The khums tax menace: keep an eye on the recipients, not just the rateDecember 22, 2009
The khums tax is based on the Koran 8:42:
And ye know, that when ye have taken any booty, a fifth part belongeth to God and to the apostle, and to the near of kin, and to orphans, and to the poor, and to the wayfarer, if ye believe in God, and in that which we have sent down to our servant on the day of the victory, the day of the meeting of the Hosts.
Shia Muslims interpret this passage to apply to all financial gains—or ghanima—not just war booty the way Sunnis interpret it.
But what is wrong with the khums? I can summarize the problem in three words: Khums. Funds. Hezbollah. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Just read what members of Hezbollah have said about their khums revenue.
In 2005, Hezbollah spokesman Hussein Naboulsi proudly declared that most of their revenue comes from khums. The interviewer asked him, “From where do you obtain your funds for all of your activities, be it military or social?” His answer:
Mainly from donations. In our Shiia religious system we have “al Khums”, meaning that each year a 5th of our profit will go to the religious leaders who then proceed to further distribute the money. However, we accept money from anyone who believes in our cause. If the US or a European country would like to help us, their support would be welcome.
Cambridge scholar Syed Ali Abbas told Open Democracy in 2006 that Hezbollah and Iran are inextricably linked through the khums:
If Iran as a state were to withdraw material support for Hizbollah, this would not mean the collapse of Hizbollah as an organisation. Hizbollah gets most of its funding through the Shi’a taxation system of khums. This is a unique form of tax, quite separate from the mainstream Islamic tax (zakat).
In 2007, NPR’s John Ydstie asked Hezbollah expert Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, “And where is the money that Hezbollah has distributed come from?”
Ms. SAAD-GHORAYEB: Well, of course, Hezbollah doesn’t disclose its sources of financing, but what we do know is Hezbollah relies very much on Shiite religious taxes called the khums. And, at the same time, one can assume that Iran does provide Hezbollah with some financial aid, although neither Iran nor Hezbollah will admit to this.
Meanwhile, Shia leaders (like the ones championing the khums that we covered in yesterday’s post) credit khums with promoting independence, flexibility, and evolving interpretations in Islamic scholarship by supplying plenty o’ money to the imams and ayatollahs: under Shia taxation, the “leading ulama always enjoyed a degree of independence from the state that was unheard of elsewhere…due to a special ‘income tax’ (khums) that is paid to them directly by the faithful, making senior clerics…largely independent from state influence…”
For tax geeks like me, more details on the khums are available here and here. But in this case the forest is more important than the trees: khums is yet another coercive Islamic tax imposed at a high rate (20 percent isn’t the top marginal rate—it’s the effective rate), which has in practice led to the funding of the Hezbollah terrorists and strengthened the Iranian imamocracy. And nobody in the Western media seem to care that Muslim charities want the khums to spread?