Thursday, February 09, 2012

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Global War on Christians?

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has published an eight-page article in Newsweek, mostly photos with about two pages of text, on the worsening plight of Christians -- usually Christian minorities -- in the Muslim world. There's nothing new for those of us who've been keeping up with the news for the past decade, but the surprise is that the issue has gotten such major attention from a prominent publication: front cover image of Jesus 'wounded' by Islamist transgressions!

Even more surprising is the decision to call it "war." Again, look at the front cover, see the all-caps font: "The War on Christians." That's a rather bold move by Newsweek. I wonder if this will bring serious attention to the issue, or if it will be seen merely as a desperate attempt to bolster sales and increase subscriptions, which is also the case, of course.

Online, the article's title is "The Global War on Christians in the Muslim World," which rather clearly spells out the Newsweek view: Global Jihad. The hard copy version is more sedate: "Christophobia." That's a not-so-subtle dig at the term "Islamophobia." Ali opens her article in even more unsparing terms:
We hear so often about Muslims as victims of abuse in the West and combatants in the Arab Spring's fight against tyranny. But, in fact, a wholly different kind of war is underway -- an unrecognized battle costing thousands of lives. Christians are being killed in the Islamic world because of their religion. It is a rising genocide that ought to provoke global alarm.

She then offers evidence of persecution from Nigeria through Sudan, Egypt, Saudia Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and Indonesia. The list could have been far more extensive, and I would dispute some of the statistics on numbers of Christians. Ali gives 40 percent as the number for Nigeria, but I believe I've seen statistics that make Christians equal to Muslims, perhaps even greater in numbers. She gives 7 percent in Indonesia, but few who know of Christianity's growth there would consider that figure accurate. But I don't wish to nitpick. I do think Ali is correct on the 'organization' of this war against Christians:
It should be clear from this catalog of atrocities that anti-Christian violence is a major and underreported problem. No, the violence isn't centrally planned or coordinated by some international Islamist agency. In that sense the global war on Christians isn't a traditional war at all. It is, rather, a spontaneous expression of anti-Christian animus by Muslims that transcends cultures, regions, and ethnicities.

If Ali is right that this isn't centrally planned, what accounts for the 'jihad'? She cites an expert:
As Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom, pointed out in an interview with Newsweek, Christian minorities in many majority-Muslim nations have "lost the protection of their societies." 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.

What can be done? Ali offers suggestions:
As for what the West can do to help religious minorities in Muslim-majority societies, my answer is that it needs to begin using the billions of dollars in aid it gives to the offending countries as leverage. Then there is trade and investment. Besides diplomatic pressure, these aid and trade relationships can and should be made conditional on the protection of the freedom of conscience and worship for all citizens.

The expression "all citizens" is key, given what we learned from Egyptian Protestant and head of Egypt's Bible Society, Ramez Atallah. Ali nevertheless closes on a rather more defiant, even Christocentric note:
Instead of falling for overblown tales of Western Islamophobia, let's take a real stand against the Christophobia infecting the Muslim world. Tolerance is for everyone -- except the intolerant.

The persecution directed against Christianity is the article's focus, so the conclusion fits the piece, but I've noticed Ali explicitly saying positive things about Christianity over the past couple of years. I don't think that she has converted -- so far as I know, she's officially atheist -- but she did marry Niall Ferguson in a church. He's no believer either -- merely agnostic, I think he's acknowledged -- but he has argued that Christian belief, especially Protestantism, is correlated with economic success, a variant of the old Weber thesis.

There are ironies in all of this, though these don't override the truth of Ali's remarks . . .

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At 1:23 AM, Blogger whitney said...

I read this article on the Daily Beast and was amazed at the comments. They quickly descended to full on Christian bashing. The disconnect has become glaring. All these people programmed to hate Christianity but to accept all other faiths. It is the same disconnect that makes all fathers of daughters say they would like to have son-in-law like Tim Tebow, but they could never say why. It would make their brains explode.

At 4:25 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I almost never read comments on any article since they're mostly posted by angry people further angered by the article. I think those people are a minority. Most people will instead be more thoughtful though quiet. In this case, most readers will notice that a woman with a Muslim name (Ali) is exposing Islamist persecution of Christians, and they'll look at the photos and notice that these Christians are not Western but are an oppressed minority.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:13 AM, Blogger whitney said...

I hope you are right but I am not sure you are. Several generations have been trained to have complete disdain for the churchs and their teachings and to think all morality is relative. Ten commandments, please. 'You shall have no Gods before me.' We are so busy thinking we are Gods that we have lost sight of the wisdom available. How can such an untethered people defend itself?

At 6:29 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Those people will soon discover that Islam is far more hostile to their views than the Church is.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:08 AM, Blogger whitney said...

Your right. I was one of those people that I described and I changed my views. Stands to reason, so can anyone else.

At 7:10 AM, Blogger whitney said...

you're not your is what I meant to write. Yikes

At 7:41 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I have to proofread two or three times to catch every error . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:18 AM, Blogger Carter Kaplan said...

Has the phenomenon of the animus to Christianity and Christians been studied and categorized? A “full-spectrum” geographical and sociological analysis would be interesting. After studying Milton and the 17th century, as well as Blake and (say) Jefferson and the 18th century, I’d especially like to learn of possible theoretical interpretations of the politics (and in turn the economics) of the phenomenon.

At 5:22 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I don't know, Carter, but I think that the 'secular' anti-Christian views are grounded in an ethic shaped by Christianity itself: moral self-critique because we're all sinners and freedom of thought because we can shift between Jerusalem and Athens.

The rise of this secular critique seems linked to the Enlightenment, but probably draws upon polemics between Protestants and Catholics.

Doubtless, this all gets further distorted in 'Christophobia.' There's also some distorted thinking on the superiority of victims.

Jeffery Hodges

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