Professors at U.S. colleges and universities teach some world history and a lot of mythology. Those who speak of a war against terrorism rather than a war against radical Islam put forward a myth of multicultural harmony in medieval Spain among Muslim overlords and Christian or Jewish subjects. Not so, asserts author Darío Fernández-Morera, who shows how Muslims ran a dhimmi system that was a gangster-like protection racket. Christians and Jews had to pay up and accept second-class citizenship. If they rebelled, Muslims could cut off their heads or make their children sexual slaves.
This book aims to demystify Islamic Spain by questioning the widespread belief that it was a wonderful place of tolerance and convivencia of three cultures under the benevolent supervision of enlightened Muslim rulers. As the epigraphs throughout this book illustrate, the nineteenth-century romantic vision of Islamic Spain has morphed into today’s “mainstream” academic and popular writings that celebrate “al-Andalus” for its “multiculturalism,” “unity of Muslims, Christians, and Jews,” “diversity,” and “pluralism,” regardless of how close such emphasis is to the facts. Some scholars of the Spanish Middle Ages have even openly declared an interest in promoting these ideas.
Under the Islamic institution of the dhimma (writ or contract of “protection”), the Christian dhimmis of al-Andalus must pay a special tax, the jizya, for a “protection” intended, as Maliki legal texts make clear, to remind them of their submission. Malik’s Muwatta declares, “Zakat is imposed on the Muslims to purify them and to be given back to their poor, whereas jizya is imposed on the people of the Book to humble them.”10 Therefore the jizya ought to be paid in a humiliating manner:
The dhimmi, standing, would present the money to the Muslim collector who would be sitting higher up on a sort of throne; this Muslim bureaucrat would hold the dhimmi by the throat telling him “Oh dhimmi, enemy of Allah, pay the jizya that you owe us for the protection and tolerance we grant you”; the other Muslims present would imitate the collector, pushing around the dhimmi and whoever other dhimmis accompanied him. To this amusing spectacle should be admitted any Muslim who wanted to enjoy it.11
As part of the dhimma system, a Muslim “officer of protection” regulated all affairs related to Christians.