Muslim Persecution of Christians

Originally published Wayback Machine

Muslim persecution of Christians is widespread. Particularly despised are former Muslims who converted to Christianity, for they stand in violation of traditional Islamic Law’s injunction against apostasy. According to all contemporary schools of Islamic jurisprudence, that is a crime punishable by death, in accordance with the Prophet Muhammad’s command: “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.”

Islamic Law mandates that Christians be subjected to a second-class status requiring them to pay a special tax (jizya) from which Muslims are exempt. Christians are notpermitted to hold any kind of authority over Muslims; are forbidden to build new churches or to repair old ones; and must submit to various other humiliating and discriminatory regulations.

Because many Muslims listen to directives from radical imams preaching hatred of “infidels,” a wave of terror has engulfed Christians in Muslim nations throughout the Middle East and North Africa. For example, in October 2006 a Muslim group from Syria kidnapped an Orthodox priest, Fr. Boulos Iskander, while he was shopping in the Iraqi city of Mosul. His captors demanded not only that a large ransom be paid, but also that Fr. Boulos’ parish publicly denounce some remarks critical of Islam that the Pope had made the previous month in an address in Germany — and to which Muslims in numerous nations had responded by rioting. The ransom was paid and the church dutifully posted 30 large signs all over Mosul denouncing the Pope’s comments. In response, his captors not only murdered Boulos but dismembered his body.

This killing took place against a backdrop of increasing persecution of Christians in Iraq. Women there have been threatened with kidnapping or death if they fail to wear a headscarf. In accord with traditional Islamic legal restrictions on Christians openly displaying wine or pork, liquor-store owners in Iraq have likewise been threatened, and many of their businesses have been destroyed. In March 2007 Islamic gangs knocked on doors in Christian neighborhoods in Baghdad, demanding payment of the jizya. At least half of the 700,000 Christians who lived in Iraq prior to 2003 have fled the country since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

In Egypt, Coptic Christians have suffered discrimination and harassment for centuries, and their plight is worsening. Mob attacks on churches and individual Christians are becoming ever-more frequent. In February 1996, a swarm of approximately 10,000 Muslim youths pillaged and burned three Christian villages 60 miles northeast of Cairo. Many Christians living in Upper Egypt have been forced to pay “protection money” to Muslim racketeers.

In Pakistan, Christians are commonly denied equality of rights with Muslims and are subjected to various types of discrimination. Jihadist aggression, in the form of mob violence and threats, is widespread. In one attack in October 2001, 18 Pakistani Christians were murdered during a worship service.

In Saudi Arabia, absolutely no public expression of Christianity is permitted. It is illegal even to wear a cross necklace, to read a Bible, or to whisper Christian prayers in the privacy of one’s own home. There is a nationwide ban on all Christian churches, artifacts, and literature. A special religious police force, known as the muttawa, conducts forcible (and unannounced) inspections of people’s homes, searching for evidence of non-Islamic behavior or possessions.

In Indonesia the extremist group Laskar Jihad has killed as many as 10,000 Christians. In addition, it has forcibly converted thousands more to Islam, and has destroyed hundreds of Christian 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 of them and displacing five million more. According to Nina Shea, an expert on the persecution of Christians in the Muslim world:

“The Sudanese government and its agents have bombed, burned, and looted southern villages; enslaved women and children; forcibly converted Christians and other boys and sent them into battle; relocated entire villages into concentration camps called ‘peace villages’; and withheld food aid to starving Christian and animist communities until they converted to Islam.”

In Spring 2003, Sudanese 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 have 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. Lebanese 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.

All around the Muslim world, an assertive, combative, and expansionist Islam is newly energized. This resurgence stems in large measure from the billions of Saudi oil dollars that have been made available for the spread of the global jihad. Another major factor is the communications revolution, which has allowed for the quick and easy dissemination of jihadist ideology into areas of the Islamic world where it had lain dormant for centuries. Christians have been the principal victims.

Adapted from Islamic Prejudice: Christians,”  by Robert Spencer (October 4, 2007); and In the Lion’s Den, by Nina Shea (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1997).

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