ISIS’ Jizya Ploy

The Register published an otherwise excellent editorial on the need to support Iraq’s Christians: “Rebuilding Nineveh” (July 23 issue).

Yet it got a critical point very wrong: Iraq’s Christians were not given a tax option by the Islamic State (ISIS).

Confusion about this matter dates back to the summer of 2014, when ISIS fighters captured Mosul. News reports stated that ISIS commanders had offered local Christians three options: flee, convert to Islam or pay a tax, and that story has been repeated uncritically in further news coverage and in papers issued by human-rights organizations and even by the Holocaust Museum.

However, in my 2016 report, local Church leaders confirm that payment of the tax, or jizya, was never a real option for Christians, but was alleged by ISIS to appear like an authentic “caliphate” or historic Islamic state. Father Emanuel Adelkello, the Syrian-Catholic priest who directly dealt with ISIS over the fate of the 1,000 Christians still in Mosul in late July 2014, explained that the so-called jizya “was only put forward initially as a ploy from which ISIS could keep the Christians there to further take advantage of them and abuse them. There was specific concern that the intention was to keep women there so that they could be taken freely by the ISIS fighters.”

The ISIS fighters had made public statements that, according to the Quran, it was their right to take the Christian women as sex slaves.

Christians believed they had no choice but to flee their homes. Indeed, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, who was among the Mosul refugees, categorically states that no Christian community, or even family, remained in Mosul to pay jizya.

Setting the record straight on this point is critical.

Last year, Secretary of State John Kerry designated Christians as victims of ISIS’ campaign of genocide. But if ISIS was prepared to coexist with Christians and didn’t intend to eradicate them — only to collect a tax from them — then there is no genocide, under the international meaning of the term.

Ongoing confusion about this matter will only hurt the Christians’ case for justice, reparations and even the all-important, but very limited, reconstruction aid to enable them to return to their towns.

The Register’s editorial also comes at a time when the ISIS genocide designation is being re-litigated in the federal courts, with ICE’s planned deportations of Chaldean Catholics in Michigan. If the Christians are forced to return to Iraq, it would be the first time in history that the U.S. government deported genocide-targeted minorities back to a place where genocide is continuing, and after official recognition of this scourge (by both the president and vice president this spring).

ISIS not only intends to destroy the Christian communities under its control, it has effectively done so, forcing tens of thousands to flee their homeland, and leaving churches, monasteries and schools in ruins. ISIS should be held accountable for its ongoing genocide against the Christians, the Yazidis and others.

         Nina Shea

         Washington, D.C.

Editor’s note: Nina Shea is the director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.


Remembering Umbert

First, congratulations to you and your entire staff on the Register being named “Newspaper of the Year.” It’s a well-deserved award and honor!

My purpose for writing is to share my deep sadness on the recent passing of cartoonist Gary Cangemi. I, too, like Mr. Hoopes and his children, just loved Umbert the Unborn (“Umbert, and the Rest of Us, Will Miss You, Gary,” April 2 issue). As Tom stated in his column, “One of the most satisfying experiences of my life has been meeting students here at Benedictine College who trace the strength of their pro-life convictions to Umbert. This simple cartoon — recognizing the humanity of the unborn through humor — has awakened countless young people to a lifelong commitment to the right to life.” What a loss for us all, but especially for the pro-life movement.

We truly miss you, Gary and Umbert! I can only hope that at some point the Cangemi family will find a way to get Umbert the Unborn back in print in the Register again, similar to what the Charles M. Schulz family did with the Peanuts cartoon strip. Umbert’s messages are cutting-edge, timeless, and the ones I cut out and saved continue to make me smile. May Gary rest in peace, and I will keep the Cangemi family in my thoughts and prayers.

          Mary E. Harrison

         Addison, Texas