With only a 12% Muslim minority, and an 84% Christian majority, Uganda may not seem a hotspot of Islamic activity. Yet, in recent weeks and months, story after story of attacks on Muslim converts to Christianity have emerged, with troubling implications beyond the intrinsic level. Consider the following anecdotes:
A Muslim father, in accordance with Sharia law, imprisoned and starved his teenage daughter, Susan Ithungu, because she converted to Christianity. He had warned her and her brother “not to attend church or listen to the gospel message. He even threatened us with a sharp knife that he was ready to kill us in broad daylight in case we converted to Christianity.” When she refused to recant, “he locked her up in a room of the semi-permanent house for six months without seeing sunlight. The younger brother was warned not to tell anyone that Susan was locked up in a room and was not given any food.” Still young and un-indoctrinated, Susan’s brother smuggled scraps of food to his sister, though “most days she could only feed on mud”; he also dug a hole under the door, pouring water through it, which she was forced to lap “using her tongue.”
When she was finally rescued, she “was bony, very weak, and not able to talk or walk. Her hair had turned yellow, she had long fingernails and sunken eyes, and she looked very slim, less than 20 kilograms [44 pounds],” requiring over a year of hospitalization. In an update, she has “forgiven her father,” and is thankful to all the strangers who have supported her. Meanwhile, “none of my family members has come to see me…. My own people have abandoned me.”
Blinded and Disfigured
Last Christmas Eve saw Muslims throw acid on a church pastor, leaving him with severe burns, blinding one eye and threatening sight in the other. In his own words: “I was attacked by a man who claimed to be a Christian. He called out to me shouting ‘pastor, pastor,’ and as I turned to see who he was, he poured acid which burnt part of my face. As I turned away from the attacker, another man poured the liquid on my back and ran away shouting ‘Allah Akbar’ (god is great).”
The pastor, Umar Mulinde, originally “came from a strict Muslim family and his father was an imam. He was a sheikh (Muslim teacher) before converting to Christianity, a decision that caused a strong reaction in the Muslim community.” The 38-year-old father of six was also a leading figure in a campaign to block the introduction of Sharia courts in Uganda. After being taken to a hospital, where specialists struggled to restore his vision, Umar was relocated to an Israeli medical center for advanced treatment. According to his wife, “The main point of contention between Muslims and Christians in Uganda is that Muslims are yet to embrace the reality of freedom of worship or coexistence, but Muslims always think that any person who doesn’t believe like them is an enemy who deserves to be killed.”
Hunted and Forlorn
After announcing his conversion to Christianity, Hassan Sharif Lubenga, formerly a prominent member of an Islamist organization, suffered the usual consequences: “They [former colleagues] were furious. They then kidnapped me and blindfolded me for three days, coupled with beatings. They demanded I deny Jesus as the Son of God, which I consented to because I feared that they were going to kill me…. The whole family and clan members were out to destroy me.”
As a Muslim, he had had four wives; upon his conversion, one of them tried to poison him. His father committed suicide, leaving a note that read, “I have decided to kill myself because my son became a Christian,” and urging all family members to curse him. Hassan is currently in hiding: “All my family members have deserted me. The Muslims are looking to kill me. I need protection and help.” On the verge of abandoning his new faith, Hassan recently received a call from Umar Mulinde—the aforementioned pastor who had half his face burned off with acid—telling him the church was praying for him, which “deeply heartened” Hassan.
Another Muslim convert to Christianity, Hassan Muwanguzi, also experienced the usual treatment. Upon conversion, his “family immediately kicked him out of their home, and enraged Muslims beat him. His wife left him that same year, and he lost his job as a teacher.” Undaunted, he recently opened a Christian school, Grace International Nursery and Primary School, in a predominantly Muslim region. “Incensed by his boldness,” an Islamic teacher filed a false charge that Muwanguzi had “defiled” his daughter, leading to Muwanguzi’s arrest. Imprisoned for a time, the accusation was discovered false and he was eventually released.
While all these apostasy-related cases are intrinsically troubling, they further suggest that Uganda’s 12% Muslim minority is increasingly “radicalizing.” For wherever Muslims persecute apostates—which some “multiculturalists” dismiss as an in-house matter of no concern to non-Muslims—rest assured that all those “out-house” things, such as jihad and subjugation of the infidel, are not far behind, and a matter of time and numbers.
Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.