Diabolical: Islam’s Past and Present Attacks on European Churches

In this Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018, photo soldiers patrol at the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, France. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

As explained in this recent article, all around Western Europe, churches are under attack. Along with arson attempts, typically—and rather with diabolical intent—altars are desecrated, crucifixes broken, statues mocked and/or beheaded, and the churches set aflame.

Sometimes fecal matter is smeared on the churches. Last February in France, for instance, vandals plundered and used human excrement to draw a cross on the Notre-Dame des Enfants Church in Nimes; consecrated bread was found thrown outside among garbage. One week later, vandals desecrated and smashed crosses and statues at Saint-Alain Cathedral in Lavaur; they mangled the arms of a crucified Christ in a mocking manner and an altar cloth was burned.

While European authorities and media usually obfuscate over the identity of the desecrators, demographics offer a clue: true to “Islam’s Rule of Numbers,” Western European nations that have large Muslim migrant populations tend to witness the most attacks.

Thus in France, which has one of if not the largest Muslim populations in Western Europe, two churches are attacked every day. The same situation prevails in Germany, which also has an immense Muslim population. In Bavaria and the Alps alone, some 200 churches have been attacked and many crosses broken: “Police are currently dealing with church desecrations again and again,” reads one November 2017 report, before it says, “The perpetrators are often youthful rioters with a migration background.”

Before Christmas 2016, in the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany—where more than a million Muslims reside—some 50 public Christian statues (including of Jesus) were beheaded and crucifixes broken. In 2015, following the arrival of another million Muslim migrants to Dülmen, a local newspaper said “not a day goes by” without attacks on Christian statues.

Numerical deductions aside, the fact is, the desecration of churches has for centuries been a Muslim trademark—a sort of “Islam was here.” As documented in my recent book, Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West, whenever Muslims invaded Christian nations, untold thousands of churches were ritually desecrated and despoiled, their crosses and other Christian symbols systematically broken. Think what ISIS does but on an exponential level—and not for a handful of years but for over a millennium.

The patterns between past and present attacks are virtually identical. Reminiscent of the recent drawing of a cross in fecal matter on a French church, in 1147 in Portugal, Muslims displayed “with much derision the symbol of the cross. They spat upon it and wiped the feces from their posteriors with it.” Decades earlier in Jerusalem, Muslims “spat on them [crucifixes] and did not even refrain from urinating on them in the sight of all.” Even that 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” (all quotes from primary sources documented in Sword and Scimitar, pp. 171, 145, 162).

From the start, the intentional, widespread, and systematic targeting of churches and other Christian symbols prompted some to see Muslim invaders as motivated by a diabolical animus. For Anastasius of Sinai (630–701), the heroes of the seventh-century Arab conquests of the then Christian-majority Middle East were “perhaps even worse than the demons.” After all, “the demons are frequently much afraid of the mysteries of Christ, I mean his holy body [the Eucharist], the cross… and many other things. But these demons of flesh trample all that under their feet, mock it, set fire to it, destroy it” (Sword and Scimitar, p. 27).

Interestingly, nowadays, whenever a church attacker is exposed as a migrant, authorities and media try to downplay the incident by saying he is suffering from mental health issues (modern-day parlance for what was once seen as demonization). Others still rely on the more antiquated interpretation. During the memorial service for Father Hamel—an 85-year-old priest slaughtered by “Allahu Akbar” shouting Muslims while holding mass in his own church in France—Archbishop Dominique Lebrun called on those “who are tormented by diabolical violence, you who are drawn to kill by a demonic, murderous madness, pray to God to free you from the devil’s grip.” Before his murderer carved his throat, Fr. Hamel himself had reportedly shouted, “Be gone, Satan!”

Considering the descriptions of some Muslim assailants, such “otherworldly” accusations are not farfetched. In France, April 2015, a Muslim man dressed in traditional Islamic garb damaged and desecrated more than 200 Christian gravestones and crosses in a cemetery (just as ISIS and other Muslim “radicals” are known to do in Libya, Iraq, Iran, and elsewhere). After he was apprehended, authorities said, “The man repeats Muslim prayers over and over, he drools and cannot be communicated with: his condition has been declared incompatible with preliminary detention.” Similarly, around Christmas 2016 in Italy, another Muslim migrant who said he “wanted to destroy Christian symbols” set a church nativity scene aflame. Police fought hard to restrain the man, who was described as suffering from a “visible psycho-physical crisis.”

In other words, not much has changed: past and present, Muslims—motivated by what has long been deemed a diabolical animus—attacked and desecrated churches, crosses, and other Christian symbols.

The only difference is that, whereas Europeans used to prevent them entry, and thus safeguarded their sacred sites, today they welcome them in with open arms.

Note: For a comprehensive and well-documented overview of what Muslims did to churches throughout history, see Ibrahim’s book, Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West