After my recent articles documenting how the U.S. is the chief facilitator of Christian persecution in the Muslim world, I received an email from John Eibner, CEO of Christian Solidarity International, in which he made the following observation:
The sad fact is that the ruthless Assad dictatorship has a better record than the United States or its Sunni allies of protecting religious minorities in the Middle East. What Syrian Christian, Alawite or Druze in their right mind would trade the Assad’s time-tested protection for the smooth words of a John Kerry, especially when they can see Sunni supremacist Saudis, Qataris, Turks and a motley array of jihadis over their shoulder?
A sad fact indeed.
Still, one of the most nagging questions for Western observers must be: Why would ruthless dictators, most of whom are at least nominally Muslim, care about Christians and bother to protect them?
The answer is related to the popular adage (possibly of Arab origin), “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” This has long meant that, whoever is at odds with my enemy becomes my natural friend and ally.
Father Antonious casts his ballot in a constitutional referendum inside a polling station in Dalga village of Minya, Egypt, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014. He is one of the priests of the Virgin Mary and St. Abraam Monastery that was looted and burned by supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in August. Through violence or intimidation, Islamists in villages like this one used violence or intimidation to stop Christians from voting "no" to a 2012 constitution that had paved the way for the creation of an Islamic state. This time around, no one is stopping the Christians and they are voting "yes" on a new charter that criminalizes discrimination and instructs the next legislature to ease restrictions on building churches. (AP Photo/Roger Anis, El Shorouk Newspaper)
In the context of Arab dictators and Christian minorities, however, the adage changes slightly to, “The enemy of ‘infidels’ is my enemy.”
Put differently, a secular Bashar al-Assad—ruthless as he may be—knows that those Islamic rebels that attack Christians because they are “infidels” also see him as an infidel and are thus his natural enemies.
And so, if anything, finding and neutralizing those “elements” that persecute Christians is one with finding and neutralizing those elements that would overthrow him.
It was the same in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt, Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya, and the rest.
The point is not that these dictators had any special love for their Christian subjects, but rather that they knew they had little to worry about from them, while those who attack Christians are the ones to worry about.
In this Sept. 3, 2013 file photo, Egyptian Christian villagers clean up the damaged ancient chapel inside the Virgin Mary and St. Abraam Monastery that was looted and burned by Islamists, in Dalga, Minya province, Egypt. A brutal crackdown on Islamists after a military coup that ousted Egypt's first democratically elected president is posing a dilemma for the country's intellectual elite, which championed greater freedoms during a popular revolt two years ago but now seems largely acquiescent in the wave of arrests and raids targeting the Muslim Brotherhood. (AP Photo/El Shorouk Newspaper, Roger Anis, File)
This is evinced by the fact that, in other contexts, such Arab rulers cast the Christians to the lions as scapegoats for Islamists to vent their rage on—a “better them than me" mentality.
Still, an overarching deduction exists: those who scream “infidels” while burning churches are the same who scream “apostate” while attacking state targets. It’s an unwavering truism.
Even al-Qaeda’s Ayman Zawahiri recently demonstrated this correlation when he called on Egypt’s jihadis to stop targeting Christians and their churches and focus instead on fighting the current rulers. In both cases, the jihadis see the “infidel”—whether the born Coptic Christian infidel or the “apostate” military—as the enemy.
Due to Egypt’s significant Christian population which numbers at least 10 million (if not much more), the adage “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” takes on more complete meaning in that nation: the Copts and their church did play a supportive role in the June revolution that ousted the Muslim Brotherhood, even as Pope Tawadros stood side-by-side with Gen. Sisi and Al Azhar’s Grand Sheikh, Ahmed al-Tayab—only to suffer at the hands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters, including al-Qaeda, everywhere.
Such is the simple wisdom and instinct for survival of the Arab autocrats of the Middle East—a wisdom that concludes that, “he who targets Christians because they are ‘infidels,’ is he who targets me.”
Meanwhile, far from exhibiting such simple common sense, Western governments in general, the U.S. government in particular, continue to aid and abet those who, by targeting and killing Christians simply because they are “infidels,” are continually exposing their ingrained hostility for the West and everything it once stood for.
Raymond Ibrahim is author of "Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians."
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