Thanks for the plug on my post - I'm glad you found the concept of the dhimmi
useful. While I'm sympathetic to the broader point that you're making about
self-censorship in general, I do think that you should avoid adopting the word
"dhimmi" or "dhimmitude" in this reworked context. The examples that you give
are evocative and - of course - troubling. But the position of the dhimmi in
Islamic society is a legal one, with a full range of accompanying consequences.
If one is a dhimmi, for example, a number of one's basic freedoms (movement,
worship, association, etc) are contingent upon the agreement to pay a special
tax. Failure to do so, or to acquire an alternative legal form of safe passage
called "amn", would result in a kind of legal vulnerability. In many cases, a
number of other regulations were imposed on dhimmis, such as identifying dress,
limited residential options, restricted permission for the building of places of
worship, etc. In effect, the oft-repeated claim of many Muslims that Islam is
tolerant towards People of the Book (dhimmis) is true - they were tolerated, but
not juridically equal.In the cases you cite, the individuals are juridically
equal, and they are feeling the pressures of a kind of social censorship. This
is vitally important, but is neither unique to Islam, nor equivalent to legal
restriction. That's one reason to avoid adopting the idea of the para-dhimmi, as
much as I applaud your creativity.The second reason, though, is suggested by one
of your other commentors. There is a "dhimmitude movement" to which Pipes most
certainly belongs, dedicated to ferreting out any underlying "submissive"
attitude on the part of Jews and Christians, or dhimmis who still - even while
living the West - allow themselves to be subjugated. It's an offensive movement
of thought police, and based on my reading of the wide range of interesting (and
open minded) discussions on your site, you wouldn't really want much to do with
them.That doesn't mean, though, that the idea of socially imposed limits on free
expression is worth abandoning. Chapter 4 of my dissertation is all about the
way in which some Muslims coerce other Muslims into remaining silent in
expressing their moderation. :)
I know even less about the dhimmitude movement than about the concept of the dhimmi, so I'll refrain from comment on that. I have been thinkng about the idea of self-censorship, though. The idea was raised here by Philbrick and others that self-censorship is not unique to Islam, and can be found in all sorts of other political and religious settings.
I'm not so sure about that, though. Of course, self-censorship is very common, and to some degree healthy. For example, I'll sometimes be at a conference and hear a terrible, sophomoric paper -- then later, when asked by the presenter what I thought of the paper, I'll either change the topic or say something non-commital, rather than saying what I actually thought: Sir, your paper was stupid. How could you have written such tripe? We shouldn't think that all self-censorship is bad.
In this case, though, my distress is over the degree of self-censorship. In the two examples I gave, one of the students was a native-born American (though living in an immigrant community) and one was from abroad, yet neither felt safe performing normal student activities (participating in class or reading the assignment) in an American classroom. I don't believe I've ever had any student of any other religious/political/social affiliation tell me that they could not speak in class nor publicly acknowledge reading assignments (more often they fake having read assignments they haven't actually, but that's another issue). Now, I've had students tell me that they found a particular reading politically or religiously offensive, but those students did not pretend that they did not do the reading. Students will often remain silent in a class for fear of sounding stupid, but already-talkative students typically do not suddenly shut down because of one other student (unless they've had a bad breakup, with is also another issue). Unless my memory fails me on this point, I can think of lots of examples of this degree of self-censorship among Muslim students, but no examples of this degree among other students.
Of course, these two examples are not the only two I can think of -- for example, I've probably excused a couple of dozen Muslim students from the Koran readings -- but they were simply meant to stand in for the whole. My point was that while it is fair game to call for Muslims to condemn actions done in the name of Islam (just as it is fair to expect Christians to condemn the complicity of some congregations in the Rwandan genocide), it is perhaps a little unrealistic to expect that the calls will be heeded. If a student feels completely unable to fulfill their normal scholarly duties in an American classroom simply because of the presence of a few other Muslims, what chance do we have that people will speak out from the immigrant communities or from the neighborhoods in the Middle East? Perhaps non-Muslims should try to keep in mind the tremendous threat of social condemnation or physical violence that might prevent many Muslims from speaking their minds.