The Dhimmi Syndrome: The Psychological Degradation of the Oppressed
I was psychologically traumatized recently. Don’t get me wrong. I am not talking about being hit by a mid-life crisis. Instead the reason for my distress came from UMNO politicians asserting that Malaysia should be ruled by a pivotal race (Malays). It is apparent that such sentiments are gaining ascendancy among Muslim/Malay activists, given how statements about Ketuanan Melayu dan Islam (Supremacy of Malays and Islam) are increasingly being declared publicly and unapologetically in the media.
However, the modern world no longer finds acceptable any talk of racial and religious supremacy – not after the appalling consequences of supremacist ideologies in recent history. Who can ignore the lessons drawn from the history of the ideology of the supremacy of the Aryan race in the Third Reich and the ideology of white supremacy of South Africa’s apartheid regime? One may argue that the moral stigma associated with supremacist ideology has deterred major political parties from supremacist posturing. As far as I know, no ruling party in today’s world officially condones supremacist ideology even though the ruling elite may tolerate supremacists activists at the lunatic fringe of their parties. It therefore comes as a shock to hear veteran politicians in UMNO make supremacist statements.
The demands of racial/religious dominance just keep spiraling upward. Malay privileges (especially economic affirmative programs) in the old days were justified on grounds that concessions had to be given since the Malay community was backward. Malay politicians now demand privileges as a matter of racial entitlement. Finally, following Dr. Mahathir’s declaration of Malaysia as an Islamic state (which is contrary to the provision of the Federal Constitution) some Islamic activists now reject the suggestion that the Malay/Muslim privilege was a concession resulting from a social contract made between elites in a consociational democracy. Since an Islamic state is an ideological state, political authority and the state largesse should be in the hands of Muslims (ala Sayyid Maududi). That being the case, religious discrimination becomes a necessity since Muslim authorities have to implement the demands of divine law.
Of course, Islamic officials try to assure us that non-Islamic religions would thrive under Malaysia as an Islamic state. But such an assurance seems hollow to people who know history concerning centuries of the diminishing of minorities (Dhimmis) under Islamic hegemony.
Perhaps, non-Muslims are already ‘functional dhimmis’ in Malaysia. That is to say, non-Muslims are already subject to Islamic dhimmi policies without bearing the official status of dhimmi. In this regard, it is vital that non-Muslims continue to speak out against Islamic activists who demand we move from implicit submission to dhimmitude (which is bad enough, as this inferior and degrading status is imposed on us) to explicit submission to dhimmitude.
Silence in the face of demands for religious dominance can only result in the surrender of personal dignity and the suffocation of the will to self-determination. Only ongoing rejection of racial/religious dominance will enable us to escape the terror and tragedy of the Dhimmi Syndrome so well captured by Bat Yeor:
The Dhimmi Syndrome
Twelve centuries of humiliation impressed upon the individual and collective psychologies of the oppressed groups a common form of alienation – the dhimmi syndrome. On the individual level it was characterized by a profound dehumanization. The individual, resigned to a passive existence, developed a feeling of helplessness and vulnerability, the consequence of a condition of permanent insecurity, servility, and ignorance. Humiliated and discriminated against, he projected onto his group a scornful, accusatory, self-destructive hatred whose intensity varied in accordance with the extent of his desire to assimilate into the majority. This type of alienation may still today be observed in an acute form among the marginal minorities of the umma.
The basic characteristics of the dhimmi syndrome result from the psychological process of human debasement. Reduced to an inferior existence in circumstances that engender physical and moral degradation, the dhimmi perceives and accepts himself as a devalued human being. Realizing that a revolt would incur the death penalty, he has no other choice than to enter into the system or, in other words, to become the conscious instrument of his own destruction. The individual’s liberty turned against itself is the most tragic aspect of alienation.
As a contemporary French philosopher has written: “The dissymmetric contract… is one of the main sources of alienation.” It is in the symbolism of the jizya rather than in the tax itself (the Muslims also paid heavy taxes, but of a different kind) that the origin of the dhimmi’s alienation is to be found. The vanquished had to pay the victor for the right to survive in his homeland, and the product of his labor was not merely paid to the state, but was intended to finance the jihad and consolidate its acquisitions. Thus the dhimmi worked for the benefit of the power that oppressed him, and for the community from which he was excluded (see doc. 3, “Battle Procedures”). . . .
Another essential element in the process of degradation was the victor’s inalienable right of life and death over the vanquished. Understandable enough in the heat of battle, this right was perpetuated in peacetime from generation to generation. Saved from death, the dhimmi had constantly to redeem his life with money payments and acts of submission to the victor who, because he had temporarily suspended a sentence of death, regarded himself as magnanimous (see doc. 19). A vicious circle developed whereby the master was considered just and tolerant, as the contempt for the degraded group increased. Finally, the dominator, now turned judge, reserved the right to eliminate at will his victim, who no longer reacted.
Excerpt taken from Bat Ye’or. The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam (Associated Uni. Press 1985), pp. 143-144.