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Islamic State Highlights its War with Christianity in Africa
The main editorial on page three, entitled, “The Illusions of Christians in Africa”, portrays Christians as having initiated a campaign to convert all of Africa to Christianity, which was only thwarted by jihadists.
The editorial opens by claiming that in 1406 AH (late 1985-late 1986), 100,000 advocates for Christianity from African states met and declared their mission to Christianize the whole continent by the millennium. A statement from Pope John Paul II (r. 1978-2005)—seemingly from 1995—is quoted to this effect. But this plan did not work, Al-Naba continues. Instead, at present, “the inferno for the Christians [in Africa] is unparalleled at the hands of the caliphate’s soldiers”, whose activities have ensured that “the market for jihad is raging”, killing and dispossessing Christian clergy, believers, and soldiers, “leaving the Christian disbelievers in a condition they have not known in nearly two centuries or more”.
“What was the situation and how did it change?” Al-Naba asks rhetorically. “Where did their great Christianization efforts go, and where are those huge budgets that they spent? Where are the dreams set out at the conferences they held and the illusions of conspiracies they hatched?” Al-Naba answers that these plots were “shattered … by a rejuvenated call for monotheism in the lives of Muslims”.
This turnaround has come after decades of rule by the “Crusader French, Portuguese, and Spanish”, plus other Europeans, who displaced “shari’a rule in Africa” with shirk (polytheism or idolatry), bid’a (lit. “innovation”; heresy), and ainharaf (aberration, deviation). During this period of European rule, “the spiteful Christians worked to separate Muslims from their religion”, Al-Naba claims. The Qur’an is cited as evidence this has always been so in relations between Christians and Muslims [Baqarah (2): 217]: “[The disbelievers] will not stop fighting you until they turn you away from your faith”.
This war against Islam by the missionaries was carried out by “various malicious means”, says Al-Naba, including coercion, temptation (offering poor people food in exchange for conversion), “through education and schools of corruption—the evil of which still exists today—or under the cover of medical treatment”. Al-Naba contends that in places Christians “would not start treatment until the sick kneel down and ask Christ to heal them!” This kind of conspiracy theorising has long been widespread and led to the rejection of vaccine campaigns, notably in Nigeria.
“Those missionary campaigns coincided with the military campaigns”, says Al-Naba, and “espionage operations under the guise of relief societies”. In this way, the European states divided up Muslims by nationality and ethnicity with “illusory borders”. At this time “when the Christianization campaign in Africa was at its most intense, and the consequent calamities and tragedies for Muslims were at their worst”, the Muslim rulers were silent.
Al-Naba says that things began to turn around with the appearance of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703-92), a revivalist preacher, architect of the First Saudi State, which came into existence in 1744—before the first European intrusion into Muslim-held African territory in 1798. Ibn Abd al-Wahhab’s doctrine is a version of Salafism that will become known as Wahhabism and be enshrined as the state creed of Saudi Arabia. Wahhabism is an important component of IS’s ideology and IS’s claim to the legacy of Ibn Abd al-Wahhab is what makes Saudi Arabia so central to IS’s strategic sense of its main challenge in leading the Sunni world.
Ibn Abd al-Wahhab had a “great impact in spreading monotheism among the people of Africa and confronting the plots of the Christians there” and “this was the fertile ground that contributed mightily to the Muslims in Africa rapidly joining the caliphate [after IS declared its restoration in 2014] and announcing their pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State”, says Al-Naba.
From this point on, says Al-Naba, “a new phase” had begun, with Muslims waging a fierce war against Christians, killing them in droves and burning their villages, “making them taste all kinds of torment and terror”. “The Muslims in Africa moved from being weak to the point of storming the towns and military bases of the apostates and Christians and their militias, harassing them and displacing their populations”. Al-Naba here takes another swipe at the Muslim rulers who refuse to support the jihadists, especially those on the Gulf, who met these “glad tidings for the umma (Islamic community)” by supporting the Christians—i.e. African governments—with money and weapons in their counter-terrorism campaigns.
“Let the disbelieving Christians know that the time of their compulsion against Muslims in Africa has passed forever … after the establishment of the Islamic state and the spread of its soldiers”, Al-Naba concludes.
On page four, Al-Naba continues its sectarian commentary on Africa, documenting attacks by the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP) in Nigeria. Al-Naba reports that on 3 January 2022, IS attacked a town in Adamawa, burning a church, a house, and two vehicles belonging to Christians. The next day, Al-Naba says an attack was carried out on a base in Marte, in Borno State, which included a suicide car bombing. The killer is named as Abu Sulayman al-Ansari, and it is claimed he killed and wounded at least ten people. The “martyrdom bombing” burned parts of the base and other IS attackers were able to seize guns and equipment before they withdrew, Al-Naba says. On the same day, 4 January, in nearby town in Borno, another barracks was attacked, killing “at least” two soldiers, with IS following the same routine in withdrawal—burning parts of the base and seizing ghanima (war spoils). Al-Naba says IS assassinated a military official in Garkida, Adamawa, on 5 January.
Page five continues the theme, reporting a series of attacks by the Islamic State’s Central Africa Province (ISCAP) in Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo during the Christians’ “idolatrous holidays” (Christmas and New Year). Al-Naba reports attacks in the Macomia area of Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, on 3 January 2022, which saw three Christians killed with machine guns in one village and Christian homes and vehicles burned in two other villages. On the same day, in the Ituri province of eastern Congo, “the mujahideen attacked a position belonging to a militia loyal to the Crusader Congolese army”, killing one of the militiamen and seizing his weapon. A “fifth attack targeting Christians” took place in Cabo Delgado on 5 January, with several members of the security forces injured in clashes, according to Al-Naba, and the jihadists were able to set fire to several houses before retreating to safety.
The rest of the attack reports are from Syria (against the PKK), Afghanistan (a Taliban “spy”), the Philippines, Egypt, and, as ever, multiple from Iraq, focused on the strikes against the Hashd al-Shabi.
Clearly, Africa is and will be for some time one of IS’s most active zones. IS’s increasing prioritisation of Africa has been reflected in its propaganda since no later than the summer of 2020. IS has made a particular point of its competition with Al-Qaeda in West Africa, something assisted by the elimination of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) emir, Abd al-Malek Drukdel (Abu Musab Abd al-Wadud), in June 2020. In mid-2021, IS drew attention to its ability to impose elements of governance on areas of Africa. IS publicly demonstrated its expansion in East Africa with attacks in Uganda and Rwanda late last year, and with Rwandan troops deployed to Cabo Delgado to assist the Mozambiquan government against ISCAP, this is likely to intensify.
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