Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
One month after Islamic militants bombed two Egyptian churches during Palm Sunday and killed nearly 50 people in April 2017, on Friday, May 26, several SUVs stopped two buses transporting dozens of Christians to visit and pray at the ancient Coptic Monastery of St. Samuel the Confessor, in the desert south of Cairo. According to initial reports, about ten Islamic militants, heavily armed and dressed in military fatigues, “demanded that the passengers recite the Muslim profession of faith”—which is tantamount to converting to Islam—and when they refused, the jihadis opened fire on them, killing 29 Christians, at least ten of which were young children (including two girls aged 2 and 4). Mohsen Morkous—an American citizen described as “a simple man” whom “everyone loved”_—_his two sons, and his two grandsons were among those killed.
According to more detailed accounts based on eyewitness testimonials, the terrorists ordered the passengers to exit the bus in groups; “as each pilgrim came off the bus they were asked to renounce their Christian faith and profess belief in Islam, but all of them—even the children—refused. Each was killed in cold blood with a gunshot to the head or the throat.”
“By the time they killed half of the people, the terrorists saw cars coming in the distance and we think that that is what saved the rest,” said one source. “They did not have time to kill them all. They just shot at them randomly and then fled.”
According to another report, “The dead and dying lay in the desert sand amid Islamic leaflets left by the assailants extoling the virtues of fasting during Ramadan and forgiveness granted to those who abstain from eating during the Islamic ritual. Ramadan … is often seen as the worst time for persecution of Christians who live in the Middle East.”
A video of the immediate aftermath “showed at least four or five bodies of adult men lying on the desert sand next to the bus; women and other men screamed and cried as they stood or squatted next to the bodies.” They were left in this condition for some time. According to a man who spoke to hospitalized relatives, “authorities took somewhere from two to three hours to arrive at the scene.” The man “questioned whether his uncle and others might have lived had the response been quicker.
The attack occurred in the middle of a three-month state of emergency that began 47 days earlier, on Sunday, April 9, when twin attacks on Coptic Christian churches left some 49 Christians slaughtered. In the December before that, 29 other Christians were killed during another set of twin attacks on churches. And before and after the monastery attack, dozens of Christians, mostly in Sinai but some in Egypt proper, have been killed in cold blood, often decapitated or burned alive. For example, according to a May 9 report, “A [Christian] father and his two sons were recently kidnapped by ISIS and their bodies were finally found over the weekend. The decapitated bodies were taken to the hospital and prepped for burial. Reports suggest that the sons’ mother was killed in the attack which also witnessed the three men’s kidnapping.”
As he did when Islamic militants beheaded 21 Coptic Christians, President Sisi responded by accusing those who persecute the nation’s Christian minority of being “foreign terrorists” come to disrupt Egyptian unity and bombing Libyan targets. Ayman Ezzat captured growing opinion among Copts: “Our lives have turned into hell. I’m a Copt and I curse myself everyday for bringing [Mr. Sisi] to power. He failed us. He sold us.”
Mohamed Elibiary, a Muslim Brotherhood operative and former Obama administration official at the Department of Homeland Security responded to the ongoing slaughter of Egypt’s Christian minorities at the hands of Islamic radicals by tweeting, “what goes around, comes around.” His point was that, because the Copts had denounced the Muslim Brotherhood during Muhammad Morsi’s presidency, so now the sword of jihad is apparently “reciprocating” in like manner.
Similarly, days before this latest attack on Mideast Christians, journalist Shannon Bream announced a forthcoming segment on the growth of Christian persecution around the world. In response, Matthew Dowd of ABC News tweeted “Maybe you can talk about the bigger problem which is persecution of Muslims in America and around the globe. Bigger issue.” In the real world, however, Christians are the most persecuted group: 90,000 died for their faith in 2016; and Islamic extremism is the primary source for this persecution.
The rest of May’s roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes, but is not limited to, the following:
Muslim Slaughter of Christians
Mexico: On May 15, a knife-wielding Muslim attacked and tried to behead a Catholic priest while he officiated at the altar of the nation’s largest cathedral, the Metropolitan Church of Our Lady of the Assumption. The assailant, apparently named John Rene Rockschiil and possibly of French origin, managed to plunge the knife in the neck of Fr. Miguel Angel Machorro, 55, before being restrained by parishioners. Fr. Miguel died later of his wounds.
Germany: A Muslim man and asylum-seeker with a kitchen knife stabbed and killed a Christian woman in front of her two children near a public marketplace. Those who knew the slain woman, an Afghan who converted to Christianity eight years earlier, said she was the epitome of assimilation and an “example of integration.” “A religious motivation is being examined” said officials—apostasy from Islam does earn death—“although we cannot confirm this yet,” police spokesman Stefan Sonntag explained.
Philippines: In late May, a jihadi uprising consisting of both Philippine and non-Philippine Muslim militants, including ISIS-linked Indonesians and Malaysians, erupted in the Islamic City of Marawi. Among the initial carnage, a civilian bus was stopped by the Muslim militants and when the nine passengers were discovered to be Christian, they were tied together and shot dead, execution style. “I am pissed by those kinds of people,” said a local. “They kill defenseless people. Those who were killed were Christians.” The militants also torched a school and a church. One official called the violence an “invasion by foreign terrorists, who heeded the call of Isis to go to the Philippines if they find difficulty in going to Iraq and Syria.” It took more than three days for the military to quell the uprising; 15 members of the security forces and 31 militants were killed.
Kenya: On May 12, two militant Muslims shouting “Allahu Akbar”—and suspected of being connected to neighboring Somalia’s Al Shabaab terrorist group—shot and killed two non-Muslims, one of whom was a Pentecostal Church congregation member. According to the report, “Predominantly Christian workers from Kenya’s interior have been targeted in a series of Al Shabaab attacks that have shaken Christian communities in Kenya’s northeast.” “These Al Shabbab militants have made some of our Christians to be their scapegoats,” said a local Christian leader, “as they see Kenya as a Christian country that is fighting to rid Al Shabaab from Somalia.”
Muslim Attacks on Churches and Crosses
Sudan: On Sunday morning, May 7, as Christians were preparing to worship in the Sudanese Church of Christ in Khartoum, authorities arrived with bulldozers and demolished the church. According to the report, the government claims the church of being “built on land zoned for residential or other uses, or were on government land, but church leaders said it is part of wider crack-down on Christianity,” especially evident in that the government has yet to shut down or demolish a single mosque on the same claim. After explaining that Sudan was in serious violation of constitutional and international conventions of human rights, lawyer Demas James added that the building was destroyed on a Sunday shows the government’s lack of respect for Christian holy places: “You can see there is no place for worship left now for the believers to worship.” The demolished church is one of 25 church buildings marked for demolition on the claim that the churches were illegally built.
Austria: What was described as a “dark skinned immigrant” was videotaped by a bystander’s phone camera throwing things and striking at the large cross in front of the St. Marein parish with a long pole and causing 15,000 Euros’ worth of general damage to the property. Police eventually subdued the “apparently insane man” and took him “to a hospital.” There have been numerous instances of Muslim refugees attacking churches and other Christian symbols—most notably the cross but statues and icons as well—in every European nation that has taken in Muslim migrants.
Bangladesh: On the evening of May 10, a Muslim mob vandalized and invaded the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Khagrachhari district. According to the church’s pastor, Stephen Tripura: “They stormed into the church after kicking and smashing in the door. They attempted to rape my sister and niece who live there by tearing off their clothes. After hearing their cries, local Christians rushed over to help and the attackers fled. My sister and niece moved here to get an education but now they are traumatized…. We didn’t file a case for fear of angering local Muslims further and inviting more violence.”
Islamic Attacks on Christian Freedom
Indonesia: Long touted as a beacon of Muslim tolerance and moderation, Indonesia joined other repressive Muslim nations in May when it sentenced the Christian governor of Jakarta, known as “Ahok,” to a two year prison term on the charge that he committed blasphemy against Islam. According to a report, “The blasphemy accusation was key in Ahok’s defeat in a bid to be re-elected as governor of Jakarta” and that “Islamic extremist groups opposed to having a non-Muslim lead the city organized massive demonstrations against Ahok.” The blasphemy accusation is based on a video that Ahok made in which he told voters that they were being deceived if they believed Koran 5:51, as his opposition said, requires Muslims not to vote for a non-Muslim when there are Muslim candidates available. The Koran passage in question states: “O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you—then indeed, he is one of them.” A five-judge panel concluded that Ahok was “convincingly proven guilty of blasphemy.”
Pakistan: A Christian pastor who has been “tortured every day in prison” since July, 2012 when he was first incarcerated, was sentenced to life in prison in May. Zafar Bhatti, 51, was found guilty of sending “blasphemous” text messages from his mobile phone; but human rights activists contend that the charge “was fabricated to remove him from his role as a Pastor.” His wife, Nawab Bibi, says: “Many Muslim people hated how quickly his church was growing; they have taken this action to undermine his work… I wish our persecutors would see that Christians are not evil creatures. We are human beings created by God the same God that created them although they do not know this yet.” She adds, “There have been numerous attempts to kill my husband — he is bullied everyday and he is not safe from inmates and prison staff alike.” In 2014, he “narrowly escaped assassination after a rogue prison officer,” Muhammad Yousaf, went on a shooting spree “to kill all inmates accused of blasphemy against Islam.” Bhatti is one of countless Christian minorities to suffer under Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which has helped make that country the fourth worst nation in the world in which to be Christian. Asia Bibi, a Christian wife and mother has been on death row since 2010 on the accusation that she insulted Muhammad.
As Bhatti was being sentenced to life in Pakistan, all charges against Noreen Leghari—a 20 year-old medical student who was arrested in connection to a planned suicide attack on a church packed for Easter celebrations—were dropped and she was set free. During a televised public statement, Major General Asif Ghafoor, voicing public concern and compassion for the young Muslim women, indicated that it would be a shame to destroy the career of the young woman. But as Wilson Chowdhry, a human rights activist, remarked: “How many of these same Pakistani citizens would be so forgiving had Miss Legahri planned to bomb a Muslim School?…. If it were Muslims that were targeted by Legahri I am certain many of the campaigners would find her crime too offensive for granting a pardon – Christian lives are ostensibly less valuable in Pakistan…. It is hard to believe the deep-rooted hatred that Miss Leghari had towards Christians that led to her becoming a suicide recruit, has simply vanished. Years down the line I pray we do not discover a series of ‘Shipman’ type deaths of Christians at any hospital she is employed by…. I asked several Pakistani Christians whether they would trust a doctor who had previously attempted to bomb a Church on Easter Day, to administer care for them. It was no surprise to me that the unanimous response was a resounding no.”
Morocco: Converts to Christianity in the 99.6 percent Muslim majority nation are coming out of the closets complaining of their treatment and “demand[ing] the right to give our children Christian names, to pray in churches, to be buried in Christian cemeteries and to marry according to our religion,” said Mustapha, a convert since 1994, who, along with other converts, wrote a request to the official National Council of Human Rights to end the persecution of Christians in Morocco. According to the report, “even though the state religion is Islam, Morocco’s 2011 Constitution allows for freedom of religion. The authorities claim to practice only a moderate form of Islam that leaves room for religious tolerance. Yet, in reality, Moroccan Christians still suffer from persecution.” Accordingly, “[f]or two decades, Mustapha kept his faith in Christ secret.” When he finally came out in public about his conversion less than two years ago, all his friends and family “turned their backs on me,” he said: “I was shunned at work. My children were bullied at school.”
Muslim Contempt and Hate for Christians
Iraq: One of the Shia-majority nation’s leading Shia clerics, Sheikh Alaa Al-Mousawi, who heads the government body which maintains all of Iraq’s Shia holy sites, including mosques and schools, described Christians in a video as “infidels and polytheists” and stressed the need for “jihad” against them.
Pakistan: Mian Mir Hospital, which is run by the City District Government of Lahore, was exposed forcing Christian paramedics and staffers “to either recite verses from the Holy Quran at morning assembly or be marked absent for the day,” says a report. News of this came to light when the Medical-Superintendent, Dr. Muhammad Sarfraz, “slapped a Christian paramedical staffer for not attending the assembly,” which led to staff protests against Dr. Muhammad and other supervisors. “Experts said extremism was creeping into public hospitals and was a massive concern for law enforcement agencies,” continues the report. “A senior law enforcement official, requesting anonymity, said the phenomena of extremism among doctors and other paramedical staff was nothing new. He urged the health department to frame a code of conduct to avoid any such incident in future.”
Separately, when a Christian girl in in the Pakistani public school system sought “to study Ethics rather than Islamic Studies because of her Christian beliefs,” says a report, her Muslim teacher informed her that “if she refused to take a class in Islamic studies, she must leave…. The teacher also ordered her Muslim students to avoid eating with the Christian girl because of her faith.” Accordingto the teenage Christian girl, Muqadas Sukhraj, her problems started in early April “when class teacher, Zahida Parveen unnecessarily began creating problems for me and expressing her displeasure with me because I chose Ethics. First, the teacher argued over the textbook of the Ethics class. Then she sent me out of the class as punishment. Later, she told me that if I could not study Islamic education, then why do I study in a Muslim school in the first place? She even told me, that, when she comes into the class, I must leave.” Much of this is in keeping with ongoing revelations, including by way of a 2016 report by Pakistan’s National Commission for Justice and Peace which found that the government continues to issue textbooks that promote religious hatred for non-Muslims.
Separately, after a fist fight broke out when a Muslim teenager snatched a Christian teenager’s phone, a mob of armed Muslims responded by attacking Christians in Phul Nagar, District Kasur in Punjab Province. According to the report, “The armed men pitilessly bashed every person who came in their sight on the streets. What is more they stormed into the houses of Christians and sta[r]ted beating the Christians. They also resorted to aerial firing, therefore, causing terrors and harassment in the entire neighborhood. The attackers did not spare Christian women, and beat them also.” Christians informed local police, who did not arrest any of the culprits, although they are known to police by name and face.
Uganda: Area Muslims continue to hound Pastor Christopher James Kalaja because he filed a court case against sword-waving, “Allahu Akbar” screaming Muslims who earlier rampaged through and destroyed his farm, home, and church. “We just want to inform you that the battle is now on, and you risk losing the whole family,” read one text message he received after formally filing a police case. According to his wife, who lives in separate hiding, he “makes a brief appearance at our current residence because the Muslims are trailing him. They can do anything to kill him, so as [to] stop the court case to proceed since he is the key witness.” The couple’s seven children are also “very fearful” and constantly asking “Why are we here? What have we done that we are undergoing such a great suffering?” “These are questions that I cannot answer,” said the mother. “I only tell the children to pray.”
Nigeria: Janet Habila, a 16-year-old Christian youth leader and daughter of “a devoted church leader with the United Mountain of Grace in Shundna village,” was forced to convert to Islam and marry a Muslim man against her will. According to the report, the Christian girl “was enrolled in the tailoring institute in 2016 by her parents … but rather than learning the trade, the parents were shocked to receive a notification of her marriage through a Sharia court.” According to sources, a Muslim man named Nasiru “craftily organized some Muslim men and women in the area to stand as the parents of Janet in court to enable the marriage to take place.”
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.
 According to Section 295-C of Pakistan’s penal code: “Whoever by words, either spoken or written or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.”