Copts and Robbers
By Robert Spencer | January 26, 2005

At Jihad Watch we have received a large number of inquiries, both sober and frenzied, about the Coptic family found murdered in Jersey City last week.
As is well known, the Copts in Jersey City and elsewhere have many suspicions about this crime. But when they have voiced these suspicions, they have been frequently denounced as “Islamophobes” – an all-purpose term of abuse used to silence criticism of Islam and of Muslims. And Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio is dismissive of the idea that the killings were religiously motivated: “Is it possible? Yes. Do we have anything that gives us reason to believe this is what it was, factually? No. Nothing indicates that was the prime motivation for this. That we can clearly say.” The media has widely accepted the idea that it was just a robbery.
Yet law enforcement officials have received information from at least one Copt — a close friend of the Armanious family — indicating that the crime was indeed religiously motivated. This family friend has said that an imam in Jersey City declared this Christian family’s blood “halal,” (i.e., licit to shed), because of their proselytizing activities among Muslims. He has named — by name — a suspect in this crime, whose motive was religious and who has fled the country.
Perhaps there is nothing to this. Perhaps the man who has fled is innocent. But even if he is, the Copts have had perfectly cogent reasons for their suspicions. The Armanious family was outspoken in trying to convert Muslims to Christianity. Hossam Armanious vigorously spread his faith at PalTalk, and his 15-year-old daughter Sylvia displayed similar zeal at Dickinson High School. There is credible evidence that for this activity the family received a death threat. In light of all that, it may be that what needs to be justified is the idea that their deaths were in fact unrelated to that proselytizing activity. Islamic law, the Sharia, has traditionally made it a capital offense both for a Muslim to leave Islam, and for a non-Muslim to attempt to convert a Muslim. Many Muslims take such laws very seriously. The Theo van Gogh murder in the Netherlands indicates that at least some will not hesitate to enforce Sharia penalties even in the lands of the infidels.
But if the killer is never caught, which is a distinct possibility since he could be half a world away by now, Muslim spokesmen will attribute the suspicions of the Copts to a “climate of hysteria” against Muslims, and portray themselves — as they do so often — as victims.
Still, a larger question remains. If the Armanious family did in fact receive a death threat related to their proselytizing on Pal Talk, what are the implications for our free society? If the murders were indeed, as many Copts suspect, a warning to them not to proselytize among Muslims, what does that mean for the free exchange of ideas that has always been one of the central values – perhaps the central value – of the American polity?
The mainstream media has done a poor job of covering this case. It has not bothered to explain that the difficulties Copts experience in Egypt are not “old” or even “centuries-old” (as the New York Times put it) — they are as old as when the Muslim invaders first conquered Coptic Christian Egypt. They don’t come from anything Copts have said or done to Muslims, but from the supremacist nature of Islamic beliefs. But in the media in general there has been no understanding of this and no discussion of the Sharia — or of how apostates in Islam are to be treated, or of what punishment is to be meted out to those who dare (as the Armanious family dared) not to act as the despised and cowed minority they were in Egypt, but as free and equal and proud citizens of this country.
No statement has come from the Hudson County Prosecutors Office that shows any sign that that Office has considered these questions, or fully investigated the Copts’ suspicions and allegations. This may not have been a Sharia-inspired killing on American soil, but nothing that has yet come from Edward DeFazio or anyone else seems to deal adequately with the indications that it was. White House Wilsonians seem intent on bringing “democracy” to Iraq, as if that will somehow solve the problem of Islam, and of the jihad that they persist in identifying solely by one of its tools, terrorism. Meanwhile, an unknown number of Muslims in the United States — possibly including the killer of the Armanious family — are working to solve the problems of Islam by laboring, in one way or another, to bring Sharia to this country.
But few are paying attention to that.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and the author of Onward Muslim Soldiers: How Jihad Still Threatens America and the West (Regnery Publishing), and Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World’s Fastest Growing Faith (Encounter Books).