Diplomats annoy me greatly. Typical of diplomat stupidity, Sarah_Ann Smith comes away from her trip in Spain bemoaning all the friction in the world today and states that we should all learn from Spain's Islamic era when everyone got along and was happy! "...Back home, I keep thinking of Spain's experience, contemporary and historical, in all its complexity, and realize that, for better or worse, we're all in this post- Sept. 11 world together - Christian, Muslim, Jew and, yes, secularist. And the only way to genuine peace and security, and freedom from fear, is through tolerant acceptance and appreciation of our differences and mutual encouragement of the best in all our traditions. We could do far worse in this respect than imitating Spain's Islamic era at its best. " Article sounds nice and rosy until you do a quick google search and realize it wasn't everyone getting along by choice, from the BBC Islamic Spain section. It was not as cheerful as it sounded.
"...Jews and Christians were able to thrive under Muslim rule, providing they obeyed certain rules. These rules were not much of a burden by the standards of the time, although they would now be considered completely unacceptable.
There were several reasons why the Muslim rulers tolerated these rival faiths:
- They were monotheistic faiths - so arguably their members were worshipping the same God - despite having some wayward beliefs and practices: most notably the failure to accept the significance of Muhammad (pbuh) and the Qur'an.
- The Christians outnumbered the Muslims, and mass conversion or mass execution was simply not practical. Outlawing and controlling the beliefs of so many people would have been massively expensive.
- Bringing non-Muslims into government provided the rulers with administrators who were loyal (because not attached to any of the various Muslim groups), and who could be easily disciplined or removed if the need arose. One Emir had a Christian as the head of his bodyguard.
- There was clear guidance in the Qur'an that Christians and Jews should be tolerated if they obeyed certain rules.
- Dhimmis and Jizya The Muslim rulers allowed Jews and Christians to live according to their faiths and customs. They were given the status of Dhimmis (or Zimmis), which allowed them some power to organise themselves and freedom of religion.In return (not that they had any choice) the dhimmis had to pay a tax called jizya. If they didn't want to pay it, they could convert to Islam or be executed. This was not as oppressive as it sounds, in that the dhimmis got the full protection of the state in return for their money.
Oppression Not all Muslim rulers were tolerant. Almanzor looted churches and imposed strict restrictions.After the high point of Muslim Spain things got worse. New leaders came from a more aggressive school of Islam and were not disposed to allow the previous freedoms to continue. Christians could not have taller houses than Muslims, could not employ Muslim servants, and had to give way to Muslims on the street.
Christians could not display any sign of their faith outside, not even carrying a Bible. There were persecutions and executions.As the Islamic empire declined, and more territory was taken back by Christian rulers, Muslims in Christian areas found themselves facing similar restrictions to those they had formerly imposed on others."