Two people were murdered, and three more were injured, in a terrorist attack on a passenger bus in Kenya on Monday, December 21, that could have been a wholesale slaughter if not for the courage and decency of Muslim passengers who acted as human shields for their non-Muslim neighbors.
When gunmen believed to be affiliated with Somalia’s Al-Shabaab terrorist group ambushed the bus in Kenya’s Mandera Province, they ordered the passengers to separate according to religion, demanding that each of them recite the shahada (“There is no God but Allah, and Muhammed is his prophet”). This gave the Christian passengers a choice between forced conversion at gunpoint, or instant martyrdom.
“They were trying to identify who were Christians and who were not. They told the non-Christians to return to vehicle,” Deputy County Commissioner, Julius Otieno said.
To the Muslim passengers it presented a choice between complicity in an act their religion teaches is a horrible crime – that killing one innocent person is the same as “killing all of mankind” – or acting on the moral imperative taught in the same verse that saving the life of an innocent person is the same as saving all of mankind (Quran 5:32), even at the potential cost of their lives.
Given that stark and sobering choice, the Muslim passengers “refused to separate from non-Muslims and told the attackers to kill all passengers or leave,” reports Mandera Governor Ali Roba. “That is why some locals were injured trying to protect non-Muslim passengers.”
A year ago, terrorists murdered 28 Christians on a bus bound for Nairobi, most of them school teachers. Earlier this year, Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for an attack at Garissa University in which 128 people were murdered – most of them Christians who had been winnowed out from a larger group. In the most recent attack, the terrorists had the means to slaughter all of the hostages, and it’s clear that they were willing to do so, even if that meant killing the Muslims in the group as well.
When the terrorists opened fire, some Muslim passengers shielded Christians with their bodies and suffered severe wounds.
Eventually, as another vehicle approached, the terrorists withdrew, defeated by the resolute love that gives people the courage to do the impossible.
What the Muslim passengers did in defending their Christian neighbors could be considered an example of “taqiyaa” – in the original sense of the expression, not the one routinely employed by critics of Islam. Anti-Muslim agitators often claim that “taqiyaa” is the practice of lying in the service of jihad and world conquest. The actual Islamic teaching on the subject, according to Dr. Imad Enchassi, the Imam presiding over the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City (and a passionate advocate of peace and opponent of terrorism), came from an episode in Muhammad’s life in which he told “slaves in Arabia to conceal their faith so they wouldn’t be killed. It was a very brief ruling.”
Christians can find examples of similar behavior in the Bible – such as the dissimulation practiced by Abram (later Abraham) regarding the identity of his wife (Genesis 12:11-13), the deliberate deception by the Egyptian midwives to protect Hebrew infants targeted for government-mandated slaughter (Exodus 1:15-20), and Rahab’s use of the old “They went that-a-way” routine to conceal the Hebrew spies in Jericho (Joshua 2:1-7).
In this case, the Muslims who refused to surrender their neighbors – most likely people whom they had just met and didn’t really know – told the terrorists, in effect, “If you’re going to murder our Christian neighbors, you can consider all of us to be Christians, and kill us together.”
According to the New Testament’s Book of Luke, Jesus used the figure of a Samaritan, despised as a religious heretic and enemy of the Jews, to embody the principle of unselfish love for one’s neighbor. If he were to update that parable to suit our contemporary circumstances, he might entitle it “The Good Muslim.”
In the revised story, a Muslim in his travels would come upon a Christian who faced immediate death at the hands of a gang of criminals. The Muslim in the parable would intercede, eventually offering his own life, if necessary, to prevent the death of the innocent stranger.
Jesus wouldn’t need to invent that story. This is what happened today in Kenya’s Madera province.
How many American Christians would do the same for their Muslim neighbors, if the roles were reversed?