Thursday, 23 June 2016
Amsar and No-Go Zones
The steady increase of Muslim population in Europe triggered a debate on the nature of their settlement within European cities. Officially the existence of “no-go zones”, or “sharia-controlled areas” is denied, yet citizens refer to these areas as bad neighbourhoods at best, and they advise against going into these areas, because they are unsafe, especially for lonely, loosely dressed women after dark.
As Daniel Pipes’ experience shows (Pipes 2015), law enforcement officials have a very different opinion about entering these areas from everyday citizens. Pipes drew the conclusion that his experience showed that non-Muslim civilians can enter these zones freely, it is only government representatives that are targeted by the inhabitants, so he called them partial no-go zones. It should be noted though, that Daniel Pipes, a western dressed man – not trespassing the regulations of sharia – , might draw different kind of attention at daytime than a lonely western dressed woman, which would be a breach of sharia law.
There is a historical parallel to the existence and functioning of today’s no-go zones. In the early years of the Islamic conquest of the Christian Middle East and North Africa, cities and areas came under Muslim control either by military victory (anwatan), or the “peaceful” surrender of the kafirs (solhan). The difference was that whenever a city surrendered, and a solh agreement (peace treaty) was signed, its provisions had to be respected by later rulers. Thus, three different approaches were used with regards to the conquered population: (a) in places conquered forcefully (anwatan), without an agreement, (b) the amsar al-muslimeen, garrison cities founded by the Arabs, and (c) the most complicated cases, where the city had a solh agreement, but over time the increasing Muslim population changed the city’s character. Ibn Abbas’ hadith obliges Muslims to obey the original solh treaties, but in about the 8th-9th century, the situation changed and new questions arose. Should the dhimmis be allowed to continue their lifestyle even though there are now more and more Muslims? Could they keep their churches, ring their bells, sell their pigs and wine? (Levy-Rubin 2011, 63-64) The original conquerors did not care much about the lifestyle of the conquered kafirs. They did not have the necessary manpower and concentrated more on the ongoing jihad and the spread of their influence. They established the misr camps (plural amsar), separately from the inferior kafirs, to preserve their morale, protect themselves from the unknown surroundings and alien cultures, and to prepare for raids and further conquest. There was no cultural friction as long as there was no wide-scale interaction between the occupied and the occupiers.
However, it did not take long for such frictions to unfold. Muslims started to settle in dhimmi cities, and non-Muslim traders settled around the amsar. A debate started about the interpretation of the hadith, about what should be considered a misr. According to the interpretation that came out winning, any city with a considerable Muslim population was a misr, where the life of dhimmis should be restricted accordingly. Al-Shaybani and al-Tabari shared this opinion, and held the view that dhimmis should be expelled from the amsar just as they were expelled from Medina and later from Kufa by Ali Ibn Abu Taleb. The only concession that al-Shaybani has given them was that they could establish their new dwellings at the outskirts of the city. According to the Hanafi scholar al-Sarakhsi, there are no secured rights or privileges, and the solh agreements are only valid as long as Muslims are not the predominant community in the city. (Levy-Rubin 2011, 65-67)
Immediately after the conquest, the Muslims were far from being the majority, or even a significant proportion of the population. However, this situation changed by the 8th century. Muslims settled down in cities previously populated only by kafirs, and the stipulations of the solh treaties were found to be offensive and inappropriate. New regulations had to be introduced, to meet the demands of the growing Muslim population. These changing circumstances have led to the standardization of the legal framework dealing with the dhimmis. (Levy-Rubin 2011, 68) Needless to say, from the previously mentioned three approaches, the most restrictive one prevailed, and everything under Muslim control was considered a misr.
Islamic doctrine authorizes violence against the unbelievers, and more specifically the Ahl al-Kitaab, or People of the Book, who were given the holy scriptures previously, but have distanced from its “original” spirit. They should be humiliated, and confronted until they either submit and pay the jizya tax, convert to Islam or die.
Quran 8:39: “And fight them until there is no fitnah and [until] the religion, all of it, is for Allah. And if they cease - then indeed, Allah is Seeing of what they do.”
Quran 9:5: “And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give zakah, let them [go] on their way. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.”
Quran 9:29: “Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture - [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled.”
It must be noted that Islam defines all other religions, so it does not matter whether one considers himself a Jew or a Christian. Christians must abandon some of the core tenets of their belief not to be considered blasphemers or polytheists:
Quran 5:17: “Verily they are disbelievers and infidels who say, ‘The Messiah, son of Mary, is God.'”
Quran 5:72: “They are surely disbelievers who blaspheme and say: ‘God is one of three in the Trinity for there is no Ilah (God) except One, Allah. If they desist not from saying this (blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall them – the disbelievers will suffer a painful doom.”
Quran 4-171 “O People of the Book! Do not exaggerate in your religion; nor speak lies of Allah. The Messiah, Christ Jesus, the son of Mary was (no more than) a messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a Spirit proceeding from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers. Say not ‘Trinity.’ Cease and Desist: (it is) better for you: for Allah is one Ilah (God). (Far it is removed from him of) having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs. The Messiah is proud to be a slave of Allah, as are the angels, those nearest. Those who disdain His worship and are arrogant. He will gather them all together unto Himself to (answer)…. He will punish with a painful doom; Nor will they find, besides Allah, any to protect or save them.”
The scripture also encourages Muslims to migrate for the sake of Allah:
Quran 16:41: “And those who emigrated for [the cause of] Allah after they had been wronged - We will surely settle them in this world in a good place; but the reward of the Hereafter is greater, if only they could know.”
These passages from the Islamic doctrine converge to the same direction – to migrate into the land of disbelief, to proselytize, and to subdue the unbelievers. The original hijra was designed to strengthen the Muslim community in Yathrib (Medina), so that Muhammad had enough military power to strike back at the Meccans. After this goal was achieved, migration was not emphasized anymore, up until the great jihad conquest of the Middle East and North Africa, and the eradication of its previously Christian, Zoroastrian, Jewish and several other cultures. After this point on, the hijra started again, this time into one of the amsar, or garrison cities. The ahadith emerging from this period clearly indicate the link between migration and the military needs of the ongoing jihad. During these times, migration to the amsar was massive, and entire tribes moved en bloc to settle in the land of the kafirs. The migrants (muhajirun) were also forced to cut their ties to the ancestral lands and to concentrate entirely on the conquest. (Athamina 1987, 9-10)
If the reader notices certain similarities with the events unfolding in the 7-8th centuries, during the Islamic conquest of the Christian Middle East and North Africa, and what is ongoing today, it is no coincidence. Jihad and hijra have been intertwined and continuously ongoing since the time Muhammad was forced out of Mecca. It was only halted by European nations in the 17th century by their scientific and technological superiority. As long as jihad could be carried out by spears, bows, and hatchets, that was the preferred method to eradicate the kafirs. When face to face combat offers little chance of success, other ways must be found to reach the same end state.
Today, when Europe has entirely lost its own identity and is unable to identify a) itself, b) its enemies, and c) the boundary between the two, the tool of jihad is again hijra. The identity vacuum generates an enormous force that invites Islam into its emptiness and disorientation. Under such circumstances, migration is the most efficient way of conquering new lands for Allah. Just like in the early Middle Ages, superfluous and unruly tribes and masses of single men are detached en bloc to settle in the amsar. The destination of this hijra is the misr of our time, the Muslim ghetto, which is placed in the most favourable location to carry out the jihad of the given time period. It was placed on large flat plains in the 7th century, where Arab light cavalry could have the best effect against kafir armies. Today, they are where modern jihad can be carried out most efficiently, among the soft targets of our large metropoles.
These no-go zones function with the similar goals in mind – to prevent the intermingling with the “inferior” kafirs, to enforce sharia, and to prepare for future raids and conquest, just as the Molenbeek attackers planned their activities against the surrounding areas in complete safety. They are protected and idolized by local residents. For the inhabitants of the misr they are the warriors of jihad, fighting for the Islamic world order, based on Allah’s rule over the entire globe. History also teaches us that the relatively peaceful and tolerant attitude towards a kafir majority will quickly go to the flush when the proportion of Muslims and kafirs change over time. This demographic change will occur in a couple of decades. There is no reason for us to think that the corresponding change in the approach towards kafirs in the amsar will be any different from the historical example.
Athamina, Khalil. 1987. “A'rāb and Muhājirūn in the Environment of Amṣār.” JSTOR. Accessed 04 30, 2016. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1595909?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents.
Levy-Rubin, Milka. 2011. Non-Muslims in the Early Islamic Empire: From Surrender to Coexistence. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Pipes, Daniel. 2015. danielpipes.org. 12 02. Accessed 04 27, 2016. http://www.danielpipes.org/16322/muslim-no-go-zones-in-europe.
Center for the Study of Political Islam