Feb
15
2012

Newsweek and the 'War on Christians'

A cover that declares a "War on Christians" is bound to get some attention.

Writing in the February 12 issue of Newsweek, author Ayaan Hirsi Ali's argument is just as blunt. Enough with all this talk "about Muslims as victims of abuse," because really it's the other way around:

A wholly different kind of war is underway–an unrecognized battle costing thousands of lives. Christians are being killed in the Islamic world because of their religion. It is a rising genocide that ought to provoke global alarm.

To suggest that a genocide is underway is, of course, a serious charge. And Hirsi Ali alleges that it is widespread:

In recent years, the violent oppression of Christian minorities has become the norm in Muslim-majority nations stretching from West Africa and the Middle East to South Asia and Oceania.

To make matters worse the media have been cowed into silence, due to "the influence of lobbying groups such as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation–a kind of United Nations of Islam centered in Saudi Arabia–and the Council on American-Islamic Relations." She writes:

Over the past decade, these and similar groups have been remarkably successful in persuading leading public figures and journalists in the West to think of each and every example of perceived anti-Muslim discrimination as an expression of a systematic and sinister derangement called "Islamophobia"–a term that is meant to elicit the same moral disapproval as xenophobia or homophobia.

So there is a genocide underway, and there are specific groups obscuring this fact and steering media away from covering this horror–in effect making them complicit in the genocide.

This is a remarkably serious charge. It is rather shocking to see it printed in a national magazine with so little evidence.

Ali's piece is accompanied by a large graphic (which doesn't appear to be online) labeled "Terrorist Attacks on Christians in Africa, the Middle East and Asia." According to the graph, there were 45 such attacks in 2010. Violence of this sort is tragic; the anecdotes Hirsi Ali cites from Nigeria sound horrific.

But is it a genocide? And is the violence directed against Christians on the basis of religion? It is hard to see how one could make such a leap. In Egypt, for instance, Hirsi Ali points to an incident where Christian protesters were killed by state security forces. Hundreds have been killed in similar circumstances in Egypt over the past year. They were not all Christians, and they were not killed in a drive to stamp out members of a particular faith.

Hirsi Ali finds similar evidence elsewhere: "Since 2003, more than 900 Iraqi Christians (most of them Assyrians) have been killed by terrorist violence in Baghdad alone." Of course, Baghdad has suffered terrible violence since the U.S. invasion and occupation. It is unclear why these particular deaths, a small percentage of total killings in Baghdad, should be considered part of a genocidal Muslim campaign against Christians. She adds that "thousands" of Iraqi Christians have fled their homes. But millions of Iraqis have done the same, across ethnic and religious lines. It's hard to conclude that anti-Christian genocide is the story that is being kept out of the media by the likes of CAIR.

Hirsi Ali pleads with readers that we must "please get our priorities straight…. Instead of falling for overblown tales of Western Islamophobia, let's take a real stand against the Christophobia infecting the Muslim world."

It's hard to know what she means; is there really some great danger that the West is doing too much to protect Muslims? The real implication here is that there is a genocide that must be stopped. That is an extremely serious charge. She fails to provide evidence to support that case, and manages to smear a major American Islamic advocacy group in the process.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.