As usual, the month of Christmas saw an uptick in Christian persecution under Islam, in a variety of forms, from insults to murders. In Iran, Pastor Youssef Nadarkhani—after being imprisoned and tormented for years for converting to Christianity, then recently released thanks to international pressure—was rearrested again, on Christmas Day, to serve the remainder of his 45 days, which the court had earlier decreed could be served in the form of probation; in Syria, near Christmas, Islamic rebels beheaded Andrei Arbashe, a 38-year-old Christian man, and fed his body to the dogs; in Nigeria, Christmas mass celebrations in several churches, were, once again, turned into scenes of carnage; and in Pakistan, Christians spent yet another "Dark Christmas."
There were also the usual fatwas [Islamic legal decrees], forbidding Muslims to acknowledge Christmas: in "moderate" Indonesia, the nation's top Muslim clerical body said that Muslims should not offer Christians greetings such as "Merry Christmas," and that Muslims are forbidden from attending any Christmas celebrations; in Egypt, the Committee for Rights and Reform issued a similar fatwa, forbidding Muslims to congratulate Christians during Christmas; even in the West, in Australia, the Lakemba Mosque issued a fatwa warning Muslims that it is a "sin" to wish people a Merry Christmas, because Christmas Day is among the "falsehoods that a Muslim should avoid … and therefore, a Muslim is neither allowed to celebrate the Christmas Day nor is he allowed to congratulate them [Christians]."
Categorized by theme, the rest of December's batch of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes (but is not limited to) the following accounts, listed by theme and in country alphabetical order, not necessarily according to severity:
Denmark: A gang of "youths" accosted the Holy Cross Church in the heart of Nørrebro in Copenhagen, which has a large Muslim population, telling Christian leaders that the church was "in their territory and therefore has to pay money."
Indonesia: More than 200 Muslims threw rotten eggs at Christians for trying to hold a Christmas Mass in empty land outside Jakarta, after their church, the Philadelphia Batak Protestant Church, was illegally closed. According to a photographer, furious Muslims—men and women wearing the Islamic veil, and with small children in tow—physically blocked the road and hurled rotten eggs at the worshippers as they gathered. According to a pastor, "intolerant people" threw not only rotten eggs, but plastic bags filled with urine and cow dung: "Everything…happened while police were there. They were just watching without doing anything to stop them from harming us." Separately, after a suspicious package found on the premises of a Catholic church in North Sumatra stirred panic among the congregation during Christmas mass, a police bomb-squad neutralized what turned out to be an amateur homemade bomb containing 500 grams of nails.
Libya: On Sunday, December 30, an explosion rocked a Coptic Christian church near the western city of Misrata, where U.S. backed rebels hold a major checkpoint. The explosion killed two people and wounded two others, all Egyptians.
Nigeria: Christmas was another occasion for Muslims to slaughter church-attending Christians. First, in two separate attacks, Islamic gunmen shot and killed 12 Christian worshippers, including the pastor, who had gathered for Christmas-Eve church services. In the words of a resident: "A group of gunmen came into the village at midnight and went straight to the church … they opened fire on them, killing the pastor and five worshippers. They then set fire to the church." Six days later, on Sunday December 30, Muslims attacked another church during service, slaughtering 15 more worshippers; several had their throats slit. At least four more churches were torched and 10 Christians murdered when, according to the report, "the Islamic group members went on rampage [sic] and burned 20 houses and a church in the area," as well as three more churches, all to cries of "Allahu Akbar!" ["Allah is Greater!"]. After the Islamic invaders torched the churches, they used guns and machetes to slaughter their victims.
Apostasy, Blasphemy, and Proselytism
Algeria: Back in May 2011, Muslim convert to Christianity Siaghi Krimo received the maximum five-year prison sentence and the maximum fine for sharing a Christian CD with a Muslim, who then deemed it blasphemous to the prophet Muhammad. During Siaghi's most recent appeal hearing, according to the report, the Muslim merchant who brought the accusations against him had earlier "initiated a conversation on religion [with him]. Unhappy with Siaghi's non-Muslim answers, the merchant tried to force him to pay homage to the Prophet and to recite the Muslim shehada: 'There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his Prophet.' When Siaghi refused and said he was a Christian, the merchant filed a complaint that the convert had belittled the Prophet, and in the absence of further witnesses, charges were brought against him. The merchant was said to have seen Siaghi give a CD to someone, but never appeared in court to testify to that effect."
Indonesia: One report tells of the Islamic organization "Mercy Mission," based in London, and its sophisticated media campaign, which, since 2004, has raised millions of dollars to prevent Muslims from converting to Christianity. Dr. Tawfique Chowdhury, founder of Mercy Mission and leader of the campaign, and a student of Sharia [Islamic religious law, literally "The Way"], said, "Early in 2004 our team began to receive reports of huge numbers of people leaving Islam in Indonesia. At that time we were informed of findings showing that within our lifetime the rate of growth of Christianization was heading for a massive societal as well as geopolitical shift in the region."
Kyrgyz: After a young Muslim girl known as Almas converted to Christianity, her parents beat her "until she fell unconscious." Next, because she refused to renounce Christ, her parents trapped her in a cold room for days and later scorched her face on the stove. Because she still refused to return to the Islamic fold, she was sent off to a sewing workshop and has since lost all contact with her Christian friends and associates.
Pakistan: Birgitta Almby, a 70-year-old Bible school teacher from Sweden, was shot by two men in front of her home ; she died soon after. She had served in Pakistan for 38 years. Police said they could not find the assassins and could not unearth a motive, although Christians close to her have no doubt "Islamic extremists" murdered the elderly woman: "Who else would want to murder someone as apolitical and harmless as Almby, who had dedicated her life to serving humanity?" That service may have included sharing the Gospel with Muslims, an act strictly forbidden in Islam.
Somalia: 55-year-old Mursal Isse Siad, a convert to Christianity in 2000, who was receiving death threats for leaving Islam, was finally gunned down by two Islamic gunmen in front of his house. His wife and children subsequently fled the region. "Siad deserved to die because he was not committed to the Islamic religion," said one resident.
Sudan: Two priests in the Coptic Orthodox Church in Sudan were arrested after a Muslim converted to Christianity. According to a Christian leader: "I understand there was someone from the Arab origin [that is, a Muslim] that accepted Christ and was baptized by them [priests];" the act led to their arrest days after. Later, a group affiliated with al-Qaeda issued a statement threatening violence against Copts unless the woman who converted and supposedly "kidnapped" by the Christians were returned. "Under the 23-year Islamist regime of President Omar al-Bashir, Sudan's minority Copts have not experienced the violence suffered by their brethren in Egypt, where sectarian attacks surged after an uprising overthrew president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 and saw Islamists rise to power," the report concludes.
Sweden: A Muslim convert to Christianity from Iran who is seeking asylum in Sweden is facing deportation. According to his pastor, "If he is sent back to Iran, the convert, Reza Jebbari, could be imprisoned or even put to death for leaving Islam." Jebbari's lawyers are filing another appeal, but "are puzzled" at the government's apparent determination to deport the Christian convert: "It would seem that we are in a tight spot again and, quite frankly, we're at a loss as to why the Migration services are so determined to deport [him]. People with weaker cases get permission to stay in Sweden, but not him." A few months earlier it was reported that Swedish officials were searching for "Maryam"—the Saudi woman who converted to Christianity and fled, eventually to Sweden—to return her to Saudi Arabia to face apostasy charges.
[General Abuse and Suppression of Non-Muslims as "Tolerated" Citizens]
Egypt: One week before the referendum on the Sharia-heavy constitution, some 50,000 Muslims marched through the provincial capital of Asyut, chanting that Egypt will be "Islamic, Islamic, despite the Christians." At their head rode several bearded men on horseback with swords in scabbards on their hips, evoking images of early Muslims conquering Christian Egypt in the 7th Century. They traveled through mainly Christian districts, where residents, fearing attacks, shuttered down their stores and stayed in their homes. On voting day, Christian voting was minimal. Some of those few Christians who did try to go to polling stations were pelted by stones.
Iraq: On live TV, Shiite Ayatollah Ahmad al-Hassani al-Baghdadi issued a fatwa targeting Iraq's Christians. Demonizing them as "polytheists" and "friends of the Zionists," he stressed that they must choose between Islam and death and that "their women and girls may legitimately be regarded as wives [concubines] of Muslims." Al-Baghdadi, who incited Muslims against Americans in the past, currently lives in Syria, where he—and the U.S. administration—are supporting the armed opposition. Also, some Muslim teachers in elementary and high schools throughout the city of Mosul scheduled exams on December 25, thereby forcing Christian students to attend school on Christmas day and miss Christmas Mass. According to the report, "students say they are forced to accede to the teacher's demands in scheduling the tests even though the authorities identified the 25th of December as an official holiday for Christians."
Saudi Arabia: Religious police stormed a house in the province of al-Jouf, detaining more than 41 guests for, in the words of the police statement, "plotting to celebrate Christmas." Meanwhile, despite Saudi Arabia being well documented for its religious hostility to all non-Muslims—the Grand Mufti himself recently called for the destruction of all churches in the Peninsula— just as a new "interreligious dialogue and tolerance," funded by Saudi Arabia, was opened in Vienna. Sheikh Abdul Rahman al-Sudais, the imam of Mecca's Grand Mosque, boasted: "The formation of this centre in the West with King Abdullah's support gives a strong message that Islam is a religion of dialogue and understanding and not a religion of enmity, fanaticism and violence." Yet Sudais himself has previously referred to Jews as "monkeys and pigs" and the "rats of the world," and to Christians as "cross worshippers" and "those influenced by the rottenness of their ideas."
Sudan: Christians in the Nuba Mountains said they felt abandoned by the world, after Sudanese air forces killed at least another 11 of them in bombings before and after Christmas: "We are surprised why the international community is so silent about the killing in South Kordofan [region of repeated raids]" said one church leader, who requested anonymity.
Syria: A Western reporter who was granted the opportunity to interview six jihadi rebel fighters captured by the army, had what he called a "surreal" conversation with them, in which he was informed that Syria's Christians must either pay jizya, convert to Islam, or die; the "prisoners" even tried pressuring the reporter to say the shehada and become a Muslim.
Zanzibar: On Christmas Day, December 2012, the Rev. Ambrose Mkenda, a Roman Catholic priest, was shot by two motorcyclists "through his cheeks" and seriously wounded. Members of the Association for Islamic Mobilization and Propagation, also known as the "Awakening," are believed to be responsible; they had earlier threatened local Christians after a Koran was allegedly desecrated. As of December 27, the Rev. Mkenda was in intensive care; his health had worsened.
About this Series
Because the persecution of Christians in the Islamic world is on its way to reaching pandemic proportions, "Muslim Persecution of Christians" was developed to collate some—by no means all—of the instances of persecution that surface each month. It serves two purposes:
- Intrinsically, to document that which the mainstream media does not: the habitual, if not chronic, Muslim persecution of Christians.
- Instrumentally, to show that such persecution is not "random," but systematic and interrelated—that it is rooted in a worldview inspired by Sharia.
Accordingly, whatever the anecdote of persecution, it typically fits under a specific theme, including hatred for churches and other Christian symbols; apostasy and blasphemy laws; sexual abuse of Christian women; forced conversions to Islam; theft and plunder in lieu of jizya (tribute); overall expectations for Christians to behave like cowed "dhimmis" (barely tolerated citizens); and simple violence and murder. Oftentimes it is a combination thereof.
Because these accounts of persecution span different ethnicities, languages, and locales—from Morocco in the west, to India in the east, and throughout the West, wherever there are Muslims—it should be clear that one thing alone binds them: Islam—whether the strict application of Islamic Sharia law, or the supremacist culture born of it.
Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.