The U.S. State Department's annual report on international religious freedom describes hundreds of incidents of religious bigotry and violence, especially in the Arab-Muslim world, Asia, and nations of the former Soviet bloc. Which is why it was no surprise when, at a press conference on September 13, 2011, Assistant Secretary Michael Posner and Ambassador-at-Large Suzan Johnson Cook identified Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan as the most recent "countries of particular concern"— places where sectarian assaults and systematic discrimination on the basis of faith have been widely reported.
Yet the runners-up—the ones deemed not to deserve "particular concern"—include such nations as Egypt (where scenes of mobs torching Christian churches belie the ostensible Muslim-Christian comity of Tahrir Square), Pakistan (where Sufi, Shia, Ahmadiyah, and Christian worshippers are being persecuted in alarming numbers), and Kazakhstan (where strongman Nursultan Nazarbayev is about to sign into law a bill limiting the activities of religious missionaries).
You know who is to blame for all this persecution, of course: The Christians are. Or so, at least, the mainline Christian organizations seem anxious to assure us. The victimized Christians in these countries have "asked for it:" by the very act of being open believers and missionaries, they are intensifying the global threat to freedom of religion. So the World Council of Churches, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue of the Holy See, and the World Evangelical Alliance have joined together to do something about it—by urging their fellow Christians to behave less provocatively.
The group's report, titled "Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World: Recommendations for Conduct," calls on Christians to reject "the violation or destruction of places of worship, sacred symbols, or texts." And, as the report makes clear, there is a whole lot of violation and destruction being done. What the report does not make so clear is that most of it is being done to Christians. The three organizations, which claim to represent over 90 percent of the world's Christians, met in Italy, France, and Thailand to come up with these guidelines, based on the worthy principle of respect for all faiths.
Surely it is at least a little significant, however, that no non-Christian organization joined them in calling for an end to religious provocations. The poor Christians could not get even one Muslim organizations to join them in decrying religious violence, even when these Christians agreed that, yes, they were guilty of provoking the violence.
To his credit, the Vatican's Secretary for Relations with States has been less muddled on this point. Archbishop Dominique Mamberti recently told representatives of the former Soviet bloc nations that their governments are responsible for the climate in which attacks on religious minorities take place. To combat intolerance and discrimination, he said, "it is essential to promote and consolidate religious liberty," which "cannot be restricted to the simple freedom of worship" but includes "the right to preach, educate, convert, contribute to the political discourse and participate fully in public activities."
Echoing the words of Benedict XVI, Mamberti decried "a radical secularism" in the countries of Europe that "relegates, a priori, all kinds of religious manifestations to the private sphere." The Europeans have embraced relativism and believe this makes them tolerant. But their "postmodern idea that religion is a marginal component of public life" has the effect of denigrating both faith and the faithful, which perversely emboldens the violent to act: Intolerance encouraged by pseudo-tolerance.
As a general critique of the world situation, this seems exactly right: The premodern bigots are nakedly brutalizing minority religions, while the postmodern powers are providing the fig leaf.
Even as Archbishop Mamberti was speaking, the Vatican was signing on to the self-blaming "Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World" report. As Benedict XVI was telling the German parliament to reject the European elites' view of religion, the representatives of world Christianity were trying to ingratiate themselves with these elites.
The result is not only self-contradictory; it is self-defeating and has murderous results. Just ask the Christians in Egypt. Or Pakistan. Or Kazakhstan. If you can still find them.
Joseph Bottum is a contributing editor to the Weekly Standard and the author of The Second Spring: Words into Music, Music into Words. Lauren Weiner contributed material for this report.
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by Pierre Rehov
For terrorists, the death of innocent children is irrelevant. In a society that promotes martyrdom as the ultimate sign of success, the death of innocent children can sometimes even be seen as a public relations blessing.
In every action, intent is paramount. There should never be a moral equivalence painted between the deliberate killing of civilians, and a retaliation that tragically leads to casualties among civilians.
There is, however, one small difference: in the Middle East, reporters are threatened, except in Israel. Their choice becomes a simple one: promote the Palestinian point of view or stop working in the West Bank. Keep the eye of the camera dirty or lose your job. This show should not go on.
by Khaled Abu Toameh
Since 1948, the Arab countries and government have been paying mostly lip service to the Palestinians.
"They have money and oil, but don't care about the Palestinians, even though we are Arabs and Muslims like them. What a Saudi or Qatari sheikh spends in one night in London, Paris or Las Vegas could solve the problem of tens of thousands of Palestinians." — Palestinian human rights activist.
"Some Arabs were hoping that Israel would rid them of Hamas." — Ashraf Salameh, Gaza City.
"Some of the Arab regimes are interested in getting rid of the resistance in order to remove the burden of the Palestinian cause, which threatens the stability of their regimes." — Mustafa al-Sawwaf, Palestinian political analyst.
"Most Arabs are busy these days with bloody battles waged by their leaders, who are struggling to survive. These battles are raging in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Libya and the Palestinian Authority." — Mohammed al-Musafer, columnist.
"The Arab leaders don't know what they want from the Gaza Strip. They don't even know what they want from Israel." — Yusef Rizka, Hamas official.
by Soeren Kern
European elites, who take pride in viewing the EU as a "postmodern" superpower, have long argued that military hard-power is illegitimate in the 21st century. Unfortunately for Europe, Russia (along with China and Iran) has not embraced the EU's fantastical soft-power worldview, in which "climate change" is now said to pose the greatest threat to European security.
For its part, the European Commission, the EU's administrative branch, which never misses an opportunity to boycott institutions in Israel, has issued only a standard statement on the shooting down of MH17 in Ukraine, which reads: "The European Union will continue to follow this issue very closely."
The EU has made only half-hearted attempts to develop alternatives to its dependency on Russian oil and gas.
by Shoshana Bryen
Proportionality in international law is not about equality of death or civilian suffering, or even about [equality of] firepower. Proportionality weighs the necessity of a military action against suffering that the action might cause to enemy civilians in the vicinity.
"Under international humanitarian law and the Rome Statute, the death of civilians during an armed conflict, no matter how grave and regrettable does not constitute a war crime.... even when it is known that some civilian deaths or injuries will occur. A crime occurs if there is an intentional attack directed against civilians (principle of distinction) or an attack is launched on a military objective in the knowledge that the incidental civilian injuries would be clearly excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage (principle of proportionality)." — Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Chief Prosecutor, International Criminal Court.
"The greater the military advantage anticipated, the larger the amount of collateral damage -- often civilian casualties -- which will be "justified" and "necessary." — Dr. Françoise Hampton, University of Essex, UK.
by Irfan Al-Alawi
"Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi" is Abu Du'a, a follower of the late Osama Bin Laden. By adding the name "Al-Qurayshi" in his current alias, he is also seeking to affirm descent from Muhammad.
The allegation of theological sovereignty over all Sunnis extends to Indonesia and Morocco. The idea that the borders between Syria and Iraq will be dissolved by the new "caliphate" defies all Islamic theology and history. As the Qur'an states, "Allah "made the nations and tribes different." (49:13) Syria and Iraq have been distinct for millennia.
The "Islamic State" seeks to obliterate these diverse identities by expelling or killing all Shias and Sunni Sufis. And it does not invoke the Ottoman caliphate in its propaganda, demonstrating decisively the fake nature of the "Islamic State."
A caliphate is obsolete and the "Islamic State" is totalitarian. All Sunnis need to repudiate them soundly, even by force of arms.