I heard on BBC Radio 4 how Muslims in America were increasingly feeling under siege. I can understand why they feel uncomfortable right now with the acrimonious debate about the Ground Zero Mosque still raging, but I question whether they are really ‘under siege’. Even after the 9/11 attacks American Muslims did not face any major acts of retribution. I think that will be the case this time too. Whatever their feelings of victimization, they are a far cry from the real discrimination many Christian minorities face in many Muslim majority countries.
James Corum, Dean of the Baltic Defence College in Estonia, writes in The Telegraph:
In many Islamic countries, Christian minorities – including the descendants of the earliest Christian communities in the Middle East – suffer under laws that make them second-class citizens. Not only do they have fewer legal rights, but the exercise of their faith is cruelly regulated by governments in the name of Sharia. In America, we criticise the plan to build a mosque near the 9/11 murder site even while agreeing that American law provides the clear right of Muslims to do such a thing. But in many Muslim nations no Christian can build or even repair a church without approval (usually not forthcoming) from a hostile government ministry.The suffering of Christian minorities in many Muslim majority countries is largely ignored by the mainstream media. Western leaders are even aware of the issue but stay silent on the matter lest they complicate relations with Muslim countries. The consequences of Pastor Jones' actions if he had gone ahead with them would have been extremely severe for Christians living in Muslim majority contexts. The Koran is regarded by Muslims as the literal word of God transmitted from heaven, so to destroy it is the ultimate sacrilege. I’m sure Christ would not have approved of deliberately offending and provoking others to the point of violence. But He probably would approve of Christians standing up for the basic human rights of their brothers and sisters in Christ.
Much worse, murder, kidnappings, forced conversions and attacks against Christians by radical Muslims are common in the Islamic world, especially in the Middle East and in Pakistan. Every year, hundreds of Christians are murdered by religious fanatics. Even when a Muslim government disapproves of such violence, officials and police often stand aside and allow the attacks rather than confront a politically powerful radical Islam.
In short, Christians are today living in one of the great eras of persecution. That persecution comes from a minority of Muslims – but an influential minority. Christians should use this day to educate the Western public about the suffering of fellow Christians, and to confront peacefully the rulers and populations of Muslim nations with their failure to maintain rights supposedly guaranteed by the UN Charter.
It is surprising that the eccentric pastor of a very small Pentecostal church in Florida, known for previous public-seeking misadventures, managed to attract so much attention. Fuelled by the internet, 24 hour news and media sensationalism the story grew bigger and bigger until it became the main news of the day. Pastor Jones certainly didn’t speak for the vast majority of Christians or America. The event was condemned by all mainstream Christian churches, President Obama, Hillary Clinton as well as many ordinary Americans. Yet the media handed this man a megaphone to speak to the world. I’m sure there are some sections of the media that are secretly delighted a ‘Christian pastor’ could have made such a huge error of judgement. They have milked this story for it was worth.
Unfortunately I feel many Muslims throughout the world still feel Pastor Jones represents Christians and the west. This is what some of the more extreme elements within Islam want Muslims to believe. A sense of victimization and hurt only aids their agenda. For this the media must take some of the blame.