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Alfred von Kremer, the seminal 19th century German scholar of Islam, described the “central idea” of Umar’s regime, as being the furtherance of “…the religious-military development of Islam at the expense of the conquered nations.” The predictable and historically verifiable consequence of this guiding principle was a legacy of harsh inequality, intolerance, and injustice towards non-Muslims observed by von Kremer in 1868, and still evident in Islamic societies to this day, as the plaintive appeal of Gaza’s contemporary Christians illustrates so poignantly:
It was the basis of its severe directives regarding Christians and those of other faiths, that they be reduced to the status of pariahs, forbidden from having anything in common with the ruling nation; it was even the basis for his decision to purify the Arabian Peninsula of the unbelievers, when he presented all the inhabitants of the peninsula who had not yet accepted Islam with the choice: to emigrate or deny the religion of their ancestors. The industrious and wealthy Christians of Najran, who maintained their Christian faith, emigrated as a result of this decision from the peninsula, to the land of the Euphrates, and ‘Umar also deported the Jews of Khaybar. In this way ‘Umar based that fanatical and intolerant approach that was an essential characteristic of Islam, now extant for over a thousand years, until this day [i.e., written in 1868]. It was this spirit, a severe and steely one, that incorporated scorn and contempt for the non-Muslims, that was characteristic of ‘Umar, and instilled by ‘Umar into Islam; this spirit continued for many centuries, to be Islam’s driving force and vital principle.
An updated and more bluntly germane assessment—confirmed by the agonizing death rattle of Christianity in contemporary Gaza—was made by the esteemed Lebanese Maronite theologian, the late Father Michel Hayek (d. 2005), in 1968:
Why not admit it clearly, so as to break a taboo and a political interdict, which is felt in the flesh and the Christian conscience—that Islam has been the most appalling torment that ever struck the Church. Christian sensibility has remained traumatized until now.
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