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Tuesday, January 11, 2011


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Oh, the lulz...


I love your blog, bas, I don't think you can deny that some conversions were carried out by sword. There have been many great Muslim emperors but some like Timur Lang, Babur, Aurangzeb, etc. did establish their rule by force. Many subjects of Aurangzeb, for instance, were forced to convert because they couldn't afford to pay jizya. Bas, I think as long as you acknowledge the truth that while most conversions were by choice, there were undeniably some by force. And you can also not deny that many people in theocracies like Pakistan, Afghanistan, GCC, etc. are forced to convert if they do not want to be discriminated against. To claim that all conversions are by choice is not being entirely accurate. Many people have found Jesus on their own and many have been lured into finding Jesus (and in the past, many were coerced).


Thanks for the kind words SMS! So glad you enjoy the blog!

I'm definitely *not* denying some conversions were carried out by the sword. Assuming the population of all conversions follows a normal distribution, you'll have the majority of them following a period of exposure, contemplation, perhaps an epiphany or two, realization, then conversion. At the morally positive tail, you'll have the people who converted after hearing just an ayat or two.

Then there's the morally negative tail.

To me, the negative (involuntary) conversions include force, coercion, and peer/social pressure.

The problem for me is that while *some* happened by negative means, they become the focus and the belief that they are the only way people converted is the one that takes hold. This belief is maintained - and propagated - by both detractors of Islam and by some of its proponents, particularly the ones who think it's tough and macho. In other words, the shape of the population is assumed to be heavily skewed toward the negative side.

A common assumption in a born-Muslim/converted-Muslim married couple is that the convert was somehow forced to convert, especially if that member is female. Same thing as above. Why not assume the convert did so out of their own arrival and investigation into whether Islam is their path? Probably because it's more salacious & satisfying to look for a subjugation scandal. (OMG I love alliteration!)

My parents used to run a small weekly Islamic school in our basement, attended by all the Muslim kids in our area. (It's inconceivable now, but back then, we could all fit in the basement. :-) One week, they had us do little skits about topics of our choice. My friends and I, being seven year-old boys bouncing off the walls, naturally chose what we thought was cool - a battlefield scene. We illustrated various things, like the obligation to bring water to anyone, even your wounded opponent, upon request, the importance of forgiveness, and true repentance. Then I thought it would be cool to pretend that we had come across a non-Muslim and said "convert or we'll kill you," arm raised as if I had a sword. Mom and Dad immediately jumped in (with everyone watching, of course) and explained how wrong that was, that a forced conversion was not a true conversion, that the person was doing it to save their lives, not because of the love of God. It's been many decades since, and I still remember that clearly.

My parents also used to mention Christian missionaries who had the Bible in one had and food in the other - conversion by coercion. I'd heard about these groups enough times that even *to this day*, when the opportunity to give money to a Christian aid group comes up, I automatically become suspicious. Am I right to react in that manner? Well, it happened. Should I assume all Christian aid organizations to this day are like that? I've learned that's not always true, and my *wonderful* neighbours, who do volunteer work for the Mennonite Central Committee, are proof I should not tar all the orgs with the same brush.

Regarding jizya, it's worth noting that this topic comes up frequently, as if it was only a sort of penalty tax for being non-Muslim. All states have social services (despite many efforts by people who don't need them to remove them) and a Muslim state was no exception. All Muslims everywhere pay zakat. Healthy and free non-Muslim males under the protection of a Muslim state (a "dhimmi") pay jizya. At various times in history, the exemptions for women, children, aged, sick, etc. were dropped or reinstated.

In return for paying the jizya, non-Muslims received protection by the state, social services, freedom to practice their faith even though they're in an Islamic country, and exemption from military duty. Various sources point out that in some instances the jizya was handled as a social services charity, and in others as a humiliation tax.

Taxes can be onerous or meaningless, depending on income level. No doubt, some people converted to avoid the jizya, but then they'd have to pay zakat.

The jizya was generally a fixed *amount* on a sliding scale based on income - a progressive tax. Interestingly enough, I found no evidence of it being indexed for inflation, so over time, the real value of the jizya decreased. Zakat on the other had, is a fixed *rate* (2.5% of your earnings) so it is inherently indexed for inflation. Becoming Muslim to escape the jizya is therefore not a good long-term fiscal strategy. (That's a joke, kids.)

Bottom line for me: Some conversions were coerced. But I found no evidence to support the contention they were the majority, nor that force was condoned.

Double bottom line for me: The tie is butt-ugly.

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