De­stroy all churches

Obama silent while Saudi grand mufti tar­gets Chris­tian­ity

The Washington Times Daily - - Opinion -

If the pope called for the destruc­tion of all the mosques in Europe, the up­roar would be cat­a­clysmic. Pun­dits would lam­baste the church, the White House would rush out a state­ment of deep con­cern, and ri­ot­ers in the Mid­dle East would kill each other in their grief. But when the most in­flu­en­tial leader in the Mus­lim world is­sues a fatwa to de­stroy Chris­tian churches, the si­lence is deaf­en­ing.

On March 12, Sheik Ab­dul Aziz bin Ab­dul­lah, the grand mufti of Saudi Ara­bia, de­clared that it is “nec­es­sary to de­stroy all the churches of the re­gion.” The rul­ing came in re­sponse to a query from a Kuwaiti del­e­ga­tion over pro­posed leg­is­la­tion to pre­vent con­struc­tion of churches in the emi­rate. The mufti based his decision on a story that on his deathbed, Muhammad de­clared, “There are not to be two re­li­gions in the [Ara­bian] Penin­sula.” This pas­sage has long been used to jus­tify in­tol­er­ance in the king­dom. Churches have al­ways been banned in Saudi Ara­bia, and un­til re­cently Jews were not even al­lowed in the coun­try. Those wish­ing to worship in the man­ner of their choos­ing must do so hid­den away in pri­vate, and even then the moral­ity po­lice have been known to show up un­ex­pect­edly and halt pro­ceed­ings.

This is not a small-time rad­i­cal imam try­ing to stir up his fol­low­ers with fiery hate speech. This was a con­sid­ered, de­lib­er­ate and spe­cific rul­ing from one of the most im­por­tant lead­ers in the Mus­lim world. It does not just cre­ate a re­li­gious obli­ga­tion for those over whom the mufti has di­rect au­thor­ity; it is also a sig­nal to oth­ers in the Mus­lim world that de­stroy­ing churches is not only per­mit­ted but manda­tory.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion ig­nores these types of provo­ca­tions at its peril. The White House has placed in­ter­na­tional out­reach to Mus­lims at the cen­ter of its for­eign pol­icy in an ef­fort to pro­mote the im­age of the United States as an Is­lam-friendly na­tion. This can­not come at the ex­pense of stand­ing up for the hu­man rights and re­li­gious lib­er­ties of mi­nor­ity groups in the Mid­dle East. The re­gion is a cru­cial cross­roads. Is­lamist rad­i­cals are lead­ing the ris­ing po­lit­i­cal tide against the au­thor­i­tar­ian, sec­u­lar­ist old or­der. They are test­ing the wa­ters in their re­la­tion­ship with the out­side world, look­ing for sig­nals of how far they can go in im­pos­ing their rad­i­cal vi­sion of a Shariah-based theoc­racy. Ig­nor­ing provoca­tive state­ments like the mufti’s sends a sig­nal to these groups that they can en­gage in the same sort of big­otry and anti-chris­tian vi­o­lence with no con­se­quences.

Mr. Obama’s out­reach cam­paign to the Mus­lim world has failed to gen­er­ate the good will that he ex­pected. In part, this was be­cause he felt it was bet­ter to pan­der to prej­u­dice than to com­mand re­spect. When mem­bers of the Is­lamic es­tab­lish­ment call for the re­li­gious equiv­a­lent of eth­nic cleans­ing, the leader of the free world must respond or risk le­git­imiz­ing the op­pres­sion that fol­lows. The United States should not bow to the ex­trem­ist dic­tates of the grand mufti, no mat­ter how des­per­ate the White House is for him to like us.

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