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 . . .