Opinion: Dhimmis in America

Robert Azzi is a photographer and writer living in Exeter. The column is archived at theotherazzi.wordpress.com.

Last week I went to Massachusetts to attend an academic meeting, followed by dinner with friends and colleagues. A reunion of sorts, it’s wonderful to have. The topic was interesting and challenging and brought to life by the discourse with a group of wise scholars and friends that I have not seen since the pandemic drastically limited our communication with the exchanges.

A million Americans die later we go back together.

Rebellion. Sedition. Big lie. Antisemitism. Xenophobia: We go back together.

With shared interests in Middle East politics, energy, security, colonialism, conflict, cultural exchange, and good food, it’s great to be back in personal contact, changing lives beyond Zoom, and all. My friends include Algerian, Armenian, American, British, Iranian, Lebanese, Palestinian, and Syrian students, professors, consultants, journalists, and investors – underscoring the existence of a pluralistic and creative community that has helped build this nation since 1619.

I feel embraced by a Beloved Community.

We get together rarely, maybe five or six times a year in Metro Boston, and the next time I see them will most definitely be after the November 8 midterm; maybe even after the swearing-in of the 118th Congress of the United States.

After the election I fear bad bodes for our American democracy.

Regardless of who wins the most votes, the 2022 election will surely push the United States not only further away from its democratic ideals but closer to becoming a Christian Nationalist country dominated by Americans who believe that white supremacist evangelical Protestants should be at the center of life America. and institutions.

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Those who believe that everyone else, people like me and the Beloved Community, should be second class citizens.

Such a sense of sadness as our evening ends and I look around the room and wonder about the possible future that lies ahead for Muslims, Jews, Catholics, unborn Protestants, secular humanists, and many others in this committed country. to the belief that all people are created equal, those who believe, as told by the Qur’an, that “…We have created you all from one male and one female, and We have made you into nations and tribes, may know each other.” (49:13 Asad)

That’s how I feel when I wonder if the Beloved Community is destined to become a dhimmi in the Land of the Free.

Dhimmi are non-Muslims living in Muslim-controlled lands who have fewer legal and social rights than Muslims but, in exchange for paying a special tax, the jizya, are promised protection by the state. They are not in the army and do not have to pay zakat, which is obligatory from Muslim property. The protection of dhimmis has never been applied equally from country to country and there are places where non-Muslim subjects face various forms of institutional discrimination.

Separate, not the same.

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Since the 18th century, when the Founding Fathers of America envisioned a white, Protestant, culturally homogenous country, built for their benefit and profit by enslaved labor on land stolen from the Indigenous peoples to whom genocide was committed, where only “free white people, who has, “. or will migrate to the United States” is entitled to become a naturalized citizen, where the concept of melting pot and assimilation was once meant to include non-Europeans, we have yet to confront the reality of our creation.

Where there are too many that are separate and not the same.

“Conquerors, my son,” Emile Habibi wrote in The secret of Saeed’s life“Considering as true history only what they made themselves”.

Instead of facing the reality that is now being created is an increasingly accepted colonialist myth based on racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, and ignorance designed to disenfranchise, marginalize, and delegitimize the Other.

Separate, not the same.

The narrative that says America should be divided between “America First-ers” and the dhimmis, and that narrative, not inflation and crime, not mortgage rates and fossil fuels, is what underlies this election.

A narrative driven by those who consider themselves as avatars of glory and virtue who believe, as Hector St. John de Crevecoeur wrote in 1782, that “… What, then, America, this new man? He is either a European or a descendant of Europe. .. The Americans had spread throughout Europe; Here they were incorporated into one of the best population systems that ever appeared.

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They never considered that this “new man” could be my father, an olive-skinned 9-year-old Semite, from what is now southern Lebanon who was sent, alone, to America by his family because they thought he was, and thought. they, will have a better chance of living than their marginal existence under the Ottoman rule.

He was created.

Most people do not choose to be immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers and undocumented travelers. Most are desperate migrants who do not expect to witness children die, like Alan Kurdi, on the Mediterranean coast en route to Europe.

My father made it, as did I, and in his memory, I will vote again in two days.

I will not vote against the lies, deceit, calumnies and violence visited on America by seditionists and rebels, by liars and Christian supremacists who want to reduce the Others to dhimmis, against people who are incompatible, ignorant, whose loyalty is not America or democracy but to the cult of hatred and bigotry.

I will not vote against them because they have removed themselves outside the realm of consideration of what it means to live in a democracy.

They do not deserve consideration.

I will, however, be voting for the promise of America; for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans – all Americans.

They deserve it.


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