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Jacques Ellul's View of Islam & Dhimmitude
By Rev. Bassam M. Madany
June, 2009
http://www.unashamedofthegospel.org/jacques_ellul.cfm During the latter part of the twentieth century, I became aware of the writings of theFrench scholar Jacques Ellul. Two of his works,
“The Technological Society”
 (reflecting his sociological analysis) and
“The Meaning of the City”
(his Christiantestimony,) illustrate his deep convictions in the two fields of sociology and theology.However, I am more deeply indebted to the late Professor Ellul for his invaluableexposition of the global challenge of Islam, which he enunciated in two “Introductions”to books by Bat Ye’or. Most recently he wrote a
to her book 
“The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude,”
which was publishedin 1996. He gave a brief, but poignant analysis of a subject that, prior to the publishing of Ye’or’s books, had received very little attention in the West.A decade earlier, Professor Ellul contributed a frank analysis of the shocking nature of 
in a Preface to Bat Ye’or’s
“The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under  Islam” 
 published in
1985. It is this Preface that I will review below.Prior to my “discovery” of Bat Ye’or’s works
I had read three books in English on the plight of 
(Christians and Jews) under Islam. One was Edward Wakin’s,
“ALonely Minority: The Modern Story of Egypt's Copts.”
 New York: William Morrow& Company, 1963.Fifteen years later, I read with appreciation Robert B. Betts’ book,
“Christians in theArab East: A Political Study,”
Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1978, in which he describedthe desperate condition of the Arabic-speaking Christians in the Middle East.Then, the Anglican Bishop and Arabist, Kenneth Cragg, dealt at length with the subjectin
“The Arab Christian: A History in the Middle East.”
Louisville, KY:Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991.Professor Ellul began his discussion of 
 by pointing to the sensitive nature of the subject. Islam’s leaders have never regarded their treatment of non-Muslims as a problem. In fact they claim that the populations which were overcome by the
 (conquests) were treated in a kindly manner and granted
 Furthermore, until recent times, this whole topic was rather academic, since it dealt withthe past when Islam ruled great areas of the world under the successive caliphates of theUmayyads, the Abbasids, and the Ottoman Turks. But soon after WWII, things began tochange. As Professor Ellul put it,
“That which was related to Islam and the Muslim world was believed to belong to a past that, if not dead, was certainly no more alive than medieval Christianity… And then, suddenly, since 1950, everything changed completely.” 
It is true that
 Kemal Ataturk 
abolished the Caliphate in 1924, and established the secular Republic of Turkey, but his action was not well-received throughout the rest of theMuslim world. In India, for example, the movement of 
i.e. the re-establishmentof the Caliphate arose; a phenomenon that showed the unwillingness of Indian Islam tolive without the symbol of the unity of the Umma. So, when the British Raj was about togrant independence to India, its Muslim leaders demanded that the country be partitioned between Muslims and Hindus. Jacques Ellul pointed to the tragic events thataccompanied the birth of Pakistan, an event of tremendous importance in the modernrenaissance of political Islam:
“One ought not to forget that the terrible war of 1947 in India between the Muslimsand Hindus was fought on a purely religious basis. More than one million people died,and since massacres had not taken place when the Muslims had lived within the Hindu-Buddhist orbit, one may presume that the war was caused by the attempt to set up an independent Islamic republic.” 
This latent Islamic imperialistic impulse expressed itself as Muslims began to flex their economic muscles thanks to their control and exploitation of the major sources of  petroleum.
“It has transformed the face of the world in less than half a century. And we are now witnessing a vast program to propagate Islam, involving the building of mosqueseverywhere.” 
At present, to speak about the evils of 
is no longer acceptable. The momentone broaches this subject strong feelings are easily aroused among Muslims. Nevertheless, we cannot remain silent about an institution that has impacted the lives of millions of non-Muslims during the last 1400 years. Having set forth the context for thediscussion of 
Jacques Ellul proceeded to explain the value of Bat Ye’or’s book:
“It is within this context that Bat Ye’or’s book, The Dhimmi should be placed: and it isan exemplary contribution to this crucial discussion that concerns us all. Here I shall neither give an account of the book nor praise its merits, but shall simply indicate itsimportance. The dhimmi is someone who lives in a Muslim society without being a Muslim (Jews, Christians, and occasionally "animists"). He has a particular social, political, and economic status, and it is essential for us to know how this "refractory" person has been treated.” 
The trouble with
is that it is rooted in a Qur’anic tradition, and was codifiedin the legal arrangements that covered every aspect of the lives of non-Muslims livingwithin
 Daru’l Islam.
It cannot be altered or changed without doing violence to the veryessence of Islam. Non-Muslims do not and cannot have the same rights as Muslims. By
3their very persistence in remaining as non-believers living under the rule of their Muslimconquerors, they give evidence to their stubbornness and faithlessness. Thus a non-Muslim is regarded as a
(non-believer) or a
(a term reserved for Christianswho, in the Muslims’ view, believe in three gods.)When writing on the subject of 
, one has to do more thandiscuss the etymological meaning of the Arabic word; for it is inaccurate to claim that itdesignates the status of “protection” for Christians and Jews living under Islam. It is notan inherent right for a Christian, a Jew, or a Zoroastrian; in Islam, it remains
a given or a granted right 
that can be revoked any time! This is a very important point that Ellulmakes:
“However, the dhimmi itself is a controversial subject. This word actually means“protégé” or “protected person.” This is one of the arguments of the modern defendersof Islam: the dhimmi has never been persecuted or maltreated (except accidentally); onthe contrary, he was a protected person. What better example could illustrate Islam’sliberalism. Here are people who do not accept Islam and, instead of being expelled,they are protected…When this “stranger” lives in Islamic countries, the answer canonly be:[protected] against the Muslims themselves.” 
After dealing with the criticisms of some Western scholars of Bat Ye’or’s
“TheDhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam,”
Professor Ellul ended his Preface withthese words:
“If I have dealt with the criticisms at some length, it is because I feel that is important in order to establish the “scholarly” nature of this book. For my part, I consider this study to be very honest, hardly polemical at all, and as objective as possible (alwaysbearing in mind the fact that I belong to the school of historians for whom pureobjectivity, in the absolute sense, cannot exist). The Dhimmi contains a rich selectionof source material, makes a correct use of documents, and displays a concern to placeeach situation in its proper historical context… The Muslim world has not evolved inits manner of considering the non-Muslim, which is a reminder of the fate in store for those who may one day be submerged within it. It is a source of enlightenment for our time.” 
Jacques Ellul’s concluding words sounded an alarm not only for his fellow-Frenchcitizens, but for all the European states where large numbers of Muslims have settled, andaltered the social and political landscape. He died in 1994 at the age of 82, before seeingYe’or’s latest book,
another great work on the subject of Islam and the West. Nevertheless, we remain greatly indebted to the introductory “essays” he contributed tothe two books of our expert on
the indefatigable Bat Ye’or. I look forward to more writing from her. Her output thus far has been most enlightening andhas helped immensely in informing her readers about one of the most important subjectsof our twenty-first century.

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