The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a jihadist group, announced on Wednesday that Christians in the Syrian city of Raqa will have to conform to Islamic Shari’a, paying taxes in return for protection.
The group released a list of 12 rules that make up an “agreement” on jihadist forums, AFP reported. Christians should not publicly make religious rituals or display the cross “or anything from their book anywhere on Muslims’ path or markets,” it said.
ISIL began as al-Qaida in Iraq and imposed similar rules on Christians there, following the 2003 US-led invasion, said the report.
Christians that refuse to pay would face death, said the group, the BBC reported.
Jihadist groups have taken over swaths of land in Syria as the war has dragged on, imposing Islamic law.
In classical Islamic law a dhimmi, or “protected person,” is allowed to live in Muslim lands provided he pays the jizya in a state of submission and abides by other restrictions. Jews and Christians, because they are “people of the Book,” are given the offer to accept dhimmi conditions.
The payment of jizya is based on the Koran (9:29): “Fight those who believe not in God and the Last Day and do not forbid what God and His messenger [Muhammad] have forbidden – such men as practice not the religion of truth, being of those who have been given the Book – until they pay the tribute out of hand and have been humbled.”
Muslims are obligated to protect dhimmis, but if they breach the pact, they can be killed.
Historically, the dhimmi helped fund the expansion of the Islamic empire.
“The dhimmi peoples became a valuable source of assistance for the conquerors. Making up the entire economic infrastructure of the ever-expanding empire and skilled in professions unknown to the Arabs, they maintained the Arab military apparatus through their taxes and payments in kind, enabling it thereby to pursue the jihad without hindrance,” explains Bay Yeor in her book The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam.
Dhimmis were forbidden to possess arms and became dependent on the occupying power, said Yeor.
Joel Parker, a junior researcher who focuses on Syria at the Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University, told The Jerusalem Post that because the Christian population of Raqa was around one percent before the civil war began, and today is likely far lower due to flight and casualties, the document presented by ISIL is not necessarily intended to have a huge effect in terms of revenue creation for the organization.
“More likely, the move seems aimed to show other Islamist rebel groups that they are indeed capable of building a new state based entirely on Shari’a law,” said Parker.
“They can now claim to be organizing an Islamic state along the model of the prophet Muhammad, whereas the other groups have yet to do so. This fits with their message that they are “the state” that has now come to replace the previous regime,” he added.