by Raymond Ibrahim
April 25, 2012
The war on Christianity and its adherents rages on in the Muslim world. In March alone, Saudi Arabia’s highest Islamic law authority decreed that churches in the region must be destroyed; jihadis in Nigeria said they “are going to put into action new efforts to strike fear into the Christians of the power of Islam by kidnapping their women”; American teachers in the Middle East were murdered for talking about Christianity; churches were banned or bombed, and nuns terrorized by knife-wielding Muslim mobs. Christians continue to be attacked, arrested, imprisoned, and killed for allegedly “blaspheming” Islam’s prophet Muhammad; former Muslims continue to be attacked, arrested, imprisoned, and killed for converting to Christianity.
To understand why all this persecution is virtually unknown in the West, consider the mainstream media’s well-documented biases: also in March alone, the New York Times ran a virulently anti-Catholic ad, but refused to publish a near identical ad directed at Islam; the BBC admitted it will mock Jesus but never Muhammad; and U.S. sitcoms were exposed for bashing Christianity, but never Islam.
Is it any wonder, then, that this same mainstream media ignores or at best whitewashes the nonstop persecution of Christians under Islam? Exposing such ugly truths would undermine their narrative of Islam as the “religion of peace.”
Categorized by theme, March’s batch of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes (but is not limited to) the following accounts, listed in alphabetical order by country, not severity:
Apostasy, Blasphemy, and Proselytism: Death and Prison
Egypt: A Christian man accused of insulting Islam’s prophet Muhammad was sentenced to six years in prison. Though “defamation of religion” is a misdemeanor under Egyptian law, punishable by a prison sentence of one month to three years, the judge doubled the sentence to appease Muslims, including an angry 2,500-strong mob that terrorized the courtroom, demanding death for the Christian. Likewise, an “anti-Christianization course” by an organization that is “specializing in the resistance to Christianity”—so Muslims are not “throw[n] under the feet of the Cross”—was initiated; according to an instructor, “Reoccurring attempts at the university in Aswan to convert Muslims to Christianity or provoke them with misleading information was the drive behind the course.”
India: A young woman was attacked and kicked out of her home “for daring to give thanks for healing in Christ’s name” in a predominantly Muslim village; “her parents helped Islamic extremists to beat her nearly unconscious.” In a village where “hard-line Muslims have threatened to kill the 25 families who initially showed interest in Christ, leaving only five frightened Christian families,” the woman was attacked when returning from church, called “pagan, among other verbal abuse.” The mob also harassed and threatened the Christian woman who “lured” her to convert to Christianity.
Iran: In a rare crackdown on a concentrated area, authorities arrested 12 more converts to Christianity living in Isfahan, the country’s third largest city, in what is seen as a tactic to discourage Muslims from attending official churches. Among the latest known Christian converts detained in the Isfahan area is a man who was reportedly taken into custody on March 2 while returning home from his work: “Security authorities raided his home and seized him without explanation.”
Iraq: An American teacher was shot to death by an 18-year-old student at a private Christian academy. He “was a devout Christian who frequently praised Christianity and prayed in the classroom, and his friends in Washington said his evangelism is what motivated him to teach in Iraq.” According to students, “Mr. Jeremiah’s hands were still folded in prayer when he fell”; others say a day before the shooting “a heated discussion” broke out “during which the pupil threatened to kill the teacher because of conflicting religious views.” In an interview, the father of the pupil condemned Christian evangelists, portraying them as “more dangerous than al-Qaeda.”
Malaysia: After religious police raided a Methodist church event due to “fears that Muslims were being converted,” Muslim officials created a seminar called “Strengthening the faith, the dangers of liberalism and pluralism and the threat of Christianity towards Muslims.” Due to criticism of the title, a lawmaker said the reference to Christianity would be removed, but the seminar’s content would remain unchanged: “The seminar is part of the right of Muslims to defend the faith of its practitioners from any action which may lead to apostasy. It is our responsibility.”
Pakistan: A Muslim mob attacked a 60-year-old Christian woman who had converted to Islam, only to reconvert back to Christianity six months later: she “was tortured—her head shaved—and paraded through the streets, garlanded with shoes.” Soon after, she received more threats of “dire consequences” from Islamic clerics, fleeing the region with her family. Likewise, a 26-year-old Christian woman, mother to a five-month-old girl, was falsely accused of “blaspheming” Muhammad and arrested. A few days prior, some of her relatives who converted to Islam pressured her also to do likewise: “She refused, telling them that she was satisfied with Christianity and did not want to convert,” and was arrested of blasphemy soon thereafter.
Yemen: Al-Qaeda gunmen fatally shot an American teacher. The terror network’s affiliate in Yemen issued a message saying, “This operation comes as a response to the campaign of Christian proselytizing that the West has launched against Muslims,” calling the teacher “one of the biggest American proselytizers.” He was shot eight times on a Sunday.
Bethlehem: One week after the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority told an audience of Evangelicals that his government respected the rights of its Christian minorities, the PA declared a Baptist Church illegal, adding that birth, wedding, and death certificates from the church are no longer valid. A pastor notes that “animosity towards the Christian minority in areas controlled by the PA continues to get increasingly worse. People are always telling [Christians], ‘Convert to Islam. Convert to Islam. It’s the true and right religion.'”
Egypt: Some 1500 Muslims—several armed with swords and knives and shouting Islamic slogans—terrorized the Notre Dame Language School in Upper Egypt, in response to calls from local mosques falsely claiming the private school was building a church: “Two nuns were besieged in the school’s guesthouse for some eight hours by a murderous mob threatening to burn them alive”; one nun suffered a “major nervous breakdown requiring hospitalization… The entire property was ransacked and looted. The next day the Muslims returned and terrorized the children. Consequently, school attendance has dropped by at least one third.”
Iran: The Armenian Evangelical Church in Tehran is the latest church to be ordered to cease holding Persian service on Fridays. The officers serving the notice threatened church officials, saying that “if the order is ignored, the church building will be bombed ‘as happens in Iraq every day.'” As another report summarizes, “Christians and Churches in the Islamic Republic of Iran are now banned from preaching the Gospel to non-Christians, holding Persian language services, teaching and distributing the Bible, or holding Christian classes.”
Iraq: Though Kirkuk’s church was recently restored after an earlier bomb attack that killed a 13-year-old Christian boy, the “reopening celebration was but a brief respite in the ongoing suffering of Iraq’s Christian community, signaled by two further attacks”: Another church in Baghdad was bombed, killing two guards and wounding five, and the body of a Christian was “found riddled with bullets in Mosul. He had been shot nine times at close range. The freelance photographer had been kidnapped four days earlier. Iraqi Christians are often targeted by kidnappers for ransom.”
Kenya: A band of Muslims launched a grenade attack on a crowd of 150 Christians attending an outdoor church meeting, killing two and wounding more than 30. “Human-rights groups say that the Muslim attackers were hyped into action by a militant Muslim preacher holding an alternate rally only 900 feet from the Christian gathering. Further reports say that the Muslim preachers were slandering Christianity and that members of the Christian group could hear the Muslim speakers.”
Nigeria: A Boko Haram suicide car bomber attacked a Catholic church, killing at least 10 people. The bomb detonated as worshippers attended Mass at St. Finbar’s Catholic Church in Jos, a city where thousands of Christians have died in the last decade as a result of Boko Haram’s jihad, and where another church was attacked, killing three, less than two weeks earlier.
Saudi Arabia: the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, one of the Islamic world’s highest religious authorities, declared that it is “necessary to destroy all the churches of the region.” He made his assertion in response to a question posed by a delegation from Kuwait, where a parliament member recently called for the “removal” of all churches: the delegation wanted to confirm Sharia’s position on churches with the Grand Mufti, who “stressed that Kuwait was a part of the Arabian Peninsula, and therefore it is necessary to destroy all churches in it,” basing his verdict on a saying (or hadith) of Muhammad.
Sudan: Sudanese aerial strikes were aimed at church buildings in various regions. Churches in the Nuba Mountains are holding worship services very early in the morning and late in the evening to avoid aerial bombardments intentionally targeting their churches. The Khartoum regime is “doing everything possible to make sure they get rid of Christianity from the Nuba Mountains—churches and church schools are the targets of both the Sudanese Armed Forces and its militias,” said an aid worker.
[General Abuse, Debasement, and Suppression of non-Muslims as “Tolerated” Citizens]
Denmark: In a Muslim ghetto in Copenhagen, a refugee from Africa had his door kicked-in several times and was threatened by a group of “youths” who accused him of being “both black and Christian,” and tried to extort money from him. Police said they could not guarantee his safety, and he was eventually found in tears living in the streets.
Egypt: In Minya province, Christian families are “living in terror” since Salafis threatened to kidnap any Christian girl not wearing the hijab; parents are keeping their daughters indoors, missing school. Likewise, a Christian boy was abducted, his kidnappers demanding a large ransom from his family. And a court in Edfu sentenced the pastor of a church that was torched by Muslims to six months in prison for violating the height of the church building, further ordering the removal of the excess height. The church had received a license and was still under construction when it was torched by a Muslim mob in September.
Iran: After complaints about the display of Christmas trees and Santa Clauses in the streets of Tehran during the Christmas season, an official warned that the municipality will begin to seize such symbols: “Building facades in Tehran should be controlled by the municipality and the display of such symbols should not be allowed.”
Iraq: Christians are running out of havens as rising security concerns and economic hardship cause them to leave the places of refuge they had found in the country’s Kurdish north. The sort of attacks that initiated a mass exodus of Christians from Baghdad and Mosul are increasingly occurring in the autonomous region of Kurdistan, which once “welcomed Christians and was relatively safe.” A Christian who fled there from Mosul seven years ago after retrieving his son from kidnappers said it is like history “repeating itself.”
Nigeria: The Islamist organization Boko Haram declared “war” on Christians, saying it aims to “annihilate the entire Christian community living in the northern parts of the country.” According to a spokesman, “We will create so much effort to end the Christian presence in our push to have a proper Islamic state that the Christians won’t be able to stay.” Along with constant church bombings—most recently on Easter, killing nearly 50—one of the groups new strategies is “to strike fear into the Christians of the power of Islam by kidnapping their women.”
Pakistan: Two Christian hospital employees were abducted by “Islamic extremists”: “Such cases are on the rise, as banned Islamist groups and other criminal gangs are turning to kidnappings for ransom in order to survive and procure weapons and ammunition,” said a senior investigator, adding that most Islamist groups believe that Christian NGOs are involved in evangelizing “under the guise of charity,” giving more incentive to abuse them.
Sudan: Over half a million people, mostly Christian and originally from South Sudan, have been stripped of citizenship in response to the South’s secession, and forced to relocate: “Sudanese Christians who have barely a month to leave the north or risk being treated as foreigners are starting to move, but Christian leaders are concerned that the 8 April deadline set by Islamic-majority Sudan is unrealistic. ‘We are very concerned. Moving is not easy … people have children in school. They have homes … It is almost impossible,’ said a Catholic bishop.”
Syria: The nation where many Iraqi Christians fled to as a haven is slowly becoming like Iraq, as thousands of Syrian Christians continue to flee to nearby Lebanon. “Al-Faruq Battalion, which is affiliated with the opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA), is imposing jizya (an extra tax imposed on non-Muslims living under Muslim rule) on Christians in Homs Governorate” and “armed men … threaten to kidnap or kill them or members of their families if they refuse to “pay Islamic taxes”—precisely what has been taking place in next door Iraq.
Turkey: The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom named Turkey—formerly hailed for its freedoms—as “one of the world’s worst violators of religious freedom,” due to its treatment of Christian and other minority groups. The report said that restrictions on non-Muslim communities, such as limiting their right to train clergy and own places of worship, “have led to their decline, and in some cases, their virtual disappearance,” further noting “an increased number of attacks, ranging from harassment and vandalism to death threats, against Protestant churches and individuals in 2011 compared to 2010.”
About this Series
Because the persecution of Christians in the Islamic world is on its way to reaching epidemic proportions, “Muslim Persecution of Christians” was developed to collate some—by no means all—of the instances of persecution that surface each month. It serves two purposes:
1. Intrinsically, to document that which the mainstream media does not: the habitual, if not chronic, Muslim persecution of Christians.
2. Instrumentally, to show that such persecution is not “random,” but systematic and interrelated—that it is rooted in a worldview inspired by Sharia.
Accordingly, whatever the anecdote of persecution, it typically fits under a specific theme, including hatred for churches and other Christian symbols; sexual abuse of Christian women; forced conversions to Islam; apostasy and blasphemy laws; theft and plunder in lieu of jizya (tribute); overall expectations for Christians to behave like cowed “dhimmis” (barely tolerated citizens); and simple violence and murder. Oftentimes it is a combination thereof.
Because these accounts of persecution span different ethnicities, languages, and locales—from Morocco in the west, to India in the east, and throughout the West, wherever there are Muslims—it should be clear that one thing alone binds them: Islam—whether the strict application of Islamic Sharia law, or the supremacist culture born of it.
Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.