Monday, 8 December 2008

Forced or induced?

For all the criticisms levelled today by the victim-mentality apologists of Hinduism and Islam in India and Turkey (to name just a couple of places) – you know, the old ‘Western missionaries just exploit the poor, buying converts, indicing conversion with bribes, etc’ claims – it is remarkable to find this practice institutionalised in early Turkish Islam. Just one example among many…

One-fifth of the income from an eighteen-room khan at Yenibağche (outside Konya) was set aside to defray the yearly expenses for converts to Islam. I was to provide for the teaching of the Koran and prayers, the performance of circumcision, provision of shoes, clothes, and food to Christians, Jews, and pagans who apostasized to Islam. The wakf’s revenues came from three villages (two of which, Saradjik and Arkĭthanĭ-Arkĭt, were Christian), a number of shops, and a khan.

[Speros Vryonis, Jr, The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor and the Process of Islamization from the Eleventh through the Fifteenth Century (Berkley: University of California Press, 1971), p.353.]

Notice the particularly cheeky method of getting Christians to directly subsidize (as well as indirectly through ongoing punitive taxes and confiscations by the authorities who would then endow the Islamic institutions across Anatolia) conversions from their faith.