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Posted at 10:35 AM ET, 01/11/2011

What about religious freedom in Muslim countries?

By Jennifer Rubin

Elliott Abrams at the Council for Foreign Relations examines the independence referendum in Sudan. He notes: "The reports of millions of southern Sudanese voting in the referendum on independence are a reminder that democracy and self-rule are not a luxury that only the rich can afford. While there has been violence, some of it apparently the fault of northern Sudan, the overall picture is remarkably positive." But the need for such a referendum is what should concern us:

There are many ways of seeing the independence vote, but surely one is the failure here -- again -- of an Arab government to make it possible for Christians to live in peace and security. In fact the only Christian community in the Middle East that appears to be growing is that in Israel. The last few weeks have seen violence against Christians in Egypt and Iraq, and the rise of Hizballah in Lebanon has cornered the Maronite community there in many ways as well. Here the southern Sudanese are lucky, for the geography of those other countries makes thoughts of independence for their Christian minorities impossible. Christians in most of the Middle East will have to continue their difficult struggle for civil equality, personal safety, political power, and full religious freedom.

Cliff May, head of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, is blunt about the extent of the problem. He e-mails me:

I think what's taking place is nothing less than the religious and ethnic cleansing of the Muslim world.

Christians are being particularly targeted -- churches attacked in Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Indonesia, the Philippines; the assassination in Pakistan of a Muslim politician who dared defend a Christian woman sentenced to death for "insulting" Islam.

Other religious and ethnic minorities are also suffering intense persecution -- the black Muslims of Darfur, the Bahai of Iran, the Kurds, Sufis and Ahmadis in Pakistan, and of course the vicious anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism one finds throughout the region.

I think this is the most important issue not being reported by the mainstream media, not being studied by academics, not being taken up at the UN or made a priority by the large human rights groups.

The way to reverse this, of course, is through presidential leadership. Cliff surmises: "It would be useful for President Obama to speak out, but my guess is that those he trusts are advising against it -- indeed, are not connecting the dots and seeing a pattern."

Lela Gilbert, a Jerusalem-based fellow with the Hudson Institute who has written extensively on Christian persecution, sees that pattern quite clearly. She tells me:

"Those of us concerned with religious freedom have written for years about the plight of the largely-Christian South Sudanese. Anyone who has paid attention knows all too well the level of religiously-driven atrocities they have endured over decades of forced Islamization at the hands of the Khartoum government. Since 1983, President Omar al-Bashir's jihadi militias have repeatedly swept across South Sudan, murdering and mutilating, raping, seizing slaves, and leaving an unspeakable trail of blood and scorched earth: Two million dead, and nearly five million displaced, the majority being Christians and animists. The degree of carnage, which includes ongoing abuses in Darfur, has been so great that Bashir faces genocide charges in the International Criminal Court.

In a time when the persecution of Christians throughout the Muslim world is escalating dramatically - most recently demonstrated in Iraq, Egypt, Iran and Nigeria -President Obama's January 8 editorial statement, "In Sudan, an Election and a Beginning" in the New York Times is oddly vacuous. There is no mention of religious freedom or persecution, Christianity or Islam. The word "minority" is the only feeble hint: "The safety and citizenship of all Sudanese, especially minorities -- southerners in the north and northerners in the south -- have to be protected." Even that reflects a disturbing equivalency, implying that the North and South are similarly inclined toward abuse.

I would suggest this is a central failing of Obama's "Muslim Outreach." He has largely told Muslim leaders what they want to hear. He told Iran in the opening weeks of his administration that America's lack of humility had spurred anti-Americanism. He told the crowd in Cairo that Palestinians were akin to enslaved African Americans. He has told the Palestinians that the root of their conflict with Israel is the settlements.

All of that is both inaccurate and unhelpful. True outreach should include a clear enunciation of our interests and our expectations of states who want good relations with the U.S. Egypt's Hosni Mubarak needs to end his thuggish tactics if he wants American aid and investment to keep flowing. The Saudis need to make good on the promise to President George W. Bush to remove anti-Semitic references and intolerant rhetoric from text books. The Palestinian National Authority needs to stop naming town squares after terrorists. And, yes, the Muslim countries need to end persecution and discrimination of Christians and Jews in their countries.

NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based group, agrees. "Christians in much of the Middle East - including Egypt, Iraq, and Gaza - face intense religious persecution and violent attacks, but they gets very little attention from NGOs and UN bodies claiming to promote universal human rights," says Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor. "As the deadly terror attacks against Christian minorities increase, the Obama administration has the obligation of placing these issues at the top of the international human rights agenda."

It may be difficult to devise effective sanctions for abuse of religious minorities. But if we don't deliver candid assessments, we will accomplish nothing. Perhaps another trip to Cairo is in order. And this time, the president could present the inconvenient truths about the Muslim nations' treatment of women, Christians, dissidents and democracy advocates.

By Jennifer Rubin  | January 11, 2011; 10:35 AM ET
Categories:  Human Rights  
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Jennifer, when you're right, youre right! It's very difficult for us to understand that in some ways, what we have achieved is unique to Western Civilization, and not transportable outside that shared experience.

Democracy, more specifically the concept of a loyal opposition, and freedom of religion, are two areas that have reached a maturity level in Western nations that others will be many, many years in catching up to, if ever.

Posted by: 54465446 | January 11, 2011 11:19 AM | Report abuse

"What's government when words have no meaning"

This is a clear reference to Obama's 2008 campaign themes - and Obama's failure to follow through on any of them.

- Bipartisanship, when Obama meets few times with the Republicans

- Compromise - when Obama is dumping 2,000 page bills on the internet in the middle of the night and the democrats calling votes on weekends and holidays

- Post-racial - what is post-racial when the majority party is leveling FALSE CHARGES OF RACISM at their political opponents, acting more like a third world dictatorship than anything else

- Transparency - do we have to mention the hidden file in Hawaii again?

"What's government when words have no meaning?"

I found that phrase at the end of one of videos posted on Politico, however I thought I heard a report on tv that the suspect said that phrase on Saturday.

I would like to confirm that - because it would be significant if the suspect used that phrase more than once - especially in the context of all the stuff the suspect has out there.


Posted by: RainForestRising | January 11, 2011 11:22 AM | Report abuse

It is not surprising that Islam is the only religion on the face of the earth which venerates violence against and the murder of non Moslems.
What is even less surprising is how Moslem Sharia law celebrates violence against and even the murder of MOSLEMS. Even for such "crimes" as apostasy, that is, leaving Islam, spousal misbehavior including unfaithfulness, murder is prescribed. Women who "disobey" their husbands or refuse to behave "modestly" have been publicly bull whipped in front of a crowd of laughing and cat calling men. There is even a recent MEMRI video clip from the Sudan where this actually was done to a to a clearly distraught, weeping young Moslem woman screaming in pain and begging for mercy. The crowd of men simply stood there and laughed at her distress.

Posted by: kenhe | January 11, 2011 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Unless it's merely selective editing, most all of what I've seen/heard--via the print and electronic media--theist/fundamentalist Islamists, madrassa-"educated" or not, most resemble the barbarians of this world's ancient and recent past. The Japanese of Pearl Harbor/W.W.II were deists, believing in a divine Emperor Hirohito and following whatever path he instructed the populace to follow. A huge majority of today's Islamists seem also to be followers of lies and deceits cast to them by both their politicos and imams--rarely thinking and investigating the truth of most issues; regularly reacting by committing horrible, murderous "acts of vengeance" against whomever the politicos and imams have chosen to excoriate (whether or not the truth was employed in those denunciations). It took Hiroshima/Nagasaki to quickly convince the Japanese they were following the wrong path. Multi-warhead inter-continental/intermediate-range ballistic missiles seem the only way to also convince today's Islamist theist-dictatorships of a fact they've forgotten, in their world of disingenuous words: "When you f*** with the bull, you get the horn." Let them try to bury tens of thousands of their fellow-Islamists--and do it to them before they do it to us.

Posted by: marc85 | January 11, 2011 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: kenhe | January 11, 2011 11:26 AM

"It is not surprising that Islam is the only religion on the face of the earth which venerates violence against and the murder of non Moslems"

It's not surprising that those on the right repeat such blatant falsities and demonstrate such ignorance.

First of all, Christianity stands apart as the biggest culprit in this regard, and secondly, the Koran issues no such edicts.

Posted by: AndreDeAngelis | January 11, 2011 8:24 PM | Report abuse

Surprisingly an article not tripping over itself to apologize to all Muslims ~ for Muslim state persecution and discrimination of non-Muslim citizens.

The story continues ~ Europe has found ~ that the more Muslims come from these intolerant Islamic regions ~ the more this type of behavior or belief system can be seen inside of Europe. [In fact they want legislation for it.]

Apologies all round! ~ Not!!

That Obama ~ can't be honest and forthright with the Muslims ~ it is like a kid ~ and when the kid does good ~ you praise it, but equally when it does bad you praise it and apologize and make excuses for it ~ then you understandably reinforce the bad behavior.


Muslims believe that it is right to give non-Muslims limited rights ~ based on their religious laws ~ non-Muslims can't be equal to Muslims ~ and so what they want is praise and acceptance for the religious repression and persecution of others ~ this is where we need to stop making excuses and realize there is no apology ~ for their practise of Islam.

In the west we need to stop blaming ourselves. Around Islam we are acting like battered wives. Refusing to look at the real picture.


Honest and constructive criticism ~ has been tied to 'hate' ~ as the argument goes ~ to say ~ Muslims need to treat Christians and other religious minorities fairer ~ is to 'hate 1 billion Muslims'. So, to be uncritical ~ even of the most intolerant and outrageous behavior ~ is to show that you love and most of all 'respect' Islam and all Muslims around the world.

When it is in the Middle East, Pakistan, the Maldives or Indonesia, then it is over there ~ however in Europe, they found they were only so many excuses away from becoming the intolerant ME & Islamic world.

There the main argument is as highlighted by this article ~ and it is the problem with the tolerance of intolerance.

Posted by: roxn | January 11, 2011 9:26 PM | Report abuse

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