In recent weeks, we saw how the Muslim world's obsession with gaining converts evinces, in the words of one Muslim intellectual, an "inferiority complex"—a deadly one at that.
Pictures of some of the hundreds of Coptic girls to be abducted without a trace in Egypt
As it happens, inferiority complex is not the only psychological ailment besetting the Muslim world: some Muslims are also projecting the worst traits of Islam onto the beleaguered Christian communities living among them.
Take Egypt's Christian Copts, for example. Much of the recent violence inflicted upon them is based on the constant—but baseless—accusation that the Coptic Church is abducting and tormenting Coptic women who convert to Islam. Amazingly, it is precisely the opposite scenario—Muslims kidnapping Christian women and forcing them to convert to Islam—that is a notorious phenomenon in Egypt.
Indeed, a bipartisan group of eighteen members of the U.S. Congress wrote last year to Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, director of the State Department's Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Office, documenting how Coptic females are increasingly subject to "fraud, physical and sexual violence, captivity, forced marriage, and exploitation in forced domestic servitude or commercial sexual exploitation, and financial benefit to the individuals who secure the forced conversion" (see Christian Solidarity International's full report on the abuse of Christian women in Muslim Egypt for complete details).
A well-known psychological phenomenon, "projection" is defined as "the attribution of one's own ideas, feelings, or attitudes to other people." An academic article dealing with violence and projection states, "Projection allows the killer to project his (unacceptable) desire to kill (torture, rape, steal, dominate, etc.) onto some target group or person. This demonizes his target, making it even more acceptable to kill."
Of course, projection has long been a means to demonize Israel. Islamists accuse Israel and the Jews of living for "perpetual war," "legitimizing land theft in the name of God," and "plundering their opponent's property."
In fact, nothing less than Islam's holy law, Sharia law, mandates perpetual war, land grab, and the plundering of non-believers. Muslim scriptures, history, and current events are rife with examples; the overwhelming majority of what constitutes the Muslim world was taken by force. Only recently, popular Muslim preacher Abu Ishaq al-Huweini boasted about how jihad is one of the highlights of Islam, specifically because it allows the plundering of infidels and enslavement of their women and children.
Yet, because Muslims are currently in a weakened position, they see themselves as victims—not just vis-à-vis a stronger Israel, but even small and vulnerable communities like the Copts.
For example, even as the military cooperates with the Islamists to make Coptic life a living hell, the prominent Egyptian cleric Khalid al-Jundi complains that in Egypt "Muslims have fewer rights than Christians, and even do not have the right to worship like Christians," insisting that more mosques need to be built, "for those which have been built are not enough."
In reality, it is Egyptian churches that cannot be built or even repaired—in accordance with Islamic law—without a presidential decree. For example, during Mubarak's final weeks, Egyptian security stormed the St. Mary church in Talbiya, forcing a stop to construction, demolishing stairs and toilets.
Abu Ishaq al-Huweini, who boasts that jihad allows the wholesale plundering of "infidels" and the enslavement of their women and children
And while al-Jundi complains of Christians receiving more rights than Muslims, the fact remains: "More than one million Copts live in the Talbiya area, without a single church to serve them, having to travel for miles every Sunday with their children to the nearest church. The protesters pointed out that the area is full of mosques without licenses, but when it comes to the Copts, they toil for years to obtain a permit for a church, then security comes out with some sort of excuse to stop them from praying there."
More proof was supplied days ago, when thousands of Muslims surrounded a church in Egypt, refusing to allow it to open, insisting that it not have a cross on the dome and threatening to burn it down like other Coptic churches.
Islamist projection was particularly obvious when Muhammad Salim al-Awwa, former secretary-general of the International Union for Muslim Scholars, appeared on Al-Jazeera last September and, in a wild tirade, accused the Copts of "stocking arms and ammunitions in their churches and monasteries"—imported from Israel no less, "the heart of the Coptic Cause"—and "preparing to wage war against Muslims." He warned that if nothing is done, the "country will burn," inciting Muslims to "counteract the strength of the [Coptic] Church."
Al-Awwa further charged that Egypt's security forces cannot enter the monasteries to investigate for weapons—an amazing assertion, considering that Coptic monasteries are not only at the mercy of the state, but are easy prey to Islamist and Bedouin attacks, with monks tortured and crucifixes spat upon. When the monks of an ancient desert monastery in Egypt tried to erect a fence to keep the Bedouin raiders out, the military destroyed it and opened fire on the monks, while shouting "Allahu Akbar!"
Because of all these wild projections, the 86-year-old ailing Coptic Pope Shenouda III was portrayed last year as "a U.S. agent, an abductor and torturer of female Muslim converts from Christianity, who was stockpiling weapons in monasteries and churches with a view to waging war against the Muslims and dividing Egypt to create a Coptic State."
Nor have these charges subsided; mere days ago "forty six Islamist lawyers filed a complaint with the Attorney against Pope Shenouda III, demanding the Pope open churches and monasteries for inspection to verify of the existence of weapons, and illegal places for the detention of citizens."
All of these accusations are as inapplicable to the Coptic Church as they are perfectly applicable to Islamists. As we have seen, it is the Islamists who habitually kidnap Christian women and force them to convert to Islam. Equally ludicrous is the charge that the Copts are stockpiling weapons in monasteries and churches.
In a country where Islam reigns supreme, where Sharia (which mandates the subjugation of non-Muslims, a la the Koranic verse 9:29) is part of the Constitution, where Copts have been conditioned over centuries to be content with just being left alone—is it reasonable to believe that these selfsame, down-trodden Christians, who make up 10-15% of the population, are planning a violent takeover of Egypt?
It is easy to see, however, why such charges resonate with Muslims. After all, Islamists are constantly stockpiling weapons, including in mosques, as they prepare to violently seize power across the nations, Egypt being an especially coveted target. Indeed, at one point the aforementioned al-Awwa himself slipped by saying that "Muslims are arrested every day [in Egypt] for extremism and the possession of arms."
Pope Shenouda, beleagured head of the Copts
Then there is the charge that Copts are trying to divide Egypt to create their own state, which is primarily based on a candid remark made by Coptic Bishop Bishoy months ago: "Muslims are guests in this country, Christians are the original residents. Prior to the Arab invasion of Egypt, which took place in the seventh century, the majority of Egypt's population was Christian." As usual, this otherwise historically accurate observation has enraged Muslims and been cited as "proof" that the Copts seek to divide Egypt and establish their own state.
In fact, it is Muslim minorities who habitually try to secede from non-Muslim countries. Whether by creating their own nations (e.g., Pakistan), or creating enclaves in the West, the notion of separating from the infidel is commanded in the Koran (e.g., 3:28, 4:89, 4:144, 5:54, 6:40, 9:23, and 58:22), codified in the doctrine of al-wala' wa'l bara', and imprinted on the Muslim psyche. Unsurprisingly, then, Muslims have come to project this divisive impulse onto the Copts as well.
There is perhaps no clearer example of Muslim projection than in the field of theology, whereby Muslim doctrines are projected onto Christianity. For example, in the midst of the accusation that the Copts are stockpiling weapons to wage war on Muslims, the Al Azhar Scholars Front, which consists of Al Azhar alumni, declared: "Christianity…is constantly defining its overt and covert policy of eliminating all its rivals or degrading [the followers of other religions] and depriving them of every reason to live so that they will be forced to convert to Christianity."
In fact, this is precisely what Islam does: through jihad, "eliminate all its rivals," or, through the institution of dhimmitude, "degrade [the followers of other religions] and deprive them of every reason to live so that they will be forced to convert to" Islam. This is both historically and doctrinally demonstrable.
Similarly, when Bishop Bishoy declared that Egypt's Christians are reaching the point of martyrdom due to the increase in persecution, this, too, was thoroughly "Islamicized" as a declaration of "war-to-the-death," including by al-Awwa, who, during his Al Jazeera rant, asserted that "Father Bishoy declared that they would reach the point of martyrdom, which can only mean war. He said, 'If you talk about our churches, we will reach the point of martyrdom.' This means war."
Of course, the notion that a martyr is someone who wages and dies in jihad, or "holy war," is intrinsic to Islam (e.g., Koran 9:111). Even the authoritative Hans Wehr Arabic-English Dictionary translates shahid ("martyr") as "one killed in battle with infidels." On the other hand, Christian martyrdom has always meant being persecuted and killed for refusing to recant Christianity—and this is precisely the definition that has for centuries applied to Egypt's Copts, the definition that Bishop Bishoy clearly meant (see this article for more on the important differences between Christian and Muslim notion's of martyrdom).
- Islamists regularly abduct, abuse, brainwash, and compel Coptic girls to convert—and now Copts are accused of doing the exact same thing;
- Islamists regularly smuggle and stockpile weapons, including in their holy places—and now Copts are accused of doing the exact same thing;
- Islamists are constantly either trying to break away or conquer infidel nations—and now Copts are accused of doing the exact same thing;
- Islamists seek to eliminate or subjugate the infidel according to the doctrine of jihad and dhimmitude—and now Christians are portrayed as seeking the exact same thing;
- Islamic martyrdom means waging and dying in jihad—and now Christian martyrdom is defined as the exact same thing.
Blood-splattered mural at the Coptic church in Egypt where at least 21 Christians were killed from an explosion during last New Year's mass
From here, one can understand the recent lament of Coptic activist Mounir Bishai: "Suddenly we [Copts] have shifted from complaints to self-defense, from demanding [our] rights to [trying to] convince the public that we are not depriving others of their rights... now we are being accused of amassing weapons... How have we suddenly turned from persecuted into persecutors, from the weak [party] into the strong and tyrannical [one], from the attacked [party] into the infamous attackers, and from the poor [party] into the rich exploiters? How did these lies become widespread, without us gaining any ground or improving our situation one whit?"
How, indeed. Quite simply, as all humans are wont to do, some Muslims see themselves—project themselves—in others, no matter how ludicrous or inapplicable the projection is. Indeed, this is not unlike the way Western liberals are constantly projecting their secular/liberal worldview onto Muslims, despite all evidence otherwise.
Postscript: Let it be noted that Islamist projection is not confined to the Middle East, but is present in the United States as well. For example, in their recent—and failed—attempt to compel Everett Community College to disinvite me, CAIR and other Islamists insisted that yours truly was "spreading hate"—thereby projecting the hate that permeates their own scriptures and worldview, onto me and others who merely quote that hate.
Raymond Ibrahim is associate director of the Middle East Forum