An Islamist rebel group affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and backed by Turkey has arrested a Christian Syrian teacher for refusing to surrender his school building for Islamic training.

Radwan Muhammad, 40, is the headmaster of a school in a northwestern Syrian village near the Afrin province.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports that the arrest to place on July 30 after Muhammad told the Failaq al-Sham rebels, “I will hand you the building in one case only: if Jesus Christ comes down to earth again.”

Muhammad had another recent incident with the Islamist group after his wife, who had converted to Christianity, passed away. The group would not let her body be buried according to the local Christian traditions. 

Nihad Hassan, pastor of a Kurdish church in Beirut, Lebanon said, “We are extremely worried about Radwan’s life and well-being. He is being held at Failaq Al-Sham’s headquarters in Afrin and they may execute him. Those Islamist groups and their Turkish masters are walking in the footsteps of IS. In fact, many of their fighters are former IS and al Qaeda members.”

CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas called for an end to this persecution against Christians and also asked for Muhammad’s release.

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Turkey must stop the rebels and “immediately bring to an end all forms of violence and human rights abuses in the areas they control,” Thomas said. “We are deeply concerned for Mr. Muhammad’s welfare and we urge his abductors to release him immediately and without condition. We also urge the Turkish authorities to intervene.”

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) posted on Twitter that Muhammad had been charged with apostasy – renouncing a religion, and is urging for his release.

“USCIRF fears for the safety of #Afrin, Syria resident Radwan Muhammad, who a #TFSA faction has reportedly detained & charged w/ apostasy. USCIRF calls on #Turkey to intervene, order its allies to release Radwan, & prevent them from committing such acts.”

Kidnappings, arrests, and looting have become widespread in Afrin and many have been arrested over “communication with Kurdish units.” 

The Afrin’s Human Rights Organization said accusations of apostasy are “another excuse militias use to commit crime in Afrin.”

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