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Yemen’s Jews still forced to pay jizya

January 5, 2010

Due to the Christmas bomb plot of Flight 253 and the closure of a U.S. embassy, more Americans have a heightened awareness of the jihadist cesspool that is Yemen. 

While Yemen’s safe harbor for Al Qaeda is widely recognized, its discrimination against religious minorities hasn’t received as much ink yet.  Notably, a Sana’a University sociologist, Adel Al-Sharjabi, appears to be alone in identifying and calling for an end to the imposition of the jizya against Jews in Yemen.

Just last week, Prof. Al-Sharjabi indicated that the jizya is still being used as a bargaining chip against Yemeni Jews.

Adel Al-Sharjabi, another Professor of Sociology at Sana’a’ University, said that Jewish issues in Yemen shouldn’t be used as bargaining chips for political and social biddings. “We should relinquish the Jizyah as it should be imposed only when there is no state, such as when defense is the duty of the group and not the state,” said Al-Sharjabi. “Remaning [sic] under terms of the Jizyah in contemporary political terms is shameful.”

This is a repeat of the professor’s request earlier in 2009 for Yemen to eliminate Yemeni jizya against the Jews.

Most Western media outlets ignore the modern existence of the jizya altogether.  A few of the more perceptive observers have noted the reality of the jizya in modern Pakistan (see item #5 on my list of 2009’s most revealing jihadist financing developments).

But Pakistan has a counterpart in Yemen.  Historically, the jizya was collected from Yemen’s Jews since the early days of Islam.  Formal, open jizya collections persisted longer in Yemen than in most of the Islamic world:

Payment of jizya only ceased in the countries under Ottoman rule in 1839 and in Egypt in 1855 (Courbage & Fargues 1998:22). However, payment of jizya continued in some Islamic countries, notably North Africa and the Yemen, even during the colonial period, when certain citizens had gained European protection.

Persecution of the Jews was so bad that thousands emigrated to Israel in the late 1940s in Operation Magic Carpet.  Today only a few hundred Jews remain, but they have suffered from increased intimidation by Muslims and a lack of protection by Yemen’s government.

Jihad Watch covered more recent death and jizya threats to Yemen’s Jews in January 2007.

In April, Stand for Israel blog warned that the “clock is running out” for Yemen’s Jews.

With the evacuation last year of 60 Jews from Yemen, the Jerusalem Post editorialized in November that 2,500 years of Jewish history in Yemen has come to an end.  Part of the Jews’ frustration was their continued harassment, persecution, and yes, jizya mandates by local Muslims.

I’m uncomfortable that this professor has left the door open for the jizya under certain conditions (ie, whether a formal Muslim state exists or not), because the jizya should not exist in any form.  Nonetheless, I applaud Dr. al-Sharjabi for recognizing and denouncing the contemporary jizya against the dwindling Jewish population of Yemen.  But will any journalist in the West report on what this sociologist has observed?

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