Heeding the Times from Harry Antonides' Desk

Journeys Into the Heart and Heartland of Islam
By Marvin W. Heyboer. Pittsburgh, Pen.
Dorrance Publishing Co., Inc., 2009, 331 pp,
Reviewed by Harry Antonides

‘Oh Allah, give victory to Muslims and Islam….  Oh Allah, give defeat to the Kufaar and Mushriqeen.’ he prayed. Every Friday, at almost every mosque in Canada, the clerics make this prayer at the end of their sermon and no one bothers to protest….  The silence with which Imam Said Rageh’s supremacist sermon was met sends a clear message to all other clerics in Canada. You are free to pray to God for the defeat of non-Muslims and the victory of Islam in Canada.  (Tarek Fatah, National Post, October 28, 2009.)

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“Islam is a religion of peace.” Just look it up in the Koran. (2:256). Case closed. Except that it is not.  

There is the problem called “abrogation,” which means that this and other peaceful verses are overturned by later and far more numerous exhortations in the Koran to subjugate and even kill the unbelievers. 

Nevertheless, most people believe what they want to believe. It is far more comfortable to believe in peaceful Islam than to face the ugly truth that radical Islamists have declared war on the free West. And they mean what they say. 

Since there is a lot of confusion about these issues, there is great need for reliable information and analysis about the true meaning of Islam. For that reason the publication of Journeys Into the Heart and Heartland of Islam by Marvin Heyboer is a timely contribution to a frank and open debate, especially among Christians.  

The Rev. Marvin W. Heyboer is a retired pastor in the Christian Reformed Church of North America, with a passion for the downtrodden and persecuted minorities. The focus of this book is the victims of Islam, that is,  Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslims, but also all Muslims trapped within this oppressive  religion of  hatred.  

His approach is twofold, exploring the Islamic text directly, and the impact on the lives of non-Muslims (especially Christians) in Egypt, Nigeria and Sudan. The appendices include a joint statement by eleven Muslim and Christian leaders, and a separate position paper on the application of sharia law in Kaduna State by each group. 

A History of Jihad

Heyboer’s method of exploring Islam is to go directly to the Koran and Ibn Ishaq’s (704-767) biography of Muhammad. The first years of Muhammad’s rise to power were difficult, but after his move to Medina in the year 622, he began to dominate with military force.  He destroyed  the  Jewish Banu Qurayza and Khaybar tribes as well Christian  villages, such as Tabuk and Duma, who had  refused to recognize him as a legitimate prophet within their respective religions of Judaism and Christianity.  

Those who surrendered and survived were forced to pay the jizya tax and accept a status of servitude or dhimma, being subjected to the most demeaning treatment, and always living in fear of deportation and death. It is from this beginning that Muhammad and his followers soon extended by jihad the reach of Islam into the Middle East, North Africa, Asia and Europe.  

Muslim apologists argue that jihad is nothing more than the spiritual  struggle against evil within the heart of each believer. But the Koran makes it very clear that it is also a struggle to conquer the unbelievers. The Koran is replete with instructions to fight and conquer, even kill the unbelievers. Muhammad said that he had been commanded to use the sword to ensure that “no one but Allah is worshiped – Allah who put my livelihood under the shadow of my spear and who inflicts humiliation and scorn on those who disobey my commandments.” 

It is this imperialist ambition of Islam that motivates the likes of Osama bin Laden and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who in turn are inspired by the late influential preachers of jihad: Hassan al-Bana, Abul Ala Maududi, and Sayyed Qutb. This ideology is well expressed in the guiding credo of the Muslim Brotherhood: “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. Qur’an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.”  

What is unprecedented in our time is that this message of Islamic superiority is now freely preached in thousands of mosques all over the Western world.  For a number of reasons, mainstream public opinion has refused to face the truth about militant, anti-western Islamism.  

 Nigeria, a Country Divided

The current population of Nigeria is about 40 per cent Muslim (mostly in the North) and 40 per cent Christian (mostly in the south). Heyboer and two other teammates were able, with the assistance of local contacts, to visit three areas where non-Muslims, mostly Christians, had suffered severe persecution.

In the Kaduna area they heard many first-person reports of killings and the destruction of many houses and churches.  

After the British left in 1960 and the subsequent arrival of the Muslim Brotherhood, terror jihad has been a common experience in Kaduna, usually mis-reported by the Associated Press as “ethnic and secular riots.” Such outbreaks occurred 16 times between 1980 and 2004. 

Heyboer and his team viewed the ashes and ruins of former churches that were repeatedly torched, some of them five times between 1987 and 2003. The Nongo Cristu Sudan Tiv, which served several hundred worshipers, had first been destroyed, but rebuilt, and then destroyed again. The church leaders advised the members to go elsewhere. 

In November 2002, riots broke out in protests against the Miss World contest in Kaduna. Not only the local newspaper that reported on the beauty contest, but many churches were destroyed.  A Church of Christ building in south Kaduna was set on fire four times. In 1992 three pastors of this church were killed.  

In 2002, a three-story, YMCA building was looted and left as an empty shell.  It had been started as a community-building project sponsored by Europeans. Muslim and Christian youth had mixed peacefully. Next to this ruined building were the burned out remains of a technical training school for which German manufacturers had donated the equipment. The faculty and students was a mix of Muslims and Christians. Rev. Marki told the visitors: 

We have a serious problem in this country today. Islam conquered northern Nigeria by jihad and they are heirs of jihad. We are the victims, the Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN), in the crises of 1987, 1992, 2000, 2002, and 2004, Jihad has seriously affected the Church of Christ. We have lost members, properties, children, wives, and buildings which were sometimes attacked  three, or four, and even five times… 

We are blocked at every turn by Islam – for employment, for admission to government schools, positions in the government  -- all are  efforts to make us leave these areas to the sole jurisdiction of  Islam.  We struggle to gather money to construct our churches, and then they burn them down again. Islam receives fighters coming from Sudan. The army and the police, they at times fail us. It is a painful thing,  Even when the Federal army  is called for our defense, Muslim soldiers  sometimes desert to join the jihad.  (94-95) 

The Heyboer team  encountered an especially gruesome sight when they visited  a church in Gillian. The pastor told them that armed Muslims started a fire with the wooden pews in the middle of the church. Several church members were killed as they  tried to escape through a narrow hallway. The pastor  opened the door to the choir room and  told them: “This is where we lost ten of our smallest children. They ran here for safety.  They locked the door for protection. All of them died  from burns and suffocation.”

Heyboer: “ Obviously, the burning of the church annex , the killing of adults and children, make a spectacular point  of conquest for Islam – for them possibly a proof that Allah is the true God and that Christians live under his curse.”  

The visitors encountered the same heartbreaking stories of violence suffered by many Christians in the Plateau State. They talked with a severely shaken pastor S. Adaki in the village of Yelwa where all the churches had recently been destroyed. In February 2004, a large number of armed Muslims started the burning of churches and houses, while shouting the praises of Allah.  Thirty-nine of his members were killed inside his church.  

The murderers  had invaded the village with the support of local Muslims, leaving the security officers puzzled how a once peaceful  community could cooperate  with the criminal invaders and  refuse to provide any intelligence to the authorities. When asked why  these violent Muslims would do this, the Rev. Adaki replied:  

First, because they want Muslims to be the only religion in this country. Second, they want to weaken Christians in Plateau State and make them flee. Third, Christians are not happy to have sharia law. In  (Islamic) sharia law  Muslims who convert to Christianity are executed. I know at least five  Muslims from Yelwa who have become Christians  this past year.  Muslims are also converting  to Christianity in other  places of Plateau. (119) 

Everywhere Heyboer went the stories of murder, mutilations and burning were the same:  A helpless people beset by hordes of ruthless killers while the authorities turn a blind eye. 

Sudan, a Country in Chaos

In the summer of 2004, Heyboer was off to Sudan though friends and the U.S. State Department had warned him that traveling there was dangerous. He was not able to travel  around the country but was limited to a stay in the  city of Khartoum. Again, assisted by a number of local Christians, he was able to interview persons who spoke about their own experiences in different parts of the country. Every  one of them told stories of  incredible hardship. 

John, a member of the Nuer tribe  was kidnapped  by Muslim soldiers when he was eleven years old. He was taken on a long trip far away from his own village, where he was sold to a Muslim who said  that he could not keep his Christian name but would now have to go by the name of  Abdullah Muhammad. 

Another young slave who  tried to run away was recaptured  and  had his Achilles tendon cut, which John was forced to watch.  After that, the returned slave could no longer run and even had trouble walking.  John’s uncle, who was present at this meeting with Heyboer, explained that Muslim raiders often captured young children in the south to sell them into slavery. 

John’s master tried to force John into becoming a Muslim by praying with them five times a day. But he did not know Arabic, so he prayed in his own language the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed. He finally escaped,  and  after a number of years  he managed to get in touch with members of his own tribe. At the interview, he was a confused and anxious, wondering whether God was angry with him. Heyboer assured him that God was with him and that he had accomplished an amazing feat by his escape. 

After this encounter,  Heyboer needed to be alone to  measure the  dimensions of human depravity. “I kept thinking about John. How much damage had they done to him, physically and mentally? I visualized the brainwashing of children in the religious training camp. Then I thought of all the other lost boys of Sudan.”  

He thought back to previous centuries when Muslims  conscripted  Christian boys  from the Balkans and the  Ukraine, ripping them away from their weeping parents, and then  indoctrinating them into  Islam and turning them into  fanatic military fighting machines. Heyboer writes: 

What am I to make of it? Tens of thousands of boys were torn from their families. For four centuries and now again in Sudan for two decades, for what? Slavery? What kind of Slavery? House  slaves? Agricultural slaves? Military slaves? Suicide bombers? (171) 

Egypt, a Long Record of Persecution

Egypt came under Islamic control in the year 641, a mere nineteen years after the founding of Islam, at a time when most of the population was Christian. In 1992 there were some nine million Christian Copts in a population of 57 million. Heyboer chose to visit Egypt because he wanted to see how a mature Muslim country is now treating Christians whose ancestors  pre-date the birth of Islam by several centuries. 

Sharia law has relegated Egyptian Christians, mostly belonging to the indigenous Coptic Church, to an inferior (dhimmitude) position of great hardship. Heyboer learned by meeting Christians in different parts of the country that they are even now often subjected to severe persecution, including imprisonment, torture and death. 

Sharia restrictions on non-Muslims are still widely applied, including severe limits on  the repair and construction of church buildings, courts and laws that  are stacked against Christians,  schools that teach children to hate Christians and Jews,  inferior medical care, discrimination in employment and access to universities and student visas, being subjected to loud Islamic propaganda, treating conversion to Christianity as a punishable offence, using scare tactics and even torture to force people to convert to Islam, destroying the businesses of Christians, assaulting women in public, and using fraudulent indictments to harass Christians while letting guilty Muslims go scot-free. 

The constitution states that everyone is equal, but sharia trumps the constitution and declares Islamic to be supreme.                                             

John and Liza operated a jewelry store in El Giza. One evening they were robbed; they reported to the police but nothing happened. Later their teenage son was kidnapped for a ransom. They paid. Next, their house was broken into by gunmen who demanded the key to the safe. After knocking John unconscious, they ran off. Reporting this crime to the police brought no action, and the case was  filed under  “criminal anonymous.” 

When John  was asked what the future had in store for him and his family after losing their store and their money, he answered that  he left  Giza to teach in a high school in southern Egypt, but that life there too was made impossible. He told Heyboer: 

There is no life there for a Christian…. I cannot live here any more. It is all about  converting to Islam,[as stated in] the ‘verse of the sword,’ IX (29). Christians must convert or face daily threats, violence, and humiliation. We are viewed as animals. That is our experience. By Islamic sharia law, we are meal tickets for the Muslim population. (222) 

In Cairo, Heyboer met with a well-educated Orthodox Copt, Ibrahim, who spoke about growing up in the Upper Regions. As a young boy he was made aware of the inferior position of Christians. He told of some events that left a deep impression on him, such as an incident that started with a Muslim’s insulting a Christian. That quickly led to stone throwing and then the killing of four church members. The rioters also burned down their doctor’s office as well as a total of 40 shops owned by Christians. 

Ibrahim told many other stories of hardship suffered by the Christians.  His father was tortured, and his uncle’s life threatened; his son came home from school crying because the teacher told him he would burn in hell. Christians are not even allowed to use a speaker system in their churches.  But they are forced to listen to the loud  calls to prayer starting early in the morning, as well as to angry sermons that pronounce judgment on Christian and Jews.  

When Christians give up and convert to Islam, there are great celebrations. When Muslims convert to Christianity, they are threatened and tortured, even killed. Christians may not speak against Muslim teaching. That is called blasphemy. Ibrahim poured out his heart in a torrent of questions and accusations  against a world that does not care about the suffering of Christians (and others) living under Islamic rule. 

In August 1998, two young Christian men were murdered in the city of Qus.  The community suspected Muslims to be the killers, but the police accused Christians and jailed and tortured some 40 of them. Before this case ended, the authorities managed to manufacture some outlandish “legal” maneuvers leading to a riot so that in the end 21 Christians were murdered.  No Muslims died. None of the criminals was brought to justice. 

A Cry for Freedom

Heyboer managed to establish contact in Qus and met with two priests and Bishop Wissa who described the hardship of Christians in that city. Father Paul, who served as the Bishop’s driver, said that he had been forced off the road three times, in what he said was an attempt to  kill Bishop Wissa.  

When the Bishop went to the top regional  intelligence officer to speak up for his people, he was told: “As for the torture of Christians in Qus, you have seen nothing yet.  There is plenty more to come.”  The police charged  him with five counts of terrorism, the punishment for which ranges  from ten to fifteen years imprisonment.  At the time of the meeting  with Heyboer these charges were still pending. Father Gabriel was interrogated for ten hours; thirteen charges were filed against  him. When asked about the situation for children, Father Gabriel replied:  

Islam poisons little children’s minds in their early years of school….Here at early ages they teach religious isolation and supremacy. That attitude and behavior permeates the mind of Islamic society. The worst areas for Christians are [from] Giza to Luxor to Aswan. The Christians in these areas are truly marginalized and helpless. No authority listens. The families are kept illiterate. There is no external support. They are trapped. The police, the judges, and other officials are all Muslims. The children are victims. Schools are in ill repair. The teachers are Muslims. The curriculum is Muslim. To bring children to these schools is to offer them up to Muhammad.  The real choice for parents is illiteracy or Islam. Christian students are forced into Muslim cleansings [Ablutions] , Muslim prayers, and the memorization of the Koran. That process is correctly described as Islamization. (237-8) 

Heyboer concludes this moving and revealing book with the thought that living conditions for Christians under Islam are so unbelievable that it is difficult for an American even to imagine. But he leaves his readers and particularly the church leaders with a few compelling questions and observations. 

At journey’s end, I have seen the wounded, broken victims easily camouflaged by Islam behind the Crescent curtain. Many suffer in tears of silent dignity. Why do some religious leaders praise a religion of such oppression? Why do they argue that only some of the more radical Muslims perpetrate such violence? That is exactly not the point. It is not about what every Muslim does or does not do. It is about what Islam (sharia) instructs them to do... 

Churches in America need to understand the bigotry, and more importantly the oppression, that Islam perpetrates against Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslim peoples. Churches need an awareness of those suffering victims behind the Crescent curtain so that they can champion the compassion of the Gospel. Churches need to publicly identify and hold accountable perpetrators of such violence against the innocents…. 

The Islamic world needs freedom. But how can they obtain, even imagine, freedom when Americans reject their entrapment and endorse their oppressive religion as one of tolerance? How can Muslim people be really free? (283-4) 

AMEN