Earlier this month in the West Bank, "settlers attempted to burn two mosques, and vandalized an IDF base as part of the latest 'price tag' attacks. The attacks came in response to the demolition of three buildings earlier this week in the West Bank settlement outpost Migron, 14 kilometers north of Jerusalem."
Accordingly, on September 9, the U.S. State Department unequivocally denounced these attacks, calling on those responsible to "be arrested and subject to the full force of the law." Likewise, when another mosque and copies of the Koran were burned earlier, the State Department said "We condemn this attack in the strongest terms and call for the perpetrators to be brought to justice."
This prompts the following question: If the State Dept. is concerned over places of worship, why do the epidemic attacks on churches in the Muslim world go largely unnoticed?
To be sure, the State Dept. has condemned the bloodiest and most savage of church attacks, including the Baghdad, Iraq attack, which saw at least 58 Christian butchered, and the New Year church bombing in Alexandria, Egypt, which left 23 Christians dead.
Yet one searches in vain for formal condemnations, let alone acknowledgment, of the majority of church attacks, most of which, if not as deadly as Alexandria or Baghdad, are much more brutal than the West Bank mosque attacks.
For instance, where is the condemnation for the attack in Sool, Egypt, when a Muslim mob torched a church, even as an imam called for Muslims to "Kill all the Christians?" As for the Imbaba attacks in Egypt, when Muslim throngs torched three churches and killed several Copts, the U.S. embassy issued a statement condemning "sectarian violence" while not once mentioning that any churches were attacked.
During last month alone, two churches were set aflame in Indonesia, two churches were bombed in Iraq, three churches were bombed in Nigeria. Of all these, only one of the Iraq church attacks—which left 23 worshippers seriously injured—received a condemnation by the State Dept.
Of course, the issue here is not that the State Dept. needs to condemn all church attacks (who can keep up with their frequency?); nor do these statements amount to much more than mere words, anyway. Even so, as words, they offer some revelations.
First, the obvious: It seems that the State Dept. mentions attacks on churches only, but not always, when people are killed, whereas the condemnation of the West Bank mosques have only to do with attacks on buildings. In other words, attacks on churches around the Muslim world that do not necessarily lead to the loss of life, are ignored, whereas attacks on West Bank mosques that do not target or kill Muslims are strongly condemned.
The language of the condemnations is also telling: the Alexandria attack killing 23 Copts doesn't even call on bringing the perpetrators to justice; Kirkuk is treated with "confidence": "We are confident the Government of Iraq will take all necessary steps to bring the people responsible for this horrific act to justice."
Contrast this with the language used when Jewish settlers vandalize mosques, but kill no one in the process: then the U.S. unequivocally calls for them to "be subject to the full force of the law."
Yet even now, it might be argued that one is stretching the issue, focusing too much on words and statement frequencies. Perhaps—until one realizes that many of the most oppressive Muslim nations just got a free pass from the State Dept.
Days ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released the Annual Report on International Religious Freedom. Amazingly, countries like Pakistan, notorious for making non-Muslim life a living hell, including through "blasphemy laws," were not even cited as "countries of particular concern."
In other words, the vast majority of Muslim nations persecuting their religious minorities do not, according to the Obama administration, count as countries that are "engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom" (the definition of a "country of particular concern"). Even Egypt—which this year alone has already seen over fifty Copts killed, not to mention the many churches burned or bombed—was not listed.
One would have hoped for a bit more objectivity and moral balance from the government of the United States, but such is the current state of affairs.
Raymond Ibrahim, a widely published Islam-specialist, is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.