13 July 2009

Rights of the Rayah.

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While perusing 19th century numbers of The Contemporary Review for an unrelated purpose, your faithful correspondent happened upon an article that throws interesting light on Muslim attitudes towards non-believers. “The Constantinople Massacre and its Lesson” (McColl, C. 1895. Contemp. Rev. 68: 744-760) recounts the murder by urban mobs and police of Armenians demonstrating against the persecution of their co-religionists in the Turkish countryside. What is so interesting about this essay, which was written some twenty years before the fact, is its description of the context in which the subsequent genocide would transpire. Here are some particulars that may be compared with conditions today in countries such as Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia:

  1. The term “Rayah,” we learn, “is the common designation of Christians, Jews and Parsees in Turkey. It means a flock – very appropriately, since the non-Mussulman [non-Muslim] subjects of the Sultan are regarded and treated by their rulers as a flock of defenceless [sic] sheep, whose raison d’etre is to be fleeced or slaughtered at the discretion of their masters.”

  2. “The sacred law of Islam forbids the murder of a Rayah who has paid his yearly ransom for the right to live and is otherwise innocent; but it declares … that if, nevertheless, a true believer should deliberately kill a Rayah the murderer is not to be punished in any way.”

  3. “Purely Christian evidence is inadmissible, and a Muslim will not give evidence in favor of a Christian against a true believer;”

  4. “They [non-Muslims] are forbidden to have arms of any kind.”

  5. “They [non-Muslims] are obliged by law to give three days’ gratuitous hospitality to any Mussulman official or traveler who demands it: … from a pasha to a beggar.”

  6. “The [non-Muslim] peasantry pay their taxes in kind, which amounts in all to more than 60 per cent of the produce.”

  7. “Rayahs are … subject to forced labour at the bidding of the local authorities and landlords.”

  8. “They [non-Muslims] are required to wear a peculiar dress, to mark them off from the Muslims.”

  9. “They [non-Muslims] are forbidden to ride horses, but may ride donkeys, from which, however, they must dismount when they meet a Muslim.”

  10. “By the unchangeable law of Islam, Jews are forbidden to build synagogues and Christians churches. They may repair old buildings, but on the same site and of the same dimensions. And even for this they must obtain a firman [administrative order] from Constantinople. … The churches must have no bells, for fear of offending the religious sensibilities of the Mussulmans; and for the same reason there must be no singing inside churches or synagogues, or lamentation or singing at funerals.”

  11. “Apostasy from Islam is death alike to converter and converted. On the other hand, it is a penal crime for a Jew or Christian to dissuade a friend or relation from becoming a Mohammedan.”

  12. “The most opprobrious language is applied in official language and courts of justice to Christians and Jews. They are called ‘dogs’ and ‘pigs,’ and in burial certificates … are said not to be ‘dead,’ but ‘damned.’ … Here is a burial certificate, attested by a British Ambassador.
    ‘We certify to the priest of the Church of Mary (in Armenia) that the impure, putrid, stinking carcase of ________, damned this day, may be concealed under ground.’” [Emphasis added]

In 1895, the Ottoman Empire still included European territories west of the capital, much of North Africa, the Levant, as well as the livable fringes of the Arabian Desert. So it is difficult to argue that the conditions described by McColl were restricted to some Anatolian backwater.

Since 9-11, Muslim attitudes toward, and treatment of, non-believers have been the subject of much discussion. What brought this correspondent up sharp was, not the above-listed particulars, with which he was largely familiar - see, for example, a recent speech by Geert Wilders (photograph above) linked here or, more extensively, The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam - but their enumeration in an essay published long before contemporary Jihadist invective against Great and Little Satans. For those who would portray the Caliphate’s would-be resurrectors as outside Islamic cultural and religious norms, McColl’s essay offers sobering counterpoint.
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12 July 2009

The Precautionary Principle Cuts Both Ways.

As in revolutionary times, the rattlesnake is again a symbol of popular resistance to intrusive authority; likewise, the motto, "Don't tread on me." Displayed at the left is a reptilian rejoinder to calls for draconian sacrifice in the name of "saving the planet."

This correspondent believes that the theory of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) will likely go the way of the aether, that it will be remembered as the most spectacular example of model failure in physics since William Thomson (later Lord Kelvin) first calculated the age of the earth to be less than 100 million years - see, for example, J. Burchfield, Lord Kelvin and the Age of the Earth (1990) or, more recently, Professor William Happer's testimony to the US Senate Committee on Energy and Public Works in February, 2009.

The problem with AGW is not that the experts are probably wrong. In one way or another all scientific theories are wrong, the only questions being to what degree and the time required for the deficiencies to out. Like life itself, scientific theories are products of descent with modification. Indeed, the scientific method — the articulation of hypotheses, their experimental evaluation and their inevitable reformulation or replacement by ideas that better iterate to the data — is nothing more than variation and selection, the principle drivers of organic evolution. Nor is the problem that proponents of AGW sometimes cut corners. Scientists are attached to their ideas, which they tend to regard in much the same way that the rest of mankind thinks of its children. To the contrary, the problem with AGW is that that it is science conflated with ideology, historically a toxic brew, and that it has been seized upon as a device for promoting agendas that have little to do with science and everything to do with the acquisition of money, power and influence. That much of the scientific community has either endorsed these efforts or watched mute from the sidelines is a stain on the profession. More practically, should ice, not fire, be in our future, the consequences of carbon abatement will be death and suffering on a planetary scale.

Fallen Angels — a parable for our times?
Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Michael Flynn may well have called the shot nearly twenty years ago in Fallen Angels — a tale set in a time of future solar inactivity and global cooling, when advancing glaciers grind cities to rubble even as the Green Gestapo enforces stringent laws designed to curtail carbon emissions. Fallen Angels is arguably not on a par with the best of its authors' productions: Ringworld, The Mote in God's Eye, etc. But, given the empirical correlation of variations in the sun's output and terrestrial climate and the delayed (possibly aborted) start of solar cycle 24, it may nonetheless prove remarkable for its prescience. The precautionary principle cuts both ways. Dig it!
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