The Muslim Persecution of Christians Is a Censored Pandemic, Part 2

By Raymond Ibrahim Published on May 16, 2024

Despite their much-vaunted “people of the book” appellation — the significance of which apologists for Islam have strained beyond credulity — both Christians and Jews are, in the end, also classified as infidels. Thus Koran 5:51 warns Muslims against “taking the Jews and Christians as friends and allies … whoever among you takes them for friends and allies, he is surely one of them” — that is, he too becomes an infidel, and therefore must be hated and warred upon.

Christians are further singled out by name for condemnation: Koran 5:73 declares, “Infidels are they who say God is one of three,” a reference to the Christian Trinity. Koran 5:72 says, “Infidels are they who say God is the Christ, [Jesus] son of Mary.” Koran 9:30 complains that “the Christians say the Christ is the son of God … may Allah’s curse be upon them!”

The significance of these verses can only be understood when one understands the significance of the word translated here as “infidel” — kafir. The kafir — the nonbeliever — is the mortal enemy of Allah and his prophet; Muslims are obligated to war on, kill, and subjugate him, whenever possible. As for what Muslims should do when attacking infidels is not feasible — for example, when the non-Muslims forces are stronger — Koran 3:28 advises: “Let believers not take for friends and allies infidels rather than believers: and whoever does this shall have no relationship left with Allah — unless you but guard yourselves against them, taking precautions.” (This is one of the primary verses that endorse taqiyya, the notorious doctrine that promotes deceiving non-Muslims.)

Like all other infidels, Christians and Jews were also to be hated, warred on, and subjugated.

The final word on both Christians and Jews was “revealed” in Koran 9:29: “Fight those among the People of the Book who do not believe in Allah nor the Last Day, who do not forbid what Allah and His Messenger have forbidden, and who do not embrace the religion of truth [Islam], until they pay the jizya [monetary tribute] with willing submissiveness and feel themselves utterly subdued.”

With that, their fate was sealed. Like all other infidels, Christians and Jews were also to be hated, warred on, and subjugated.

Slight Difference

The only difference in the way Muslims have historically (and currently) treat “infidels” is that, whereas conquered pagans must either convert or die, Christians and Jews are permitted to keep their religions — once, that is, they embrace their inferior status, as well laid out in the “Conditions of Omar,” a historic document purportedly agreed to by the conquered Christian population of Jerusalem around AD 640.

Muslim jurists still cite these conditions as containing the main stipulations Christians must agree to in order to exist under Islamic rule. In it, Christians agree:

Not to build a church in our city — nor a monastery, convent, or monk’s cell in the surrounding areas — and not to repair those that fall in ruins or are in Muslim quarters… Not to display a cross on them [churches], nor raise our voices during prayer or readings in our churches anywhere near Muslims; Not to produce a cross or [Christian] book in the markets of the Muslims… Not to display any signs of polytheism, nor make our religion appealing, nor call or proselytize anyone to it… Not to possess or bear any arms whatsoever, nor gird ourselves with swords; To honor the Muslims, show them the way, and rise up from our seats if they wish to sit down.

This pact concludes with the Christians conceding that if they break any of these stipulations, they become, once again, free game for killing or enslavement.

Rather tellingly, the majority of persecution today is connected to these conditions: Churches are bombed, burned, or simply denied permits to exist or renovate; Bibles, crosses, and other symbols of “polytheism” are often confiscated, destroyed, and/or provoke violent outbursts (especially in unguarded cemeteries); Christians who openly speak of their faith are accused of proselytizing or blaspheming — both of which can lead to execution. The stipulation for Christians to “honor the Muslims” — including by offering them their seats, a scene that predates the Rosa Parks incident by nearly 14 centuries — has led to an entrenched system of contempt for and discrimination against Christians.

One Jihad At a Time

Here, it may be objected, the fact that religious doctrine teaches something — or some musty old books and scriptures say something — does not necessarily mean the religious follow it. To this, one responds by saying that Islamic history is a virtual manifestation of Islamic doctrine.

In 628, the Arabian founder of Islam, Muhammad, called on the Byzantine Emperor, Heraclius — the symbolic head of Christendom — to recant Christianity and embrace Islam. The emperor refused, jihad was declared — Koran 9:29 was in fact “revealed” in this context — and centuries of Islamic invasions, wars, and conquests followed. As a result, “Muslim armies conquered [75 percent] of the Christian world,” to quote historian Thomas Madden.

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All that remained was the “West” — so called because it was literally the westernmost quarter of the pre-Islamic Christian world — namely, Europe, which endured centuries of jihadist invasions and atrocities. As late as 1683 — a millennium after Muhammad’s ultimatum to Heraclius — more than 200,000 Muslims marched onto, besieged, and nearly conquered Vienna in the name of jihad. Even the United States of America’s very first war as a nation was against Muslims operating under jihadist logic.

In the words of historian Bernard Lewis,

For almost a thousand years, from the first Moorish landing in Spain [711] to the second Turkish siege of Vienna [1683], Europe was under constant threat from Islam. All but the easternmost provinces of the Islamic realm had been taken from Christian rulers… North Africa, Egypt, Syria, even Persian-ruled Iraq, had been Christian countries, in which Christianity was older and more deeply rooted than in most of Europe. Their loss was sorely felt and heightened the fear that a similar fate was in store for Europe.

Evidence of Intolerance

As for those Christians whose lands came under Muslim control, from Morocco to Iraq, the historical records make clear that they were indeed treated as “inferiors,” dhimmis, in keeping with the Conditions of Omar. Whether to evade the fiscal and social oppression that was their lot — or the sporadic bouts of wholesale persecution and slaughter that regularly flared out — over the centuries, more and more of these Christians, who once formed the majority of the Middle East and Africa, converted to Islam.

Muslim records even make this clear. In al-Maqrizi’s (d. 1442) authoritative history of Egypt, anecdote after anecdote is recorded of Muslims burning churches, slaughtering Christians, and enslaving Coptic women and children — often with the compliance if not outright cooperation of the authorities. The only escape then — as sometimes still today — was for Christians to convert to Islam.

After recording one particularly egregious bout of persecution in the eleventh century, when, along with countless massacres, some 30,000 churches, according to Maqrizi, were destroyed or turned into mosques — a staggering number that further indicates how Christian the pre-Islamic Middle East was — the Muslim historian makes an interesting observation: “Under these circumstances a great many Christians became Muslims.” (One can almost sense the inaudible but triumphant “Allahu Akbars.”)

That Christians still amount for very small minorities in the Middle East — as much as 15 percent in Egypt — is, therefore, not a reflection of Muslim tolerance, as apologists claim, but intolerance. While the lives of many Christians were snuffed out over centuries of violence and persecution, the spiritual and cultural identities of exponentially more were wiped out following their pressured conversions to Islam. (Such is the sad and ironic cycle that fuels the persecution of Christians today: those Muslims who hate and attack them are themselves often distant descendants of Christians who first embraced Islam to evade their own persecution.)

Past and present, then, Muslims have persecuted Christians — and still do, for the same reasons. Amazingly, however, such a perennial phenomenon is virtually unknown in the West. Why? Because (in what should by now be a familiar theme) the gatekeepers of information have suppressed it in an effort to serve the greater narrative, one which seeks to present Muslims as victims and Christians as persecutors.

That, however, is another topic for another time.


Raymond Ibrahim, author of Defenders of the West and Sword and Scimitar, is the Distinguished Senior Shillman Fellow at the Gatestone Institute and the Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

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