The Province

Syrian Christians told to pay protection tax


CAIRO — A militant Islamist group has demanded that Christians living in the northeast of Syria pay tax in return for protection as it seeks to build a traditiona­l “Caliphate” in areas it controls.

The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) published the terms in which minorities could live under its rule in a statement on the Internet.

“Christians are obligated to pay Jizya tax on every adult male to the value of four golden dinars for the wealthy, half of that for middle-income citizens and half of that for the poor,” their decree said. “They must not hide their status, and can pay in two instalment­s per year.”

Four dinars would amount to just over half an ounce of gold, worth $804 Cdn at current prices. In return, Christians would not be harmed and would be allowed to worship privately, maintain their own clergy without interferen­ce and keep their own cemeteries, it added.

They are implicitly allowed to continue drinking alcohol and eating pork, but may not do so publicly or trade them with Muslims. Nor may they build or renovate churches, or display the cross.

The demand carries weight because ISIS, which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq, is the most-feared militia in Syria. It controls nearly all of Raqqa province in the northeast.

The decree refers to Christians as “dhimmis” — protected minorities — a term that originated in the seventh century when the Muslim world was ruled by a single religious leader, the Caliph.

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