Cliff May

Imagine if Muslims in Europe were being arrested for nothing more than peacefully practicing their religion. Imagine if Muslims in South America were being sentenced to death for “insulting” Jesus. Imagine if mosques were being bombed and burned by terrorists in a growing list of Christian-majority countries.

Now here’s what you don’t need to imagine because it is all too real: In recent days, Christian churches have been bombed in Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria and the Philippines. In Indonesia a mob of 1,000 Muslims burned down two Christian churches because, according to one commentator, local Islamic authorities determined there were "too many faithful and too many prayers." In Iran, scores of Christians have been arrested. In Pakistan, a Christian woman received the death penalty for the “crime” of insulting Islam; the governor of Punjab promised to pardon her – and was then assassinated for the “crime” of blasphemy.

I could provide dozens more examples of the persecution and, in many cases, “cleansing” of Christians in what we have come to call the Muslim world. If the situation were reversed, if such a war were being waged against Muslims, it would be the top story in every newspaper, the most urgent item at the U.N., the highest priority of all the big-league human rights groups.

What we have instead is denial. I cited some of the above examples on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s “Power and Politics” program last week. In response, Professor Janice Stein of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto insisted that these dots do not connect. The assassination of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, she said, should be viewed as the consequence of Pakistan’s “terrible distribution of wealth.” Class conflict, not religious extremism, she added, is the correct explanation for the tragedy.

I noted that five hundred Pakistani religious scholars not only justified the killing of Taseer, they praised his killer’s “courage” and religious zeal, and said he had made Muslims proud around the world. They warned that anyone attending Taseer’s funeral, praying for him or expressing grief over his death would deserve the same fate he suffered.

The assailant who gunned down Taseer – Mumtaz Qadri, one of his own bodyguards – exalted afterward: “I have killed a blasphemer!” He did not say: “I have killed a member of the bourgeoisie!”

Professor Stein spoke, too, of the “conflict” between Muslims and Christians in Egypt as though both were equally to blame when, in fact, it is clearly Egypt’s ancient but diminishing Coptic community that is under siege with little means to defend itself, much less to wage a campaign of reciprocal oppression.


Cliff May

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