A Muslim was outraged by what the radicals who have taken over Mosul was doing to Christians in his city and spoke out against it.
He didn’t live much longer after that.
According to a Chaldean Christian website, ankawa.com, University of Mosul law professor Mahmoud Al-Asali refused to keep silent about the violence against Mosul’s Christians who are forced to choose between converting to the Muslim faith, paying the jizyah (an Islamic tax for non-Muslims, reported to be set at $450 a month) or fleeing.
“Sources of Ankawa.com in Mosul reported to our site that the militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS, Daash) have assassinated Dr. Mahmoud Al-Asali who specialized in Law and professor at the University of Mosul.” ankawa.com reported today. “Dr. Al-Asali was assassinated because he objected to what these militants [have] done of looting and burning the properties and possessions of Christian people in Mosul.”
Standing up for Christians in the current atmosphere had to take courage. As La Stampa’s Vatican Insider pointed out, Al-Asali must have been aware that in Raqqa, the Syrian city which the Islamic State seized last year, human rights activists who opposed ISIS have lost their lives.
But Al-Asali is not alone among Muslims in Iraq who are speaking out in support of Christians. Several gathered outside the Chaldean Church of St. George in Baghdad on Sunday to show their solidarity with Christians, many wearing t-shirts or holding signs reading “I am Iraqi, I am Christian.”
The New York Times reported yesterday that when Christians fled the Islamists’ harsh ultimatum in Mosul last week, only a few remained in town—because they were not healthy enough to flee—and "submitted to the demands that they convert to Islam to avoid being killed."
“There are five Christian families who converted to Islam because they were threatened with death,” Younadim Kanna, a Christian and a member of Iraq’s Parliament, told the Times.
The article also described a Muslim woman whispering to a Christian sitting in the pew next to her at St. George’s: "You are the true original people here," she said. "We are so sorry for what has been done to you in the name of Islam."
The United Nations Security Council has denounced the persecution of Christians and other minority groups in northern Iraq, noting that such minority communities have lived together for hundreds of years before coming under attack by the Islamic State.
"The 15-member Council also expressed concern about reports that religious and ethnic minorities in the area, as well as anyone who opposes ISIL’s extremist ideology, face abductions, killings or destruction of property," the UN said.
A report of the Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine of Siena, Karakosh, Iraq, said that many Christians leaving Mosul to escape the Islamic State’s ultimatum had their passports taken from them, in addition to money, personal documents, and cars.
"We were informed that the coming days will be even more difficult," the report said. "The central government is intensifying the random airstrike over Mosul."
Meanwhile, the assault continues on cultural and historic sites cherished by both Christians and Shia Muslims. The Syro-Catholic monastery of Mar Benham has fallen into the hands of the Islamic State, BBC reported. The monastery is close to Qaraqosh, the Christian city in the Nineveh Plain where the majority of Christians have fled. Monks have been present in mar Benham since the fourth century.
A member of the Syriac clergy said the monks asked to be allowed to save some of the monastery’s relics but the fighters refused.
“They forced the three monks and some families residing in the monastery to go away and leave the keys behind,” the Syro-Catholic bishop of Mosul, Yohanna Petros Moshe, told Fides news agency.