Muslim Persecution of Christians: December, 2011
by Raymond Ibrahim
January 5, 2012
The Nigerian church bombings, wherein the Islamic group Boko Haram killed over 40 people celebrating Christmas mass, is just the most obvious example of anti-Christian sentiment in December. Elsewhere around the Muslim world, Christmas time for Christians is a time of increased threats, harassment, and fear, which is not surprising, considering Muslim clerics maintain that “saying Merry Christmas is worse than fornication or killing someone.” A few examples:
- Egypt: The Coptic Church is being threatened with a repeat of “Nag Hammadi,” the area where drive-by Muslims shot to death six Christians as they exited church after celebrating Christmas mass in 2010. Due to fears of a repeat, the diocese has “cancel[ed] all festivities for New Year’s Eve and Christmas Eve.”
- Indonesia: In a “brutal act” that has “strongly affected the Catholic community,” days before Christmas, “vandals decapitated the statue of the Virgin Mary in a small grotto … a cross was stolen and the aspersorium was badly damaged.”
- Iran: There were reports of a sharp increase of activities against Christians prior to Christmas by the State Security centers of the Islamic Republic. Local churches were “ordered to cancel Christmas and New Year’s celebrations as a show of their compliance and support” for “the two month-long mourning activities of the Shia’ Moslems.”
- Malaysia: Parish priests and church youth leaders had to get “caroling” permits—requiring them to submit their full names and identity card numbers at police stations—simply to “visit their fellow church members and belt out ‘Joy to the World,’ [or] ‘Silent Night, Holy Night.'”
- Pakistan: “Intelligence reports warned of threats of terrorist attacks on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day,” adding that most church security is “inadequate.” Christians also lamented that “extreme power outages have become routine during Christmas and Easter seasons.”
Meanwhile, if Christians under Islam are forced to live like dhimmis—non-Muslims under Muslim authority, treated as second-class citizens—in the West, voluntarily playing the dhimmi to appease Muslims during Christmas time is commonplace: the University of London held Christmas service featuring readings from the Quran (which condemns the incarnation, that is, Christmas); and “a posh Montreal suburb has decided to remove a nativity scene and menorah from town hall rather than acquiesce to demands from a Muslim group to erect Islamic religious symbols.”
Categorized by theme, the rest of December’s batch of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes (but is not limited to) the following accounts, listed according to theme and in country alphabetical order, not necessarily severity.
Ethiopia: A video of some 500 Muslims burning down a church on November 29 while crying “Allahu Akbar!” appeared. The pretext for burning this church was that it had no “permit”—even though it was built on land owned by Christians for 60 years.
Indonesia: An “Islamic extremist” group is pushing hard to have five churches demolished, again, to claims that the churches have no permit. The congregation of another “embattled church” that Muslims are trying to shut down “was forced to move its Christmas prayers to a member’s house after Islamic groups assembled at the disputed site making threats.
Iran: While celebrating Christmas, a church was raided by State Security. All those present, including Sunday school children, were arrested and interrogated. Hundreds of Christian books were seized. The detained Christians suffered “considerable verbal abuses”; the whereabouts of others arrested, including the reverend and his wife, remain unknown. “Raids and detentions during the Christmas season are not uncommon in Iran, a Shi’a-majority country that is seen as one of the worst persecutors of religious minorities.”
Nigeria: Weeks before the Christmas Day church bombings, another jihadi attack, enabled by “local Muslims,” left five churches destroyed and several Christians killed: “The Muslims in this town were going round town pointing out church buildings and shops owned by Christians to members of Boko Haram, and they in turn bombed these churches and shops.”
Turkey: A large-scale al-Qaeda plot to bomb “all the churches in Ankara,” was exposed. An official indictment against al-Qaeda members earlier arrested revealed the homegrown terrorist cell’s plans to attack Ankara’s churches and their Christian clergy.
APOSTASY, BLASPHEMY, and PROSELYTISM
Algeria: In May, a Muslim convert to Christianity was sentenced to a five-year prison term on charges of “insulting Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, and with ‘proselytism’ for giving a Muslim a CD about Christianity.” Now the judge has decided “to indefinitely postpone” the man’s appeal, thus “show[ing how] the judicial system keeps Christians in limbo without officially punishing or acquitting them.”
Kashmir: The top Islamic clergyman launched a website against apostasy and the conversion of Muslims to Christianity. The website works to “check the conversion of young [Muslim] boys and girls [to Christianity]”; its “fundamental goal” is to “thwart catastrophic [Christian] missionary activities.”
Iran: Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, who caught the attention of the world after being imprisoned and awaiting execution for leaving Islam, may have to wait another year for a ruling on whether the sentence will be upheld, as authorities continue to delay, in the hopes that the world will forget. Meanwhile, authorities continue “to pressure Nadarkhani to recant his faith,” giving him and ordering him to read “Islamic literature aimed at discrediting the Bible. The court reportedly has been told to use whatever means necessary to compel Nadarkhani to recant his faith.” Another convert to Christianity recently told of his experiences: “When my family and friends learned of my decision, they didn’t accept it and rejected me as a result. They made me leave our family home. In addition, my friends treated me like my family had and began calling me an apostate and an infidel. In Iran, anyone who converts to Christianity faces various problems. In spite of the love I had for my family, I had to leave my home. Everyone rejected me.”
Malaysia: Lamenting that “It could be hundreds, maybe even thousands” of Muslims converting to Christianity, a former state-commissioner has been “collecting data” to “persuade” the apostates to return to Islam: “We are helping them, hoping they will come back to Islam.” Likewise, the Sultan of Selangor, a Malaysian state, has ordered top-level Islamic organizations to take strategic steps against proselytism, “so that Muslims who have began distancing themselves from Islam will return to the fold and repent.”
Pakistan: After a Muslim family discovered their son had converted to Christianity, not only did “his father put up a notice in local newspapers disowning him,” but his family “file[d] a police complaint against him because—as a murtad or apostate deserving death—he was said to have committed “blasphemy.” Likewise, after a rent-related quarrel, a Muslim landlord accused his Christian tenant of desecrating the Quran, which led to crowds of Muslims surrounding the Christian’s house, making threats and hurling anti-Christian slogans; “Muslim leaders made announcements from several mosques calling for severe punishment.” He was arrested and charged under Pakistan’s “blasphemy” laws, which make willful desecration of the Quran punishable with life imprisonment.
VIOLENCE and KILLINGS
Kashmir: Christians imprisoned under “blasphemy” charges continue to be tortured. One was “seriously injured in a knife attack and was believed to be in a Lahore hospital on Christmas Day.”
Kenya: Seven Muslims of Somali descent beat a young Somali Christian unconscious, seriously injuring his eye, less than six weeks after a similar attack on his older brother, saying “we did not succeed in killing your brother, but today we are going to kill you.” His family was presumably Muslim when he was born, so the gang beat him as an “apostate” even though he was raised as a Christian.
Iraq: A rash of attacks on Christians erupted following a Friday mosque sermon, and included Muslim “mobs burning and wrecking [Christian] businesses. Later, Muslim gunmen shot and killed a Christian couple as they were walking towards their car; their two children were hurt but are still alive. New information has been received “on a plot against the Christian minority in Mosul during the upcoming Christmas and New Year holidays.”
Pakistan: A Muslim man murdered a Christian girl during an attempted rape: he had “grabbed the girl and, under the threat of a gun, tried to drag her away. The young Christian woman resisted, trying to escape the clutches of her attacker, when the man opened fire and killed her instantly, and later tried to conceal the corpse.” Though the man is described as a “young drifter and drug addict,” the ongoing sexual abuse of Christian women by Muslim men exposes how Christians are seen as second-class, to be abused with impunity.
Philippines: A 71-year old pastor was shot dead by two unidentified gunmen on board a motorcycle. “The [Mindanao] province is known for Christian pastors becoming victims of persecution. Just earlier this year, a lady pastor of a local Pentecostal church was hacked to death by suspected Moslem rebels in front of her daughter.”
Syria: “Around 50 Christians have been killed in the anti-government unrest in Homs, Syria, by both rebels and government forces, while many more are struggling to feed their families as the violence brings normal life in the city to a halt…. In one tragic incident, a young Christian boy was killed by the rebels, who filmed the murder and then claimed that government forces had committed the act. Another Christian was seized by the rebels, taken to a house and asked, ‘How do you want to die?’ The man completely broke down and was released but has been left in severe psychological distress.”
Uganda: Muslims threw acid on a church leader on Christmas Eve shortly after a revival at his church, leaving him with severe burns that have blinded one eye and threaten sight in the other. The pastor “was on his way back to the site for a party with the entire congregation and hundreds of new converts to Christianity when a man who claimed to be a Christian approached him. ‘I heard him say in a loud voice, Pastor, pastor, and as I made a turn and looked at him, he poured the liquid onto my face as others poured more liquid on my back and then fled away shouting, ‘Allahu Akbar.'”
[General Abuse, Debasement, and Suppression of non-Muslim “Second-Class Citizens”]
Egypt: Accusations that a 17-year-old Christian student posted a drawing of Islam’s prophet on Facebook triggered Muslim violence and havoc for two days (the student insists his friends posted the picture on his Facebook page). At least three Christian homes including the youth’s were burned to cries of “Allahu Akbar” and he was severely beat by Muslim classmates prior to being taken away by police. Demands that Christians pay jizya—tribute collected from non-Muslim infidels—are increasing. Also, Rif’at al-Said, head of Egypt’s Al Tagammu Party, proclaimed that Christians are right to be scared, some are packing and leaving, and that the “history of Egypt includes religious riots and oppression, and subsequent Christian emigration.”
Iraq: A Christian man was kidnapped and held for three days, during which his captors demanded a $500,000 ransom. He “was blindfolded and tied down during his ordeal” until “rescued by a SWAT team … to the great relief of his 21-year-old wife Amal and the local Christian community.”
Malaysia: An evangelical Christian leader may face charges of sedition following a statement he made concerning Article 153 of Malaysia’s Constitution, which he likened to “bullying” for only protecting the rights of Muslims.
Philippines: In Mindanao, where Muslims make 1/3 of the population, a 20-year-old Christian preschool learning center is being threatened with closure, under technicalities. Mindanao “has the highest incidence of persecuted Christians doing missionary work in the Philippines and it was also in this region where a suspected man lobbed a bomb grenade at visiting Christian missionaries … priests and missionaries have also been kidnapped.”
Saudi Arabia: Dozens of Ethiopian Christians were arrested for holding a prayer meeting, though under charges of “mixing with the opposite sex”: “the Saudi officials are accusing the Christians of committing the crime of mixing of sexes because if they charge them with meeting for practicing Christianity, they will come under pressure from the international human rights organizations as well as Western countries.”
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 Muslim persecution of Christians that surface each month. It serves two purposes:
- Intrinsically, to document that which the mainstream media does not: the habitual, if not chronic, Muslim persecution of Christians.
- Instrumentally, 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; theft and plunder in lieu of jizya (tribute); overall expectations for Christians to behave like cowed “dhimmis” (second-class 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.