Robert Fisk, the Middle East correspondent for the U.K.'s widely-read Independent, recently showed why it is that Islamic jihadists and terrorists, including the late Osama bin Laden, strongly recommend his propaganda to Western readers.
In a recent article, Fisk goes out of his way to demonize the abused Christian minorities of the Middle East for supporting those secularist leaders most likely to preserve their freedoms and dignity. For instance, after portraying the Middle East's "old guard" in the worst possible terms, he complains that "Ahmed Shafiq, the Mubarak loyalist, has the support of the Christian Copts, and Assad has the support of the Syrian Christians. The Christians support the dictators. Not much of a line, is it?"
In Fisk's way of thinking, Christians of Egypt and Syria are unpatriotic freedom-haters because they support secularists, whereas the Sharia-pushing Islamists are patriotic freedom-lovers for not.
"Not much of a line, is it?"—especially from someone who supposedly lives and travels in the Middle East and is deemed an authority on the region. Completely missing from his narrative is why Christians are supporting Shafiq and Assad: because the alternatives, the Islamists, have been making their lives a living hell.
Fisk's biased narrative is, of course, not original to him, but rather originates with his friends—the Islamists. Soon after the first presidential elections in Egypt, many Islamists bemoaned Shafiq's good showing, laying the blame directly on Egypt's Christian Copts, who reportedly came out in large numbers voting for the secular candidates. Tarek al-Zomor, a prominent figure of the Gama'a al-Islamiyya, the terrorist organization that slaughtered some 60 European tourists, including several of Fisk's countrymen, during the Luxor Massacre, "demanded an apology from the Copts" for voting for Shafiq, threatening that "this was a fatal error."
Others, like Abu Ismail, the Salafi presidential candidate who was disqualified, expressed "great disappointment" in "our Coptic brethren," saying that "I do not understand why the Copts so adamantly voted for Ahmed Shafiq," portraying it as some sort of conspiracy between the Copts, the old regime, and even Israel: "Exactly what relationship and benefit do the Copts have with the old regime"?
The uncritical Fisk follows suit and asks the same questions, portraying the Mideast's Christians as unpatriotic.
Missing from the Islamists'—and Fisk's—narrative is the fact that Christians are under attack by Islamists, especially in Egypt and Syria, where Christian women and children and regularly abducted, molested, and forced to convert; where churches and monasteries are regularly attacked; where blasphemy laws imprison or kill and calls for jizya are back—in short, where Christians are persecuted (see entries for Egypt and Syria in my monthly "Muslim Persecution of Christians" for an idea). Moreover, the ultimate goal of Fisk's supposedly "freedom-loving Islamists—the enforcement of a decidedly anti-freedom Sharia law—will naturally spell disaster for Christians, since this draconian law code emphatically condemns non-Muslim "infidels" to dhimmi status—barely-tolerated, second-class "citizens" of the Islamic state.
Back in the real world, the reaction to Islamist complaints that Copts are not voting for them has been one of amazement. As one Coptic activist put it: "Did they [complaining Islamists] really expect a Christian to choose a president to represent him from those who cut off the ear of a Christian, blocked the railways in objection to the appointment of a Christian governor in Qena, burn down several churches and who are diligently working to write a Constitution which undermines the rights of Christians?"
Even Egyptian Muslim writer Khaled Montasser, in an article titled "The Muslim Brotherhood Asks Why Christians Fear Them?!" explained that the Brotherhood's own official documents and fatwas decree several anti-Christian measures, including the destruction of churches and the prevention of burying Christian "infidels" near Muslim graves—hence why Christians are not voting for Islamists.
As for Syria, since the uprising, "opposition forces"—that is, Islamists—have been attacking Christians and churches, including through "kidnappings and gruesome murders." None of this happened before the uprising and under Assad's secular rule. As an earlier report put it, "Should Assad fall, it is feared that Syria could go the way of Iraq post-Saddam Hussein. Saddam, like Assad, restrained the influence of militant Islamists, but after his fall they were free to wreak havoc on the Christian community; hundreds of thousands of Christians were consequently forced to flee the violence."
Should the "opposition" get their way and topple the Assad regime, the same brutal pattern experienced by Iraq's Christian minorities—who have been liked to, and killed off like, dogs, to the point of nearing extinction—will come to Syria, where a preacher recently urged Muslims to "tear apart, chop up and feed" Christians who support Assad "to the dogs."
All of these "subtleties" are completely missed by the Independent's Middle East foreign correspondent. Instead, he bemoans how those in Washington who support secular rulers "will want to pump up Christian fears and frighten the West with the awfulness of 'Muslim fundamentalism.'"
At a time when Christian minorities in the Islamic world are experiencing a form of persecution unprecedented since the pre-colonial era, it is commonplace for Western "reporters" to ignore or whitewash their plight. Robert Fisk, however, takes it a step further and paints these persecuted Christians as the bad guys, thereby facilitating their ongoing sufferings. He and the Independent should be ashamed of themselves.
Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.