Christians in the crosshairs

A church burns in Cairo surrounded by angry Muslims, May 2011

A church burns in Cairo surrounded by angry Muslims, May 2011

Yesterday I wrote about the centuries-long project of Islam to dominate the world, and how it has expressed itself in violent struggle. One of the first enemies of Islam, going back to Mohammed’s day, was the Jewish people, and Mohammed slaughtered them mercilessly and forced many to convert to Islam, or to submit to Muslim rule as dhimmis.

But the Jews are small potatoes today, perhaps 14 million souls out of a world population of about 7 billion. True, Israel is a particular problem because of its strategic location, but the general opinion among Muslims seems to be that it is just a matter of time before the battle of Khaybar will be re-fought on a larger scale, and the Jews dispossessed from their toehold in Dar al Islam.

The real obstacle is the Christians, who possess the richest and most powerful nations of the world. Islam is rapidly overrunning post-Christian Europe by demographic warfare and low-level violence, and has struck painfully at the United States, a nation with a Christian majority. But it is fascinating and instructive about the nature of Islam to observe its fanatic intolerance of even the small Christian minority that has managed to persist in Muslim-controlled lands.

Physical facts on the ground are hugely important in a cultural struggle, which is why the rubber hits the road in Israel — on both sides of the Green Line — as a question of who has the right to build, to plant, even to travel, where. So too Islam has always waged a war against the physical manifestation of Christianity, churches, as Raymond Ibrahim explains:

Sharia law is draconian if not hostile to Christian worship. Consider the words of some of Islam’s most authoritative and classic jurists, the same ones revered today by Egypt’s Salafis. According to Ibn Qayyim author of the multivolume Rules for the Dhimmis, it is “obligatory” to destroy or convert into a mosque “every church” both old and new that exists on lands that were taken by Muslims through force, for they “breed corruption.” Even if Muslims are not sure whether one of “these things [churches] is old [pre-conquest] or new, it is better to err on the side of caution, treat it as new, and demolition it.”

Likewise, Ibn Taymiyya confirms that “the ulema of the Muslims from all four schools of law—Hanafi, Shafi’i, Maliki, Hanbali, and others, including al-Thawri, al-Layth, all the way back to the companions and the followers—are all agreed that if the imam destroys every church in lands taken by force, such as Egypt, Sudan, Iraq, Syria … this would not be deemed unjust of him,” adding that, if Christians resist, “they forfeit their covenant, their lives, and their possessions.” Elsewhere he writes, “Wherever Muslims live and have mosques, it is impermissible for any sign of infidelity to be present, churches or otherwise.”

To no one’s surprise, in addition to the “tens of thousands” of churches throughout Muslim lands that have been destroyed since the advent of Islam, the regime in Egypt  — which envisions it as a 7th century Islamic state with F16’s and Abrams tanks — is continuing the tradition:

The story of St. George Coptic Church in Edfu is especially instructive of the plight of churches in Egypt. Built nearly a century ago, during the Christian “Golden Age,” St. George was so dilapidated that the local council and governor approved its renovation and signed off on the design. Soon local Muslims began complaining, making various demands, including that the church be devoid of crosses and bells—as stipulated by the Conditions of Omar—because they were “irritating Muslims and their children.” Leaders later insisted that the very dome of the church be removed. Arguing that removal of the dome would likely collapse the church, the bishop refused. The foreboding cries of “Allahu Akbar!” began; Muslims threatened to raze the church and build a mosque in its place; Copts were “forbidden to leave their homes or buy food until they remove the dome of St. George’s Church”; many starved for weeks.

Then, after Friday prayers on September 30, 2011, some 3,000 Muslims rampaged the church, torched it, and demolished the dome; flames from the wreckage burned nearby Christian homes, which were further ransacked by rioting Muslims. Security, which was present, just “stood there watching,” according to Christian eyewitnesses. Edfu’s Intelligence Unit chief was seen directing the mob destroying the church. Even the governor of Aswan appeared on State TV and “denied any church being torched,” calling it a “guest home.” He even justified the incident by arguing that the church contractor made the building three meters higher than he had permitted: “Copts made a mistake and had to be punished, and Muslims did nothing but set things right, end of story,” he proclaimed on TV.

Now you are probably thinking, “American Christians should be up in arms about this.” Some are, of course, but there is a shocking lack of understanding in other circles. Let’s look at a document published in 2010 by the Presbyterian Church of the USA called “Toward an Understanding of Christian-Muslim Relations“. It begins by decrying “stereotypes” about Islam and Muslims, and then suggests that Islamic beliefs are not responsible for the violence that is endemic in the vicinity of Muslims, “social and economic” factors and outside interventions are:

Sadly, economic, political, and social factors have led toviolent conflicts in many parts of the world in which Muslims live. In a few  countries, radical groups that use violence in the name of Islam are active politically. At the same time, large-scale military interventions (from within or from outside) and other governmental actions often inflame and exacerbate local conflicts. Though the root issues of many conflicts are economic or social rather than religious in nature, religion is often used to express and manipulate emotions and to legitimate a wide variety of political and social agendas.

It is quite a stretch to blame the church-burnings, terrorism against Israel, or for that matter 9/11 on these things!

After a long discussion of theological differences (Christians believe in a Trinity; Muslims do not), the document asserts that both groups share a commitment to ‘justice’:

As part of their lives of faith, both Muslims and Christians are also deeply concerned that the societies in which they live should be just. For Christians, concerns regarding justice are rooted in the teaching and example of Jesus, as well as in the prophetic tradition which clearly shaped his understanding and announcement of the kingdom of God. In the Qur’an, God’s concern for justice as well as compassion is stated repeatedly (cf. Qur’an 7:85, 5:8). Although inspired by different religious traditions, Christians and Muslims share many concerns for social justice. Poverty, homelessness, environmental degradation, and violence in media and society are all problems that Muslims and Christians can address together.

What it fails to note, unfortunately, is that ‘justice’ to a Muslim means ‘conformance to Shari’a’, Islamic law, in which women, Christians and Jews, and ‘polytheists’ like Hindus or Buddhists have an inferior legal (and social) status to Muslim males. This massive equivocation makes nonsense of the suggestion that Christians and Muslims have similar concerns about justice.

In a particularly dishonest paragraph, the document implies that Islam values religious freedom as we understand it:

Human rights and the rights of communities are among the concerns that Christians and Muslims share. In the light of global discussions of such rights, and the difficult situations in many countries, these issues are often sensitive, and entangled with particular historical and political struggles, or culturally specific claims. Christians and Muslims can make an important contribution by “affirming that the principles of human rights and religious freedom are indivisible…. Religious freedom does not only imply freedom of conscience but also the right to live in accord with religious values and the recognition of cultural and religious diversity as basic to human reality.”

Well, sure. Muslims certainly could “make an important contribution” in this area — but they won’t, because the Qur’an calls for apostates from Islam to be killed, and the rights of non-Muslims to be limited.

Another apologetic passage relates to the treatment of women:

Historically and still in our own time, many women face difficult struggles in both traditions. It is important to note, however, that Christians often fault Islam about the treatment of women in ways that demonize Islam[.] A Muslim woman’s covering of her head is assumed to be a sign of oppression, even when the situation of that woman is not known. Western Christian reactions may prevent our recognition of the power women may have in particular Muslim contexts.

There is a lot more to the treatment of women in Muslim societies than head coverings. As mentioned, Shari’a grants women fewer legal rights than men. Some truly barbaric practices common in many (but not all) Muslim cultures, like genital mutilation and honor killings, while not dictated by Islam, are nevertheless condoned by religious authorities. There are Islamic fatwas permitting wife-beating and rape.

Finally, the document admits that there might be some historical bad blood between Christians and Muslims:

In such conversations [between Christians and Muslims], issues of history require attention. Many Muslims link Christianity and Christians with recent experiences of colonial power and control in various parts of the world, and these associations carry echoes of the Crusades for some. On the other hand, Christians often recall specific instances of violence against, or oppression of Christians in parts of the world in which Muslims are in the majority. Such wounds are a living factor in Christian-Muslim relations today.

The Crusades, which were after all a reaction to Islamic imperialism, may not have been nice, but they did happen in the Middle Ages. And Muslims are quick to see colonialism in any behavior that they don’t like, for example, even in the legitimate self-defense of the Jewish state.

But there is no way to deny that Islamic terrorism and aggression right now, today, have increased in proportion to the increase in the power at the disposal of Muslims; and that — as the example of Egypt shows — Christians are in the cross-hairs.

Wake up, people!

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