Translating Words, Interpreting Events

Coptic Abductions and the Jizya Rationale

Print Friendly

On March 26 in Egypt, an increasingly common scene took place.  Shenouda Riad Musa, a Coptic Christian man, was kidnapped by “unknown persons” who later called his family demanding one million Egyptian pounds for his release, roughly the equivalent of $150,000 USD, an exorbitant sum in Egypt.

Such scenarios—Coptic children or adults abducted at gunpoint and held (and sometimes killed or forced to convert to Islam) by “unknown persons” in exchange for money—are dramatically on the rise in Egypt (see herehereherehere, and here for some recent examples).

Earlier this month, Isaac Eli—another Coptic man—was abducted under threat of gunfire by four “unknown persons” armed with automatic weapons.  They came upon the Coptic wood merchant while he was working in front of his home, coerced him into their car, and sped away.

Later, one of his relatives received a phone call demanding a hefty ransom to release the Christian man: 500,000 Egyptian pounds.

The logic of these many “unknown persons” appears to be simple: according to Islamic law, non-Muslims are required to pay jizya, or tribute, in order not to be molested or plundered (see Koran 9:29).

However, because the jizya has been abolished since the 19th century, thanks to the intervention of colonial powers, these “unknown persons” have found a way to make a profit that is conscionable enough for them: target Christian minorities in their midst for ransom money and justify it all in the context of receiving their just due of jizya from them.

If Christian infidels are not made to pay tribute to the state—as Koran 9:29 mandates and as Salafis regularly insist—apparently the “jizya-vigilantes” will get that money one way or another.

, , , ,