Christians persecuted in Islamic nations

Amid the current unrest in Saudi Arabia in the wake of America's war on Islamic terrorists, Middle East Newsline is reporting arrests and even torture of Christians in the "moderate" Saudi kingdom.

"Christian sources in the kingdom said at least 15 Christians from Africa have been arrested in Jedda over the last few months for conducting non-Islamic services in private homes. Three of them are said to have been tortured in prison," said the defense news service.

It was the first confirmed report of physical torture of Christians detained for worship in the kingdom, according to the report.

"Saudi Arabia does not allow the worship of any other religion other than Islam. Jews are not allowed in the kingdom and Christians are warned that they risk arrest if they participate in private prayer gatherings," said the report.

Persecution of Christians rampant

Indeed, according to the November issue of Whistleblower magazine, titled "JIHAD: The radical Islamic threat to America," the current report from Saudi Arabia is part of a widespread pattern of persecution of Christians throughout the Islamic-controlled nations of the Middle East, northern Africa and elsewhere.

In his Whistleblower article, "Islam: from toleration to terror," Paul Marshall, one of the world's leading authorities on religious persecution, states: "The Saudi restriction on the expression of any religion besides Islam means, quite simply, that Christian worship is banned. It is illegal to wear a cross or to utter a Christian prayer. Christians cannot even worship privately in their own homes."

Because they operate under the Islamic Shari’a law, adds Marshall, "the Saudi government pressured the allies in Operation Desert Storm about religious observances. They demanded that Christian and Jewish soldiers not be allowed to wear any symbols of their faith when they were in service in Saudi Arabia. This was mandated, even though the troops were there to defend Saudis from invasion by Iraq."

Religious repression in Saudi Arabia has only increased since the Gulf War, says Marshall.

While the West frequently focuses on Shari’a law for its brutal punishments, including amputations, "its legal procedures can be equally terrifying," notes Marshall. "The Saudi judicial system provides little chance of a reasonable defense against accusations, since defendants have no right to be represented by lawyers. Torture is widespread. Confessions obtained under torture can be accepted by courts as evidence -- sometimes the sole evidence -- for a conviction."

While scarce Western press attention has focused on the horrendous persecution – including forced conversion to Islam, slavery, torture and crucifixion -- meted out to the Christians and animists in southern Sudan by the radical Islamic regime in the northern capital of Khartoum, even less Western media focus is drawn by the persecution of Christians in so-called "moderate" Mideast nations like Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Egypt -- kidnapping, rape, forced conversion

In November's Whistleblower magazine, Marshall, author of "Their Blood Cries Out," documents a number of examples of Christian persecution and forced conversion in modern Islamic nations. Here is one:

Mary, a young Egyptian girl, displays her fragile wrist, which is encircled by an ugly bracelet of scarred flesh. Her disfigurement bears mute witness to the brutal abduction, rape and nine-month captivity she endured at the hands of Islamic kidnappers. As part of their program to transform Mary into a Muslim, her captors poured sulfuric acid on her wrist to remove the tattooed cross she wore as a statement of her faith.
Mary grew up among Egypt's 6 million Coptic Christians, a minority community that faces increasing mistreatment from Islamic zealots. At 18 years of age, she was visiting a friend's home when she was kidnapped by a group of radicals from the "Gamat Islamiya."

After they raped her, Mary's captors moved her from one suburban hideout to another. Along with sexual abuse, she was required to fast, pray, and memorize portions of the Qur'an.

At first, Mary tried to refuse to wear the traditional Islamic veil. "They warned me that if I removed it they would throw acid on my face," she later told reporters. Eventually, unable to resist her captors' demands, she signed official papers of conversion to Islam.

While Mary was held hostage, her father went to the Cairo police. They told him to forget Mary – she was in the safe hands of Islam. In fact, the distraught man was forced to sign a pledge that he would cease his search for his daughter. Along with other family members, he was warned that if any of them interfered with Mary and she was harmed, they would be held responsible.

Fortunately, Mary escaped. She was given assistance by a clandestine group called "Servants of the Cross," who sheltered her. Although conversion to Christianity from Islam is considered apostasy in Egypt, and Shari'a law calls for a death sentence, the Servants aided her as she reconverted to Christianity. In Egyptian society, rape victims are often held responsible for their plight, and are sometimes killed. With this in mind, the organization also helped Mary find a Christian husband.

Servants of the Cross took Mary to a tattooist, who reapplied the cross to her wrist, just above the disfiguring scar. One of the organization's representatives explained, "I supervise between 30 and 35 reconversions every month. In all Egypt there are between 7,000 and 10,000 cases of forced conversion to Islam. It is our duty to save them."

"These circumstances exist not simply despite Islam," notes Marshall. "Unfortunately, they are expressions of a particular and increasingly powerful form of militant Islam."

Marshall's in-depth piece in Whistleblower focuses on the plight of Christians in five Islamic countries -- Sudan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Egypt.

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., the U. S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is urging the Bush administration not to ignore flagrant human-rights abuses in the interests of holding together its coalition with Saudi Arabia and other "moderate" countries. According to Middle East Newsline, the commission wrote a letter to Bush demanding that, "in forging alliances against terrorism, the United States not compromise its commitment to human rights including religious freedom and democracy. We oppose such policy trade-offs."