Christian leaders in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, captured by an organization formerly affiliated with al-Qaeda, have signed a submission document this week banning them from practicing Christianity in public in return for protection by their Islamist rulers.
The document, dated Sunday and disseminated through Islamist Twitter accounts, states that the Christian community in the province of Raqqa, captured last March by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), was recently given three options: to convert to Islam; to remain Christian but pledge submission to Islam; or to “face the sword.” They opted for the second of those choices, known as dhimmitude.
Earlier this month, al-Qaeda’s central command distanced itself from ISIS, saying it was “not a branch of al-Qaeda.”
The authenticity of the document, displaying the stamp of al-Qaeda, could not be independently verified. The signatures of 20 Christian leaders at the bottom of the document said to have been party to the agreement were blotted out, ostensibly at their own request.
According to classic Islamic law, Christians and Jews living under Muslim sovereignty must pay a tax known as jizya in return for the Muslim ruler’s protection, known as dhimma.
The Christians of Raqqa chose to sign the dhimma treaty over war, the document stated, receiving a commitment by local ISIS commander Ibrahim Al-Badri, also known as Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, not to be subjected to physical harm or religious targeting.
In return, the Christians agreed to a list of conditions: to abstain from renovating churches or monasteries in Raqqa; not to display crosses or religious symbols in public or use loudspeakers in prayer; not to read scripture indoors loud enough for Muslims standing outside to hear; not to undertake subversive actions against Muslims; not to carry out any religious ceremonies outside the church; not to prevent any Christian wishing to convert to Islam from doing so; to respect Islam and Muslims and say nothing offensive about them; to pay the jizya tax worth four golden dinars for the rich, two for the average, and one for the poor, twice annually, for each adult Christian; to refrain from drinking alcohol in public; and to dress modestly.
“If they adhere to these conditions, they will be close to God and receive the protection of Mohammed his prophet … none of their religious rights will be detracted nor will a priest or monk be wronged,” the document ended. “But if they disobey any of the conditions, they are no longer protected and ISIS can treat them in a hostile and warlike fashion.”
ISIS has previously banned the sale of cigarettes in Raqqa and enforced the veil for women in public. Last week, the Daily Star Lebanon reported, it changed the official weekend in the province to Thursday and Friday from Friday and Saturday, as practiced in “faithless countries.”