Got News? Persecuted Christian edition

Sometimes I think back to August and September when most mainstream media outlets were obsessed about the construction of an Islamic Center near Ground Zero and/or the planned (but never realized) burning of a Koran by a leader of a small church in Florida. Everywhere the media looked, they saw Islamophobia and it became the overarching narrative adopted by many figures in the media.

It’s interesting to observe the media engaged in pack-like behavior and worth considering its causes and effects. Sometimes I wonder why the media just stopped covering the mosque in lower downtown Manhattan. Did it go away? No, but the media did.

In any case, there’s another story out there that is worthy of much more coverage. For some reason, almost all of the mainstream media have avoided it. I first learned of the plight of Said Musa, who is about to be killed by the Afghan government for converting to Christianity from Islam, from Paul Marshall’s post at National Review “America Quiet on the Execution of Afghan Christian Said Musa“:

Musa was one of about 25 Christians arrested on May 31, 2010, after a May 27 Noorin TV program showed video of a worship service held by indigenous Afghan Christians; he was arrested as he attempted to seek asylum at the German embassy. He converted to Christianity eight years ago, is the father of six young children, had a leg amputated after he stepped on a landmine while serving in the Afghan Army, and now has a prosthetic leg. His oldest child is eight and one is disabled (she cannot speak). He worked for the Red Cross/Red Crescent as an adviser to other amputees.

He was forced to appear before a judge without any legal counsel and without knowledge of the charges against him. “Nobody [wanted to be my] defender before the court. When I said ‘I am a Christian man,’ he [a potential lawyer] immediately spat on me and abused me and mocked me. . . . I am alone between 400 [people with] terrible values in the jail, like a sheep.” He has been beaten, mocked, and subjected to sleep deprivation and sexual abuse while in prison. No Afghan lawyer will defend him and authorities denied him access to a foreign lawyer.

While Marshall himself links to earlier attempts to draw attention to the matter, he notes that media coverage has been bizarre:

Newspapers in the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe have reported the story, but with, the exception of the Wall Street Journal and, of course, NRO, American outlets have not found it worthy of attention.

You can read Said Musa’s plea for help (pictured above) from Christians worldwide, “President Brother Barak Obama President of the United States,” and the head of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan here. It is heartbreaking. (Other info here and here.)

The Wall Street Journal piece mentioned earlier was written in January and does a good job of laying out the fundamental issues. It tells about Said Musa as well as Shoaib Assadullah Musawi, who was arrested for giving a copy of a New Testament to his friend. The friend turned him in. The article explains the difficulties of being a Christian in Afghanistan and how the government, which has received so much funding and other aid from U.S. taxpayers, adopts similar or same policies to the Taliban. It explains why Hamid Karzai and his government support killing Christians, too:

Afghan officials have been unapologetic. “The sentence for a convert is death and there is no exception,” said Jamal Khan, chief of staff at the Ministry of Justice. “They must be sentenced to death to serve as a lesson for others.” Apostasy is a capital crime in Afghanistan, where the constitution is based on Shariah, or Islamic law.

That’s the way to write it out — just explain the positions of the various sides. One side thinks it’s wrong to imprison, abuse, torture and kill people for the free and peaceful expression of their faith. Another side views apostasy as a capital crime. Of course, we also need to know about the views in between. And I’m not just talking about those reform-minded Muslims who disagree with what Islam has to say about apostasy. Their voices, and the reasoning behind what they have to say, also should be included in these stories.

It also would be helpful to understand the variance on the other side of the equation. If you do a news search, you see that the people who seem to care about this situation are Christian news outlets and conservative media sites.

The same media outlets that obsessed over Terry Jones and his plans to burn a Koran don’t care about the destruction of a human life. If, as Marshall notes, the planned burning of a Koran led to a widespread media binge and a Presidential statement, certainly the destruction of a human life merits at least a little media coverage, right? What does it say that these stories have received such disparate coverage? It’s not like we can pretend that Americans aren’t interested — financially, politically and otherwise — in the lives of Afghans. Billions of dollars and 1,500 lives would indicate otherwise.

Maybe the media is too busy mocking folks from Oklahoma for their views on Sharia, I don’t know. But no matter the cause, the disparity in coverage of this situation and other recent stories is illuminating.

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  • Darryl

    Is it possible or even likely, that stories like this go ignored because they don’t meet the mainstream media’s agenda?

  • J

    There’s more mainstream coverage on this than you realize:

    Is it enough? How important is this compared other news out there right now? Clearly, this has the attention of the NATO coalition, so about as much as can be done is being done by the governments.

    I think in the scheme of things, what is going on in Egypt, Libya and Bahrain have more significance ultimately. Doesn’t mean there should be no coverage, but it may be “enough.”

  • J

    After looking at this further, it’s clear why Marshall thinks there is no coverage. As an NRO writer, he’d never read the NYTimes. :) I would expect more of you, Mollie. The Times article is very thorough, gives a lot of info on the situation, discussing the situation under Afghan law that indeed gets to the in between you seek.

  • Mollie


    Thanks for the link! Because of the different spelling, my Google-fu failed.

    Not that the disparity even at the Times isn’t still striking (archive search for “Terry Jones Koran” and “Sayed Mussa“).

  • Ryan K.

    Mollie is right here. J the quantity and intensity is more the point I think Mollie is getting at in the lack of coverage for Musa in comparison to the Koran burning story.

    Personally, I wonder why on all the political talk shows that go on Sunday morning why this was not a media thought to ask. Or how about at a White House press conference? Odd to have the President and Mrs. Clinton both issue statements and directly intervene about the Koran situation and not here.

    Given the amount of money and security the USA provides to Afghanistan, one would think the a phone call or statement from Obama would be quite powerful. Yet the media does not make it an issue and I think it is valid to wonder why.

  • Bain Wellington

    But no reference in the reports to the widely-reported parallel case 5 years ago which had a benign outcome following pressure from NATO countries: the Christian convert, Abdul Rahman who was released from prison and granted asylum in Italy one week into his capital trial “for converting 16 years ago while working as a medical aid worker for an international Christian group helping Afghan refugees in Pakistan”,2933,189440,00.html#ixzz1EXU3Z5ml

  • Mollie


    The WSJ piece DID reference the Abdul Rahman situation.

  • Bram

    The problem here is even the MSM can’t make this Sarah Palin’s fault.

  • bob smietana

    Musa Said’s story deserves more publicity. It’s newsworthy and important.

    That said, comparing the Terry Jones and the Musa Said is like comparing apples and oranges. Jones is an American pastor, whose proposed Quran burning caused an international incident. So American media covered him. They also covered the Shariah law controversy because it happened in America.

    So far there’s been little news here about Mr. Said. That seems to be changing as Americans here about him and starting trying to get the word out, which should lead to more coverage.

  • Bram

    The real scandal here is how the MSM willfully ignores Christian martyrdom all around the world every day.

    Estimates are that some 250 Christians or so are martyred every day and that some 1 million or so have been martyred in the past ten years, making Christians by far the most severely persecuted religious group in the contemporary world. …

  • Jeffrey

    Why is it surprising US media covers religious oppression in the US instead of religious oppression in Afghanistan? Shouldn’t the US media show some concern about threats to religious liberty in OK instead if Kabul?

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    It will be interesting to see how much coverage the murder of a Catholic priest in Tunisia gets. According to a number of accounts it was by jihadists.
    The reason this should be of interest is because of the media’s embrace of turmoil and protest in the Middle East as a great noble push for peace, democracy, freedom, and rights. This murder-at least partially- undermines that media narrative.
    As for Afghanistan–we should be very much interested in what goes on there because of our deep involvement there financially and militarily.

  • J

    There are certainly serious persecutions of Christians today, but are Christians by far the most seriously persecuted? Let’s see some numbers, and define persecution.

  • S.A.M.S.

    Jones is an American pastor, whose proposed Quran burning caused an international incident. So American media covered him.

    If the media hadn’t covered it, their would have been no international incident.

  • Bain Wellington

    Mollie, my apologies – I read the NRO piece you critiqued and the NY Times piece, but not the WSJ report (which is behind a pay-wall anyway, so I take your word for what it says). I am glad to hear the failure was not total.

  • Mollie

    Actually, the more I think about it, there’s pretty much no defense for the amount or manner of coverage of the Terry Jones incident. And that’s some pretty perverse incentivizing to say that the media only covers something if you respond by murderous rioting.

  • tioedong

    you want real silence? Try finding out that there are over a million Catholics in Saudi Arabia, but no church there (mostly in overseas workers: Filipinos, Keralan Christians, Lebanese…).

    Of course, the Saudis also persecute their Shiite minority…and heaven help you if you are Hindu and have a statue of Ganeesh in your apartment.

    This article is from 2005

  • tioedong

    Re: Deacon John pointing out that a priest was killed in Tunesia.

    Considering the number of priests/pastors killed by communist insurgencies and by government “extrajudicial killings” in both Colombia and here in the Philippines, many priest/pastor killings are politically motivated (they witnessed atrocities or opposed the government or insurgency in sermons) and rarely are covered in the US.

    In Tunesia, the murderer could be a nut case as in the Phoenix murder, or it could be criminal.

    Indeed, when priests here (in the Philippines) are kidnapped by the Islamic terrorists, it’s usually for money (which is why they favor kidnapping Italian priests: Italy pays ransom, the US refuses to pay ransom, but will track you down and kill you, and kidnapping a Filipino will only get you the money their family can collect, since the gov’t refuses to help.)

    Of course, the press even here does tend to ignore the Christians displaced after attacks by Islamic terrorists in the Philippines, and ignore the Muslim on Muslim killings in the south…LINK

  • bob smietana

    OK — so an American minister, using the power of the internet to publicize his Quran burning, causing riots overseas that threaten the safety of US troops.

    And this is not a story because……..?

    Mr. Musa’s story is an important one. But it’s an Afgani story that doesn’t threaten the safety of American troops. So it’s not surprising that his story isn’t getting major coverage.

    It deserves to be covered. But since US media are barely covering the war in Afghanistan, it’s not surprising his story has gone mostly unnoticed. Most US media don’t have reporters in Afghanistan.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    J–google in ‘MOST PERSECUTED RELIGION’ and you will find a long list of stories claiming the Christian religion is the MOST persecuted religion in the world.
    Granted, because the MSM has fastidiously ignored or downplayed news about the persecution of Christians, most of the stories come by way of Christian publications and news organizations.
    Estimates do vary about number totals. These numbers go from 100 million all the way up to 300 million Christians suffering varying forms of persecution from the burning of Bibles to the burning of churches–from the murder of Christian clergy to the jailing of Christian worshippers.
    However, the NY Times on March 3, 2010 (relying on a survey by the German publication Der Spiegel) estimated in a small story that 100 million Christians around the world are persecuted.
    And much of this persecution is at the hands of Moslems or Moslem governments.

  • Jerry

    Building on Bob Smietana’s points, North Africa and the Middle East are on fire. Morocco, Libya, Iran, Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen are in turmoil. There’s rumblings from Jordan and China as well. It’s totally not surprising that this story did not get more coverage because of that unprecedented upheaval. Someone remarked the other day that the fall of the Communist empire took longer and was less dramatic than what is going on now. The world is watching to see whether basically secular forces will prevail in the countries transitioning to democracy.

    There’s one other point. This is basically a “dog bites man” story. That does not make what is going on right, of course, but it does not command the kind of attention “man bites dog” stories do.

  • Mollie

    At this point, I think a story is needed about why some people, including some elites, care so little about a man being killed for his faith. Particularly in light of the other things they seem to think are so important. Personally speaking it is quite amazing, if sickening and saddening, to watch.

  • Donald

    “I think a story is needed about why some people, including some elites, care so little about a man being killed for his faith. Particularly in light of the other things they seem to think are so important.”

    Red herring. Who has been saying that the plight of Musa, or of persecuted Christians, is unimportant? He had the bad luck to be imprisoned at a time when Afghanistan has stopped being such a prominent news story, not least because of important things happening outside Afghanistan, including global economic turmoil and revolutionary instability everywhere else?

    The persecution of a convert in an Afghanistan that, sadly, no one expects very much from is a “dog bites man” story.

  • Donald

    Deacon: “google in ‘MOST PERSECUTED RELIGION’ and you will find a long list of stories claiming the Christian religion is the MOST persecuted religion in the world.”

    The problem with that–at least if you’re going to claim that Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world–is that there are plenty of other stories of persecution. If you’d like, we could say that _Islam_ is the most persecuted religion in the world. Leaving aisde the plight of some Muslims on the periphery of the Islamic world–Moros in the Philippines, Malays in southern Thailand, Muslim Zanzibaris, until recently Slavic and Albanian Muslims in the Balkans, Chechens and their neighbours in the Russian North Caucasus, Rohingya in Burma, Kashmiris–until a few years ago the many millions of Indian Muslims had, as government, a political party founded on Hindu-supremacist values that did nothing to prevent massive pogroms. If Islam really does have “bloody borders,” as the bon mot has it, it’s because lots of non-Muslims like shedding Muslim blood.

    Instead of getting into a contest over which religion suffered worse/has done worse–legitimating crusades is unpopular and unworthy work, IMHO–highlighting individual cases of persecution in the general context of intolerant religions full stop would seem the more productive use of time.

  • Mollie


    I’m not sure I follow. You deny that anyone is viewing this story as “unimportant” and then in the same breath call it expected and a “dog bites man” story.

    Don’t get me wrong, you’re by no means alone. Your viewpoint is shared by most in the American media and much of the pundit class and blogosphere. I just don’t understand the logic.

    This story did not coincide directly with the Egypt uprising or any of the other turmoil. It preceded it. Why was it ignored then? What was the excuse back in May of last year when the dozens of Christians were arrested or November of last year or December of last year when there were various news updates?

    And in what world is the non-burning of a Koran a media event of circus-like proportions — literally the top religion story of the year — but the burning of a human being is a non-story?

    Non-burning of a single copy of a holy book, media meltdown; killing of a human who converted to Christianity is a yawner? Really? I’m sure it makes sense in some worldview, but I need a bit more explanation. It just doesn’t compute for me. And yes, I realize I’m in the minority here.

    It would be one thing if the media weren’t running magazine cover stories accusing Americans of Islamophobia. Or running unfair attack pieces on those people who do highlight the problems surrounding Muslim apostasy laws. Or heck, it would be something if the media were in the practice of acknowledging that, in fact, Islamic law throughout the world views apostasy as a capital crime and that this is considered a troubling issue by some (even those yokels in Oklahoma).

    But this “dog bites man” approach seems a bit circular. Basically it goes “It’s not a story because we say it’s not a story. And since we say it’s not a story, it’s not a story.” This circular logic has another side, which goes “If we focus like a laser beam on the non-burning of a Koran, it will become an international incident. And then we’ll justify that we covered it 24-7 for weeks by saying that it’s an international incident.” It’s all kind of odd, in my view.

    I could be wrong. Maybe Americans don’t care about how much money they’ve been pouring into this government in Afghanistan that is in the business of killing Christians. Maybe they’re happy that their sons and daughters are dying so that Afghanis can kill Christians. I don’t know. But something tells me that it might be a news story of interest to a few folks.

  • Jerry

    Mollie, from my perspective people are being killed all over the world. In the middle east people are being murdered by their own government’s military in relatively large numbers. Journalists are dying when they try to report the news. Muslim women are being killed for all sorts of horrible “reasons”. There is injustice and evil easily visible in the pages of any media outlet. God grant that this evil vanish soon.

    I do agree that this is an evil act. But given what is going on in the world today, I don’t give this story the importance you give it.

  • Jerry

    After I posted this, I saw another example of a story competing for attention:

    The battle over blasphemy
    Has Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law become a political tool in the hands of religious conservatives?

  • Donald


    “Maybe Americans don’t care about how much money they’ve been pouring into this government in Afghanistan that is in the business of killing Christians. Maybe they’re happy that their sons and daughters are dying so that Afghanis can kill Christians. I don’t know. But something tells me that it might be a news story of interest to a few folks.”

    I can’t speak about the United States. Here in Canada, where the expectation of triggering lasting, positive change in Afghanistan is trivial and public hopes are limited to a desire for as few casualties as possible before we retreat from the battlefield and limit our presence to training Afghan troops to fight (or not), news like this is greeted with a weary “what do you expect?”

    There are other forms of persecution in Afghanistan apart from the persecution of Christian converts, and forms which affect absolutely many more people. The systematic mistreatment of women–who, it should be pointed out,may number ~14M to Musa’s 1–is most abhorrent in terms of sheer numbers. The potential for the persecution of vulnerable ethnic or religious minorities–the Hazara come to particularly to mind–might involve absolutely fewer people, but judging by the 1990s have the potential to trigger national chaos with plenty of opportunity for wider international involvement.

    If Afghanistan was a country that had a much longer, more intense, and more positive history of interaction with Canada (and, I’m guessing, the United States), the persecution of an Afghan convert to Christianity would have gotten more press earlier. Unfortunately for the Afghans, theirs is a country that can lay claim to none of these things. The story didn’t get broad attention because, frankly, it’s just a small piece of evidence further confirming the Canadian perception of Afghanistan as an unfortunate land we should have kept clear of.

    “Non-burning of a single copy of a holy book, media meltdown; killing of a human who converted to Christianity is a yawner? Really? I’m sure it makes sense in some worldview, but I need a bit more explanation. It just doesn’t compute for me. And yes, I realize I’m in the minority here.”

    Unfortunately we’re not good at dealing with trolls yet.


    “I have no doubt that the majority of reporters and editors hate Jesus and his followers.”


    That’s a bit of a broad statement, and a profound one. Are you suggesting that most journalists don’t mind–hey, maybe actually _approve_–of the persecution of Christians? Or am I misreading the above sentence?

  • Bram

    Mollie writes:

    “In what world is the non-burning of a Koran a media event of circus-like proportions — literally the top religion story of the year — but the burning of a human being is a non-story?

    Non-burning of a single copy of a holy book, media meltdown; killing of a human who converted to Christianity is a yawner? Really? I’m sure it makes sense in some worldview, but I need a bit more explanation. It just doesn’t compute for me. And yes, I realize I’m in the minority here.”

    Well, no, you’re not in the minority, Mollie — not in the minority of people in general, the vast majority of whom are every bit as sickened as you (and me) by the moral depravity and misplaced priority here.

    You are simply in a minority among the very, very, very small chattering class for whom an enemy of their enemies the Christians is always a friend, or at least enough of a friend to get a moral free-pass.

    The story of Said Musa does nothing to help cast aspersions on “yokels” in Oklahoma — or in Florida, in the case of Terry Jones — so it can safely be discarded by the chattering class down their memory-hole, along with the stories of the million other christians who’ve been martyred in the past ten years and the hundreds of millions who’ve been persecuted during that same time — none of whose martyrdom or persecution count for near as much as a single unpublished Mohammed cartoon or unburned page of Koran.

  • J

    @Deacon Bresnahan (and generally)-

    First, let me say that persecution is wrong and deserves coverage. How much should be expected from a responsible mainstream media on the Mussa story is the question I have. Which religion is in the lead on either the giving or receiving end is not that important-it is most important that if it can be illuminated and discouraged, we should do so. Attacking the problem is different in every society, and each society dominated by a particular religion is not the same.

    The article you cite (NYTimes noting an article in Der Speigel) is based on a figure provide by Open Doors, a Christian NGO. The Der Speigel stories goes on to say that the 100 million number is “threatened or persecuted.” So, we have a number by a party that is not disinterested giving a number that isn’t just persecutions. One of the things Get Religion is about is not recklessly throwing around numbers.

  • Lily

    Re: “Apostasy is a capital crime in Afghanistan, where the constitution is based on Shariah, or Islamic law.”

    It is my understanding that there is only one Middle-East nation (other than Israel) that is not an Islamic theocracy with Sharia law: Lebanon.

    It seems to me that this is the elephant in the room that the media doesn’t address in depth for the varied atrocities we see in the news: What is a Islamic theocratic government? Whether it is the mistreatment of women, persecution of Christians, a death sentence for apostasy, etc. These sentences are the normal outcome of their legal system.

    Until this politically correct issue of not addressing what an Islamic theocracy means for the people who live in these nations is corrected… well… I don’t hold much hope that the media will ever cover much about these stories or that there will be much support for the victims of Sharia law. It’s just not politically correct to tell the truth. All governments and all religions are not the same or equal.

  • Jeffrey

    I don’t think we need to accept an either/or choice. Threats to the religious liberty of Muslims in the US is a story the media should covet. The persecution of Christians abroad is an important media story. For that matter, concerns about a Christian-backed genocide if Muslims in the Ivory Coast is a story.

  • J

    @Lily-The NYTimes article on Musa says there is a conflict between provisions in the Afghan constitution that haven’t been resolved. Also, Shariah is not monolithic, and is not necessarily the law that applies in criminal cases. In most Muslim countries, Shariah courts handle only personal matters, such as marriage, divorce, and inheritance-civil rules apply to crimes. Your post implies that apostacy is a capital crime in all Muslim countries except Lebanon. This is incorrect-see It is a crime, but a lesser punishment may apply. The article goes on to say that in most cases the authorities try to find a way to “not to deal with” apostasy cases, as they are embarrassing politically.

    Don’t get me wrong-it’s hard to be a Christian in a Muslim majority country, and worse to convert from Islam to Christianity. The CFR article goes on to say that vigilante justice is often practiced against converts, with little reaction from authorities.

  • Bram

    Jeffery writes:

    “Threats to the religious liberty of Muslims in the US is a story the media should COVET.” [emphasis mine]

    A Freudian slip?

    ; )

    Either way, there clearly isn’t any symmetry at all between the persecution and martyrdom of Christians in Muslim and in State-Atheist countries all around the world and any “threats” to their religious liberty to which Muslims are subject here at home.

    Which, of course, doesn’t stop the MSM from “coveting” — in Jeffrey’s intended or accidental phrase — any threats that can be found or imagined at home to Muslims’ rights, while almost entirely ignoring the hundreds of Christians worldwide who are martyred everyday and the hundreds of millions who are persecuted through discrimination and worse than that every day.

  • Donald

    @ Jeffrey: Not least because the Gbagbo government’s ideology of Ivoirité ( specifically excludes as Ivoiriens anyone who’s of Muslim or immigrant background, and because the ongoing civil war relates to the efforts of the Christian minority to exclude Muslims utterly.

  • Jeffrey

    Bram, I’m not suggesting symmetry, I’m suggesting that the US media has a duty to report on threats to religious liberty in the US, even if some chattering classes are saying “move along, nothing to see here.” I’m saying they can do both, not that they are symmetrical.

  • Bram

    Alright, Jeffrey, point taken. But here’s the thing: In the nearly ten years since 9/11, the MSM have relentlessly pounded their drum about a largely non-existent persecution of U.S. Muslims by “yokels” of the sort who live in Oklahoma and other places disliked, for whatever reason, by the MSM. And during the same ten years, the MSM has utterly ignored the million or so Christians who have been martyred worldwide, not by “yokels” in Oklahoma, but rather by Muslims and also by Atheists, both groups whose views of other religions are far more violent and far less tolerant than those of Oklahoma “yokels” are. That being said, would you not agree that the MSM has been grossly remiss in how it has covered religious persecution and martyrdom in the past ten years — remiss to a scandalous degree that raises serious questions, at best about the journalistic competence and at worst about the moral integrity of the MSM?

  • Donald

    @ Bram:

    1. It may be worth noting that you`re the only person here–not me, not Jeffrey–using the word “yokels”.

    2. Can you specify some of the major scenarios where these Christians have been killed?

    3. “both groups whose views of other religions are far more violent and far less tolerant than those of Oklahoma “yokels” are.” Um, no comment.

  • Donald


    “It seems to me that this is the elephant in the room that the media doesn’t address in depth for the varied atrocities we see in the news: What is a Islamic theocratic government? Whether it is the mistreatment of women, persecution of Christians, a death sentence for apostasy, etc. These sentences are the normal outcome of their legal system.”

    Can you please give me some examples of ways in which Islamic theocracies have been receiving _good_ press?

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    J- So when the NY Times and Der Speigel finally print a little story on the widespread persecution of Christians, they did it because they thought their Christian source wasn’t accurate???? And to claim that going through life threatened with persecution is no biggy when compared to the actual persecution is pretty callous.

  • J

    @Deacon-how did Open Door come up with 100 million? If you assumed every Christian in every Muslim country was threatened or persecuted, and throw in all the Chinese Christians, too, I only get about 50 million. Open Door is not a credible source on the number of persecuted Christians-certainly just because the NYTimes and Der Speigel uses their number doesn’t make it credible.

    You are putting words in my mouth on threats being no biggie. There are degrees of both threat and persecution. My point was that even if the 100 million, there’s no discussion of the level of persecution. The average Christian in China is probably not as persecuted as the average Baha’i in Iran, or the Hindu in Sri Lanka.

    That said, again, all violation of human rights in the course of religious persecution, and threat there of, is worthy of illumination. I just cringe when one group seeks a monopoly on sympathy, claiming to have it the worst. Reporting the facts is what works best.

  • mattk

    Donald, you asked me, “Are you suggesting that most journalists don’t mind—hey, maybe actually _approve_—of the persecution of Christians? ”


  • Bram

    Donald: “Yokels” is a term Mollie introduced to characterize what the MSM think of people who live in Oklahoma — the MSM who have paid far more attention to efforts in Oklahoma opposing the legal institution of shariah law than they have paid to the martyrdom of 1 million Christians in the past ten years and the persecution of hundreds of millions more. As for your notion that Oklahomans are less tolerant of others than say the Nigerian Muslims or the North Korean Atheists who martyr and persecute Christians, where is your evidence for that? Is there a genocide or a totalitarian program that’s taken place in Oklahoma that the rest of us have missed, but not you?

  • Donald

    @ mattk: Your contention, then, is that journalists in the US hate Christians so much that they’re happy to neglect stories of Christian suffering so as to further diminish Christian faith?

    @ Bram: The problem with introducing labels to describe how you think the people you don’t like think about you is that you don’t necessarily know that label actually does describe how they feel about you.

    And you did not say “Nigerian” Muslims or “North Korean” atheists in #37: you said “Muslims” and “Atheists” full stop. We weren’t talking about how specifically Oklahomans stood up to the specifically worst of those two categories; we were talking about those two very broad categories could relate, or couldn’t, to the specific category of Oklahoman Christians.

  • MattK

    “@ mattk: Your contention, then, is that journalists in the US hate Christians so much that they’re happy to neglect stories of Christian suffering so as to further diminish Christian faith?”

    Not all. Just most.

  • David Carvin

    Sounds like the media is being guided by John Lennon’s Imagine: “Imagine no religion too.”

    Said Musa’s story makes it difficult to imagine. So the media is doing it’s part, by being dreamers, so “the world may live as one.”

  • Bram

    Donald: My point was that Muslims on the whole (for example Nigerian Muslims) and Atheists on the whole (for example North Korean Atheists) are indeed less tolerant of and more violent toward religious “others” than Oklahomans are on the whole. I don’t see how anyone honest or reasonable could disagree. As for “yokels,” that’s a term Mollie introduced, not me — a term that indicates how the MSM feels about people who live in Oklahoma, of whom I’m not one. I don’t take personal offense to the term and to the mindset it represents, but I do find both to be offensive, never having found Oklahomans to be so terribly bad as the MSM take them to be, and, in fact, rather better than some — for example, those who persecute Christians and have murdered a million of them in the past ten years, to deafening silence from the MSM, even as its beat goes on (and on and on) about these dastardly dogs, the Oklahomans.

  • bob smietana

    We have a story on the front page of today’s Tennessean about Mr. Said. It’s in the paper because local ministers and others are involved in a national social media campaign to publicize his plight and push for his release.

  • J

    @Bram-a million Christian murders? Where? Source?

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    J–The Times and Der Speigel trusted and considered reliable statistics you won’t accept apparently because they are from Christian sources. And these two secular media outfits chose the lowest estimate–other Christian sources estimate 200 million or 300 million. But if the MSM is ignoring the issue for the most part–where are the statistics to come from??
    Aside from raw statistics, how many countries are seriously persecuting other than Christians?? Not many, if any. Without even adding up the numbers, there are so few places that there is blatant persecution of other religions that the original point that the Christian religion is the most persecuted religion today is logically true.

  • J

    How many countries are seriously persecuting other than Christians?

    China: they persecute most religion. Falun Gong was estimated to have 70 million followers, and was banned by the Chinese government. Ever hear of Tibet? That’s 2.5 million more or less. Muslim persecution is severe as well.

    Russia: Muslims are persecuted in several areas. Ever hear of Chechnya? Jews have never fared well in Russia, and still don’t.

    Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, Muslims in India, Baha’is in Iran, Jews in many countries, Muslims in Israel. Leaving aside the longstanding Israeli/Palestinian dispute, Hebrew graffiti has been sprayed on mosques in Israel, and some politicians call for explusion of remaining Arabs. The lists of non-Christians who are persecuted is long.

    Even in our country, it is fair to say there is religious persecution. Fortunately, most of it is illegal and “only” cultural, but that doesn’t make it less odious. There were 1500 attacks against Muslims, or people who were assumed to be Muslim, in 2001 after 9/11. Just this year, some one tried to blow up the largest mosque in Detroit. If discrimination counts as persecution, plenty of persecution occurs on all sides in the US. Just last week, a man was awarded over $200k by a jury after he was fired because he stopped going to the boss’s church (the boss has a different story, but it was not accepted by the jury).

    Focusing on the religion being persecuted misses the important point: Violating fundamental human rights is wrong. The reason-religious, ethnicity, national origin-doesn’t matter. For what ever reason, people (regardless of religion) often become afraid of those who are different than they are.

    We must work to recognize and diffuse all of these atrocities, rather than focus on who is the “most” persecuted. The not so subtle subtext of claiming to be the most persecuted is that some how Christians are better, less deserving of persecution. Christians are in fact human sinners just like everyone else, as I think a fair proportion of them readily admit. No one deserves persecution, Christian or not-we are our brother’s keeper.

  • Mollie


    Yes, there are many places where religious groups other than Christians are persecuted. And a huge story that is not told well would be how many Muslims are persecuted by other Muslims. I’ve had many people I’ve interviewed comment on just that issue — that the group that has most to gain from defeating Islamism is Muslims.

    Still, there is nothing wrong with noting that Christians face severe persecution and oppression in North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Maldives, Yemen, Iraq, Uzbekistan, Laos, Pakistan, Eritrea, Mauritania, Bhutan, Turkmenistan, China, Qatar, Vietnam, Egypt, Chechyna, Comoros, Algeria, North Nigeria, Azerbaijan, Libya, Oman, Burma, Kuwait, and Brunei.

    And I’m not even including those countries where Christians face serious limitations on their religious freedom, such as Turkey, Morocco, India, Tajikistan, United Arab Emirates, North Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Syria, Djibouti, Jordan, Cuba, Belarus, Ethiopia, Bahrain, Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Malaysia.

    And if we included things like a mentally unstable co-religionist attacking a house of worship (as apparently happened in the Dearborn situation), I suppose we could probably include all countries. Not sure how much that helps give an accurate picture of religious persecution, though.

    Recognizing the universality of sin and pervasiveness of religious persecution doesn’t really do a good job of accurately portraying the globe’s big problem areas or who is behind most of the persecution — formal and informal.

  • J

    Agree that Muslim persecution of different sects of Muslims is a big issue.

    Islamism…here’s the definition I find-”the idea that Muslims must return to the roots of their religion and unite politically.” Hmm…kind of like the Christian right here.

    I am not disputing that there is serious Christian persecution. It should be reported, accurately. I would dispute that Islam is the inherent cause of most religious persecution, as you seem to imply. That ignores the historical background of imperialist oppression in the past. What is called for is more contact and discussion, realizing that each country is different, and that there is no a monolithic Islam which should be condemned. Condemn the bad actors, not the religion as a whole. And remove the plank from your own eye before removing the speck in theirs.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    J–the widespread persecution of Christians is NOT a speck. Week after week new atrocities occur (although few cases are reported in the American media).
    A few typical cases:
    2-22-11 Laos 65 villagers driven from their homes by gunpoint for not abandoning their Christian faith.
    2-14-11 9 Christians brutally slaughtered in Nigeria.
    2-11-11 Vietnam Catholic priest scheduled for jailing because of human rights activity.
    2-8-11 Indonesian Christian churches attacked because courts gave only a light 5 year sentence to a Christian woman for blasphemy.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    BULLETIN–45 Christians rounded up and detained in Iran-5 held in the notorious Evin prison this past week-end.

  • J

    Let’s take one of your examples and see how casting it as Christian persecution fails to tell the whole story. The Nigerian situation is described well in a Bloomberg article here:

    The poverty level of Muslims in the north is 70 to 80 percent, more than double that of the Christian south. The Sahara is pushing southward, giving the Muslims even less opportunity. Is it any wonder that they turn to violence under such circumstances? As the Bloomberg article puts it, “These people are now using violence on a religious platform to address their social and economic exclusion.” The situation is much more complicated that I can detail here-the Muslims and Christians tend to belong to different ethnic groups as well. Colonialism created artificial boundaries that complicate the problem further.

    All you are able to see is that 9 Christians were killed. Muslims are suffering greatly in this situation, too. There is indeed a plank in your eye.

  • J

    Here’s another example-the Catholic priest being jailed in Vietnam isn’t being jailed because he is Catholic; it’s because he is involved in a democracy and human rights movement. Reporting this as simply Christian persecution misses the real story.

  • Mollie

    Wait, so a mentally unstable Muslim bringing fireworks to a mosque *is* an example of America’s persecution of Muslims but the jailing of a priest for his *human rights* work has nothing to do with religious persecution?

    As much fun as moral relativism is, I think it’s probably a good time to go ahead and refocus comments or take this discussion to the Coffeehouse.

  • Ben

    Hi Mollie,

    Why did you include Oman in your list of severely persecuted Christian communities? My visit there recently suggested a different reality — that the country was one of the best in the middle east (not saying much!!) for religious freedom and Christians have churches and can worship fairly freely. Seems like the country would fit more on the “limitations” list instead. I’m guessing you didn’t come up with the lists, so I’m curious about your source.

  • J

    Last post-can’t let a charge of moral relativism go…

    Agree that the more important part of the Dearborn bombing is the mental stability of the would be bomber, yet religion is a certainly a “ghost” in the story. Of course, you didn’t even address the 1500 attacks on Muslims or Muslim looking people after 9/11. And the more important part of the Vietnamese priest story isn’t that he was persecuted for being a priest-he was being prosecuted for advocating human rights and democracy. Certainly, it is possible that his faith informs his political beliefs. Unstated, but clearly a lurking ghost in the background, is the colonial experience with Catholics in Vietnam supporting the French colonialists and then the South Vietnamese governments. The famous picture of the burning monk is not about the war; it was a protest of restrictions on Buddhists by the Catholic president of South Vietnam. That doesn’t justify the jailing of the priest, however but it shows how our acts of brutality today can haunt us or our kin tomorrow. Today, Buddhists are persecuted under today’s Communist government as well, more on political that religious grounds. If we are going to tell the story, tell the whole story.

    The persecution of people seeking fundamental rights is wrong, period. It is the persecution, and not the religion of the person being persecuted, that is most important.

  • Bram

    I keep wondering in reading all this what it is that people here denying the persecution and martyrdom of Christians think they have to gain from doing so and what it is they they think stand to lose by acknowledging the truth, if only for the sake of common decency, common humanity.

  • Jeffrey

    Bram, no one is denying there is persecution of Christians. Instead, the question is about the framing of the issue by critics of the coverage.

  • Bram

    Jeffery: OK, so you don’t deny that persecution and martyrdom of Christians exists, you just deny that it matters enough for the MSM to *acknowledge* it exists, in a morally decent and journalistically competent way. Denying the moral significance seems to me to be, if anything, even worse than denying the facts. It only moves us on from journalistic incompetence to moral indecency. Again, I don’t understand what it is that folks like you stand to gain by trying to minimize and/or obscure the moral significance of persecution and martyrdom, especially if you don’t deny that it exists. I also don’t understand what it is that you stand to gain by acknowledging the truth, in the name of common decency, common humanity. With that, I retire to the coffeehouse, per Mollie’s suggestion.

  • Bram

    Typo alert: “I don’t understand what Jeffrey and others stand to *lose* by acknowledging the truth of persecution and martyrdom of Christians.”

  • MJBubba

    J (#60): “the 1500 attacks on Muslims or Muslim looking people after 9/11.”
    How many of those 1500 attacks were verbal assaults? Or, is that a global figure and not an American figure? Consider this, from the San Francisco Examiner (By Mark Hemingway, 08-23-2010):

    “According to the latest hate crime statistics available, there were 1,606 hate crime offenses motivated by religious bias in 2008. A closer look: 65.7 percent of them were committed against Jews. Against Muslims? 7.7 percent.
    Depending on which population estimates you accept for Muslims (anywhere between 4 and 7 million), hate crimes are committed against Jews at a rate three to eight times greater than against Muslims. … After 9/11, there was a quick spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes — there were 28 in 2000, then 155 in 2002. In 2008, there were 123. Even one hate crime is too many, but consider: Between 2 and 4 of every 100,000 Muslims was a hate crime victim in 2008. The murder rate in D.C. last year was about 24 for every 100,000 residents.

    Peruse the crime statistics for yourself:

  • J

    My bad-source said 1500 percent increase in hate crimes against Muslims after 9/11.

    The FBI stats you quote have the following:

    Another noticeable increase in 2001 was among religious-bias incidents. Anti-Islamic religion
    incidents were previously the second least reported, but in 2001, they became the second highest reported
    among religious-bias incidents (anti-Jewish religion incidents were the highest), growing by more than 1,600
    percent over the 2000 volume. In 2001, reported data showed there were 481 incidents made up of 546
    offenses having 554 victims of crimes motivated by bias toward the Islamic religion.

    Even this makes my point-that there is significant religious persecution in this country. Anti-Jewish incidents are more common than anti-Muslim ones. What were the crimes? The FBI stats on hate crimes against Muslims included 27 aggravated assaults, 66 simple assault, and 296 cases of intimidation. The rest were property crimes. The number of assaults was higher against Muslims than Jews, the number of intimidations was higher against Jews. That’s in table 4 of the stats. Intimidation is generally verbal threats, so that gives you some idea of the nature of the persecution involved. This was in 2001.

    For what it’s worth, as of 2009, the last year for available stats, Jewish persecution lead all categories. The total number of religious hate crimes was lower than in 2001, and crimes against Muslims had dropped dramatically.

  • John M

    So I was reflecting on this a few minutes ago, and I realized that what makes this story different than the usual “dog bites man” religious persecution story is that Said Musa is under threat of the judicial death penalty for the sole reason that he converted from Islam to Christianity. I keep some track of Christian persecution stories worldwide, and this is highly irregular. The normal pattern is for neighbors (or in some cases family members) to do the persecuting on behalf of the community at large, and the state looks the other way. Or the government trumps up some charges against the Christian (someone plants some drugs, for instance). Or the state just “disappears” the person (this is common in China) without bothering with niceties like trials and such. Sometimes there are conflicting factors like economic, social or community unrest that make the “good guys” and the “bad guys” a little hard to identify (e.g. Nigeria).

    For this reason, IMHO, this issue deserves way more publicity than it has been getting. The two sides have basically stipulated the facts: Said Musa is a convert from Islam to Christianity, and the Afghan government has him under threat of the judicial death penalty because that’s the punishment for doing this.

    The last comparable situation that I can recall–and I don’t claim an encyclopedic knowledge here, but as I said, I do try to keep my finger on the pulse–was the trial of the handful of aid workers in Kabul under the Taliban just prior to 9/11, charged with trying to get others to convert. That got tons of media coverage here in the US because some of those involved were Americans, even though Afghanistan was a forgotten backwater at the time.

    Since the Afghan war is the longest war in U.S. history, and we’ve lost almost 1500 service members, I think this is a big story that’s way undercovered. The fact is that governments simply don’t openly admit that they are putting people to death solely for their religious beliefs all that often.

    (Though come to think of it, the Abdul Rahman story was quite comparable, and it got a fair amount of press before he received asylum.)

    Maybe this is obvious to everybody already, but it was a bit of a “Eureka” moment for me.


  • MJBubba

    One News Now is reporting that Said Musa was released and allowed to leave Afganistan (02/24/2011):