On April 9—Palm Sunday, which starts the holy week of Easter—two Christian churches were bombed during mass in Egypt, leaving at least 50 worshippers dead and nearly 130 injured and/or mutilated (graphic images/video of aftermath here).
Less than four months earlier, around Christmas, another Christian church was bombed in Egypt, leaving 27 worshippers—mostly women and children—dead and wounding nearly 70. On New Year’s Day, 2011, yet another Egyptian church was bombed, leaving 23 worshippers dead.
In 2013, almost 70 Christian churches in Egypt were attacked, many burned to the ground, by Muslim Brotherhood supports.
Then there are the many “lesser” attacks on Egyptian churches—botched bombing attempts, hate-filled graffiti, and “angry mob” uprisings—that are so “everyday” as to receive virtually no media coverage in the West.
One need only listen to the words and teachings of some of Egypt’s Muslim preachers to understand why Egypt’s Christians—who are increasingly being slaughtered—and their churches are constantly under attack.
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, and act which he said is “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, whose books are sold and used everywhere in Egypt, including schools. They taught that “building churches is worse than building bars and brothels, for those [churches] symbolize infidelity, whereas these [bars and brothels] represent immorality.”
Hence why after the fatal December 11, 2016 church bombing that left 27 dead, “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 with its foreign policies, 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?
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 last Palm Sunday’s church bombings that claimed 50 lives. Although the Islamic State was quick to claim the terror attacks, it’s really not relevant to the story. “ISIS”—like al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, Hamas, Taliban, Wahabbi Saudi, and the Muslims who persecute Christians in 40 of the 50 worst nations around the world—is a symptom, not the source of the hate.
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.