In Trabzon, Turkey, locals interrupted the burial of a Christian woman — in part by shouting, "Allahu Akbar!" — at the cemetery of the Santa Maria Catholic Church on January 18, 2020. On February 14, her grave was found desecrated, its wooden cross broken and burned. Pictured: The funeral of 60-year-old Italian Catholic priest Andrea Santoro at Santa Maria on February 6, 2006. Santoro was shot and murdered at the church by a 16-year-old shouting "Allahu Akbar". (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)
Also in Egypt, Ayman, 17, a Christian student, was strangled and beaten to death by his teacher and fellow students for refusing to obey the teacher's demand that he cover his cross. When the school's principal was informed of the attack, he ignored it and "continued to sip his tea."
This year in Egypt, after the headmaster of a school ordered all of the students to remove any jewelry bearing a cross and the Christians refused, they were "beaten up by teachers and fellow students, according to a November 21, 2021 report. In another incident, a female teacher "attacked a Christian student, then encouraged other students to do the same, take his cross pendant from him and destroy the cross."
At least these latest rounds of anti-cross rage were not fatal; others have been.
The Maspero massacre of 2011 saw the Egyptian military massacre dozens of Christians— some by running them over with armored vehicles. The Muslims had insisted that a Coptic church be stripped of its domed cross so it would not resemble a church. The cross "provokes us," a Muslim elder said. When the Christians refused, the Muslims destroyed the church. That was what the Christians had been protesting when the Egyptian military mowed them down.
The reason for this hostility is that the Koran, believed to be the words of Allah, is riddled with hostility for both Christians and Jews — both of whom are described as "the worst of creatures" (Koran 98:6). Despite being called "people of the book"— a view apologists for Islam tend to strain — both Christians and Jews are, in the end, also classified as infidels (kuffar; singular, kafir). Thus Koran 5:51 warns Muslims against "taking the Jews and Christians as friends and allies ... whoever among you takes them for friends and allies, he is surely one of them" — that is, he too becomes an infidel. Koran 5:73 declares that "Infidels are they who say God is one of three," a reference to the Christian Trinity; Koran 5:72 says "Infidels are they who say God is the Christ, [Jesus] son of Mary"; and Koran 9:30 complains that "the Christians say the Christ is the son of God ... may Allah's curse be upon them!"
The final word on both Christians and Jews was "revealed" in Koran 9:29:
"Fight those among the People of the Book who do not believe in Allah nor the Last Day, who do not forbid what Allah and His Messenger have forbidden, and who do not embrace the religion of truth [Islam], until they pay the jizya [monetary tribute] with willing submissiveness and feel themselves utterly subdued." With that, their fate was sealed; like all other infidels, Christians and Jews were to be warred on until "subdued".
From here one can begin to understand why the crucifix makes some Muslims react so violently. Not only is the cross the symbol of Christianity for virtually all denominations; it also symbolizes the fundamental disagreement between Christians and Muslims. "The cross," notes historian Sidney Griffith, " ... publicly declared those very points of Christian faith which the Koran [4:157-158], in the Muslim view, explicitly denied: that Christ was the Son of God and that he died on the cross." Accordingly, "the cross ... often aroused the disdain of Muslims," so that from the start of the Muslim conquests of Christian lands there was an ongoing "campaign to erase the public symbols of Christianity, especially the previously ubiquitous sign of the cross" (Griffith, Sidney, The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque: Christians and Muslims in the World of Islam, 2010, pp. 14, 144–145)
The campaign repudiating the cross, presumably seen as a form of idolatry, traces back to the Muslim prophet Muhammad, who reportedly "had such a repugnance to the form of the cross that he broke everything brought into his house with its figure upon it," wrote another historian, William Muir. (The Life of Mohammad from Original Sources, 1923, p. 200). Muhammad also claimed that at the end of time, Jesus ("Isa") himself would make it a point to "break the cross" (Sahih Bukhari 4:55:657)
There are some modern Muslim clerics, such as Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Tarifi, a Saudi expert on Islamic law, who said, "Under no circumstances is a human permitted to wear the cross." Why? "Because the prophet — peace and blessings on him — commanded the breaking of it [the cross]."
Islamic history reflects these sentiments. Sheikh al-Tarifi explains that if it is too difficult to break the cross — for example, if it is a large concrete statue — Muslims should at least try to disfigure one of its four arms "so that it no longer resembles a cross." Historic and numismatic evidence confirms that the Umayyad caliphate, after it seized the Byzantine treasury in the late seventh century, ordered that one or two arms of the cross on the coins be effaced so that the image no longer resemble a crucifix.
Testimonies are endless — from the very earliest Islamic invasions into Christian Syria and Egypt — of Muslims systematically breaking every crucifix they encountered. According to Anastasius of Sinai, during the seventh-century Arab conquests, "the demons name the Saracens [Arabs/Muslims] as their companions. And it is with reason. The latter are perhaps even worse than the demons," for whereas "the demons are frequently much afraid of the mysteries of Christ," among which he mentions the cross, "these demons of flesh trample all that under their feet, mock it, set fire to it, destroy it." (Hoyland, Robert G. Seeing Islam as Others Saw It: A Survey and Evaluation of Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian Writings on Early Islam, 1997, p. 100-101)
In Portugal, in 1147, Muslims displayed "with much derision the symbol of the cross. They spat upon it and wiped the feces from their posteriors with it" (Allen, S. J., ed. 2010. The Crusades: A Reader, 2010, p. 306). Decades earlier in Jerusalem, Muslims "spat on them [crucifixes] and did not even refrain from urinating on them in the sight of all" (Rubenstein, Jay, ed., The First Crusade: A Brief History with Documents, 2015, pp. 143-144) Even the supposedly "magnanimous" sultan, Saladin, commanded "whoever saw that the outside of a church was white, to cover it with black dirt" and ordered "the removal of every cross from atop the dome of every church in the provinces of Egypt." (Guindy, Adel. Hikayat al-Ihtilal: wa-Tashih ba'd al-mafahim, 2009, p. 88)
Regrettably, Muslim opinion often appears not to have changed. When responding to why Muslims "felt a chill whenever they saw a crucifix," Indonesian cleric Sheikh Abdul Somad replied: "Because of Satan!" The cross, he said, is "an element of the devil." Kuwaiti cleric Othman al-Khamis, in the same vein, issued a fatwa comparing the Christian crucifix to Satan. He added that crosses can only be publicly displayed to mock them, such as by depicting them "in an insulting place such as socks." One Pakistani shoe-seller placed the image of the cross on the soles of his shoes so that the crucifix could be trampled with every footstep.
Lest these views seem aberrant, here below are other accounts from nations apart from Egypt that show how the crucifix continues allegedly to "provoke" and "arouse the disdain" of Muslims and even lead to murder. Two other nations — Pakistan and Turkey — have little to do one another racially, linguistically or culturally, except they are both Islamic. There follow more examples from the Islamic world, and finally from Western nations with large Muslim populations. While attacks on people would of course be worse than attacks on inanimate religious symbols, appeasement, sadly, seems only to encourage these outbursts of hate.
2019: Three Muslim men — Muhammad Naveed, Muhammad Amjad, and Abdul Majeed — participated in the murder of two Christian brothers, Javaid and Suleman Masih. Javaid's family related:
"The Muslim neighbors did not like our van, which carries a holy cross inside, to be parked next to their door. They often criticized it.... Naveed, one of the Muslim family members, was trying to put some scratches on the wind-screen of [the] van on the incident day. When I tried to stop him, he reacted in anger stating 'whenever I step out of my house, I see this hanging stuff (holy cross) in the van – which I don't want to see.' He pointed out the cross in an insulting way. 'Therefore, you must remove it,' he ordered."
2012: When a Muslim man saw Julie Aftab, a Christian woman, wearing a cross around her neck, he attacked her, forced battery acid down her throat, and splashed it on her face — permanently damaging her esophagus, blinding her in one eye, and causing her to lose both eyelids and most of her teeth.
2020: Muslims ransacked and beat the employees of a Christian barbershop for displaying a cross and other Christian symbols. Earlier, the Muslims entered the store and began to abuse the owners for hanging a cross on the front wall. The Muslims "told us to remove the Christian symbols from the shop because Muslim customers did not feel comfortable," a co-owner explained. The next day, more than a dozen men wielding iron rods attacked the store, and damaged its glass door, mirrors, shelves, cupboards, and other equipment. "They also beat staff and looted cash and other expensive stuff from the shop." Police responded by arresting one of the owners based on the accusation that by hanging a cross, he was evangelizing to Muslims.
2020: After receiving complaints and threats from local Muslims, a church congregation, "With broken hearts," to quote its pastor, agreed to take down the cross from their church: "We took this decision for the safety and protection of Christians in the village.... Muslims threatened that if we don't remove the cross, they will ban the prayer services and take the church property."
2020: An armed Muslim mob shouting "anti-Christian slogans" tried to set fire to the Trinity Pentecostal Church in Hakeem Pura. Although they ultimately failed, they managed to destroy at least one part of the church: "Not only was the cross broken, but our hearts were crushed too," a Christian eyewitness said.
2019: Several crosses fixed to the tombstones of thirty-eight Christian graves at a cemetery were viciously desecrated and defaced.
2012: A 12-year-old boy wearing a silver cross necklace in class was spit on and regularly beaten by Muslim teachers and classmates.
2019: Two Muslim men attacked a Christian teenager in the street after they noticed he was wearing a crucifix around his neck. They initially stopped him and pulled on his cross-necklace while asking if he "knows what this means?" When the youth responded, "Yes, I know. I'm a Christian," they beat him and fled.
2020: After locals interrupted the burial of a Christian woman with shouts of "Allahu Akbar!" at the cemetery of the Santa Maria Catholic Church in Trabzon, when her husband later came to mourn, he found her grave desecrated. The wooden cross had been broken off and burned. The priest of the church where the woman had been a member, Father Andrea Santoro, was himself murdered in 2006 when a 16-year-old shouting "Allahu Akbar" shot him in the back of the head while he was kneeling in prayer.
2019: "A local municipality in Trabzon (northern Turkey) has ruled that architectural elements of houses which resemble crosses will not be tolerated." The report continues:
"This decision follows an investigation which opened last December following complaints that the balconies of certain villas in the village resembled crosses. Photos show that houses had two levels and a cross shape divided the houses into four quadrants. Multiple complaints from primarily local Arab families led the houses to be destroyed on the basis of their architecture incorporating the cross.... [T]he situation is not unusual. In other locations, such as Gaziantep and Ankara, buildings have been renovated so that the cross shaped architecture is no longer visible."
2020: A man climbed the fence of a historic Armenian church in Istanbul, yanked off its metal cross and hurled it to the ground, as captured on surveillance footage. The man, who looks more like a Westernized "hipster" than a dedicated Islamist, walks up to and stares at the cross for a while — he even looks at and strikes a pose for the security camera — before attacking the crucifix.
2020: In Edirne (originally Adrianople, a conquered Greek city), a 50-foot high cross erected at neighboring Greece's Holy Monastery of Agia Skepi prompted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to complain to German Chancellor Angela Merkel that it was visible.
2019: Before and during a Europa League soccer match against a German team from Mönchengladbach, Istanbul police removed the soccer fans' flags and banners because they had the symbol of a cross, part of the German team's logo (a coat of arms with a black cross on a yellow background). The German team and its fans also reported general harassment from the Muslim authorities for carrying their customary Christian symbols during their stay in Turkey.
Other Muslim Nations Around the World
Burkina Faso 2019: Muslim terrorists identified and killed Christians wearing crucifixes. According to the report:
"unidentified armed individuals entered the village of Bani (about six miles from the town of Bourzanga), looking for Christians... [T]he militants told everyone to lie down and proceeded to look for Christians by asking for first names or looking for anyone wearing Christian insignia (like crosses). The deadly search yielded four men.... They were all wearing crosses.... [W]hen they saw crosses, the assailants singled them out. All four were taken aside and executed."
Maldives 2010: Authorities had to rescue a female Christian teacher after Muslim "parents threatened to tie and drag her off of the island" for "preaching Christianity." Her actual crime was to draw a compass — which was mistakenly taken for a cross — as part of a geography lesson in class.
2021: Sudan: After a ninth church was torched in Sudan, "They targeted the church," said the Rev. Kuwa Shamal of the Sudanese Church of Christ, "because they do not want to see any sign of the cross in the area."
2020: Syria: To cries of "Allahu Akbar," a cross was ripped down from a Greek Orthodox church in a region "controlled by U.S.-backed militants."
2020: Armenia: A soldier — it is unclear if he was an Azeri or a jihadi mercenary from Syria or Iraq — was videotaped triumphantly shouting "Allahu Akbar!" while standing on an Armenian church chapel where the cross had been broken off.
2021: Ten Muslim schoolchildren between the ages of 5 and 12 desecrated a Christian cemetery by breaking the crosses off a dozen gravestones. The mayor of Solo laid the blame on the Islamic madrasa the children attend, and its teachers, "because they are teaching intolerance to their students."
2019: Several crosses in the Bethesda Christian cemetery were vandalized, broken and burned, to the point that the cemetery keeper who had worked there for ten years, said he had "never seen such vandalism."
2018: Local Muslims sawed off the top of a cross from a deceased Christian's tomb and prevented mourners from meeting and saying prayers in the deceased man's home.
2014: A Christian cemetery was desecrated during the night by unknown persons in the Muslim-majority nation. Several crosses were destroyed, some by the use of "a heavy tool to do the damage."
2015: A Muslim mob rioted against a small Protestant church apparently because of the visible cross atop the building of worship. The cross was removed.
As Islam's presence continues to grow in the West, particularly Europe, it should come as no surprise that attacks on crosses and related Christian symbols (3,000 in 2019) are also on the rise. Although the identity of the vandals is often unknown or intentionally omitted, European nations that have large Muslim migrant populations — especially France and Germany, which have the largest — have been experiencing a disproportionate rise in this form of anti-Christian violence.
2019: While cursing his "pig god," Muslim migrants beat and repeatedly stabbed a homeless man in Berlin for displaying a Christian symbol, believed to be a cross. According to the report,
"Arabic-speaking youths were caught on video assaulting and stabbing a homeless Berlin man is speculated in the German press to be an anti-Christian motivated attack [sic].... After physically attacking the victim, one of the men then drew a knife and stabbed him several times, leaving him with severe injuries to the buttocks, thigh, and arm, according to investigators."
The Arabic words they yelled were translated as "We f*ck your sister, we'll finish you!" and "we f *ck your pig-God!" The report adds that this "incident is not the first in which a migrant-background Christian has been physically attacked by Arabic-speaking young men for displaying Christian symbols in public in the German capital. Recently, a 39-year-old had been beaten for wearing a necklace with a cross on it."
2014: A Muslim man who checked himself into a hospital for treatment went into a sudden frenzy because there were "too many crosses on the wall." He became physically aggressive and called the nurse a "fascist b*tch."
2014: After Muslims were granted their own section at a cemetery, and allowed to conduct distinctly Islamic ceremonies, they began to demand that Christian symbols and crosses in the cemetery were offensive and that they should be removed or at least covered up during Islamic funerals.
2016: Following the arrival of another million Muslim migrants in Germany, a local newspaper in the town of Dülmen said "not a day goes by" without attacks on crosses and other Christian symbols.
2016: Before Christmas, in the North Rhine-Westphalia region, where more than a million Muslims reside, some 50 public statues of Jesus and other Christian figures were beheaded and crucifixes broken.
2017: In the Alps and in Bavaria alone, countless crosses on some 200 churches were attacked and broken: "Police are currently dealing with church desecrations again and again... The perpetrators are often youthful rioters with a migration background."
2014: An enraged Muslim man physically twisted a massive bronze cross with his bare hands while committing major acts of vandalism in two churches; he also overturned and broke two altars, destroyed Christian statues, tore down a tabernacle, smashed in a sacristy door, and broke some stained-glass windows.
2015: Christian crosses and gravestones in a cemetery were damaged and desecrated by a Muslim man. After being apprehended, he was described as follows: "The man repeats Muslim prayers over and over, he drools and cannot be communicated with: his condition has been declared incompatible with preliminary detention." He was hospitalized as "mentally unbalanced."
2019: More "unknown vandals" desecrated and smashed crosses and statues at Saint-Alain Cathedral in Lavaur, and mangled the arms of a crucified Christ in a mocking manner.
2020: Unknown persons cut down an iconic iron cross that had stood on the summit of Pic Saint-Loup since 1911 and was visible for miles.
2019: A Muslim migrant in Rome stabbed a Christian man in the throat for wearing a crucifix around his neck. The assailant, a 37-year-old Moroccan, was accused of attempted homicide; "religious hate" was cited as an "aggravating factor" in the crime.
2015: A Muslim schoolboy of African origin beat a 12-year-old Italian girl at a school evidently because she was wearing a crucifix around her neck. The boy "punched the girl violently in the back at the entrance to a middle school." He later confessed that "he attacked the girl because she was wearing a crucifix, police sources said." The boy, who had only started to attend the school approximately three weeks earlier, began to bully the Christian girl — "insulting her and picking on her in other ways all because she was wearing the crucifix" — before he finally assaulted her.
2016: A Muslim migrant invaded an old church in Venice and attacked its large, 300-year-old cross, breaking off one of its arms, while shouting, "All that is in a church is false!"
2015: After a crucifix was destroyed in close proximity to a populated mosque, Cinisello Balsamo's mayor alluded to the identity of the culprit(s) by saying: "Before we put a show of unity with Muslims, let's have them begin by respecting our civilization and our culture."
While Germany and France have the lion's share of such attacks (because they have the lion's share of Europe's Muslims), Muslim attacks on or provoked by the cross occur all throughout Europe, and have even reached the U.S. too:
Sweden 2020: An 11-year-old Swedish boy was called a "pig bastard" and beaten by a Muslim migrant gang for wearing a cross. The incident occurred in Malmö, which has a large Muslim population and has also been called the "rape capital" of Sweden.
USA 2021: Ali Alaheri, a 29-year-old Muslim man, knocked down and destroyed a large crucifix that had stood for eleven years outside of St. Athanasius Church in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, N.Y. "It was a terrible morning," reflected Monsignor David Cassato. "It was probably the saddest day in my life, to see this desecration of a cross of Jesus."
Notably, Western nations have regrettably encouraged this behavior through appeasement, perhaps either not to be called racists or not to discourage votes. In Italy, for example, days before the Muslim mentioned above stabbed a Christian in the throat for wearing a crucifix, a report noted that "crosses on graves in an Italian cemetery in Pieve di Cento have been covered with black cloth so as not to offend those who may come from another religion," a seeming reference to Muslims, some of whom, as shown, desecrate Christian graves or at least demand that Western authorities cover up their crosses.
Most recently, in United Kingdom, a 61-year-old Christian woman who escaped her Nigerian homeland to Britain in 1988 in order to worship freely was pressured and finally "bullied" out of her London job as a nurse since 2002, for refusing to remove her small cross necklace. In an interview on October 8, 2021, she said:
"This has always been an attack on my faith. My cross has been with me for 40 years. It is part of me, and my faith, and it has never caused anyone any harm.... At this hospital there are members of staff who go to a mosque four times a day and no one says anything to them. Hindus wear red bracelets on their wrists and female Muslims wear hijabs in theatre. Yet my small cross around my neck was deemed so dangerous that I was no longer allowed to do my job."
Western institutions that stand their ground find they are liable to be sued, as Muslim students at the Catholic University of America, in Washington, D.C., were. They sued the university, it appears, because it failed to provide them with a special place to pray without seeing a cross. In the words of their lawyer, they were unable to "pray without having to stare up and be looked down upon by a cross of Jesus.... They do have to pray five times a day and to be sitting there trying to do Muslim prayers with a big cross looking down ... is not very conductive to their religion."
Raymond Ibrahim, author of Crucified Again and Sword and Scimitar, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute, a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, and a Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.