As Muslims prepare to erect a mega-mosque near the site of the 9/11 atrocities, it is well to reflect that the sort of tolerance, or indifference, that allows them to do so is far from reciprocated to churches in the Muslim world. I speak not of Islamist attacks against churches — such as the New Year’s Eve attack in Egypt that killed 21 Christians; or when jihadists stormed a church in Iraq, butchering over 50 Christians; or Christmas Eve attacks on churches in Nigeria and the Philippines. Nor am I referring to state-sanctioned hostility by Islamist regimes, such as Iran’s recent “round up” of Christians.
Rather, I refer to anti-church policy by Middle East governments deemed “moderate.” Consider: Kuwait just denied, without explanation, a request to build a church; so did Indonesia, forcing Christians to celebrate Christmas in a parking lot — even as a mob of 1,000 Muslims burned down two other churches. If this is the fate of churches in “moderate” Indonesia and Kuwait — the latter’s sovereignty due entirely to U.S. sacrifices in the First Gulf War — what can be expected of the rest of the Islamic world?
The best example of anti-church policy is Egypt, where the Middle East’s largest Christian minority, the Copts, lives. Even before Mubarak stepped down, “more than 1500 assaults on Copts have occurred, without any appropriate punishment given to criminals or compensation to the victims,” according to Coptic Solidarity.
Similarly, Egypt’s state security, which is now in charge, has a curious habit of disappearing right before Coptic churches are attacked — such as in the aforementioned New Year’s Eve attack. They also tend to arrive rather late after churches are attacked: it took security “hours” to appear when six Copts were murdered as they left church last year. Considering that weeks ago an Egyptian policeman identified and opened fire on Christians, killing a 71-year-old — while yelling Islam’s ancient war-cry, “Allah Akbar!” — none of this should be surprising.