Western Ignorance of the ‘Conditions of Omar’
Originally published byÂ PJ Media.
A jihadi groupÂ occupying the SyrianÂ town of RaqqaÂ recently gaveÂ ChristianÂ minoritiesÂ living thereÂ three choices: 1)Â convert to Islam, 2) remain Christian but pay tribute and accept third-class subject status, or 3) die by the sword.
According to theÂ BBC, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria issued a directive
citingÂ the Islamic concept of “dhimma”, [which] requires Christians in the city to pay tax of around half an ounce (14g) of pure gold in exchange for their safety. It says Christians must not make renovations to churches, display crosses or other religious symbols outside churches, ring church bells or pray in public.Â Christians must not carry arms, and must follow other rules imposed by ISIS (also known as ISIL) on their daily lives.Â The statement said the group had met Christian representatives and offered them three choicesâ€”they could convert to Islam, accept ISIS’Â conditions, or reject their control and risk being killed.Â Â “If they reject, they are subject to being legitimate targets, and nothing will remain between themÂ and ISIS other than the sword,”Â the statement said.
BecauseÂ several WesternÂ mediaÂ outletsÂ uncharacteristicallyÂ reportedÂ on this latestÂ atrocity againstÂ Syrian Christians, many Westerners are shockedâ€”amazed to hear of suchÂ draconianÂ conditions.
In reality, however, these three choices are fully grounded in Islamic teachings, as shall be demonstrated below.
So why is the West, here in the “information age,”Â utterly if not abhorrently ignorantÂ of the teachings of Islam?Â Â Â Because thoseÂ responsibleÂ forÂ making such knowledge availableâ€”specificallyÂ academia,Â media, and governmentâ€”areÂ more interested in whitewashingÂ Islam andÂ bemoaning IslamophobiaÂ (see pgs. 219-249 ofÂ Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on ChristiansÂ for specifics).
Most symbolic ofÂ allÂ this is thatÂ right around the same time newsÂ that jihadis were subjugating and extorting jizya-money fromÂ SyrianÂ ChristiansÂ appeared,Â the Saudi-funded Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Christian-Muslim Understanding atÂ Georgetown University, Washington D.C.,Â held aÂ seminarÂ discussing how Islam is misunderstood and being demonized by so-called “Islamophobes.”
I have direct experience ofÂ this.Â Â Many years ago, asÂ a graduate student at Georgetown University’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies,Â my interest inÂ medievalÂ IslamicÂ history, Sharia, and jihadÂ received askance looks from professorsâ€”not least because most classes offeredÂ wereÂ about the evils of colonialism andÂ Orientalism, or Islamic “feminism.”
It was the same when I worked atÂ the African and Middle Eastern Division of the Library of Congress, a governmental institution; there,Â ourÂ conferencesÂ regularly focused onÂ theÂ purported achievements ofÂ Islamic civilization.
As for the endemicÂ Muslim persecution of Christiansâ€”past or presentâ€”apparentlyÂ only an “Islamophobe” wouldÂ raise that topic up.
Speaking of government, also around the same timeÂ jihadis were giving Christians the three classic choices of Islamâ€”conversion, subjugation, or deathâ€”a delegation of Syrian Christian clergyÂ came toÂ theÂ Senate Arms Services Committee meeting roomÂ to offer testimonyÂ concerning the sufferings of Syria’s Christians.Â Then,
Sen.Â John McCainÂ marched into the committee room yelling, according to a high-level source that attended the meeting, and quickly stormed out. “He was incredibly rude,” the source told Judicial Watch “because he didn’t think the Syrian church leaders should even be allowed in the room.” Following the shameful tantrum McCain reentered the room and sat briefly but refused to make eye contact with the participants, instead ignoring them by looking down at what appeared to be random papers.Â The outburst was so embarrassing that Senator Graham, also an advocate of U.S. military intervention in Syria, apologized for McCain’s disturbing outburst.Â “Graham actually apologized to the group for McCain’s behavior,” according to the source, who sat through the entire meeting. “It was truly unbelievable.”
Less dramaticallyÂ but equally revealing, CIA chief John BrennanÂ recentlyÂ declaredÂ that theÂ ideology of those offering Christians three choicesÂ is “a perverse and very corrupt interpretation of the Koran,” one that has “hijacked” Islam and “really distorted the teachings of Muhammad.”
And if the attempts to suppress the reality of Christian suffering under Islam by academia, media, and governmentÂ were not enough,Â monthsÂ andÂ yearsÂ back, whenÂ the plight of Syria’s Christians was becoming known,Â evenÂ random (butÂ supposedly nonbiased andÂ independent)Â think tanksÂ and writersÂ alsoÂ tried toÂ suppressÂ it.
Is it any wonder, then, that Christians in Syria being offered three choicesâ€”Islam, subjugation,Â orÂ deathâ€”is mindboggling to the average person in the West, appearing as a wild aberration?
The Conditions of Omar
Yet knowledge of the particulars ofÂ Islam’s three-fold choiceÂ hasÂ been available for centuries; early Western peoples were much acquainted with it,Â including the now muchÂ malignedÂ “Orientalists.”
Whereas KoranÂ 9:29 provides divine sanctionÂ to fightÂ the “People of the Book”Â Â (namely,Â Christians and Jews)Â “until they pay the jizya with willing submission and feel themselves subdued,”Â theÂ lesser knownÂ Conditions of OmarÂ (also known as theÂ Pact of Omar) lays out inÂ detailÂ how they are to feel themselves subdued.
Named after the second caliph, Omar bin al-KhattabÂ (r.Â 634 to 644), theÂ ConditionsÂ was purportedly agreed upon between the caliph and a community of Christians conquered by invading Muslims, ironically in the region of Syria.Â It has since been referenced in most major works on the treatment of dhimmisâ€”non-Muslims living under Islamic authority.
There are different versions of the text of theÂ Conditions,Â varyingÂ only slightly.Â Â Excerpts from one ofÂ the most authoritative versionsÂ followÂ (my translation). As in most versions, the conquered Christians appear to be speakingÂ and agree:
Not to build a church in our cityâ€”nor a monastery, convent, or monk’s cell in the surrounding areasâ€”and not to repair those that fall in ruins or are in Muslim quarters;
Not to clang our cymbals except lightly and from the innermost recesses of our churches;
Not to display a cross on them [churches], nor raise our voices during prayer or readings in our churches anywhere near Muslims;
Not to produce a cross or [Christian] book in the markets of the Muslims;
Not to congregate in the open for Easter or Palm Sunday, nor lift our voices [in lamentation] for our dead nor show our firelights with them near the market places of the Muslims;
Not to display any signs of polytheism, nor make our religion appealing, nor call or proselytize anyone to it;
Not to prevent any of our relatives who wish to enter into Islam;
Not to possess or bear any arms whatsoever, nor gird ourselves with swords;
To honor the Muslims, show them the way, and rise up from our seats if they wish to sit down;
We guarantee all this to you upon ourselves, our descendants, our spouses, and our neighbors, and if we change or contradict these conditions imposed upon ourselves in order to receive safety, we forfeit our dhimma [covenant], and we become liable to the same treatment you inflict upon the people who resist and cause sedition.
To “become liable to the same treatment you inflict upon the people who resist and cause sedition” simply meant that, if anyÂ stipulationÂ ofÂ theÂ ConditionsÂ was broken, the Christians would resume their natural status as non-submitting infidels who “resist and cause sedition” against Islamâ€”becoming, once again, free game for killing or enslavement.
FarÂ fromÂ beingÂ merelyÂ aÂ historical or theoretical text,Â theÂ ConditionsÂ areÂ very much on the minds of some Muslims.Â Â Aside from theÂ newÂ reports thatÂ jihadis are enforcing theÂ Conditionsâ€”and to a teeâ€”onÂ the Christians of Raqqa, Syria,Â considerÂ the following words of Saudi Sheikh Marzouk Salem al-Ghamdi, spokenÂ onceÂ during a Friday mosque sermon:
If the infidels live among the Muslims, in accordance with the conditions set out by the Prophetâ€”there is nothing wrong with it provided they pay Jizya to the Islamic treasury.Â Other conditions are . . . that they do not renovate a church or a monastery, do not rebuild ones that were destroyed, that they feed for three days any Muslim who passes by their homes . . . that they rise when a Muslim wishes to sit, that they do not imitate Muslims in dress and speech, nor ride horses, nor own swords, nor arm themselves with any kind of weapon; that they do not sell wine, do not show the cross, do not ring church bells, do not raise their voices during prayer, that they shave their hair in front so as to make them easily identifiable, do not incite anyone against the Muslims, and do not strike a Muslim. . . . If they violate these conditions, they have no protection.
From here, one can understand whyÂ all around the Islamic worldÂ ChristiansÂ are under attackâ€”their churchesÂ bombed, burned, or simply denied permits to exist or renovate, andÂ theirÂ Bibles, crosses, and other symbols of “polytheism” confiscated and/or destroyed; why Christians who openly speak of Christianity are accused of proselytizing or blasphemingâ€”both which can lead to execution; and why Christians are being forced to pay tribute or else convert to Islam or die.
Just theÂ other dayÂ in Pakistan,Â Christians “began the construction of a church on land donated by the Christian Akber Masih, a resident in the area. They built the walls of the building and placed a cross in front of the main gate of the small construction yard.”Â But “when a large group of Islamic extremists saw the Christian symbol they arrived unexpectedly with bulldozers and started demolishing the building.”Â Although the Christians notified police and authorities, “the perpetrators were not arrested.”Â As for the aggrieved Christians, they “have received threats and have to abandon the idea of the project to build a church.”
Thanks to Western intervention in the colonial era, theÂ ConditionsÂ largelyÂ disappearedâ€”not least because Muslim leaders and elites were themselvesÂ westernizing.Â But today, as Muslims turn back to their Islamic heritage and its teachingsâ€”not least because Western leaders and elites are urging them to, in the name of multiculturalismÂ if notÂ moralÂ relativism, theÂ ConditionsÂ areÂ returning;Â and woe to the Christian minorityÂ whoÂ dares break themÂ by exercising religious freedomâ€”what I callÂ the “How Dare You?!” phenomenon, which is responsible for the overwhelming majority of Islamic attacks on non-Muslims.
Even so, thanks to theÂ “progressive”Â dissemblingÂ ofÂ academia, media,Â and governmentâ€”the supposed guardians and disseminators of truthÂ and knowledgeâ€”such simple facts about IslamÂ remainÂ a great mysteryÂ in the West, to our own detriment.