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The Jizya

October 30, 2009

This will be the first of three special posts on the jizya, the most despised of all Islamic taxes.  Part I today will examine the moral cavity of the jizya.  Tomorrow, Money Jihad walk through the legal foundation of the jizya in Islamic texts, and on Sunday we’ll examine the current imposition of the jizya throughout the world against non-Muslim minorities.

Part I of III:  Why all the fuss

Suppose you are a Methodist living in a majority-Baptist community in America.  Now suppose that in addition to all the state, federal, and local taxes you are required to pay, you are also forced to pay tithes to the local Baptist church.  Remember that you’re a Methodist.

Or suppose you’re a Muslim living in America in a majority-Christian community.  Now suppose that in addition to paying all your government taxes, you’re required to give tithes to the local Christian church.

Unthinkable, right?  But that is what is so insidious about the jizya, the Muslim poll tax on non-Muslims.  If you search for the term jizya on the Internet, you will find a wide range of definitions, from defensive explanations that the jizya is only a substitute for military service, to more accurate definitions that address the punitive, discriminatory character of the jizya.

The unique ugliness of the jizya is difficult for the Western mind to appreciate fully.  First, with our tradition of separating church and state, an obligatory tax levied by the church seems totally foreign to us.  Second, our general theory of taxation is that taxes are levied by the state on those who derive a benefit from the state.  In The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith said:

The subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities; that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under protection of the state [emphasis mine].

Islam, however, blends concepts of the state and religion.  If we think of Islam as a religion only (as most Americans perceive it to be), and if we think of our own principles of taxation, the jizya appears to be, not just discriminatory, but utterly perverted.  In theory, Islamic taxes should only be imposed on thos who derive a benefit “under protection” of Islam.  What benefit is there, pray tell, to being considered a second-class dhimmi in Muslim society?

The most common benefit cited by apologists for Islamic taxation is that non-Muslims are exempt from being drafted into the service of an Islamic army.  Excuse me, but when was the last time you heard of a Christian draft?  The idea that a religion can draft men into military service should leave many Americans scratching their heads about whether Islam truly qualifies as a religion.

Why should non-believers be forced to serve in the army of a religion that is hostile to their own faith?  And why should exemption from a draft that shouldn’t exist in the first place considered to be a “benefit”?  Imagine if Billy Graham formed his own militia, drafted young Christian men, and forced non-Christians to pay a poll tax to Graham’s church in lieu of military service.

The idea that an entity would levy a tax on a person who receives no benefit from that entity, and who is in fact subjugated by the state, is and should be repugnant to our values.

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