West must help moderate Muslims resist violence 

Imagine if Muslims in Europe were being arrested for nothing more than peacefully practicing their religion.

Imagine if Muslims in South America were being sentenced to death for “insulting” Jesus. Imagine if mosques were being bombed and burned by terrorists in a growing list of Christian-majority countries.

Here is what you do not need to imagine, because it is all too real: In recent days, Christian churches have been bombed in Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria and the Philippines. In Indonesia, a mob of 1,000 Muslims burned down two Christian churches. In Iran, scores of Christians have been arrested. In Pakistan, a Christian woman received the death penalty for the “crime” of insulting Islam.

I could provide dozens of additional examples of the persecution and, in many cases, “cleansing” of Christians in what we have come to call the Muslim world. If the situation were reversed, if such a war were being waged against Muslims, it would be a top story in every newspaper, the most urgent item at the U.N., the highest priority of all the big-league human rights groups.

What we have instead is denial. I cited some of the above examples on the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.’s “Power and Politics” program last week. In response, professor Janice Stein of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto insisted there could be no connection among these dots. The assassination of Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer, she said, should be viewed as the consequence of class conflict.

I said 500 Pakistani religious scholars not only justified the killing of Taseer, they praised his killer’s “courage” and religious zeal, and said he had made Muslims proud around the world. They warned that anyone attending Taseer’s funeral, praying for him or expressing grief about his death would deserve the same fate he suffered.

Stein also spoke of the “conflict” between Muslims and Christians in Egypt as though both were equally to blame when in fact it is clearly Egypt’s ancient but diminishing Coptic community that is under siege with little means to defend itself, much less wage a campaign of reciprocal oppression.

I offered a similar analysis on Sean Hannity’s program on Fox last week, prompting Media Matters and other left-wing blogs to accuse me of attempting to start a religious war.

It is not lost on me that Taseer was himself a Muslim and that many Pakistani Muslims defied the extremists by attending the governor’s funeral. There is abundant evidence to suggest that most Muslims do not want to live under al-Qaida, Taliban, Hezbollah or Hamas regimes. I remain convinced that most Muslims do not want to be at war with the West.

That leads to this question: How do moderate and tolerant Muslims fight the tyrants within their community? How do they avoid being killed if they dare speak up in defense of their own freedom and rights — much less in defense of religious minorities, ethnic minorities and women?

We cannot possibly come up with an adequate answer so long as we refuse to look reality in the eye. If we in the West fail even to speak up, can we really expect moderate Muslims to do more?

Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism.

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