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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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Michelle Mazel on l’Europe et le spectre du Califat (Europe and the Specter of the Caliphate) by Bat Ye’or

Filed under: Al-Qaeda and Global Jihad, Europe and Israel
Publication: Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review 23:1-2 (Spring 2011)    

Some books receive many reviews, critical or otherwise; others are met by a deafening silence. Such is the case with Europe and the Specter of the Caliphate, Bat Ye’Or’s latest contribution in her ceaseless campaign to force Europe to wake up and take notice of what she believes is happening within its frontiers. No reputable newspaper reviewed this book. The press conference scheduled for 22 November 2010 at the CAPE (Foreign Press Center) in Paris, at which the author planned to launch it, was canceled at the last minute because the director of that establishment claimed that the subject was not connected to current issues and that he had been advised against hosting such a controversial author. This is the same center that had welcomed Tarik Ramadan, unofficial representative of the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe, and Dieudonné, a comedian and actor who has been condemned several times by French courts for anti-Semitic utterances.[1]

Bat Ye’or (“Daughter of the Nile”) is the pen name of the writer who was born and raised in Egypt, which expelled her as a teenager in 1955 and made her a stateless refugee.  Her crime was that she was Jewish, and Bat Yeor’s first book was a history of the Jews of Egypt.  She then went on to tackle what she calls “dhimmitude,” the dire condition of the “protected minorities,” namely, Christians and Jews under Islamic rule. She has made a lifelong study of North African and Middle Eastern Islam and is convinced that it presents a very real threat to Europe, a threat she exposed at length in another book, Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis.[2]

In an interview with Frontpage Magazine, Bat Ye’or explained that “The field of Euro-Arab collaboration covered every domain: from economy and policy to immigration. In foreign policy, it backed anti-Americanism, anti-Zionism and Israel’s delegitimization….”[3] The book created a stir; some of its conclusions appeared extreme. While some authors such as Martin Gilbert and Daniel Pipes welcomed it as an essential tool in understanding European attitudes toward Islam and the Arab world, others such as Joel Beinin and Robert Brenton Betts accused Bat Ye’or of promoting Islamophobia. Many thought she sometimes went into too much detail when introducing concepts with which the average reader was not familiar.

Her new book, a slim but well-documented essay, is a welcome effort to clarify a number of themes developed in Eurabia. The book focuses on two main topics: the caliphate, which Bat Ye’or sees as the ultimate goal of the Islamic campaign in Europe, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which she sees as the tool used to achieve this goal.[4] Based in Saudi Arabia, the OIC comprises no less than fifty-seven member states and has a permanent delegation to the United Nations.

As for the caliphate, it is an Islamic form of government headed by a caliph – a term derived from the Arabic for “heir,” first used for the successors of the Prophet Muhammad. The notion of the caliphate is based on shari’a  or Islamic law, derived from the Qur’an. Vested for centuries in the successors of Muhammad, the last holders of the title and of the function were the Ottoman sultans.

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk officially ended the caliphate, together with the Ottoman Empire, in 1924 when he established the Republic of Turkey.  Bat Ye’or’s main thesis is that the ultimate goal of the jihad ideology, and indeed of Islam as a whole, is to revive the caliphate, symbol of the Golden Age of Islam, and to have it encompass the globe.  This goal is based on the concept of dhimmitude, a term she first used in 1983 though the person who coined it was the Lebanese Christian leader Bashir Gemayel in 1982.[5]

In her opening chapter, Bat Ye’or states: “Dhimmitude represents the civilization of the peoples who have been defeated by jihad and have been subjected to shari’a law during thirteen centuries of history.”[6] Having surrendered to the armies of jihad, these peoples in effect put their land and persons under the authority of the caliph in exchange for his protection and accepted a status that made them subordinate to their Islamic rulers.  This, she asserts, is relevant today because, “propelled by billions of petrodollars and the connivance of European governments, jihadist ideology of world conquest is thriving in all world theaters, seconded by the competing interests of Western powers.”[7]  

According to Bat Ye’or, while the aim of the jihadists is to reduce all of Europe to a state of dhimmitude, European countries are so afraid of terrorism on their soil that they yield to unreasonable demands so as to receive protection. One victim of that policy is Israel, abandoned and reviled by Europe so as to appease the Palestinians and thus forestall Islamic terrorism. Anti-Semitism and attacks against Jews are a collateral damage thriving on fertile European soil. Diplomatic and other efforts are channeled through the OIC.

These are the main themes that Bat Ye’or develops. She uses such a wealth of quotations and historical references  that it becomes confusing sometimes; a more structured presentation would have been helpful.  

The main question is how credible is the threat that she perceives?  Is there really an Islamic effort to revive the caliphate, or is this but another conspiracy theory? The issue can be framed differently. If, in the spring of 2001, someone had said Islamic terrorists were going to crash airliners into the World Trade Center, he would have attracted pitying looks at best or been called a rabid Islamophobe at worst. This may be why, over the past few years, Bat Ye’or’s work has been taken much more seriously. That  Bernard Lewis gave her his wholehearted support has helped. However, her thesis is still far from being generally accepted, as seen in the lack of attention to her latest book.   


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[1] As reported by  publicist Veronique Chemla at, 19 November 2010. {French]

[2] Bat Ye’or, Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis (Cranbury, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2005).

[3] Quoted  by Joel Fishman in his review of Eurabia,  Jewish Political Studies Review 19, 3-4 (Fall 2007).

[4] As Bat Ye’or described it:

The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) is a religious and political organization. Close to the Muslim World League of the Muslim Brotherhood, it shares the Brotherhood’s strategic and cultural vision: that of a universal religious community, the Ummah, based upon the Koran, the Sunna, and the canonical orthodoxy of shari’a. The OIC represents 56 countries and the Palestinian Authority (considered a state), the whole constituting the universal Ummah with a community of more than one billion [and] three to six hundred million Muslims. (179, quoted from Bat Ye’or, “OIC and the Modern Caliphate,” American Thinker, 26 September 2010,

[5] “Lebanon is our homeland and will remain a homeland for Christians…. We want to continue to christen, to celebrate our rites and traditions, our faith and our creed whenever we wish…. Henceforth, we refuse to live in any dhimmitude!” As reprinted in Lebanon News 8, 18 (14 September 1985), 1-2.

[6]  “La dhimmitude représente la civilization des peuples vaincus par le jihad et soumis aux lois de la charia au cours de treize siècles d’ histoire,” 7, translated by the reviewer.

[7] “Propulsés par des milliards de pétrodollars et la complaisance des  gouvernements européens l’idéologie jihadiste de conquête mondiale est en plein essor sur tous les théâtres du monde, secondée par les intérêts concurrents des puissances occidentales, ” 8, translated by the reviewer. 

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MICHELLE MAZEL, a graduate of Sciences Po (the Institute for Political Science) and the Paris Faculté de Droit, is a writer of both fictional and nonfictional works and currently resides in Jerusalem.