“Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week”
The following article by Robert Spencer deals with the Muslim persecution of Christians and documents how this persecution is rooted in — and mandated by — Islamic law. This article is a segment of a series being run as part of our nation-wide campus effort, “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week,” which will be held on 200 university and college campuses on October 22-26. Themes of the week’s events will include the oppression of women and homosexuals in Islam — as part of a comprehensive focus on all the victims of Islamo-Fascist Jihad. Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week is also a national effort to counter the lies of the academic Left, which seeks to deny the evil — and even the very existence — of our enemy in the terror war. In this way, Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week hopes to educate American students and to enable them to rally to defend their country. –The Editors.
Traditional Islamic law mandates the death penalty for Muslims who leave Islam, in accordance with Muhammad’s command: “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.” This is still the position of all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence, although there is some disagreement over whether the law applies only to men, or to women also.
Many Muslims take this dictum quite seriously even today. In August 2007, Mohammed Hegazy, an Egyptian convert from Islam to Christianity, was forced to go into hiding after Islamic clerics issued sentences of death against him. He refused to flee Egypt, however, and declared: “I know there are fatwas to shed my blood, but I will not give up and I will not leave the country.”
An Afghani named Abdul Rahman was arrested in February 2006 – for the crime of leaving Islam and becoming a Christian. The constitution of the new, post-Taliban Afghani regime stipulates that “no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam.” Abdul Rahman’s case showed that the traditional Islamic classification of apostasy as a capital crime would be included in this. After an international firestorm, and pressure from the United States, Abdul Rahman was released and asked for asylum in Italy, which was swiftly granted; however, the conditions under which he was originally arrested still remain: the Islamic law provision in the Afghani constitution remains today.
Mohammed Hegazy and Abdul Rahman aren’t alone. Christian converts face persecution all over the Islamic world – and it usually goes unreported. Another case that did come to the notice of the international press was that of Robert Hussein Qambar Ali, a Kuwaiti who converted from Islam to Christianity in the 1990s. He was arrested and tried for apostasy, even though the Kuwaiti Constitution guarantees the freedom of religion and says nothing about the traditional Islamic prohibition on conversion to another faith. One of Hussein’s prosecutors, explained that Islamic law superseded the Kuwaiti Constitution anyway, and so Hussein could be legitimately tried: “With grief I have to say that our criminal law does not include a penalty for apostasy. The fact is that the legislature, in our humble opinion, cannot enforce a penalty for apostasy any more or less than what our Allah and his messenger have decreed. The ones who will make the decision about his apostasy are: our Book, the Sunna, the agreement of the prophets and their legislation given by Allah.” Even in places where it is not fully enforced, the Sharia retains the status of a kind of meta-law, often overriding and superseding the laws of the land.
That fact also bodes ill for Christians. Besides denying the freedom of conscience, Islamic law mandates that Christians be subjected to a second-class status that mandates that they pay a special tax (jizya; cf. Qur’an 9:29) from which Muslims are exempt, not hold authority over Muslims, not build new churches or repair old ones, and submit to various other humiliating and discriminatory regulations. However, these laws have not been in force in Iraq since it was an Ottoman province – and under Western pressure, the Ottoman Empire abolished this discriminatory system, the dhimma, in the 1850s. In Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, as well as the Syria of the Assads and in other countries where relatively secular governments have been in power in recent decades, lawmakers took their cue in many areas more from Western law than Islamic law, and Christians enjoyed relative equality with Muslims.
But those days seem to be drawing to a close. Preaching in a mosque in Al-Damam, Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Muhammad Saleh Al-Munajjid, a popular preacher whose sermons circulate widely over the internet, declared that “educating the children to Jihad and to hatred of the Jews, the Christians, and the infidels” is “what is needed now.”
Many Muslims are heeding such words. In March 2007, Islamic gangs knocked on doors in Christian neighborhoods in Baghdad, demanding payment of the jizya. Christians all over Iraq live increasingly in an atmosphere of terror. In October 2006, a Syrian Orthodox priest, Fr. Boulos Iskander, went shopping for auto parts in the Iraqi city of Mosul. He was never seen alive again. A Muslim group kidnapped him and initially demanded $350,000 in ransom; they eventually lowered this to $40,000, but added a new demand: Fr. Boulos’ parish had to denounce the notorious remarks made the previous month by the Pope in an address in Regensburg, Germany, that caused rioting all over the Islamic world. The ransom was paid, and the church dutifully posted 30 large signs all over Mosul, but to no avail: Fr. Boulos was not only murdered but dismembered.
This murder took place against a backdrop of increasing persecution of Christians in Iraq. Women have been threatened with kidnapping or death if they do not wear a headscarf; in accord with traditional Islamic legal restrictions on Christians “openly displaying wine or pork” (in the words of a legal manual endorsed by Cairo’s venerable Al-Azhar University), liquor store owners in Iraq have likewise been threatened. Many of their businesses have been destroyed, and the owners have fled. A onetime Iraqi liquor store owner now living in Syria lamented that “now at least 75 percent of my Christian friends have fled. There is no future for us in Iraq.”
Five hundred Christians attended the funeral of Fr. Boulos Iskander. Another priest commented: “Many more wanted to come to the funeral, but they were afraid. We are in very bad circumstances now.”
That is true of Christians all over the Islamic world. In Egypt, Coptic Christians have suffered discrimination and harassment for centuries, and their plight is increasing, with mob attacks on churches and individual Christians becoming more frequent. Even those who have tried to call attention to that plight have been victimized. In June, rioters in Alexandria vandalized Christian shops, attacked and injured seven Christians, and damaged two Coptic churches. Police allowed the mob to roam free in Alexandria’s Christian quarter for an hour-and-a-half before intervening. The Compass Direct news service, which tracks incidents of Christian persecution, noted: “In April 2006, Alexandria was the scene of three knife attacks on churches that killed one Christian and left a dozen more injured. The government appeared unable or unwilling to halt subsequent vandalism of Coptic-owned shops and churches….” In August, two Coptic rights activists were arrested for “publishing articles and declarations that are damaging to Islam and insulting to Prophet Mohammed on the United Copts Web site.” Last February, rumors that a Coptic Christian man was having an affair with a Muslim woman – another violation of Islamic law – led to the destruction of several Christian-owned shops in southern Egypt.
In Pakistan the situation for Christians is no better. Fr. Emmanuel Asi, chairman of the Theological Institute for Laity in Lahore and secretary of the Catholic Bible Commission of Pakistan, said in August 2007 that Pakistani Christians are frequently denied equality of rights with Muslims and subjected to various forms of discrimination. Jihadist aggression, he said, “at any time” can bring “every imaginable kind of problem” upon Pakistan’s Christians. As in Egypt, Christians in Pakistan have been subjected to mob violence and threats. Christians (as well as Hindus) in Peshawar in northern Pakistan received letters in August from a jihadist group, telling them to convert to Islam by August 10 or “your colony will be ruined.” Even after the deadline passed, the Christians continued, according to Compass Direct, “to live in fear, canceling church activities and skipping services.” They had good reason to be worried, since jihadists have attacked Pakistani churches in the past; in one attack in October 2001, 18 Christians were murdered during a worship service.
The same dispiriting story is repeated all over the Islamic world. In June 2007 Christians in Gaza appealed to the international community for protection after jihadists destroyed a church and a school. Journalist Rod Dreher reported in 2002 that the Indonesian group Laskar Jihad “has killed as many as 10,000 Indonesian Christians, forcibly converted thousands more, and demolished hundreds of churches.” In Sudan, the Khartoum regime for years waged a bloody jihad against the Christians in the southern part of the country, killing two million Sudanese Christians and displacing five million more. In Spring 2003 jihadists burned to death a Christian pastor and his family while carrying out an unprovoked massacre of 59 villagers. In Nigeria, Muslim mobs have torched churches and even enforced Sharia codes on Christians, horse-whipping female Christian college students whom they deemed to be dressed improperly.
Even in Lebanon, traditionally the Middle East’s sole Christian land, Christians suffer persecution – marked most notably by the ongoing series of assassinations of Christian political leaders, including the bombing in a Christian suburb of Beirut last Wednesday that killed Antoine Ghanem of the Christian Phalange party. This has led to declining numbers and declining influence – which in turn encourages yet more persecution. Christian communities that date back to the dawn of Christianity have been steadily decreasing in numbers; now the faith is on the verge of disappearing from the area altogether. In Iraq, half of the nation’s prewar 700,000 Christians have now fled the country since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Iraqi Christians today are streaming into Syria or, if they can, out of the Middle East altogether.
Much of this migration can be attributed to the resurgence of the Islamic jihad imperative in recent decades. Around the Islamic world, an assertive, combative, and expansionist Islam is newly energized. This resurgence stems from a variety of factors – notably, the Saudi oil billions that have been made available for the spread of the global jihad, and the communications revolution, which has allowed for the quick and easy spread of the jihad ideology into areas of the Islamic world where it had lain dormant for centuries.
Christians have been the principal victims of this resurgence. Yet human rights groups and even Christians in the West have been strangely silent about Muslim persecution of Christians. Many American Christians are surprised just to discover that there are ancient communities of Christians in Islamic lands at all. Extending a helping hand to them necessarily involves difficult issues of American relationships with Islamic countries, which is enough to make the task too daunting for most. Meanwhile, today’s fashionable anti-Christian rhetoric (see Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Chris Hedges, etc.) makes it difficult for many to see Christians as victims at all.
And so Islamic jihadists and Sharia supremacists continue, with ever increasing confidence and brutality, to prey on the Christians in their midst. It is the persecution that almost no one dares name.