To the awe of its readership, a recent Daily Mail article reports that the “jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and Levant [ISIL],” which is currently entrenched in Raqqa, Syria, “publicly crucified two Syrian rebels in northeastern Syria in revenge for a grenade attack on members of their group.”
While the Daily Mail is to be commended for exposing these barbaric acts—along with posting photos of the crucified—it nonetheless minimized their significance, in two important ways: 1) by repeatedly saying things like “even al-Qaeda is distancing itself from ISIL,” and so implying that the act of crucifixion is some wild aberration that even the poster-child of jihadi terror, al-Qaeda, wants nothing to do with it; and 2) ignoring the much “sexier” story that Christians in Syria are also being crucified simply for refusing to embrace Islam (as opposed to the rather mundane but politically more correct story of jihadis crucifying each other in the context of vendetta killings).
Consider the atrocities earlier committed in Ma‘loula, Syria, an ancient Christian village where the inhabitants still spoke Aramaic, the language of Christ.
According to recent Arabic news media, “a Syrian nun testified to the Vatican news agency that some Christians in Ma‘loula were crucified for refusing to convert to Islam or pay jizya” (tribute subjugated Christians are required to pay to their Islamic conquerors in order to exist as Christians, per Koran 9:29).
Incidentally, they were crucified by the al-Qaeda linked Nasra Front (so much for Daily Mail’s portrayal of al-Qaeda “distancing” itself from the apparently “extra-extremist” ISIL for crucifying its victims).
Sister Raghad, the former head of the Patriarchate School in Damascus who currently resides in France, told Vatican Radio how she personally witnessed jihadi rebels terrorize Ma‘loula, including by pressuring Christians to proclaim the shehada—Islam’s credo that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger—which, when uttered before Muslim witnesses transforms the speaker into a Muslim, with the death penalty for apostasy should the convert later “renege” by returning to Christianity.
According to the nun, those Christians who refused to embrace Islam were
killed in atrocious and violent ways that cannot be described. If you want examples, they crucified two youths in Ma‘loula for refusing to proclaim Islam’s credo, saying to them: “Perhaps you want to die like your teacher [Christ] whom you believe in? You have two choices: either proclaim the shehada or else be crucified.” One of them was crucified before his father, whom they also killed.
In fact, according to earlier media reports from October 2013, soon after Ma‘loula fell to the jihadis, one “shaky voiced” elderly Christian man had reported that he heard the invading jihadis shouting, “Convert to Islam, or you will be crucified like Jesus.”
It is, of course, a documented fact that some Christians in Ma‘loula were put to death for refusing to convert to Islam, such as Minas, an Armenian man, while other families succumbed to pressure and converted to Islam.
But it is not clear whether the two crucified Christians mentioned by the nun are among the three men in Ma‘loula who, according to Asia News, “refused to repudiate their religion” and thus “were summarily executed in public”—so many and varied were the barbaric acts, including beheadings, rape, and infanticide during the rebel occupation, not to mention the other massacres in other Christian regions the mainstream media failed to report on.
These three were declared martyrs by the Syrian Greek-Catholic Church, or as Patriarch Gregorios III explained to Pope Francis in a meeting: “Holy Father, they are true martyrs. Ordered to give up their faith, they proudly refused. Three others however gave in and were forced to declare themselves Muslim, but later returned to the faith of their ancestors.”
For his part, and according to a May 3rd Arabic report, Pope Francis recently said, “I wept when I saw reports saying that Christians were being crucified in some non-Christian countries.”
The fact is, crucifixion is a prescribed form of punishment in the Koran (5:33) and occurs throughout the Islamic world with much greater frequency than suggested by the Daily Mail. For example:
- Iraq, June 2008: A Canadian parliamentary committee heard about how “militant Muslims” were crucifying Christian children in order to terrorize Christians into fleeing Iraq: “Since the war began in 2003, about 12 children, many as young as 10, have been kidnapped and killed, then nailed to makeshift crosses near their homes to terrify and torment their parents.”
- Ivory Coast, May 2011: Two Christian peasant brothers were “brutally crucified” on “the example of Christ” by Muslim forces accusing them of being supportive of the ousted Christian president. One died, while the other survived: “The pair were badly beaten and tortured before being crudely nailed to cross-shaped planks by their hands and feet with steel spikes.”
- Egypt, August 2012: Multiple media agencies reported that during one uprisal against Islamist president Muhammad Morsi, Muslim Brotherhood operatives crucified some protesters on trees. Earlier, a Salafi MP in Egypt called for the penal codification of crucifixion.
- Yemen, August 2012: A video of a man crucified on the accusation of spying for the U.S. appeared. A sign placed above his head quotes Koran 5:33: “The recompense of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and do mischief in the land is only that they shall be killed or crucified or their hands and their feet be cut off from opposite sides, or be exiled from the land. That is their disgrace in this world, and a great torment is theirs in the Hereafter.”
Of course, if one delves into Islamic history, one learns that crucifixions were extremely common. For example, Witnesses For Christ: Orthodox Christian Neomartyrs of the Ottoman Period 1437-1860 lists crucifixion as one of the many forms thousands of Christians were executed by the Muslim Turks.
And in her memoir, Ravished Armenia, Aurora Mardiganian described how in the early twentieth century in the city of Malatia, she saw 16 girls crucified, vultures eating their corpses: “Each girl had been nailed alive upon her cross, spikes through her feet and hands,” wrote the Armenian survivor. “Only their hair blown by the wind covered their bodies.”
Prescribed in the Koran itself, crucifixions are as old as Islam and, with the global revival of the latter, are returning with increased frequency. And, although it is more politically correct to report on jihadis crucifying other jihadis—other terrorists or “spies”—the fact is, many more innocent Christians are being crucified again, including simply for refusing to embrace Islam and thus renounce Christ.
Raymond Ibrahim is author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians