First published by ‘Gatestone Institute’
by Raymond Ibrahim
France: On October 29, a Muslim man who wielded a knife entered the Notre Dame Cathedral of Nice and, while shouting “Allahu Akbar” [“Allah is greatest”], beheaded a Christian woman and stabbed two others to death. According to one report:
“Married Nadine Devillers, 60, was the first person attacked by Tunisian knifeman Brahim Aoussaoui, 21, who slit her throat near the baptismal font. After he tried to decapitate Devillers [other reports state the beheading was complete], Aoussaoui hacked 54-year-old sacristan Vincent Loques to death as he prepared for the first Mass of the day. Brazilian-born Simone Barreto Silva, 44, was then stabbed multiple times but managed to escape the church, running to a nearby burger bar where she succumbed to her injuries. The mother-of-three’s last words to paramedics were: ‘Tell my children that I love them’. On arrival, French police shot Aoussaoui 14 times as he screamed ‘Allahu Akbar’ … a phrase he kept shouting even after being sedated and put into an ambulance.”
According to an interview with his mother, the 21-year-old murderer had “start[ed] praying and taking his religion more seriously a few months ago.” A Koran and several extra knives were found in his possession after the attack.
Hours after the attack, police shot and killed another man, who was also shouting “Allahu Akbar,” while threatening passers-by with a handgun in Montfavet. Two weeks earlier, in Paris, an 18-year-old Muslim beheaded a teacher, Samuel Paty, for showing a cartoon of Muhammad as part of a discussion of freedom of expression in class.
Discussing the recent church attack, Nice’s mayor, Christian Estrosi, said “Enough is enough. It’s time now for France to exonerate itself from the laws of peace in order to definitively wipe out Islamo-fascism from our territory.” France’s Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said that France was “at war with Islamist extremism… an enemy that is both internal and external.”
Democratic Republic of Congo: On October 28, Islamic militants raided a village where they slaughtered at least 18 people “in an atrocious way,” and torched their church to the ground. “It really creates pain in our hearts, a total panic in the village,” said a local official. “We don’t know if tomorrow the ADF will come back here again.” ADF is an acronym for the Allied Democratic Forces, “an Islamist militant group” which has been terrorizing the Christian-majority nation and slaughtering Christians for more than two decades.
Armenia/Azerbaijan: Armenian churches that have come under Azerbaijani control have been desecrated — despite promises from the authorities to protect them. In one instance, a soldier — unclear whether an Azeri or a jihadi mercenary from Syria or Iraq — was videotaped triumphantly shouting “Allahu Akbar!” while standing atop a church chapel where the cross had apparently been broken off.
Days earlier, on October 8, the Azerbaijani forces shelled and destroyed Holy Savior, an iconic Armenian cathedral in Shusha that was “consecrated in 1888 but was damaged during the March 1920 massacre of Armenians of the city by Azerbaijanis and experienced a decades-long decline.”
Syria: An unknown person hurled a grenade at an Armenian church in Hasakh; two people were injured. No group claimed the attack. Arguing that “Armenians have always been targeted in the region,” the report elaborated:
“In November of 2019, Armenian priest Hanna Ibrahim, and his father Ibrahim Hanna Bido were shot and killed by sleeper-cells on their way from Hasakah to Deir al-Zor in order to restore the Armenian memorial church in Deir al-Zor… This is a clear example of extremists groups specifically targeting religious Armenian figures and sites. That being said, the recent conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is likely to give added fuel to the fire when it comes to persecution of Armenians. Especially when you consider the claims that Turkish-backed Syrian rebel groups are being sent to Azerbaijan.”
Austria: On October 29, a Muslim mob consisting of some 50 people entered and rioted inside a church in Vienna while screaming “Allahu Akbar.” Police, acting fast, managed to disperse the crowd — much of which had gathered around the baptismal font and confessionals — and made some arrests. Discussing this incident, Integration Minister Susanne Raab remarked: “Parallel societies are the breeding ground for violence. We have to fight every form of extremism and Islamism right from the start in order to prevent it from getting worse. It is good that the police intervened….”
Two days later, on October 31, a 25-year-old Afghan man stormed into St. Stephen’s Cathedral where he started to cry out “Islamist slogans.”
Italy: A “half naked,” 25-year-old man of North African origin broke into and terrorized a convent for nuns. According to the October 3 report, the man shouted “Allahu Akbar” several times while breaking down the front door of the Heart of Jesus Convent in the historic center of Mazara del Vallo. On entering, he turned the rooms where the nuns live “upside down” and hurled some of their property outside a window. Luckily, the nuns were not in their rooms but rather eating in the refectory; they eventually fled and hid outside the building. Due to all the “bustle and screams,” an Italian living near the convent alerted police, who arrested the man as he tried to flee the scene. The same report states that a few weeks earlier, another North African migrant created fear and panic in the streets of Ferrara, Italy, by screaming “Allahu Akbar” while pretending to be armed.
Mali: After spending nearly five years in captivity in an Islamic group, and after rejecting invitations to embrace Islam, Beatrice Stöckli, a Swiss missionary who had been evangelizing in Mali and assisting mostly women and children since 2000, was killed by her captors. This information was shared by another French charity worker, also abducted in 2016 but who did convert to Islam during her captivity, and was released on October 8. A later report offers more details:
“[Stöckli] was killed … by members of the Islamist terrorist organisation Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslim (JNIM). An affiliate of al-Qaeda in Mali and West Africa, JNIM has been responsible for numerous attacks on Christians and Westerners since its formation in March 2017. Beatrice Stöckli was kidnapped by armed men from her home in Timbuktu in northern Mali in January 2016. She had been previously abducted in April 2012 and endured nine days of torture and threats at the hands of jihadist group, Ansar al-Dine, before she was freed. On her release, she decided to return to Timbuktu to continue her missionary work.”
Armenia/Azerbaijan/Turkey: Although the region of Nagorno-Karabakh is ethnically Armenian, it was allotted to Azerbaijan after the dissolution of the USSR, causing problems ever since, and culminating in open war throughout October. Several reports and testimonials, one by an independent French journalist, confirmed that Turkey was funneling jihadi groups — including the pro-Muslim Brotherhood Hamza Division, which kept naked, sex slave women in prison — operating in Syria and Libya. Discussing why Turkey was so heavily involved, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that Turkey had returned “to continue the Armenian Genocide.”
Anti-infidel rhetoric and ideology also seem to have motivated the mercenaries funneled into this latest theater of war by Turkey. One of the men captured confessed that he was “promised a monthly 2000 dollar payment for fighting against ‘kafirs’ in Artsakh, and an extra 100 dollar for each beheaded “kafir.” (Kafir, often translated as “infidel,” is Arabic for non-Muslims who fail to submit to Islamic authority, which makes them enemies by default.)
Attacks on Converts to Christianity
“It is illegal for Muslim Iranians to drink alcohol, but exceptions are made for recognised religious minorities, including Christians. However, Iran does not recognise converts as Christians. This lack of recognition is also the reason Youhan spent the last two years in prison and is now living in internal exile—because of his membership of a house-church, which is the only available Christian fellowship for converts in Iran.”
This is not the first time Youhan was flogged. He first received 80 lashes, alongside another convert, in 2013, for the same “crime”: sipping wine during communion.
Somaliland: During an October 5 press conference, a Somaliland police colonel announced that a husband and wife had been arrested for being “apostates and evangelists spreading Christianity.” Police reportedly entered the couple’s house after being alerted by “suspicious activities.” On finding Christian materials inside their home, police apprehended and hauled away the couple, who have three children. During the same conference, the police colonel repeated that “whoever dares to spread Christianity in this region, should be fully aware that they won’t escape the hand of the law enforcement officers and that the spread of Christianity will not be allowed and is considered blasphemy.” He also encouraged citizens to report on those they suspected of being Christian.
Somalia: On October 9, Muslim youths beat and hospitalized the 7-year-old child of a Christian convert. “My son was attacked by three boys who beat him and injured his private parts,” said the father, whose name is withheld. “He suffered a swollen and injured face as well as an injured left hand from a knife. My son lost a lot of blood and was rushed by one of the secret believers to a nearby dispensary in Dhobley.” The father discussed how he and his family, which includes five children, have been on the run since 2012, when “Muslims [first] discovered my new faith in Christ.” Early on, his wife also converted and, when her Muslim father learned of it, “He was so furious he forcefully entered into my room and destroyed some of my belongings, beddings and utensils. Then he turned to my wife and began slapping her and beat her with a stick, which led to a miscarriage of a 6-month fetus.”
The wife’s Muslim father seized his daughter, along with her husband’s possessions, and went to a distant location. Years later, after the convert and his wife, who had remained Christian, were reunited, in November 2018, “my father-in-law and other Muslims organized to kill me while I was coming from the market. Three men stopped me and started beating me with sticks and blows. I became unconscious.” In July 2019 his father-in-law again “entered my house and started quarreling and uttering abusive words and immediately began slapping her [his wife] in front of me, and then he took her away the second time and locked her in his house while she was eight months pregnant.” The husband reported the abduction and police eventually recovered his wife. “After three days, she gave birth. My father-in-law was locked down in the jail cell [in Kenya]. The Muslims threatened to kill me, so I requested the police to release him, which they did.” The family has since still been on the run:
“It is not possible to get justice in this part of Somalia where almost everyone is a Muslim. We are being hunted down like wild animals because of putting our faith in Issa [Jesus]. Always our security is at stake. We need prayers and financial support for the treatment of my son.”
General Hate for and Abuse of Christian Minorities
Pakistan: On October 13, Ali Azhar, 45, kidnapped, forcibly converted to Islam, and “married” Arzoo Raja, a 13-year-old Christian girl. On that same day, her parents registered a kidnapping case with local police. Two days later, on October 15, “we were summoned to the station,” explained her father Raja Lal, “where we were shown documents which claimed that Arzoo was 18 and had willingly converted to Islam after marrying Ali Azhar.” Despite the fact that the National Database and Registration Authority records Arzoo as being born on July 31, 2007 and is therefore 13-years-old, and despite the fact that sexual intercourse with girls under 16 is statutory rape and carries a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison in Pakistan, on October 27, the High Court of Sindh ruled in favor of the kidnapper/husband by relying on a Sharia stipulation that abrogates all the rules for those who convert to Islam. According to the court order,
“The petitioner [the 13-year-old] initially belonged to the Christian religion. However, after the passage of time, the petitioner understood and realized that Islam is a universal religion and she asked her parents and other family members to embrace Islam but they flatly refused. Subsequently she accepted the religion of Islam before the religious person of Madressah Jamia Islamia. After embracing Islam, her new name is Arzoo Faatima; per learned counsel, petitioner contracted her marriage to Azhar of her own free will and accord without duress and fear.”
On hearing this decision, Rita Masih, the girl’s mother — who was apparently banned from entering the courthouse and who, with her husband, had fallen at and “even touched the feet of police to meet their daughter” — cried for her daughter with open arms outside the courthouse: “Arzoo, come to your mama. He will kill you.” She eventually fainted on the pavement. Earlier, when the girl saw and tried to go to her mother, her Muslim abductor/husband snatched and took her into the courtroom. Discussing this matter, Samson Salamat, the Christian chairman of an interreligious organization, stated how he felt about the position taken by the court:
“I am distressed and disappointed with the position taken by the honorable court. A sexual act with a minor is felony even if she is willing. The court has validated a rape despite the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2014 that punishes contractors of child marriage with up to three years’ imprisonment. Can a judge, an army officer or a Pakistani politician tolerate handing over their minor daughter to a middle-aged man? What is the future of minority girls in Pakistan? Our courts favor the powerful. We still don’t have strong calls from a joint minority platform on forced conversions.”
This is the second recent forced conversion and marriage of an underage Christian girl just in Karachi. To justify marriage to Huma Younus — a 14-year-old Christian girl who was also abducted, forced to convert to Islam, and wed to a Muslim man — on February 3, 2020, the Sindh high court in Karachi ruled that men may marry underage girls once they have their period, in direct compliance with Islamic sharia law, but against Karachi’s own laws. “Our daughters are insecure and abused in this country,” Huma’s mother later remarked. “They are not safe anywhere. We leave them at schools or home but they are kidnapped, raped, humiliated, and forced to convert to Islam.”
Similarly, in August 2020, Maira Shahbaz, a 14-year-old Christian girl, escaped from the home of Mohamad Nakash — her kidnapper, whom the Lahore High Court had recently ruled is her legitimate husband despite her and her family’s objections. She fled to a police station, where she gave testimony that included how she was being “forced into prostitution” and “filmed while by being raped,” accompanied by threats that the video would be published unless she complied with the demands of her rapist/husband and friends. “They threatened to murder my whole family,” the girl said. “My life was at stake in the hands of the accused and Nakash repeatedly raped me forcefully.” She and her family are currently in hiding.
In a separate incident of “religious hatred” in Pakistan, a Muslim man and his son beat and humiliated a Christian woman in public for arguing with him. On October 12, Balqees Bibi, the Christian woman, called out in public to a relative — whose name is distinctly Christian — thereby angering Muhammad Abass Butt. “Abbas was [always] full of religious hatred against my mother,” her son explained. “He often expressed his anger against Christians in the street, but everyone ignored him to avoid disputes.” On that day, “Abbas started abusing my mother saying, ‘Oh choori! Shut your mouth!’ When she argued with him, he slapped her and dragged her into the street.” The report adds:
“Abbas was angry that Bibi, a person he considered socially lower than him due to her religious identity, had argued with him in public. As Abbas beat Bibi, he also used an extremely derogatory slur for Christians which labels them as untouchables. After the attack, Bibi and her family registered a police complaint against Abbas (FIR # 372/20). However, there police have yet to arrest Abbas or his son who reportedly joined his father in beating Bibi.”
Egypt: On October 3, Magda Mansur Ibrahim, a 20-year-old Christian, disappeared while traveling to her college. Three days after her parents contacted and pressured police and local officials to act, a video of the missing girl appeared on October 6. In it she claimed that she had secretly converted to Islam six years ago and had now married a Muslim man and therefore wished to be left alone. In an interview, however, her father said he was convinced that the video was made under duress. He also asked if it was reasonable to believe that a 14-year-old girl could be theologically attuned enough to secretly convert to and clandestinely practice Islam for six years within a Christian household. Moreover, “How am I to believe,” the girl’s father inquired, “this video when Rania ‘Abd al-Masih and the Alexandrian girl [Christine Zarif] both previously published similar videos and in the end they returned and we learned that they had acted under pressure?” (The statement is a reference to two other Christian women in Egypt who, after disappearing, also reappeared on videos as eager converts to Islam, while the truth — that the videos were made under duress — came out only later.) Magda’s father then made an impassioned plea:
“As an Egyptian, I have rights—including the right to see my daughter and sit with her and make sure she is okay. If she wishes to follow another path [Islam], that is her right, but my right is to see her …. I therefore ask State Security, the Minister of Interior and President Sisi to look into [the plight of] my daughter because I know that she is not safe and is under pressure. I will never forfeit my daughter …. She is not some “chicken” I can forget about; she is my flesh and blood…. I am poor and at death’s door [literally, “God’s door”], but … even if they were to publish a million such videos, it is my right to see her. As for the video, I am a father and know well how my daughter talks, and she [appeared] terrified and her face changed. As the very least reflection of my rights as a citizen, State Security should move and investigate [the whereabouts] of my daughter. Is it that hard for the Egyptian police to return the girl?”
A few days later, Magda was reported as having been returned to her family. However, and as with the case of Ranya ‘Abd al-Masih, the 20-year-old’s return seems to be conditioned on the family not asking questions, speaking to the press, filing criminal charges, or even knowing who the responsible parties are.
In a separate incident in Egypt, on October 5, Muslim mobs attacked Christian homes and beat their inhabitants in the village of Dabous in Samalout. “The cause of the story,” explained Mina, a Christian resident, occurred two days earlier, when “two Muslim men who don’t belong to our village beat a young Coptic kid [aged 10]. The Coptic men didn’t accept that,” and a fight erupted: Muslims — and their dignity — were injured. Two days later, “retaliatory” attacks began with one Muslim man striking a Christian father and his son with a hose while they were traveling on motorbike; they fell and were injured. By the end of that day, on October 5, “all of the Muslims gathered to beat the Copts,” said Mina. “They damaged the windows and doors, and injured around five or six persons.” Another local Christian man described the incident:
“The attack started with a Muslim woman screaming. The extremists attacked the Copts’ houses, [even though] there were security bodies whose job it is to protect the church. They did not call the police, but the Copts did. Then the police came, and the extremists escaped to the farms and grass.”
While discussing how a car belonging to a Christian man was destroyed, Mina said that Muslims in the village had promised to make amends, and that “my father has gone to the police station to follow the situation, but I will stay home. They are treacherous and traitorous.”
Raymond Ibrahim, author of Crucified Again and Sword and Scimitar, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute, a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, and a Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
About this Series
While not all, or even most, Muslims are involved, persecution of Christians by extremists is growing. The report posits that such persecution is not random but rather systematic, and takes place irrespective of language, ethnicity, or location.