Posted in: World Events, Religion
Published on Dec 06, 2011 by Phyllis Chesler
The End of Religious Freedom
Time has run out for the cause of worldwide religious freedom. On November 18, 2011, America chose not to extend any further lifeline to persecuted religious minorities around the planet. On that day, the U.S. government shut down the work of an important and unique American effort: the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
Oddly enough, the mainstream media does not seem to have covered this story. I certainly did not know about it. Did you? The only article about this appeared at CNS News.
In 1998, the U.S. government passed the Religious Freedom Act and this commission was one of the results. Since then, it has sent delegations abroad to meet with minority religious leaders in Africa, the Middle East, and central Asia, and released reports about their work. In 2011, their Annual Report covered countries such as Afghanistan, Belarus, Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, India, Indonesia, and Iran.
In 2011, Nina Shea, the head commissioner, presented testimony before members of Congress about Christian minorities under attack in Iraq and Egypt. In this hearing, Shea reported:
USCIRF has found serious, widespread, and longstanding human rights violations against religious minorities as well as disfavored Muslims. Confronted by these violations, the Egyptian government has failed to take the necessary steps to halt the discrimination and repression against Christians and other minorities. Too often, it has failed to punish the violators.
Shea discussed the New Year's Day bombing in Alexandria, which led to the worst attack targeting Christians in a decade. Carefully, without saying that Muslims or the Egyptian Muslim police were the perpetrators, she refered to the "Coptic Christmas shooting that killed six innocent Christians in Naga Hammadi." Over the last two years, the Egyptian government, media, and network of mosques have systematically engaged in violence and in the coverup of that violence against Christians.
In an interview with PJ Media, Shea said,
With the onslaught of the Arab Winter and the threat of newly politically empowered Islamists suppressing the freedoms of religious minorities and even carrying out religious cleansing campaigns against them, USCIRF is needed more than ever. Its voice carries official weight and it has vigorously and consistently raised it within and outside the government on behalf of a broad array of persecuted minorities and individuals around the world. At this time, USCIRF is winding down its work, as it is legally bound to do, since its authorization ends on December 16. As reported in the Congressional Quarterly, Senator Durbin of Illinois has blocked the USCIRF reauthorization for several months, reportedly in order to get an earmark to fund a prison in his state. He has been intractable. President Obama — who served with Mr. Durbin in the Senate before becoming president and who has expressed an interest in using the prison at issue for holding detainees from Guantanamo Bay – must speak up, if USCIRF is to continue. President Obama can make this happen and I appeal to him to do so.
Why would the American government shut down USCIRF now? Some might say that we are in an economic recession and must care fo our own before we can help others. Some secular Americans might simply want freedom from religion rather than of religion. They may not care about the choice to practice one's religion or whether or not people are being persecuted for doing so. And some Americans may agree with the UN view that Muslims and Islam are not to be criticized and that any accurate portrayal of Muslim behavior may be treated as a crime.
The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Durban Follies, constitutes a permanent delegation to the UN. The OIC was established in 1969. Its position is as follows: it seeks to
pursue as a matter of priority a common policy aimed at prevented defamation of Islam perpetrated under the pretext and justification of the freedom of expression in particular through media and internet.
In 2011, the 38th Conference, held in Kazakhstan, stated "deep concern over any activities carried out by certain governmental and non-governmental organizations supported by governments in order to attack OIC member states for political purposes and to further their foreign policy objectives in international forums." The conference also denounced "media campaigns and fabrications made by some quarters in non-member states regarding the mistreatment of non-Muslim minorities and communities in the OIC member states under the slogans of religious freedoms and so on."
In other words, attempting to help a Christian escape genocide in Egypt, Iraq, or Pakistan would be outlawed as would all work that reports on religious persecution. What I'm writing here would be criminalized. The Muslims who drafted this document want to do their gender cleansing without being exposed, stopped, or held liable for it. That's the OIC at the UN.
The United States, to its credit, shunned the UN's Durban III conference. However, in 2009, the Obama administration eliminated the phrases "Islamic extremism," "Islamic terrorism," and "terrorism" from national security strategy documents. We have also seen a quantum increase in fears about a non-existent "Islamophobia" and a similar quantum decrease in "official" fears about an escalating anti-Semitism which in the Middle East is potentially genocidal.
Many European politically correct/anti-racist governments agree with the OIC Conference. For example, European governments have prosecuted "thought crimes" which involve criticism of Islam or any objective presentation of Islam (honor killing, honor related violence, forced marriage, daughter and wife beating, etc.) that some Muslim somewhere finds offensive — in Holland, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Iceland etc. I myself have called this the death of free speech in Europe.
Recently, I was involved in the case of a Pakistani apostate, Khalid Saheed, who sought and was denied political asylum in Sweden. Predictably, he and his family have received death threats from Islamic fundamentalists. If Saheed and his family are sent back to Pakistan, they will be murdered for leaving Islam. This is the true state of religious tolerance in the Muslim world. There is no such freedom and USCRIF has boldly exposed and published this truth.
Perhaps there are simpler reasons involved in the death of USCRIF. The bill to continue funding it was held up by just one man, Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill). Durbin may not necessarily oppose aiding religious minorities as much as he is in favor of delivering pork barrel to his constituents. Thus, unbelievably, only until or unless the Thomson Correctional Center in northwest Illinois is funded and/or funded for the purpose of holding Guantanamo Bay detainees, there can be no funding for religious freedom anywhere else on earth.
Politics is a decidedly unfunny business. I usually tell people that a politician is, by definition, a thief and a liar, but that he or she is also a balancer, a compromiser, someone who is always in a position to sell one cause for the sake of another, to help one person and not another, to borrow from Peter in order to pay Paul. This is both how democracy works and how things get done in non-democratic countries as well. Cronyism, greed, arrogance, intolerance, injustice, occasional mercy, occasional do-goodism characterize how humanity in the aggregate behaves.
We know that most Muslims are not friendly toward any infidel religion, including Christians, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, etc. Christians have been — and still are — savagely persecuted in Muslim lands. I and many others have often written about this. Author and apostate Nonie Darwish and ex-Muslim secularist Ibn Warraq have both spoken out about this burning issue.
Christians are being savagely persecuted in Egypt and all across the Middle East and Islamic world.
In Pakistan, Christians have literally been crucified, teenaged Christian girls have been kidnapped, raped, and then forced to marry their rapists and convert to Islam. In 2010, a Muslim mob attacked a Christian man and slaughtered him with pick-axes for refusing to convert to Islam.
Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Afghanistan do not allow Christians, Jews, or other "infidels" to pray openly or to build any new houses of worship.
The Arab Muslim Middle East is almost completely "Judenrein" (free of Jews) since more than 800,000 Arab Jews were exiled or forced to flee their countries between 1948-1968.
Mina Nevisa is an Iranian Muslim convert to Christianity who wrote a book about her experiences. Both she and her female cousin were attending an underground Christian church in Teheran which put them in danger. Nevis fled Iran together with her husband. Her cousin was not so lucky:
She was arrested on charges of apostasy and taken to Evin prison, where she was raped, tortured, and then killed by a firing squad. Their pastor was also killed.
Muslim apostates in Europe also face perilous challenges. Egyptian-Italian Magdi Cristiano Allam, who was converted to Catholicism by the pope, lives with six round-the-clock bodyguards. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-Dutch-American apostate-secularist, also requires a full-time security detail. People who do not have public profiles, who are not academics, intellectuals, politicians, or public speakers, also face similar danger.
Tomorrow, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hosts a hearing on the "Worsening Plight of Egypt's Christian Copts." Nina Shea, the head commissioner of USCRIF, is a keynote speaker. Clearly, USCIRF provides invaluable information concerning the injustices levied against religious minorities in the Middle East and in the Islamic world. Congress must reinstate the US Commission for International Religious Freedom — to do otherwise would be immoral, dangerous, un-American, and unacceptable.
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