Ponder Ancient Muslim Tolerance

I doubt many could fathom a world of religious tolerance under Islam. Ancient history lends itself to images of holy war, crusades and religious oppression.

Sultan Mehmed II conquered Constantinople in 1453 – a crushing blow in favour of the Ottoman Empire – orchestrated by a 21 year old visionary. According to Sharia law, non-Muslims were guaranteed freedom and protection from persecution. Once Ottoman rule was established, it made little sense to squabble over religious differences.

The Arabic word for “nation” is millet. The Ottoman Empire allowed each “millet” or religious group to elect leaders and practice freely as a “nation” under Ottoman protection. Each “millet” was free to enforce their own rules – Islamic law did not apply to non-Muslim “nations”.Criminal acts within a “millet” were dealt with under religious laws of that nation. The only time Islamic law applied was when crimes involved people of two separate nations or was perpetrated by a Muslim. Millets could speak their own languages, build churches, schools and practice faith autonomously under the Ottoman umbrella.

The system created religious harmony until European meddling abolished it in the 1800’s. Creation of European secularist style rule, eroded religious freedom and created fewer rights along with increased hostilities. Armenian genocide during the first world war a perfect example.

All too aware this is an extraordinarily compressed historical account – my point is “freedom of religion” worked for a few hundred years. At the very least, we should ponder Sultan Mehmed’s approach. Knock yourselves out – practice freely anything that floats your boat but keep it to yourselves and don’t shove it down the throat of your neighbor.


10 thoughts on “Ponder Ancient Muslim Tolerance

  1. “practice freely anything that floats your boat but keep it to yourselves and don’t shove it down the throat of your neighbor.”

    Hear, hear. The very nature of problematic religions is that it goes against their beliefs and teachings to keep it to themselves. Are you aware of any religions, i.e. Abrahamic, and their holy books, stating that believers should keep it to themselves? Christianity has the Great Commission, and the only teaching I recall that should be kept to themselves is prayer.

  2. I’ll listen to folks not so much when they preach ‘religious freedom’ but ‘ideas freedom’.

    In other words, Free Speech.
    We ain’t got it, never had it, and never will have it.
    At best it’s a chimera, at worst it’s out-and-out deception (and always used as deception to create a trap for fools).

    Here in New Zealand ‘they’ are frantically grinding out ‘hate speech’ laws … anything they consider is unpleasant to minorities can be construed as a vicious attack only one step short of entering a mosque or synagogue with loaded firearms and popping everyone in God’s care … off.

    Not good …

    • Hang on, I’m about to boom on your freedom. 🙂
      No government has the right to interfere with collective expression of personal opinion. That said, government has an obligation to protect fundamental human rights of all citizens. I see nothing wrong with hate speech legislation provided society collectively agrees on the definition of hate. A hate speech ponder…

      • Indeed, good government has the duty—as the ‘vox populi’—to protect the rights of all citizens.
        What I am saying is that it is—should be—the Right of all citizens to state exactly what they think, on any topic, and it is the right of any other citizen to refute such statements if they wish and can.

        Deny any (r) any citizen the Right to Freely say what is on his/her/its mind is censorship.
        Literally, reversion to brute force and the Rule of The Brute—the per with the biggest gun wins, no?

        It’s a hoary old giggle these days but in the past some well intentioned goat stood up somewhere and squawked to the effect “I may not like what you say, Sir—but I’ll fight to the death for your right to say it!”

        He’d be a bit of an idealist, even a crank in the current environment … but I’ll happily sign his book. (You wouldn’t?)

      • I agree in principal, freedom of speech is the hallmark of democratic societies. That said, I live in Canada, a nation that considers hate speech a violation of fundamental human rights. Canadian anti-hate legislation is very specific – under the Human Rights Act of 1985; no person or group is allowed to publish or display notices, symbols, signs or emblems that might express or imply discrimination or intent to discriminate. This law covers verbal intent, specifically banning telephone conversations of a hateful nature; also including communication by computer, be it email or the internet. Read 7 prominent cases of hate speech in Canada –
        If you read case details and court judgement in each case, you’ll see why Canadians accept anti-hate law as a pillar of our national identity.
        Not once in my life have I felt oppressed by Canadian hate speech laws. I admire Canada for saying freedom of speech doesn’t give extremists the right to spread hateful propaganda. Truth is there’s a whole lot of ignorance out there, Closed minds feed on compatible sentiment, few bother to verify fact, truth or source of misinformation designed to keep those minds closed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s