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article imageOp-Ed: Attacks against Christians are part of a wider picture

By Michael Cosgrove     Jan 2, 2011 in World
The many attacks carried out last year against Christians across the Muslim world have led to speculation that the Muslim world has declared a global war against Christians. But although Christians are being targeted, things are not that simple.
The New Year's Eve attack which killed 21 people and injured 79 people at a Coptic Christian church in Alexandria in Egypt was the latest of many such attacks across the Muslim world aimed at Christians, their communities and their churches. Egypt itself has seen a gradual increase in the number of attacks against its Coptic and other Christian communities over the last five years and retaliatory actions have also led to Muslim deaths in some instances.
Barack Obama condemned what he called a "barbarous and heinous act" and the Egyptian Interior ministry blamed it on "foreign elements" and claimed it may have been the work of Al-Qaida terrorists in Iraq.
The situation is even worse in Iraq, and hundreds of thousands of Christians are believed to have fled the country since the Coalition invasion of 2003. One of the worst of dozens of attacks against Christians last year occurred at the end of October when at least 58 worshippers were killed in a siege at a Catholic church in Baghdad.
Pakistan also witnessed attacks against Christians in 2010 and Islamic radicals in Gaza are making life very difficult for Christians there. Things aren't much better in Jerusalem either, where spitting attacks by young Orthodox on anyone seen wearing a crucifix are not a rare occurrence.
What is happening in these countries and others is correctly being interpreted as proof that Christians are under attack because of their religious beliefs. That is true in and of itself but another look at these countries shows that they are far from being the only victims.
Egyptian democracy activist Alaa Al Aswany points out that Muslim on Muslim conflict in Egypt is on the rise and that Christians are not the only targets of what he calls the "religious conservatism" of Wahabi-style Islamist elements who, although they are against Christians, and Jews, also target other Muslims - notably the Shia - and anyone else who opposes radical Muslim ideas. He claims that this activity is being funded by Saudi Arabia.
After all, there have been so many attacks against Jews in both Israel and elsewhere in the world that it is impossible to count them all, and inter-Muslim violence has led to the slaughter of many thousands of them over the last ten years. Sunnites and Shiites have been battling it out in Iraq, where attacks perpetrated by one side against the other have led to an almost inestimable number of dead. This conflict is about settling old scores from the Saddam Hussein era and controlling the country. Moreover, Sunnite-Shiite violence has gone on for hundreds of years. Th present situation however has existed since Saddam's execution, and it was being pointed out as far back and further as 2006 that it is not about religion but power.
Pakistan has seen a dramatic uptick in attacks against moderate Muslims in recent years by the Taliban, Al-Qaida and other hard-line Muslim Integrists and these attacks' two-pronged aim is to stop the denunciation of militants to the authorities by using reprisals against local communities and, on a more long-term basis, to force Pakistan to live under hard-line Sharia and other interpretations of Islam. Murderous attacks on mosques are commonplace. There is an analogous situation in Afghanistan, with the added objective of forcing coalition forces to leave before overthrowing Karzai after their departure.
This kind of violence is going on in dozens of countries, from Africa to Gulf countries and the Middle East and from the Indian continent to the Philippines.
Inter-religious violence is also being encouraged from the shadows by various power-broking countries including - but not only - Saudi Arabia and Iran. America and Europe are not blind to the global dimensions and implications of religious conflict either, and their choices of who to back or not in Muslim countries are partly determined by it.
That a campaign of violence is being carried out against Christians cannot be denied, but to call it an anti-Christian crusade is an over-simplification. Christians, Jews, Muslims and other religions are being instrumentalized by zealots in their midst in various parts of the world whose various aims and objectives have nothing to do with religion but everything to do with power.
And they can't call on America or anyone else to sort it out for them. This is a proxy global religious war being fought for ideological and political reasons and they will just have to slug it out either until they drop or until the moderate elements in their midst muster up the courage to take on their extremist elements.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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