Bahai News - ISLAM'S CRUEL CRUSADERS
ISLAM'S CRUEL CRUSADERS
By JONATHAN FOREMAN
October 31, 2001
LAST weekend's appalling massacre of Christians in Pakistan - and the
fact that it is part of a pattern of oppression there and in other
Muslim countries that predates our campaign in Afghanistan - should
clarify the media's rather muddy picture of today's Islamic world.
It's all very well to assure others and ourselves that we are not
engaged in a war against Islam, and that support for al Qaeda is hardly
universal among the world's diverse Muslim populations - but it's also
worth remembering that our treasured notions of religious equality and
freedom of belief don't command the same respect once you go far enough
east or south of Istanbul.
And while there is intolerance in every society (including ours),
religious intolerance has support or at least the acquiesence of the
state in many Muslim societies. Indeed, it is all too common for
Christians (and Jews and other religious minorities, such as the Bahai
in Iran) to face intolerance amounting to persecution.
In Pakistan, this has included assaults, rapes and the murder of
Christians awaiting trial for "blasphemy" (a crime for which the
punishment is death). The generally impoverished Christians' situation
is particularly bad because most are converts from Hinduism or the
children of such converts, some of whom made the switch during or after
the bloody sectarian horrors of India's partition. Many came from
low-caste Hindu families, which increases the contempt in which they are
Nor is Pakistan alone in Asia in terms of anti-Christian
intolerance: Indonesia has seen worse anti-Christian violence.
Indonesia's Molucca islands have actually been the scene of forced
conversions and large-scale murder of Christians by Islamic
fundamentalists of the Laskar Jihad movement over the past three years.
Some 5,000 have died and 500,000 more been displaced, with the armed
forces turning a blind eye or even taking part in the atrocities.
In the Middle East, there's the official intolerance of Saudi
Arabia, and other Gulf States like Qatar and United Arab Emirates. Egypt
features fundamentalist pogroms against Coptic Christians; Algeria, the
anti-Christian violence of the Islamic Salvation Front.
Saudi Arabia may be the worst offender when it comes to official
intolerance: It bans non-Muslims from two whole cities, Mecca and
Medina. Hundreds of Christians have been arrested for acts of private
worship and at least 13 - including an Indian, a Filipino and an
Eritrean - are presently imprisoned without charge for religious
offenses. This U.S. "ally" actually banned Christmas carols from Armed
Forces Radio during the Gulf War.
And as fundamentalist Islam grows in Egypt, Coptic Christians who
have lived there since the first century (and who make up at least 10
percent of the population) are undergoing increasingly vicious
persecution. A particularly nasty pogrom in the town of el- Kusheh in
January 2000 saw the massacre of 20 Copts. The law actually forbids the
building, repair or repainting of Churches without permission of the
Then there's the persecution of Christians in Muslim regions of
Northern Africa. The adoption of sharia (Muslim law) in much of the
north of Nigeria has been accompanied by vicious anti-Christian rioting.
In Sudan, the northern Muslims (mostly Arabs) wage war on Christian
Africans of the south, often enslaving captured Christian women
Centuries ago, Islam was far more tolerant of other faiths than
Christianity (though never to the level of legal equality). No longer.
Our leaders have gone out of their way to show respect to the
Muslim faith in all its variants, and to reassure our Muslim citizens
that they are as accepted and treasured as any other Americans. It would
be nice to have some of this respect reciprocated, even among our allies.
©Copyright 2001, NEW YORK POST
Page last updated/revised 103101
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