Heeding the Times from Harry Antonides' Desk

Expelling Christianity from the Muslim World  

 May 2012

“Instead of falling for overblown tales of Western Islamophobia, let’s  take a real stand against Christophobia  infecting the Muslim world. Tolerance for everyone – except the intolerant.” (Ayaan Hirsi Ali, The Daily Beast, Feb. 6, 2012) 

“It is unclear what either Western governments or Western churches think they are achieving by turning a blind eye to the persecution of Christians in the Muslim world.”(Caroline B. Glick,  Jewish World Review, Oct. 12, 2011) 

The so-called Arab Spring has not turned out well for the millions of Christians  still living in the Middle East and other Muslim-ruled countries. This has become painfully evident in Afghanistan and Iraq. These two countries were freed from the dictatorship under the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. Instead of now enjoying the hoped-for freedom to live, work and worship  according to their deepest beliefs,  Christians in these countries are again suffering under severe persecution. 

The  recently published  annual report  of the U.S Commission on International  Religious Freedom names the following 16 countries as the “most systematic  freedom violators in the world”:  Burma, China, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, (north) Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.   

Nina Shea, a tireless public defender of persecuted Christians and other non-Muslims, believes that Afghanistan also belongs in the ranks  of the world’s worst religious persecutors.  For instance, the Afghan government  has ordered  the razing of  that country’s last remaining church after its lease was cancelled. The Afghan constitution fails to protect the freedom  of religion or belief. Instead, it contains a clause that all laws must be in accordance with Islamic law (sharia). 

Expatriate Afghanis, on behalf  of persecuted Christians in Afghanistan, sent an Open Letter to  the free world in June 2010 in which they pleaded for help because the government of that country is engaged in what they describe as a ”campaign to brutalize and eliminate its Christian citizens.” The Letter reports that Christians have been subjected to frequent searches of homes and businesses, and to arrests and torture in order to extract the names of  Afghan Christian converts and the locations of secret Christian churches.The writers plead with the Body of Christ around the world for help in broadcasting the desperate plight of the Christians in that country. 

Worsening Persecution

Iraq’s  Christian population was once one and a half million, but is now reduced to fewer than 150,000 –although The Voice of the Martyrs puts that number at about 334, 000. Tragically, the post –Saddam government has tolerated, perhaps even supported, the numerous attacks on Christians and their businesses, houses and churches. Writing in December 2011 (American Thinker) Michael Curtis said that in the last five years, 18 priests and two bishops have been kidnapped. The archbishop of Mosul was killed in 2008. Since 2004 over 70 churches, 42 of them in Baghdad, have been attacked. In October 2010, 58 Christians were killed and others seriously wounded while attending the Syrian Catholic Cathedral in Baghdad. 

Churches have been bombed in Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan,  Indonesia, and the Philippines. In Pakistan, Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, is facing the death penalty for having “insulted”  Islam. In Iran, Youcef  Nadarkhani has  similarly been condemned for the “crime” of becoming a Christian. In desperation to escape these horrific attacks, some Christians have converted to Islam. Curtis writes that in countries such as Syria and Egypt others have supported secular political groups in the vain hope of being protected. Above all, Christians have fled from these countries so that the Arab world -- which is now home to very few Jews – is also  becoming devoid of Christians. Hence this cruel slogan that makes the rounds in the Arab world: “First the Saturday people, then the Sunday people.” 

What drives the current  intensified persecution of Christians in the Arab/Islamic world? The main reason is the radicalization of the Muslim world, accompanied as always, by hatred for the kafirs, the unbelievers. Perhaps the most important cause is a revival of the belief that Muslims have the duty to spread the rule of Allah, as embodied in sharia law, over the entire world. 

We Christians living in the free West have great difficulty in understanding the agonizing dilemmas facing the hard-pressed Christians in the increasingly hostile Muslim countries. Many have been forced out of their homes and communities where they have lived for countless generations. Where can they go? The irony they experience is that the revolutions that have eliminated the Mubaraks and the Qaddafis may well be replaced by more fanatical tyrants who will make their lives even more burdensome and tenuous.  

Habib C. Malik, professor at the Lebanese American University, writes that Christians are  genuinely alarmed about the prospect that the collapse of the regimes in Egypt and elsewhere will lead to their replacement by militant, hardline Islamists. He writes that the elephant in the room of the Arab spring is the mistreatment of minority communities, Christians and others, across the Arab world. Malik is convinced that if the Muslim moderates allow these minorities to be victimized with impunity, they will hasten the exodus of Arab Christians and they will lose “their historic chance to induce a lasting positive transformation of dismal Arab realities. Moderation would then be on its way toward its doom.” (The Daily Beast, Oct.16,2011) 

Professor Malik has a fresh approach to a topic that has been endlessly debated and mostly misreported and misunderstood. He pictures the presence of Christians within a Muslim nation as a healing catalyst. And he is right, although given the current state of Islamic ideology and practice, the prospects do not look promising. Although we should never give up hope, we also need to face realty, especially when it is ugly. 

There is no end of horror stories about the persecution of Christians in Islam- ruled countries. One serious problem is that the plight of these Christians is generally ignored in the West. The mainstream media often turn a blind eye or report that the persecution of Christians is really a matter of sectarian strife in which both sides are equally responsible.  

Nigeria Targeted.   

Raymond Ibrahim, a Coptic Christian, writes a monthly report, published at frontpagemagazine.com, about the stepped up persecution of Christian churches in many, mostly Muslim, countries. 

On April 27, 2012,he reported that Boko Haram, a terrorist group, declared  “war” on  Christians and is aiming to “annihilate the entire Christian community living in the northern part of the country” (Nigeria). One Boko Haram spokesman is quoted as saying: “We will create so much effort to end the Christian presence in our push to have a proper Islamic state that the Christians won’t be able to stay.” Along with constant church bombings, this organization’s new strategy is to convince Christians of the power of Islam by kidnapping their women. 

On January 6, 2012, Ibrahim reported that weeks before the Christmas Day church bombings, another jihadi attack by local Muslims left five churches destroyed and several Christians killed. Local Muslims went around town pointing out church buildings and shops owned by  Christians to Boko Haram members, who then  bombed these churches and shops.  

Faith J.H.  McDonnell in her article “Christian Slaughter in Nigeria” ( frontpagemagazine.com,  May 4, 2012) reports that  Boko Haram is determined to impose sharia law  in Nigeria; this group has killed more than 900 Christians in the last two years. 

On Sunday, April 29, 2012, Boko Haram attacked Catholic and Protestant worship services at Bayero University in Kano, killing twenty-two worshippers and wounding many more. 

Later on the same day, Boko Haram attacked a service at the Church of Christ in  Nigeria parish in Jere, killing five people. Halfway during the service the terrorists shouted their routine “Allah Akbar” and headed straight for the altar where they killed the pastor, Reverend Albert Naga. 

Boko Haram members have also focussed on newspaper offices and television viewing centers as bombing targets, for example, in Jos, Plateau State.  

President Goodluck Jonathan has asked the U.S. government for help in dealing with Boko Haram and other terrorists. Despite more evidence that this organization is a terrorist organization with links to Osama bin Laden and to al Shabaab, a Somali terrorist group aligned to al Qaeda, the Obama administration has refused to designate it as such. 

U.S. Congressman Peter King, Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, recently again urged the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist organization. He has warned that this organization is a tremendous threat not only to the Christians and other citizens of Nigeria, but “its tactics, targeting, and fundraising operations appear to be increasingly international in scope, including within the U.S. Homeland.”  

It seems obvious that the Obama administration’s refusal to face the reality of imperialistic  Islam can be traced to what Andrew McCarthy has called “willful blindness.” If not corrected, this illusion will allow the jihadists, whether by stealth or violence, to expand their ideal Islamic state from which all freedom and justice will be expunged. Wake up America. 

The Grand Mufti’s Fatwa

The real world  is one where according to several Arab news sources, on March 12, 2012, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheik Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, declared that it is “necessary to destroy all the churches of the region.” His pronouncement was in response to a question from a Kuwaiti delegation about the place of Christian churches in Islamic countries.   

The Grand Mufti explained that not to destroy the churches would be to approve them, which would be contrary to the Prophet Muhammad who is recorded as saying  (in the hadith): “ Two religions shall not coexist in the Arabian Peninsula.”  In other words, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia -- who occupies a place of supreme authority in the Muslim world --  has declared that the persecutors of Christians are right in what they are doing. 

Such a fatwa will further fan the flames of hatred and violence toward Christians not just in the Arabian Peninsula, but also in the rest of the world. These developments have momentous implications for the entire world. Are they perhaps foreshadowing what is to come in the free West? 

If this is so, why do the mainstream media turn a blind eye to these issues? Further, why is it that even the Christian churches do not speak up loud and clear in defence of our long-- suffering fellow believers in the Muslim world?

This article originally appeared in Comment magazine, a journal founded by Harry Antonides. Find all of Harry’s pieces, and thousands more, at http://www.cardus.ca/comment