Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Escalating Ramadan Death Toll

Roland Clarke

The monthly death toll in Iraq was the highest in 5 years during July 2013 according to the UN. But reporters failed to mention that this surge of violence coincided with Ramadan, the holiest month for Muslims. A similar surge was seen in Iraq during the fasting months of 2012 and 2010. Furthermore, Afghanistan saw a similar surge of suicide bomb attacks.

On August 11th 2012 Afghan interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi reported that Taliban attacks in Afghanistan had risen during Islam's holy month. Three days later forty seven civilians were killed by suicide bombers and 145 were wounded, making it the bloodiest week in Afghanistan last year. Is it coincidental that these attacks happened during Ramadan?

And why confine our observations to Afghanistan and Iraq? Let us consider Muslim-on-Muslim violence around the world. For example, there is a web site which tabulates the number of Muslims killed during Ramadan globally. The total for 2013 was 6,625 a 95% increase over last year. The years 2012 and 2011 saw increases of over 50%! (*)

Gunnar Heinsohn, Emeritus Professor of Social Sciences at the University of Bremen, has researched the death toll from conflicts around the globe over the last 60 years (i.e. until the publication date of his article). Heinsohn concluded that 11 million Muslims have perished in these conflicts of whom more than 90 percent were killed by fellow Muslims!

Lest one dismiss Heinsohn's research as biased, let me quote a Muslim scholar, Salim Mansur, professor of Political Science at the University of Western Ontario. In 2006 he wrote an article significantly entitled, The Mark of Cain, in which he frankly admits, “Iraqi casualties from the radical Islamist insurgency and sectarian Sunni-Shia violence exceed those from American-led military operations... Muslim on Muslim violence is intrinsic to Arab-Muslim history. The tribal lust for power and cruelty ... warped Islam as a faith tradition in the early seventh century, right at the outset of the post-prophetic years. Among its first victims were Prophet Mohammed’s family members: his cousin and son-in-law Ali, and his grandsons Hasan and Husayn.” Mansur goes on to discuss Muslim-on-Muslim violence in the 20th century. Citing research by R.J. Rummel in Statistics of Democide, Mansur notes, “the grisly example of Pakistan’s 1971 genocide in East Pakistan, which 'succeeded in killing perhaps 1,500,000 people, created 10,000,000 refugees who had fled to India, provoked a war with India, [and] incited a countergenocide of 150,000 non-Bengalis.' As a young adult, I saw firsthand what Rummel describes.” (*)

You may find these statistics shocking and they are, but that's not all. It is one thing to see intolerance towards rival sects perhaps even going so far as to kill each other, but it is treacherous and unimaginably wicked to see fellow comrades in arms killing one another. Three such reports have come to light during Ramadan 2013 – one based in Syria and two in Egypt. A recent article in AFP reported deadly clashes between the mainstream rebels (FSA) and jihadists (ISIS) who are cooperating together against Assad. This example is tragic, although somewhat understandable, because of the growing rivalry between them

An article by Raymond Ibrahim illustrates blatant treachery and deception as people in the Muslim brotherhood are seen killing each other. Ibrahim cites two examples where those opposed to the military regime which ousted Morsi actually shot and killed a comrade in the back, all the while, making it appear his death was the fault of the opposing security forces. Both killings, are documented on video. Here is Ibrahim's explanation based on video footage showing the second man's death:

Played again in slow motion, however, it becomes apparent that the man in a gilbab (long Muslim style robe) standing directly behind the murdered man is actually the one who shot him; he then walked over to another man near him, gave him the weapon, and then quickly walked off the scene. Even the man on the roof who is taping this scene is heard to be asked, 'Did the car [armored vehicle] shoot?' only to reply, 'No, no.'

As a matter of fact, both murders which Ibrahim cites are simple treachery, although, Islamists would justify them because they were done with the right niyya (intention) i.e. to empower Islam. In this case, the end justifies the use of forbidden means.

The escalating death toll during Ramadan is truely horrific. But what makes it even harder to understand is the Muslim belief that Satan is bound during Ramadan.1 If this belief were true, surely we would expect the death toll to be much lower – not higher! In actual fact, the Ramadan death count, as given, is conservative. It would be much higher if the compiler had used the statistic given by the Syrian Local Coordination Committees.2

The horrific Ramadan death toll is cited by some people in a crude, almost mocking manner. But a more appropriate way to expose this is to appreciate the sinister and tragic reality beneath the surface. Behind the scenes is an unseen evil one who ensnares humans. Both Muslims and Christians believe there is such a being and indeed, they take him seriously.

The Bible says the appropriate way to respond to people who are caught in the web of Satanic deception is to correct them gently, “A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, able to teach and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people's hearts and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil's trap. For they have been held captive by him.” (2 Tim. 2:24-26) A proper Christian response is to see rank and file Muslims as victims who are caught in the devil's trap.

We need to see Muslims, caught up in this Islamic violence, as victims of Satan. Let us recall that Jesus described him as a “murderer from the beginning.” (John 8:44)

The tragedy is: we live in an age of tolerance and multiculturalism, and so we've been conditioned not to criticize other cultures. As a result, many Christians are unwilling to identify the violence within Islam as demonic or Satanically inspired.

After a decade of repeatedly hearing bloody news stories from the Middle East, western observers have become calloused. We shrug our shoulders and feel fatigued each time we hear yet another example of man's inhumanity to man – committed in the name of Allah. Many of us also feel perplexed as to how so-called brothers can indiscriminately slaughter each other!

Tragically many Christians respond to this ongoing carnage by becoming more resentful of or intimidated by Muslims. Does it occur to us that this deplorable situation – which most Muslims also decry – affords us an opportunity to engage Muslim friends in spiritual conversation? There is a way to pose questions graciously to our Muslim friends – questions that God's Spirit can use to stimulate them to probe underlying realities – insights they would otherwise not grasp.

Let me illustrate what I mean by sharing some thought-provoking – yet gracious – questions. I trust they will help to season your witness with salt. (Colossians 4:4-6)

1) Mohamed, did you see the news report about Iraq? ... Where they reported that the monthly death toll was the highest in 5 years? ... What do you think of it? How does the ongoing sectarian strife make you feel? ... frustrated, depressed? ....

2) I know you're a peace-loving person and probably you'd prefer not talking much about these things but would you mind helping me to understand how so many innocent people - Muslims - can be killed during this 'holy' month?

3) May I ask another question? I know you take Satan very seriously. In fact someone told me that the powerful devils are bound during the month of Ramadan. How can there be so many Muslims dying violently, especially considering Satan is bound? ... I trust you realize I'm not trying to shame you by asking these questions. I'm an outsider trying to put myself in your shoes, as a peace-loving person. I'm trying to gain a better understanding.

4) I appreciate you answering these unpleasant questions. May I share with you how I understand Satan and the way he works through misguided God-fearing people – religious zealots if you will? ...

If the door opens for you to discuss these things further, I suggest you read John 8:31-59 – a passage that shows the murderous spirit underlying the Jewish religious leaders and teachers of the Torah.

Many Christians are reluctant to talk about Satan, especially if it seems as though we are suggesting to our Muslim friend that his religion is demonic! Note, however, Muslims pray daily to Allah for refuge from the accursed one, Satan. The fact of the matter is: Muslims are not shy or reluctant to talk about Satan.

As Christians we need to bear in mind that Jesus Christ crushed Satan at the cross. (Hebrews 2:14,15; John 12:23-33) This is not typically seen as a vital part of the Gospel but it is. The Good News involves the defeat of Satan, as well as taking away sin and abolishing death.

Point to Ponder

The Qur'an denounces the sin of killing one another as “most heinous.” (Surah 4:29-31) The prophet Ezekiel described a deplorable situation in Jerusalem which caused the godly to weep and sigh. Such emotions were in response to widespread “detestable sins being committed in their city.” (see chapter 9, especially verse 4) Where is a similar response today among Muslims as they witness a widespread and horrifying death toll within the Ummah? Muslim readers ought to be asking themselves, “Do we feel deep sorrow and sighing at such disgraceful and detestable wickedness?”

Here are a couple relevant articles you may want to read:

Feel free to ask me any questions you may have which are relevant to this article.

All biblical quotations are taken from the New Living Translation.

All Qur'anic quotes are taken from Yusuf Ali's translation.


Footnotes

1. According to Al-Bukhari (1899) and Muslim (1079) “the devils are chained” as posted here; This same blogger quotes another hadith narrated by Ahmad (7857), saying, “And the strong devils are chained up, and they cannot achieve what they usually achieve (at other times).”

Another Muslim asks the question, “how come we see many evil actions and sins being committed in Ramadaan?” His online explanation (*) includes the following, “It was proven that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: 'When Ramadaan begins, the gates of Paradise are opened, and the gates of Hell are closed, and the devils are chained up.' Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 3277; Muslim, 1079. This writer adds, “According to al-Nasaa'i: 'The most evil jinn are chained up.'

This does not mean that the devils have no influence at all, rather it indicates that they become weaker in Ramadaan and are not able to do what they are able to do at times other than Ramadaan.

It may be interpreted as meaning that the ones who are chained up are the most evil devils, not all of them.”

2. (AGI) Rome - Syrian activists report at least 4,685 people, of which 445 were children and 342 were women, were killed during Ramadan by the Assad regime. Ramadan, a month of fasting on the Muslim calendar, began on July 21 and ended today. The figures were carried on the website of Syrian Local Coordination Committees ... (source).

[First published: 21 August 2012]
[Last updated: 10 August 2013]

Appendix 1

John 8:31-59

Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

“But we are descendants of Abraham,” they said. “We have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean, ‘You will be set free’?”

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. Yes, I realize that you are descendants of Abraham. And yet some of you are trying to kill me because there’s no room in your hearts for my message. I am telling you what I saw when I was with my Father. But you are following the advice of your father.”

“Our father is Abraham!” they declared.

“No,” Jesus replied, “for if you were really the children of Abraham, you would follow his example. Instead, you are trying to kill me because I told you the truth, which I heard from God. Abraham never did such a thing. No, you are imitating your real father.”

They replied, “We aren’t illegitimate children! God himself is our true Father.”

Jesus told them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, because I have come to you from God. I am not here on my own, but he sent me. Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It’s because you can’t even hear me! For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. So when I tell the truth, you just naturally don’t believe me! Which of you can truthfully accuse me of sin? And since I am telling you the truth, why don’t you believe me? Anyone who belongs to God listens gladly to the words of God. But you don’t listen because you don’t belong to God.”

The people retorted, “You Samaritan devil! Didn’t we say all along that you were possessed by a demon?”

“No,” Jesus said, “I have no demon in me. For I honor my Father—and you dishonor me. And though I have no wish to glorify myself, God is going to glorify me. He is the true judge. I tell you the truth, anyone who obeys my teaching will never die!”

The people said, “Now we know you are possessed by a demon. Even Abraham and the prophets died, but you say, ‘Anyone who obeys my teaching will never die!’ Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”

Jesus answered, “If I want glory for myself, it doesn’t count. But it is my Father who will glorify me. You say, ‘He is our God,’ but you don’t even know him. I know him. If I said otherwise, I would be as great a liar as you! But I do know him and obey him. Your father Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it and was glad.”

The people said, “You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I Am!” At that point they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus was hidden from them and left the Temple.

Question for deeper reflection

What is the significance of the title “I AM” which Christ applied to himself? (compare Exodus 3:14; Isaiah 43:13)  Also see The Divine Claims of Jesus: "I AM"


Appendix 2

Persecution of Non-Muslims

Earlier we noted how terrible it is that Muslims are murdering brothers or fellow Muslims in unprecedented numbers. But what about non-Muslims, “Is there anything noteworthy regarding the killing of outsiders, especially those who have common roots and heritage, e.g. kin or cousins?” Not only so, from a religious viewpoint, we may ask, “What about the persecution of godfearing Jews or Christians?”

Muslim scholar, Salim Mansur reflects on this in Arab Spring now a Christian nightmare. Mansur says the situation is 'catastrophic' for the region’s 14 million Christians. Indeed, he believes that western nations, who have historically stood for human rights, ought to be advocating for persecuted minorities in the Middle East. Instead, they are “scandalously appeasing Islamist totalitarianism.”

What about the month of fasting: “If devils are chained does this mean Christians experience less persecution from Muslims?”

After searching the internet for 'increased persecution in Ramadan' I have seen many reports suggesting that persecution increases in various parts of the world although much of the evidence is anecdotal. Also I've seen many articles telling how minority groups living in Muslim nations, are afraid of increased persecution during this month. It was interesting to observe the contrast when I conducted a similar search on the internet for 'decreased persecution in Ramadan.' As you might expect, I found no tangible evidence.

One article featuring persecution of Christians in Ramadan, 2012, is fittingly entitled, Ramadan: Islam’s ‘Holy Month’ of Christian Oppression, by Raymond Ibrahim.

Other articles indicating there is substantial, if not increased, persecution of Christians and other non-Muslims during Ramadan. These are available online (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).

Major book on persecution: A compendium of writings has just been published (September, 2012) by 62 authors from around the world, entitled, Sorrow and Blood: Christian Mission in Contexts of Suffering, Persecution, and Martyrdom, editors, William Taylor, Tonica van de Meer and Reg Reimer.

[First published: 21 August 2012]
[Last updated: 1 September 2012]