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Emet m'Tsiyon

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Sociology of Arab Imperialism (according to Schumpeter) -- Part Six

Schumpeter is writing about the early period of the Arab conquests and Arab rule in non-Arab lands. He explains the economic motives of the conquerors to exploit the conquered peoples. However, his view of how the ruling people treated the subject peoples seems rather naive. More on this below.

[p 41]
The Arabs, for their part, did not proselytize. When the inhabitants of the conquered countries adopted Mohammedanism en masse, this was not the result of a deliberate plan by the conquerors, though it was an entirely plausible process of adaptation. Nor did the Arabs annihilate the infidels. On the contrary, they were treated with remarkable mildness. Neither conversion nor annihilation would have accorded with the Arab brand of war on behalf of the faith. From the viewpoint of their interests, neither course would have paid, for they were dependent on the labor and tribute of subjugated peoples for their livelihood, for their chance to remain a parasitical warrior and master nation. Once the [p 42] infidel was converted or killed, an object of exploitation was lost, an element that was necessary to Arab life, and social organization was sacrificed. Thus the Arabs were quite content to leave the infidels their faith, their lives, and their property. Let them remain infidels. What mattered was that they must serve the faithful. There was never any objection that such a policy might be wrong since it perpetuated the existence of infidels --an argument that should carry much weight with religious sentiment and that was, indeed, always decisive in the case of Christian sentiment as embodied in the Catholic Church. However this policy may fit into the inner logic of the Mohammedan religion, it was Arab practice. And this is precisely what characterizes the position of the religious element in this case. The meaning of the struggle was not the spreading of the faith but the spreading of Arab rule -- in other words, war and conquest for their own sake. [Joseph Schumpeter, Imperialism/Social Classes (New York, 1955)]
At the beginning of their rule, the Arabs did not seek to convert the conquered peoples, as Schumpeter says. They were primarily concerned with controlling and taxing them so that the Arab conquerors could live as warriors without doing ordinary labor, viewed as degrading. This does not mean that they were "mild" or kind to their subjects, and here I disagree with Schumpeter who falls unfortunately into the all too common apologetics for the Arabs. Logically, the Arabs should have been mild, just as it would make more sense for a slaveholder anywhere to treat his slaves well [at least materially] and keep them in good health, fit for work, since they were property, indeed they were capital, that is, a means of production. But in real life, the Arabs may have hated and feared their subjects, and were always concerned about a possible revolt. In such a situation they could be very cruel, indeed murderous, toward the subject peoples.

To be sure, the Arab-Islamic system of rule was milder at the beginning, and well into the Umayyad reign. However, then Arab control over the dhimmis, Arab exploitation and humiliation of them grew worse. For example, the Arab conquest of Israel was completed in 640 CE with the fall of Caesarea. The Christian settlement of Nissana [Nessana or Nitsana] in the Negev lasted until about 700 CE. We know this since manuscripts from there [the Nissana papyri], records of local doings, which were kept until about 700, are still extant. They stop at that time. Apparently the settlement was abandoned. It is believed that not until the Caliph `Umar II [reigned 717-720] that the set of humiliating and exploitative rules governing Muslim-dhimmi relations was promulgated in the form that we know them, called the Pact of `Umar [or Omar]. The Quran too is very hostile and contemptuous towards unbelievers, but it is an uncertain source for the period of the early conquests. This is because it has long been known that at least one early version of the Quran existed before the one now in use. In recent decades, parts of another version of the Quran were discovered in Yemen and are being studied by certain Western scholars. Hence, the Quran's explicit call to humiliate and impose tribute on unbelievers may go back to a time after the early conquests, and thus cannot be used against Schumpeter's argument.

Be that as it may, it seems reasonable that even in the early period, any sign of rebelliousness on the part of the conquered peoples was ruthlessly suppressed.

Bat Yeor, Andrew Bostom, and Norman Stillman have all published books and anthologies of documents regarding Arab/Muslim treatment of the subject peoples, the dhimmis. Stillman's works deal specifically with the treatment and Muslim view of Jewish dhimmis.
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We regret an error in copying: "parasitical warrior and master nation" is correct. At first, we mistakenly typed the word "class" instead of "nation."
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to be continued
Coming: More on oppression of Jews in Jerusalem under Muslim rule

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