The ‘worst place in the world’
The ‘worst place in the world’
Ed M. Vitagliano
Ed M. Vitagliano
AFA vice president

Above, "Protest calling for Sharia in Maldives" by Dying Regime is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Read Parts 1-3 of Ed Vitagliano’s series on threats to the church in March, April, and May issues of AFA Journal.

June 2020Brutal and bloody raids in the middle of the night. Kidnappings and hostage-takings. Rape. Executions for refusal to convert. Dismemberment. Entire villages fleeing for their lives.

These are the facts on the ground in Nigeria for millions of Christians whose daily lives are threatened by radical Islamists. These barbarians, according to American faith leaders who visited Nigeria earlier in the year, have turned “the wealthiest country on the continent” into “the most dangerous place on the planet.”

Those words represent the assessment of Johnnie Moore and Rabbi Abraham Cooper regarding the plight of Christians and others halfway around the world, according to the Christian Post. Moore is a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom; and Cooper is associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights group. The pair traveled to Africa on a fact-finding mission and met with leaders of Nigerian communities that have been devastated by the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram and Muslim Fulani tribesmen.

Moore said the northeast part of Nigeria, where Boko Haram operates, is “the worst place in the world.”

An unstoppable religion?
Why this is happening in Nigeria – and elsewhere around the world – is not a mystery, and freedom-loving people everywhere had best understand the monster they are facing. In the decades to come, radical Islam will be an ideology that poses just as much of a threat to Western civilization as communism did last century.

In many ways, Islam was a religion birthed in military conquest. Its founding in the Arabian Peninsula in the 7th century was followed by an irresistible growth – at the point of the sword.

Political scientist Walid Phares said Muslims loyal to the prophet Muhammad conquered in response to a powerful marching order: “Bring all peoples under the word of Allah.”

For centuries it seemed as if that expectation would indeed be fulfilled. Islam eventually conquered what were historically some of the most Christianized lands on the earth – the Middle East, North Africa, and much of Asia Minor. Yet Christian Europe remained stubbornly resistant. In 732, Muslim Saracens, erupting out of North Africa and subduing Iberia (Spain), were on the verge of dominating Western Europe. However, at the Battle of Tours, the Saracens were defeated by a Christian army led by Frankish ruler Charles Martel. The advance of Islam on Europe’s western flank had been stalled.

In the Middle East, Muslim control of the Holy Land created continuing conflict between the two civilizations. Beginning in 1095, Catholic popes called for Christians in Europe to retake those lands. Those crusades ultimately failed.

In the following centuries, the Muslim Ottoman empire pounded away from its bases in present-day Turkey, capturing much of Christian Eastern and Central Europe – Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary. After a final failed attempt to take the key city of Vienna, Austria, the Ottoman Turks never again seriously threatened Europe. (See AFA Journal3/20.)

However, despite the setbacks, Islam had made tremendous strides worldwide. Muslims had taken seriously the call of Allah to bring all the world into subjection to the religion of the prophet.

For true Muslims, there were only two spheres in the world: Dar al-Islam – the “house of Islam,” where Islam was obeyed, and Dar al-Harb – the “house of war,” where it was not.

Turning the tide
However, the stalemate would soon turn into what looked like a rout of Islam. The first inkling that the tide had turned occurred in Iberia in the 15th century with the “Reconquista” – the “reconquest” of Spain by Christian kingdoms.

The failure of the Ottoman Empire to make further advances into Central Europe was followed by two centuries of defeat at the hands of Christian kingdoms. Throughout the 1700s and 1800s, the growing economic and military power of the West led to the conquest of vast tracts of land once controlled by the faith of Islam.

Finally, after the defeat of the Central Powers in World War I, the Ottoman Empire was carved up by the victors as spoil. Only a smaller and secular Republic of Turkey remained in Asia Minor. The Middle East was divided into nations under the protection of Western nations such as France and Britain.

Historian Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum, said that, between 1757 and 1919, non-Muslim nations snapped up 92 Muslim territories through Western colonial conquest. By 1920, only 4 Muslim-majority nations – Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Afghanistan – remained independent.

As one might expect, the apparent triumph of Western nations, resulting in the conquest of lands once controlled by Muslims, was a shock to Islamic self-perception. On top of this, nothing was perhaps more humiliating than the creation of a Jewish nation-state in 1948 on what Muslims believed was
Islamic land.

How could Allah have allowed the subjugation of Dar al Islam, the “house of Islam,” at the hands of unbelievers?

The way forward
For a growing core of Islamic scholars after the end of World War I, the answer to that question was theological. Allah was supposedly punishing faithless Muslims because they were abandoning the teachings of Muhammad and instead adopting Western values such as individualism and democracy, and Western vices such as sexual immorality and greed. The keys to returning greatness to Islam were the rejection of Western ideas and a return to Islamic law (Sharia).

As these ideas took root, circumstances began to change. Over the coming decades, Western nations began to rid themselves of their former colonies, many of which had been Muslim.

Pipes noted that by 1995, 69 of the territories previously absorbed by Western powers had returned to Muslim rule, while others that were granted independence had very large Muslim populations.

These geopolitical changes seemed to validate the ideas of Islamists; and now in a new century, these Muslim leaders suggest a pathway to return to the earlier years of Islamic triumph. According to Samir Khalil Samir, a Jesuit professor of Oriental studies at University of Saint Joseph in Beirut, Lebanon, the Islamist plan is three-fold: (1) reforming Muslim countries so that they reject the West and submit to Sharia; (2) forcing the subjugation of Christians and other religious minorities in Muslim countries; (3) and converting Europe to Islam from within.

Phares said Western decision-makers should be paying attention. “[T]he jihadists of the 21st century consider themselves the direct successors of the Muslim dynasties of the Middle Ages,” he said. “The world’s democracies are coming to realize, not without pain, that the new enemies of international law have a vision of the future that is literally a restoration of the distant past.”

Christians should be paying attention too. Wherever these Islamists have taken control, life for the followers of Christ grows increasingly miserable and dangerous. If Christians don’t take heed, Nigeria might not be the only nation in the running for the dubious award as the worst place in the world.   

Related resources from
▶ Political Islam’s War on the West DVD with William Federer (Search: “Political”).
▶ Reaching Muslims With the Gospel DVD with James White, produced by American Family Studios.