“There is no compulsion in religion” (Qur’an 2:256) but in practice, all too often Islamic supremacists find room in that phrase for all manner of coercion. What constitutes “compulsion” is in the eye of the beholder. After all, the institutionalized subjugation of the dhimma, with its regular humiliation and harassment, from which one can be freed for the simple price of converting to Islam, is not considered compulsion. Remember Centanni and Wiig, the journalists who were kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam — even though their conversions were obviously coerced, their captors made them say that they were converting freely, and the captors probably believed that themselves. After all, the journos could have chosen to be killed instead.
Arbil (Iraq) (AFP) – They were threatened, forced to spit on a crucifix or convert to Islam, but a handful of Iraqi Christians miraculously survived more than two years under Islamic State group rule.
When the jihadists swept across the Nineveh Plain in northern Iraq in August 2014 and told Christians to convert, pay tax, leave or die, around 120,000 of them fled.
Now that Iraqi forces have retaken many of those areas around the city of Mosul, stories are emerging of those who did not get a chance to leave and faced one of the three other options.
Ismail Matti was 14 when IS militants stormed his hometown of Bartalla, east of Mosul.
He waited for relatives who had already fled to come back for him and his sick mother, Jandar Nasi, but nobody did.
They tried to flee in taxis but were turned around twice by IS and ended up in a Mosul prison.
“There were Shiite people crammed in a cell next to ours — they took one, shot him in the head and dragged his body in front of us,” he said.
“They told my mother the same thing would happen to me if we refused to convert. So we converted,” Ismail recounted from a church-run shelter in the Kurdish capital Arbil.
The pair went back to Bartalla and were then sent to the village of Shurikhan, on the western outskirts of Mosul.
“All our neighbours were Daesh,” he said, using an Arab acronym for IS. “They would come to check if I was following the sharia (Islamic law).”
– Reign of terror –
“If they found that I hadn’t been to the mosque to pray, I sometimes got lashes,” Ismail said.
He suffered the same fate in their next temporary home in Bazwaya, east of Mosul.
Ismail would sometimes get food from friendly residents but his mother never left the house….
“One day, one of them came asking for money and gold. He poked his rifle into my ribs and said ‘You have to give to us’,” she said.
Zarifa handed over the $300 she had and Badriya gave some 15-carat gold.
“One time, a young one, maybe 20 or 21, came and said we should convert. I told him we had our beliefs and they had theirs,” she recalled.
“He told me to spit on a picture of the Virgin Mary and a crucifix. I refused but he made me. The whole time I was telling God in my heart that I did not mean any of this,” she said.
“I knew God heard me because he tried to burn the picture and his lighter didn’t work,” she said, to laughter from her family in their Arbil home….