Religious minorities in the diversity of Islamic thought

Authored by: David D. Grafton

Routledge Handbook of Minorities in the Middle East

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138649040
eBook ISBN: 9781315626031
Adobe ISBN:


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The role of religious minorities in Islamic thought has received increased attention after the rise of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS), or DA’ESH [al-dawla al-islāmiyya fī’l-Irāq wa’l-Shām]. In June 2014, militants from DA’ESH overran Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, and began to implement its puritanical interpretation of sharīʿa. 1 The world received reports of Mosul’s ancient Chaldean and Assyrian Christian communities that fled or were caught under occupation. In addition, the ancient Yezidi community was subjected to bloody and barbaric treatment. Men of the community were executed and women were sold into slavery. DA’ESH committed wholesale genocide. 2 In 2015 DA’ESH had carried out beheadings of Assyrian and Coptic Christians in what it called “retaliations” for the mistreatment of Muslims in other parts of the world. As justification for these acts, DA’ESH announced that it was enforcing the ancient Islamic “protected status” of indigenous Christians as dhimmīs, based upon Q 9:29. Christians were required either to submit to Islam, pay the jizya (a poll tax) and live under DA’ESH sharīʿa rule, or be killed. Those Christians who submitted had the Arabic letter nūn painted on their doors as a public sign of a religious minority. While Christians were given this “privilege” as members of the ahl al-kitāb (“people of the book”), such options were not given to the Yezidis, long considered devil worshippers, and thus, deserving of death.

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