Anti-Islam cleric with $60m bounty in Langley
Sources have told The Province that Father Zakaria Botros, a retired Coptic priest from Egypt, arrived at Vancouver International Airport Wednesday afternoon to little public fanfare — but an RCMP presence.
Although he lives in exile in the U.S., Botros is little known in the West.
But he is the target of a fatwa and has been named Islam’s “public enemy No. 1” by an Arabic newspaper for his fiery critiques of Islam, the Koran and the prophet Muhammad in a television show broadcast weekly on the Arabic-Christian channel al- Hayat or The Life.
Up to 60 million viewers in the Arab world — as well as in Europe, Australia and North America — tune in to Botros’s show, Truth Talk, to listen to the outspoken cleric preach the gospel, according to World Magazine, which awarded Botros with the Daniel of the Year award in 2008.
His sermons are reportedly causing mass conversions of Muslims to the Christian faith.
Botros is in town for “The Unveiling,” a three-day gathering of spiritual leaders, including Jewish and Arab leaders, to discuss God’s divine purpose in the Middle East.
The seminar, which runs from Thursday to Saturday, is held at Trinity Western University in Langley and organized by a group called Watchmen for the Nations.
In a video segment of his show, Botros said he was exiled from his home of Egypt for sharing the gospel.
“For this I have been named Islam’s public enemy No. 1. For this, there is now a price on my head,” he told his audience.
“But I love Jesus more than my life and because Jesus loves Muslims, because he came and laid down his life for them, I love them, too, and I am willing to lay my life down, if this is the way to reach them for my beloved Jesus.”
Despite his confrontational style, Botros told World Magazine in 2008 that “I am not against Muslims, although I am against Islam as a false religion. I don’t want to disgrace Muslims, but to expose Islam.”
Botros’s statements and his appeal among some Muslim followers have ignited the anger of jihadists.
Al-Qaida has declared him an infidel and put a $60-million price on his head. In comparison, the reward placed on Osama bin Laden’s head by the U.S. government is $25 million.
RCMP spokesman Sgt. Rob Vermuelen said Botros’s arrival was on the Mounties’ radar but he declined to comment further.
Trinity Western University Prof. Paul Rowe said Botros is “extremely popular in the Middle East because he takes a no-holds-barred approach to challenging Islam.”
“He’ll challenge Muslims on their own text. He knows the Koran and the Hadith [narratives on Muhammad’s sayings and actions] really well and he is able to deal with Islam on its own merits.”