Wednesday, 6 July 2011

It's important to bear in mind the historical background to the conflict in the former Yugoslavia in the 90s. I was reading Andrew Bostom's excellent book "Legacy of Jihad" today, and specifically the part that dealt with the Ottoman jihad into the Balkans then the period of Ottoman rule over the subjugated Christian populations.

The Ottoman word for dhimmi was rayah, meaning 'herd' or 'to graze a herd'. That's how the Bosnian Muslims regarded the Christians living under Ottoman domination. Bostom quotes a Bosnian Muslim proverb that sheds light on their attitudes:

The rayah is like the grass,
Mow it as much as you will,
Still it springs up anew

This Bosnian Muslim song was written in honour of the Ottoman Sultan Sultan Bayezid II.
Once you'd broken Bosnia's horns
You mowed down what would not be pruned
Leaving only the riffraff behind
So there'd be someone left to serve us and grieve before the cross

The normal dhimmi restrictions of the Pact of Umar continued to apply in the Balkans up until the late 19th century.
The specific Kanun-i-Rayah stipulations which prohibited the rayahs from riding a saddled horse, carrying a saber or any other weapon in or out of doors, selling wine, letting their hair grow, or wearing wide sashes, were strictly enforced until the mid-19th century. Hussamudin-Pasa, in 1794 issued an ordinance which prescribed the exact color and type of clothing the Bosnian rayah had to wear. Barbers were prohibited from shaving Muslims with the same razors used for Christians. Even in bathhouses, Christians were required to have specifically marked towels and aprons to avoid confusing their laundry with laundry designated for Muslims. Until at least 1850, and in some parts of Bosnia, well into the 1860s, a Christian upon encountering a Muslim, was required to jump down from his (unsaddled) horse, move to the side of the road, and wait for the latter to pass.

Bostom makes this part of his book available online here, which is good because it saved me the bother of typing it in.


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