Wednesday, 19 December 2012

National Geographic Blunders on Islamic-Christian History

A friend of mine brought to my attention a problematic article in the National Geographic of June 2009. Apparently, National Geographic featured an article on Arab Christians entitled, "The Forgotten Faithful." Although the article is mainly focused on modern Arab Christians, the author reports this inaccurate historical record:

"Such scenes reflect the Levant's history of coexistence between Muslims and people of other faiths, which dates from the earliest days of Islam. When the Muslim Caliph Omar conquered Syria from the Byzantine Empire around 636,
he protected the Christians under his rule, allowing them to keep their churches and worship as they pleased. But many Christians converted to Islam anyway, preferring its emphasis on a personal connection with God to the oppressive hierarchies of the Byzantine Church." [emphasis mine]

You can read this for yourself on the seventh page of the article by
clicking here.

This statement is wrong and can be quickly checked against the Omar Agreement (aka Umar Agreement).
Click here for source. Under Caliph Omar, Christians were given three choices: death, conversion, or agreement to pay jizya tax. Here is the agreement:

The Status of Non-Muslims Under Muslim Rule

We heard from 'Abd al-Rahman ibn Ghanam [died 78/697] as follows: When Umar ibn al-Khattab, may God be pleased with him, accorded a peace to the Christians of Syria, we wrote to him as follows: In the name of God, the Merciful and Compassionate. This is a letter to the servant of God Umar [ibn al-Khattab], Commander of the Faithful, from the Christians of such-and-such a city. When you came against us, we asked you for safe-conduct (aman) for ourselves, our descendants, our property, and the people of our community, and we undertook the following obligations toward you:
We shall not build, in our cities or in their neighborhood, new monasteries, Churches, convents, or monks' cells,

nor shall we repair, by day or by night, such of them as fall in ruins or are situated in the quarters of the Muslims.
We shall keep our gates wide open for passersby and travelers.
We shall give board and lodging to all Muslims who pass our way for three days.
We shall not give shelter in our churches or in our dwellings to any spy, nor bide him from the Muslims.
We shall not teach the Qur'an to our children.
We shall not manifest our religion publicly nor convert anyone to it.
We shall not prevent any of our kin from entering Islam if they wish it.
We shall show respect toward the Muslims, and we shall rise from our seats when they wish to sit.
We shall not seek to resemble the Muslims by imitating any of their garments, the qalansuwa, the turban, footwear, or the parting of the hair.
We shall not speak as they do, nor shall we adopt their kunyas.
We shall not mount on saddles, nor shall we gird swords nor bear any kind of arms nor carry them on our- persons.
We shall not engrave Arabic inscriptions on our seals.
We shall not sell fermented drinks.
We shall clip the fronts of our heads.
We shall always dress in the same way wherever we may be, and we shall bind the zunar round our waists
We shall not display our crosses or our books in the roads or markets of the Muslims.
We shall use only clappers in our churches very softly.
We shall not raise our voices when following our dead.
We shall not show lights on any of the roads of the Muslims or in their markets.
We shall not bury our dead near the Muslims.
We shall not take slaves who have been allotted to Muslims.
We shall not build houses overtopping the houses of the Muslims.
(When I brought the letter to Umar, may God be pleased with him, he added, "We shall not strike a Muslim.")

We accept these conditions for ourselves and for the people of our community, and in return we receive safe-conduct. If we in any way violate these undertakings for which we ourselves stand surety, we forfeit our covenant [dhimma], and we become liable to the penalties for contumacy and sedition. Umar ibn al-Khittab replied: Sign what they ask, but add two clauses and impose them in addition to those which they have undertaken. They are: "They shall not buy anyone made prisoner by the Muslims," and "Whoever strikes a Muslim with deliberate intent shall forfeit the protection of this pact." from Al-Turtushi, Siraj al-Muluk, pp. 229-230.

[This was a from hand out at an Islamic History Class at the University of Edinburgh in 1979. Source of translation not given.]

It is disappointing that the journalist, who wrote,
The Forgotten Faithful, did not report on Omar's Agreement at all. To give him the benefit of the doubt, he may not have known that this agreement existed. However, notice the term dhimma in the text. This is a term for second class citizens under Sharia Law (Islamic Law). This is not how these people are portrayed in the National Geographic article when the author reports these people worshiped "as they pleased."

As Nabeel Qureshi of Acts 17 Apologetics pointed out, in reference to this same article: "Unfortunately, there is a problem with this [the author's] perspective: it ignores virtually everything about Islam. As we have pointed out before, Sharia stems from the Qur'an, and in its final days of revelation, the Qur'an commanded that Christians and Jews be fought until they are humiliated (9:29). Sharia thus calls for active antagonism towards non-Muslims."

Also, it is unfortunate how the article presented an imbalance of religious violence,
focusing more on historical Christian violence without a balanced assessment of the Muslim violence in history, as well. And so it appears as if the article is attempting to persuade people about an ideology under the guise of reporting his



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