The New York Times today tells a harrowing story about the Islamic system of dhimmitude forced onto Christians in Iraq under the very noses of American forces--but it's clear the newspaper doesn't realize it. The subject at hand is a Sunni-insurgent version of the "jizya," or Islamic poll tax, which, since the days of Mohammed, has been collected from Jews and Christians according to Islamic law as payment for thepermission to worship non-Islamically. According to a Christian member of the Iraqi parliament quoted in the story, "All Iraqi Christians paid."
From the Times report:
MOSUL, Iraq--As priests do everywhere, Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, the leader of the Chaldean Catholics in this ancient city, gathered alms at Sunday Mass. But for years the money, a crumpled pile of multicolored Iraqi dinars, went into an envelope and then into the hand of a man who had threatened to kill him and his entire congregation.
“What else could he do?” asked Ghazi Rahho, a cousin of the archbishop. “He tried to protect the Christian people.”
But American military officials now say that as security began to improve around Iraq last year, Archbishop Rahho, 65, stopped paying the protection money, one sliver of the frightening larger shadow of violence and persecution that has forced hundreds of thousands of Christians from Iraq. That decision, the officials say, may be why he was kidnapped in February.
Two weeks later, his body was found in a shallow grave outside Mosul, the biblical city of Nineveh.
Archbishop Rahho was among the highest-profile Iraqi Christians to die in the war. He was mourned by President Bush and Pope Benedict XVI before his role as a conduit for protection money paid by the Chaldean Christians to insurgents became known outside Iraq.
These payments, American military officials and Iraqi Christians say, peaked from 2005 to 2007 and grew into a source of financing for the insurgency. They thus became a secret, shameful and extraordinary complication in the lives of Iraq’s Christians and their leaders — one that Christians are only now talking about more openly, with violence much lower than in the first years of the war.
“People deny it, people say it’s too complex, and nobody in the international community does anything about it,” said Canon Andrew White, the Anglican vicar of Baghdad. Complicating the issue further, he said, some of the protection money came from funds donated by Christians abroad to help their fellow Christians in Iraq.
Yonadam Kanna, a Christian lawmaker in Iraq’s Parliament, said, “All Iraqi Christians paid.”
For more than 1,000 years, northern Iraq has been shared by people who for the most part believe and worship differently: Turkmen, Kurds, Yazidis, Sunni and Shiite Arabs, and Assyrian Christians — of whom the Chaldeans are the largest denomination. (The Chaldean Church, an Eastern Rite church, is part of the Roman Catholic Church, but maintains its own customs and liturgy.)
Since the time of the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, Muslims in the Middle East permitted that diversity in part through a special tax on Jews and Christians. The tax was called a jizya — and that is the name with which the insurgents chose to cloak extortion, Mafia-style, from Christians.
"Cloak"? If, as the reporter has written, the insurgents chose to "cloak" their extortion with the word "jizya," then the reporter has implied that jizya is NOT extortion. The subtext thus leaves us assuming that the insurgents are somehow twisting a high-minded religious institution to cover nefarious, gangland ends. But jizya by definition IS extortion--a centuries-old Islamic tool of torment and terror tand humiliation hat you might say the Mafia only much more recently expropriated.
Officials say the demands could be hundreds of dollars a month per male member of a household. In many cases, Christian families drained their life savings and went into debt to make the payments. Insurgents also raised money by kidnapping priests. The ransoms, often paid by the congregations, typically ran as high as $150,000, several priests and lay Christians said.
In a paradox, this city, long the seat of Iraqi Christianity, also became known as the last urban stronghold of Sunni insurgents. Another, more painful, paradox is that many of Iraq’s remaining 700,000 Christians paid to save their lives, knowing full well that the money would be used for bombs and other weapons to kill others
Um, where was the US of A?
The story explains that this whole situation arose in the aftermath of the Battle of Fallujah, when insurgents escaped north toward the Mosul area, an ancient (i.e., pre-Islamic) center of Christianity. The story continues:
Christians, seen as allied with the American invaders, became targets of retributive attacks. “Leave or die” notes began appearing on their doorsteps.
“Anytime the Western countries go to war in the Middle East, it becomes a religious war,” said Rosie Malek-Yonan, the author of “The Crimson Field,” a historical novel depicting the 1914-18 massacre of Assyrians during World War I under similar circumstances.
Ms. Malek-Yonan, who testified on the issue of Christians’ safety in Iraq at a Congressional hearing in 2006, accused the United States Army of failing to protect the Christians out of concern that special attention to this minority would play into the hands of insurgent propagandists.
So, if true, Iraqi infidels, already seen as allied with American infidels and, thus, targets of attacks, went unprotected by American infidels so American infidels could deny a propaganda victory to Iraqi jihadis. So ugly if true. The Times account goes on to place the deployment of less effective Kurdish, and not US, forces in these areas into this context.
Tragically, such a desire to placate Islamic sensibilities--including those directly at odds with our own core values--is something the US has long been in thrall to. Just consider the fact that only out of concern for Islamic sensibilities, the ally that would be of greatest service to US efforts in the region--going back decades--is shut out of every darn worldwide coalition of the willing we try to form: Israel.
"Well, of course," most politicians would say. "If we militarily align ourselves with Israel--its very existence an afront to Islam--and if we saved Christians from Islamic law--another afront to Islam--the Islamic world would think we stood for liberty and justice for all...and we wouldn't want that, would we???"
UPDATE: Andrew Bostom, author of the recently released The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, adds scholarly heft here.