Iraqi al-Qaeda and Christians
"An al Qa'eda group in Iraq has declared Christians 'legitimate targets' as a deadline expired for Egypt's Coptic church to free women allegedly held after converting to Islam, SITE monitors said today.
"The self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) said in an internet statement that its threat was justified by the church's refusal to indicate the status of the women it said were being held captive in monasteries, the US-based monitoring group said...
"The group, which claimed the attack on Christians in a Baghdad church that ended on Sunday with the killing of 46 worshippers as security forces attempted to free them, had said that the attack was to seek the release of the alleged converts in Egypt.
"'Let these idolaters, and at their forefront, the hallucinating tyrant of the Vatican, know that the killing sword will not be lifted from the necks of their followers until they declare their innocence from what the dog of the Egyptian Church is doing,' the ISI said in its latest statement.
This is qualitatively different from the original al-Qaeda's rhetoric against "Crusaders," and more like the tone many Islamist militants have adopted toward Jews. If this willingness to push open communal warfare spreads, it will have important consequences for the large Christian communities found throughout the Middle East. Although not the most important aspect of the story, it's also worth noting the conflation of different Christian groups, as the states motives involve a delicate communal affair among Egypt's Copts and the Qur'an-burning threat by a Florida pastor, but the massacre was carried out at a Chaldean Catholic church and the statement clearly references the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.
(Crossposted to American Footprints)