Charles Jacobs

Pittsburgh’s Church Bomber: A Syrian Refugee Who Hated Christians

The current debate over immigration in America generally concerns how immigrants are treated, their legal or illegal status, and whether or not it is just to deny entry to people who choose to circumvent the nation’s laws. Relatively little is devoted to these immigrants’ beliefs and cultural values, and how those might affect how they live in the United States once they arrive.

In the case of immigration from the Middle East, there is plenty to discuss. The majority of such people come from societies where the pervasive cultural norms include the brutal treatment of women, animus against Christians and Jews, the execution of homosexuals, and the scorning of individual liberty.

Today, the average American college freshman cannot get through orientation, let alone into his or her first English comp class, without some kind of sensitivity training concerning the oppression of various racial and sexual minorities, designed to correct any prejudices absorbed from his or her upbringing. But tens of thousands of people from some of the most intolerant societies on earth are somehow not subjected to any kind of serious inquiry as to their attitudes towards American civility and diversity before they are allowed to live among us.

The failure to explore the views of prospective immigrants about what they think about us and our way of life may have resulted in a plot to bomb a church in Pittsburgh, when on June 19, the FBI arrested a refugee from Syria for planning to murder Christians in the name of ISIS. Pittsburgh’s Legacy International Worshipful Center is a predominantly black church that includes worshippers from many African countries. According to the FBI, the suspect, Mustafa Mousab Alowemer, mistakenly thought it was a Nigerian church, and he sought to kill its parishioners, in his own words, “to avenge the [Islamic] brothers in Nigeria.” Alowemer was referring to the civil war there where a self-declared Muslim jihad has been killing, displacing, and even enslaving the country’s African Christian minority.

Parishioners of the Legacy International Worship Center hold prayer service in the wake of the attempted bombing. (CBS KDKA Pittsburgh)

The case of refugees from Syria clearly demonstrates the urgent need for ideological vetting. As our own research and that of others shows, the Syrian state educational system has consistently indoctrinated Syrian children to denigrate if not to hate Christians and Jews.

Joshua M. Landis of the University of Oklahoma, who studied Syrian curricula, writes that regarding Jews, the lesson taught is that “the tribe of Israel deserves God’s tortures” (meaning Jews only go to Hell). Since the goal of the Jews and Israel is the destruction of the Islamic world, a tenth-grade text says,

The logic of justice requires the application of a single inescapable verdict on the Jews; namely, that their criminal intentions be turned against them and that they be eliminated (isti’salihim). The duty of Muslims of our time is to pull together, to unite their ranks, and to wage war on their enemy until Allah hands down his judgment on them and on us…

Christianity is seen as a more “primitive” phase of revelation than Islam, and Christians are never to be accepted as a Muslim’s equal. Syrian children are taught that Arab Christians are committing an act of paganism when they make the sign of the cross, because in doing so, they are rejecting the “true” monotheism of Islam. By extension are also divesting themselves of their own Arab identity. On this account, their “blood isn’t Arab.” “Because Christians are explained as ‘bad’ or incomplete Muslims in Syrian textbooks,” writes Landis, “they also become bad Arabs. Nowhere do Syria’s Islamic textbooks explain that Christians and other religious groups are Arabs equal to Muslims.”

Comparing the three religions, says Landis, “[w]e may conclude that Judaism is the most primitive of the revealed religions, Christianity is an incomplete advance on Judaism, and Islam is the final and complete message.”

America, it seems has no plan whatsoever to deal with masses of immigrants who are steeped in a culture that glorifies Arabs and Muslims as superior and degrades their Jewish and Christian neighbors as “bad” or worse.

The agencies advocating for increased Syrian and Middle Eastern immigration are silent on this crucial issue as well, including especially Jewish leadership organizations.

For years, our organization, Americans for Peace and Tolerance, has brought this information to the attention of those Jewish groups who are in the forefront of efforts to lobby for and assist Syrian refugees. These included the New England branch of the ADL, Combined Jewish Philanthropies (Boston’s Jewish Federation), the Boston Jewish Community Relations Council, and individual rabbis who urged their congregations to help import Middle Eastern immigrants. These efforts are always made under the banner of foolishly false analogies, mostly to that of Jewish refugees from Nazi Europe when hardly any country would take them in.

How false is the analogy? Unlike today’s Syrian refugees, Jews then were running from the threat of mass extermination. Unlike with the Syrian refugees, Jewish religious ideology posed no threats to their host countries; Jews always sought to live according to the law of the land, which is what Judaism — though not fundamentalist Islam — teaches. Unlike the Syrians whose Muslim and Arab brethren have dozens of nations around the world which could shelter them, there were no other Jewish nations which might have given haven to Jews running from the gas chambers. But pointing out the false analogies and providing data on the enmity towards the West and Jews in particular that Syrians were taught has thus far has not overridden the lure of virtue-signaling, which has become the predominant response of liberal Jewish communities under ideological siege by the Left/Muslim assault on Zionism.

Needless to say, none of the Jewish leaders to whom we spoke wanted to engage in any discussion of the potential threats posed to Jewish and American communities by people inculcated with such animus. The only response we got, repeated by different groups we asked, was that the U.S. was vetting for “terrorists.” But as Sheikh Ahmed Mansour, a Muslim reformer on our board has said, “the problem is with the bomb in the heart.”

The threats are indeed dire and growing. Data from Western Europe, where immigration from Muslim countries, including Syria, has increased enormously in the last several years, show that 47% of Western European Jews deeply fear the specter of Islamic terrorism, compared to 22% in the East, where Middle Eastern immigration has been heavily restricted. Unfortunately for Western European Jews, their own leadership fails them regularly as well, particularly in France, where attacks on Jews (and Christians) by Muslim immigrants often leave French Jewish leaders mum.

People are what they think and what they believe. America is a nation built not on common blood ties, but on a fundamental set of beliefs about how we should live.

It is time for us to have an honest discussion of what people from different societies believe about us and our way of life before we welcome them to live next door. When, at least, might we place sensitivity trainers and diversity consultants at our ports of entry?

About the Author
Charles Jacobs, currently President of Americans for Peace and Tolerance, has founded and co-founded human rights and pro-Jewish organizations. He co-founded the Boston office of CAMERA, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America; As co-founder of the American Anti-Slavery Group, Charles helped redeem thousands of black slaves from jihadi raiders in Sudan for which he was granted the Boston Freedom Award by Coretta Scot King, MLK's widow. He co-founded The David Project to help Jewish students who were harassed and intimidated on campuses across America. Charles has been published in the Wall Street Journal, NY Times, and the Encyclopedia Brittanica.
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