Clifford D. May
---- — At last month’s Values Voter Summit, a Washington gathering of conservative activists from around the country, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., gave a speech on what he called “a worldwide war on Christians by a fanatical element of Islam.”
Anti-Christian persecution, violence and “religious cleansing” have become common in many Muslim-majority countries. The media, as Paul pointed out, have turned a blind eye. So, too, have President Barack Obama and European leaders.
The senator was careful not to paint all Muslims with the brush of fanaticism. He stressed that only a minority of Muslims read Islamic scripture as mandating an armed struggle against Christians and other “unbelievers.” But because the global Muslim population is so large -- more than 1.5 billion -- even a relatively small percentage translates into tens of millions of jihad supporters.
Paul cited a few of the atrocities not making the evening news: a priest shot in the head in Zanzibar; churches bombed in Kenya; the beheading of three girls on their way to a Christian school in Indonesia; churches burned and worshippers killed in Egypt; a pastor in Iran tortured and ordered to renounce his faith.
In the ancient Christian city of Maaloula, in what is now Syria, he said, “Islamic rebels swarmed into town” demanding everyone convert or die. “Sarkis el Zakhm stood up and answered them, ‘I am a Christian and if you want to kill me because I am a Christian, do it.’ Those were Sarkis’ last words.”
Paul added: “These rebels are allies of the Islamic rebels President Obama is now arming.
“American tax dollars should never be spent to prop up a war on Christianity. But that is what is happening right now.”
Well, not precisely: Almost three years ago, Syrians began to peacefully demonstrate against Bashar al-Assad. The brutality of the dictator’s response sparked a civil war that was led by nationalists -- not jihadists. They asked for American support and were turned down, in part because the administration saw Assad’s fall as inevitable.
That analysis turned out to be dead wrong -- and according to estimates, including a recent one by the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. more than 100,000 have been killed in the civil war to date. Iran’s rulers -- who, as Paul noted, persecute Christians at home and, as he did not note, were responsible for hundreds of American deaths in Iraq, and scrawl “Death to America!” on their missiles -- sent Assad battalions of reinforcements, including elite fighters from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. They also arranged for combatants from Hezbollah, Iran’s Lebanon-based foreign legion -- murderers of 241 American servicemen in 1983 -- to come to Assad’s rescue.
While this has been going on, al-Qaida forces, decimated during the American “surge” in Iraq, were taking advantage of America’s withdrawal from that troubled country to regroup and rebuild. They soon became strong enough to cross the border, declaring the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Paul told his audience: “Islam needs to remember and recreate the good in (its) history.” But those waging jihad, Shia and Sunni alike, believe that the best in their history was when there was an Islamic empire as extensive as Rome at its zenith, dominating, and often destroying, communities of Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, Hindus and other “infidels.”
The presumption of radical Islam, wrote Bernard Lewis (the world’s leading scholar of the Middle East before that field of study became hopelessly politicized and compromised), is that “the duty of jihad will continue, interrupted only by truces, until all the world either adopts the Muslim faith or submits to Muslim rule.”
Paul argues: “Radical Islam will end only when Islam begins to police Islam.” He does not specify by what mechanism that could happen. “They will never accept us through force of arms. Somehow, though, they must come to understand that they must police themselves, that they must root out and destroy the sadists and killers who distort and contort religion to justify killing civilians and children.”
“Somehow, though, they must come to understand” is neither a policy nor a strategy.
Paul is to be commended for speaking out about the plight of Christians in Muslim-dominated lands at a time when so many other voices are silent. But if he would step back from the trees, he’d see a deep and dark forest: Attacks on Christians are battles in a grand jihad, a “War against the West” being waged by the 21st century’s most lethal imperialists. If Paul seriously aspires to be a world leader, he would be well-advised to begin developing a response not based on retreat, passivity and drift.
Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington policy institute focusing on national security.