Al-Qaeda Supporters, Other Jihadis Call For Killing U.S.-Based Egyptian-Born Priest Over Anti-Islam Remarks

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November 15, 2021

The following report is now a complimentary offering from MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM). For JTTM subscription information, click here. 

Over the past two days, Muslim social media users condemned what they deemed to be "defamatory" remarks against the Prophet Muhammad made by Zakaria Botros, a Coptic Christian priest who has been an outspoken critic of Islam for years. In a video circulated online, taken from episode 518 of the Egyptian-born priest's program "Knowing the Truth,"[1] Botros criticized the Prophet and stated that he was "drunk" when he wrote the Quran.


Image of Father Zakaria Botros taken from the circulated video

Shortly after the video spread, the Arabic hashtags "Anything But Allah's Messenger" and "Punish Zakaria Botros," began trending in Egypt and several other Arab countries.

It is worth mentioning that such remarks are not new, since Botros, like some other Christian preachers residing in the West, has been challenging the Islamic faith since he left Egypt. Botros, who has been described[2] as "Islam's public enemy no. 1," first appeared in 2003 on a Christian satellite channel called Al-Hayat (Life) TV, and now broadcasts his programs on Al-Fady (The Redeemer) TV, a channel he established himself in 2011.

According to Botros, his mission is to convert Muslims to Christianity – a goal that makes him a controversial figure. In his programs, Botros critically examines Islam, the Quran, hadith (i.e. sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad), and Islamic jurisprudence. He has also challenged both medieval and contemporary Islamic texts, arguing against what he described as inconsistencies and contradictions, claiming these expose Islam as a false religion.

Reacting to the outcry among Muslims, the Egyptian Coptic Church released a statement[3] saying that "former priest" Zakaria Botros is no longer affiliated with the Coptic Orthodox Church, and has not been for over 18 years. The statement rejected what it called Botros' "methods of abuse and defamation because they are not compatible with the true Christian spirit," adding that the Church maintains "love and full respect for all Muslim brothers and sisters."


The statement of the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church

It is not clear who is behind the publication or recirculation of the clip, which some believe was first published 10 years ago. Responding to the clip, many Egyptians demanded that Botros to be prosecuted for contempt of religion,  amid warnings from Egyptian TV pundits against inflammatory agendas which allegedly aim to stir up tensions between Muslims and Christians in the country.

Following are online reactions from jihadis to the alleged video:

Jihadis Call For Killing Zakaria Botros, Beheading 'Leaders Of Unbelief'

On November 13, the International Organization To Support the Prophet of Islam, a Telegram channel which claims that it is dedicated to the fight to criminalize insulting the Prophet "all over the world" both legally and in in the public's opinion,[4] published a post threatening the "criminal" Zakaria Botros and calling for him to be punished for insulting the Prophet. The organization also urged its followers to spread the word using the following Arabic hashtags: #Punish Zakaria Botros, #Punish Zakaria Botros For Insulting Allah's Prophet, and #Anything But Allah's Messenger.


Post urging Muslims to use Arabic hashtags criticizing Botros

Syrian jihadi Ibrahim Abu Ta'eb shared the above post on November 14, adding the threat: "Kill Zakaria Botros."[5]


Post by Syrian jihadi Ibrahim Abu Ta'ib

Similarly, the Idlib-based Egyptian-born jihadi cleric Talhah Al-Musayyar, aka. Abu Shu'ayb Al-Masri, called for punishing those who insult Islam. He wrote: "The ongoing harming of several people who harm Islam turns them into a lesson and an example that deters every ignoble criminal from defaming the great Islam."[6]

Calling for the killing of Botros and of others who insult Islam, Al-Masri said: "Oh lions of Islam, behead the leaders of unbelief so that they cease [their insults]." He justified his call by citing Quran 9:12: "And if they break their oaths after their treaty and defame your religion, then fight the leaders of disbelief, for indeed, there are no oaths [sacred] to them; [fight them that] they might cease."


Al-Masri's post

Canada-Based Pro-Al-Qaeda Ideologue Calls For The Killing Of Saudi Academic Over 2012 Tweet

In the context of recent calls to punish those who insult the Prophet, a pro-Al-Qaeda cleric residing in the West called for punishing Muslim critics as well. In reaction to a 2012 tweet by Saudi author and academic Turki Al-Hamad, in which he wrote that just as the Prophet Muhammad came to "correct the creed" of the Prophet Abraham, others must now correct the creed of Muhammad, a Canada-based Egyptian-born pro-Al-Qaeda ideologue, Tariq Abdelhaleem, called for targeting those who insult the Prophet, like Al-Hamad and his ilk, writing: "Who will punish this mangy dog and relieve the world of his breath?!"[7]


Tariq Abd Al-Halim's post

Inciting Against "Malicious" Priest, Pro-Al-Qaeda Channels Remind Muslims Of AQAP's Call To Kill Those Who Mock Allah's Messenger Without Consulting Anyone

On November 13, Nahdat 'Ummah ("The Renaissance Of A Nation"), a pro-Al-Qaeda Telegram channel, posted two short clips, apparently originally published on TikTok,[8] featuring an anonymous narrator reciting a poem strongly criticizing Botros for allegedly abusing the Prophet Muhammad. In the first clip, an image of Botros is shown against a backdrop of molten lava, with the words: "This malicious person insults Allah's Messenger." The second clip featured a crossed-out image of Botros, as a narrator recites Quran 33:57: "Indeed, those who abuse Allah and His Messenger – Allah has cursed them in this world and the Hereafter and prepared for them a humiliating punishment."


Posts featuring TikTok clips calling the punishment of Botros

In a subsequent post, the same channel shared[9] a poster, originally designed by Al-Qaeda supporter 'Abd Al-Rahman, citing an excerpt from an audio recording by Ibrahim bin Sulayman Al-Rubaysh, a slain jihadi cleric from the Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), titled, "Allah Will Be Sufficient For You against Them" [Quran 2:137]. In the excerpt, Al-Rubaysh urged Muslims to kill anyone who mocks the Prophet: "Oh Muslim, lover of the Messenger [...] move forward with Allah's blessing, and do not consult any one about killing the one who mocks the Messenger." The channel added the hashtag #The Pig Zakaria Botros.

It is worth nothing that the recording of the AQAP cleric was produced in the context of an online campaign calling for the targeting of France and boycotting French products following the 2015 republication of the Charlie Hebdo satirical cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad.


Post citing slain AQAP cleric's call to kill anyone who mocks the Prophet

 

[1] Egyptindependent.com/egyptian-church-steps-into-row-over-controversial-priests-remarks/, November 14, 2021.

[2] Nbclosangeles.com/news/local/zakaria-botros-huntington-beach-innocence-muslims/1935616/, September 18, 2012.

[3] Twitter, November 13, 2021.

[4] Telegram, November 13, 2021.

[5] Telegram, November 14, 2021.

[6] Telegram, November 14, 2021.

[7] Telegram, November 14, 2021.

[8] Telegram, November 13, 2021.

[9] Telegram, November 14, 2021.

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