For more on Fr Zakaria and his missionary work among Muslims, follow the links in this and the July 9 post. His biography, Defying Death, is out of print, and fetches over $500 a copy through Amazon.com's used book resellers.
The Strange Teachings of MuhammadBy: FrontPage Magazine FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Coptic priest Fr. Zakaria Botros, who al Qaeda has called "one of the most wanted infidels in the world," issuing a 60 million dollar bounty on his head. Popular Arabic magazines also call him "Islam's public enemy #1". He hosts a television program, “Truth Talk,” on Life TV. His two sites are Islam-Christianity.net and FatherZakaria.net. He was recently awarded the Daniel of the Year award.
FP: Fr. Zakaria Botros, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Botros: Thank you for inviting me.
FP: Let’s begin with your own personal story, in terms of Islam and Christianity.
Botros: I am a Copt. In my early 20s, I became a priest. Of course, in predominantly Muslim Egypt, Christians—priests or otherwise—do not talk about religion with Muslims. My older brother, a passionate Christian learned that lesson too late: after preaching to Muslims, he was eventually ambushed by Muslims who cut out his tongue and murdered him. Far from being deterred or hating Muslims, I eventually felt more compelled to share the Good News with them. Naturally, this created many problems: I was constantly harassed, threatened, and eventually imprisoned and tortured for one year, simply for preaching to Muslims. Egyptian officials charged me with abetting “apostasy,” that is, for being responsible for the conversion of Muslims to Christianity. Another time I was arrested while boarding a plane out of
. Eventually, however, I managed to flee my native country and resided for a time in Egypt and Australia . Anyway, my life-story with Christianity and Islam is very long and complicated. In fact, an entire book about it was recently published. England
FP: I apologize for asking this, but what were some of the tortures you endured when you were imprisoned?
Botros: Due to my preaching the Gospel, Egyptian soldiers broke into my home putting their guns to my head. Without telling me why, they arrested me and placed me in an extremely small prison cell (1.8x1.5x1.8 meters, which was further problematic, since I am 1.83 meters tall), with other inmates, and in well over 100 degree temperatures, with little ventilation, no windows, and no light. No beds of course, we slept on the floor—in shifts, as there was not enough room for all of us to lie down. Due to the lack of oxygen, we used to also take shifts lying with our noses under the crack of the cell door to get air. As a result, I developed a kidney infection (receiving, of course, no medical attention). Mosquitoes plagued us. Food was delivered in buckets; we rarely even knew what the gruel was. The prison guards would often spit in the bucket in front of us, as well as fling their nose pickings in it.
FP: My heart goes out to you in terms of this terrible suffering you endured. What is your primary purpose in what you do?
Botros: Simple: the salvation of souls. As I always say, inasmuch as I may reject Islam, I love Muslims. Thus, to save the latter, I have no choice but to expose the former for the false religion it is. Christ commanded us to spread the Good News. There is no rule that says Christians should proselytize the world—except for Muslims! Of course, trying to convert the latter is more dangerous. But we cannot forsake them. This is more important considering that many Muslims are “religious” and truly seek to please God; yet are they misdirected. So I want to take their sincerity and piety and direct it to the True Light.
FP: In what way can you summarize for us why you think that Islam is a “false” religion?
Botros: Theologically, as I am a Christian priest, I believe that only Christianity offers the truth. Based on my faith in Christ, I reject all other religious systems as man-made and thus not reflective of divine truths. Moreover, one of the greatest crimes committed by Muhammad—a crime which he shall surely never be forgiven for—is that he denied the grace and mercy that Christ brought, and took humanity back to the age of the law.
But faith aside, common sense alone makes it clear that, of all the world’s major religions, Islam is most certainly false. After all, while I may not believe in, say, Buddhism, still, it obviously offers a good philosophical system and people follow it apparently for its own intrinsic worth. The same cannot be said about Islam. Of all the religions it is the only one that has to threaten its adherents with death if they try to break away; that, from its inception, in order to “buy” followers, has been dedicated to fulfilling some of the worst impulses of man—for conquest, sex, plunder, pride. History alone demonstrates all this: while Christianity was spread far and wide by Christians who altruistically gave up their lives, simply because they believed in Christ, Islam spread by force, by the edge of the sword, by fear, threats, and lurid enticements to the basest desires of man. Islam is by far the falsest religion—an assertion that is at once theologically, philosophically, and historically demonstrable.
FP: You always document your discussions with Islamic sources. Why do Muslim clerics and imams have such a difficulty discussing what Islam itself teaches and instead just attack you personally?
Botros: I think the answer is obvious. The Islamic sources, the texts, speak for themselves. Muslims have no greater enemy than their own scriptures—particularly the Hadith and Sira—which constantly scandalize and embarrass Muslims. To date, I have done well over 500 different episodes dedicated to various topics regarding Islam. And for every one of these episodes, all my material comes directly from Islam’s textual sources, particularly usul al-fiqh—the Koran, hadith, and ijma of the ulema as found in their tafsirs.
So what can the sheikhs of Islam do? If they try to address the issue I raise based on Islam’s texts and sharia, they will have no choice but to agree—for instance that concubinage is legal, or that drinking camel urine is advocated. The only strategy left them, then, is to ignore all that I present and attack my person, instead.
And when well-meaning Muslims ask their leaders to respond to these charges, one of their favorite responses is to quote the Koran, where it says “Do not ask questions of things that will hurt you.”
FP: So what does it say about a religion whose religious teachers and members have to ignore their own theological texts because they cannot endure what those texts really say? What sense does any of this make?
Botros: Again, this is a reflection of the fact that Islam is less a faith, more a vehicle for empowerment. As you say, what is the point for a person to closely guard and follow a religion that he himself has to rationalize, ignore, minimize, constantly reinterpret, dissemble over, and so forth? The fact is, most Muslims do not know what is in their own texts; at best, they know, and here and there try to follow, the Five Pillars. This is why the issues I broach often traumatize Muslims—like a freshening slap across the face: a short, sharp, shock. The stubborn, who take it as an attack of “us versus them,” irrespective of truths, just fume and plot to kill me; the other, more reasonable Muslims, who are really searching for the truth, end up waking up to the biggest hoax perpetrated on the human race in 1400 years, and many come to the ultimate Truth.
A better question is why do the ulema hide these issues from both infidel scrutiny as well as the eyes of the average Muslim? One would think that if anyone is dedicated to the truth it would be the ulema; yet their deceptive tactics reveal the opposite. For instance, it is often the case that, after I quote problematic passages from certain Islamic books, they have a strange tendency of disappearing from the book shelves of the Arabic world.
The bottom line is, many Muslims think of Islam less as a spiritual system dedicated to ascertaining and putting one on the course of the truth, and more a way of life—first and foremost not to be questioned—that if followed closely, will result, not only in future paradise, but earthly success, honor, and power.
FP: In your view, who was Muhammad?
Botros: Well, I have received the answer from Islam’s own books. Ironically, Ibn Taymiyya, who happens to be the hero of the modern mujahid movement, explained the prerequisites of prophet-hood very well. One of the things he stressed is that, in order to know if a prophet is in fact from God, we must study his sira, or his biography, much like the Christ’s statement that “You shall know them from their fruits.” So, taking Ibn Taymiyya’s advice, I recently devoted a number of episodes analyzing the biography of Muhammad, which unequivocally proves that he was not a prophet, that his only “fruits” were death, destruction, and lust. Indeed, he himself confessed and believed that he was being visited and tormented by a “jinn,” or basically a demon, until his wife Khadija convinced him that it was the angel Gabriel—which, of course is ironic, since Muhammad himself later went on to say that the testimony of a woman is half that of a man: maybe over time he realized she was wrong, and that his first assumption was right.
FP: Fr. Botros, thank you for visiting us today.
Botros: Thank you, and may the true God richly bless you.