A month ago, I wrote a post about the events unfolding in Mosul and argued that journalists who covered this story -- those brave enough to venture into the Nineveh Plain region -- needed to grasp the meaning of the word "dhimmitude."
Yes, this is a controversial term.
Yes, it is the right word to use when covering the unfolding strategies of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, when dealing with the ancient Christian communities in this region. As I wrote in that post:
The key is that people of other faiths living in lands ruled by Islam are given “dhimmi” status in which they receive some protection under sharia law, in exchange for paying a Jizyah tax as a sign of submission. The big debates are about other conditions of submission which are, or are not, required under dhimmitude. Dhimmis are not allowed to protect themselves (some claim it is impossible to rape a dhimmi), to display symbols of their faith, to build (or even repair) their religious sanctuaries, to win converts, etc. Historically, dhimmis have been asked to wear some form of distinctive apparel as a sign of their inferior status. The key is that this is an protected, but inferior, status under strict forms of sharia law.
This term should have been used in the courageous New York Times piece -- "Life in a Jihadist Capital: Order With a Darker Side" -- that is getting quite a bit of online attention right now, and justifiably so.
Yes, I know that this article violates the Associated Press Stylebook's rule on use of the historic term "fundamentalist." What else is new? This appears to be a consistent policy at the Times, making sure that readers link this term from conservative Protestantism with the worst of what is happening under Islam. Thus, concerning ISIS, the world's most powerful newspaper stresses that the group has "begun imposing its vision of a state that blends its fundamentalist interpretation of Islam with the practicalities of governance."
However, this story is crucial because it includes on-site reporting in the region.