Christianity, born in the Middle East, is in danger of losing its two millenia-long presence there. If that notion sounds alarmist to Western ears, it is acknowledged by Middle Easterners as a growing likelihood.
In 1909, the Middle East was 20 percent Christian; one hundred years later, that percentage has fallen to five percent.
The resurgence of the Islamic jihad and Islamic supremacism around the world in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries can be directly correlated with the declining Christian population. As Muslims, influenced by Salafi movements to restore the “purity” of Islamic governance, reassert traditional Islamic legal stipulations mandating and institutionalizing discrimination against and harassment of Christians, Christians all over the Islamic world are feeling the heat.
In Pakistan’s Swat Valley, where the Taliban has been lately implementing Shari’a law, Christians have been forced for their own safety to wear Islamic clothing and grow beards, so as to avoid attracting unwanted attention. Not all have been successful: many Christians have fled the area after the Taliban demanded from them jizya payments so large that they were beyond their means to pay. Jizya is the poll tax mandated in the Qur’an (9:29) that “People of the Book” – that is, primarily Jews and Christians – must pay for the privilege of living in an Islamic state.
Converts from Islam to Christianity face similar troubles elsewhere in the Islamic world as well.
Why do converts face such a hard time? Because Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, said, “If anyone changes his religion, kill him” – and the death penalty for apostasy is still mandated by all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence. Many Muslim countries take this very seriously.
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are likewise used to harass Christians.
Pakistan, Egypt, and Somalia have one thing in common: a resurgence of Islamic supremacism and reassertion of elements of Islamic law have not been enforced in those countries by their Western-influenced governments in the recent past. The momentum everywhere in the Islamic world lies with these Salafi movements – and Christians, as well as other non-Muslims, bear the brunt of this reassertion. Muslim persecution of Christians, built as it is into the foundations of Islamic theology and law, is not going to go away – and if movements of Islamic purity continue to gain ground in the Islamic world, it will only increase. It is long past time for human rights organizations and all free people to take notice, and say, “No more.”