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Dhimma: The Status of Protection in a Mediterranean and Asian Context

This project will analyse a particular process of inter-religious contact that took place in the broad lands of Islam, from the Mediterranean basin through Africa to Asia, and involved a number of religious groups described as “people of the Book” (ahl al-kitab), who later became known as the “protected people” (ahl al-dhimma). This led to a number of adaptations in Islamic law in order to reorder the place of these alien communities in the social and religious order of their world, following Byzantine and Zoroastrian views. In time, the statute gave way to a number of persecutions and social adjustments which in some cases resulted in the rejection of the dhimmis and their expulsion or forced migration to other geographical settings. Likewise, the statute of dhimma was transferred to other cultural contexts and transformed into new forms of religious interaction, like the Mudejar status in the Iberian Peninsula, or the protection granted by the Mongols to other religions living under their rule. Different aspects of the dhimma will be considered in the light of the dynamics of the development of the Islamic faith, and the subsequent processes of demarcation and inclusion of these groups already existing in their territories.