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.

http://www.infoplease.com/encyclopedia/people/muhammad-ii-ottoman-sultan.html

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