Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Coptic priest Fr. Zakaria Botros, who al Qaeda has called “one of the most wanted infidels in the world,” issuing a 60 million dollar bounty on his head. Popular Arabic magazines also call him “Islam’s public enemy #1?. He hosts a television program, “Truth Talk,” on Life TV. His two sites are Islam-Christianity.net and FatherZakaria.net. He was recently awarded the Daniel of the Year award.
Botros: I am a Copt. In my early 20s, I became a priest. Of course, in predominantly Muslim Egypt, Christians—priests or otherwise—do not talk about religion with Muslims. My older brother, a passionate Christian learned that lesson too late: after preaching to Muslims, he was eventually ambushed by Muslims who cut out his tongue and murdered him. Far from being deterred or hating Muslims, I eventually felt more compelled to share the Good News with them. Naturally, this created many problems: I was constantly harassed, threatened, and eventually imprisoned and tortured for one year, simply for preaching to Muslims. Egyptian officials charged me with abetting “apostasy,” that is, for being responsible for the conversion of Muslims to Christianity. Another time I was arrested while boarding a plane out of Egypt. Eventually, however, I managed to flee my native country and resided for a time in Australia and England. Anyway, my life-story with Christianity and Islam is very long and complicated. In fact, an entire book about it was recently published.
FP: I apologize for asking this, but what were some of the tortures you endured when you were imprisoned?
Botros: Due to my preaching the Gospel, Egyptian soldiers broke into my home putting their guns to my head. Without telling me why, they arrested me and placed me in an extremely small prison cell (1.8×1.5×1.8 meters, which was further problematic, since I am 1.83 meters tall), with other inmates, and in well over 100 degree temperatures, with little ventilation, no windows, and no light. No beds of course, we slept on the floor—in shifts, as there was not enough room for all of us to lie down. Due to the lack of oxygen, we used to also take shifts lying with our noses under the crack of the cell door to get air. As a result, I developed a kidney infection (receiving, of course, no medical attention). Mosquitoes plagued us. Food was delivered in buckets; we rarely even knew what the gruel was. The prison guards would often spit in the bucket in front of us, as well as fling their nose pickings in it.
FP: My heart goes out to you in terms of this terrible suffering you endured. What is your primary purpose in what you do?
Botros: Simple: the salvation of souls. As I always say, inasmuch as I may reject Islam, I love Muslims. Thus, to save the latter, I have no choice but to expose the former for the false religion it is. Christ commanded us to spread the Good News. There is no rule that says Christians should proselytize the world—except for Muslims! Of course, trying to convert the latter is more dangerous. But we cannot forsake them. This is more important considering that many Muslims are “religious” and truly seek to please God; yet are they misdirected. So I want to take their sincerity and piety and direct it to the True Light.
FP: In what way can you summarize for us why you think that Islam is a “false” religion?
Botros: Theologically, as I am a Christian priest, I believe that only Christianity offers the truth. Based on my faith in Christ, I reject all other religious systems as man-made and thus not reflective of divine truths.Moreover, one of the greatest crimes committed by Muhammad—a crime which he shall surely never be forgiven for—is that he denied the grace and mercy that Christ brought, and took humanity back to the age of the law. But faith aside, common sense alone makes it clear that, of all the world’s major religions, Islam is most certainly false. After all, while I may not believe in, say, Buddhism, still, it obviously offers a good philosophical system and people follow it apparently for its own intrinsic worth. The same cannot be said about Islam. Of all the religions it is the only one that has to threaten its adherents with death if they try to break away; that, from its inception, in order to “buy” followers, has been dedicated to fulfilling some of the worst impulses of man—for conquest, sex, plunder, pride. History alone demonstrates all this: while Christianity was spread far and wide by Christians who altruistically gave up their lives, simply because they believed in Christ, Islam spread by force, by the edge of the sword, by fear, threats, and lurid enticements to the basest desires of man. Islam is by far the falsest religion—an assertion that is at once theologically, philosophically, and historically demonstrable.
FP: You always document your discussions with Islamic sources. Why do Muslim clerics and imams have such a difficulty discussing what Islam itself teaches and instead just attack you personally?
Botros: I think the answer is obvious. The Islamic sources, the texts, speak for themselves. Muslims have no greater enemy than their own scriptures—particularly the Hadith and Sira—which constantly scandalize and embarrass Muslims. To date, I have done well over 500 different episodes dedicated to various topics regarding Islam. And for every one of these episodes, all my material comes directly from Islam’s textual sources, particularly usul al-fiqh—the Koran, hadith, and ijma of the ulema as found in their tafsirs. So what can the sheikhs of Islam do? If they try to address the issue I raise based on Islam’s texts and sharia, they will have no choice but to agree—for instance that concubinage is legal, or that drinking camel urine is advocated. The only strategy left them, then, is to ignore all that I present and attack my person, instead. And when well-meaning Muslims ask their leaders to respond to these charges, one of their favorite responses is to quote the Koran, where it says “Do not ask questions of things that will hurt you.”
FP: So what does it say about a religion whose religious teachers and members have to ignore their own theological texts because they cannot endure what those texts really say? What sense does any of this make?
Botros: Again, this is a reflection of the fact that Islam is less a faith, more a vehicle for empowerment. As you say, what is the point for a person to closely guard and follow a religion that he himself has to rationalize, ignore, minimize, constantly reinterpret, dissemble over, and so forth? The fact is, most Muslims do not know what is in their own texts; at best, they know, and here and there try to follow, the Five Pillars. This is why the issues I broach often traumatize Muslims—like a freshening slap across the face: a short, sharp, shock. The stubborn, who take it as an attack of “us versus them,” irrespective of truths, just fume and plot to kill me; the other, more reasonable Muslims, who are really searching for the truth, end up waking up to the biggest hoax perpetrated on the human race in 1400 years, and many come to the ultimate Truth. A better question is why do the ulema hide these issues from both infidel scrutiny as well as the eyes of the average Muslim? One would think that if anyone is dedicated to the truth it would be the ulema; yet their deceptive tactics reveal the opposite. For instance, it is often the case that, after I quote problematic passages from certain Islamic books, they have a strange tendency of disappearing from the book shelves of the Arabic world. The bottom line is, many Muslims think of Islam less as a spiritual system dedicated to ascertaining and putting one on the course of the truth, and more a way of life—first and foremost not to be questioned—that if followed closely, will result, not only in future paradise, but earthly success, honor, and power.
FP: You have pointed to a hadith that instructs women to breastfeed men. What exactly is going on here and what do the ulema (prominent Muslim theologians past and present) have to say?
Botros: This is a perfect example of what I just said. After I made popular the Islamic notion of rida‘ al-kabir—wherein women must “breastfeed” strange men in order to be in their presence—instead of confronting their own hadiths which documented this, the ulema attacked me. Why? Because they have no answer. Much easier to turn it around and slander me, instead of simply addressing their own texts. Past and present, the ulema have by and large supported this shameful practice—including Ibn Taymiyya, “sheikh al-Islam.” Moreover, sometime after I publicly documented rida‘ al-kabir, a top Islamic scholar in al-Azhar—the most authoritative institution in Sunni Islam—actually issued a fatwa authorizing Muslim women to “breastfeed” strange men, to which the Egyptian populace (happily) revolted. Yet when I alone mentioned it earlier, I was accused of “distorting” Islam.
FP: So Islamic texts command that women must breastfeed strange men. Ok, so who would create such an instruction? For what purpose? Who even wrote this down and thought of it? Let’s even say that I am being open-minded and am ready to accept this as an understandable teaching. What’s the rationale here? Yes, women should breastfeed strange men because. . . .?
Botros: Because Muhammad—“Allah’s prayers and blessings be upon him”—said so. Period. Who created such a practice? Muhammad. Why? Who knows; the texts say he laughed after commanding the woman to breastfeed that man. Maybe he was joking around, trying to see how far people will believe in him as a prophet? The top hadith compilers wrote it down, preserving it for later generations. As for what purpose does it serve, one can ask that question about any number of things Muhammad said: what purpose does drinking camel urine serve? What purpose does commanding men to wear only silver as opposed to gold serve? What purpose does banning music serve? What purpose does anathematizing dogs serve? What purpose does commanding people to eat only with their right hands, never their left, serve? What purpose does commanding Muslims to lick all their fingers after eating serve? Simple: sharia law’s totalitarian approach serves to brainwash Muslims, making them automatons that never question their religion, or, in the words of their own Koran, “Do not ask questions that may prove harmful to them.”
FP: Tell us a bit about Muhammed’s sex life as documented by Islamic sources.
Botros: This is a very embarrassing topic for me to discuss; and I only do so out of my love for Muslims—though I know it is painful for them to hear. Yet such is how healing begins, through initial pain and suffering. In short, according to Islam’s scriptures, Muhammad was, well, a pervert: he used to suck on the tongues of young boys and girls; he dressed in women’s clothing (and received “revelations” in this state); he had at least 66 “wives”; Allah supposedly sent him special “revelations” allowing him to have sex with his step-daughter-in-law, Zainab, and to have more wives than the rest of Muslims; he constantly dwelt and obsessed over sex—his first question to a “talking donkey” was if the latter “liked sex”—and he painted a very lurid and lusty picture of paradise, where, according to some top Muslim interpreters, Muslims will be “busy deflowering virgins” all day; and he had sex with a dead woman. There is more, but why dwell on such shameful things? Again, I stress, it is not I who maintains this but rather Islam’s own books—much, of course, not known to non-Arabic readers, as they have never been translated (except, as I understand, by some heroes at a website called Jihad Watch).
FP: Yes, that’s our friend Robert Spencer’s website. But wait, here’s the key. Many people right now will point at you and make accusations against you for saying these supposedly horrible things. But again, the issue is not that you are making these allegations. The issue is that Islamic scriptures themselves say it. So if Muslims are offended or shocked by these realities then they must confront their own scriptures and deal with them. They need to confront who wrote them and why, and either accept them or categorically reject them as lies, etc. For the record, pinpoint some Islamic scriptures for us that detail these ingredients of Muhammad’s sex life so that, once again, we crystallize that the issue is not you making accusations, but simply revealing what Islamic scriptures themselves say.
Botros: Where does one start? According to the Koran alone (33:37), Allah made it legitimate for Muhammad to marry his own daughter-in-law, whom he lusted after. A few verses later (33:50), Allah made it legitimate for Muhammad to have sex with any woman who “offered” herself to him—a privilege which was allowed for Muhammad alone. Indeed, these “revelations” which granted Muhammad all his sexual desires were so frequent that his child-wife, Aisha, would often say to Muhammad, “My, your Lord is always quick to fulfill your desires!” And to his faithful followers, Muhammad permitted all the infidel woman that they could capture, as concubines (Koran 4:3). All this is from the Koran alone; it would take several hours just to go over the hadiths and sira accounts dealing with the sexual perversions of Muhammad. In fact, I have devoted numerous episodes dealing specifically with Muhammad’s sexual depravities—including his sleeping with a dead woman, have a fetish for the smell of menstruation blood, dressing in women’s clothing, and so forth. (Jihad Watch has translated many of these.)
FP: One of your more popular videos is your Ten Demands. What has the impact been of your ministry?
Botros: It has been glorious—praise be to God alone, whose instrument I am. Haya TV (“Life TV”) and I receive daily countless e-mails from Muslim converts to Christianity. Our programs reach millions of Arabic speaking viewers around the world. It is even banned in certain countries, such as Saudi Arabia, even though people from there still manage to access our programs.
FP: How about the feedback you receive?
Botros: Mostly positive; mostly from those who have, as I call it, “crossed over,” that is, converts to Christianity. And of course some are angry and full of hate. But like I said, it is not feedback—positive or negative—that motivates me, but rather unconditional love for those sincere souls living in bondage.
FP: You’ve obviously been instrumental in Muslims coming to Christ, yes?
Botros: That’s what they tell me. In fact, many of them tell me I am like a father to them, which I am honored to be called, though I remind all we have but One Father. For instance, one man recently contacted me, in tears, telling me how, when he was a Muslim, he wanted to kill me—to cut off my head! He spent much time and effort plotting how he can find me so he can kill me (and “please” Allah and his prophet). So he kept watching my shows, hoping somehow to find a clue that would help him locate me. Instead, a miracle occurred: over time, he realized I wasn’t making things up, that everything I said was in fact in Islam’s books. He stopped hating me. And in time, he came to Christ. It is stories like these that keep me going.
FP: In your view, who was Muhammad?
Botros: Well, I have received the answer from Islam’s own books. Ironically, Ibn Taymiyya, who happens to be the hero of the modern mujahid movement, explained the prerequisites of prophet-hood very well. One of the things he stressed is that, in order to know if a prophet is in fact from God, we must study his sira, or his biography, much like the Christ’s statement that “You shall know them from their fruits.” So, taking Ibn Taymiyya’s advice, I recently devoted a number of episodes analyzing the biography of Muhammad, which unequivocally proves that he was not a prophet, that his only “fruits” were death, destruction, and lust. Indeed, he himself confessed and believed that he was being visited and tormented by a “jinn,” or basically a demon, until his wife Khadija convinced him that it was the angel Gabriel—which, of course is ironic, since Muhammad himself later went on to say that the testimony of a woman is half that of a man: maybe over time he realized she was wrong, and that his first assumption was right.
FP: Fr. Botros, thank you for visiting us today.
Botros: Thank you, and may the true God richly bless you.