Cliff May

The U.S. government has gone further, designating also RIHS headquarters in Kuwait for “providing financial and material support to al Qaida and al Qaida affiliates, including Lashkar e-Tayyiba” which was “implicated in the July 2006 attack on multiple Mumbai commuter trains, and in the December 2001 attack against the Indian Parliament.” Such activities have caused RIHS offices to be “closed or raided by the governments of Albania, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cambodia, and Russia.”

This should be emphasized: Al al-Sheikh is not the Arabian equivalent of some backwoods Florida pastor. He is the highest religious authority in Saudi Arabia, where there is no separation of mosque and state, and the state religion is the ultra-orthodox/fundamentalist reading of Islam known as Wahhabism. He also is a member of the country’s leading religious family.

In other words, his pronouncements represent the official position of Saudi Arabia – a country that, we have been told time and again, changed course after 9/11/01 and is now our ally and solidly in the anti-terrorism camp.

None of this might have come to light at all had it not been for Raymond Ibrahim, the Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum. He was the first to call attention to the Grand Mufti’s remarks based on three Arabic language websites, Mideast Christian News, Linga Christian Service and Asrare, also a Christian outlet. It occurred to me that perhaps these not entirely disinterested sources had misunderstood or exaggerated. So I asked Miller, who reads Arabic, to do a little more digging. Calls to the State Department’s Saudi desk and the Saudi embassy proved fruitless but he did find the Mufti’s comments reported in a well-known Kuwaiti newspaper, Al-Anba, on March 11.

All this stands out against the backdrop of the most significant news story the mainstream media insist on ignoring: the spreading and intensifying persecution of Christians in Muslim-majority countries (an issue I’ve written about before, here for example, and which Ibrahim has written about, most recently, here.). Churches have been burned and/or bombed in Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Indonesia and the Philippines. The ancient Christian communities of Gaza and the West Bank are shrinking. In Pakistan, Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, is facing the death penalty for allegedly “insulting” Islam. In Iran, Youcef Nadarkhani, sits on death row for the “crime” of choosing Christianity over Islam.

This week, as Nina Shea reported, the U.S. Commission on International Human Rights (Uscirf) released its 14th annual report identifying the world’s worst persecutors. Of the 16 countries named, 12 are majority or plurality Muslim.

Why are reporters covering the State Department and the White House not asking administration officials whether they are troubled by Saudi Arabia’s senior religious authority meeting with supporters of al-Qaeda and telling them that, yes, Christian churches should be demolished? Why have reporters covering the UN decided these issues are of no concern to the so-called international community? How about the centers for “Islamic-Christian understanding” that have been established – with Saudi money -- at such universities as Harvard and Georgetown: Do they suppose there is nothing here to understand -- no need for any academic scrutiny of the Saudi/Wahhabi perspective on church-burning and relations with terrorist groups?

My guess is that all of the above have persuaded themselves that here are more pressing issues to worry about, such as the world-wide epidemic of “Islamophobia” and the need to impose serious penalties on those responsible. I understand. I really do.


Cliff May

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