DAMASCUS, Syria (Christian Examiner) – A new video released by the "information office" of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Damascus features a black-clad jihadist delivering a stark warning to the people of the United States – convert to Islam, submit to the Islamic State and pay the jizya (tax for non-Muslims), or die.
"This is the message to all Christians in the East and West, and to the defender of the Cross – America: convert to Islam and no harm will come to you. If you obey, you will have to pay the jizya poll tax," the Jihadist said, according to a translation provided by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
The jizya varies depending on who institutes it, but in the case of ISIS, the rates have been so burdensome few of those conquered by the group can pay it. While physical punishment for failure to pay the tax is not supposed to be carried out, those who do not pay may be imprisoned or their families sold into slavery. Young girls often become sex slaves if their fathers cannot pay the tax.
According to MEMRI, the speaker also echoed the earlier comments of ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad Al-'Adnani, who said paying the jizya would be 1,000 times less than spending money on a war to fight Muslims – a war he described as "destined to fail."
The five-minute video, released Oct. 3, had its title taken from a verse in the Quran (9:29) which tells Muslims, "Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture - [fight] until they give the jizya willingly while they are humbled."
In the video, the ISIS fighter describes a recent contract or dhimma reached with Christians in the Syrian town of Qaryatayn, which the terror group overran last month. In the video, members of the Islamic State can be seen demolishing churches and tearing down crosses. It also shows the town's residents being forced to sign the contract.
The town is not the first where ISIS instituted a dhimma. In March 2014, after conquering the Christian town of Raqqa, ISIS militants forced residents there either to commit to paying four gold dinars annually (about $500), converting to Islam, or being killed.
The newest video, according to the translation provided by MEMRI, includes narration describing the capture of Qaryatayn as a "liberation" of the land from the governance of Syria President Bashaar Al-Assad, a Ba'athist. According to the report, ISIS fighters celebrated the fact that "shari'a law had returned to the city and its Muslim residents are smiling again."
Many of the Christians there, the spokesman said, had fled to Diyar Al-Kuffr [the dwelling of the disbelievers].
"The ISIS member says that the Christians who had been taken captive and remained in the city had four options," the report from MEMRI said. "One, the men could be killed and the women and children could be enslaved. Two, they could be exchanged for prisoners, money, or booty. Three, they could be pardoned, provided they leave the caliphate. Four, they could sign the dhimma contract and pay the jizya. In the end, he says, 'The caliph of Muslims [Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi] displayed kindness and generosity [to the Christians] and agreed to receive their jizya tax and allow them to live under caliphate rule as part of the dhimma contract.' He adds that 'the leader of the Muslims' had agreed to give the Christians who fled the city an opportunity to sign the dhimma contract and to return within a month to their homes and fields."