Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says that religious minorities in Turkey are happy and content, and he has a statement from them to prove it: “We as religious representatives and foundation directors of societies of different religions and beliefs, who have been settled in this country for centuries, are free to follow our beliefs and practices.”
That statement has all the signs of being coerced. The religious minorities in Turkey knew that if they didn’t sign it, they could be subjected to even harsher treatment than they’re receiving already.
This is nothing new. Over the centuries, dhimmis likewise learned to keep quiet about their plight and even praise their Muslim overlords, for fear that if they didn’t, their situation would get even worse. As I show in my new book The History of Jihad From Muhammad to ISIS, non-Muslims who were subjugated under the rule of Islamic law could not say anything about their lot, because to do so was proscribed by Islamic law. What’s more, criticizing Islam, Muhammad, or the Qur’an in any manner was a death-penalty offense. In 850, Perfectus, a Christian priest, engaged a group of Muslims in conversation about Islam; his opinion of the conquerors’ religion was not positive. For this, Perfectus was arrested and put to death. Not long thereafter, Joannes, a Christian merchant, was said to have invoked Muhammad’s name in his sales pitch. He was lashed and given a lengthy prison sentence. Christian and Muslim sources contain numerous records of similar incidents in the early part of the tenth century. Around 910, in one of many such episodes, a woman was executed for proclaiming that “Jesus was God and that Muhammad had lied to his followers.”
And so over the centuries, dhimmi Christians and other subjugated peoples learned to be quiet about their plight, for fear that their situation could get even worse. A traveler to Morocco in 1880 reported that “a deputation of Israelites, with a grave and reverend rabbi at their head,” asked the local Muslim ruler for permission “for them to wear their shoes in the town. ‘We are old, Bashador,’ they said, ‘and our limbs are weak; and our women, too, are delicately nurtured, and this law presses heavily upon us.’” As reasonable as this request was, and as humane as it would have been for the bashador to grant it, the traveler expressed relief that the Jews decided not to ask after all. He “was glad they were dissuaded from pressing their request, the granting of which would exasperate the populace, and might lead to consequences too terrible to contemplate.”
The dhimmi laws are not in force in modern-day Turkey, but that doesn’t mean that religious minorities enjoy equality of rights with Muslims in that country. It is clear that religious minorities do not enjoy religious freedom in Turkey. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), in its 2018 Annual Report, classified Turkey as a Tier 2 violator of religious freedom – a country in which religious freedom violations are systematic, ongoing, and/or egregious. The ongoing imprisonment of Pastor Andrew Brunson on false pretenses is one example. Another is the harassment of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and of the Greek Orthodox Christians remaining in Turkey: the Turks closed the only Orthodox seminary in the country in 1971, hamstringing the training of new clergy, has confiscated thousands of properties belonging to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and refuses even to grant any legal identity to the Ecumenical Patriarchate as such.
But Erdogan has this statement. It isn’t worth the paper it is printed on, but it will likely achieve his desired effect: enabling the international media to continue diverting attention away from the genuine plight of non-Muslims in Turkey, as well as from Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman expansionist aspirations. This kind of deception worked for centuries to allow Muslim overlords to conceal their oppression and mistreatment of their subjugated populations; Erdogan is savvy enough to know that the establishment media, as clueless and compromised as it is, will help him make it work again.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His new book is The History of Jihad From Muhammad to ISIS. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.
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