Editor’s note: The following account was written for RaymondIbrahim.com by an American teacher in the Muslim world.
Last week, while reading different articles on the Islamic State’s persecution of Christians in the Middle East, I was made aware for the first time that following the fall of the Iraqi city of Mosul in July of 2014, the Islamic State spray painted in red the symbol – – ن on Christian homes and businesses throughout the city.
For those unfamiliar with the character ن (pronounced noon), it represents the 14th letter of the Arabic alphabet and is the equivalent of the Roman letter N. For many Muslims around the world, the ن stands for Nazarene, a demeaning Arabic word for the followers of Jesus of Nazareth, or Christians.
After finishing the article, the first thing that came to my mind was that the Islamic State adopted a practice used by the Nazis to identify and persecute Jews prior and during World War II. The practice in question involved the Star of David being painted on Jewish businesses or worn as an armband or pinned to their chest – which became known as the yellow badge of shame).
However, I soon remembered that the Islamic State is not in the habit of adopting elements of other cultures no matter how cruel those practices are, and that the origins of the yellow badge of shame and the ن are most likely rooted in Islamic tradition.
After some research, I discovered that the practice of forcing non-Muslims to wear clothing differentiating them from their Muslim conquerors has its origin in “The Pact of Umar” (637 AD), or the “Conditions of Omar,” which was imposed on conquered Christians by Umar Ibn Al-Khattab, the second rightly-guided Caliph and a senior companion to the Prophet Mohamed.
On top of forcing non-Muslims to wear their customary clothing while preventing them from wearing Muslim garments, The Pact of Umar also stated that non-believers must wear a belt around their waist. The need to differentiate Muslims from non-Muslims through their clothing is rooted in the following hadith, Abu Dawud 20:3170* and Sahih Bukhari 7:72:786**, where the Prophet Muhammad orders his followers to look and behave differently from Jews and Christians.
So, from the year 637 when Christians and Jews were forced to wear yellow belts, to 2001 when the Taliban required Hindus in Afghanistan to wear yellow badges, passing through the decree of Bagdad (1121) where Jews had to wear yellow stars, Muslims have had a very long history of forcing their conquered subjects to differentiate themselves through their clothing.
With this in mind, I wouldn’t be surprised that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who spent many years in Berlin as Hitler’s guest, was the person who suggested that the Nazis use the “yellow badge of shame” on their Jewish victims.
* “Narrated Ubadah ibn as-Samit: The Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) used to stand up for a funeral until the corpse was placed in the grave. A learned Jew (once) passed him and said: This is how we do. The Prophet (peace be upon him) sat down and said: Sit down and act differently from them.” – Abu Dawud 20:3170