Nelson Mandela and the Left's Self-Congratulatory Preening


The death of Nelson Mandela has been the occasion for a great deal of self-righteous preening. Barack Obama cribbed from Edwin M. Stanton in his statement, declaring that Mandela “belongs to the ages,” but CNN helpfully recalled more original words from Obama about Mandela from 2010, in which he laid claim to the great man’s mantle:

Through his choices, Mandela made it clear that we did not have to accept the world as it is — that we could do our part to seek the world as it should be….In the most modest of ways, I was one of those people who tried to answer his call.

The tributes to Mandela all sounded similar themes: he fought oppression and injustice and prevailed, transforming South Africa and the world. But Obama’s was by no means the only accolade to contain a self-congratulatory note. Numerous leftists and Islamic supremacists hurried to remind the world that Mandela was once branded a “terrorist,” implying that modern-day terrorists would one day be hailed as new additions to the pantheon of secular saints. Al Jazeera’s Wajahat Ali tweeted:

Let’s never forget #Mandela’s courage once made him despised & feared. The long road to icon-hood is paved w/ persecution & sacrifice.

Yet these modern-day mini-Mandelas, however they may style themselves as champions of the downtrodden and oppressed, laboring mightily against the contemporary incarnations of the architects of apartheid, have a curious blind spot. Mandela fought against an unjust system built upon racial prejudice. His struggle is easy enough to support from twenty-first century armchairs, when the oppressive system is long dead and no one in his right mind would support it or call for its revival. But oppression and injustice are by no means dead on the African continent – they’re just coming from a different source.

 (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

Last Friday in the Central African Republic, according to the Associated Press, “thousands of Christian civilians sought refuge at an airport guarded by French soldiers.” They were hoping to be protected from Islamic jihadists armed with guns and machetes who were “slaughtering us like chickens,” in the words of Appolinaire Donoboy, one of the Christian refugees. Two weeks ago in Nigeria, a Muslim mob beat a Christian principal and several teachers so severely that they went into comas, for the crime of sending a Muslim girl home for wearing a hijab. And last month in Cameroon, Islamic jihadists murdered a Christian missionary and torched several churches.

The international media has paid little attention to such incidents. Muslim persecution of Christians in Africa doesn’t fit its politically correct paradigm nearly as neatly and cleanly as did Mandela’s struggle against apartheid. According to the mainstream media narrative, Muslims are always victims, and Christians, even African Christians, are affiliates of the rich, white, oppressive West, and so cannot possibly be oppressed themselves.

What’s more, dwelling too long on the persecution of Christians in Africa draws unwelcome attention to the Islamic doctrines of jihad and dhimmitude that lead to that persecution and are used to justify it. As mainstream media journalists never hesitate to remind us in all sorts of ways, to examine those doctrines too closely would be “Islamophobic,” and will lead to the victimization of innocent, noble, high-minded Muslims in the U.S. by the legions of redneck, beer-swilling yahoos that they imagine to populate the flyover states.


Asia Bibi, imprisoned in Pakistan for her faith.

Consequently, the Christians of Africa and elsewhere around the world who are persecuted by Muslims have to be left to their fate at the hands of the jihadists. Like Nelson Mandela, Asia Bibi is imprisoned unjustly by an oppressive regime: she languishes in prison and awaits execution in Pakistan for the crime of blasphemy, one of the many Christians in that country who have been victimized on trumped-up charges. But she is not as eloquent as Nelson Mandela — or if she is, we will never know it, for there are no hordes of reporters crowding around the prison where she is being held, harrying authorities with demands to interview her, questions about her treatment, and uncomfortable questions about the injustice of the system that imprisoned her in the first place. The only people who are concerned about Asia Bibi are “right-wing Islamophobes,” and who cares what they think?

Nonetheless, as long as Asia Bibi remains on death row, and as long as Christians in the Central African Republic, Nigeria, Cameroon and elsewhere in Africa are violently persecuted by Muslims, with no one speaking up for them, the Left’s self-congratulatory encomia for Mandela will ring hollow. Their moral outrage is selective. Their courage to stand up against injustice fails them when it is needed most. Applauding heroic stands against oppression in bygone days is easy. Standing up against oppression today, when it has the power of most of the world’s government and media establishment behind it, is hard.

But it must be done. As Barack Obama said, we do not have to “accept the world as it is,” but have a responsibility to “seek the world as it should be” – one that guarantees the rights even of religious minorities in Muslim states. To take this stand is “Islamophobic” and “bigoted,” according to the Left’s self-appointed moral arbiters – but as Wajahat Ali reminds us, to stand for justice can make one “despised & feared. The long road to icon-hood is paved w/ persecution & sacrifice.” To stand for justice against the likes of Barack Obama and Wajahat Ali will also make us despised and feared. But it will at the same time place us on the side of justice and truth.