In this article, however, he broaches an "awkward topic"--Muslim culpability in religious repression. The context is mistreatment of a pregnant Christian woman. Sentenced to death by a Sudanese court for converting, Meriam Ibrahim was lashed 100 times, and currently lives in the US Embassy because of governmental refusal to let her leave the country. Kristoff then goes on to list other abuses: in Malaysia a severe law disallowing Christian use of the word "Allah"; in Pakistan, an attorney is shot dead for defending a man falsely accused under the brutal blasphemy law; in Iran, a lawyer is given 9 years in jail for defending a Christian "apostate" pastor. He also mentions indiscriminate slaughter of Shi'ites, and persecution of Pakistani Ahmadis, who can be arrested for saying "Peace be Upon Him" (Muhammad).
Kristoff knows that discussing such incidents of global religious repression by Muslims is tricky and argues they have not always treated minorities this way: For instance, Muhammad's AD 628 document guaranteed the safety and security of monks in St. Catherine's monetary, and even stated that a Christian woman must not be forced to marry a Muslim without her approval. He further cushions his criticism by reminding us that others have also engaged in religious repression, such as inflicted on Jews in Europe 50 years ago. He reminds us that Muslims themselves are persecuted in places like Myanmar, but states they suffer most at the hands of fellow-believers. He fears that Islamophobes and Islam-haters in the West could use his words to fuel fear of Islam as a violent religion, yet insists that such acts by Muslims cause greater damage to them and their religion than Islam-haters could ever accomplish.
What then are we to make of Kristoff's soft approach? Frankly, I applaud his careful choice of words, because we also have a checkered past; Islamophobia is prevalent in the West[ii] and racism still exists. Nevertheless, his point is clear: This "sad index" is proof of rising Muslim religious intolerance. He urges all of us to speak up, and sets a good example of how to do so with humility, understanding and respect.
[i] Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. He and his wife Sheryl WuDunn co-authored two other books: Thunder from the East, China Wakes, and a fourth is due this fall, A Path Appears: Enriching the Lives of Others--and Ourselves.
[ii] Some research suggests negative views of Islam are higher among white evangelical protestants. Do we take Christ's command seriously to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us? “Views of Islam Remain Sharply Divided.” Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religious & Public Life, September 9/04 and http://www.pewforum.org/Muslim/Views-of-Islam-Remain-Sharply-Divided.aspx, April 29/10.
Posted by Warren Larson