by Raymond Ibrahim*
Four foreign Christians—including one who holds American-Swedish citizenship—were arrested days ago in Libya. According to the Guardian, their crime is arousing “suspicion of being missionaries and distributing Christian literature, a charge that could carry the death penalty.”
Apparently the four Christians had “contracted a local printer to produce pamphlets explaining Christianity.” Proselytizing to Muslims—that is, preaching to them another religion—was banned even under the late Col. Muammar Gaddafi.
Libyans—strongly supported by U.S. President Obama in the name of “freedom”—got rid of Gaddafi but kept the distinctly anti-freedom law.
Discussing this case, Libyan security official Hussein Bin Hmeid, trying to justify the Islamic ban on free speech, observes: “Proselytizing is forbidden in Libya. We are a 100% Muslim country and this kind of action affects our national security.” Indeed, Muslim governments—most notably Iran’s—constantly suppress any talk of Christianity, claiming it threatens “our national security.”
Such is the tribal mentality of Islam which everywhere seems to declare: If you’re not one of us, you must be an enemy trying to subvert our way of life.
Is the flip side of this prevalent mentality also true—that if Muslims are not one of us, they must be trying to subvert our way of life?
Nor should the arrested Christians expect much sympathy from more “moderate” Libyans. According to Benghazi lawyer and “human rights activist” Bilal Bettamer, Christians should not offend Muslims by trying to share their faith: “It is disrespectful. If we had Christianity we could have dialogue, but you can’t just spread Christianity. The maximum penalty is the death penalty. It’s a dangerous thing to do.”
Indeed, like “blasphemy”—whether in the guise of Muhammad cartoons or movies—proselytizing to Muslims is one of the many forms of free speech to be specifically banned by Islamic Sharia. According to Muslim tradition, this ban goes back to the second “righteous” caliph, the 7th century Omar. After conquering a group of Christians, he stipulated any number of humiliating conditions for them to live by, including: “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.”
As Muslims continue turning to Islam—all to Western praise and encouragement—expect the things of Islam to continue returning in big ways.
The Guardian report adds: “Libya, a conservative Muslim country, has no known Christian minority, and churches, the preserve of foreign residents, have seen few of the attacks seen in Egypt and Tunisia, where there have been church burnings.”
The Guardian reporter may have wanted to point out that, less than two months ago, on Sunday, December 30, an explosion rocked a Coptic Christian church near the western city of Misrata, in the very place where U.S. backed rebels hold a major checkpoint. The explosion killed two people and wounded two others.
And even though it is true that there are few church attacks in Libya, that is simply because there are few churches to attack in the first place—not because of some Libyan “tolerance” to churches. After all, one never hears of church attacks in Saudi Arabia. Yet that is not because Saudis are “tolerant,” but rather because they have nipped the church problem in the bud by not allowing a single church to exist on Saudi soil. Hence, no churches for Muslim mobs to attack, bomb or burn. Conversely, where there is a large Christian population, such as in Nigeria, which is roughly half Christian, Muslims are bombing churches on practically a weekly basis.
Finally, there is the rewriting of history that is foisted by Muslims everywhere, not to mention ignorant Westerners, as exemplified in this report. All of those quoted—including the writer—seem to think that Libya was born a Muslim country. Hence, in the words of Libyan “human rights” activist Bilal Bettamer, “you can’t just spread Christianity.”
What, then, do we do with real history? The fact is, although Libya is today practically entirely Muslim, it certainly wasn’t always so. In fact, before the 7th century Islamic invasions, Libya was predominantly Christian. The fact that Libya’s immediate neighbors to the west and east, Algeria and Egypt, were backbones of early Christianity—giving the world giants of theology like St. Augustine and St. Athanasius, to name but a few—certainly suggests that Libya was primarily a Christian nation, excluding some Berber tribes.
Yet Islam came and killed and converted them all to itself. And now, to keep them in line, it will kill any who try to proclaim a different message, especially the message of their conquered forefathers.
Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
Related: Africa, Arab Spring, Arab/Muslim World, Christianity, Extremists, Free Speech, Hatred, Human Rights, Islam, Media Bias, Sectarian, Society, Terrorist Groups