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Daybreak in Turkey

281 pages
Library of Alexandria
One of the obstacles which lie in the path of the European when he wants to arrive at the true opinion of the Oriental is that the European, especially if he be an official, is almost always in a hurry. If, he thinks, the Oriental has anything to say to me, why does he not say it and go away? I am quite prepared to listen most attentively, but my time is valuable and I have a quantity of other business to do; I must, therefore, really ask him to come to the point at once. This frame of mind is quite fatal if one wishes to arrive at the truth. In order to attain this object, the Oriental must be allowed to tell his story and put forward his ideas in his own way; and his own way is generally a lengthy, circuitous, and very involved way. But if any one has the patience to listen, he will sometimes be amply rewarded for his pains. I once asked a high Moslem authority how he reconciled the fact that an apostate could now no longer be executed with the alleged immutability of the Sacred Law. The casuistry of his reply would have done honor to a Spanish Inquisitor. The Kadi, he said, does not recognise any change in the Law. He would, in the case of an apostate, pronounce sentence of death according to the Law, but it was for the secular authorities to carry out the sentence. If they failed in their duty, the sin of disobeying the Law would lie on their heads. Cases of apostasy are very rare, but during my tenure of office in Egypt, I had to interfere once or twice to protect from maltreatment Moslems who had been converted to Christianity by the American missionaries. The reasons why Islam as a social system has been a complete failure are manifold. First and foremost, Islam keeps women in a position of marked inferiority. In the second place, Islam, speaking not so much through the Koran as through the traditions which cluster round the Koran, crystallises religion and law into one inseparable and immutable whole, with the result that all elasticity is taken away from the social system. If to this day an Egyptian goes to law over a question of testamentary succession, his case is decided according to the antique principles which were laid down as applicable to the primitive society of the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century.