The document by which the Islamic State or ISIS justifies its oppressive treatment of Christians has little to do with Muslim history, a recent analysis shows.
An article by Yale scholar Andrew March on the Brookings Institution website looks closely at the “Document of Security” the terrorists allegedly signed with local Christians as they stormed through northern and central Iraq in 2014. March concludes that while the contract is based on a purported 7th-century pact between Jerusalem’s Christians and an early caliph of Islam, it repurposes the supposedly ancient text and its provisions for the Islamic States’ own purposes.
The document places a number of restrictions on Christian worship, public behavior and economic status under the terrorist group’s self-declared caliphate. Among the activities it bans are repairing or building churches, audibly reading or making music in church, worshiping outside churches, convincing fellow Christians not to embrace Islam, carrying weapons and shirking the mandatory “jizya” tax, levied “in an amount based on their wealth.” Most of these provisions are copied from the document IS seems to be imitating.
But a few key components are fresh innovations by IS, including the specification of the tax on non-Muslims and a requirement to comply with the group’s modesty police. In these details, March sees clues toward how the militants are adapting Islamic history to suit their own needs.
The imitation is uncannily precise, borrowing archaic technical terms from the original even when they have little application to the Middle East of 2014. In other words, there is a deliberate attempt to emulate the spirit and voice of early Islam’s rule over Christian subjects. (RELATED: Ancient Christian Communities In Middle East Could Be Eradicated, Says Author)
But while the 7th-century “Pact of Umar” was written in the voice of the Christians in Jerusalem, IS’ contract is written in the third person plural (“They shall not…”). It also omits a number of provisions, including those relating to Christians’ obligatory clothing, to the obligation to house Muslims in churches and homes upon request, and unusually, to a ban on teaching their own Christian children the Quran.
Regardless of the authenticity of the “Pact of Umar,” it provided a foundation for Christians to live within certain restrictions under Muslim rule for centuries. But in its revisions to the document, IS is claiming continuity with the past while it advances a genocidal agenda that threatens to wipe out that fragile historical balance.