A week ago, Jersey City police, responding to calls from anxious friends and relatives, came upon a horrific scene: a family of four stabbed to death.
What made this murder even more disturbing was its possible motive and the authorities’ attempts to downplay that motive.
The victims were Hossam and Amal Armanious and their daughters, Sylvia and Monica. They were Coptic Christians who had emigrated from Egypt “in part to escape religious persecution.” As the wife’s uncle told the Bergen Record (NJ), Hossam Armanious “had sensed a rise in anti-Christian extremism” in their native land.
After their arrival, the family, especially Hossam and Sylvia, became outspoken about their faith. According to her classmates, Sylvia would “debate people [about her faith] in class” and even had a Coptic Cross tattooed on her wrist.
Her father was, according to the New York Post, “well known for expressing his Coptic beliefs and engaging in [a] fiery back-and-forth [dialogue] with Muslims” in Internet chat rooms. This earned him a reputation for being “one of the most outspoken Egyptian Christians.”
It also got him a warning. One of his correspondents told Hossam that he better shut up or “we are going to track you down like a chicken and kill you . . . ”
So, when Hossam and his family were found stabbed to death, with Sylvia’s tattoo singled out for special attention, it seemed reasonable to ask if religion played a role in the killings — especially since, according to their relatives, their jewelry was not taken.
Reasonable, but not politically correct. Prosecutors publicly called speculation about a religious motive “unfortunate,” despite the fact that investigators were “coming to terms with the possibility that the family had been targeted for death” for religious reasons.
The one million Coptic Christians in the United States can be excused for wondering if they are experiencing a sense of “deja vu.” Back in Egypt, they were second-class citizens whose claims of mistreatment and persecution were ignored, or worse, by a government intent on appeasing Islamists.
Now their concerns about Islamist violence are being downplayed by American officials intent on not offending Islamic groups. And they are not the only Middle Eastern Christians with this problem: Nina Shea of Freedom House recently wrote about our government’s “indifference to the fate” of Iraq’s Christian minority.
But even if the people being killed were not Christians, there would still be a reason to be concerned about the government’s attitude: America is at war with a worldview that may have produced these murders.
Remember that both the 1993 and 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center were either planned or carried out by Islamists living in this same part of New Jersey. Now, that doesn’t implicate every or even most of the Islamic immigrants living there, but it does mean that some in this community have been radicalized. If nothing else, public safety demands that possible links to Islamist violence be treated as more than “unfortunate” speculation.
Especially is that true when that violence is directed at those who exercise a right that every American takes for granted: the right to be outspoken about one’s beliefs.