Somalia and Brunei have both just banned Christmas celebrations in their respective countries, citing Islamist justifications. The bans mirror similar restrictions placed on Christianity in other countries that implement sharia as state law. For example, in Saudi Arabia public practice of Christianity or any religion other than Islam is banned. There are no Churches permitted in Saudi Arabia.
But why do Islamists want to target those of other faiths?
The answer lies in a doctrine of supremacy, which holds that Islam must be the dominant religion. This dominance was upheld in previous eras when Islamic empires such as the Ottoman Empire imposed jizya, a special tax on recognized non-Muslim faiths, termed ‘people of scripture.’ These specifically included Christians, as well as Jews and Zoroastrians. Those groups entered into dhimmi, a pact of protection, in which the subjugated groups paid a protection tax and recognized the supremacy of Islam in return for exemption from conscription and the protection of the Muslim state.
These dhimmis were also subject to a host of other restrictions.
In Brunei and Somalia non-Muslims resident in the country for whatever reason will be able to quietly observe Christmas in their homes, but public expressions of their faith will be forbidden.
It is based on these theories of supremacy which date back to eras in which Islamic empires reigned over their non-Muslim subjects in a similar way to the subjugation of non-majority-Christian groups in Europe prior to the modern era.
Many Muslims oppose the subjugation of non-Muslim groups in Muslim majority societies. Some theologians believe that the institutions of jizya, dhimma and the associated restrictions and humiliations are inappropriate and not applicable in the modern age.
Islamic Scholar Sheikh Usama Hasan, of the UK’s Quilliam Foundation, has conducted extensive research in this area and presented the various approaches in his report From Dhimmitude to Democracy. He charts the development of Islamic thought towards a model of equality between all faith groups.
As we see from the news, there are many Islamist leaders who disagree with that model and would prefer to return to one of subjugating non-Muslims.
EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is by © Jason D’GReat Creative Commons.