Extortion in Historyby Rit Nosotro
Compare and contrast the "protection money" extorted by various governments and religions over time.
Throughout history many different organizations have extorted money from many different groups of people in numerous ways. One can find many instances of this; many countries have collected money from other countries to keep the countries collecting the money from attacking those who paid money. Many religions also have levied taxes of one kind or another on other people.
One instance of extortion in history appeared with China and its tribute system. In the 15th century many countries surrounding China payed large sums of money to China, showing their respect for that country. They did this to show that they acknowledged China as a great and powerful country yet they retained their own sovereignty within limits. This relationship allowed China to keep tabs on the power of their neighbors. China also gave gifts back to these neighbors and did not attack them as long as they continued to pay the tribute.
Another particular instance of extortion surrounded the Barbary War. At the end of the 18th century several coastal European nations and the United States began to pay the rulers in the Barbary States of North Africa a sum of money to keep their ships safe from the Barbary pirates. After continuing in this manner for several years, the United States finally decided not to pay the money required by the rulers of the Barbary States; as a result the Pasha of Tripoli declared war on the United States. This war came to a rapid end when the US sent several naval squadrons to Tripoli and bombarded its coast. The Barbary War ended in 1805 with a peace settlement between the US and Tripoli.
One more example of "protection money" can be seen in the history of Islam. In lands that the Muslims had conquered they often allowed those of other religions living in the lands to remain alive and live in their homes, but required them to pay a tax in order to remain in this circumstance. These people who paid the taxes came to be known as Dhimmi, and the tax as Kahraj. The Kahraj tax was so oppressive to the Dhimmi that they became as slaves to their Muslim masters. The Muslims forced the Dhimmi to pay the tax in a humiliating manner and also required them to wear special clothing to designate them as Dhimmi. The Dhimmi were discriminated against in every way; they received the worst jobs available. The Muslims also would not allow them to hold political office. In fact, evidence from a Dhimmi could not even be used against a Muslim in the courts. Even though they payed large sums of money to live, Dhimmi did not lead pleasant lives.
Many different forms of extortion have taken place throughout history. Whether a religion imposing some tax on others, or a country accepting "protection money" from nearby countries, extortion is not right. In Ecclesiastes 7:7 the Bible states that "Extortion turns a wise man into a fool. . . ." While those extorting others may obtain earthly riches, going against what is right will not pay off in the end.
"The Chinese Tribute System". University of Calgary. 17 Feb 2005
"Barbary Wars". GobalSecurity.org. 17 Feb 2005
Gerrish, Jim. "The Dhimmi - Jews and Christians under Islam". 17 Feb 2005
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