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Terror Strikes Again: Islamic State Tries to Trigger ‘War of Religions’ in West

The latest issue of IS's online magazine Dabiq, widely read by supporters and sympathizers, focuses on the theme of “Break the Cross”

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A picture of late Father Jacques Hamel is placed on flowers at the makeshift memorial in front of the city hall closed to the church where an hostage taking left a priest dead the day before in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Normandy, France, July 27, 2016. Image source: AP
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  • Pope Francis, as well as Orthodox and Coptic church leaders, is among those singled as targets in the 15th issue of Dabiq, released Sunday, July 31
  • The “gray zone” was defined in a January 2015 issue of Dabiq as a “twilight area occupied by most Muslims between good and evil, the Caliphate and the Infidel”
  • French officials were already alarmed before the release of Dabiq at the prospect of IS attacks causing a “war against communities”

The Islamic State (IS) is inciting supporters to mount more attacks on Christians just days after two of the terror group’s sympathizers slit the throat of an 85-year-old French priest as he was celebrating Mass — a killing French officials fear was a deliberate tactic to provoke a Christian backlash in France against Muslims.

The latest issue of IS’s online magazine Dabiq, widely read by supporters and sympathizers, focuses on the theme of “Break the Cross.” In a series of interviews, foreign fighters who have converted from Christianity are used as mouthpieces to urge supporters in the West to destroy “arrogant Christian disbelievers.” They exhort Muslims to “pray for Allah’s curse to be upon the liars.”

Pope singled out as target

Pope Francis, as well as Orthodox and Coptic church leaders, is among those singled as targets in the 15th issue of Dabiq, released Sunday, July 31. IS propagandists mock the Pope, saying the Pontiff only condemned the mass shooting at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando “because he comes from long line of boy rapists.”

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The Catholic Church condemned forthrightly the Orlando terror attack in June, in which gunman Omar Mateen who had pledged allegiance to IS, killed 49 people and wounded another 53. After the slaughter the Church issued a statement, saying: “The terrible massacre that has taken place in Orlando, with its dreadfully high number of innocent victims, has caused in Pope Francis, and in all of us, the deepest feelings of horror and condemnation, of pain and turmoil before this new manifestation of homicidal folly and senseless hatred.”

Pope Francis followed by a security guard arrives to celebrate a mass at conclusion of the World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, Sunday, July 31, 2016. Image source: AP
Pope Francis followed by a security guard arrives to celebrate a mass at conclusion of the World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, Sunday, July 31, 2016.
Image source: AP

Fighter Abu Sa’d al-Trinidadi, a former Christian from Trinidad and Tobago, references recent terror attacks in the West and urges supporters in a Dabiq interview to “follow the example of the lions in France and Belgium, the example of the blessed couple in California, and the examples of the knights in Orlando and Nice.”

He tells IS supporters in the West that they have the “ability to terrify the disbelievers in their own homes and make their streets run with their blood.” He adds Christians are legitimate targets “due to their mere disbelief,” adding, “for this reason, amongst others, the Islamic State leadership emphasized the importance not to differentiate between disbelieving soldiers and their so-called ‘civilians.’”

Twilight zone

This is not the first time IS has exhorted followers to target Christians in the West — or threaten to destroy Christianity. In February 2015, the terror group released a shocking five-minute video documenting the barbaric mass execution of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians on the shoreline of Libya. In the video a militant spokesman points northward after the killings, saying: “We will conquer Rome by Allah’s permission.”

And the terror group has targeted and terrorized Christians in territory it controls in Syria and Iraq with rapes, abductions, forced conversions, desecration of churches and forced evictions. In 2014 Pope Francis warned, “In Syria, another war is thriving in the shadow of the civil war—the war against the church.”

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But the redoubled focus on Western Christianity now, analysts say, is powered by a highly dangerous, macabre logic. They warn that IS strategists are aiming to provoke an overreaction by Western governments and enraged citizens, hopinAg to drive young Muslims into their arms and away from what the jihadists call the “gray zone.”

The “gray zone” was defined in a January 2015 issue of Dabiq as a “twilight area occupied by most Muslims between good and evil, the Caliphate and the Infidel.”

Last November, in the wake of the Paris attacks anthropologist Scott Atran told VOA that IS is “seeking to provoke deeper divisions between Muslims and non-Muslims in Europe, forcing the latter to overreact as the terror becomes ever wilder and more extreme, thereby leaving the former with no choice but to join the jihadist camp.”

And to exacerbate antagonism toward Muslims in Europe, the more outrageous the targets, the more likely the terror will provoke Western governments to overreact or fuel the rise of populist nationalist parties or prompt revenge attacks.

Church attack

The murder last week of Fr. Jacques Hamel in the Norman village of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen differed from previous IS attacks in France. They targeted people and places that symbolized freedom of speech, Western liberalism, the ideals of the French Revolution, and Jews. Some analysts see the killing of Fr. Hamel as the first act of war on European soil against Christianity by IS.

French officials were already alarmed before the release of Dabiq at the prospect of IS attacks causing a “war against communities.” Last week, a French official told VOA that one of the highest priorities of the Élysée Palace is to prevent a clash between Muslims and Christians. (VOA)

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Muslims in Malaysia Rally In Kuala Lumpur To Keep Status

Mahathir’s new government won a stunning victory in a May 9 general election amid anger over a massive corruption scandal.

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Malaysia, Malay
Protesters rally near a mosque to celebrate the government's decision not to ratify a U.N. anti-discrimination convention, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Dec. 8, 2018. Thousands of Malaysian Muslims are rallying against any attempt to strip ethnic Malay majority of their privileges. VOA

Tens of thousands of Malaysian Muslims rallied Saturday in Kuala Lumpur against any attempt to strip the ethnic Malay majority of its privileges, in the first massive street gathering since Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s alliance won a historic vote in May.

The rally, backed by the country’s two largest opposition Malay parties, was initially aimed at protesting a government plan to ratify a U.N. treaty against racial discrimination. Critics allege that ratifying the treaty would end Malay privileges under a decades-old affirmative action policy. The plan to ratify was eventually abandoned, but organizers decided to proceed with what they called a “thanksgiving” rally.

Rare racial clashes

Racial clashes have been rare in multiracial Malaysia since deadly riots in 1969. A year later, Malaysia instituted a preferential program that gives Malays privileges in jobs, education, contracts and housing to help narrow a wealth gap with the minority Chinese. Ethnic Malays account for nearly two-thirds of the country’s 32 million people, with large Chinese and Indian minorities.

Malaysia, Malay
A protester covers his face with headbands reading “No to ICERD” during a rally to celebrate the government’s decision not to ratify a U.N. anti-discrimination convention called ICERD at Independent Square in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Dec. 8, 2018. ICERD stands for International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. VOA

Saturday’s rally came less than two weeks after more than 80 people were arrested in a riot at an Indian temple in a suburb outside Kuala Lumpur. The government was quick to stress that the violence was the result of a land dispute and was not a racial riot. Still, the government warned Saturday’s rally-goers not to make any provocative statements that could fan racial tensions.

Mahathir said the government allowed the rally as part of democracy, but warned against any chaos. The rally was held under tight police security, but ended peacefully after rain started to fall.

Former Prime Minister Najib Razak, who has been charged with multiple counts of corruption, was among opposition lawmakers at the rally.

In the streets, 55,000

Police said there were at least 55,000 people on the streets. Many wore white T-shirts and headbands with the words “Reject ICERD,” referring to the U.N. treaty, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

The protesters gathered at three locations before marching to a nearby historic square, chanting “Long live the Malays” and “Crush ICERD.”

malay
Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, right gestures to Myanmar’s Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi, to move in closer for the group hand shake as Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak, left, watches during the opening ceremony of the 28th and 29th ASEAN summits at National Convention Center in Vientiane, Laos, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016. VOA

“Yes, we did not ratify ICERD, but we are still here to say that we are still against it,” said shopkeeper Rosli Ikhsan. “Even if the government has said they won’t endorse it, we are still protesting with all our might from all of Malaysia.”

Mahathir’s new government won a stunning victory in a May 9 general election amid anger over a massive corruption scandal involving Najib and his government, but many Malays still support Najib’s party, the United Malays National Organization, and the Malaysian Islamic Party, which controls two of the country’s 13 states.

Some analysts say Najib and his party were using the rally to shift attention away from corruption charges against Najib, his wife, his party’s president and former government officials.

Also Read: Syrian Stranded at Malaysia Airport in a Political Limbo

“For me, ICERD is bad,” university student Nurul Qamariah said at the rally. “It’s bad because it will erode the position of Malays. This is a country for Malays. We want Malays to be superiors, but why do these people want to make Malays the same level as Chinese and Indians?” (VOA)