A Christian pastor was recently slaughtered in the Muslim-majority African nation of Tanzania. While butchering Christian minorities is becoming increasingly common in that part of the Muslim world, the context for this latest slaughter is somewhat different than the usual forms of Christian persecution under Islam -- such as using allegations of "blaspheming" the name of Muslim prophet Muhammad.
On February 11, Pastor Mathayo Kachili of the Tanzania Assemblies of God Church was beheaded by Muslims. According to the report, a spokesperson from the local police department
said conflicts had been boiling for quite a while now in the area where a section of what are believed to be Muslim leaders had demanded immediate closure of slaughterhouses owned by Christians. He said that a group of youths believed to be Muslims assaulted several Christians using sticks and machetes and attacked a slaughterhouse owner at Buseresere town. During the confrontations pastor Kachili was beheaded.
According to an article in Religious Liberty Monitoring , this latest slaying "has its source in a debate presently raging in Tanzania. Apparently it is a 'long-standing tradition' in Tanzania that Muslims have a monopoly on the meat industry. Recently however, Christians in Geita district, Mwanza region—on the southern shores of Lake Victoria—have entered the slaughtering trade, causing outrage amongst Muslims."
Tensions got to the point that the Minister of State in the President's Office responsible for social relations "categorically directed that the task of slaughtering animals for public consumption should be executed only by Muslims. He said that people of other faiths may slaughter animals if the meat is solely for family/private consumption—but certainly not for sale to, or consumption by, the general public."
But if they still insist on working in the trade, then they must, according to Karl Lyimo of the Citizen, be "ready, willing, able and glad to follow the Islamic rituals to the letter"—which is tantamount to saying Christians need to convert to Islam if they want to remain in the business.
The question is, does this conflict simply revolve around the Muslim desire never mistakenly to eat non-halal [not-religiously permitted] meat, or, as has been know to happen, are Muslims attacking and killing non-Muslims for being business competitors, while articulating their hostility in the garb of Islamic piety?
In Pakistan, for instance—which shares neither race, language nor culture with Tanzania—but shares only Islam, in March 2010, Rasheed Masih, described as a "devoted Christian," was butchered by Muslim men "with multiple axe blows for refusing to convert to Islam." Earlier, the "six men had threatened to kill 36-year-old Rasheed Masih unless he converted to Islam when they grew resentful of his potato business succeeding beyond their own." According to a pastor who knew Rasheed, "As the Christian family [of Rasheed] strengthened in business and earned more, the Muslim men began to harbor business resentment, as Muslims are not used to seeing Christians more respected and richer than them." Eventually he was lured to one of their farmhouses, where he was slaughtered by repeated axe blows. The autopsy revealed 24 wounds.
Where does this idea that non-Muslim minorities must not be allowed to compete with Muslims—certainly not surpass them? In the famous Conditions of Omar (also known as the Pact of Omar), for example, subjugated Christians had to agree, along with any number of debilitations and humiliations, to "not build houses overtopping the houses of the Muslims," as taller houses might imply a higher status. In the Medieval era, Islamic heavyweights such as Ibn Taymiyya—still revered among many Muslims, especially Salafis—issued fatwa after fatwa decreeing that non-Muslims, Christians chief among them, be dismissed from their positions. Centuries earlier, Caliph Harun al-Rashid—otherwise portrayed in the West as a "fun-loving" caliph—also fired Christians from their positions of employment to impoverish them, as well as destroying many churches.
According to the Islamic worldview, subdued "dhimmi" [second-class, "tolerated"] Christians cannot be better-off than Muslims. If they are—despite all the obstacles and debilitations set forth by Islamic law to see that they are not—then, as we are increasingly seeing, many Muslims may be taking things into their own hands.
Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.