Written by Raymond Ibrahim
"The presence of a church here will offend us"
Reports of Christian persecution by Muslims around the world during the month of November include (but are not limited to) the following accounts. They are listed by form of persecution, and in country alphabetical order, not necessarily according to severity:
Egypt: Following Friday afternoon prayers in northern Cairo, Salafi Muslims went to the construction site of a Coptic Orthodox Church service center, hanging a sign that read, "Masjed El Rahman," or "Mosque of the Merciful." They claimed that the church did not have the necessary permits to exist, even though local officials confirmed the church did have them. The Salafis occupied the construction center for some 24 hours. One of them reportedly said: "We have a small mosque at the end of the street and the presence of a church here will offend us."
Indonesia: Authorities in West Java sealed shut the worship building of yet another Christian Church (HKI) congregation that had been meeting for 20 years, after prominent Muslims persuaded residents to withdraw their signatures approving the church's existence.
According to Indonesian law—and echoing Sharia law, which requires local Muslim approval for non-Muslim endeavors—60 Muslim signatures are required for the church to exist. Because many Muslims withdrew their signatures, police sealed off the building. "While other churches in West Java have faced loud protests from Islamists dedicated to close them down, last week's closure took place quietly in 10 minutes," said one source. Also, a mob numbering in the hundreds and grouped under an Islamic banner surrounded two separate churches, threatening to use force to stop the congregations from building additional structures in their compounds. Some 200 police and military held them at bay.
Kenya: A blast at a church inside a police compound in the town of Garissa killed a police officer, who also served as the church's pastor, and injured at least 13 other people. The Islamic terrorist organization, al-Shabaab ("the Youth") is believed to be responsible. Their latest strategy is to hire "poor youths from Christian backgrounds" and use them to bomb Kenya's churches. "Using Muslims with a Christian background make it difficult to identify and stop would-be attackers, as they can seamlessly blend into a Christian congregation," say church leaders.
Nigeria: November 25 was yet another bloody Sunday for church goers in the Muslim-majority north of Nigeria: 11 people were killed when the Protestant church of St. Andrew was attacked by two consecutive suicide bombings: Shortly after mass, one suicide-bomber drove a minibus, loaded with explosives, into the church. Then, after a group of soldiers and civilians gathered on the spot, another jihadi detonated a car bomb, leaving 11 dead and 30 injured. Most of the victims were members of the church choir. Separately, three more Christians were ambushed and killed as they were traveling to mass.
Syria: Several churches were targeted by U.S.-supported jihadis. A bomb exploded near yet another Syriac Orthodox Church in Aleppo. According to the Assyrian International News Agency, "Scores of people were injured and killed. Estimates put the number killed between 20 and 80. The bomb damaged the Al Kalima ["The Word"] school and the Syrian French Hospital, as well as a nursing home." Also, the historic Arabic Evangelical Church of Aleppo was mined with explosives and blown up "by armed men, for pure sectarian hatred," according to its pastor, Ibrahim Nasir, who further expressed "bitterness and sadness of all Syrian citizens" for an act that makes Christians "inconsolable": "Today is the day when we cry out to Christ to say: my God, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." Also a car bomb exploded in front of the Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, in the city of Raqqah, in northeastern Syria, causing two deaths, injuring a woman, and "spreading terror in the population."
Tanzania: According to an activist, "As of May [about] 25 churches and convents have been destroyed. This destruction is mostly confined to [semi-autonomous] Zanzibar where the population is 99 percent Muslim and openly hostile to Christians." One of the latest incidents revolved around a Muslim boy challenging a Christian boy to urinate on a copy of the Koran, and claiming that whoever did so would be transformed into an animal. After the Christian boy took up the challenge, word spread, and Muslims rioted: "the Christian boy was threatened with being beheaded and at least five churches were destroyed," including the Seven Day Church, the Anglican Church and the Assemblies of God Church. "To date, no arrests have been made in connection with attacks on churches in Zanzibar, leading many to question whether the local government condones these activities," observed the activist.
Apostasy, Blasphemy, and Proselytism
Egypt: On November 28, a Cairo court sentenced to death seven Egyptian Christians tried in absentia for allegedly participating in the creation of the YouTube Muhammad movie, which prompted violent protests in many Muslim countries. "The seven accused persons were convicted of insulting the Islamic religion through participating in producing and offering a movie that insults Islam and its prophet," Judge Saif al-Nasr Soliman said. Many of the seven deny any involvement, and say they are being scapegoated for other reasons.
Iran: British Christian legislators expressed concern about the "serious and growing persecution and discrimination" of Iranian Christians and said that at least dozens of believers remain detained amid a crackdown on Christian converts in Iran. Britain's All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) said the British government should pressure Iran "to uphold the fundamental right of religious freedom for all Iranian people." They also urged the release of Christians, including Pastor Farshid Fathi, who has been held in Tehran's notorious Evin prison since December 2010.
Maldives: Officials at the Male' Ibrahim Nasir International Airport seized 11 books about Christianity, from a Bangladeshi expatriate, Jathish Biswas, who came to the Maldives via Sri Lanka. He was arrested, spent 23 days in jail, and was then deported. According to him, "authorities treated me as if I wanted to destroy their nation by bringing in Christian books. They stripped me almost naked to see if I were carrying anything else. Customs and police officials would ask me question after question and deny me proper food." An American Christian was also later arrested and deported for alleged links with Biswas.
Nigeria: A rumor that a Christian man "blasphemed" against Islam sparked a massive riot in the northern Nigeria town of Bichi. Four people were killed and shops were looted.
The riot came on the day the incoming head of the Anglican Church launched an initiative to promote "religious tolerance in Nigeria." According to a police official, "Rumors went round that someone blasphemed the Prophet [Muhammad] and there was a breakdown of law and order."
Pakistan: A Christian pastor, Karama Patras, was arrested after a Muslim mob attacked his home, and accused him of committing blasphemy, the highest punishment for which, according to Pakistan's penal code, is death. After conducting prayers in a Christian house, Muslims eavesdroppers overheard a discussion about the meat slaughtered during the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha, which they reported to other local Muslims; by the time the pastor "reached home, he heard appeals on mosques' loudspeakers of Muslim clerics calling for Muslims to join hands to punish [the] infidel Pastor to teach him a lesson for prohibition of this feast in Christianity." Muslim imams blasted on the loudspeakers from the minarets that "Pastor Karma Patras is [a] blasphemer and infidel liable to be killed," prompting hundreds of Muslims to attack his home, "mercilessly beating and kicking him and destroying his household," before police took him into custody. He has since been denied bail.
Somalia: Yet another Muslim convert to Christianity, 25-year-old Farhan Haji Mose, was attacked and executed by Islamic terrorists, Al-Shabaab, "the Youth." According to one of the witnesses—a crowd had assembled on a Friday to watch the slaughter of the Christian who embraced the "foreign religion of Christianity"—"His body was split into two, then carried away, only to be dumped near the beach of Barawa city." Friends and family did not risk recovering the body immediately, fearing that the militants would consider them guilty by association and kill them as well. According to the report, Al-Shabaab rebels have killed dozens of Christian converts from Islam since embarking on a campaign to rid Somalia of Christianity. The group seeks to impose an even stricter version of Sharia law on Somalia than the one enforced by the current transitional government in Mogadishu—a transitional government that, although portrayed as "moderate," also mandates the death penalty for apostates.
[General Abuse and Suppression of Non-Muslims as "Tolerated" Citizens]
Egypt: A 13-year-old Christian girl, Maggie Milad Fazez, while traveling by subway, had her hair shorn off by a veiled Muslim woman. When the girl entered the crowded train, she had inadvertently pushed the veiled woman to go inside, an act which led to a verbal exchange between them. The veiled woman told Maggie, who had long hair, "You don't know what I will do to you." When the schoolgirl left the train, she was shocked to find her hair cut off and lying on the collar of her jacket. Her father said that Maggie has abstained from eating food and is suffering psychologically. This was the second time in one week that a schoolgirl has had her hair cut off. The first was a girl in the first grade. One Coptic activist asked the Minister of Interior to find this veiled women who is cutting the hair of students and bring her to trial. Another veiled schoolteacher in Luxor is currently being tried for cutting off the hair of two of her students last month because they did not wear the Islamic hijab head-covering.
Pakistan: In a Catholic church in the diocese of Faisalabad, in Punjab, the destruction caused by throwing stones at the statue of the Virgin Mary "brought horror, fear, dismay and anxiety." According to Fr. Mushtaq, "The author of this latest act of violence was a young 26 year-old local Muslim."
Philippines: In Muslim-majority Mindanao, a Christian student and his Muslim girlfriend were shot by two motorcycle assassins. The 21-year-old man died; the woman was in serious condition. The motive of the attack is still unknown, but police is investigating whether the ambush was connected to the personal relationship of the victims. As the report correctly observes, "the relationship between a Muslim woman and a Christian man is considered 'haram' or forbidden among many Muslims."
Saudi Arabia: Following the conversion to Christianity and subsequent escape of a Saudi woman, the Wahhabi nation introduced a tracking system that monitors any cross-border movements by female Saudis. Using SMS technology, the tracking system alerts a woman's male guardian (father, husband, or other male relative) by text message when she leaves the country, even if they are travelling together. According to one Saudi writer, this latest move further shows how women are held under a "state of slavery" in the kingdom.
Sinai: A Christian Eritrean refugee held hostage by Bedouin traffickers for three months was given five days to raise USD $25,000 or face illegal organ harvesting. His case highlights a continuing lack of protection and assistance for refugees and migrants who are routinely abducted and abused by people traffickers in the Sinai Peninsular. Philemon Semere, 22, escaped from Eritrea to Ethiopia in 2010, where he sang in the church choir in Adi Harish Refugee Camp. Early in 2012, he traveled to Sudan and was attempting to reach Israel when he was abducted by traffickers, and taken to one of several torture and extortion facilities in the Sinai. He was beaten and abused regularly and, at that time, his captors asked him to provide USD $33,000 to ensure his release, or lose a kidney. Although it is unknown what became of him, a recent BBC report adds: "It is impossible, from so far away, to verify Philemon's case. But Christian Solidarity Worldwide, and other non-governmental organisations who have studied the kidnap trade, say it bears all the hallmarks of what is now an awful but thriving business in the Sinai region. Convinced that his family does not have the money to meet the kidnapper's demands, Philemon is clearly becoming desperate as their deadline nears: 'Please help. Please help me Mike. I haven't enough money, they will kill me. Please help me.'"
Syria: At least three more Christians were kidnapped in the context of the U.S.-supported jihad against Assad. Two of the victims were young men; the kidnappers demanded $100,000 USD in ransom for each. The third victim is a 17-year-old girl, who was abducted from the street by four men after they assaulted her 16-year-old brother, beat him unconscious, and drove off with her. "Violence against Assyrians" the report states, "has sharply risen in the last 12 months, much of it perpetrated by the rebel militia, especially by the Jihadist elements of the rebels."
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.