Ex-Muslim Boy Clings to Faith Despite Beatings

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TURKEY - February 2011. Americans are appalled when they see shocking cell phone video of a vicious attack on a 13-year-old boy from Philadelphia.

Nadin Khoury said the assault occurred because he's small for his age and his family is African. Khoury made the rounds on television talk shows like the CBS' "The View," which are often eager to highlight the victims of bullying in America.

But what about Christians in other countries who are attacked and sometimes even killed because of their faith, especially if they're converts from Islam?

What the Media Won't Report

Assaults like the one against Khoury occur regularly in Muslim countries around the world and the American mainstream media is unlikely to tell you about it.

The media is also unlikely to report stories like that of a former Muslim named Hussein. The 12-year-old publicly professed his Christian faith in Turkey by wearing a silver cross necklace in school.

"It's not the physical cross. It's the meaning of the cross that is important. It is a beautiful thing," he explained. "I wanted people to ask me about it and then I could tell them about Christ."

Hussein was 9 years old at the time. His father, Hakeem, was once an Islamic scholar who had studied the Koran in Iran and Syria. When his questions about Islam went unanswered, Hakeem searched elsewhere for the truth. He discovered it in the Bible and in church.

After he became a Christian, Hakeem decided to take Hussein and his other children to church.

"I felt so alive hearing the hymns and singing in the church! I felt I had to learn more about this. I was so joyful," he recalled.

A Child Led Them 

After the boy accepted Christ, Hussein wanted to share the good news with others. He was unaware of the potential dangers he faced for leaving Islam.

His sister saw him wearing the silver cross necklace and anxiously told her parents that Hussein was telling everyone that the family had become Christians.

Because they feared persecution from militant Muslims, Hussein's parents prohibited him from wearing the cross.

"We referred to it as Hussein's problem. We were trying to prevent conflicts with others, but we came to realize that we were the ones with the problem, not Hussein," Hakeem said.

"We decided to be like Hussein, more open about our Christianity," he said.

Taunted by his Teachers, Peers 

His Muslim classmates taunted Hussein in school. They spat on him and called him names. He often suffered attacks similar to the one against Khoury.

Hussein threatened to report one of the bullies to the principal.

"The boy grabbed me by the arm, squeezed my hand, and yelled, 'I'm going to shoot you if you tell about this!'" Hussein said.

Hakeem described what happened when he confronted the bully's father.

"I thought the father would be concerned about his son's action. But instead, he called me names, threatened me, and said he would shoot me himself if I pursued action against his son," he said.

Some of the worst beatings endured by the boy didn't come from his classmates.

"Hussein refused to attend school, so I asked him if he was still getting beat up by those boys. He said, 'No, by my religion teacher,'" Hakeem told CBN News.

Like in most Islamic countries, students of all faiths are required to attend Islamic studies in school. Those who refuse to recite the Koran and Islamic prayers are often beaten by the teacher.

And so it was for Hussein. He said he was punished regularly with a two-foot long rod because he wouldn't say the Islamic Shahada.

"I don't like saying it. It isn't in my heart. It is just meaningless words to me," Hussein said.

Hakeem went to the school and asked why his Christian son was beaten for refusing to recite Muslim prayers.

"The religion teacher said it was allowed. That the principal and parents agreed that he should do this," Hakeem recalled.

'I'll Never Return to Islam' 

The teacher's beatings, the bullying, and the assaults from classmates took a toll on young Hussein.

Stressed and traumatized, he started to experience grand mal seizures. He now takes medicine to treat the condition.

Hussein also attends a new school where he suffers fewer attacks. He insists he will never return to Islam even if he is forced to endure worse abuse.

"Christ said, 'You would suffer for me.' So it's okay to suffer and we should be happy to suffer for Him. The Lord is with me," the boy said.

Hussein said he will continue to tell others about Jesus, with or without that silver cross necklace.

*Originally aired on February 3, 2012.  

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