Non-Muslim Rights in the Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire showed great toleration and acceptance of non-Muslim communities in their empire. This is based on existing Islamic  laws regarding the status of non-Muslims. They are protected, given religious freedoms, and free from persecution according to the Shariah. One of the first precedents of this was the Treaty of Umar ibn al-Khattab, in which he guaranteed the Christians of Jerusalem total religious freedom and safety.

The Millet System

The first instance of the Ottomans having to rule a large number of Christians was after the conquest of Constantinople by Sultan Mehmed II in 1453. Constantinople had historically been the center of the Orthodox Christian world, and still had a large Christian population. As the empire grew into Europe, more and more non-Muslims came under Ottoman authority. For example, in the 1530s, over 80% of the population in Ottoman Europe was not Muslim. In order to deal with these new Ottoman subjects, Mehmed instituted a new system, later called the millet system.

This portrait of Mehmed II was painted by an Italian Christian, Gentile Bellini

This portrait of Mehmed II was painted by an Italian Christian, Gentile Bellini

Under this system, each religious group was organized into a millet. Millet comes from the Arabic word for “nation”, indicating that the Ottomans considered themselves the protectors of multiple nations. Each religious group was considered its own millet, with multiple millets existing in the empire. For example, all Orthodox Christians in the Ottoman Empire were considered as constituting a millet, while all Jews constituted another millet. 

Each millet was allowed to elect its own religious figure to lead them. In the case of the Orthodox Church (the biggest Church in the Ottoman Empire), the Orthodox Patriarch (the Archbishop of Constantinople) was the elected leader of the millet. The leaders of the millets were allowed to enforce their own religion’s rules on their people. Islamic law (Shariah) had no jurisdiction over non-Muslims in the Ottoman Empire.

In cases of crime, people would be punished according to the rules of their own religion, not Islamic rules or rules of other religions. For example, if a Christian were to steal, he would be punished according to the Christian laws regarding theft. If a Jew were to steal, he were to be punished according to Jewish laws, etc. The only time Islamic law would come into account was if the criminal was a Muslim, or when there was a case involving two people from different millets. In that case, a Muslim judge was to preside over the case and judge according to his best judgement and common law.

In addition to religious law, millets were given freedom to use their own language, develop their own institutions (churches, schools, etc), and collect taxes. The Ottoman sultan only exercised control over the millets through their leaders. The millet leaders ultimately reported to the sultan, and if there was a problem with a millet, the sultan would consult that millet leader. Theoretically, the Muslim population of the Ottoman Empire also constituted a millet, with the Ottoman sultan as the millet leader.


The Ottoman Empire lasted from 1300 to 1922. Throughout most of this history, the millet system provided a system of religious harmony and belonging throughout the empire. As the empire expanded, more millets were organized. Separate millets existed for Armenian, Catholic, and Orthodox Christians, for example, with each sect being divided further into more specific regional churches.

These imperial decrees by the Ottoman sultans Mehmed II and Bayezid II granted the Greek community ownership of the church. The decrees and church remain in Istanbul today.

These imperial decrees by the Ottoman sultans Mehmed II and Bayezid II granted the Greek community ownership of the church. The decrees and church remain in Istanbul today.

The millet system did not last until the end of the Ottoman Empire. As the empire weakened in the 1700s and 1800s, European intervention in the empire expanded. When the liberal Tanzimat were passed in the 1800s, the millet system was abolished, in favor of a more European-style secularist government. The Ottomans were forced to guarantee vague “rights” to religious minorities, which in fact limited their freedoms. Instead of being allowed to rule themselves according to their own rules, all religious groups were forced to follow the same set of secular laws. This actually ended up causing more religious tension in the empire, which was one of the causes of the genocide of the Armenians during World War One in the Ottoman Empire’s dying days.

The millet system was a unique and creative solution to running a multi-ethnic and multi-religious empire. The rights and freedoms it gave to religious minorities were far ahead of their time. While Europe struggled with religious persecution into the 1900s, the Ottomans created a harmonious and stable religious pluralistic system that guaranteed religious freedom for hundreds of years.

So please do NOT blindly believe the islamophobic media oulets, individuals, etc. do your own sincere research about Islam and its factual history that has been intentionally hidden from mainstream media outlets…

                                                                                                                                  Dr Asif


Itzkowitz, Norman. Ottoman Empire And Islamic Tradition. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 1981. Print.

Ochsenwald, William, and Sydney Fisher. The Middle East: A History. 6th. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003. Print.


‘India gang rape’ fashion shoot showing model being harassed on board bus sparks outrage

By Claire Cohen

A Mumbai photographer has caused outrage after publishing images which appear to glamorise the attack of a female student on board a New Delhi bus. Claire Cohen asks whether fashion and art that depict crime can add anything positive to the conversation

A photo shoot by an Indian photographer has been accused of glamorising rape Photo: Raj Shetye


 Presumably it seemed like a good idea at the time. But photographer Raj Shetye’s new picture series has sent ripples of anger around the world.

Why? ‘The Wrong Turn’, as it’s called, depicts a young, glamorously dressed, Indian woman on a bus, posing being groped and manhandled by a gang of men. In one image she holds her head, while two men attempt to pull her arms apart. In another she’s straddled by a man seemingly naked, but for a pair of boots. A particularly controversial shot shows the model being held in a grip lock by one man, while another pulls her bare leg from her long dress and appears to be kissing her knee.

Needless to say, it’s not a huge leap to associate the posed images with the brutal gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old student on a bus in New Delhi, in December 2012. The crime shocked India, started an unprecedented debate on the vulnerability of women to sexual assault and led to days of protests, which forced authorities to introduce tough new anti-rape laws. Four of the perpetrators were eventually sentenced to death.


The Mumbai based photographer has denied that his work depicts the exact circumstances of the crime, which Indians refer to by the pseudonym given to the victim; ‘Nirbhaya, a Hindi word meaning ‘fearless’.

But he has admitted that he intended to restart the conversation around the issue of women’s safety.

“This is in no way meant to glamorise the act, which was very bad,” Shetye told BuzzFeed. “It’s just a way of throwing light on it.”

“But being a part of society and being a photographer, that topic moves me from inside,” he continued. “I stay in a society where my mother, my girlfriend, my sister are out there and something like this can happen to them also.”

Shetye claims to have spent months perfecting the idea for the shoot, as he didn’t want to “create something irresponsible”. He also said that none of the fashion brands used has been credited, to avoid accusations of commercialisation.

The reaction to his photos on Twitter and Facebook, however, suggests that he’s well and truly failed in his mission.

The images are called ‘repulsive’, ‘digusting’, ‘sickening’ and ‘horrific’. Most users are outraged at what they see as commercial gain from crime. Some accuse him of seeking publicity. Many ask what victims of rape will think when they see the photos. Only a handful have come out in support of Shetye and posited that his title, ‘The Wrong Turn’ is in itself a comment on how society has lost its way when incidents like this can happen in the first place.

Sapna Moti Bhavnani, a Bollywood actress who took part in a recent stage production based on the gang-rape, wrote:

Bollywood director Vishal Dadlani said:

While New Delhi-based author Meenakshi Medhavan called it ‘tasteless’:


She then went on to post a series of fashion shots that depict models being choked, harrassed by policemen and murdered.

It brings to mind Vice magazine’s much criticised 2013 ‘Last Words’ shoot, in which models posed as famous female writers who committed suicide – at the moments of their death. In that instance, the fashion brands featured were named, while no information was given on the authors (think Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf) themselves. Such was the outcry that Vice deleted the pictures from its site and apologised “to anyone who was hurt or offended.”

So furious has been the backlash against Shetye that he was forced to explain himself on Facebook and has removed the original images from his website.


The artist allegedly wrote; ‘It is meant to highlight our double standards where people expect the rich or well-heeled to dress well and travel in the luxury security and comfort of their own vehicle…It was intentionally done in a bus to cause men to think of what gives them the right to assume that well dressed women in public transport (signifying public spaces in general) can be targets & also what gives the general public the right to cast aspersions on women and their character if they are well dressed and seen in public.’

But he also admitted that the reaction, “makes me feel satisfied about my work — at least the work I did is so impactful that I’m able to shed some light on this. I don’t feel happy, but it makes me feel satisfied. That whatever I’ve tried to communicate is being communicated.”

So what exactly is being communicated here? Shetye claims that he wants to throw light on the subject of rape and start a conversation. Andin a statement, he wrote ‘If the cost to set the ball-rolling here is that I have [to] be the bad guy, then be it that way.’

But what is Shetye making himself the bad guy for? Because I question whether anything positive can come out of this. When has art – of the sort that depicts crime or criminals – ever really changed anything?

In the late Nineties, an image of Myra Hindley, by artist Marcus Harvey,provoked an extreme reaction and was defaced during the 1997 Royal Academy exhibition on the YBAs. In 1964, Warhol’s ‘Most Wanted’ series of mugshots caused outrage at the Woyld Fair.

While Vice’s photo shoot – and others like it – have caused mass upset and widespread comment. But did any of them actually add anything useful to the conversation around the crime, or criminals, they depicted?

Only this week a 20 year-old Hindu woman has said she was kidnapped and gang-raped over three days in India’s Uttar Pradesh region. And in May, two teenage girls were raped and hanged from trees in the north of the country.

Is Shetye going to use these latest crimes as the basis for further works? Does he believe that doing so would really add anything positive to the debate around the safety of women?

Or would it, as his latest photo shoot has, simply cause widespread distress and disgust.

Do you think these pictures add anything to the debate on rape in India?

Mesmerizing Interiors Of Iran’s Mosques Captured In Rare Photographs By Mohammad Domiri

Mohammad Domiri, a talented architectural photographer from northern Iran, takes stunning photos of grandiose mosque architecture throughout the Middle East.

Islamic architecture is often recognized by its elegantly curved arches and spiraling columns, which feature heavily throughout Domiri’s photos. Many of the historic sites Domiri shoots are decorated with colorful stained-glass windows, geometric decorations and painstakingly detailed mosaics, so he shoots with special wide-angle lenses to make sure that he captures all of these details. Because they are historic structures, many of these mosques also impose heavy restrictions on photography – making photos like Domiri’s very rare.

Profiting off of Islamophobia


A new study shows how anti-Muslim bigotry has become a profitable business for a number of groups and individuals on the right, writes Patrick O. Strickland.. BUILDING ON the long tradition of racism intersecting with capitalism, anti-Muslim hysteria has become an immensely lucrative business for some. A new report published by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) details the alarming profitability of organizations committed to promoting Islamophobia in the U.S. Continue reading

Hyper-sexualization of Women by the Media

by Laura Perez

PERSONAL NOTE – I apologize for some of the obscene pictures in this article, but its my personal opinion that people have the right to know the gravity of the situation. Indeed a picture speaks a thousand words.

Every day women are objectified by the media.  The media creates false images and ideas of what a “real” woman is supposed to look, act, and be.  We see this portrayal in both men’s and women’s magazine ads, T.V. commercials, films and on the internet.  Women are sex objects – and that’s all.  The media often fails to represent real women, and because women are hyper-sexualized, sexual norms become skewed, affecting the behavior of adolescent girls. Continue reading

Liberal values are undermining society


How can the obvious link between an increasingly sexualised society and the rise in sexual assaults be ignored?

On the same day as the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England reported the “appalling reality” of sexual violence committed by young people, the Lancet published its National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles survey, or Natsal showing increasing liberal attitudes to sex in Britain. Continue reading