by Raymond Ibrahim*
Tunisia, one of the most secular Arab countries in modern times—and the first country to experience the “Arab Spring”—was also recently the first Arab country to experience a high level political Islamic assassination since the Arab Spring began. The BBC explains:
Tunisian opposition politician Chokri Belaid has been shot dead outside his home in the capital, Tunis. Relatives say Mr Belaid was shot in the neck and head on his way to work. He was a prominent secular opponent of the moderate [sic] Islamist-led government and his murder has sparked protests around the country, with police firing tear gas to disperse angry crowds.
Although the BBC report states “It is not known who is responsible for the attack on the politician,” who Belaid was—a leader of the Democratic Patriots party, which has been at the forefront of challenging the Islamist-led government of Tunisia—speaks for itself. As French President Francois Hollande put it, “This murder robs Tunisia of one of its most courageous and free voices.”
The Islamist Ennahda party naturally denies any involvement—even as it, not to mention all Tunisian Islamists, had the most to gain from the silencing of Belaid. According to the Islamist party’s president, Rashid Gannouchi, “Ennahda is completely innocent of the assassination of Belaid.”
Neither the BBC nor the Ennahda party bother mentioning the fact that, mere days before Belaid was shot to death, fatwas calling for his death were publicly proclaimed. For example,one video shows a bearded Tunisian cleric, of the Salafi brand, publicly denouncing Belaid as an “infidel” whose must be killed—”not according to me but the prophet!”—even as those around him cry “Allahu Akbar!”
Just as Arab-Spring fever came to Egypt following Tunisia—and in both countries, saw the empowerment of Islamist parties, namely the Ennahda and Muslim Brotherhood—so too have Islamic fatwas to assassinate those opposing the Islamist agenda come to Egypt following Tunisia. Aside from the fact that, during the popular protests against President Muhammad Morsi and his Sharia-heavy constitution, his Islamist allies issued any number of fatwas permitting the spilling of the blood of those opposing him, some days ago, Dr. Mahmoud Sha’ban issued a fatwa on live TV calling for the killing of Muhammad el-Baradei and Hamdin Sabhi, leaders of Egypt’s secular National Salvation Front party for being openly critical of Morsi and the Brotherhood. He unhesitatingly pronounced that the “Sharia of Allah” demands their killing, basing his fatwa on the words of Muhammad—to behead those who oppose the leader—as found in the canonical collections of Sahih Muslim.
Then, a few days after Sha’ban issued this fatwa, an assassination attempt was made on Dr. Tawfik Okasha—the host of the TV show Misr al-Youm (“Egypt Today”) and one of the most vociferous critics of the Muslim Brotherhood. As he was leaving his home, cars with unknown assailants opened fire on him, though he was protected by his bodyguards—popular critics of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, who can afford it, are often surrounded by personal bodyguards—who opened fire back on the assassins.
In other words, we are witnessing in Egypt the same exact pattern that took place in Tunisia, where Chokri Belaid, a leader of the nation’s secular party who was unabashedly critical of the Islamist-led government, was assassinated—all in accordance with the fatwas of the sheikhs.
None of this is surprising, considering the deep continuity of Islamic assassinations, which litter the annals of history. The very word “assassinate” and “assassin” are based on a Medieval Islamic sect, the Hashashin, which pioneered the use of political assassination in the name of Islam. Indeed, the prophet of Islam himself, Muhammad, ordered the assassination of several non-Muslims who opposed him, including women.
Nor is the calling for the assassination of those who oppose Islamic supremacism limited to the Islamic world. Most recently in Denmark, Lars Hedegaard, a seventy-year-old free speech activist and critic of Islam, narrowly escaped an assassination attempt on his life right outside his home in Copenhagen:
According to Danish media, the gunman, in a postal service uniform, rang the doorbell of Hedegaard’s apartment building on the pretext of delivering a package. When Hedegaard opened the front door, the man pulled out a gun and fired a shot, narrowly missing Hedegaard’s head. Danish police say they are searching for the suspect, whom they describe as “a man of a different ethnic background than Danish.” He is believed to be in his 20s and has a “Middle Eastern appearance.” Speculation is that the assailant is a Muslim because of critical statements that Hedegaard has made regarding Islam.
Nor are front door assassinations on behalf of Islam limited to silencing criticism against the Islamist agenda; instead, they are regularly used to silence all free speech that threatens Islam. For instance, just last December 2012 in Pakistan, Birgitta Almby, a 70-year-old Bible school teacher from Sweden, was shot by two men in front of her home, dying soon thereafter. She had served in Pakistan for 38 years. Christians who were close to her had no doubt that “Islamic extremists” murdered the elderly woman: “Who else would want to murder someone as apolitical and harmless as Almby, who had dedicated her life to serving humanity?”
No doubt someone who thought she was breaking the laws of Allah by proselytizing to Muslims—as when American Joel Shrum was assassinated in Yemen for purportedly preaching the Gospel to Muslims; or when Russian priest Fr.Daniil Sysoyev was shot to death by Muslim assassins for proselytizing to and baptizing Muslims.
Assassination has long been a tool of Islamic supremacism, to the point of giving the English language the word “assassinate.” Accordingly, inasmuch as Islam grows in power and influence, so too will those who resist it be prey to the Islamic dagger, both at home and abroad.
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, Egypt, Extremists, Free Speech, Islam, Media Bias