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Religious Freedom Beyond Ground Zero

Obama’s indifference toward international religious freedom is well known – especially when it concerns despotic regimes of the Middle East. It is not as if the pervasive abuses are a secret.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom earlier this year put both Egypt and Turkey on its watch list. Egypt has received billions in new aid and a pass on re-implementation of its so-called Emergency Laws from the Obama administration, despite the Commission’s findings:

Serious problems of discrimination, intolerance, and other human rights violations against members of religious minorities, as well as disfavored Muslims, remain widespread in Egypt. The reporting period marked a significant upsurge in violence targeting Coptic Orthodox Christians. The Egyptian government has not taken sufficient steps to halt the repression of and discrimination against Christians and other religious believers, or, in many cases, to punish those responsible for violence or other severe violations of religious freedom. This increase in violence, and the failure to prosecute those responsible, fosters a growing climate of impunity. … Disfavored Muslims continue to face discrimination and repression. The government has not responded adequately to combat widespread and virulent anti-Semitism in the government-controlled media.

In the wake of the Flotilla incident, the administration treated Turkey (from which the weapon-wielding terrorists embarked, and home to the terrorist-connected IHH “charity” ) with kid gloves, refraining from public criticism. Nor does it have much to say about the Commission’s findings:

Serious limitations on the freedom of religion or belief continue to occur in Turkey. … An additional factor influencing the climate during the past year includes the alleged involvement of state and military officials in the Ergenekon plot, which included alleged plans to assassinate the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox patriarchs and to bomb mosques.

And just yesterday, writing in the Washington Post, Roxana Saberi (herself a captive in Iran’s notorious Evin prison) described the persecution of Bahais in Iran and the hellish experience of two Bahai mothers, sentenced to 20 years on trumped-up charges of spying for Israel as well as “insulting religious sanctities and, later, ‘spreading corruption on earth.’” They were shipped off to Rajai Shahr, a facility “known for torture, unsanitary conditions and inadequate medical care for inmates, who include murderers, drug addicts and thieves.” Obama, however, came into office determined to bet on his “engagement” prowess, ignored the Green Movement, and still declines to spotlight the mullahs’ abominable record on religious (and every other) freedom.

It is regrettable that Obama’s Iftar speech not only mangled the Ground Zero mosque issue (which is a matter of discretion and comity, not legality) but ignored the massive deprivation of religious rights in the Middle East. But that would be like going to Cairo and talking about religious freedom for Copts or state-encouraged anti-Semitism. It is, in a word, inconceivable.



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