Muslim attacks on Christian churches are on the rise all around the world —including in America. The worst occurred last month when a bomb exploded in Egypt’s St. Peter’s Cathedral, killing 28, mostly women and children.Preliminary investigations had indicated that a woman entered the church, sat in the women’s section, and then left an unattended purse that later detonated. Later reports asserted that, although others were involved, including one Muslim woman, a male suicide-bomber was the chief culprit (graphic pictures of his remains here).
How much hate must a woman have to enter a church, smile in the faces of Christians, pretend to be worshipping alongside them — here’s a similar example from Turkey — and then knowingly leave a bomb precisely where it would kill mostly women and children? How much hate must a man have for people who are peacefully praying that, in order to kill as many of them, he is willing to kill himself?
The answer is an unfathomable — and, to Western and Christian minds, unbelievable — amount of hate. Yet, the wonder isn’t that the church was bombed but rather that many are surprised by it. After all, many Muslim scriptures, clerics, mosques, schools, satellite stations, and Internet sites — even the ministry of education — openly incite hatred for Egypt’s indigenous (but “infidel”) inhabitants: the Christian Copts. Among other forms of animosity, they teach that Muslims must hate — and show that they hate — Christians, even if they are their own wives.
Worse, they teach that the most abominable crimes in God’s sight — “worse than murder and bloodshed” — take place inside churches: there, Christians flaunt their rejection of Islam’s core doctrine of tawhid (“monotheism”) by ascribing partners to God (shirk) via their worship of the Trinity. This is why some of Islam’s most revered ulema (scholars) describe churches as “worse than bars and brothels” and “dens of iniquity” which “breed corruption throughout the lands” (see Crucified Again, pgs. 32-36).
Modern Egyptian clerics constantly echo these hateful slanders. In August 2009, Al Azhar’s Dar al-Ifta issued a fatwa likening the building of a church to “a nightclub, a gambling casino, or building a barn for rearing pigs, cats, or dogs.” In July 2012, Dr. Yassir al-Burhami, Egypt’s leading Salafi, issued a fatwa forbidding Muslim taxi and bus drivers from transporting Christian clergy to their churches, an act “more forbidden than taking someone to a liquor bar.” When ISIS launched a suicide attack on a packed church in Baghdad in 2011 — killing about 60 Christians (graphic images of aftermath here) — they justified it by referring to the church as a “dirty den of idolatry.”
But it’s not just ISIS and “radical” clerics that harbor such animosity for churches. After the fatal bombing inside St. Peter’s, “everyday” Muslims wrote things like “God bless the person who did this blessed act” on social media. One average-looking Muslim woman appears in the streets of Egypt jubilantly celebrating the massacre (video with English subtitles). She triumphantly yells “Allahu Akbar!” and says that “our beloved prophet Muhammad is paying you infidels [Christians] back… for rejecting tawhid, which must be proclaimed in every corner of Egypt!”
Americans may remember that Muslims around the world also celebrated the terror strikes of September 11. Then, the assumption was “we must’ve done something to make Muslims hate us so much.” But if powerful America is capable of provoking Muslims, what did Egypt’s already downtrodden and ostracized Christian minority do to make Muslims celebrate the news that a church was bombed and Christians blown to pieces?
In other words, the hate is everywhere and on open display for those with eyes and ears to see and hear with. It’s a regular feature of the West these days for Muslims to go on church vandalizing sprees (here’s a video of one from Rome). Indeed, the ongoing desecration of churches, crucifixes, and Christian icons at the hands of Muslims is so virulent that — from the earliest writings of Islam (see Athanasius of Sinai’s 7th century chronicles) till today — it continues to be described as the “work of Satan’s offspring.”
In Egypt, the hate is usually simmering below the line of what is deemed newsworthy and only reaches the West when Muslim piety boils over and leaves a trail of carnage in its wake. “Amateur” attacks on churches that fail to claim lives, or Muslims abusing, kidnapping, beating, raping — and sometimes even murdering (The other day a Muslim man crept up behind a Christian store owner in Egypt and slit his throat for selling alcohol, which is forbidden Muslims. Because no English language media had mentioned it at the time I saw it on Arabic news media, I translated it here.) — Christians, are habitual occurrences in Egypt and other Muslim majority nations that rarely get reported in the West. Yet the fact remains: the animus that regularly causes large Muslim mobs to torch buildings on the mere rumor that they are being used as churches, causes more zealous Muslims to bomb churches.
These latter — the professional jihadis and “martyrs” — believe themselves to be the greatest allies of God. They cite the Islamic doctrine of al-wala’ wa’l-bara’ (“Loyalty and Enmity”), which is based on a number of Koran verses. It teaches that the best way for a Muslim to proclaim his loyalty to Islam (submission to Allah and adherence to Muhammad’s teachings) is by showing and exercising hate for those who reject it.
The most supreme way of living this hate is by becoming a jihadi — killing and being killed, as Koran 9:111 puts it: “Allah has bought from the believers their lives and worldly goods, and in return has promised them Paradise: they shall fight in the way of Allah and shall kill and be killed… Rejoice then in the bargain you have struck, for that is the supreme triumph.”
Whenever Muslims kill Christians for their faith, eulogies for the latter — including for St. Peter’s 28 slain — often invoke the words of Christ: “The time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God” (John 16:2). Not only is this verse prophetic; it’s key to understanding why Christians are under attack throughout the Muslim world: Their persecutors truly “think they are offering a service to God” by killing Christians. And they believe this, not because they are “radical” or have “perverted” the teachings of Islam, but because the impostor god of Islam tells them so.
Raymond Ibrahim, author of The Al Qaeda Reader and Crucified Again, is a Shillman fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and a Rosen fellow at the Middle East Forum.