We are told, even by many of our conservative friends, that "Assad's got to go". But, even considering all of his pre-rebellion crimes, I defy anyone to assert either of the following:
-That people were targeted in Syria purely for their religious affiliation before the rebellion.
-That there is a reasonable expectation that a post-Assad or (even worse) post-Baath Party Syria will find a means to protect people from being targeted for their religious beliefs.
Islamist tolerance in action:
“Convert. Submit to Islam. Or face the sword.” In recent days, the besieged Christian community in Raqqa - a city in northern Syria – has faced those three stark alternatives.
The terrorist group known as ISIS – the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – made their demands after seizing control of the region. They required the local Christians to renounce their faith and embrace Islam, assent to extreme subjugation, or face death.
On February 27, ISIS published a statement that an agreement had been signed by 20 of Raqqa’s Christian leaders.
Faced with losing their lives or denying their Christian faith, the community opted for dhimmi status – suppression as a “protected” minority – which requires them to submit to an array of demands, including the notorious jizya tax, which can be compared to Mafiosi protection money: purchasing their safety, but under strictly enforced regulations.
Raqqa’s Christians are now subject to an extreme version of Islamic Shariah law, which among other things forbids them to repair their war-torn churches, worship or pray in public, ring church bells, or wear crosses or other symbols of their faith. Bearing arms is, of course, forbidden, as are alcoholic beverages.
Even before the agreement was signed, on February 22 Lebanon’s Daily Star reported, “ISIS has imposed a strict form of Islam in Raqqa, enforcing the veil and banning cigarettes. ..........
The Christians of Raqqa chose “to sign the dhimma treaty over war,” the ISIS statement explained, and in return received a commitment by local ISIS commander Ibrahim Al-Badri – also known as Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi – that they would not be subjected to physical harm or religious targeting once the treaty was approved.
ISIS made the case for signing the treaty clear: "If they reject, they are subject to being legitimate targets, and nothing will remain between them and ISIS other than the sword."
But in today’s Syria, where warlike militias compete to wield power, enhance prestige and impose piety, the command to convert or die is a familiar threat. And although dhimmi status may save lives temporarily, it is null and void if protection money isn’t paid or if the local authorities are somehow offended......."
The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) said it would give Christian residents "protection" if they agreed to the list of conditions.
The announcement came in a statement posted online.
Correspondents say ISIS is trying to implement an extreme interpretation of Islamic law in areas it controls.
Raqqa, seized by ISIS last year, was the first provincial capital to be completely in the hands of rebels.'Risking the sword'
The directive from ISIS, citing the Islamic concept of "dhimma", requires Christians in the city to pay tax of around half an ounce (14g) of pure gold in exchange for their safety.
It says Christians must not make renovations to churches, display crosses or other religious symbols outside churches, ring church bells or pray in public.
Christians must not carry arms, and must follow other rules imposed by ISIS (also known as ISIL) on their daily lives.
The statement said the group had met Christian representatives and offered them three choices - they could convert to Islam, accept ISIS' conditions, or reject their control and risk being killed.
"If they reject, they are subject to being legitimate targets, and nothing will remain between them and ISIS other than the sword," the statement said....."
Make that a lot of catches.
Christian residents of Raqqa, once one of the nation's most liberal cities, will have to pay as much as 17 grams of gold per adult male in an annual payment, the extremist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) said in a statement posted online this week.
The group is also forbidding the city's Christians from repairing or refurbishing their churches and monasteries, said the statement, which has been circulated in the city, according to Syrian activists.
The list of constraints imposed by the militants also limits Christian worship, business activities and alcohol consumption......."