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Al-Rashid sees the persecution of Christians in the region as being little different, however, than the attacks Islamic extremists have perpetrated against their fellow Muslims. I disagree – but I recognize his point. (Certainly Muslims have blown up their fair share of mosques around the world.) Either way, these attacks can only lead us to the same conclusion: that there remains, both in the Middle East and in the West, a distinct effort to conquer – either by destruction or conversion – a world that does not subscribe to Salafist, Wahabbist Islam, and that resists the Islamicization of its culture. Increasingly, as Islamic extremists target non-Muslims (and “moderate” Muslims) in their own backyard, they reveal the true impulse behind their crusade: the creation of a new Caliphate and the universal rule of Islam.
Yes, it is about religion.
Even as I write this, I can anticipate the outcry. “No, it’s not,” some will protest. “It’s about politics, and Israel.” “It’s power,” others will chime in, “and oil.”
But when those who define themselves entirely by their religion set out to destroy those who follow a different faith, what, then, if not about religion, is it?
More important: do we have the courage and the determination to face the truth, and change it?
Pope Benedict (though he has remained silent about the rising number of attacks of Muslims against Jews), is clearly hoping so: according to Reuters, he called the summit an effort to “solemnly renew the commitment of believers of every religion to live their own religious faith in the service of the cause or peace.”
May the New Year bring us, then, not merely explanations, but honesty; not only sympathy, but solutions.
Peace on earth. Good will toward men. And above all, a call for freedom.
Happy New Year.
Abigail R. Esman, a columnist for Forbes.com, is the author, most recently, of Radical State: How Jihad Is Winning Over Democracy in the West.
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