Award winning journalist and Canadian television broadcast host Michael Coren was set to interview Father Zakaria Boutros, a leading figure of the Egyptian Coptic Christian community. Father Boutros was a no-show leaving the interview suddenly cancelled.
Outspoken Father Boutros, a little known figure to most North Americans but a well known adversary to many of the Muslim faithful and the chapter and verse cleric circle in the Islamic world, now resides in exile in the United States. Twice being arrested in his homeland coupled with a recent $60 million bounty on his head issued by Saudi Arabia and Iran and with al-Qaeda intent on fulfilling the recent fatwa, authorities felt it too dangerous for the priest to travel to Canada for the Coren interview. Mr. Coren writes a thoughtful article in Canada’s National Post relating to the issue.
Named Islam’s public enemy #1 by Arabic newspaper al-Insan al-Jadid, Father Boutros refuses to be subjected to dhimmitude as a non-Muslim in clear defiance to the accordance of verse 9:29 of the Quar’an which reads:
“You shall fight back against those who do not believe in God, nor the Last Day, nor do they prohibit what God and His messenger have prohibited, nor do they abide by the religion of truth-among those who received the scripture-until they pay the due tax, willingly or unwillingly”.
Refusing to have his efforts thwarted by radicals to openly criticize Islam, he appears frequently on the Arabic channel al-Hayat via satellite to address controversial topics of theological interest such as censorship, women’s rights in Islam, religious conversion, the persecution of converts and the Islamic mandated dhimmitude status of minorities.
Egypt’s Coptic Christian community is the oldest and largest Christian community in the Middle East representing 10 to 20% of Egypt’s eighty million people. High levels of emigration rates have seen a decline in the number of Copts due to increasing levels of discrimination and acts of violence perpetrated against them by Islamist militants supported by an often complicit and uncaring Egyptian government.
Father Zakaria Boutros recognizes this intolerance all too well and insists that freedom of religion when practiced without intimidation and threat, can bring understanding, respect and tolerance of difference to the Egyptian people. Boutros unapologetically challenges the teachings of Islam and the prophet Muhammed who he claims had his mind set on the worldly pursuits of women, perfume and food. His provocative statements are designed specifically to challenge Muslims to examine their faith, the many Quaranic contradictions and false doctrine. He does so, speaking fluent Arabic and with Islamic scholarship with verse 9:30 of the Quar’an ever hanging over his head:
“The Jews said, ‘ Ezra is the son of God’, while the Christians said, ‘Jesus is the son of God!’. These are blasphemies uttered by their mouths. Thus, they match the blasphemies of those who have disbelieved in the past. God condemns them. They have surely deviated.”
Michael Coren notes that it is Boutros’s accessibility and creativity that make him so despised by militant Muslims. Religious freedom and conversion are so threatening to Islam that Iran has revised it’s laws to counter freedom of religious choice, a freedom supported by much of the world.
Consider the fact that the Iranian parliament has recently voted on a draft bill through it’s “Islamic Penal Code” to punish any women leaving Islam with imprisonment for life and the immediate execution of any man charged with apostasy. 196 in support, 7 opposed. In keeping in tandem with such nations as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, Sudan and the Gulf states, Iran has legally institutionalized into it’s official doctrine the moral and socially unacceptable crime of religious conversion; a crime punishable by death.
I believe the world would benefit tremendously with a thousand more brave people like Father Boutros with the courage to say ” Islam cannot stand in front of intellectual questions. They don’t (clerics) want anybody to ask and learn. This is Islam; you have to accept it as it is, ‘lest you should be killed”.
And as Michael Coren wrote; spend time with an Egyptian Christian living in forced exile and the stories and the pain tumble forth as the toxins of dark experience flow from their memories. Or, speak to Father Zakaria Boutros, if he is allowed to travel and manages to survive the multi-million dollar bounty on his head.
Although he may be confined, his message for freedom is clear.