Born in Cairo and today living in Switzerland, Bat Ye'or has written several books on the life of minorities under Muslim rule, including: Jews in Egypt, The Dhimmi, and The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam. She addressed the Middle East Forum on October 24, 2002 to discuss her latest study, Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2002). The following is a two-part review by Rod Dreher, from The Corner on National Review Online, dated October 24, 2002.
I went to hear historian Bat Ye'or speak today. She's on a short tour of the U.S., speaking about jihad and dhimmitude, which is the oppressive, second-class state under which Jews and Christians conquered by Islamic forces are forced to live.
Bat Ye'or, who has been addressing groups on American college campuses, said she was so stunned by what she'd observed at universities that she decided to alter her remarks. "We are facing today a jihad against America," she said, because "America is a fortress of Judeo-Christian values, which Europe is no more." The jihadis intend to Islamize the West, but they are not only doing it by violent means. She said that they are doing so by splitting America from Europe, and by using multiculturalism and Western notions of tolerance to immobilize resistance to its demands.
In Bat Ye'or's view, universities and naive Jewish and Christian religious leaders are carrying water for Islamists, as is the political Left ("The leftists were educated with hate of America and rejection of Judeo-Christian values," she said, and this perversely leads them to view Islamofascism uncritically). "We have to understand the cultural war we're in," Bat Ye'or said. "The war is not only a terrorist war, but a cultural war on our values and on our integrity."
Bat Ye'or was stunned to see how far the self-dhimmitization of Americans has already progressed, at least on elite American college campuses. Speaking at Georgetown the other day, she said about three-quarters of the students who turned up to hear her speech were Muslims, and they responded abusively. All they could say was that she was defaming Islam; they couldn't argue the facts with her. But that didn't surprise her.
Said her husband, David Littman, who was there to speak on human rights under Islam, "The amazing thing is the local Jewish group [at the university] had become dhimmis. Their leader was absolutely panicked when he saw the shouting of the Muslims. He told me he'd rather I not speak. I refused." Added Bat Ye'or: "There were Jews and Christians present who totally agreed with what we said, but when they came up after to thank us, we said, 'Why did you not speak? Why did you let us stand alone?' ... [Muslims] have such self-assurance." Jews and Christians, alas, do not. And the historian warns this is going to be our downfall. "I spoke to many Americans here, important clergymen, bishops and others. They didn't even know that in the Muslim tradition, Jesus is a prophet who paved the way to Islam. How can they meet this challenge when they don't understand the nature of it?"
The historian is proposing a Washington-based institute for the study of dhimmitude, to help fight the cultural war against jihad by simply telling the truth. "We must not transform America into a racist, xenophobic, anti-Islamic society. This is very important," she said. "In Europe, there is so much politically correct censorship that one cannot say anything [negative about Islam] So the criticism of Muslims, when it comes out, is fanatical and violent. People like that because it's the only way they can express their rejection of Islamization. That's why we need this institute: so people can express their resistance through rational argument."