Muslim Clerics Decry Targetting of Christians
Iraq’s major religious leaders all strongly condemned Sunday’s bombing of Iraqi churches. Newsday writes, ‘ Iraq’s top Shia Muslim cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, condemned the attacks as “hideous crimes” and a threat to the fragile nation’s “unity, stability and independence . . . We assert the importance of respecting the rights of Christian civilians and other religious minorities and reaffirm their right to live in their home country Iraq in security and peace,” al-Sistani, based in Najaf, said in a statement. ‘
Even medieval Islamic law recognized the right of Christians, Jews and other monotheists to practice their religion and enjoy rights to their lives and property. This relative tolerance has often been enhanced in the twentieth century by the rise of nationalism, wherein Arab Christians sometimes are privileged as symbols of national authenticity, because Christianity predated Islam in the nation’s history. (The Wafd Party in Egypt in the 1910s and forward made a place for Coptic Christians).
In recent years, however, radical Islamists have often targeted Arab Christians with violence, seeing them (unfairly) as representatives of the Christian West.
Al-Hayat: A communique issued by the group that claimed responsibility for the explosion at the Mosul church warned that the US did not intend to stop with merely conquering and occupying Muslim lands, but rather intended to convert the Muslims to Christianity. They alleged that the US was printing Bibles and Christian literature and sending missionaries into Iraq. This pamphlet suggests that the ambitions of the evangelical Christians allied with Bush who have been active in Iraq under the fig leaf of relief and reconstruction work have created ill feeling among Muslims that has begun blowing back on Iraqi Christians (who mostly belong to Uniate or local churches in communion with Rome).
Even the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt condemned the bombing of churches. It seems possible that the perpetrators of the church bombings may have created enormous sympathy for the Iraqi Christians, and that their tactic may have backfired on them.