Al-Khawaja Yanni (Yanni the Westerner): An Example of Muslim-Christian Tolerance in Jeddah during the 20th Century

Hassna Al-Ghamdi


This paper handles a unique example of religious tolerance and Christian-Muslim coexistence in one of the most conservative Islamic societies; the Saudi Arabian society, by going through the story of Khawaja Yeni, the Greek merchant who lived in the city of Jeddah in the middle of the twentieth century, integrated with its people, formed extensive relations with its Muslim people, and was able to remain vivid in the collective memory of its inhabitants despite his death has Christian decades ago. The Yeni model represents a model of mutual understanding and coexistence between Islamic and Christian cultures. It would not have mattered if the story had been in another Islamic country, but it was in Saudi Arabia and in the city of Jeddah, which is part of the emirate of Mecca, the holy capital of Muslims, this has made the story of Yeni eye-catching and intriguing. Therefore, I saw fit to give that subject a special care and a thorough inquest in order to capture the details of the social, cultural and religious life experienced and interacted with by this Greek merchant. In the absence of official documentation of the details of public life in the mid-20th century, the stories and news about Yeni remained only circulating amongst the inhabitants of Jeddah, and were not written or collected in an academic research that would have saved them from loss and made them available for specialists to study and analyze. Therefore, I relied on the method of “oral history’s documentation” and I gathered these narratives from the mouths of the men who lived and worked with Yeni. Then I analyzed these narratives and drafted them in an academic form that brings together all the narratives from popular circles about the personality of this wonderful Christian who gave a wonderful example of coexistence and integration into a very conservative Islamic society.

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Academic Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies ISSN 2281 3993(Print) ISSN 2281-4612(Online)

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