Before we explore these statements of Muslim clerics, which incite Muslims to attack Christian churches throughout the Islamic world, let us look at a rare dissenting opinion.
Some weeks ago, in the aftermath of the Muslim jihad bombing at St Mark's Coptic Cathedral in Cairo — in which over 25 women and children were killed — Pravmir, one of the premier Russian Orthodox websites, re-posted a news article (originally in The Tablet, a UK publication) titled: 'Attacking churches is ‘prohibited in Islamic Sharia’, says Grand Mufti after deadly bomb blast in Cairo'.
The title of the article was taken from the featured quote, which followed updates on the horrific slaughter, the worst church attack in Egypt in recent years, a quote from Egyptian President el-Sisi, and a statement from the Coptic Church. The quotation is as follows:
The Grand Mufti, the highest official of religious law in Egypt, condemned the “deplorable terrorist attack”.
Sheikh Shawky Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam said,
“attacking churches whether by demolition, bombing, killing those inside, or terrifying people is prohibited in Islamic Sharia”. He called for unity against “terrorism that tries to instigate sectarianism and sedition among the two wings of Egypt – Muslims and Christians – in a bid to weaken the nation”.
The article title and quote from the Grand Mufti are deeply problematic and not to be taken at face value.
First of all, Pravmir should not have merely re-posted the Tablet article, but should have provided some context for the news report, as readers skimming their news feed might catch that title and be tempted to think that "all is well, Muslim leaders are denouncing terrorist attacks, and saying it is prohibited by sharia law."
In offering context, Pravmir might have observed that the Grand Mufti's statement actually contradicts the Koran, Muhammad's example, and fourteen centuries of Islamic jurisprudence, including leading Muslim clerics of today.
The long history of Muslim persecution of Christians flows unimpeded from the supposed eternal words of Allah in the Koran, and from the example and teachings of the founder of Islam, Muhammad, collected in the hadiths. The example of Muhammad is the lens through which the Koran is interpreted. And the example of Muhammad, and the words of the Koran are clear:
Fight against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth [i.e. Islam] among the people of the Book [Jews and Christians], until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. (Sura 9:29)
So, when you meet those who disbelieve, smite at their necks till when you have killed and wounded many of them, then bind a bond firmly on them... Thus you are ordered by Allah to continue in carrying out jihad against the disbelievers till they embrace Islam. (Sura 47:4)
“I have been commanded to fight people until they testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and perform the prayer, and pay zakat. If they say it, they have saved their blood and possessions from me, except for the rights of Islam over them. And their final reckoning is with Allah.” (Hadith from both Sahih al-Bukhari 1.2.24, and Sahih Muslim 001.0030, also 001.0032 and 001.0033)
Offensive jihad is declared in Islamic sharia as mandatory for all Muslims by all four schools of Sunni Islam, and by Shia Islam. To take one example, the above citations are included in the section on "Jihad" in the book Reliance of the Traveller, a classic manual of orthodox Sunni Islam:
Jihad means to war against non-Muslims, and is etymologically derived from the word mujahada signifying warfare to establish the religion.
The scriptural basis for jihad, prior to scholarly consensus (def: b7) is such Koranic verses as:
“Fighting is prescribed for you” (Koran 2:216); “Slay them wherever you find them” (Koran 4:89); “Fight the idolators utterly” (Koran 9:36);
and such hadiths as the one related by Bukhari and Muslim that the Prophet said:
“I have been commanded to fight people until they testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Mes- senger of Allah, and perform the prayer, and pay zakat. If they say it, they have saved their blood and possessions from me, except for the rights of Islam over them. And their final reckoning is with Allah”;
and the hadith reported by Muslim,
“To go forth in the morning or evening to fight in the path of Allah is better than the whole world and everything in it.”
Jihad is a communal obligation. (o9.1)
The caliph makes war upon Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians... until
they become Muslim or else pay the non-Muslim poll tax. (o9.8)
The caliph fights all other peoples until they become Muslim. (o9.9)
(Reliance of the Traveller, o9.0, o9.1, o9.8, o9.9)
While it may be that some Muslims in Egypt will heed the Grand Mufti's words and grant some tolerance to their Coptic neighbors, as Raymond Ibrahim tirelessly reports, the tendency is for Muslim clerics throughout the Islamic world — from Egypt and the Middle East to Nigeria and Sudan, from Indonesia and the Philippines to Kosovo and Turkey, from Pakistan and Afghanistan to Malaysia and India — to whip up their congregations during Friday sermons at mosque, and for those fired up Muslims to go forth and burn churches, kill, rape and torture Christians, and then hardly ever be arrested or prosecuted for their crimes.
As for the Grand Mufti in the Tablet article; he himself may be sincere in his unorthodox opinion on jihad. If so, he is a rarity. But his statements should not merely be accepted without challenge, as he might very well be a practitioner of the Islamic doctrine of taqiyya, which is the art of deception, dissembling, and distortion designed to deflect non-Muslims' queries and suspicions.
The Grand Mufti's claims about sharia law prohibiting acts of terrorism against Christians might be considered true if, for instance, the Christians had been living as dhimmis under Islamic rule and been current in their payment of the jizya, the crippling poll tax assessed against Christians and Jews.
As long as the Christians pay the jizya tax and observe the restrictions placed upon them by the dhimma contract, they are not to be attacked. However, if even one Christian fails to pay the jizya or breaks some rule, the entire Christian community is liable for retaliation by the Muslims under the premise of collective punishment. This was exactly the reasoning behind a recent incident in Egypt where a Muslim mob burned 80 Christian homes based on a rumor that the Christians were building a church, forbidden by the dhimma contract and the sharia.
The jizya is, in essence, a protection racket and a brutal, homicidal control mechanism similar to what the Mafia exerts in cities and boroughs it controls. And Islam has been perfecting the protection racket for fourteen centuries.
This is why we need to be educated on the essentials of Islam, sharia, jihad, the Koran and life of Muhammad, etc. This is why context is so desperately needed when reporting on Islam and the global phenomenon of Muslim persecution of Christians. And this is why we should never take at face value any statement by a Muslim leader which goes against the clear commands of the Koran and the example of Muhammad, and the dictates of Islamic law.
For added context, therefore, here is a recent article on what most Muslim clerics in the Islamic world are actually preaching and teaching:
Christian Worship Is ‘Worse than Murder and Bloodshed’
by Raymond Ibrahim, Coptic Solidarity, December 17, 2016:
|A Coptic bishop surveys the remains of a church bombed by Muslims.|
For an idea on why Egypt’s Coptic Christians and their churches are constantly under attack—most recently last Sunday, when a church was bombed, killing at least 25 Christians—one need merely listen to the words and teachings of some of the nation’s Muslim preachers.
Take Dr. Ahmed al-Naqib, for instance. He has studied at the best Islamic madrassas, including Al Azhar, authored numerous books on doctrine, received awards and decorations for his academic achievements, and regularly appears on television. In one video he appears discussing an earlier Muslim mob attack on a church in Egypt, which the media and government always denounce as fitna, an Arabic word that means temptation or discord and which Islam commands Muslims to oppose.
Citing revered Islamic texts including the Koran, Dr. Naqib explained that the open display of shirk—the greatest sin in Islam, associating someone else with God, which the Koran accuses Christians of doing via the Trinity—“is the worst form of fitna, worse than murder and bloodshed.”
In other words, and as he went on to make perfectly clear in the remainder of the video, fitna (or discord) is not when Muslims attack Christian churches—far from it—but rather when Christians are allowed to flaunt their shirk (or “blasphemies”) in churches near Muslims. Fighting that—even to the point of “murder and bloodshed”—is preferable.
Then there’s Dr. Yasser Burhami, the face of Egypt’s Salafi movement, who is as well credentialed and prolific as Naqib: he’s on record saying that, although a Muslim man is permitted to marry Christian or Jewish women, he must make sure he still hates them in his heart—and always shows that he hates them—because they are infidels; otherwise he risks compromising his Islam.
As for churches, Burhami once issued a fatwa forbidding Muslim taxi and bus drivers from transporting Christian priests to their churches, which he depicted as “more forbidden than taking someone to a liquor bar.”
But it’s not just “radical” or Salafi sheikhs who make such hateful pronouncements. Even so-called “moderate” Islamic institutions, such as Al Azhar’s Dar al-Ifta, issued a fatwa in August 2009 likening the building of a church to “a nightclub, a gambling casino, or building a barn for rearing pigs, cats or dogs.”
Such analogies are not original to the Salafis or Dar al-Ifta but rather trace back to some of Islam’s most revered doctrinaires, including Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn Qayyim. They taught that “building churches is worse than building bars and brothels, for those [churches] symbolize infidelity, whereas these [bars and brothels] represent immorality.”
One can go on and on with examples of Muslim clerics and institutions inciting—with absolute impunity—against Christians and their churches in Egypt. Many secular and/or moderate Egyptians agree. For instance, back in 2014, Muslim Brotherhood supporters mauled and murdered a woman after her cross identified her as a Christian. Soon thereafter, an Egyptian op-ed titled “Find the True Killer of Mary” argued that:
Those who killed the young and vulnerable Mary Sameh George, for hanging a cross in her car, are not criminals, but rather wretches who follow those who legalized for them murder, lynching, dismemberment, and the stripping bare of young Christian girls—without ever saying [the word] “kill.” [Islamic cleric] Yassir Burhami and his colleagues who announce their hate for Christians throughout satellite channels and in mosques—claiming that hatred of Christians is synonymous with love for God—they are the true killers who need to be tried and prosecuted.
One can say the same thing about the suicide-bombing of St. Peter’s cathedral.
In short, until such time comes that the Egyptian government removes the “radical” sheikhs and their teachings from the mosques, schools, television stations and all other positions of influence, Muslims will continue to be radicalized, churches will continue to be bombed, and Christians will continue to be killed.