Why was Ronald Thomas Smith II, an American teaching at Benghazi’s International School, shot to death last Thursday in Libya, even as he “was looking forward to his first Christmas in the United States with his wife and toddler son?"
Most Western media and analysts dismiss the killing as a random act of violence incited by a recent al Qaeda video.
However, by connecting the dots and looking at precedence, it appears that Smith’s Christianity, specifically his talking about it among Muslims, was the motive behind the slaying.
First consider two facts gleaned from the Associated Press report, “American killed in Benghazi remembered as ‘much loved teacher:’” 1) Smith once had plans to attend seminary, a place devoted to preparing Christians to share the Gospel—a crime according to Islamic law (recall the Coptic Christians tortured and killed on the accusation that they were proselytizing in Libya); 2) according to his home church in Texas, “Ronnie’s [Smith’s] greatest desire was for peace and prosperity in Libya and for the people of Libya to have the joy of knowing God through Christ.”
Then there is the fact that Smith was a “much loved teacher”—a phrase that immediately, if not eerily, brings to mind another very similar story of another “much beloved” American teacher who was killed in the Islamic world for talking about Christianity.
On March 1, 2012 in Iraq, Jeremiah Small—described as “beloved teacher and friend" was shot to death by a student, even “as he [Small] bent his head to pray at the start of a morning class. The 33-year-old teacher from Washington State took bullets to the head and chest and died at the scene.” According to students, “Mr. Jeremiah’s hands were still folded in prayer when he fell.” A day before the shooting “a heated discussion” broke out “during which the pupil threatened to kill the teacher because of conflicting religious views.”
As with Smith, Small was described as a very devoted teacher and friend to his students; and as with Smith, the official story as reported by mainstream media, such as the Wall Street Journal, is that the motive for his murder was a “mystery.”
Yet, according to interviews with family and friends, Small “was a devout Christian who frequently praised Christianity and prayed in the classroom, and his friends in Washington said his evangelism is what motivated him to teach in Iraq… but he wasn’t pushy.” Moreover, the father of the student who killed Small, before killing himself, said that Small was trying to convert his son to Christianity and described Christians like the slain American teacher as “more dangerous than al Qaeda."
The fact is, Americans attacked and/or murdered for merely talking—or being suspected of talking—about Christianity is not an uncommon phenomenon in the Islamic world.
Thus, a few days after the killing of Jeremiah Small in Iraq, on March 18, 2012, yet another American teacher, Joel Shrum, 29, living in Yemen with his wife and two children, was shot eight times and killed by gunmen and members of the Supporters of Sharia (which operates a wing in the new Libya created by the U.S). The group later issued a message saying, “This operation comes as a response to the campaign of Christian proselytizing that the West has launched against Muslims,” calling Shrum “one of the biggest American proselytizers.”
Lest there is still any doubt concerning the violence that often sparks up when Christians, in this case, Americans, are seen as sharing the Gospel with Muslims, consider the following anecdotes, both from Muslim countries regularly touted for being “moderate”:
In Indonesia, October 2011, after they were accused of proselytizing to Muslims, an American family was attacked by “an enraged mob spurred by a local religious leader;” the Muslim mob set fire to Americans’ property and vehicle: “ Only the intervention of police saved the[ir] lives.”
In Bangladesh, February 2012, three American Christians were injured by broken glass after their car was attacked by another Muslim mob that suspected they were converting Muslims: at least 200 angry locals chased their car, throwing stones at it.
As for the Obama administration’s response to the murder of Smith, it asked the Libyan government to “thoroughly investigate” the killing—a somewhat pointless request, considering the U.S.-supported Libyan government openly arrests Westerners accused of “proselytizing,” threatening them with the death penalty.
And that’s the point: while Western media and their talking heads habitually dismiss such coldblooded murders as “random” and “mysterious,” incited by al Qaeda—that one blame-all “terrorist” organization that everything can be heaped upon—the unspoken fact is that these attacks are products of Islamic teachings; in this case, that challenging the truths of Islam with another set of truths—such as the Gospel—is strictly forbidden, often on pain of death.
Raymond Ibrahim is author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christiansa section of which deals with Christian proselytism and Islam.