Syria: ISIS destroy Sufi shrine, impose jizya tax

Militants from the Qaeda-aligned insurgent group ISIS destroyed a Sufi Muslim shrine as they advanced on Tal Maaruf village in Syria's Kurdish-majority Hassakeh province, residents said Feb. 27. ISIS militants "blew up the shrine, and burned a mosque and a police station," said Massoud Akko, a Kurdish journalist and native of Hassakeh province, told Lebanon's Daily Star. ISIS also came under fire in their stronghold of Raqqa, as even rival jihadists criticized the group’s intention to impose a special "jizya" tax on Chrsitians and other religious minorities in their areas of control—including the provincial capital.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that unknown gunmen killed four members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria in Raqqa in two separate incidents in Raqqa Feb. 27. In Jordan, a leading Islamist figure lashed out at ISIS, calling the jizya idea "distorted and extreme." Abu Qatada, who is on trial in Amman for plotting terrorist attacks, told reporters during a a court session: "The tax imposed by ISIS on Christians in some areas in Syria is not acceptable."

Jizya was a tax imposed by early Muslim rulers on Christians and Jews in exchange for allowing them to practice their religion. ISIS said wealthy Christians must pay the equivalent of 13 grams (half an ounce) of pure gold for every adult male, middle-class Christians pay half that sum and the poor a quarter of it. "They must not hide their status, and can pay in two instalments per year," the declaration read. (Daily Star, Feb. 28; The Telegraph, Feb. 27)