There is a deep resistance in the Western world to take theology seriously, which is a mindset that must change, a theologian said at a Heritage Foundation lecture about the book, The Third Choice: Islam, Dhimmitude and Freedom.
The author, Mark Durie, a theologian, human rights activist and pastor of an Anglican church, said, “the West can no longer afford to lull itself to sleep by assuming religions are essentially all the same or that religion does not matter.”
“We have forgotten how to apply theological constructs to everyday life,” he added. A major goal of the book, Durie said, is to make a case that faith does matter.
The heart of the book, he said, is an analysis of the Dhimma (a term for non-Muslims) pact, which “in Sharia law is the covenant or contract under which non-Muslims were considered to be living.”
He said, “The conditions of the Dhimma covenant agreement treated non-Muslims as people whose lives would have been forfeit if Muslims had not spared them.”
“The annual jizziya, head tax, paid by Dhimmi males is described by authoritative Islamic sources, and I have consulted over 70 commentaries,” Durie said, “as a redemption paid by Dhimmis in return for their life, or as commentators put it—this [the Dhimmi tax] compensates Muslims for their duties of taking slaves, killing and plundering the infidels.”
While researching the book, Durie said, he unearthed the symbolism of the annual tax payment ritual, jizziya payment, which Dhimmi males were required to pay all over the world until the modern times.
“This payment ritual involved a blow on the neck in some versions [or] two blows on the neck—one on the back and one on the side. And, also in some rituals a form of ritual strangulation signifying that the Dhimmi is paying for his very life, rescuing his head,” Durie said.
He found about 30 references to the blow on the neck ritual from all over the region, including Morocco, Yemen and Istanbul, from the 9th to 20th centuries from Muslim and non-Muslim sources alike, Durie added.
The title of the book, The Third Choice, came from the three choices Muslims gave non-Muslims, which goes back to the teachings of Mohammed, Durie said. The three choices include: conversion to Islam, the sword, or to surrender and pay a tax, he said.
After Pope Benedict XVI’s 2006 Regensburg lecture, in which the Pope quoted the Byzantine emperor, Manuel II Paleologus: “show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by sword the faith he preached,” Durie said there was a sharp reaction from the Muslim community.
Following the Pope’s lecture, Durie said, the most interesting comment came from Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia.
Durie said, the Grand Mufti “issued a press release stating that Islam was not spread by violence. He argued that it is false to say that Islam was spread by violence, by the sword, because … infidels had a third choice” … the jizziya.
“The question of whether Islam was or is spread by the sword is, of course, one of the core contested ideological issues of our world today,” Durie said.
The book, The Third Choice, is devoted to answering what the third choice means for the world, Durie said.