‘Whoever Disbelieves, Strike Off His Head’
The slaughter of the Middle East's Coptic Christians.
(/sites/default/files/uploads/2015/05/church-burning-3.jpg)Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
_Originally published by the _Gatestone Institute.
All throughout February, Copts, the largest Christian minority in the Middle East, were slaughtered.
Around mid-February, the Islamic State released a video depicting 21 Coptic Christians being decapitated. The executions took place in Libya, another nation along with Syria and Iraq where the Islamic State has carved a niche for itself. While holding their victims’ bodies down, Islamic State members shoved their fingers in the Christians’ eyes, craned their heads back, and sliced away at their throats with knives—all in the name of Allah and Islam, even as the slaughtered called out on the “Lord Jesus Christ.”
Over one month before the video appeared, the BBC had falsely reported that the majority of those now slaughtered Copts were “released.” (Such downplaying of Muslim persecution of Christians is standard for the BBC.)
In the video, the lead executioner waves his dagger at the camera while saying, “Oh people, recently you have seen us on the hills of as-Sham and Dabiq’s plain [Syrian regions], chopping off the heads that have been carrying the cross for a long time. And today, we are on the south of Rome, on the land of Islam, Libya, sending another message.” He concluded by declaring: “We will fight you [Christians] until Christ descends, breaks the cross and kills the pig” (all eschatological actions ascribed to the Muslim “Christ,” Isa).
Also in February it was revealed that Egypt’s Al Azhar University — seen by many as Sunni Islam’s most authoritative voice — continues to incite enmity for and violence against non-Muslims “infidels.” The Islamic university was exposed as offering free of charge “a book,” in the words of an Egyptian secular critic, “whose latter half and every page—indeed every few lines—ends with “whoever disbelieves [“infidels”] strike off his head.”
On February 23, yet another Coptic Christian man was fatally shot in al-‘Arish, Sinai, by members of the Islamic terrorist group, Ansar Bait al-Maqdis. Hani, the Coptic man, was in his shop when three terrorists drove by and opened fire on him; he immediately died from bullets lodged in his head. Weeks earlier, masked gunmen stormed the home of another Coptic Christian man residing in al-‘Arish. After robbing him and his family at gunpoint, they shot him several times in the head, instantly killing him. According to the slain man’s wife, her husband was murdered “only because he was a Copt [i.e., Christian].” She pointed out that the masked intruders robbed everything in sight—including the money in his pockets, the jewelry she was wearing, her handbag, cell phones, and even a Bible. Then, after plundering everything, and for no practical reason, they shot the Christian “infidel” in the head, leaving his wife widowed and his children orphaned.
On February 2, the Islamic State announced that it had executed yet another Christian priest in Mosul — Paul Jacob, who was kidnapped eight months ago. His parish was also blown up. The execution reportedly took place in Ghazlani Camp in southern Mosul where a militia camp is located. Although various Arabic media reported this story, the Chaldean Patriarchate denied “recent news stories that report a priest being executed by Islamic State militants in Mosul.”
The Islamic State terrorized Christians in other regions during the jihad. In the early hours of Monday, February 23, IS fighters attacked several Christian villages along the Khabur River in north eastern Syria. Four Christians enrolled in the Assyrian militia were killed and one young civilian child. One Christian woman was raped by the Islamic invaders before being slaughtered.
Approximately 250 Christians—including women and children—were taken hostage. The majority, around 230, are still being held. The Islamic State is demanding 23 million USD to release them. If the exorbitant ransom is not met, and based on precedent, the Christian hostages will likely be enslaved, raped, and or simply slaughtered.
Several churches were also torched or damaged during the jihadi raid, including the church in Tel Hurmiz, one of the oldest churches in Syria, the Mar Bisho church in Tel Shamiran, the church in Qabr Shamiy and the church in Tel Baloua.
This raid further “brought to light [the] deplorable conduct on the part of other persons,” namely the West, said Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo:
I wish to say quite clearly that we have the feeling of being abandoned into the hands of Daesh [Arabic acronym for ISIS]. Yesterday American bombers flew over the area several times, but without taking action. We have a hundred Assyrian families who have taken refuge in Hassakè, but they have received no assistance either from the Red Crescent or from Syrian government aid workers, perhaps because they are Christians. The UN high commission for Refugees is nowhere to be seen.
In a separate interview, the Syrian archbishop added:
With their disastrous policies mainly the French and the US, with their regional allies, have favored in fact the Daesh [ISIS] escalation. Now they persevere in error, commit strategic, grotesque mistakes … instead of recognizing that their guaranteed support to jihadist groups has led us to this chaos and has destroyed Syria, making us regress 200 years.
Reflecting this fact that the governments of Western nations, far from helping often make matters worse for already persecuted Christians in the Middle East, reports appearing in February indicated that dozens of Western Christians have traveled to the Middle East to fight on behalf of their Christian brethren being persecuted and slaughtered by the Islamic State.
In the words of Jordan Matson, an American who has been fighting the Islamic State since September 2014, “I decided that if our government wasn’t going to do anything about it, I would…. We’re getting shot at on pretty much a daily basis. It’s more of a World War II or Vietnam style fight. We don’t have the technology that the United States military has to push our enemies away.”
The rest of February’s roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes, but is not limited to, the following accounts, listed by theme and country in alphabetical order, not necessarily according to severity.
Muslim Attacks on Christian Churches and Monasteries
Cameroon: Islamic militants fleeing a three-nation offensive took revenge Thursday, February 5, by attacking churches and shooting and burning to death as many as 100 people. According to Cameroon’s Information Minister Issa Tchiroma Bakari, approximately 800 militants from neighboring Nigeria’s Islamic terrorist organization Boko Haram entered the Cameroon border town of Fotokol where, among other things, they “burned churches” and “slaughtered youth who resisted joining them to fight Cameroonian forces” and even used them as human shields.
Egypt: A project to build a road around Fayum, Egypt, crosses the territory around the Coptic monastery of St. Macarius and threatens to destroy the ancient archaeological site dating to the 4th century, or some 300 years before Islam was born and invaded Coptic Egypt. In response, the monastery’s monks objected with passive resistance —laying their bodies before the path of the bulldozers, which arrived with shouts of “Allahu Akbar” from the company drivers and workers (click here for pictures of monks lying before tanks). Previously the monks had submitted alternative plans that would allow for a road but also preserve Egypt’s ancient Christian site but authorities rejected them.
Islamic State: “ISIS” militants blew up the Church of the Immaculate Virgin—one of the largest and oldest Chaldean churches in the ancient section of Mosul. A security source said: “The organization finished wiring the church with explosives this morning and detonated it, leaving widespread destruction in the church and neighboring buildings.” Prior to this, the old church—which stood on the foundation of what was the most ancient Christian church in Mosul—had withstood previous attacks by Islamic militants, including a 2008 car bomb attack. The Islamic State also continued to purge any sign or symbol of Christianity from one of the oldest Christian regions, the Nineveh plains of Iraq and adjoining city of Mosul. Acts of wanton hate and destruction at the hands of IS members throughout February include the destruction of the cross of the St. John Church in the Hamdaniya district and the ransacking of the church; and the destruction of the cross of the Church of the Hour in Mosul. Similarly, the large copper encased statue of St. George statue was stolen from the monastery of the same name in Mosul. Other Christian symbols and icons—including the Virgin Mary statue in the monastery’s courtyard—were smashed to pieces.
Islamic State/Egypt: Hussein bin Mahmoud, a jurist of Islamic law for the Islamic State, said in an article published on February 17 and appearing in various jihadi websites that all Christian churches in Cairo must be demolished. Titled the “Ruling on Egypt’s Christians,” the article, written like a fatwa, asserts that,
The ruling concerning the churches that are in Cairo is that they be destroyed, according to the consensus of the righteous forefathers [Salaf], because they are new under Islam, and Cairo is a new city whose original inhabitants were Muslim; there were no churches in it previously. As for churches in Upper Egypt, which may have been in existence before the Islamic conquest of Egypt, these may remain but may never be renovated or fixed.
The Islamic state cleric cited medieval jurist Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328), some of whose fatwas deal with Islam’s views on churches which are described as “worse than bars and brothels.” And in fact, Taymiyya and many other jurists (such as Ibn Qayyim) called for the destruction of all churches built after the conquests (see Crucified Again, pgs. 35-36 for a review of the relevant fatwas/teachings).
Niger: According to a nun who escaped the violence that erupted after the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published cartoons of Muhammad, forty churches were torched and ten people slaughtered. She added that “the intention was to torch all the churches with us inside them on Christmas Day and thus burn us alive!” This never came to pass but with the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, an excuse was found (as discussed here, “collective punishment” is often an excuse to kill—in this case, blaming Niger’s Christians for the actions of Parisian atheists). Concluded the nun: “Boko Haram students believe they must kill Christians in order to take their place in paradise but we won’t surrender to fear because love must prevail over hatred.”
Pakistan: On February 19, around nine in the morning, three armed men entered Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic church in Kasur district, Punjab, which is 97%
Muslim. They took hostage the church personnel, the assistant parish priest Father Ijaz Bashir, and congregation. Before leaving the premises the terrorists stole mobile telephones, cameras and a computer. This is not the first time the church gets targeted. Earlier, Father Leopold, the parish priest, was robbed by thieves who “pretended to be ordinary members of the faithful wanting to enroll some children at the parish school. Then they suddenly pulled out guns.”
Tanzania: A church building in a Muslim-majority area was set on fire. The pastor of the church had been repeatedly threatened before that. The church building was in in Mashewa, in the Muheza district of Tanga Region, which is overwhelmingly Muslim.
Muslim Attacks on Christian Freedom
(Apostasy, Blasphemy, and Proselytization)
Egypt: A 26-year-old Coptic Christian man and his fiancé were arrested on the accusation that they blasphemed against the prophet of Islam, Muhammad, and his child-bride, Aisha, on Facebook. When news, or the accusation, that Michael Munir had posted something offensive concerning Muhammad, dozens of Muslims surrounded his house in the village of Dimyana in Daqhiliya governate, Egypt. The angry Muslims were reportedly about to burn his home before security forces arrived and arrested him. The Copt was reportedly being held for four days pending investigation.
Iran: As reported on February 2, Victor Bet-Tamarz, a sickly 60-year-old Assyrian Pentecostal church leader, and another unidentified Christians—both of whom were among many Christians to be arrested after Iranian security forces raided his Tehran home during a Christmas celebration—remained behind bars. According to reports based on Christians present during the anti-Christmas raid, “Police was seen filming the arrests, forcing each Christian to state their identity, explain why they were there and why they thought they were being detained. Authorities reportedly separated men from women and proceeded to search them, confiscating Bibles, mobile phones and identification papers. Police also searched Pastor Victor’s home, seizing his computer, mobile phones and books.”
Islamic State: Ten elderly and disabled Christians (eight men, two women) who “managed to escape” from the Islamic State, after refusing to convert to Islam, shared their experiences. On Oct. 24, IS forced them out of a nursing home in Mosul and plundered their money, jewelry and IDs. The group explained how they were also pressured to say the shehada and become Muslim. Rahel, one of the women from the group, said “We did not want to become Muslim; we just wanted to leave.” Another elderly man said: “IS used to beat us every day with their weapons or hands. They gave us little food.” Separately, Islamic State members arrested the owner of Arab Generation, one of the oldest book stores in Mosul for selling Christian books. Islamic law bans the “promotion” of any religion other than Islam.
Lebanon: In early February, a number of Muslim students closed off the entrance of the College of Business Administration in Tripoli, Lebanon, calling for the immediate resignation of the newly appointed director of the school, Antoine Tanus. His crime? He’s a Christian. In the words of the National News Agency, the students are protesting “over the hiring of a Christian director to manage the College of Business Administration.” Students said that they would continue protesting until the Christian director was removed and replaced by another, that is, a Muslim. (Around the same time it was reported that hundreds of teachers in northern Kenya refused to return to work. In their case, the “strike” was a product of fear from Islamic militants who have killed dozens of non-Muslims, most of them Christians.)
Saudi Arabia: America’s close friend-and-ally reportedly decreed the death penalty for anyone caught trying to smuggle Bibles or any other “publications that have prejudice to any other religious belief other than Islam.” According to the Christian Post:
The Saudi Arabian government has reportedly passed a law that imposes the death penalty on people caught smuggling Bibles into the majority-Muslim country.
According to the HeartCry Missionary Society, the Saudi government issued an official statement signifying that capital punishment may now be used on those who smuggle Bibles into the desert nation, where the royal family upholds a strict Wahhabi brand of Sunni Islam.
The society’s report added that the death penalty, which usually comes in the form of beheadings, can also be used against people who simply distribute the Bible and all other “publications that have prejudice to any other religious belief other than Islam.” This means that anyone handing out any kind of religious literature that is not of Islamic faith can legally be executed. [For an idea of Saudi-style execution by beheading, the video of a recent one can be viewed here.]
Tanzania: A February report told of how “a young woman from a Muslim background who had become a Christian, was beaten and badly burned by her parents after choosing to marry a Christian man. The attack came immediately after her baptism on Sunday 2 November in Zirai, Muheza district. Last year, Imamu Sudi Bin Umar of the Ansar Suna mosque in Al Masijid Tawaqal had urged all Muslim parents to punish children who chose to marry Christians.”
Uganda: The Muslim uncle of two sisters in eastern Uganda physically beat and starved them for converting to Christianity. On Sunday, February 1, the sisters (aged 14 and 16) converted to Christianity. In the words of one of the girls: “My uncle became so furious because we had embraced Jesus. He locked us inside the house and began beating us with a wooden stick, and then we were left for three days without food. At the third day, we felt as if we were going to die, and we began crying for help.” A neighbor eventually heard the two girls while their uncle was away and let them out. They fled to the church for sanctuary and treatment. Beating and trapping the girls without food is the exact recommendation Islamic law offers for females who apostatize from Islam, especially as articulated by the Hanafi school of law. Weeks earlier, a Muslim father killed his young daughter for converting to Christianity in Uganda.
About this Series
The persecution of Christians in the Islamic world has become endemic. Accordingly, “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) To document that which the mainstream media does not: the habitual, if not chronic, persecution of Christians.
2) To show that such persecution is not “random,” but systematic and interrelated—that it is rooted in a worldview inspired by Islamic Sharia.
Accordingly, whatever the anecdote of persecution, it typically fits under a specific theme, including hatred for churches and other Christian symbols; apostasy, blasphemy, and proselytism laws that criminalize and sometimes punish with death those who “offend” Islam; sexual abuse of Christian women; forced conversions to Islam; theft and plunder in lieu of _jizya_ (financial tribute expected from non-Muslims); overall expectations for Christians to behave like cowed dhimmis, or third-class, “tolerated” citizens; and simple violence and murder. Sometimes it is a combination thereof.
Because these accounts of persecution span different ethnicities, languages, and locales—from Morocco in the West, to Indonesia in the East—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.
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