Spanish Muslims

Persecution of Muslims

Persecution of Muslims refers to the religious persecution inflicted upon Muslims. Persecution may refer to beating, torture, confiscation or destruction of property. Persecution can extend beyond those who perceive themselves as Muslims to include those who are perceived by others as Muslims, or to Muslims which are considered by fellow Muslims as non-Muslims.

Pagan Arab persecution of Muslims

In the early days of Islam at Mecca, the new Muslims were often subjected to abuse and persecution. Some were killed, such as Sumayyah bint Khabbab, the seventh convert to Islam, who was tortured first by Abu Jahl. but even he was subjected to such abuse; while he was praying near the Kaaba, Abu Lahab threw the entrails of a sacrificed camel over him, and Abu Lahab's wife Umm Jamil would regularly dump filth outside his door. And if free Muslims were attacked, slaves who converted were subjected to far worse. The master of the Ethiopian Bilal ibn Rabah (who would become the first muezzin) would take him out into the desert in the boiling heat of midday and place a heavy rock on his chest, demanding that he forswear his religion and pray to the polytheists' gods and goddesses, until Abu Bakr bought him and freed him. This persecution ultimately provoked the hijra.

Christian persecution of Muslims

Persecution of Muslims during the Crusades

The First Crusade was launched in 1095 by Pope Urban II with the stated effort to regain control of the sacred city of Jerusalem and the Holy Land from the Muslims who had captured them from the Byzantines in 638 and partly in response to the Investiture Controversy which was the most significant conflict between secular and religious powers in medieval Europe. It began as a dispute between the Holy Roman Emperor and the Gregorian Papacy and gave rise to the political concept of Christendom as a union of all peoples and sovereigns under the direction of the pope; as both sides tried to marshal public opinion in their favor, people became personally engaged in a dramatic religious controversy.

On May 7, 1099 the crusaders reached Jerusalem, which had been recaptured from the Seljuks by the Fatimids of Egypt only a year before. On July 15, the crusaders were able to end the siege by breaking down sections of the walls and entering the city. Over the course of that afternoon, evening and next morning, the crusaders murdered almost every inhabitant of Jerusalem. Muslims, Jews, and even eastern Christians were all massacred. Although many Muslims sought shelter atop the Temple Mount inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the crusaders spared few lives. According to the anonymous Gesta Francorum, in what some believe to be one of the most valuable contemporary sources of the First Crusade, "...the slaughter was so great that our men waded in blood up to their ankles... Tancred claimed the Temple quarter for himself and offered protection to some of the Muslims there, but he was unable to prevent their deaths at the hands of his fellow crusaders. According to Fulcher of Chartres: "Indeed, if you had been there you would have seen our feet coloured to our ankles with the blood of the slain. But what more shall I relate? None of them were left alive; neither women nor children were spared.

Nonetheless, it was the norm of the time to put the population of the city to the sword if it resisted a siege. In the heat of the battle, soldiers would make no distinction between civilian and combatant. Furthermore, it is likely that many of the combatants defending Jerusalem were inhabitants. Some Jews were captured and ransomed to Cairo. In any case, the Crusaders were severly short of manpower by this stage of the campaign, having no more than 12,000 men. Given the limited siege weaponry of the Crusaders, they would had to have concentrated their forces on a few sections of the city; thus, it is highly improbable that they had the manpower to kill every inhabitant of Jerusalem.

Persecution of Muslims in South Europe

At first, the Muslim populations did well in Sicily in the first 100 years of the Norman conquest. Arabs remained privileged in the matters of government. Indeed, 4000 Saracen archers took part in various battles between Christian forces. When the Normans and later the House of Anjou lost control of the Island to Peter of Aragon, Islam began to decline. Islam was no longer a major presence in the Island by the 14th century. Toleration of Muslims ended with Increasing Hohenstaufen control.

Modern persecution of Muslims occurred during the Yugoslav War, in which numerous Bosnians were raped, killed or forced off their land by the Serbs. However, the Serbs and Croats claim that the persecutions were not religious in nature. In addition to denying persecution of Muslims, Serbs advocated that it was "part of a war". In any case, it was more a matter of Ethnic cleansing, rather than a religious conflict.

In the Iberian Peninsula

During the centuries of Reconquista (711-1492), the Christian North of the Iberian Peninsula and the Southern Muslim-ruled Al Andalus battled internally and against each other. It ended with the Christian domination of the Peninsula.

Depending on the local capitulations, local Muslims were allowed to remain (Mudéjars) with some restrictions and some assimilated into the Christian population. After the conquest of Granada, all the Spanish Muslims were under Christian rule. The new acquired population spoke Arabic and the campaigns to convert them were unsuccessful. Legislation was gradually introduced to remove Islam, Arabic language and Arabic-style dressing. Muslims were forced to convert by the Spanish Inquisition. They were known as Moriscos and considered New Christians. Some kept practising their Islamic faith in secrecy. Between 1609 and 1614 the Moriscos were expelled from Spain.

Russian Empire

The period from the conquest of Kazan in 1552 to the ascension of Catherine the Great in 1762, was marked by systematic repression of Muslims through policies of exclusion and discrimination as well as the destruction of Muslim culture by elimination of outward manifestations of Islam such as mosques. While total expulsion as in other Christian nations such as Spain, Portugal and Sicily was not feasible to achieve a homogenous Russian Orthodox population, other policies such as land grants and the promotion of migration by other Russian and non-Muslim populations into Muslim lands displaced many Muslims making them minorities in places such as some parts of the South Ural region to other parts such as the Ottoman Turkey, and almost annihilating the Circassians. In the 16th century this led to an uprising against the Tsar Feodor by the Tatar aristocracy and their subsequent expulsion. The trend of Russification has continued at different paces in the rest of Tsarist and Soviet periods, so that today there are more Tatars living outside the Republic of Tatarstan than inside it.

Mongol persecution of Muslims

Following the brutal Mongol invasion of Central Asia under Genghis Khan and after the Battle of Baghdad (1258), the Mongol Empire's rule extended across most Muslim lands in Asia. The Abbasid caliphate was destroyed and Islamic civilization, especially Mesopotamia, suffered much devastation and was replaced by Buddhism as the official religion of the land. It must be remembered that despite Islam's decline at the hands of the Mongol invaders, their actions should not qualify as persecution rooted in religious hatred or intolerance. The Mongol destruction of Muslim lands should be seen rather as military tactics employed for the purpose of conquest through psychological warfare. The seventh ruler of the Ilkhanate dynasty Mahmud Ghazan converted to Islam and thus began the gradual trend of the decline of Buddhism in the region and a renaissance of Islam.

Persecution of Muslims in China

During the mid-nineteenth century, the Muslims of China revolted against the Qing Dynasty, most notably in the Dungan revolt (1862-1877) and the Panthay rebellion 1856-1873) in Yunnan. These little known revolts were suppressed by the Manchu government in a manner that amounts to genocide, killing a million people in the Panthay rebellion, and several million in the Dungan revolt. A "washing off the Muslims"(洗回 (xi Hui)) policy had been long advocated by officials in the Manchu government.

Persecution of Muslims in the modern West

Persecution of Muslims in Europe

Ziauddin Sardar writes in The New Statesman that Islamophobia is a widespread European phenomenon, so widespread that he asks whether Muslims will be victims of the next pogroms. He writes that each country has its extremes, citing Jean-Marie Le Pen in France; Pim Fortuyn, who was assassinated, in the Netherlands; and Philippe Van der Sande of Vlaams Blok, a Flemish nationalist party founded in Belgium. Filip Dewinter, the leader of the nationalist Flemish "Vlaams Belang" has said that his party is "Islamophobic." He said: "Yes, we are afraid of Islam. The Islamisation of Europe is a frightening thing.

In Germany, the state of Baden-Württemberg requires citizenship applicants from the member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference to answer questions about their attitudes on homosexuality and domestic violence. Dress code has become a flashpoint. France, which has a strong secular tradition separating church and state, was accused of Islamophobia when girls who wore muslim headscarfs were expelled from school under a new law. In January 2006, the Dutch parliament voted in favour of a proposal to ban the burqa in public, which led to similar accusations.

Sardar argues that Europe is "post-colonial, but ambivalent." Minorities are regarded as acceptable as an underclass of menial workers, but if they want to be upwardly mobile, as Sardar says young Muslims do, the prejudice rises to the surface. Wolfram Richter, professor of economics at Dortmund University of Technology, told Sardar: "I am afraid we have not learned from our history. My main fear is that what we did to Jews we may now do to Muslims. The next holocaust would be against Muslims."

EUMC report

The largest monitoring project to be commissioned into Islamophobia was undertaken following 9/11 by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC). Their May 2002 report "Summary report on Islamophobia in the EU after 11 September 2001", written Dr. Chris Allen and Jorgen S. Nielsen of the University of Birmingham, was based on 75 reports – 15 from each EU member nation. The report highlighted the regularity with which ordinary Muslims became targets of abusive and sometimes violent retaliatory attacks after 9/11. Despite localized differences within each member nation, the recurrence of attacks on recognizable and visible traits of Islam and Muslims was the report's most significant finding. The attacks took the form of verbal abuse; blaming all Muslims for terrorist attacks; women having their hijab torn from their heads; male and female Muslims being spat at; children being called "Usama"; and random assaults, which left victims hospitalized, and on one occasion, left a victim paralyzed.

The report also discussed the representation of Muslims in the media. Inherent negativity, stereotypical images, fantastical representations, and exaggerated caricatures were all identified. The report concluded that "a greater receptivity towards anti-Muslim and other xenophobic ideas and sentiments has, and may well continue, to become more tolerated."

Communist persecution of Muslims

The USSR was hostile to all forms of religion, which was "the opium of the masses" according to Karl Marx. Many Muslim regions of the Soviet Union, like other non-ethnic Russian regions, were subjected to intense russification. Many mosques were closed.

Persecution of Muslims in Myanmar

Myanmar has a Buddhist majority. The Muslim minority in Myanmar mostly consists of the Rohingya people and the descendants of Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh, India, and China (the ancestors of Chinese Muslims in Myanmar came from the Yunnan province), as well as descendants of earlier Arab and Persian settlers. Indian Muslims were brought to Burma by the British to aid them in clerical work and business. After independence, many Muslims retained their previous positions and achieved prominence in business and politics.When General Ne Win swept to power on a wave of nationalism in 1962, the status of Muslims changed for the worse. Muslims were expelled from the army and were rapidly marginalized.

Muslims are stereotyped in the society as "cattle killers" (referring to the cattle sacrifice festival of Eid Al Adha in Islam). The generic racist slur of "Kala" (black) used against perceived "foreigners" has especially negative connotations when referring to Burmese Muslims. The more pious Muslim communities which segregate themselves from the Buddhist majority face greater difficulties than those Muslims who integrate more at the cost of not observing Islamic personal laws.

Muslims in Myanmar are affected by the actions of Islamic Fundamentalists in other countries. Violence in Indonesia perpetrated by Islamists is used as a pretext to commit violence against Muslim minorities in Burma. The anti-Buddhist actions of the Taliban in Afghanistan (the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan) was also used as a pretext to commit violence against Muslims in Myanmar by Buddhist mobs.Human Rights Watch reports that there was mounting tension between the Buddhist and Muslim communities in Taungoo for weeks before it erupted into violence in the middle of May 2001. Buddhist monks demanded that the Hantha Mosque in Taungoo be destroyed in "retaliation" for the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan. Mobs of Buddhists, led by Monks, vandalized Muslim owned businesses and property and attacked and killed Muslims in Muslim communities. This was followed by retaliation by Muslims against Buddhists. Human Rights Watch also alleges that Burmese military intelligence agents disguised as monks, led the mobs.

The dictatorial government, which operates a pervasive internal security apparatus, generally infiltrates or monitors the meetings and activities of virtually all organizations, including religious organizations.Religious freedom for Muslims is reduced.Monitoring and control of Islam undermines the free exchange of thoughts and ideas associated with religious activities.

It is widely feared that persecution of Muslims in Myanmar could foment Islamic fundamentalism in the country. Many Muslims have joined armed resistance groups that are fighting for greater freedom in Myanmar, but are not Islamic fundamentalists as such.

Persecution of Muslims in Cambodia

The Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia disproportionately targeted ethnic minority groups. The Cham, a Muslim minority who are the descendants of migrants from the old state of Champa, were forced to adopt the Khmer language and customs. A Khmer Rouge order stated that henceforth “The Cham nation no longer exists on Kampuchean soil belonging to the Khmers” (U.N. Doc. A.34/569 at 9). Only about half of the Cham survived.

Persecution of Muslims in India

There were widespread riots during the Partition of India in 1947, with attacks on Muslim minorities by Hindu and Sikh mobs and vice versa though it is agreed that the initial violent incidents were, in fact, carried out by Hindu mobs.

After the annexation of the Muslim-ruled state of Hyderabad by India in 1948, about 7,000 Arabs were either due to emigrate to Pakistan at their own will or interned and deported from India. There was widespread violence against the Muslims as an aftermath of the 'Police Action' (officially Operation Polo) and Nehru had a committee investigate the pogrom against Muslims, but the resulting Sundarlal Report was never made public.

In 1992, members of the Vishva Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal destroyed the 430 year old Babri Mosque in Ayodhya, on the basis of their assertion that the mosque was built over the birthplace of the Hindu deity Rama and a Hindu temple existed at the site before the erection of the Mosque on the assumption that much agreeable evidence suggests this to be fact. The demolition was followed by anti-Muslim riots in Mumbai allegedly perpetrated by the Shiv Sena party.

The Sangh Parivar family of organisations, has allegedly been involved in encouraging negative, if true, stereotyping of Muslims, and in the 2002 Gujarat violence they were allegedly responsible for encouraging alleged attacks against Muslims.. Subsequent riots led to the death of a few hundred Muslims. Another major incident was at Naroda Patia, where a Hindu mob, massacred more than 100 Muslims after an incident sparked by Muslim on Hindu violence had got out of hand. In another incident at Best Bakery, in the city of Baroda, 12 men were massacred and burnt. The Gujarat riots officially led to the death of 1044 people.Human Rights Watch puts the death toll at higher figures, with 2000 deaths, mostly, with attacks against Hindus by Muslim mobs.

Recently Hindu mobs have attacked Muslim villages after cows had been slaughtered for the festivities of Eid. In 2005, this caused the destruction of 40 homes and 3 deaths. A police investigation revealed a cow had been slaughtered in the village.

Persecution of minority/sectarian Muslim groups by other Muslim groups

See takfir, Ahmadiyya, Shia, Kharijite, Mu'tazili, Alawites, Druze.

Persecution of and by Mutazilites

In medieval Iraq, the Mu'tazili theological movement was made a state doctrine in 832, igniting the Mihna(ordeal) a struggle over the application of Greek logical proof of the Qu'ran; people who would not accept Mu'tazili claims that the Qur'an was created rather than eternal were sometimes persecuted. The most famous victims of the Mihna were Ahmad Ibn Hanbal who was imprisoned and tortured, and the judge Ahmad Ibn Nasr al-Khuza'i who was crucified.

However, it lost official support soon afterwards. This coincided with the loss of the scientific edge of the Islamic world and the rise to prominence of a more dogmatic approach to Islam, of which Al-Ghazali was a staunch defender. Sunni and shi'a Islam became the mainstream schools of Islam. As a consequence, the tables turned and most scholars and scientists like Ibn Rushd and Avicenna with Mutazilite views were the victims of persecution themselves in the centuries to follow.

Sunni-Shi'a conflicts and persecutions

At various times many Shi'a groups have faced persecution.

While the dominant strand in modern Sunni dogma regards Shiism as a valid madhhab, following Al Azhar, some Sunnis both now and in the past have regarded it as beyond the pale, and have attacked its adherents. In modern times, notable examples include the bombing campaigns by the Sunni Sipah-e-Sahaba and the Shia Tehrik-e-Jafria, two small extremist groups, against Shia or Sunni mosques in Pakistan, the persecution of Hazara under the Taliban, and the bloody attacks linked with Zarqawi and his followers against Shia in Iraq.

Persecution of Ahmadis

The Ahmadiyya regard themselves as Muslims, but are seen by many other Muslims as non-Muslims and "heretics". Armed groups, led by the umbrella organization Khatme Nabuwat ("Finality of Prophethood"), have launched violent attacks against their mosques in Bangladesh

They committed massacres against them which resulted in 2,000 Ahmadiyya deaths in Pakistani Punjab. Eventually, martial law had to be established and Governor general Ghulam Mohamed dismissed the federal cabinet. This anti-Ahmadiyya movement led Pakistani prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to declare that the Ahmadiyyas were "non-Muslims".

In 1984, the Government of Pakistan, under General Zia-ul-Haq, passed Ordinance XX, which banned proselytizing by Ahmadis and also banned Ahmadis from referring to themselves as Muslims. According to this ordinance, any Ahmadi who refers to oneself as a Muslim by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, directly or indirectly, or makes the call for prayer as other Muslims do, is punishable by imprisonment of up to 3 years. Because of these difficulties, Mirza Tahir Ahmad migrated to London, UK.


The Alawites are a secretive group that seems to believe in the divine nature of Ali. They have been persecuted in the past and survive in the remote and more mountainous parts of Syria. The ruling Ba'ath party is dominated by Alawis (President Bashar al-Assad is Alawi himself) and they have sought fatwas from Shiite clergy in Lebanon declaring that they are, in fact, Muslims.

Persecution by Takfiris

Certain small groups - the Kharijites of early medieval times, and Takfir wal Hijra and the GIA today - follow takfirist doctrines, regarding almost all other Muslims as infidels whose blood may legitimately be shed. As a result, they have killed large numbers of Muslims; the GIA, for example, proudly boasted of having committed the Bentalha massacre.

Persecution of Ajlaf and Arzal Muslims in South Asia

Despite Islam's egalitarian tenets, units of social stratification, termed as "castes" by many, have developed among Muslims in some parts of South Asia. Various theories have been put forward regarding the development of castes among Indian muslims. Majority of sources state that the castes among Muslims developed as the result of close contact with Hindu culture and Hindu converts to Islam, while few others feel that these developed based on claims of descent from the prophet Mohammed.

Sections of the ulema (scholars of Islamic jurisprudence) have declared the religious legitimacy of the caste system with the help of the concept of kafa'a. A classic example of scholarly literature supporting the Muslim caste system is the Fatawa-i Jahandari, written by the fourteenth century Turkish scholar, Ziauddin Barani, a member of the court of Muhammad bin Tughlaq, of the Tughlaq dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate. Barani was known for his intensely casteist views, and he regarded the Ashraf Muslims as racially superior to the Ajlaf Muslims. He divided the Muslims into grades and sub-grades. In his scheme, all high positions and privileges were to be a monopoly of the high born Turks, not the Indian Muslims. Even in his interpretation of the Koranic verse "Indeed, the pious amongst you are most honored by Allah", he considered piety to be associated with noble birth. Barrani was specific in his recommendation that the "sons of Mohamed" [i.e. Ashrafs] "be given a higher social status than the low-born [i.e. Ajlaf].His most significant contribution in the fatwa was his analysis of the castes with respect to Islam. His assertion was that castes would be mandated through state laws or "Zawabi" which would carry precedence over Sharia law whenever they were in conflict. In the Fatwa-i-Jahandari (advice XXI), he wrote about the "qualities of the high-born" as being "virtuous" and the "low-born" as being the "custodians of vices". Every act which is "contaminated with meanness and based on ignominy, comes elegantly [from the Ajlaf]". Barani had a clear disdain for the Ajlaf and strongly recommended that they be denied education, lest they usurp the Ashraf masters. He sought appropriate religious sanction to that effect. Barrani also developed an elaborate system of promotion and demotion of Imperial officers ("Wazirs") that was conducted primarily on the basis of caste.

In addition to the Ashraf/Ajlaf divide, there is also the Arzal caste among Muslims, whose members were regarded by anti-Caste activists like Babasaheb Ambedkar as the equivalent of untouchables. The term "Arzal" stands for "degraded" and the Arzal castes are further subdivided into Bhanar, Halalkhor, Hijra, Kasbi, Lalbegi, Maugta, Mehtar etc. The Arzal group was recorded in the 1901 census in India and its members are also called Dalit Muslims “with whom no other Muhammadan would associate, and who are forbidden to enter the mosque or to use the public burial ground”.They are relegated to "menial" professions such as scavenging and carrying night soil.

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