Meanwhile, back in the hellhole of Iraq, the “Islamic State” has issued an ultimatum to Christians in the areas it controls:
In the statement, Isis said Christians who wanted to remain in the “caliphate” declared earlier this month in parts of Iraq and Syria must agree to abide by terms of a “dhimma” contract – a historic practice under which non-Muslims were protected in Muslim lands in return for a special levy known as “jizya”. “We offer them three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract – involving payment of jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword,” the announcement said.
A resident of Mosul said the statement, issued in the name of the Islamic State in Iraq’s northern province of Nineveh, had been distributed on Thursday and read out in mosques. It said that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, which the group has now named Caliph Ibrahim, had set a Saturday deadline for Christians who did not want to stay and live under those terms to “leave the borders of the Islamic Caliphate”. “After this date, there is nothing between us and them but the sword,” it said.
Juan Cole comments on the flight of Christians from Mosul, which leaves the city without a Christian community for the first time since the dawn of the faith itself:
Mosul’s fleeing Christians have largely gone to Dohuk or Irbil in Kurdistan, and Kurdish officials have urged Kurds to give them refuge. Shiite shrines and institutions in the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala have also offered to shelter the displaced Christians. Tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians had earlier gone to Syria and Lebanon, though it seems likely that they will try to get to Europe.
Christians are not the only group at risk. There are many small unorthodox Shiite communities in northern Iraq, and they are recipients of the same threats being directed against the Christians. There are also Mandaean Gnostics. In the period of the American occupation, the predecessors of IS such as al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, had routinely target Christians and heterodox Shiites for bombings and attacks.
Tim Stanley wonders why that persecution of Iraqi Christians continues to inspire little outrage in the West:
It could be that no Westerner wants to return to Iraq, that politicians fear that even discussing the country will lead voters to fear yet another invasion and yet another bloody occupation. Or it could be that we feel embarrassed about the very idea of Christians as a persecuted minority. The reporter John Allen argues that Westerners have been trained to think of Christians as “an agent of aggression, not its victim” – so we’re deaf to pleas for help. That opinion is supported by Ed West in an excellent e-book, and its consequences have been condemned by religious leaders here in the UK. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has compared the suffering of Middle East Christians with Jewish pogroms in Europe and reminded everyone of the words of Martin Luther King: “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
It would indeed be awful to think that the West might remain silent as violence rages purely out of a failure to recognise that Christians can be victimised, or out of a reluctance to cast aspersions on certain brands of Islam. It would make this the first genocide in history to be tolerated out of social awkwardness.
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Amichai Magen take a broader look at some of the governance problems jihadists face in their fanatical attempts to impose Islamic law:
Jihadist groups’ rigid religious outlook drives their belief that sharia must be imposed and also the shape that sharia takes for them. Washington Institute for Near East Policy scholar Aaron Y. Zelin notes that the Islamic State’s city charter after the group captured Mosul on June 10 provided for amputation of thieves’ hands, required timely performance of all required prayers, and forbade drugs and alcohol. Further, “all shrines and graves will be destroyed, since they are considered polytheistic.”
This charter has much in common with previous jihadist governance efforts: They tend to have a legalistic and all-encompassing interpretation of sharia, insisting upon even obscure rules. In a previous period of jihadist rule over Mosul – when the Islamic State’s predecessor, Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), controlled the city until May 2008 – citizens were required to follow intricate and bizarre rules. AQI banned the side-by-side display of tomatoes and cucumbers by food vendors because the group viewed the arrangement as sexually provocative, in addition to banning a local bread known assammoun, the use of ice, and barbers’ use of electric razors. These restrictions might be Monty Python-esque, but the punch line was grim: Iraqis were killed for violating them.
Previous Dish on the plight of Iraqi Christians under ISIS here.
(Photo: Iraqi Christians attend a mass at the Saint-Joseph church in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, on July 20, 2014. Hundreds of Christian families fled their homes in Mosul on July 20 as a jihadist ultimatum threatening their community’s centuries-old presence in the northern Iraqi city expired. By Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images)