Movsesian Pens Essay on the Imposition of Dhimma on Mideast Christians

Mark Movsesian, the Frederick A. Whitney Professor of Contract Law and the Director of the Center for Law and Religion at St. John’s University School of Law, has written an essay about the Islamist practice of dhimma which “allows Christian communities to reside in Muslim society in exchange for payment of a poll tax called the jizya and submission to social and legal restrictions.”   An Islamist group in the Syrian opposition recently resurrected this practice in connection with the capture of the town of Raqqa. Here’s an excerpt of the essay, which is titled Mideast Christians, Dhimmis Once More?: An Abandoned Institution Makes A Comeback and appears on the blog First Things:

The rise of political Islam in recent decades has reopened questions about the status of non-Muslims. As Ann Elizabeth Mayer, a human rights scholar at the University of Pennsylvania, has explained, Islamists often seem evasive on the subject. Typically, they are careful not to call for formal reinstatement of the dhimma, since to do so would offend many Muslims. Indeed, Islamists often say they support religious freedom for Christians. But Islamists also make clear that all rules, including rules about religious freedom, must be subject to the requirements of Islamic law—and the dhimma was very much a part of classical Islamic law. Islamists thus leave the door open for reinstatement of dhimmi restrictions, even as they avow a commitment to religious freedom.

Mark Movsesian

Mark Movsesian

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