Best-selling author, film director, women’s-rights advocate, former Dutch parliamentarian, Islamist death-threat survivor, refugee from a Somalian forced marriage, and a fierce champion of individual freedoms — that of others as well as her own — Ayaan Hirsi Ali has demonstrated her courage once more. In the cover story she penned for the current issue of Newsweek, entitled “The War on Christians,” which is excerpted in The Daily Beast, Hirsi Ali gives a tour d’horizon of the most politically incorrect subject of all human-rights reporting: the ongoing religious persecution of Christians in the Muslim world. It makes heartbreaking reading.
She criticizes the media for giving short shrift to this development, favoring instead the narrative that Muslims are the victims of religious persecution by the West. She writes:
But a fair-minded assessment of recent events and trends leads to the conclusion that the scale and severity of Islamophobia pales in comparison with the bloody Christophobia currently coursing through Muslim-majority nations from one end of the globe to the other.
The international media does report on the isolated anti-Christian atrocity: the Nigerian church that was blown up last Christmas, the Egyptian Coptic demonstrators killed for protesting religious persecution in October, and the 2010 Iraqi church bombing (the 70th documented church bombing in that country since 2003), which killed or maimed three priests and everyone else in it, to cite but a few examples. But it rarely looks at the global pattern, or even national patterns, and their significance.
As Hirsi Ali asserts, this is an urgent issue: “The conspiracy of silence surrounding this violent expression of religious intolerance has to stop. Nothing less than the fate of Christianity — and ultimately of all religious minorities — in the Islamic world is at stake.” Unfortunately, Arab democracy in Iraq and Egypt, the ancient homelands of two of the three largest Middle Eastern Christian communities, seems to be exacerbating the religious persecution.
In her piece, she observes that Muslim violence against Christians is on the rise in many areas, and she agrees with my conclusion, included in the same Newsweek issue, that Christians in Iraq, Egypt, Pakistan, northern Nigeria, and a number of other places have lost the protection of their societies. She comments:
This is especially so in countries with growing radical Islamist (Salafist) movements. In those nations, vigilantes often feel they can act with impunity — and government inaction often proves them right. The old idea of the Ottoman Turks — that non-Muslims in Muslim societies deserve protection (albeit as second-class citizens) — has all but vanished from wide swaths of the Islamic world, and increasingly the result is bloodshed and oppression.
She is right. The reasons for the worldwide growth of Salafi movements raise another question. As the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, the U.S. Treasury’s office on counterterrorism, and my own and others’ studies have pointed out, Saudi Arabia bears much responsibility; it exports its virulently intolerant Salafi ideology through educational materials and religious leaders. (Among other things, the imams of Mecca’s Grand Mosque and Medina’s Prophet’s Mosque, who serve at the pleasure of King Abdullah, the “Custodian of the Two Holy Shrines,” pray on Fridays before vast crowds of Muslim pilgrims from all over the world for the destruction and total annihilation of non-Muslims.) But that is a subject for another story.
Hirsi Ali’s piece is important reading. Americans need to know about this phenomenon because, in the end, the United States, which is allied to and supports Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria, is these besieged Christians’ last best hope. So far, the Obama administration has not even recognized the patterns. Hirsi Ali and Newsweek deserve credit for breaking the silence of the mainstream media on the rising persecution of Christians in much of the Muslim world.
— Nina Shea is director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.