the twentieth century, which claims that Islamic regimes have historically tolerated Christians and Jews within their lands. The true history of Islamic persecution of dhimmis has been suppressed, she says, because of political and theological considerations: colonial authorities did not want "to antagonize Muslim countries," and Christians there, seeking to integrate themselves into Muslim society, blamed poor Christian-Muslim relations on the Jews. As a result, "We Jews and Christians bear some of the responsibility for the fate of our persecuted fellow believers. We have swept the real history of dhimmitude under the carpet."

Several things about this interview require a response. First, ...

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