Christianity

Christian Terror Group in Central African Republic offers Muslims ‘convert or die’ ultimatum

MDI Comment: This article below highlights the plight of the Muslims in the Central African Republic, who suffer atrocities from mass scale of ethnic cleansing by self-identified Christian militias. Although the ‘Anti-Balaka’ terror group is a combination of Animist and Christian members, Christians constitute the majority and pseudo-Christian slogans predominate the rhetoric of the group’s spokesmen.

The purpose of drawing attention to this article is not to show that Christianity, or an interpretation of Christianity, has led to the Anti-Balaka campaign of genocide and violence. Rather, the article shows how the horrible actions of terrorism and violence can arise in people of any faith (and none). And when it does arise, the perpetrators unfortunately always justify it by (false) appeals to their local culture and values (whether it’s nationalism, Christianity, Islam, Communism or Secular Liberalism) irrespective of what those values or beliefs actually say. In essence, a terror group that arises from a Christian locality will profess Christianity, and a terror group that arises from an Atheist/Secular locality will profess nationalism, Communism or some other secular set of beliefs.

It is a shame that when anti-balaka ‘Christians’ commit acts of terrorism, and invoke the Bible and demand people ‘convert or die’, no Western politician or pundits will claim that there is an ‘ideology behind this terrorism’. However, when it comes to criminal elements like ISIS, who commit similar atrocities as their ‘Christian’ counterparts in CAR, Islam (or an ‘interpretation’ of Islam) is blamed. Furthermore, Terrorists in the Muslim world will receive vastly more coverage in the Western media than Christian/Secular ones. This selective and disproportionate reporting of world events skews people’s understanding of human phenomena, and leads them to demonise Muslims for a criminal problem that afflicts all people in the world.

Pastor Koudougeret, a Baptist priest in Bangui said of the conflict in CAR: ‘The ultimate cause of our instability is not religious but political, because whoever comes to power makes his entourage commit abuses to stay in power’. 

The Guardian Newspaper reported that the conflict is related to foreign interference funding competing groups in order to access CAR’s lucrative timber and diamonds.

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Convert or die: Ethnic cleansing in CAR

Widely ignored by the media, anti-Balaka is forcing CAR Muslims to worship privately or convert at gunpoint.

A man holds a knife to his throat claiming that he is looking for Muslims to cut off their heads in the 5th district of Bangui on February 9, 2014. According to witnesses, at least ten people have been killed since the night before in central Bangui, and many buildings burned, after violence broke out near the district hall of Bangui's 5th district. Large-scale looting was also taking place in the same neighbourhood in the morning of February 9 despite the deployment of French troops and Central African gendarmes. The International Criminal Court in the Hague said on February 7 it had opened an initial probe into war crimes in the Central African Republic. AFP PHOTO/ ISSOUF SANOGOISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images

A man holds a knife to his throat claiming that he is looking for Muslims to cut off their heads in the 5th district of Bangui on February 9, 2014. According to witnesses, at least ten people have been killed since the night before in central Bangui, and many buildings burned, after violence broke out near the district hall of Bangui’s 5th district. Large-scale looting was also taking place in the same neighbourhood in the morning of February 9 despite the deployment of French troops and Central African gendarmes. The International Criminal Court in the Hague said on February 7 it had opened an initial probe into war crimes in the Central African Republic. AFP PHOTO/ ISSOUF AFP/Getty Images

Khaled A Beydoun

Khaled A Beydoun is an assistant professor of law at the Barry University Dwayne O Andreas School of Law.

Muslims are only newsworthy when behind the gun, not in front of it.

Modern journalism continually reaffirms this baseline with regards to domestic crises and, perhaps even more so, international human rights calamities.

The systematic targeting of Muslims in the Central African Republic (CAR), a nation ravaged by strife since March of 2013, has devolved into massive scale ethnic cleansing.

However, few outside of the African nation and beyond the human rights community are even minimally aware of this humanitarian crisis.

In the past several weeks, armed militias have roved through the western part of the nation, intimidating and brutalising Muslims.

Anti-Balaka, a fundamentalist group comprised of animists and Christians, is forcing Muslims to worship in private, remove religious garb, and convert at gunpoint.

Brandishing religious fervour

While the term fundamentalism seems reserved exclusively for Muslim actors, Christian and animist militias in CAR have brandished religious fervour in one hand, and endless rounds of ammunition in the other to terrorise the nation’s 750,000 Muslims – which make up 15 percent of the nation’s population.

Anti-Balaka’s aim is as plain as it is gruesome: rid the nation of its Muslim population. At any cost.

While the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) remains in the headlines and at the tip of everyone’s tongue, the mere mention of anti-Muslim terrorism in CAR – which has claimed at least 6,000 lives, pushed 30,000 Muslims to live in UN protected enclaves, and left scores of mosques destroyed – remains a largely unknown menace.

This would not be the case if Muslims were the villains of the human rights atrocities in CAR, instead of victims.

Mainstream media outlets have long neglected the humanitarian plight of black victims, particularly on the African continent.

This is most vividly highlighted by the genocides in Rwanda and Burundi in the 1990s, which was brought to the attention of the masses too late, and only garnered international sympathy a decade later with the popular film, Hotel Rwanda.

Black victimhood 

In recent memory, stories of black victimhood that have been actively covered by the mainstream media have centred upon either white heroes (the fleeting Joseph Kony craze), or Muslim villains (Boko Haram’s kidnapping of schoolchildren in Nigeria).

Anti-Balaka militants intensified their killing and forced-conversion spree during this past Ramadan, which proved dangerous, and even fatal, for CAR Muslims fasting, praying, and openly observing the holy month.

Or both, as was the case in Sudan, which framed American celebrities and organisations as interveners, saving “black Christians in the south” from “Arab Muslims in the north”.

Similarly, the media is quick to gravitate towards Muslim villains, but it is consistently slow – or wholly absent – when the victims are Muslim.

This is duly illustrated by ISIL’s ubiquity in global headlines, coupled with the failure to illustrate the fact that its greatest victims – by a far stretch – are Muslims.

Unfortunately, the victims in CAR are both black and Muslim, and therefore, occupy an extremely vulnerable intersection where both dimensions of their identity are linked to villainy instead of victimhood.

Stuck between an anti-black animus and Islamophobia that underlies and frequently drives media coverage, the unseen and unheard plight of CAR Muslims results from believing black Muslim bodies as incapable of victimhood.

Gathering global consciousness

Media coverage, particularly within the most prominent outlets, means far more than simply highlighting and sharing a story.

For an international crisis, like the events in CAR, coverage means generating global consciousness that would spur political mobilisation, fundraising, and pressure on governments to act.

This is particularly true with the emergence of social media, which, when discursively viewed as being distinct and separate from traditional media, is typically energised by headlines featured in the latter.

Media outlets may fashion themselves as objective bystanders, but they are functionally key actors in unfolding crises.


RELATED: Muslims being ‘erased’ from Central African Republic


Robust and active media intervention can check the actions of culprits and prompt humanitarian rescue, while neglect facilitates, and indeed emboldens, the aims of terrorists. The CAR case vividly illustrates the latter.

Anti-Balaka forces have benefited immensely from the lack of coverage. Their numbers have grown, and their violence is ever increasing in severity.

In addition to compelling Muslims to convert and decimating mosques, reports about Muslims paying anti-Balaka militants large sums of money to spare their lives are widespread.

Media attention saves lives

Anti-Balaka militants intensified their killing and forced-conversion spree during this past Ramadan, which proved dangerous, and even fatal, for CAR Muslims fasting, praying, and openly observing the holy month.

Cameras and reporters flocked to Rwanda when it was far too late. When they arrived, the genocide had claimed virtually all of its targets.

Since then, scores of scholars, human rights advocates, statesmen and stateswomen have argued that timely media attention could have created the pressure needed to spur more comprehensive humanitarian intervention.

Thousands upon thousands of lives, and future generations of Tutsis, could have been saved.

As highlighted in CAR, lessons from Rwanda have not been heeded, exposing its diminishing and imperilled Muslim population to unspeakable violence and arming its anti-Muslim militias with the green light to continue the killing spree.

But since Muslims are in front of the gun instead of brandishing it, this story will continue to be sidelined from the headlines.

Khaled A Beydoun is an assistant professor of law at the Barry University Dwayne O Andreas School of Law. 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Source: Al Jazeera

Categories: Christianity, Terrorism

8 replies »

  1. The murder of Muslims in CAR is certainly an atrocity but were you following this story and commenting and posting when the muslims were in power, burning churches and murdering Christians? Does this issue matter to you both ways or only one way?

    • U don’t know what you are saying, when did dey burn churches n murder christians?? U dnt knw anything abt Central africa. U ar hia busy talking nonsense.. When does dat happnd?? Which year??

  2. IF (and it is a very big “if”) some group calling itself Christian offers a “convert-or-die” ultimatum, they do it IN SPITE OF the teachings of their religion and the example of their religion’s founder.

    WHEN (and it is a very well-documented inevitability) Muslims offer a “convert-or-die” ultimatum, they do it BECAUSE OF the teachings of their religion and the example of their religion’s founder.

    The Quran and the Hadith say to do this. The New Testament does not. Muhammed ACTUALLY DID IT. Jesus Christ DID NOT.

  3. The same old PC clap-trap. BTW, where is this law school located, in the CAR? Also, what religion is the author of this piece? I believe that as recently as several months ago, I read of MUSLIM ATROCITIES taking place in that country. The followers of Muhammad should consider themselves lucky that the Christians didn’t just execute all of them, after gaining the advantage over them, if they did in fact commit atrocities against the Christians.

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