Digest of terms
Technical term for the status of ‘protected person’ ascribed in Islamic law (shari’a) to non-Muslim minorities – especially Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians. In return for a tax payment by an adult male, he and his family are guaranteed security of life and property, along with freedom of religious belief and practice. Historically, this has been applied with different degrees of harshness and restriction. There is presently extensive evidence from across the Arab world and some parts of South Asia that such freedom is under threat to the extent that survival of non-Muslim religious communities there is in jeopardy. On the part of some within Israel itself, the perception of an increasingly oppressive Arab ‘dhimmitude’ is combined with that of a persisting European anti-semitism. And as a consequence that magnified sense of vulnerability is believed to justify stronger assertion of Jewish-Israeli prerogative.
The traditional notion of Jews, Christians and Muslims as ‘People of the Book’ is at risk of populist implosion within parts of all three communities. Within and without, the rootedness of all three traditions in a God of justice and mercy needs to be reaffirmed throughout public education, if that education is to be properly moral and properly religious.