August 21, 2012 | National Review Online

Obama’s ‘Alert Observation’ of Anti-Christian Violence Must End

As Nina Shea discussed below, Pakistani authorities have incarcerated a 12-year-old Christian girl, who is believed to suffer from Down’s syndrome, because she allegedly burned pages of the Koran. The Washington Post reported that “as many as 600 Christians have fled their colony bordering the capital, fearing for their lives, officials said, after a mob last week called for the child to be burned to death as a blasphemer.”

Spectacular levels of radical-Islamic cleansing of Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian Christian communities continues unabated — not only in Pakistan — but in Egypt, the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, Saudi Arabia, and the Islamic Republic of Iran, to name just a few Muslim-majority countries where Islamists are lashing out at Christians.

Sadly, the lethal Christophobia unfolding in the Middle East is viewed passively and from the sidelines by the Obama administration. This week’s issue of the French news weekly L’Express neatly captures the Obama administration’s poorly chosen posture toward the Mideast, including Iran’s jingoism and its drive to develop nuclear weapons: “Everything takes place as if the White House has the role of alert observer,” noted the magazine.

A telling example of the “alert observation” is occurring in Egypt. Coptic Christians “are deeply anxious about what the future holds for them and their country,” Secretary of State Hilary Clinton remarked in late July. Then less than a week later, a mob of violent Muslims forcibly evicted the town of Dahshour’s entire Christian community (an estimated 100 Christian families fled).

Alertly observing the dire situation of the Middle East’s Christians has been the go-to tactic for the Obama administration. It is a foreign policy rooted in soggy political realism that produces no biting punitive measures for authoritarian regimes in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Gaza, as well as Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood’s increasingly anti-Western government in Egypt. Members of Gaza’s tiny Christian population of 2,500 have complained about its members being subjected to kidnappings and forced conversions to Islam.

Iran’s mullahs are serial persecutors of Christians. The country’s clerical rulers are slated to cart Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani back into court on September 8. His crime: challenging the mandatory Islamic education of his young children and attempting to register a home-based church. To the credit of the Washington-based American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) and its campaign to free Pastor Nadarkhani, the Iranian authorities have thus far backpedaled from imposing the death penalty on him. ACLJ, which seeks to promote religious freedom, launched a Twitter micro-blog campaign, resulting in nearly 3 million tweets a day with the hashtag #TweetforYoucef.

The U.S. government and its Western allies can, however, do much more. Consider the recommendations of Ben Cohen and Father Keith Roderick, the Episcopal priest for the Diocese of Springfield, Ill., in their late-July Wall Street Journal op-ed. “Some of these options might include linking commerce and financial assistance to a demonstrable commitment to religious freedom,” wrote Cohen and Roderick, who also suggested enhanced security measures for churches that are faced with Islamic terror.

The Obama administration’s “alert observation” policy in the Middle East has not sufficed to advance or even defend religious freedom in the region. When will Obama scrap his defective policy regarding the dire situation of Middle East Christians and finally confront anti-Christian regimes?

— Benjamin Weinthal is a Berlin-based fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He reports on the plight of Middle East Christians for the Jerusalem Post.

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