Why ISIS Released 22 Assyrian Christians

The Islamic State has freed 22 Assyrian Christians abducted from villages in northeastern Syria. Their release marks a largely unnoticed trend in IS (also known as ISIS) – comparative safety for Christians.

Why would IS, a group known for its gruesome beheadings of civilians and its vision of a purely Islamic world, allow Christians to go free?

Graeme Wood, a political scientist at Yale University, suggests that Islamic law protects them. In The Atlantic, Mr. Wood writes it appears that Christians who don’t resist the new IS government are permitted to live as long as theypay a special tax known as “jizya.”

“The tax on Christians finds clear endorsement in the Surah Al-Tawba, the Koran’s ninth chapter, which instructs Muslims to fight Christians and Jews ‘until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued,’ ” writes Wood.

Other scholars point out that Jews and Christians are known to many Muslims as “People of the Book,” who Mohammed instructed his followers to treat with respect.

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