by Raymond Ibrahim
Several reports appearing in July indicate that Christian minorities all around the Muslim world—especially women and children—are being abducted, tortured, raped, forced to convert to Islam, and/or enslaved.
In Egypt, at least 550 such cases have been documented in the last five years, and have only increased since the revolution. Christians who manage to escape back to their families often find the government siding with their Muslim abductors. One young mother who recently testified before the Helsinki Commission explained how she was snatched in broad daylight, as her abductor shouted to bystanders while dragging her to a waiting taxi, “No one interfere! She is an enemy of Islam.”
Identical reports are emerging from Pakistan, where “persecution, kidnapping and abduction of Christian women and girls,” including many married women with children, are on the rise. Last year the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said that 1800 Christian and Hindu girls were forcibly converted to Islam. Most recently, the sister of a pastor was “kidnapped raped and forcibly converted to Islam.” She “was kidnapped around a month ago by some Muslim men while returning home from college. She was held for days, suffered sexual abuse, threats and violence. In such a state of terror and exhaustion, first she was coerced into converting to Islam, and then marriage. Her family reported the incident to the police station in Chunian, but no investigations have been conducted and instead her abductors have presented a report to the court attesting to the girl now being Muslim and legally married. Among other things, the girl is a minor and, according to the law, marriage is not permitted to minors.”
The tiny Palestinian Christian community in the Hamas-run Gaza strip is also under siege and charges that five Christians were abducted and pressured into converting to Islam. Because they made this forced conversion charge known, “members of the Christian community now fear reprisal attacks by Muslim extremists.” Some have appealed to the Vatican and Christian groups and churches in the West for help. Yet “we only hear voices telling us to stay where we are and to stop making too much noise,” said a Christian man living in Gaza City: “If they continue to turn a blind eye to our tragedy, in a few months there will be no Christians left in Palestine. Today it’s happening in the Gaza Strip, tomorrow it will take place in Bethlehem.”
Categorized by theme, July’s assemblage 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.
Indonesia: Muslim protesters forced a church to shut down during a Sunday worship on claims that it was operating without a permit, and hung a banner on the church’s gate reading “We the people … hardily reject the use of this building … for religious activities.” The church’s committee secretary said the church has the necessarily permits to hold services,” yet “the majority of the people still reject the church’s activity.”
Iran: Both the Central Assembly of God Church in Tehran and its summer campsite—once a popular site for Christian gatherings and conferences—were closed by authorities of the Islamic Republic, who also posted a large notice on the gates “warning of severe consequences should anyone try to enter the premises.” These latest closures follow the official termination of Friday Persian language services and the compulsory cancellation of all Bible classes and the distribution of Christian literature. Also, as part of the crackdown on house churches, plainclothes agents of the Ministry of Islamic Guidance continued raiding, arresting, and “aggressively interrogating” assembled worshippers.
Lebanon: Ahead of the Maronite Patriarch’s visit to Akker, flyers signed by the “Soldiers of the Great Prophet” made anti-Christian threats in what has traditionally been the safest Mideast country for Christians, calling “on the infidels to stop their blasphemy … We will start from the infidel’s church in Akker and we won’t stop … this is not the end but the beginning,” read the flyer.
Kenya: Seven Islamic jihadis launched simultaneous grenade and gunfire attacks on two churches while the congregations were at prayer. Five militants attacked the Africa Inland Church, killing 17 people and wounding approximately 60, including many women and children; two other Muslim terrorists attacked the nearby Catholic Church, wounding three.
Kuwait: After approval was issued for the construction of a church, a group of Islamic preachers, echoing the words of the Saudi Grand Mufti, reasserted that churches are not permitted to be built in Muslim countries. One sheikh “expressed displeasure” against those approving the construction of the church, “stressing that it is not permissible as per the Sharia,” adding that “excuses” such as saying that the building of a church “is a matter of human rights and international norms is not acceptable, as Islam comes first, and people should respect religion first before serving humanity or anything else.”
Turkey: The existence of the oldest functioning Christian monastery in the world, 5th century Mor Gabriel Monastery near the Turkish-Syrian border, is at risk after a ruling by Turkey’s highest appeals court. Inhabited today by only a few dozen Christians dedicated to learning the monastery’s teachings, the ancient Aramaic language spoken by Jesus and the Orthodox Syriac tradition, neighboring Muslims with the support of an MP member of the Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP) filed a lawsuit accusing the Christians of practicing “anti-Turkish activities” and of illegally occupying land which belongs to Muslim villages. The highest appeals court in Ankara, which is close to the government, ruled in favor of the Muslim villagers, saying the land that has been part of the monastery for 1,600 years is not its property, and even claimed that the monastery was built over the ruins of a mosque—even though Mohammed was born 170 years after its foundation.
Apostasy and Blasphemy
Egypt: A Christian teacher was arrested and detained after being accused of posting cartoons insulting to Islam and its prophet on Facebook. The man faces up to five years in jail if convicted of blasphemy. While admitting he manages the site in question, he said the site was hacked. Earlier in April, a Christian teenager was sentenced to three years in prison for posting cartoons perceived to mock Islam’s prophet on his Facebook page. Likewise, Christian business tycoon Naguib Sawiris posted Disney’s Mickey and Minnie Mouse dressed in Islamic attire, which landed him in court, though he was later acquitted.
Iran: Pastor Youssef Nadarkhani, who has spent over 1,000 days in prison awaiting execution for refusing to recant Christianity, is only one of many persecuted in Iran for their faith. A six-year prison sentence for Pastor Farshid Fathi Malayeri—another Muslim convert to Christianity—was recently upheld following an unsuccessful appeal hearing. Also, another prominent house church pastor, Benham Irani, remains behind bars, even as his family expresses concerns that he may die from continued abuse and beatings, leading to internal bleeding and other ailments; authorities refuse to give him medical treatment. The verdict against him contains text that describes the pastor as an apostate, adding that apostates “can be killed.”
Pakistan: A Christian couple continue to be on the run since they embraced Islam back in 2006, only to reconvert to Christianity. Upon learning that the couple returned to Christianity, neighboring Muslims attacked and persecuted them; one of the husband’s best friends abducted and tortured him, while beating the wife. “[One] should have the freedom to choose the religion one wishes to follow,” said the Christian husband.
Saudi Arabia: A court is looking into an apostasy case concerning a 28-year-old Muslim woman’s conversion to Christianity. The father alleges that a Saudi and a Lebanese played a role in converting his daughter to Christianity and smuggling her to Lebanon, where she has received sanctuary in an anonymous church.
Jihad Death and Destruction
Nigeria: In what is being described as an ongoing genocide of Christians, over 65 people, including two politicians, were killed in triple attacks on Christians. First, Muslims destroyed 43 Christian-owned farms. Nobody was arrested. Then they attacked nine Christian villages around the city of Jos, killing dozens of people. “They came in hundreds,” said an official, “Some had police uniforms and some even had bulletproof vests.” In one instance, Christians fleeing the violence took refuge in the house of a local church leader, which was bombed and more than 50 Christians were burned alive, including the pastor’s wife and children. Then the Muslims attacked the funeral for the victims of the village raids, killing several more people. Security forces said Muslim Fulani herdsmen were responsible but Islamic militant group Boko Haram issued a statement saying “We thank Allah for the successful attack.” Separately, Islamic motorcycle assassins gunned down four Christians.
South Africa: The Islamic terror group Al Shabaab is accused of murdering 14 Christians, all Ethiopians, in the Western Cape. A Christian bishop, also a former police inspector, fears more of his flock will be targeted: “We want authorities to do something because we know this is the work of al-Shabaab. If nothing is done, the Ethiopian population will be depleted… [those who died are] holy martyrs who have died because they are Christians.” Meanwhile, Father Mike Williams of the Anglican Catholic Church also revealed that members of his congregation have been targeted by gunmen “with connections to Muslim extremists,” saying that “In July, we have lost seven members of our church.”
Syria: Syrian “freedom fighters” continue showing their true colors as they destroy churches and kill Christians, which has resulted in the mass migration of tens of thousands of Christians, including practically the entire populations of Homs and Qusayr. Surrounding nations that once might have offered refuge—Iraq, Turkey, even now Lebanon—are also increasingly inhospitable to Christians. One Christian girl who escaped said: “They sermonized on Fridays in the mosques that it was a sacred duty to drive us [Christians] away…. Christians had to pay bribes to the jihadists repeatedly in order to avoid getting killed.” After making the sign of the cross, her grandmother added: “Anyone who believes in this cross suffers.”
Turkey: An article titled “Who Ordered the Murder of Christians?” asserts that a Muslim undercover agent who had worked for the government “penetrated the Christian community and gathered a lot of information, while he was pretending to be a missionary. He became a church leader, and upon receiving another order, he became ‘Muslim’ again and launched a campaign against missionaries across the country,” which culminated in the massacre of Christians.
[General Abuse, Debasement, and Suppression of Non-Muslims as “Tolerated” Citizens]
Egypt: After a Christian laundry worker burned the shirt of a Muslim man, several quarrels ensued and culminated with the death of a Muslim. Accordingly, thousands of Muslims rampaged the village, causing 120 Christian families to flee. They looted Christian businesses and homes “despite hundreds of security forces being deployed in the village. Eyewitnesses reported that security forces did not protect most Coptic property.” Family members of the deceased Muslim insist that the Christians must still pay with their lives. Also, during Ramadan, several Christians were attacked and beaten. Dr. Yassir al-Burhami, a prominent figure in Egypt’s Salafi movement issued a fatwa forbidding Muslim taxi-drivers and bus-drivers from transporting Coptic Christian priests to their churches, which he depicted as “more forbidden than taking someone to a liquor bar.” And a charitable medical center that performs free heart operations on both Muslim and Christian children is under threat from some Muslims, who want it closed down because it was founded by a Christian surgeon.
Pakistan: Days after a Muslim mob doused a man with gasoline and literally burned him alive for “blaspheming” the Koran (graphic picture here), a Pakistani Christian woman, now living in the U.S., explained how when she lived in Pakistan, Muslims disfigured her in an acid attack for being Christian: After one man noticed her wearing a crucifix, he “became abusive,” telling her “that she was living in the gutter and would go to hell for shunning Islam. He left and returned half an hour later, clutching a bottle of battery acid which he savagely chucked over her head. As she ran screaming for the door a second man grabbed her by the hair and forced more of the liquid down her throat, searing her esophagus. Teeth fell from her mouth as she desperately called for help, stumbling down the street. A woman heard her cries and took her to her home, pouring water over her head and taking her to hospital. At first the doctors refused to treat her, because she was a Christian. ‘They all turned against me… Even the people who took me to the hospital. They told the doctor they were going to set the hospital on fire if they treated me.’ … 67 per cent of her esophagus was burned and she was missing an eye and both eyelids. What remained of her teeth could be seen through a gaping hole where her cheek had been. The doctors predicted she would die any day. Despite the odds she pulled through.” Separately, Muslim landowners and their police accomplices continue annexing land owned by Christians: “The police pulled away our headscarves from our heads and started hitting us with clubs and punches” reported Christian women, “after news spread that police is harassing and torturing Christian women and men … to grab their agricultural land.”
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:
Accordingly, whatever the anecdote of persecution, it typically fits under a specific theme, including hatred for churches and other Christian symbols; apostasy and blasphemy laws; sexual abuse of Christian women; forced conversions to Islam; 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.