On 31 October 2010 elements claiming being members or affiliated with the “Islamic State of Iraq” (ISI) an al-Qaeda wing killed 52 people in total in a Church in Baghdad. The hostage crisis quickly turned bloody and via the Arabic jihadist forums ISI published a number of statements and demands. The attack was supposedly triggered by an event in Egypt, whereas two women of the Egyptian Christian minority, the Copts, had converted to Islam and had been subsequently detained by the Copts refuting their conversion. AQ propaganda has gone wild about this calling out for ‘justice’ while attempting to incite violence against Christians in general but against the Copts in Egypt particularly. While AQ global with its localized offshoots usually emphasizes on a rhetoric of (self-) defense as well as the preservation / restoration of honor, dignity and sacrosanct values (including women as well as the protection of cultural Islamic values), the attack on the Christians in Iraq can be understood in a similar logic: Attacking alleged affiliates of the Copts in Egypt who are as much waging a war against Islam as foreign occupants and who are, like the Shiites or other minorities, assumed being part of a conspiracy with local rulers against Sunni Muslims. In AQ’s reasoning, two conflicting programs are at work: “The program of truth” versus “program of falsehood”. In this universal war, the reasoning is simply and complex at the same time as the individual Mujahid is fighting for “truth” and “piety” whereas anyone and anything outside of his perception are termed and defined as being part of a highly detailed conspiracy against Islam. The revenge attack on the Church Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad and the followed bloodshed is being exploited on the forums by the participants and hobby propagandists with the help of Photoshop who justify the attack accordingly to the statements and memoranda released by ISI – who adhere to the ideological elements and provide their (partially graphical) output online.
The attack occurred, according to the Long War Journal by “Al Qaeda fighters armed with suicide vests, assault rifles, and hand grenades, and wearing uniforms of a local security company, attacked the nearby stock exchange, wounding two security guards. The attack on the exchange appeared to be a feint designed to lure security forces to the area while a squad estimated at between five to eight terrorists stormed the Our Lady of Deliverance church and took 120 Christians hostage, according to the Associated Press.” AP reported later that as many as 58 had been killed in the attack.
The claim, that Arab Christians in the region are actively contributing to the alleged war on Islam has also been stated by notorious Anwar al-Awlaqi, who, in his recent filmed speech, told the story of a women and her two sons from Australia. Shyloh Giddins converted to Islam and “then heard that Yemen is the land of the al-Ansar” where she migrated to. Being arrested on demands of the Australian government with the help of US intelligence by the Yemeni government, so the story goes by al-Awlaqi, she questioned the Yemeni interrogators why they are punishing her as they should be the al-Ansar (the supporters of Islam). The interrogators simply replied – and this is a word game not uncommon for Arabic jihadist rhetoric – that “we are Christians (nasara) and not ansar“. The ISI attack on the Christians in Iraq is a more vicious and massive attack on those, who for several years now had been the rhetorical enemy while AQ is trying to exploit and gain on all fronts available. History tells us, that having an interior enemy, a sworn traitor, is always beneficial for those who transgress humanity by all means available.
With the hostages at the church, ISI first demanded the release of Camelia Shahada, one of the converted women in Egypt who is sought being held by her husband in a church against her will, and gave out “a ultimatum to Shenouda of 48 hours or war against the Christians in the region will be declared.” ISI states that her release as well as “the rest of the detained Muslimas” is obligatory, otherwise “total war will be declared”. Christians and churches at the “hand of Shenouda” worldwide would be a target while “we say to the Vatican as they have gathered the Christians in the Middle East of various torrents to support and guide them to pressure them in order to release our sisters.” Shenouda will be held accountable for “the destruction of all regional Christians”. This statement was accompanied by an audio message of the “Self-inoculation Brigades” who demanded the release of Camelia Shahada (or: Shahata) and Wafaa Costantine. The English translation can be obtained here: ISI
3 November 2010
“The War Ministry of ISI” then released another statement declaring the “end of the ultimatum while the Christian church in Egypt did not concede and did not declare the state of our imprisoned sisters and their release. We did not hear anything.” Therefore, ISI “declares all centers, institutions and councils of the Christians as a legitimate target for the Mujahideen.” The Christians, including the Vatican, are subsequently defined as mushrikeen (see footnote 5 here), as those, who ‘partner’ or associating elements (Saints, Holy Spirits, material things) with God, thus distorting the fundamental monotheistic claim. Parallel to their demand, ISI claims that “five heroes of Islam, who responded to the mobilizing call of the amir al-mu’mineen and fulfilled their duty for their sisters in religion” conducting operations in the Kurdish areas of Iraq. The follow-up statement, although the Church operation ended in bloodshed on 31 October 2010, intends to extend the reach of AQ / ISI as the ‘guardian’ of Muslims and – most importantly – Muslimas.
Back to the forums
A few examples, not mentioning a recent video lashing out against the Christians (see here: MEMRI), taken from the forums, whereas the flock of jihadist sympathizers had gone wild about the hostage taking in Iraq and the claim to conduct this as part of a jihad sought to liberate and safeguard Muslims from both worldly enemies as much as universal enemies at war with God and Islam: