Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center
What more evidence is needed to prove that Islam is at war with Christianity than its well documented hatred for the quintessential symbol of Christianity: the Cross?
This recently occurred to me as I was surfing Arabic language videos and websites discussing Christianity—only to encounter one hostile video, fatwa, or sermon after another against the cross.
Only one seemingly spoke well of the cross—though for a reason that again demonstrated Islam’s hostility for Christians. According to Al Azhar professor Dr. Salim Abdul Galil, Muslims can be tolerant of the cross—they can even wear and pray to it—but only when in need of deceiving Christians, whom the learned cleric portrayed as the natural enemies of Muslims.
The most telling talk show featured Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Tarifi, a Saudi expert on Islamic law. Asked about Islam’s ruling on whether any person—in this case meaning Christians—are permitted to wear or pray to the cross, the learned Muslim explained: “Under no circumstances is a human permitted to wear the cross” nor “is anyone permitted to pray to the cross.” The reason? “Because the prophet—peace and blessings on him—commanded the breaking of it [the cross].”
Indeed, as with all of Islam’s hostilities, animosity for the cross begins with Muhammad. He “had such a repugnance to the form of the cross that he broke everything brought into his house with its figure upon it”; he once ordered someone wearing a cross to “take off that piece of idolatry”; and he claimed that at the End Times Isa (Islam’s version of Jesus) will make it a point to “break the cross” as proof that Christians had gotten it wrong all along.
The reason for this animosity is that the cross symbolizes that which Islam was developed in direct contradistinction to. As Sidney Griffith, author of The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque, put it: “The cross and the icons publicly declared those very points of Christian faith which the Koran, in the Muslim view, explicitly denied: that Christ was the Son of God and that he died on the cross.” Thus “the Christian practice of venerating the cross and the icons of Christ and the saints often aroused the disdain of Muslims,” so that there was an ongoing “campaign to erase the public symbols of Christianity [in formerly Christian lands such as Egypt and Syria], especially the previously ubiquitous sign of the cross.”
According to the Conditions of Omar—a Medieval text which lays out the many humiliating stipulations conquered Christians must embrace to preserve their lives and which Islamic history attributes to the second “righteous caliph,” Omar al-Khattab—Christians are “Not to display a cross [on churches]… and “Not to produce a cross or [Christian] book in the markets of the Muslims.”
During the aforementioned talk show, the Saudi cleric also explained that if it is too difficult to break the cross—for instance, a large concrete statue—Muslims should at least try to disfigure one of its four arms, “so that it no longer resembles a cross.”
We actually have much historic and numismatic evidence of this approach going back to the century of Islam’s founding. Almost all of the gold coins that belonged to the Christian Byzantine Empire had the image of the cross on one side of them. After the Byzantine treasury was seized during the Muslim conquests, the caliphate ordered that one or two arms of the cross be effaced, so that the image no longer resembles a cross.
As for the smaller crosses that Muslims could break, again, we have testimonies from the very earliest invasions into Christian Syria of Muslims systematically breaking every crucifix they encountered—to the point that Christians were convinced that the invaders were demons, if not worse. In the words of Anastasius of Sinai, who lived during the earliest invasions: “Note well that the demons name the Saracens [Arabs/Muslims] as their companions. At it is with reason. The latter are perhaps even worse than the demons,” for whereas “the demons are frequently much afraid of the mysteries of Christ,” among which he mentions crosses and churches, “these demons of flesh trample all that under their feet, mock it, set fire to it, destroy it…
Sophronius, the patriarch of Jerusalem when its walls were being sieged by Muslims in 638, lamented:
Why are the troops of the Saracens attacking us? Why has there been so much destruction and plunder? Why are there incessant outpourings of human blood? Why are the birds of the sky devouring human bodies? Why have churches been pulled down? Why is the cross mocked? Why is Christ … blasphemed by pagan mouths?
Even Saladin (d. 1193)—regularly touted in the West for his “magnanimity”—ordered “the removal of every cross from atop the dome of every church in the provinces of Egypt,” according to The History of the Patriarchate of the Egyptian Church.
In light of the above, it should come as no surprise that the Islamic State (“ISIS”) also exhibits hate for the crucifix. In its communiques to the West, hostile reference to the cross is often made: “We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women, by the permission of Allah…. [We will cast] fear into the hearts of the cross worshippers….”
Moreover, the Islamic State once disseminated a video showing its members smashing crosses in and atop churches in territories under its sway (since taken down by YouTube); it beheaded and stabbed a man with his own crucifix; and it published pictures of its members destroying Christian crosses and tombstones in cemeteries under its jurisdiction.
Similarly, in post “Arab Spring” Libya, now another ISIS-stronghold, a video of a Muslim mob attacking a commonwealth cemetery near Benghazi appeared on the internet. As the Muslims kicked down and destroyed headstones with crosses on them, the man videotaping them urged them to “Break the cross of the dogs!” while he and others cried “Allahu Akbar!” Towards the end of the video, the mob congregated around the huge Cross of Sacrifice, the cemetery’s cenotaph monument, and started to hammer at it, to more cries of “Allahu Akbar.” Other Christian cemeteries in post-“Arab Spring” Libya have suffered similarly.
Most recently pictures emerged from a Christian cemetery in Iraq that was vandalized by ISIS. Broken and scattered crosses appear. In one picture, the jihadis broke into a coffin, snapped off the head of the withered corpse and threw the crucifixes surrounding it on the ground.
Lest all this still seem aberrant—limited to some obscure saying of Muhammad, or “ancient history,” or the doings of “radical” groups like ISIS—below is a very partial list of examples of how the crucifix throws “everyday” Muslims into savage paroxysms:
Pakistan: When a Muslim man saw Julie Aftab, a Christian woman, wearing a cross around her neck, he attacked her, forced battery acid down her throat, and splashed it on her face—permanently damaging her esophagus, blinding her in one eye, and causing her to lose both eyelids and most of her teeth.
Egypt: A young Coptic Christian woman named Mary was mauled to death when her cross identified her as a Christian to Muslim Brotherhood rioters. Before her, 17-year-old Ayman, a Coptic student, was strangled and beaten to death by his Muslim teacher and some fellow students—for refusing to obey the teacher’s orders to remove his cross.
Even in Muslim nations deemed “moderate,” violence provoked by the cross is not uncommon:
Malaysia: A Christian cemetery was attacked and desecrated in the middle of the night by unknown persons in the Muslim majority nation. Several crosses were destroyed, including by the use of “a heavy tool to do the damage.” Separately, a Muslim mob rioted against a small Protestant church due to the visible cross atop the building of worship. It was quickly removed.
Maldives: Authorities had to rescue a female Christian teacher after Muslim “parents threatened to tie and drag her off of the island” for “preaching Christianity.” Her crime was to draw a compass—which was mistakenly taken for a cross—as part of a geography lesson in class.
Turkey: In 2012, a 12-year-old boy in Turkey wearing a silver cross necklace in class was spit on and beat regularly by Muslim classmates and teachers.
As Islam’s presence continues to grow in Europe, it should come as no surprise that attacks on crosses are also on the rise:
Of course, Islamic hostility for the cross is only encouraged by Europeans themselves, who happily comply with Islam’s “sensitivities.”
Spain: Real Madrid, a professional football (soccer) team stripped the traditional Christian cross from its club crest as part of a deal with the National Bank of Abu Dhabi—“so as not to offend Muslim sensibilities in the United Arab Emirates.”
United Kingdom: Offensive crucifixes are being removed from prisons in order not to offend Muslim inmates (who are further provided with food baths for Islamic rituals).
Germans in Jerusalem: At the request of their Muslim hosts, German bishops are now removing their pectoral crosses when visiting the Temple Mount. Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm (Munich) rationalized his capitulation by saying “we acted out of respect for the hosts,” insisting that his decision is “not at all a denial of the cross, but a response to the wish of the hosts.”
Such is the history and continuity of Islam’s hate for the cross—that symbol which represents the heart of the Christian faith, including the death and resurrection of Christ, which Islam strongly denounces as a lie. Islam’s war on the cross began with Muhammad, was carried out by earliest caliphs and jihadis, and continues to this day by the new “caliphate” and many “everyday” Muslims.
Meanwhile, far from calling Islam out, Western liberal Christians continue calling for more Muslim refugees and carrying signs proclaiming, “I’m Christian and I love the Qur’an.”