Muslim Persecution of Christians: October, 2012

imagesCAI6HG7Tby Raymond Ibrahim

Despite promises to reform the school textbooks, the Saudi education system continues to indoctrinate children with hatred and incitement, especially against Christians and Jews. The textbooks teach — among a long list of hate-filled passages, all of which originate in the Qur’an or the Hadith — that “Christians are the enemies of the Believers,” and that “the Apes are the people of the Sabbath, the Jews; and the Swine are the infidels of the communion of Jesus, the Christians.”

These reports of the persecution of Christians by Muslims around the world during the month of October include (but are not limited to) the following accounts, listed by form of persecution, and by country, in alphabetical order—not according to severity.

Church Attacks

Canada: As happens regularly in Egypt (see below), a Molotov cocktail was hurled through the window of a newly opened Coptic church near Toronto. Unlike in Egypt, however, firefighters came quickly and little damage was done: “Police have no suspects or motive in the incident.”

Egypt: A Muslim mob, consisting mostly of Salafis, surrounded St. George Church in the Beni Suef Governorate. Armed with batons, they assaulted Christians as they exited the church after Sunday mass; five were hospitalized with broken limbs. The Salafi grievance is that Christians from neighboring villages, who have no churches to serve them, are traveling and attending St. George. The priest could not leave the church for hours after the mass, even though he contacted the police; they came only after a prominent Coptic lawyer complained to the Ministry of the Interior concerning the lack of response from police. “I want the whole world to know,” he said, “that a priest and his congregation are presently held captive in their church, afraid of the Salafi Muslims surrounding the church.” Separately, a group of Muslims, led by Mostafa Kamel, a prosecutor at the Alexandria Criminal Court, broke into the Church of St. Mary in Rashid near Alexandria and proceeded to destroy its altar, on claims that he bought the 9th century church; in fact it had earlier been sold to the Copts by the Greeks, due to the Greeks’ dwindling numbers in Egypt. Two priests, Fr. Maximos and Fr. Luke, rushed to the police station to try to bring the police to help. Kamel and his two sons also came to the police station, where they openly threatened to kill the two priests and their lawyer. “We stayed at the police station for over six hours with the police, “Fr. Maximos said, “begging prosecutor Kamel and his two sons not to demolish the church.” Fr. Luke said that the prosecutor had so far lost all the cases he brought against the church, “So when this route failed, he tried taking the matter into his own hands.”

Indonesia: On a Sunday, “unknown assailants” set fire to the Madele Pentecostal Church in the city of Poso by dousing a collection box with petrol and setting it alight. Flames eventually spread to the pastor’s residence. Only the intervention of the fire department and volunteers prevented the blaze from causing major damage to the two buildings. Weeks earlier in the same region, Christian homes were attacked and bombed. Also, two law enforcement agents who were investigating a recent attack on the Christian community were kidnapped; their murdered bodies were later found dumped near an “extremist Muslim” group’s training ground. Because Poso has a large Christian presence, Muslim attacks are frequent, including the 2005 beheading of three Christian girls going to school. Meanwhile in Aceh, Indonesian officials, using the famous pretext that a permit had not been issued, shut down nine [more] Christian house-churches and six Buddhist temples; they argued that homes cannot be used “for religious ceremonies or functions.” According to the report, “Local Muslim extremists welcomed the decision. Yusuf Al-Qardhawy, head of the Aceh branch of the Islamic Defence Front (FPI), called on other jurisdictions to follow Banda Aceh and enforce Islamic law and stop any non-Muslim worship activity that is not approved.” Further, the province of Aceh is the only one “which is subject to Sharia. Compliance is ensured by the ‘morality police,’ a special force that punishes violations in dress and behaviour.”

Iran: Security forces dismantled a network of four underground house churches and arrested seven Christians on a Sunday night. Iranian propaganda media described the churches as a “network of criminals” affiliated with “Zionist propaganda.” Sunday’s arrests are the latest in a wave of detentions in Shiraz. In the past few weeks, Iranian Intelligence Ministry agents in the city have arrested around 30 Christian converts and transferred them to detention centers. According to another report, “State security agents have been permanently stationed at two churches in Esfahan, Iran, in the latest effort by the Islamic regime to frighten people off Christianity. The agents constantly interfere in the activities of St. Luke’s and St. Paul’s, and harass those present. They order the pastors around and stop church elders from talking to Muslim seekers. They also try to frighten away visitors by warning them of dire consequences if they continue attending, and create tension among the members by spreading false rumours. The children of church members are also threatened and often forbidden from attending…. This campaign of harassment by the Islamic authorities is not confined to churches in Esfahan. Similar tactics have been deployed at the central Assemblies of God church in Tehran.”

Kazakhstan: Two Protestant churches were raided, according to members, under the ruse of a criminal case launched 15 months ago. First, masked police raided Grace Church and seized computers, valuables and religious books they insisted were “extremist;” then police requested church members to give blood samples, to see if the church uses “hallucinogenic” substances for communion. Nine days later the New Life Church was raided, also under the pretext of the unrelated criminal case: “Members of both churches fear the authorities will use the case to prevent them gaining the mandatory re-registration,” which critics say is being used to shut down Protestant churches.

Kenya: A grenade was thrown into the Sunday school building of St. Polycarp Anglican Church; it blew off the roof, killing one boy and injuring eight other children who were attending Sunday school; some required surgery. The attack came soon after a Somali member of the Islamic terrorist organization Al Shabab, who had earlier targeted four other churches, was sentenced to prison after he confessed to planning attacks on Parliament. According to the mother of one of the children, “We are in Eastleigh [a region with a large Somali population]. Many Christians, including myself, thought that something might happen. Every week we’d wonder ‘What if it’s this Sunday?’ But we’d still go to church.” Likewise, a parliament member said, “The life of an innocent child has been taken and others have been cruelly injured and traumatised in what should be the safest of places. The sanctity of life has been heartlessly breached in a sanctified place. Such acts seem to be designed to spark civil unrest and intimidate the Christian church. In the face of such an outrage we ask, with the prophet Habakkuk, ‘O Lord, how long?’ and let us trust that God in his mercy will bring justice and relief as we cry out to him.”

Nigeria: After a renewed spate of church attacks, thousands of Christians continue to flee northern areas of Nigeria, which are predominantly Muslim, and where the jihadi organization Boko Haram holds sway. An Islamic suicide bomber rammed an SUV loaded with explosives into St. Rita Catholic Church holding Sunday Mass; he killed eight people and wounded more than 100. One “journalist saw the bodies of four worshippers lying on the floor of the church after the blast, surrounded by broken glass. The body of the suicide bomber had been blasted into nearby rubble.” The church building, charred black, was devastated. Also, the Church of Brethren was raided by Islamic gunmen who killed at least two people and set the church ablaze. Many churches, fearing further attacks, are shutting down.

Pakistan: The Catholic Church of St. Francis, the oldest of the archdiocese of Karachi, was attacked by a Muslim mob of 600, who destroyed property but did not manage to break through the front door. According to a priest: “Fr. Victor had just finished celebrating a wedding, when he heard noises and shouting from the compound of the church. Immediately all the faithful, women and children were sent to the parish house. The radicals, shouting against the Christians, broke into the building and started devastating everything: cars, bikes, vases of flowers. They broke an aedicule and took the statue of the Madonna. They tried to force the door of the church, throwing stones at the church and destroying the windows.” Police arrived an hour later, giving the terrorists plenty of time to wreak havoc. The Archbishop of Karachi lamented that “the church of San Francesco has always served the poor with a school and a medical clinic run by nuns. For nearly 80 years it carries out a humble service to humanity without any discrimination of caste, ethnicity or religion. Why these acts? Why are we not safe?

Syria: Two churches were attacked. One bomb was detonated near the historical gate of Bab Touma (“Thomas’ Doorway”) which is largely populated by the nation’s Christian minority. The bomb exploded as people were going to their churches for Sunday Mass; up to 10 people were killed. “Terrorists are doing this,” said George, a Christian who, like many residents in Bab Touma, lives in fear of the rebel fighters trying to gain control of the capital. Another car bomb exploded in front of the only Syrian Orthodox Church in the town of Deir Ezzor, currently under opposition control. Five people near the church were killed. In September, the same church was desecrated and vandalized by armed gangs.

Tanzania: Muslim mobs burned several church buildings in various parts of the nation after an argument by two children concerning the supernatural powers of the Quran allegedly led a Christian boy to defile Islam’s holy book: two church buildings were set ablaze, while the roof of another one was destroyed. On the island of Zanzibar, Muslim rioters also demolished a building belonging to the Evangelical Assemblies of God; and in Dar es Salaam, three more church buildings were set on fire and another destroyed. “We shall continue attacking the churches until they are no more in Tanzania” was echoed in several mosques in Tanzania,” said one source.

Rape and Murder of Christians

Egypt: Ali Hussein, a Muslim gang leader—accompanied with his two ex-convict brothers—broke into the home of a Christian family on a Sunday morning, demanding that Hiyam Zaki, a mother of two children, to “come and live with him.” Earlier, Hussein had demanded that the family either pay him one million Egyptian pounds, or forfeit the Christian woman to him. Because the family had refused his demands, the gang opened fire indiscriminately, killing one of her relatives and her father. Earlier, to terrorize the inhabitants of the village, the Muslim gang went to the stables and slaughtered all the animals. Hussein was killed under the hail of bullets, although it is not clear who shot him. A Muslim mob then surrounded the hospital demanding revenge for the “Christian killing of a Muslim man,” even as they chanted that Hussein the gangster is “the beloved of the Prophet.” Similarly, although the abduction and forced Islamization of Christian minor girls is common in Egypt, especially with the ascendancy of Muslim Brotherhood, the case of 14-year old Sarah, who was kidnapped on her way to school by the son of a Salafi leader, actually caused a stir. After filing a missing persons report with police, Sarah’s father received an anonymous call telling him that he will never see his daughter again. Security is believed to know the girl’s whereabouts but is not acting. After several human rights organizations called for the girl’s release, “the Salafist Front issued a statement on October 28, warning human rights organizations, especially the National Council for Women, not to attempt to return Sarah to her family, as she has converted to Islam and married a Muslim man.” Moreover, Salafis projected Islamic mores on the Christian family by saying that if Sarah returns to her family, she will be “killed” by her father,” to which her father replied, “I want my child back in my arms, even if she became a Muslim.”

Nigeria: Up to 30 Christian college students were shot or had their throats slit at a university in the Muslim-majority north. During the night, masked gunmen went door-to-door in the off-campus housing section of Federal Polytechnic College in the city of Moby: “the gunmen separated the Christian students from the Muslim students, addressed each victim by name, questioned them, and then proceeded to shoot them or slit their throat.” Among motives cited are reprisals against the fact that former Boko Haram Muslims, renouncing terrorism, converted to Christianity. Other former Boko Haram members have not converted to Christianity but have seen the “goodness of the Christian religion” and now warn Christians before there is an attack.

Pakistan: A 14 year-old Christian girl, Timar Shahzadi, was kidnapped by Muslim men as she was returning from school. According to the pastor close to the family, the girl was with friends when the abductors pounced and dragged her away, and her family fears that she will be “forcefully converted to become a Muslim and then married off if immediate steps are not taken.” The family reported the incident to the local police station, but police have not yet conducted any investigation. Also, a court decreed that a Christian girl, known as Rebecca—who was kidnapped, forced to convert to Islam, and married to her abductor—to be returned to her kidnapper “husband,” despite her father’s pleas and the girls traumatized presence in court. And 24 year-old Shumaila Bibi, another Christian woman, was “seized at dawn, forced to endure sexual abuse and to marry the young Muslim man who abducted her with the help of his family” and forced the woman to convert to Islam. Days later, Shumaila managed to escape. However, with the help of his family, her “husband” denounced her flight and, reversing the facts, reported her family as “kidnapping” her. The police accepted his version of the facts and opened an investigation claiming that the girl converted and married “of her own free will.” The future of Shumaila is hanging by a thread. Kidnapping and forcing girls to convert to Islam and/or be sex-slaves sold to wealthy Muslims is a common occurrence in Pakistan. Read here for a list concerning the “Rape and Murder of Pakistan’s Christian Children.”

Sudan: Asia Omer, a Christian mother of seven, the youngest of which is four months old, was killed in an aerial bombardment near a church by “Sudanese government forces as they continue a ruthless campaign of ethnic and religious cleansing in the predominantly Christian regions of the Nuba Mountains.” Another Christian mother of seven sustained a critical injury but did not receive medical care. Other Christians were also wounded in the bombing, including the teenage son of a church leader. “President Omar al-Bashir’s forces have been targeting the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan state, which has one of the largest Christian populations in Sudan, since June 2011. The Islamic regime is trying to ‘cleanse’ the region of non-Arabs and non-Muslims as Khartoum pushes forward its plans for a ’100% Islamic”‘ constitution.”

Syria: A Greek Orthodox priest, Fr. Fadi Jamil Haddad, was kidnapped by armed groups from among the opposition. Days later, his body, which was “horribly tortured and his eyes gouged out,” was found dumped near the place he was abducted. Earlier, the kidnappers had asked the priest’s family and his church for a ransom of 50 million Syrian pounds (over $550,000 euros)—a sum impossible to raise. A source of Fides condemns “the terrible practice, present for months in this dirty war, of kidnapping and then killing innocent civilians.” Also, the last remaining Christian in the center of Homs, an 84 year-old Greek Orthodox, was killed, and the convent of the Jesuits hit again. A top Russian Orthodox official expressed the church’s concern, saying “We are deeply worried by what is going on in Syria, where radical forces are trying to come to power with the help of Western powers. Where they come to power, Christian communities become the first victims.”

Dhimmitude

[General Abuse and Suppression of Non-Muslims as "Tolerated" Citizens]

Bosnia: According to a new report, Christians are leaving the Muslim majority nation in mass “amid mounting discrimination and Islamization.” Currently there are just 440,000 Catholics left in the Balkan nation, half the prewar figure. As standard in Muslim nations, “while dozens of mosques were built in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, no building permissions were given for Christian churches. The cardinal already waits 13 years on permission to build just a small church.” “Time is running out as there is a worrisome rise in radicalism,” said one authority, who added that the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina were “persecuted for centuries” after European powers “failed to support them in their struggle against the Ottoman Empire.”

Egypt: On Al Hafiz TV, a Muslim cleric explained why it is that Christianity cannot be taught in Egyptian classrooms: because, among other things, it bans polygamy and divorce, and allows females an equal inheritance with the male — all things that contradict the teachings and practices of the Muslim prophet. The cleric complained that, based on such Christian teachings, Muslim men who try to exercise their Islamic rights—including polygamy, double-inheritance, and easy divorce (including via text-messaging)—become “criminals, and the religion [Islam] that taught them such things taught them crimes.” Two Christian boys, one 10 the other 9 years-old, were arrested under accusations from a local cleric that they defiled a copy of the Quran. After the boys were released, the Egyptian media, following the claims of the Muslim Brotherhood, credited President Morsi with their release, even though the boys’ lawyer insisted that the Islamist president had nothing to do with their release.

Iran: Many reports more than usual, are appearing of Christian men and women, especially Evangelical Protestants and Muslim apostates, being “dragged to prisons“. According to a council member of the Church of Iran house-church movement, “We have learned that at least 100, but perhaps as many as 400 people, have been detained over the last 10 days…. [I]t has become clear that Protestant Christians are now viewed as enemy number one of the state.” Some of those arrested, after serving time and being tormented, are “forced to say that in exchange for freedom, they will no longer attend church services.” At least five apostates were confined in cells housing dangerous criminals on charges of “creating illegal groups,” “participating in a house church service,” “propagation against the Islamic regime,” and “defaming Islamic holy figures through Christian evangelizing.”

Maldives: Customs officials at the Male’ Ibrahim Nasir International Airport seized 11 books about Christianity, from a Bangladeshi expatriate who came to the Maldives via Sri Lanka. According to the Maldives Religious Unity Regulations, “it is illegal in the Maldives to propagate any faith other than Islam or to engage in any effort to convert anyone to any religion other than Islam. It is also illegal to display in public any symbols or slogans belonging to any religion other than Islam, or creating interest in such articles.” Violation of the Religious Unity Act is subject to two to five years in prison and fines.

Pakistan: A 16 year-old boy, Ryan Stanten, was arrested on “charges of blasphemy, terrorism, and cybercrimes,” because he forwarded text messages to his friends which were intercepted and deemed blasphemous by Muslims. Accordingly, a “furious Muslim mob” attacked the boy’s home, setting furniture on fire and shouting “death to the blasphemer” and “kill Christian infidels.” Other Christians in the region fled.

Saudi Arabia: Despite promises to reform school textbooks, the Saudi education system continues to indoctrinate children with hatred and incitement, especially against Christians and Jews. The textbooks teach – among a long list of hate-filled passages, all of which originate in the Qur’an and the Hadith [stories of the life and sayings of Mohammed] — that “Christians are the enemies of the Believers” and that the “the Apes are the people of the Sabbath, the Jews; and the Swine are the infidels of the communion of Jesus, the Christians.”

Switzerland: Muslims in the nation are complaining about a billboard campaign from Swiss International Airline, which has a logo taken from the Swizz flag, of a cross, with the words “the cross is trumps.” According to the report, “Muslims in Switzerland have responded negatively to the advertising, which they believe promotes Christianity over other religions…. Many Muslims feel this Christian slogan (of Swiss) is a provocation and an assault against Islam.” The airline maintains that its ad campaign does not carry any religious or political message—in fact, that the word “trumps” is a pun for a Swiss card game—and apologized for upsetting Muslims.

Turkey: A history textbook used in 10th grade classrooms portrays the nation’s oldest most indigenous inhabitants, the Christian Assyrians, as traitors. Although objections were raised back in 2011 and the Turkish Ministry of Education eventually issued a statement promising to revise the texts in the next printing of the book in 2012, the books were reprinted without any changes. “In fact, the negative and slanderous portrayal of Assyrians has increased in the new edition. The book now not only portrays Assyrians as traitors in the past but says the Assyrians continue their betrayal of Turkey today.”

About this Series

Because the persecution of Christians in the Islamic world is on its way to reaching pandemic 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. To document that which the mainstream media does not: the habitual, if not chronic, Muslim 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 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 that criminalize and punish with death those who “offend” Islam; theft and plunder in lieu of jizya (financial tribute expected from non-Muslims); overall expectations for Christians to behave like dhimmis, or second-class, “tolerated” citizens; and simple violence and murder. Sometimes it is a combination.

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.

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