Last week an Iraqi Muslim scholar issued a fatwa that, among other barbarities, asserts that "it is permissible to spill the blood of Iraqi Christians." Inciting as the fatwa is, it is also redundant. While last October's Baghdad church attack which killed some sixty Christians is widely known—actually receiving some MSM coverage—the fact is, Christian life in Iraq has been a living hell ever since U.S. forces ousted the late Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Among other atrocities, beheading and crucifying Christians are not irregular occurrences; messages saying "you Christian dogs, leave or die," are typical. Islamists see the church as an "obscene nest of pagans" and threaten to "exterminate Iraqi Christians." John Eibner, CEO of Christian Solidarity International, summarized the situation well in a recent letter to President Obama:
The threat of extermination is not empty. Since the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime, more than half the country's Christian population has been forced by targeted violence to seek refuge abroad or to live away from their homes as internally displaced people. According to the Hammurabi Human Rights Organization, over 700 Christians, including bishops and priests, have been killed and 61 churches have been bombed. Seven years after the commencement of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Catholic Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk reports: "He who is not a Muslim in Iraq is a second-class citizen. Often it is necessary to convert or emigrate, otherwise one risks being killed." This anti-Christian violence is sustained by a widespread culture of Muslim supremacism that extends far beyond those who pull the triggers and detonate the bombs.
Iraqi man grieves at the funeral of his two brothers, slain for being Christian.
The grand irony, of course, is that Christian persecution has increased exponentially under U.S. occupation. As one top Vatican official put it, Christians, "paradoxically, were more protected under the dictatorship" of Saddam Hussein.
What does one make of this—that under Saddam, who was notorious for human rights abuses, Christians were better off than they are under a democratic government sponsored by humanitarian, some would say "Christian," America?
Like a Baghdad caliph, Saddam appears to have made use of the better educated Christians, who posed no risk to his rule, such as his close confidant Tariq Aziz. Moreover, by keeping a tight lid on the Islamists of his nation—who hated him as a secular apostate no less than the Christians—the latter benefited indirectly.
Conversely, by empowering "the people," the U.S. has unwittingly undone Iraq's Christian minority. Naively projecting Western values on Muslims, U.S. leadership continues to think that "people-power" will naturally culminate into a liberal, egalitarian society—despite all the evidence otherwise. The fact is, in the Arab/Muslim world, "majority rule" traditionally means domination by the largest tribe or sect; increasingly, it means Islamist domination.
Either which way, the minorities—notably the indigenous Christians—are the first to suffer once the genie of "people-power" is uncorked. Indeed, evidence indicates that the U.S. backed "democratic" government of Iraq enables and incites the persecution of its Christians. (All of this raises the pivotal question: Do heavy-handed tyrants—Saddam, Mubarak, Qaddafi, et al—create brutal societies, or do naturally brutal societies create the need for heavy-handed tyrants to keep order?)
Another indicator that empowering Muslim masses equates Christian suffering is the fact that, though Iraqi Christians amount to a mere 5% of the population, they make up nearly 40% of the refugees fleeing Iraq. It is now the same in Egypt: "A growing number of Egypt's 8-10 million Coptic Christians are looking for a way to get out as Islamists increasingly take advantage of the nationalist revolution that toppled long-standing dictator Hosni Mubarak in February."
The destruction of Iraqi churches
At least Egypt's problems are homegrown, whereas the persecution of Iraq's Christians is a direct byproduct of U.S. intervention. More ironic has been Obama's approach: Justifying U.S. intervention in Libya largely in humanitarian terms, the president recently declared that, while "it is true that America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs… that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what's right."
True, indeed. Yet, as Obama "acts on behalf of what's right" by providing military protection to the al-Qaeda connected Libyan opposition, Iraq's indigenous Christians continue to be exterminated—right under the U.S. military's nose in Iraq. You see, in its ongoing bid to win the much coveted but forever elusive "Muslim-hearts-and-minds™"—which Obama has even tasked NASA with—U.S. leadership has opted to ignore the inhumane treatment of Islam's "Christian dogs," the mere mention of which tends to upset Muslims.
Raymond Ibrahim is associate director of the Middle East Forum.