Monks look at the view following an attack by gunmen against a group of Coptic Christians traveling to a monastery in Minya, Egypt, on May 26, 2017. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

What makes killing Christians appealing?

(RNS) I was born in Egypt, and my heart is broken by this latest massacre of Coptic Christians who were headed to a monastery in the southern Minya province.

I could not bear exploring horrific photos of innocent young girls and boys butchered. They were supposed to be worshipping and praying in the monastery. For many of these children, visiting a monastery is one of the most anticipated trips. Most of these boys and girls are underprivileged with not enough means to travel and enjoy vacations. Going to pray in a holy place is considered their best option in the summertime.

There has been a reoccurring scene of targeting Christians in Egypt in recent months. Last month, in what was later identified as coordinated suicide attacks, a bomb went off at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo, followed by another in a church in Tanta. More than 100 Copts were wounded or massacred. ISIS claimed responsibility.

Copts are victims of the dreadful mix of political instability and religious intolerance.

And their resilience is stunning. They still identify first and foremost as Egyptians, and say that nothing will drive them out of their homeland, whose Christian heritage goes back to the early years of Christianity. Their favorite motto is a quote by the late Coptic Pope Shenouda III: “Egypt is not a country we live in but a country that lives within us.”

But, what makes killing such loyal Christians so appealing? 

Without a doubt, there are many reasons, including political and social ones, but the religious reasons cannot be underestimated.

Militant Muslims know their sacred texts well, and apply them by the letter. While today’s world calls for tolerance and coexistence between faiths, militants rely on scriptural verses that offer a direct command to attack Christians and Jews: “Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day” (The Repentance 9:29).

While modern and contemporary Quranic exegeses have qualified such verses, forbidding violent attacks, these militant Muslims rely on classical interpretations that are still available and revered by some.

These militants understand their Muslim historical records and consider them part of a sacred and golden era that should be followed. When they read the biography of their Prophet Muhammad, they encounter his treatment of the Jews of Banu Qurayza after they surrendered to the early Muslim warriors. Muhammad ordered the execution of every man and every male child who had reached puberty. This incident is important enough that it was recorded not only in Muhammad’s biography, but also in the collection of his sayings, known as hadith.

Whether this story is true (as some religious apologists claim it never occurred) is not the issue: Muslims seek to imitate the footsteps of the prophet.

While every soul is precious and should be kept and defended, a religious ideology twists such a humane understanding. Killing others based on their religion becomes commendable.

Attacking Copts reflects the continued desire of militant Muslims to divide Egypt by killing Christians. For militant Muslims, including ISIS members, killing Christians is not ugly anymore. It is supported by religious texts, which appear to them to make massacring Copts possible and, in a sense, praiseworthy.

(Ayman S. Ibrahim is an assistant professor of Islamic studies and director of the Jenkins Center for the Christian Understanding of Islam at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)


  1. It’s fundamentalism and literalism. If modern day Jews and Christians followed the Old Testament literally we would have a similar mess. It’s in the scriptures but not normally followed in the modern world. The Christian problem we have in America and the ultra-orthodox problems in Israel are due to this fundamentalism.

  2. Statements like yours aim at dispersing any objective assessment. You refer to OT, and then reflect on Christians and Jews, without mentioning NT. When you read the New Testament and then the Quran, you will know the difference between your fanciful ideas about faiths. When you read the life of Jesus and contrast it with the life of Muhammad, you will realize how statements like yours only exist in fanciful holes between Mars and Jupiter.

  3. The specifics from directly from the Koran:

    o “Believers, take neither Jews nor Christians for your friends.” (Surah 5:51)
    “Believers, when you encounter the infidels on the march, do not turn your backs to them in flight. If anyone on that day turns his back to them, except it be for tactical reasons…he shall incur the wrath of God and Hell shall be his home…” (Surah 8:12-)

    “Make war on them until idolatry shall cease and God’s religion shall reign supreme.” (Surah 8:36-)

    “…make war on the leaders of unbelief…Make war on them: God will chastise them at your hands and humble them. He will grant you victory over them…” (Surah 9:12-)

    “Fight against such as those to whom the Scriptures were given [Jews and Christians]…until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued.” (Surah 9:29-)

    “It is He who has sent forth His apostle with guidance and the true Faith [Islam] to make it triumphant over all religions, however much the idolaters [non-Muslims] may dislike it.” (Surah 9:31-)

    “If you do not fight, He will punish you sternly, and replace you by other men.” (Surah 9:37-)

    “Prophet make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them. Hell shall be their home.” (Surah 9:73)

    “Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you. Deal firmly with them.” (Surah 9:121-)

    “Say: ‘Praise be to God who has never begotten a son; who has no partner in His Kingdom…” (Surah 17:111)

    “‘How shall I bear a child,’ she [Mary] answered, ‘when I am a virgin…?’ ‘Such is the will of the Lord,’ he replied. ‘That is no difficult thing for Him…God forbid that He [God[ Himself should beget a son!…Those who say: ‘The Lord of Mercy has begotten a son,’ preach a monstrous falsehood…” (Surah 19:12-, 29-, 88)

    “Fight for the cause of God with the devotion due to Him…He has given you the name of Muslims…” (Surah 22:78-)

    “Blessed are the believers…who restrain their carnal desires (except with their wives and slave-girls, for these are lawful to them)…These are the heirs of Paradise…” (Surah 23:1-5-)

    “Muhammad is God’s apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to the unbelievers but merciful to one another.” (Surah 48:29)

    “Shall the reward of goodness be anything but good?…Dark-eyed virgins sheltered in their tents…They shall recline on green cushions and fine carpets…Blessed be the name of your Lord…” (Surah 55:52-66-)

    Quran (8:12) – “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them”

    Quran (9:5) – “So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captive and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them.”

    And yes, a lot of this was borrowed from the OT!!

  4. John 15:18-19English Standard Version (ESV)

    The Hatred of the World

    18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

  5. I didn’t include the NT because no where does it advocate violence, in fact just the opposite. The point is that both the OT and Quran are full of violence and bad ideas. Yet the overwhelming majority of Jews and Muslims don’t follow it literally so you don’t condemn or punish them for the minority who do so.

  6. Matt and Jim, the “New Testament” is hateful to Jews and Judaism. It has fostered a hatred that led to massacres and persecution of Jews. It’s not just literalism. The “New Testament” is largely a polemic to prove the moral superiority of Christianity over Judaism. Martin Luther advocated violence against Jews in his venomous “On the Jews and Their Lies.” He said that Jews should be burned out of their homes and “we are at fault for not slaying them.”

  7. NT is hateful??
    Is the NT hateful based on the fact that it made Christians hold swords to slaughter Jews, or what?
    NT is hateful because it exhorted Christians to label Jews infidels and expel them out of their lands?
    Or is it hateful because it established a message of reconciliation between Gentiles and Jews, abolishing enmity existing for centuries?
    NT is hateful because of encouraging Christians to love their enemies and reach out to them with message of peace and reconciliation?
    Ms. Stein, what parts in the NT you have been reading?

  8. I apologize Jim. I was sarcastic in my previous comment. Sorry.

  9. There are also positive statements about Jews in the Koran, but Mohammed thought he could convert the Jews. He turned hateful when he realized that they would not convert.

    The OT is a phrase Jews never use. I put “Old Testament” and “New Testament” in quotes. There are centuries of Biblical Commentary, Midrash and Talmud that explain and interpret the Hebrew Bible. The Bible is never read just literally by even the most Ultra-Orthodox Jew. They would say that the literal meaning is just the first level of interpretation. I have to admit that I don’t know if something similar exists in Islam. Much of the current antisemitism in the Arab and Muslim world comes from Christian Europe.

  10. And the peaceful solution???? Eradicate all religion through education starting with the following:

    Putting the kibosh on all religion in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!

    As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of
    Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism,
    Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    Fat Buddhas here, skinnyBuddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    A constant cycle of reincarnation until enlightenment is reached and belief that various beings (angels?, tinker bells? etc.) exist that we, as mortals, cannot
    comprehend makes for a no on Sikhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a

    e.g. Taoism

    “The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth
    century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its
    later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today
    (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his
    mother’s womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. “

  11. It’s portrayal of Jews and Judaism is completely inaccurate and so it its depiction of the Pharisees. Without the “NT” there wouldn’t have been centuries of of enmity to abolish. Why would Christians see Jews as enemies in the first place? Just because we didn’t believe the same thing. The “NT” blames Jews for Jesus’s death. that certainly created centuries of hatred and persecution.

  12. to quote the late Hitchens, “religion poisons everything”.

  13. I have personally seen how religion has made many individuals much better people than they would have been otherwise. Violence, war and hatred have preceded most religion. All you need is an “us and them” for there to be violence.

    If Abraham and Moses never existed, that just means that the Bible is not the literal word of God. I don’t think it is anyway. It doesn’t really change anything else. I don’t think that you can prove or disprove that there was an Abraham or a Moses.

    Even atheists can be antisemites. The French Enlightenment was full of antisemitism, especially Voltaire.

  14. In the Christian world it has only been the Evangelicals – and not too long ago – that have embraced the Jews. For most of Christian history they have been persecuted and fared better under Islam.

  15. It makes no difference what the Bible, specifically the NT, says – it’s what was done in it’s name. It’s actions that matter.

  16. Well sometimes I fail to get my point across in my writings.

  17. Liberal Christians have had no problem with Jews for a long, long time. However, in 1977, F. Bailey Smith, then president of the southern baptists, declared the “Gawd almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew.”

  18. It’s been my observation that religious beliefs, both pro and con, magnify whatever is in the human heart. If the heart is host to hubris or hostility, all you need is “virtuous ignorance” to get inequality, trespass, and cruelty that last for millennia.

  19. origin:

    New Torah For Modern Minds

    “Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls ofJericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

    Such startling propositions — the product of findings by
    archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years —
    have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity — until

    The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called ”Etz
    Hayim” (”Tree of Life” in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that
    incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and
    the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine document. ”

    As per many contemporary NT exegetes
    , only 10-30% of the NT is “authentic Jesus”.
    The rest is composed of embellishments (e.g. miracles, visions of
    “pretty/ugly talking flying fictional thingies”, virgin births,
    fortune telling and prophecy fiction created by the NT authors to impress
    various Christian, Jewish and Pagan sects.

    Why? They wanted to show that their “God-Man” was superior to
    the Caesars and all the Greek and Roman gods.

    The 10-30% of the NT that is “authentic Jesus” like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those that came before.
    In Jesus’ case, it was the good ways and sayings of the Canaanites,
    Hittites, Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, the OT, John the Baptizer and possibly
    the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.

  20. Every time violence is done in the name of religion, faith in religion is killed. People sometimes wonder why people are turning away from religion. All you need to do is listen to the news: Islamist terrorism, clerical sexual abuse of children, Myanmar monks stirring up hatred against Rohingya Muslims and Israeli cruelty towards Palestinians. No wonder that unbelief is booming and religion is on the nose.

    Nor is this the first time in history that this has happened. Rampant corruption in the Catholic Church led to the Reformation. The religious wars of the 17th Century were followed by the Enlightenment in the 18th Century. Now in our own time the same thing is happening again.

    The decline of faith also happening in Islamic countries. Saudi Arabia is so worried by the growth of unbelief that the authorities have declared it as a form of terrorism, similar fears have been expressed in Egypt and in Iran, attendance at the mosque is low.

    Every time you hear of another religious atrocity, you can be sure that more religious belief has died.

  21. Yes, that’s true, but those rabbis didn’t become atheists. I am very familiar with Etz Hayim. My synagogue uses it very week. My rabbi would agree that Exodus didn’t happen, but that doesn’t mean that the Exodus story is meaningless.

    War and Peace is a novel and that means it’s not true, but it still contains many truths about human nature. A myth or a story doesn’t have to be literally true to be valuable. Atheists are as literalist as any Fundamentalist.

  22. Please don’t confuse atheists with antitheists. There is a world of difference.

    Most atheists I know and have known simply don’t believe in any god or gods. “I have no belief in god” is a vastly different statement from “I believe there are no gods.”

    One is a statement of fact. One is an opinion.

  23. That’s true. I have to keep myself from being dogmatic. It is not hard to discredit theism, specifically personal gods, by the religions writings but as to an intellegent first cause that’s unresolveable. Science can theorize and test down to a billionth of a second after the Big Bang via the Large Hadron Collider but that’s it.

  24. I know that about you.

    I myself am not truly an atheist, but an it-doesn’t-matterist. It simply doesn’t matter what I believe. If the god or gods are not omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient, then they are simply powerful beings, subject to rules not of their own making. So, lacking a verifiable presence and influence, they don’t matter. If there is a single omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent god, or if there is no god whatsoever, nothing would be any different than it is right at the moment, and Making the case that he/she/it/them is obsessed about what we do with our dangly bits makes no sense whatsoever.

    The only god I find either credible, practical, or interesting is Koschei the Deathless, Who Made Things As They Are. For Koschei has said, in his perfect wisdom, “what are your beliefs to Me, Who Made Things As They Are?”

  25. “these militant Muslims rely on classical interpretations that are still available and revered by some.”

    ‘Christian congressmen’ do the same thing. They manipulate/justify their religious scriptures and theology to allow for the slaughter and upheaval of millions for corporate wealth. When pressed, they like to use the slaughtering of the ‘wicked’ Canaanites by Joshua as a justification of their death mongering. One’s just a great bit more sophisticated at it. Islamic radicals are a pin prick compared to what ‘christians’ are doing to humanity and planet. In fact, it is a result of it!

    The examples span over 200 years, starting with ‘christian’ Christopher Columbus pulling Indians apart with horses for not meeting his weekly gold quotas, while writing to the queen of how God was ‘prospering’ him, quoting scriptures! One can go back two thousand years in the horrors of Catholicism.

    This ‘Christian congress’ has overthrown virtually every government in South America, some 2 and 3 times, and upheaved Africa for over a century. They just recently apologized for “direct involvement” in the Rwandan genocide of the 90’s They are neck deep in the genocide/blood of innocent Yemenis as we speak! They just recently ‘legalized’ the pumping of fracking waste directly into the Gulf of Mexico! Today, Mike Huckabee led an incursion under the armed guard of the Israeli army into the occupied West Bank city of Nablus to perform religious rituals at Joseph’s Tomb!…on and on.

    Thing is, the ‘enlightened’ priests/preachers are so spiritually dead in their dreamy, fantasized BS, so detached from God/truth/reality, they support them in their death mongering, instead of exposing them as Christ did! They are the only ones who can, but are doing nothing to stop them. NOTHING! of significance, as they ravage the world for wealth untold. Some, so spiritually depraved, they invest in them!

    Jesus Christ, all the disciples and prophets we’re killed by these very men, depraved preacher and slobbering greedy politician alike, for exposing them and breaking their “laws”. It’s Christianity 101 and the “Church” is so consumed and hopelessly lost with fantasy, fear and hate, it doesn’t have a clue!

    “Have no association with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them”

    “The world hates me because I expose it, that the works thereof are evil.”

  26. I get tired of some atheists saying that the Bible is worthless, because it is literally not true. That doesn’t mean that you can’t learn a lot by studying it or that it destroys the basis for believing in God. I’m not proselytizing, but respect goes both ways.

  27. You make so much sense when you make sense.

  28. I was thinking along the same lines but in reverse – killing Christians has political capital of sorts. It gets the attention of the west and the west’s response can feed into perceived legitimacy of ISIS and helps define the enemy more broadly including the state government and Imans who do not condone such acts. ISIS and Al Qaeda exist because of fundamentalist ideology shaping their goals but I hazard a guess that killing Christians is more strategy than ideology.

  29. Said rabbis don’t become atheists because they have no economic interest to do so. Without synagogue members, they would have no economic incentive to stay and would adopt to the rational of atheism.

  30. I think there is an even simpler answer.

    There are an awful lot of sociopaths inthe world. There an awful lot of guns and explosives, a lot of manipulators, and a lot of money. There are a lot of ideologies which favor sociopathy.

  31. It’s amazing how much you crack yourself up.

  32. Rabbis don’t make a lot of money. If they were motivated by money they would not be rabbis. They could make a lot more money becoming lawyers. My rabbi was an unhappy lawyer who went to the seminary as an adult. He would have made a lot more money if he has remained a lawyer. Going back to school cost him money.

  33. We’ve missed the obvious reason why killing Christians is appealing. It’s because they can get away with it.

  34. “But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity — until now.”

    That isn’t true, at least in my personal experience..

  35. What is your obsession with Hilary Clinton about? Hillary is a moderate Democrat. I think you have a problem with women. Nor do you know or understand anything about Judaism or the Talmud. You are wasting time reading those extreme right-wing hate web sites.

  36. In the ME Christians are easy targets. If they were heavily armed and organized they wouldn’t be such easy targets. Bad guys don’t bother people as much who have spent some time at the range.

  37. How can the NT be hateful to Jews when so much of it was written by Jews?

    And wasn’t Jesus Jewish? Did he hate on any Jews at all?

  38. Oh yes indeed, you’ve cleverly discovered our evil nefarious underground upheaval homicidal secret. Congrats, Sinner!!

    Us Christian Death Mongerers (although I prefer the term “Christian Necromongers” because of the kewl Riddick vibe), are truly out to destroy Earth. Slobbering spiritual and political depravity (plus financial investments), that’s us all right !!

    And we love to do lots of horrific religious rituals at Joseph’s Tomb (with fancy Israeli military escorts), while spiking your overpriced seafood with fracking waste.

    Yummy!! Eat some fried frack today!!

  39. When you read the “New Testament ” you would think that Jesus was the only decent Jew. The “New Testament” was written a long time after Jesus’s death. It was not written by Jews.

  40. You are right about Jews faring better under Islam. Evangelicals embrace Jews because they want to convert Jews. It is not a genuine embrace.

  41. yea, a desperate strategy… I mean, what can we expect from slandered, demonized, unemployed men running around looking for a stick to wipe their as, while we play with iphones…

  42. Balderdash! I’m sorry Susan but that is historically inaccurate.

  43. Umm… but we actually have Christian fundamentalists who take the Bible literally, and they don’t do these sorts of things.

  44. With all due respect…your understanding of the OT is very misguided. The Jews we’re instructed to fight those. who were a danger to Israel. They were not instructed to kill folks just because of their faith.

    No offense intended.

  45. Woe to those who call good evil and evil good.

    “The interests of Muslims and the interests of the Socialists coincide in the war against the Crusaders.” [Western civilization]
    ~ Osama bin Laden, February 12th, 2003, Al Jazeera Television

  46. “Long time” is within the lifetime of eyewitnesses of Jesus? Jesus died in year 33. Paul wrote the first book of the New Testament around year 45 (that’s 12 years) . The creed about Jesus in Corinthians is traced back to within three years of Jesus (year 36). Mark’s Gospel was written around year 60 before the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in year 70. Paul, the Pharisee, “was not a Jew” nor were Jesus’ followers? What are we all then? Unicorns?

  47. Excellent beatdown, Floyd. Jesus and his disciples who wrote the New Testament were absolutely Jewish. Darwin’s idea of “survival of the fittest” was used to justify Nazism and Hitler’s ideas about achieving a racially superior population. Just because a text is used to justify something bad doesn’t mean the idea is bad itself. Otherwise, according to Susan’s logic, she would have to conclude that evolution is anti-Semitic.

  48. Paul was a Jew, but then he became a Christian. Jesus’s followers were also Jews, but then they became Christians. Once they believed that Jesus was the son of God and was a personal savior, they were no longer Jews.

  49. You aren’t saved without Christ . The law points to Him and Jews will simply fall for the antichrist . You are delusional to think Islam would treat you better . Christians allow you to breathe , Muslims would destroy you

  50. You have so much faith in theories . It can’t save you from death one day or judgement. Consider yourself warned of eternal destruction.

  51. Lol the Talmud ? That demonic book is on par with Quran . The New Testament is a better covenant than the old . You are simply reading prophecy that points to Christ . Most Jews remain jews because they run this world. The banks and especially major corporations . You are too afraid to be Christian

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