A Christian pastor was recently slaughtered in the Muslim-majority African nation of Tanzania. While butchering Christian minorities is becoming increasingly common in that part of the Muslim world, the context for this latest slaughter is somewhat different than the usual forms of Christian persecution under Islam—such as allegations of “blaspheming” the name of Muslim prophet Muhammad. And yet, as in most forms of modern-day Muslim attacks on Christians, it too fits patterns and precedents.
On February 11, Pastor Mathayo Kachili of the Tanzania Assemblies of God Church was beheaded by Muslims. According to the report, a spokesperson from the local police department
said conflicts had been boiling for quite a while now in the area where a section of what are believed to be Muslim leaders had demanded immediate closure of butcheries owned by Christians. He said that a group of youths believed to be Muslims assaulted several Christians using sticks and machetes and attacked a butchery owner at Buseresere town. During the confrontations pastor Kachili was beheaded.
According to Religious Liberty Monitoring this latest slaying “has its source in a debate presently raging in Tanzania. Apparently it is a ‘long-standing tradition’ in Tanzania that Muslims have a monopoly on the meat industry. Recently however, Christians in Geita district, Mwanza region—on the southern shores of Lake Victoria—have entered the butchery trade, causing outrage amongst Muslims.”
Tensions got to the point that the Minister of State in the President’s Office responsible for social relations “categorically directed that the task of slaughtering animals for public consumption should be executed only by Muslims. He said that people of other faiths may slaughter animals if the meat is solely for family/private consumption—but certainly not for sale to, or consumption by, the general public.”
But if they still insist on working in the trade, then they must, according to Karl Lyimo of the Citizen, be “ready, willing, able and glad to follow the Islamic rituals to the letter”—which is tantamount to saying Christians need to convert to Islam if they want to remain in the business.
Does this conflict simply revolve around Muslim fears of mistakenly eating non-halal meat, or, as has been known to happen, are Muslims attacking and killing non-Muslims for being business competitors, while articulating their hostility in the garb of Islamic piety?
For instance, in March 2010 in Pakistan—a nation which shares neither race, language nor culture with Tanzania, which shares only Islam—Rasheed Masih, described as a “devoted Christian,” was butchered by Muslim men “with multiple axe blows for refusing to convert to Islam.” Earlier, the “six men had threatened to kill 36-year-old Rasheed Masih unless he converted to Islam when they grew resentful of his potato business succeeding beyond their own.” According to a pastor who knew Rasheed, “As the Christian family [of Rasheed] strengthened in business and earned more, the Muslim men began to harbor business resentment, as Muslims are not used to seeing Christians more respected and richer than them [emphasis added].” Eventually he was lured to one of their farm houses, where he was slaughtered by repeated axe blows. The autopsy revealed he had 24 wounds.
Where comes this idea that non-Muslim minorities must not be allowed to compete with Muslims—certainly not surpass them? From Islamic teachings and doctrines, which reverberate through the centuries. For example, in the famous Conditions of Omar (also known as the Pact of Omar), along with any number of debilitations and humiliations, subjugated Christians also had to agree to “not build houses overtopping the houses of the Muslims,” as that might imply a higher status. In the Medieval era, Islamic heavy weights like Ibn Taymiyya—still revered among many Muslims, especially Salafis—issued fatwa after fatwa decreeing that non-Muslims, Christians chief among them, be dismissed from their positions. Centuries earlier, Caliph Harun al-Rashid—otherwise portrayed in the West as a “fun-loving” caliph—also fired Christians from their positions of employment to impoverish them, not to mention destroyed numerous churches.
According to the Islamic worldview, subdued “dhimmi” Christians cannot be better than Muslims. And if they are—despite all the obstacles and debilitations set forth by Islamic law to see that they are not—then, as we are increasingly seeing, Muslims may return the status quo by taking things into their own hands.