By Ron Hale
Mark A. Gabriel became a marked man after converting to Christianity from Islam. His harrowing escape from Egypt still haunts him!
Memorizing the Quran by age 12, earning a PhD at the famous Al-Azhar University in Cairo and teaching there, and serving as the imam of a mosque, provides Gabriel a unique perspective in teaching Westerners about Islam.
His most famous (or infamous) professor was the blind sheikh, Omar Abdel Rahman. He became the mastermind of the first bomb attack of the World Trade Center in 1993, and sat in a U.S. high-security prison until his recent death on Feb. 18, 2017.
Gabriel started questioning his faith while a professor at Al-Azhar University. Islam’s violent side in the Quran and in Islamic history lay heavy on his heart. After a few questioning statements, he was arrested and tortured by the Egyptian secret police.
He eventually fled his country and found it necessary to change his name after being stabbed, shot at, and repeated death threats on his life. However, he does not see Muslims as his enemy. Muslims are the very ones who suffer the most from Islamic radicals or jihadists according to Gabriel.
In reading his revised and updated edition of ‘Islam and Terrorism’ (2015), I was captivated by his encounter with a convert from Christianity to Islam. It happened in the year 2000 in Washington D.C. at the Islamic Center at Georgetown University.
American students had been invited to hear an ex-Baptist minister from Texas who converted from Christianity to Islam. Gabriel asked himself, “What in the world could happen to an American Baptist pastor that would cause him to make a decision like that?” This question led him to the event.
Sitting in the middle of 300 students, Gabriel was astonished by first seeing the American speaker wearing the traditional clothing that Islamic fanatics wear in Egypt. His robe was white, long, and he sported a thick beard. The speaker was introduced as Sheikh Yusef.
While the Sheikh tried hard in converting the young crowd to Islam, Gabriel could see that the Sheikh’s picture of Islam was absolutely foreign to the truth of Islam and was filled with deception by using the same tactics Islamic organizations use to bait Westerners.
It got very exciting as the Sheikh opened up for questions from the audience. Gabriel’s hand quickly shot up and he asked the Sheikh the following series of questions:
“How long has it been since you converted to Islam?” He replied, “Eight years.”
“Good,” I said, “Have you faced any type of persecution here in the US since you made this decision?”
“Not at all,” he said.
“Did your church or other churches commit their members to go after you and never stop until they killed you because you betrayed Christianity?”
“None of that happened,” he said.
“Are there verses in the Bible that say Christian apostates should be killed?”
“No, there are no verses in the Bible that talk about that.”
The atmosphere in the room was just electric, as Gabriel introduced himself by saying, “I am a former professor of Al-Azhar University. I taught Islamic history and culture. Eight years ago I left Islam and became a Christian. Do you know what consequences I suffered for leaving Islam? I lost my job at the university. I was put in prison by the secret police who tortured me almost to death. Even my own family pursued me and tried to kill me and several times I suffered attempts of assassination.”
Gabriel continued, “Now it has been eight years exactly, just like you, but the difference between you and me is that I lost everything I ever had or lived for. I lost my family, job, home country, and right to live. Now I am constantly on the run. The sword of Islam is on my neck all the time because the Quran and the prophet Muhammad made it this way.”
Gabriel’s coup de grâce came with this penetrating question to the Sheikh, “What was the price you paid for leaving Christianity?”
The inference was no one tried to kill him or put him in prison. The FBI did not arrest him for a crime against the state. No church sentenced him to death. No one was sent with a sword to silence him forever.
Gabriel sadly informed the Sheikh that he had lost his freedom in the land of the free. How? Gabriel said, “… because the day you think of leaving Islam, you will be killed by the sword of Islam and you will not be able to escape.”
The difference between a Christian convert and a Muslim convert is, in the latter, you give up your right to ever change your religion again.