Cliff May

Not so long ago, the Broader Middle East was a diverse region. Lebanon had a Christian majority for centuries but that ended around 1990 - the result of years of civil war among the country's religious and ethnic communities. The Christian population of Turkey has diminished substantially in recent years. Islamists have driven Christians out of Bethlehem and other parts of the West Bank; almost all Christians have fled Gaza since Hamas' takeover.

There were Jewish communities throughout the Middle East for millennia. The Jews of Iran trace their history back more than 2,700 years but about 8 out of 10 Iranian Jews have emigrated since the 1979 Islamist Revolution; only about 40,000 remain.

The Jews of what is now Saudi Arabia were wiped out as Mohammad and his followers established a new religion and began to build a new empire in the 7th century A.D. But Jewish communities survived elsewhere until after World War II when Jews were forced to abandon their homes in Iraq (more than a fourth of Baghdad's population was Jewish), Libya, Algeria, Egypt, Syria, Morocco, Tunisia, Yemen and other countries.

In many cases they were driven out by Muslims furious over the establishment of the modern state of Israel. But how odd is it to protest the creation of a safe haven and homeland for Jews by making your own Jewish citizens homeless and stateless?

In 1947, Pakistan also was founded as a safe haven - for Indian Muslims who did not want to be ruled by Hindus once the British left the subcontinent. The country's founding father, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, was determined that while Pakistan would have an Islamic identity, it would be tolerant of Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Parsees and others - as much as 20 percent of the population at independence. It hasn't worked out that way and, as a result, non-Muslim minorities today constitute only about 3 percent of Pakistan's population. By contrast, non-Hindus constitute almost 20 percent of India's population, with Muslims the largest minority at 13 percent.

When the dots are connected, the picture that emerges is not pretty: An "Islamic world" in which terrorists are regarded often with lenience, sometimes with respect and occasionally with reverence, while minority groups face increasing intolerance, persecution and "cleansing," and where even their histories are erased. And we in the West are too polite, too "politically correct," and perhaps too cowardly to say much about it.


Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.