Another much more coherent thread about Islam and conversion

26 Jan

Βασίλειος@Ciaran61215770·1/9 It’s saddening that the majority of conversions from Christianity to Islam in the early 8th century to late 10th century was purely activated by economic & farmland basis, not intellectual theological rigor. Christians were subject to the choice of paying the Jizyah & –Βασίλειος@Ciaran612157702/9 karag (land tax) & accepting the status of dimmi, or conversion to Islam & exemption from all tax. Indeed, the reformed Jizyah (under the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan 685-705AD represented a four hundred percent increase on city dwellers & a shift from a tax -11:18 AM · Jan 25, 2020·Twitter for Android1 Retweet7 LikesΒασίλειος@Ciaran61215770·Replying to @Ciaran612157703/9 in produce to money for those in the countryside. Further, now the land itself, & not produce, was taxed based on its distance from city markets. For non-Muslims the tax burden forced one of three choices. A landowner could continue to pay Jizyah & the Karag to the best –Βασίλειος@Ciaran61215770·4/9 of his ability. He could also choose to abandon his land & emigrate to a city, thus becoming free of the karag but still subject to the Jizyah. Initially, it appears that most Christians chose the latter option. Both of these entailed accepting dimmi status as “protected” –Βασίλειος@Ciaran61215770·5/9 citizens of the empire. However, as time went on and increasing social, political and religious restrictions were added to the tax burden, the third option became more and more attractive: conversion to Islam. Through conversion a person was automatically exempted from –Βασίλειος@Ciaran61215770·6/9 both the Jizyah & the karaj, & thus could continue to possess property while being required to pay only the moderate zakat (alms tax) imposed by the Sari’ah. The Abbasid caliphs began to open society to Arabs & non-Arabs alike, extending the benefits to adherents of –Βασίλειος@Ciaran61215770·7/9 Judaism, Christianity, & Persian religions who converted to Islam to also recieve high positional careers. This stepped up an effort to encourage conversion already begun by the Umayyad caliph Umar ibn Abd al-Azez 717-720AD, a few decades earlier. The consequence of his –Βασίλειος@Ciaran61215770·8/9 program was a slow but steady rise in the numbers of those turning to the ‘new religion’. By the middle of the eighth century, these benefits(maintain a freedom adhering to our religious beliefs, judged in accordance to our own law, & lastly, free from Zakat), were being –Βασίλειος@Ciaran61215770·9/9 diminished by restrictions on public displays of religion, limitations on property ownership, & the requirement of distinctive signs & dress for all non-Muslims. This situation continued throughout the first decades of the Abbasid caliphate until Haran ar-Rasid 786-809).

Conversion in the Levant: a long twitter thread with, nevertheless, some interesting questions

25 Jan

The Levantine Byzantine@ByzBastardPeople always talk about the gradual Arabization of the Levant after the Islamic conquest – and it’s true. But few people ever talk about our “Byzantinization” of the Arabs.4:48 AM · Jan 24, 2020·Twitter for Android10 Retweets51 LikesThe Levantine Byzantine@ByzBastard·Replying to @ByzBastardRoman Syria / Roman Damascus, was the Arabs first contact with a sophisticated, wealthy, high Civilization, Roman city. It was through us that they would have Civilization, and through that Civilization they would be propelled into to their Islamic Golden ageRami39@Rami397·Replying to @ByzBastardI heard Amine Gemayel on a tv show saying that his people originally came from Arabia.The Levantine Byzantine@ByzBastard·Yes, many of us have. There was always migration of tribes from Arabia predating Islam. Most notably the Ghassanids who many Christians are descended from, also the Ma’in. BUT many these groups were Romanized/Byzantinized by the time of the Islamic conquest1 more replyBob Esfanji@Amphiarause·Replying to @ByzBastardI’d rather call it hellenization * also no one talks about it Bc ….. you’re gonna think I’m reading but it’s bc of islamophobiaThe Levantine Byzantine@ByzBastard·Hellenization is the wrong term. The Arabs were not Greekifed, they did not pick up the language. They were politically and culturally influenced by the civilization that was here which was Roman, politically, but has Greek and Aramaic elements….The Levantine Byzantine@ByzBastard·…Not Islamophobia, in the same way it’s not “byzantophopia” or “chrostanophbia” to say we were Arabized (I’m happy to call myself an Arab). Please keep western sensitivities in the West and stop applying them for our culture, where they just don’t make senseBob Esfanji@Amphiarause·I’m talking about people who don’t bat an eye about the plunders of the Roman Empire in levant but keep lamenting over how the levant was ArabizedJ@tripoli187·Yeah and how bad they Eastern Romans taxed their fellow Christians in the Levant. People always talk about “jizyah” but forget how high the taxes were under the eastern romans. Hence why In a lot of areas the eastern romans fell easy, some of the people didn’t like them.The Levantine Byzantine@ByzBastard·I mean I don’t know if it would go that far. If tax was an issue it would have been a lower priority. The 2 biggest issue for the people living in the region was more than ~30 years of war with the Sassanians, which ruined the cities and exhausted the population…The Levantine Byzantine@ByzBastard·The Levant was basically under Persian occupation for 30 years before the Byz got it back. The 2nd major issue was the schism between Chalcedonian and Non-Chalcedonian versions of Christians, where the NC were deemed as heretical by the Empire & some small scale civil strife…The Levantine Byzantine@ByzBastard·was occuring. As a result the NC may have been less resistant to the Islamic conquest because under Islam they were viewed as just Christians instead of heretics. And the rest of the population was just tired of war.J@tripoli187·Yes I also read that, that many of the Christian sects of Levant were viewed as heretics by the Byzantine/roman Greek OrthodoxThe Levantine Byzantine@ByzBastard·Yes, this was the biggest cause for division. It stems from the Council of Chalcedon in 451. You can still see the division today, where the Greek Orthodox (Roum) are Chalcedonians and Non-Chalcedonians the Syriac Orthodox and Coptic Orthodox in Egypt.

Nicholas Bakos@jaddeyekabir · 39mAnd this last question I’ve always wondered about: did those “Semites” who remained Orthodox/Chalcedonian/Melkites use RUM as an enodnym for themselves and was it an exonym applied to them by others? Is the term still in use? Did its use survive into modernity as with Greeks?

Nicholas Bakos@jaddeyekabir·2mSo just to make sure, a Greek Orthodox Syrian or Palestinian still uses term “Rum” for himself and is called that by his non-Orthodox neighbors? I mean today? still?


New header image

25 Jan

From Sergey Paradzhanov‘s The Legend of Suram Fortress


Photo: Xanthe – İskeçe

25 Jan

Photo: P.S. Sifnos

24 Jan

Illustration of the brilliantly creative architecture of the Cyclades on Sifnos, a post see here.

Athens: güle güle Güllüoğlu

24 Jan

Several years ago a branch of Karaköy Güllüoğlu, easily Istanbul’s, and the world’s, best baklavacides and other sweet and pastry makers, opened in Athens, in dead-center downtown, Nikes Street, right behind Syntagma near Hermou.

All the products were excellent, as good as Istanbul. Athenians caught on quickly and it was amazing to see lines of them waiting outside the store on New Year or Easter to buy çörek, because Gülluoğlu’s hallucinatorily aromatic çörek is the only archaeological evidence we have of the manna God fed the Israelites in the desert.

And the sign up front wasn’t pulling any punches either:

But yesterday, I went by and saw that the sign had been replaced with a generic “Baklavas”.

I asked why:

“So that people know our products are made here.”

“Most Athenians don’t even know where or even what Karaköy is. Was the old sign hurting business, ya think?”

“We wanted people to know that our products are made here, not in Karaköy”. [wherever that is]

“You were always packed, since the day you opened. I don’t understand. Was the old sign hurting business?”

“We wanted our customers to know that our products are made here?”

“Here? Where?! (And here those who know me can hear my irritation starting to break down into a spittly stutter) Nikes? Syntagma? Downtown Athens? The Kingdom of Greece and not Constantinople? Here where? Because Konstantinidis [a den of mediocrity pastry-wise] announces proudly on its signs that its products are: ‘based on Asia Minor tradition since 1922.’ And your new sign just kinna stupidly — excuse me — says ‘Baklavas’ and doesn’t say made in Athens or made in Greece or anything else?

“We wanted our customers to know that our products are made here?”

“I just ask…. Ugh… Can I speak to the boss or owner?” (I love being the pain-in-the-ass New Yorker sometimes, especially when someone is ineptly stonewalling me, because New Yorkers become Mehmet II at the walls of the City when someone is stonewalling them, especially — and most unforgivably — in an unintelligent fashion.)

“He’s not here right now.”

“When is he available?”

“Usually in the mornings.”


“In the morning”.

“Like proi-proi or mesemeraki?”

“Around then”.

I bite my tongue.

“Well, here’s my name and number. Just tell him I’ll be trying to get in touch with him one morning. I have business in the center daily these days so I’ll try and swing by.”

So, we’ll see. Maybe I’ll bag an interview, though I don’t expect it to be less robotic than that of the poor tormented salesclerk.

Here’s one theoretical lead to this business though. Güllüoğlu actually has several branches around the world these days; there are two branches in Manhattan, and the warehouse/factory in Astoria, which is just deliciously down the block from St. Demetrios on 31st Street. Three Turkish friends of mine are convinced that Güllüoğlu (no alliterative joke intended) are Gülenist operations, and that that isn’t a marginal belief in Turkey. Can the Turkish embassy have actually bothered Greek authorities with something as stupid as taking the Karaköy sign down? Are they really fronts for Gülenist operations and they just thought it was best to cover their asses?

Who knows?

‘Cause if it’s not something like that it means we’re in 2020 and still busy changing Liopesi to Paiania. And you thought my imam campaign was just a joke.


The imam must go; please help us

24 Jan

I’m starting a campaign to ban the term “imam baildi”. We’re going to call it “baked eggplant” or “aubergine orientale” or something like that…

It’s a matter of national security, say my sources at foreign affairs.

Write to: for support or financial donations.

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