Last May, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria ("ISIS") published a video of the execution of about 20 Christian civilians in Nigeria. As with many other such ISIS-type videos, the terrorists stood behind their bound and kneeling victims, before knocking them over and carving their heads off to cries of "Allahu Akbar."
Before doing so, one of the masked Muslims, speaking in the Hausa language, said that the execution of these Christians was "to avenge the killing of the group's leaders in the Middle East earlier in 2022." This is apparently a reference to ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi -- a man with a reputation for extreme brutality -- who was killed last February during an airborne raid by U.S. and Kurdish forces in northwestern Syria.
The reader may be pondering how impoverished Christian civilians in Nigeria are connected to or responsible for the activities of U.S. and Kurdish forces in Syria. The fact is, Muslim terrorists are notorious for offering any number of pretexts -- many of which border on the absurd -- to justify their cowardly targeting and murdering of the Christian minorities in their midst.
For example, ISIS cited similar "grievances" to justify its grisly slaughter of 21 Christians -- 20 Copts and one Ghanaian -- on the shores of Libya in 2015. An article in Dabiq, the Islamic State's online magazine in English, titled "Revenge for the Muslimat [Muslim women] Persecuted by the Coptic Crusaders of Egypt," claimed that the 21 Christians were slaughtered in "revenge" for two Coptic women who, back in 2010 and according to Islamic propaganda, were compelled by Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church to recant their voluntary conversion to Islam and return to Christianity.
Indeed, the late Coptic Pope Shenouda III, who was then nearly 90 years old and immobile, was portrayed 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."
The Islamic State also cited the 2010 bombing of Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad as a product of "revenge" for those same supposedly forced-to-reconvert-back-to-Christianity women in Egypt. Then, armed jihadists had stormed the Iraqi church during worship service, opened fire indiscriminately, before detonating their suicide vests, which were "filled with ball bearings to kill as many people as possible." Nearly 60 Christians -- including women, children, and even babies -- were slaughtered.
Nor is this blame-the-victim strategy limited to the Middle East. Speaking two days after a series of bombings rocked Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, 2019, killing 359 people, a junior defense minister said that the attack "was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch," where an Australian man killed 51 Muslims in two mosques in New Zealand.
Two points give the lie to all such claims of Islamic "retaliation" due to "grievances":
So what did the 20 Nigerian Christians recently slaughtered have to do with U.S. and Kurdish forces in Syria? What did the Iraqi Christians of Our Lady Church, or the one decapitated Ghanaian, have to do with the imagined crimes of the Coptic Church?
For that matter, what do Christians in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia have to do with the secular West? Whenever the latter somehow offends Muslims -- whether by publishing cartoons or launching military operations in Afghanistan -- Muslims "respond" by terrorizing the Christian minorities in their midst. As such, what exactly do brown Sri Lankan Christians celebrating Easter have to do with a white man killing Muslims in New Zealand? Moreover, if the Easter Day attack was a form of retaliation, what explains the fact that Muslims bomb churches on virtually every Easter (most recently in Indonesia).
Which leads to the second point: since when did Islamic terrorists that regularly preach hate for the other ever need a reason or excuse to make the lives of non-Muslims, chief among them Christians, miserable? Since July 2011, for instance, I have been compiling monthly "Muslim Persecution of Christians" reports (published by Gatestone Institute). In virtually every one of these monthly reports, Muslims bomb, burn, or ban churches and generally terrorize Christians. Are we seriously to believe this is all due to Muslim "grievances" against the disempowered Christian minorities in their midst?
Even the Muslim terrorists who cite "grievances" often let out the truth behind their actions. For example, in 2021, Muslims videotaped the murder of yet another Christian, Nabil Salma, in the Sinai region. In the video, the terrorists falsely accused the Copt of building a church which was "cooperating with the Egyptian army's and intelligence's war on the Islamic State." Yet, immediately before murdering Salma, the speaker standing behind him said this:
All praise to Allah, who ordered his slaves [Muslims] to fight and who assigned humiliation onto the infidels [this latter part was said while the terrorist contemptuously pointed at the bound and kneeling man before him] until they pay the jizya while feeling utterly subdued.
This, of course, is a paraphrasing of Koran 9:29, which commands Muslims to wage jihad against the "People of the Book -- Christians and Jews -- until they pay tribute and feel themselves utterly subdued. Note: the Koran does not cite any grievances against Christians and Jews -- except, of course, for the fact that they are Christians and Jews, that is, infidels, who reject the authority of Muhammad, and are therefore the enemy.
In short, all "grievances" cited by those Muslims who terrorize already disenfranchised religious minorities in their midst are false and meant to "legitimize" the Muslims' otherwise cowardly and atrocious deeds.
Raymond Ibrahim is the Judith Friedman Rosen Fellow at the Middle East Forum.