Last year’s Christmas bomber was a Nigerian Muslim who stuffed his underwear full of plastic explosive and tried to detonate it on a flight bound for Detroit. This year it was a Somali Muslim who wanted to get an early start on Christmas terror by car bombing a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Oregon.
They shared a single mission: To turn America’s most joyous holiday into a time of fear and dread.
They’ve already been successful in many countries worldwide. Christmas is a time of turmoil and testing for Christians in countries where persecution is a daily reality.
Last year in Iraq, a deadly Christmas Eve ambush of a Christian bus driver and the bombing of a 1,200-year-old church drove Iraq’s few remaining Christians quietly underground in their celebration of the birth of Christ.
Persecution in Iran has forced Christians there to shutter their homes and hide any signs of their celebration.
In India, Christians have taken their Christmas celebrations behind closed doors, particularly in the Hindu stronghold of Orissa.
"This violence against believers in Orissa breaks my heart," said K.P. Yohannan, founder and president of Gospel for Asia. "Believers know they will face opposition, but this outburst of persecution at Christmas time is especially disturbing."
This year, midnight Mass will be observed in daylight in Baghdad due to the threat of violence against Catholics. Security around all Christian churches is heavy.
Unidentified gunmen recently ambushed a Christian man in Mosul, shooting him after pulling him from the bus he was driving, police said. That shooting came on the heels of a deadlier attack, when a bomb hidden in sacks of flour exploded outside a historic church in Mosul, killing two people and wounding five.
"Instead of performing Christmas Mass in this church, we will be busy removing rubble and debris," said Hazim Ragheed, a priest at the Mar Toma Church.
"We used to put the Christmas tree with its bright lights close to the window in the entrance of our home," said Saad Matti, a 51-year-old surgeon and Basra city councilman. "But this year, we put it away from the window."
Some 1.25 million Christians, 80 percent of them Catholic, used to live in Iraq. An exodus began after the 1991 Gulf War, when Saddam Hussein clamped down on non-Muslims. The violence and the exodus intensified after 2003, when Christians became targets of sectarian violence
Iraq’s top Catholic prelate, Chaldean Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, said he used to hold Mass at midnight on Christmas Eve but in have switched services to daylight hours, when the streets are safer.
"We will do our religious rituals as usual and on its dates, and our Muslim brothers will feel happy that each one has his own dear religion," Delly told the Associated Press.
Last year as Christmas approached, Hindu militants in India set fire to the Jesus Lights Manna Church in the village of Metpally, Andhra Pradesh. The building’s main door, altar and window panels were destroyed and Bibles and other Christian literature were burned.
A day later, Pastor N. Moses and several other believers were attacked by Hindu militants while returning home from a prayer meeting in Kistapuram village, Andhra Pradesh. Pastor Moses suffered severe internal injuries and young Christian girls were also beaten. The militants also shouted slogans against Christianity and accused the believers of forcibly converting people, according to the All India Christian Council.
Accused of evangelism
A week later 26-year-old Pastor Manjunath and his wife Saraswati were viciously attacked by a mob of Hindu militants who broke into their home in the town of KR Nagar, Karnataka. The militants accused the couple of converting people and severely beat them.
Saraswati sustained serious injuries but was denied medical attention due to pressure from local militants. When Pastor Manjunath went to the, local police station to file a report against the attackers, the officials arrested him and seized his house.
Christians across India’s Orissa state were terrorized throughout the 2009 Christmas season by hate groups opposed to the Gospel. Anti-Christian extremists attacked Gospel for Asia native missionary Matish Junni on December 23. They also destroyed a newly-built church building on Christmas Eve.
Opposition began for Matish when his church decided to construct a building. As construction began, anti-Christian fanatics in the area threatened the missionary and the believers. Then, a mob of extremists surrounded Matish while he traveled to conduct worship services.
The mob beat Matish and shaved his head. Then they mockingly paraded him around the village, shouting slurs against him and other Christians. They also forced Matish to go to their religious temples. When the mob finally released him, they warned him not to continue the construction.
No police protection
Anti-Christian radicals also destroyed a church building in another area of Orissa on Christmas Eve. Although local police were there, the mobs were so out of control that the church received no protection. The extremists completely blocked the roads to the village, not allowing Christians to flee.
The recent attacks began when believers prepared to celebrate Christmas. The extremist organizers saw an opportunity to bring more sadness and grief to the Christians by attacking them on their most joyous holiday. Tensions rose when one of the anti-Christian leaders was allegedly attacked.
One person was killed on Christmas day during an extremist "bandh," a form of protest in India in which activists force the entire community to strike from their daily tasks. Although formally outlawed, many extremist groups still conduct bandhs in an effort to persuade others to join their cause.
"I hope that the government in Orissa will do everything in its power to protect the believers and bring peace to the state," Yohannan said. "Please join with our leaders in Orissa as they pray for Matish and other missionaries during this time, that they will be examples of Christ’s love to those who are persecuting them. Also pray that the anti-Christian extremists will come to know the Prince of Peace."
America has only had the slightest taste of Christmas terror.
However, that seems about to change
"It just isn’t Christmas without a Muslim bombing," writes blogger Daniel Greenfield.
"The working theory among the think-tanks, academic campuses, newsrooms and diplomatic offices is that terrorists are just like us. Except depressed and insecure about it. Filled with self-loathing and in desperate need of anger management classes. If only some kind soul could plop them down on an analyst’s couch and stuff them chock full of Prozac or Paxil, hug them without letting go, while reading passages from Jonathan Livingston Seagull – then they’d be just as right as rain."
"Civilization is not something the Muslim invented, but something that was forced on him in defiance of his law, his culture and his traditions. And if he does everything in his power to bring it down in ashes, to burn, loot and rape his way across the continent, and every continent that was foolish enough to allow him entry in the hopes that he would be a good citizen and a worthwhile member of society, then its governments have more of the blame than he does.
"Over in Oregon, Mohamed Osman Mohamud has made his own contribution to American culture," writes Greenfield, referring to the Somali Muslim’s attempt to set off a car bomb at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony.
"And the media assures us that this was one of those once in a million events. Nothing to see here, folks. We’ll find out soon enough that he had personal problems. Maybe his rap career didn’t work out. The girl he liked wouldn’t go out with him and agree to be his third wife.
"And the camel’s milk wasn’t flowing like honey anymore. Not that it really matters. Everyone has stressors. And if we are to keep Muslims stress free, for fear that they’ll start flipping through a Koran and shooting up the joint, then even the most ardent devotee of the Lady overlooking Liberty Island must ask himself if the price of Muslim immigration is really worth it.
We’ve begun to learn what it is like to live with terror
"But we have not learned all of it by far. Terror haunted Christmas tree lighting celebrations are the beginning, but not the end of it. This is not a bridge we can cross with some multicultural cuisine and a PBS special. It requires that we understand what we have done. We have imported people from a culture and religion that has never accepted the most basic premise of our way of life. Coexistence. And so we cannot coexist with them. And they cannot coexist with us. After a few years or decades of baffled attempts to adjust to a foreign way of life, they will either wall themselves off or make war on us. Or both at the same time. They cannot be our neighbors, only our enemies.
"The sooner we realize that, the fewer bombing stories at Christmas we’ll have to read about.
"The news media has already activated its brilliant powers of long distance psychoanalysis on the Oregon Christmas Tree Bomber, and diagnosed him as suffering from his parent’s divorce and vicious Oregonian college bullies. Sure Mohamed O. Mohamud might say he’s a Muslim terrorist who wants to kill Americans – but the good people at NBC know better. He’s not a terrorist. He’s just misunderstood. Deep down inside him, there’s gushing oil wells of untapped good.
"Mohamed O. Mohamud joins Fort Hood terrorist Major Nidal Hassan (who came down not with Muslim Murder Madness, but a virulent airborne form of PTSD) and Times Square bomber Faisal Shazad (suffering from uncontrollable Foreclosure Fever) on the analyst’s couch. Another misunderstood victim of poorly articulated rage that led him to snap and try to kill a whole bunch of people, who coincidentally happened not to be Muslim."
And who knows what motivated last year’s Christmas underwear bomber, says Greenfield.
Is there no such thing as a criminal?
"For a depressing stretch of the 20th century, sociologists insisted there was no such thing as a criminal, only a set of responses to social inequities. Robbers, rapists and murderers were just lashing out because of social discrimination in an unfair class system. They weren’t depraved, they were deprived. The solution was not to put a beat cop on every street. What was the use. You couldn’t fight ‘crime’ anyway. No more than you can fight ‘terrorism’. All you could do was expand welfare programs, pour money into the inner cities and turn a blind eye to crime. Then the improvements in social conditions would end crime naturally.
"Terrorists are never terrorists. And never Muslim. Even when they’re both. They might dress up like Osama bin Laden, quote from the Koran and curse the Great Satan – but the blowdried anchors in their dollhouse news sets will still blame the whole thing on teenage bullying or PTSD in the water.
"And who are you really going to believe, the terrorists who happily explain their motives, or a newscaster with two advanced degrees in reading things off a teleprompter?
"And so it turns out that the terrorists are human beings just like us who never got enough love. Who are too insecure not to be terrorists. Our job is to make them feel more comfortable and give them a confidence boost. Pat them on the back and tell them how wonderful Islam is and how superior Muslim culture is to our rotten degraded lifestyle.
"What terrorists need most is appeasement. Give them enough of it, and they’ll no longer want to behead us or blow us up – or so the politically correct theory goes. And there you have our international affairs in a nutshell.
"The depressing pattern in all this lunacy is that we’ve decided that the only way to deal with terrorists is to give them things.
"Give them some land and money, and they’ll be your pet terrorists. Then you can take them out for walks, and hug them and kiss them, and give them long baths. But not only do the terrorists need material things, they also need constant reassurance.
"You can’t just negotiate with the terrorists. You’ve also got to negotiate with the enablers. And the enablers need land and money too. If you want to talk to Hamas, you’ve got to give Syria the Golan Heights. And then Hezbollah and Iran will want things too.
"Locally and globally, we’re deep in the appeasement business. So deep that we’ve put aside even the appearance of dignity. We’re no longer ashamed of flattering and pandering to the murderers of our own people. We’re proud of it. Our political and cultural leaders treat such behavior as a mark of sophistication."
Are terrorists are the victims?
Of course, says Greenfield sarcastically: "They’re all walking wounded. Victims of divorce, vicious Oregonian bullying, home foreclosures and airborne PTSD. Discriminated against in airports. Hounded by FBI agents for doing such simple things as trying to maim and murder thousands at a Christmas tree lightning ceremony.
"Persecuted just for being who they are. It’s enough to make even the coldest Amnesty International member with a heart of taffy, weep.
"So we’ve got to make them feel better by constantly praising Islam, letting them build an obscene Victory Mosque near Ground Zero, and jailing anyone who criticizes Islam. Then maybe they’ll stop being so insecure and they won’t feel that they need to kill us in order to feel good about themselves.
"When we’ve appeased them so much, given them so much that we have nothing left to give, then we will finally have atoned for our selfishness, our miserable globalism, our wicked imperialism, consumerism and nationalism, and all our filthy isms. And it’s so easy."
‘All we have to do is hug a terrorist’
"All we have to do is hug a terrorist," he writes. "And not mind the bulky dynamite strapped to his chest."
Meanwhile, in 2005, leaders in Portland, Oregon, angry at the Bush administration’s conduct of the war on terror, voted not to allow city law enforcement officers to participate in a key anti-terror initiative, the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.
But it was that task force which helped prevent what could have been a horrific terrorist attack at the Portland tree-lighting ceremony.
Now city officials say they might re-think their participation in the task force.
Reading the FBI affidavit describing Islamist terror suspect Mohamed Osman Mohamud’s plan to bomb the Christmas tree ceremony in Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square is a chilling experience. Mohamud, a Somali-born naturalized U.S. citizen who attended Oregon State University, told undercover FBI agents he dreamed of performing acts of jihad in which hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Americans would die. "Do you remember when 9/11 happened when those people were jumping from skyscrapers?" Mohamud asked the agents, according to the affidavit. "I thought that was awesome."
In months of preparation with men he thought were co-conspirators but were in fact undercover agents, Mohamud backed up his talk with action.
After initially making email contact with Islamist radicals in Pakistan, he took part in constructing what he hoped would be an extraordinarily powerful bomb, scouted the best location for the attack, parked the van containing the bomb near the Christmas tree crowd, and, finally, dialed the cell phone number he believed would detonate the explosives.
"I want whoever is attending that event to leave either dead or injured," Mohamud said of the 25,000 people expected to take part in the event.
That Mohamud was arrested and no one was hurt is a testament to good intelligence and law enforcement work. Having Mohamud behind bars has undoubtedly saved lives in Portland; had he not encountered the undercover FBI agents, he might have worked with actual terrorists to construct a bomb, or he might have simply gotten a gun and carried out "an operation here, you know, like something like Mumbai," as he told the agents.
What is ironic is that the operation that found and stopped Mohamud is precisely the kind of law enforcement work that Portland’s leaders, working with the American Civil Liberties Union, rejected during the Bush years. In April 2005, the Portland city council voted 4 to 1 to withdraw Portland city police officers from participating in the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. Mayor Tom Potter said the FBI refused to give him a top-secret security clearance so he could make sure the officers weren’t violating state anti-discrimination laws that bar law enforcement from targeting suspects on the basis of their religious or political beliefs.
Other city leaders agreed. "Here in Portland, we are not willing to give up individual liberties in order to have a perception of safety," said city commissioner Randy Leonard. "It’s important for cities to know how their police officers are being used."