This Saturday a small French town, Romans-sur-Isère, near Grenoble, was in horror as a Sudanese Muslim refugee in his 30s went on a stabbing spree killing 2 and injuring 5. French police say that at the time of his arrest, the accused was “found on his knees on the pavement praying in Arabic.” This tragedy tells us that despite the COVID-19 outbreak, Islamists are not letting it get in the way with their jihad.
While the world has been justly preoccupied with the spread of the coronavirus, especially since it is pretty much what is covered by the mainstream media, the terrorist act in Romans-sur-Isère reminds us of a “pandemic” that has been all but put on the back burner: the ongoing Christian persecution by jihadists.
Yes, militant groups like ISIS had advised their members to avoid places where the COVD-19 has been rampant, specifically in Western Europe. It seems, however, that Islamists have been further encouraged to carry out their slaughters. This is because they believe that the coronavirus is a “plague” sent by Allah in order to give “painful torment” for non-believers.
As Robert Spencer explains, this is by no means a novel idea in Islam. The idea that Allah will punish the unrighteous in this world is in the Quran: “So if they repent, it is better for them; but if they turn away, Allah will punish them with a painful punishment in this world and the Hereafter. And there will not be for them on earth any protector or helper.” (Quran 9, 74) This is the reason Jamil Al-Mutawa, a Gaza-based imam, preached that Allah started COVID-19 to kill infidels and Israelis, claiming that Muslims were least impacted by the virus: “[Allah] has sent just one soldier, [the coronavirus]”—al-Mutawa bragged that “there is not a single case (of COVID-19) in Gaza,” yet the next day, Palestinian health officials confirmed two cases of the virus in the Strip.
In any case, not to put aside innocent Muslims who have fallen to their own brethren simply because they are seen as “infidels,” the threat to Christians has not diminished:
- International Christian Concern reported that on Tuesday evening, March 31, despite serious concerns and restrictive measures to stall the COVID-19 pandemic, Fulani militants continued to move freely and attacked two Christian villages in Miango District, Nigeria. This is the eighth time in the last three years that Ancha village has suffered at the hands of these militants.
- Just a few days prior in the village of Auno village, 20 kilometers from Maiduguri, Nigeria, five people were killed by jihadists last Saturday—while the victims’ religious affiliation has yet to have been determined, Islamic militants almost always in northern Nigeria attack Christians. Gunmen from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) stopped the vehicles around 5:30 p.m. attacked drivers and passengers with machetes as they fled into the bush. “We have so far recovered five dead bodies and 14 people with severe injuries all from machete cuts,” militia leader Babakura Kolo told the AP.
Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, the nonstop massacres of Christians which are met with impunity from the Nigerian government also prompted Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto, in a January 3 report, to express his digust with the government: “The only difference between the government and Boko Haram,” he said, “is that Boko Haram is holding a bomb.” The Nigerian government is “using the levers of power to secure the supremacy of Islam, which then gives more weight to the idea that it can be achieved by violence.” Yet these are so many other Christian killings that hardly even make it on social media.
- On March 29 in the city of Nzerekore, Guinea, a Muslim mob burned down churches and killed at least three people; on March 20 in Kovankaya, Turkey, the elderly mother of a priest was kidnapped and murdered. And if Islamists are not successful in killing those who profess Jesus Christ, they do their best to impede their worship. A Christian youth recently found this out the hard way.
- On February 25 Pakistani Christian Saleem Masih, age 22, was tortured and killed for using water from his Muslim employer’s well in Pakistan. The Muslim owner Sher Dogar, upon discovering that Saleem was Christian, got furious and started beating Saleem. He called him a chuhra (a sweeper, untouchable), and filthy Christian shouting that he had polluted the water. He asked how Saleem had dared to wash himself at the tube well and vowed to teach him a lesson. Saleem was tortured for hours by other Muslims, as well; died three days later as a result of the wounds.
In an unusual sermon, Jordanian MP, former minister, and lecturer at the University of Amman Muhammad Abdulhamid Qudah called the coronavirus a “soldier of Allah” and said it had been sent to punish both the West and Muslims. He claimed Allah is angry with the world, especially Muslims, because they have failed to obey him. His apparent suggestion to calm Allah’s wrath is not vaccines but a change in the behavior of Muslims, who have “failed to obey him” and must become true Muslims again, i.e., carry out a jihad against non-believers. The Romans-sur-Isère carnage is an example of this.
While we should continue to pray and fight the “invisible enemy” that came out of Wuhan, China, let us not forget that we too must combat the 1,400-year-old adversary that will continue long after the coronavirus is defeated.
Mario Alexis Portella is a priest of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Florence, Italy. He has a doctorate in canon law and civil law from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome; he also holds a M. A. in Medieval History from Fordham University in New York, as well as a B.A. in Government & Politics from St. John’s University. He is author of Islam: Religion of Peace? – The Violation of Natural Rights and Western Cover-Up.