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Matthew May January 24, 2012
Columnist and author Mark Steyn always gets a well-deserved laugh when he tells audiences that, to the useful idiots in the U.S. media and citizenry, “Allahu Akbar,” the calling card of Islamic terrorists the world over, is Arabic for “Nothing to see here!” But as author and scholar Raymond Ibrahim told a forum on violence against Middle Eastern Christians perpetrated by Islamists, what it really means is “My God is better than your God.”
The plight of Christians in the Middle East at the hands of Islamic jihadists – and U.S. media inattention and indifference to such struggles - was the subject of a forum entitled “The Persecuted Church: Christian Believers in Peril in the Middle East,” hosted and sponsored by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting (CAMERA), held at the Sheraton hotel in Framingham, Massachusetts, on January 21, 2012.
Dr. Walid Phares, who among several other roles advises the U.S. House of Representatives Anti-Terrorism Caucus, delivered the conference’s keynote address entitled “The Ongoing Fight for Freedom.” Phares said that the battle of ideas is fiercer than combat battles because the same forces who have visited violence upon Christians, Jews, and others in the Middle East have tried to suppress the West’s understanding of what is really happening in the Middle East and what is being taught in U.S. academic institutions.
Phares focused on what he termed “an invasion” of “petrol dollars” into American academic institutions, particularly Middle East studies departments. He alleged this funding is behind the obstruction of the facts on the ground about genocide and violence against Christians throughout the Middle East. It also is erasing within academic curriculums the history of the seventh century invasions of Europe and southwestern Asia by Muslims.
U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East has lately been characterized by a retreat from the support of civil society, Phares regretted. He pointed to U.S. diplomats who have met with Islamist militants who have gained or are gaining power in the Middle East, thereby legitimizing their authority. Meanwhile, Phares said, these same diplomats and envoys have neglected to meet with opposition elements of Islamist militants.
Phares indicated, however, that awareness of what is happening across the Middle East is on the rise thanks to social media, blogging, and the activism of non-governmental agencies (NGOs) such as CAMERA. He cited the influx of what he called “witnesses,” individuals such as Egyptian political party founder and human rights activist Cynthia Farahat and native Iranian Juliana Taimoorazy, president of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council. Both of them participated in the forum. And they both speak and lecture across the U.S., providing first-hand accounts of the terror and violence faced by Christians in the Middle East.
Such awareness, Phares argued, is part of the massive reform that is necessary to turn back the obstructionism of pressure groups such as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). “CAIR has been trying for 21 years to block awareness,” Pharis said, which makes CAIR, in his estimation, “an associate of Middle East genocide.”
Prior to Phares’s address, several panels featured scholars, authors, and political activists who addressed conceptual frameworks of Islam, current conditions among Christians in Iraq and Egypt, and an examination of why Western culture has failed to respond to violence and genocide in the Middle East while simultaneously enabling and enhancing Islamic jihad.
Activists Farahat and Taimoorazy opened the conference with presentations of their first-hand experience with the suppression and murder of Christians in their native lands. Photographs and images of murdered Christian clergy, such as the Archbishop of Mosul, and a litany of crimes committed against Christian Assyrians accompanied Taimoorazy’s historical overview of Assyrians. Those crimes included several church bombings, the boiling of an infant, and the crucifixion of a Christian who would not submit to Islam.
Taimoorazy suggested that concerned individuals and groups demand their political representatives pressure Iraq to enforce Article 125 of its constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion. During a question and answer session, Taimoorazy stated that political correctness in the American media and on college campuses “is destroying this country,” and that American students “are so tolerant that they don’t see the diabolic essence of the other religion.”
Farahat, a Coptic Christian and recent immigrant to the U.S. from Egypt, described the atmosphere surrounding the so-called Arab Spring uprisings of 2011. And she delivered a chilling personal account of the gruesome death of a friend protesting outside the Egyptian state-sponsored television station at the hands of the Egyptian military. She also related having received several telephone calls from state security threatening her by saying they wished to have her head in a freezer.
Taking a historical approach, Farahat pointed out that the prevalence of Shari’a law, which she said relegates Christian women to the lowest class of citizenship, has been nearly unbroken for fourteen centuries. She discussed the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, its ties to the Nazi Party, and the rise to power of Gamel Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat. She stated that the media image of Nasser and Sadat as portrayed by Western outlets was false, and that media descriptions of the Muslim Brotherhood as a moderate entity are “absurd.”
Boston College professor of Near Eastern Studies Franck Salameh presented a paper urging that the “modern-day saga of dispossession” of Middle East Christians must be told. He compared Middle East Christians with Native Americans, arguing that Arab Muslims are to Middle East Christians what Europeans were to Native Americans.
Salameh said Christians in the Middle East are depicted as alien or simply dismissed as religious minorities by the media. He faulted the influence of Marxist paradigms in Western academia. Salameh also said Middle East scholars do not attach significance to entities that they deem as homogenous, such as Christians. He contended that it is difficult for Westerners to understand that identity in the Middle East is mostly determined by religion. He concluded his talk by delivering an emotional rendition of the short story “70,000 Assyrians” by William Saroyan.
Ibrahim, author of The Al Qaeda Reader discussed his research on Islamic primary sources and the emergence of the same patterns of behavior among Muslims who forcibly have demanded that non-Muslims submit to Islam for the past 1,400 years. He said the same acts, the same accusations, the same flattery, and, eventually, the same violence that modern-day Muslims have carried out against non-Muslims is documented by Muslim clerics throughout history.
Ibrahim pointed out that Muslim attacks against churches all over the world are not an aberration. He cited a Koranic verse that instructs Muslims to “fight the people of the book” [Christians and Jews] until they pay jizya and feel themselves subdued. Ibrahim argued that the word “until” reveals that such a verse is prescriptive and perpetual in meaning. He also cited the eighth century Pact of Umar and its provisions that prohibited Christians from building churches. He introduced the term “Islamicate” to describe a prevailing cultural attitude among Muslims that non-Muslims are beneath Muslims, which has seeped into the collective conscience of devout and non-practicing Muslims alike.
Ibrahim argued that the media are all too willing to undermine the realities of the Islamic faith, utilizing code terms such as “sectarian strife” to describe atrocities committed by Muslims without having to actually identify the religious affiliation of the perpetrators. He also denounced as “stupidity” the U.S. government’s prohibition against using qualifiers to describe Muslim violence against non-Muslims, which he argued erases a wealth of knowledge and pattern development.
Boston University history professor Richard Allen Landes drew upon his scholarship on apocalyptic movements to analyze the success of Muslims in utilizing the freedoms of Western countries to slowly gain social power, particularly in Europe. Landes described a “Cognitive War” between Islam and the West in which Islam has had staggering success. He discussed the concept of “Demopaths” and “Dupes,” which he described as the “unholy marriage of pre-modern sadism and postmodern masochism.”
Landes pointed to several themes that he argued characterize the postmodern West such as “War is not the answer” and “Who are we to judge?” Landes argued that groups such as the Palestinians have been portrayed as underdogs despite “genocide being preached from the pulpit every day in Palestinian territories.” He said that so-called human rights groups and media messages regarding the measure of indignant reaction to genocide depends on the color of the oppressor. Really serious human rights violations and atrocities in places such as Nigeria go ignored. He also said that this sort of thinking illustrates a postmodern theme of “Their side right or wrong,” which he called “the epistemological priority of the other.”
CAMERA Christian Media Analyst Dexter Van Zile detailed how mainline Protestant denominations react – and do not react – to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. According to Van Zile, the United Methodist Church’s website recently featured an article about attacks on Christian Nigerians by what the article called “religious extremists.” The article did not mention that Muslims waged attacks.
Van Zile also cited the most recent General Synod of the United Church of Christ, which did not pass any resolutions condemning attacks on Christians in Egypt but warn against Islamophobia in the U.S. He also cited a recent Christian Century magazine article that claimed the Muslim Brotherhood was committed to pluralism and democracy. Van Zile said this claim was a lie.
One strategy for communicating the struggles of Christians in the Middle East would be to adopt the tactics of the abolitionist movement in the U.S. during the 19th century, Van Zile suggested. Personal testimony from modern-day “escaped slaves” of the Middle East could be utilized in much the same way as the book “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.” He also called for a commitment among Christians to forcefully argue that “acts of violence defame the name of God,” in contrast to the oft-repeated Muslim justification of violence in the name of a “compassionate, loving, and merciful God.”
Phares concluded the session by urging individuals, organizations such as CAMERA, and activist groups to encourage chroniclers of Christian persecution in the Middle East and to be courageous in the face of intimidation by pressure groups. He believes that once the American public is fully aware of the totality of the difficulties faced by Middle Eastern Christians, public opinion will erode the power and influence of pressure groups and have a clear understanding of Islamic jihad.
Matthew May is a frequent contributor to the American Thinker and the North Andover (MA) Eagle-Tribune. He is the author of Restoration: The God and Country Education Project, which can be purchased at Amazon.com.
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