As Part Of Media Campaign Against Rwandan Christians, Pro-ISIS Outlet Justifies Targeting Christian Noncombatants And Churches

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August 26, 2021

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On August 11, 2021, pro-Islamic State (ISIS) media groups launched what appears to be a coordinated media campaign against Rwanda, following the August 8 capture of the Islamic State Central Africa Province (ISCAP) stronghold of Mocímboa da Praia in northeastern Mozambique by joint Mozambican and Rwandan forces. The ongoing campaign by multiple pro-ISIS media groups has included posters, videos, audio recordings, and social media posts denouncing Rwanda as an enemy of Islam, accusing Christians in Central Africa of persecuting converts to Islam, and threatening to slaughter Rwandan "Crusader" soldiers.[1]

This media campaign allows ISIS supporters to reshape the narrative to focus on the alleged atrocities perpetrated by Central African Christians, particularly in Rwanda, rather than on ISIS's military loss.

On August 23, the pro-ISIS Al-'Adiyat Foundation released a 5-minute audio message in French titled "Destruction of Churches," which was accompanied by the French-language hashtag #Crimes_of_Rwandan_Christians. On August 25, Al-'Adiyat released a 4-minute audio message in Arabic titled "They are like Them: The Ruling concerning [Shedding] the Blood of Noncombatant Christians."[2]

The first audio message, set to a French-language ISIS nasheed (Islamic song), is narrated in French spoken with an African accent. The message offers religious justification to the destruction of churches, supported by quotes from Islamic scholars, mostly from the 12th -century scholar Ibn Taymiyyah, who is considered an important authority by today's Salafi-jihadis. The narrator justifies the demolition of churches and seizure of church property, asserting that Christians are unbelievers, and their churches are places of idol worship, rather than worship of Allah. He argues that in lands conquered by Muslims, churches have no protection, unless Muslims broker a temporary pact with local Christians, or have granted them dhimmi status (protected status granted to non-Muslims living under Islamic rule), based on the Christians' paying jizyah (poll tax paid by non-Muslims) to Muslim authorities. The narrator then claims that no such pact exists today, and that any past agreement was violated by Christians long ago. The narrator concludes: "At this time, it is permissible for Muslims to destroy and eradicate [churches]. Their sanctity has been lost, because without a pact there can be no sanctity."

The above banner accompanied the French-language audio message justifying the destruction of churches; the image shows an ISIS fighter removing a cross from a church in Iraq in 2015.[3]

The second audio message states that Muslims are permitted to kill Christian men who take up arms against Muslims or who provide combatants with "advice or counsel," even if they do not bear arms themselves.  Noncombatants, such as women, children, and elderly people, may be enslaved but should not be killed; however, if they engage in combat or advise fighters, even women and children may be killed. The message further clarifies that the prohibition against killing Christian women and children applies only if they can be distinguished from combatants, but that they may be targeted by "bombarding with artillery or rockets, or detonating explosive belts or explosive-rigged vehicles" in areas where their fighters are present, even if noncombatants are likely to be killed as a result. The message bases the above rulings on statements in hadith and actions attributed to the Prophet Muhammad and his Companions.

ISIS has long justified attacks targeting Christians, including priests, and the destruction of their churches, and has asserted that the statements found in Islamic jurisprudence forbidding the targeting of priests and churches apply only when Christians pay jizyah to the Islamic ruler and gain protection.[4] ISIS fighters have actively destroyed places of Christian worship, such as the Mar Elian Monastery in Al-Qaryatayn, Syria.[5] Recently, ISIS has been especially focused on targeting Christians in African countries such as Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) and Islamic State Central Africa Province (ISCAP) have killed dozens of Christian civilians and torched several churches.[6]

 

[2] Telegram.me, August 23-25, 2021.

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