Originally published by the Gatestone Institute.
Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center
In September 2016, a group of escaped ISIS sex slaves finally revealed the true fate of Kayla Mueller – the 26-year-old American aid worker in Syria whom ISIS had reported dead more than a year ago. Her former fellow captives said Mueller had “refused to deny Jesus Christ despite being repeatedly raped and tortured.” In February 2015, ISIS claimed their captive had been killed during a Jordanian airstrike and sent photos of her dead body in a white burial shroud, apparently as a sign of respect. One former sex slave said that Mueller “put others before herself,” and once even refused a chance to escape with the other girls because she thought her American appearance would stand out and endanger the others.
An ISIS-related plot to butcher Christians with chainsaws in a Belgian shopping center was exposed in September after authorities interrogated a Muslim youth. The teen—and son of a man being described as a “radical imam”—was arrested for calling for the execution of Christians while walking down a street. Theo Francken, a Belgian official, said, “I already signed the order to remove the Imam from Belgian soil. But he appealed the decision, so I can only hope for a quick sentence. Clearly radicalism runs in the family.”
Speaking for the first time about the slaughter of the 86-year-old French priest Jacques Hamel, eyewitness Guy Coponet—who was himself stabbed several times, including in the neck, and was not expected to survive—revealed how the jihadi murderers also forced him to hold a camera and record them slitting the throat of the elderly priest: “They even checked the quality of the image and that I wasn’t trembling too much. I had to film the assassination of my friend Father Jacques!” He said the assailants planned on using the video as propaganda, “which would allow them to earn their fame as a ‘martyr’ of Allah.”
Meanwhile, Hungary became the first government in Europe to open an office specifically to address the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and Europe. Zoltan Balog, Hungary’s Minister for Human Resources, said, “Today, Christianity has become the most persecuted religion, where out of five people killed [for] religious reasons, four… are Christians. In 81 countries around the world, Christians are persecuted, and 200 million Christians live in areas where they are discriminated against. Millions of Christian lives are threatened by followers of radical religious ideologies.” This move came weeks after Prime Minister Victor Orban drew criticism in the EU by saying, “If we really want to help, we should help where the real problem is…. We should first help the Christian people before Islamic people.”
Around the same time—and despite the many instances of Muslim migrants raping, murdering, and terrorizing Europeans—Pope Francis urged Europeans to take in more Muslim refugees, including into their homes. He explained that the best way to combat terrorism is by warmly welcoming migrants and helping them integrate into the “European context.”
The rest of the bloody month of September’s worldwide Muslim persecution of Christians includes, but is not limited to, the following:
Muslim Attacks on Christian Churches
Kosovo: On September 10, Albanian Muslims in Pristina set fire to Christ the Savior Cathedral, “Immediately after the fire,” notes the report, they “started using it [the church] as a toilet…. Since the Albanian Muslims took possession of this Orthodox land, hundreds of churches and monasteries have been burnt to the ground.”
Spain: On September 8, a Muslim refugee from Africa “attacked and burned several images of the Virgin in the Church of Fontellas.” One of the side chapels was completely destroyed and several statues were torched. Part of the ornamentation of the chapel ceiling fell, and the nave was blackened by soot. Two days later a judge issued an order banning the North African from being within ten meters of all religious centers of Catholic worship. According to the report, the man remains unrepentant and claims to have earned heaven by his actions, and police suspect he may be responsible for “other attacks on churches in nearby locations in the Ribera de Navarre, doing damage to Catholic religious symbols, such as defacing sacred books.” [According to a canonical hadith attributed to Muhammad, “Do not leave any image without defacing it or any built-up grave without leveling it.”
Iran: Three Christians were sentenced to be flogged for sipping wine during a communion Mass. “In a shock move,” however, “oppressive officials in Tehran have charged the three with ‘acting against national security’ for taking part in the Christian ritual,” said the report. “[S]acramental wine is used by billions of Christians worldwide in celebration of the Eucharist. It is often watered down and is used during Holy Communion alongside small bread wafers.” However, because the judicial system of the Islamic Republic of Iran is based on Sharia (Islamic law), which forbids the consumption of alcohol, all Christians who seek to partake of communion risk being arrested and flogged.
Indonesia: Muslims interrupted a funeral ceremony in a Catholic church in Purwosari, where 200 Christians were assembled. During a Bible reading over the dead, two Muslims who had mixed in with the congregation began heckling and cursing the priest and crowd. The police were able to remove them, but they came back with a Muslim mob, then threatened and pushed the priest and his assistant to the point that they fled the church and suspended the funeral ceremony.
In a separate incident, an angry Muslim mob, led by the Islamic Defenders Front, surrounded and protested against a Protestant church on the false accusation that it did not have the proper papers to renew its permit. “The presence of the Church in this area does not have the approval of most of the Muslim population,” explained a local Muslim spokesman. “Residents said they never gave permission for the renewal of the project.” However, the reverend of the church explained, “after we laid the first stone of the church, the mayor visited the site and officially recognized the project.”
Syria: In September, a prominent Syriac Catholic church in Aleppo sustained significant damage from shelling. At least 20 other Christian churches in Aleppo have been destroyed by ISIS and other “freedom fighters.” Many of the churches destroyed were historically important—such as St. Mary’s which ISIS detonated on Easter Day, 2015. Before the war, there were well over a million Christians in Aleppo; today, about 30,000 remain.
Pakistan: On the morning of September 2, four Taliban-linked Islamic terrorists wearing suicide vests stormed the church of a small Christian community of approximately 30 families in Peshawar. According to the report, “Thanks to the actions of a church security guard [who died in the shootout] and local security forces, a massacre of Christians was averted.”
Yemen: Unidentified and armed militants attacked the Church of Banjasar in Aden. A local source said, “Armed militants accompanied by youths from the village broke into the church after morning prayers and looted the contents of the church.” Although Christian churches in Yemen are few in number, attacks on them have been on the rise. Not long ago, Houthi militias had stormed the St. Anthony Church in al-Tawahi, also in Aden. They, too, plundered it of all its contents. Later, Saudi forces – purportedly fighting the militants – bombed and seriously damaged the church.
Egypt: Despite the recently passed church construction law—which was supposedly designed to relieve tensions by making church construction legally more acceptable—authorities are actually “sending a message that Christians can be attacked with impunity,” charged Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch. The new law still allows governors to deny church-building permits, requires that churches be built “commensurate with” the number of Christians in an area, and contains security provisions that subject decisions on whether or not a church can be built to the whims of violent mobs. Although the diplomatic Coptic Church publicly welcomed the law, “many other Christian clergy, activists, local human rights groups, and Christian members of parliament criticize the law for upholding restrictions that continue to discriminate against Christians.” The status of hundreds of churches that were used for years but then denied license renewals remains unresolved by the new law.
Violence, Prison, and Death for Christian “Blasphemers” and “Apostates”
Jordan: Nahed Hattar, a Christian writer and activist, was killed on September 25 outside of a courthouse in Amman. The 56-year-old man was earlier arrested for sharing a “blasphemous” cartoon about the prophet Muhammad. As he was walking into court to stand trial for “contempt of religion” and “inciting sectarian strife,” a man dressed in traditional Muslim garb shot him dead. The report adds: “Approximately 70 percent of Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and North Africa have blasphemy laws that make it illegal to criticize or dishonor religious symbols and teachings. In practice, many of these laws apply exclusively to Islam.”
Uganda: One Muslim convert to Christianity was killed and two others beaten in three separate incidents:
Ethiopia: Six weeks after a Muslim man discovered that his wife and mother of his three children had converted to Christianity, he locked her in the house and beat her with sticks; during her ordeal, neighbors heard him shouting—including that she “should die for forsaking Islam.” Neighbors found her soaked in blood from a deep gash in her forehead and rushed her to the hospital.
Pakistan: A 16-year-old Christian youth was arrested and could be executed for the crime of “blasphemy.” He allegedly posted or liked a picture of the Kaaba, Islam’s sacred temple in Mecca, with a pig on top of it on Facebook. Infuriated Muslims who saw the image immediately reported it to authorities which led to his arrest. Authorities also removed the image in an effort to calm local Muslims and prevent them from rioting. The arrested youth’s family fled their home in fear of reprisals. Accusations of blasphemy against Pakistan’s minorities are common and often false. Religious hatred, personal score settling, and economic gain are just a few of the motives behind false accusations of blasphemy.
Malaysia: Three Muslims who sought to legally convert to Christianity were denied conversion by the court system due to the implementation of Sharia, or Islamic law, which maintains that anyone born into Islam—i.e., whose father was Muslim—must remain Muslim. According to a source discussing this report, those trying to convert are often sent to a “purification center,” where they are made to recite different Islamic creeds so they are again considered Muslim. “This purification center utilizes torture, beatings, and psychological attacks to terrify new believers into recanting their faith in Jesus Christ.”
Muslim Slaughter of Christians in Nigeria
The ongoing jihad on Christians by both Boko Haram, an Islamic jihad group, and allied Muslim herdsmen, left many dead in its wake:
Dhimmitude: Muslim Contempt for and Abuse of Christians
Saudi Arabia: Officials arrested 27 Christians—including several women and children—for the crime of “conducting Christian prayers” and being “in possession of Bibles.” The group of Christians, most if not all of whom were Lebanese nationals, were celebrating a feast day for the Virgin Mary when authorities stormed their residence and arrested them. Authorities, the dreaded “religious police,” proceeded to strip them of their visas and deport them back to Lebanon. Ironically, this is a much better fate than that suffered by other Christians caught engaging in “acts of Christianity” in the Islamic kingdom. In 2012, 35 Christian Ethiopians were arrested and abused in prison for almost a year, simply for holding a private house prayer. One of them reported after being released: “They [Saudis] are full of hatred towards non-Muslims.”
Iran: At least 25 Christians were arrested in Kerman for unknown reasons. Security forces broke into the Christians’ homes, searched them, seized various objects, and then took the Christians in. Officials did not reveal the reason for the arrest nor where the Christians were taken, leaving family and friends in distress.
In another incident, authorities raided a family garden party after they noticed it wasn’t closely observing conservative Islamic norms; without a warrant they arrested five men, former Muslims who had converted to Christianity. Then they searched the premises and confiscated several items, including three Bibles. The arrested men were taken to an unknown location, though later reports suggest they were sent to Evin prison, where Iran’s worst criminals are caged.
Uzbekistan: Eight Christians were arrested and fined for possessing Christian literature, which is illegal in the Muslim majority nation. One Baptist, Stanislav Kim, was sentenced to two years in a corrective labor camp for being caught with Christian literature a second time in one year. The Christian literature was ordered to be handed over to the state-backed Muslim Board.
Malaysia: After Ben-Hur, originally a novel, was readapted into a 2016 movie and hit the big screen, movie goers were left disappointed and confused, as authorities cut out all scenes that portrayed Christ or had anything to do with Christianity, making the movie unintelligible. “I felt cheated,” said one viewer: “The novel from which this movie is adapted is Ben-Hur: A Tale of Christ. It means Jesus is central to the plot. It was censored so much the storyline made no sense! How did Judah’s mother and sister get cured from leprosy? They just appeared at the end of the movie healed.” Such anti-Christian edits are consisted with the government’s ban on and confiscation of Bibles in the majority Muslim nation.
Egypt: After weeks of more frequent than usual attacks on the Christian minority in Minya, Upper Egypt, the government responded by appointing a Muslim cleric, Mahmoud Gomaa, to investigate the situation. Gomaa then appeared in a televised interview insisting that “Everything was good…. No one has been killed. No one has even been wounded. There’s no conflict. The problem is really with the journalists writing about it.” Bishop Makarios of Minya responded by saying, “I have nothing to do with Mahmoud Gomaa. We are at a breaking point. People can’t put up with any more of this.” He explained how in recent weeks Christians have indeed been killed—including a priest who was gunned down at the entrance of his church and a man who was stabbed to death by an angry mob—as well as numerous incidents of mob violence on Christians which left many injured and their properties looted and/or burned.
United States: In September, when Coptic Christians were suffering abuses “every two or three days” in Egypt, an Egyptian Muslim woman living in America made a video calling for more Muslim hostility against Egypt’s Christian minority, in the guise of an economic boycott. In a video, Ayat Oraby—a Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer who has nearly 1.5 million followers on Facebook—called the Coptic Church a “bunch of gangsters,” a “total mafia” that “rules [Egypt] behind the curtains.” The Copts are reportedly “stockpiling weapons in churches” and “striving to create a Coptic statelet” in order to continue waging “a war against Islam.” That Oraby hates Copts simply because they are Christian came out clearly towards the end of her tirade, when she said: “They [Copts] must learn very well that the Crescent [Islam] must be above the Cross [Christianity.]” In fact, Copts pose no danger to Egypt’s Muslims – but they dare to want equal rights, when they should be content with second-class status.
Pakistan: Hate, Rape, and Murder of Christians
“Christian girls are being ‘systematically’ kidnapped and abuse[d] in Pakistan,” according to a September report, causing even “a Supreme Court justice to express alarm. But as far as the Pakistani police and government are concerned, this is not happening. They are claiming that the more than 1,000 children reported missing last year in just one province alone, in Punjab, actually left their home on their own free will.”
Some are boys. Christian leaders in Faisalabad accused local police of covering up the sexual assault and murder of Zeeshan Masih. The 14-year-old Christian boy was sexually molested, murdered, and then left hanging on a tree. Police reluctantly filed a complaint before declaring it to be a “natural” death—despite the fact that autopsy reports clearly showed signs of sexual abuse and witnesses pointed to unidentified Muslim men. According to a local human rights group:
We now know that other children are complaining about sexual abuse and it is believed that Zeeshan was killed for threatening to tell his parents…. The manner in which police officers have attempted to camouflage this crime has hurt and angered them. They are calling for an independent inquiry into the handling of their son’s death… The (incidence) of rape, sodomy and murder in Pakistan (is) reaching unprecedented levels. Christians and other minorities are natural targets as they are disenfranchised by the country’s laws and statutes, which confer second-class citizenship upon them.
Separately, because he refused to drop charges against them, Muslims shot and critically injured the father of a 27-year-old Christian woman they had earlier kidnapped, raped, and held for four months, until she escaped. This happened three days after police refused to comply with a court order to arrest the four guilty Muslim men. Gulzar Masih, the father, was in an empty plot of land when the attack occurred:
I was immersed in thoughts regarding the case when I saw Ghulam Hussain and Akram [two of the rapists] running towards me, hurling threats and abuses. As soon as they came near me, Hussain whipped out a pistol and fired a shot aimed at my chest. He then fired two more bullets at my legs, after which I fell down on the road. He then asked Akram to break my skull with a metal object that he was carrying. I was hit in the head, after which I lost consciousness…. They may try again to kill me, but I will not stop from knocking on the doors of justice to avenge my daughter’s dishonor. Hussain and his friends are also threatening my three sons with dire consequences, but we have resolved not to sit quiet and let them get away with such a heinous crime.”
Separately, a drunken Muslim mob stormed the homes of Christians and savagely beat their residents after a Christian woman asked the drunken revelers—who were shouting loudly and saying lewd things to young girls passing by—to quiet it down. The Muslims instantly became enraged at “the audacity of ‘ritually impure’ Christians making demands on them,” said the report: “The drunk Muslim men gathered up at least a dozen of their friends and grabbed sticks, metal rods and other assorted weapons.” The mob stormed Christian homes and indiscriminately attacked men, women, and children. According to a Christian witness: “They said all Christians should be killed. They said we were evil demons and made Pakistan impure. I thought I and my family would be killed. It was very frightening.” Seven Christians were injured, five of whom had to go to the hospital to receive treatment for their injuries.”
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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