A bleak outlook: Egypt’s Copts face opression under a Sharia-based consitution drawn up by the Muslim Brotherhood
When Margaret Thatcher negotiated with Communists about human rights, she had a self-imposed rule. It was to deliver the same message in private as in public. That was, and is, unusual. Politicians prefer bold and indignant speeches at home to bruising confrontations with foreign leaders face to face. But you have to do it. The reason is simple. It is because, whatever someone's ideology, he will not take you seriously as a human being if he thinks you don't really care about the causes you espouse. When the Soviet leaders understood that Ronald Reagan and Mrs Thatcher were deadly serious about the rights of people who, in Soviet eyes, didn't really matter at all, the Kremlin also grasped that Western leaders were serious about wider strategy — Afghanistan, subversion, weaponry and the rest.
The struggle against Soviet Communism and the struggle against militant Islam are different in several ways. But one lesson confirmed by the Cold War applies to today's confrontation with jihad. We know what doesn't work. We know that cynicism and timidity are as misplaced with mullahs as with commissars.
Washington and London are perfectly well aware that across the Middle East Christianity is being ruthlessly extinguished. But Western governments — particularly the governments of the US and the UK, the two countries that fought hardest for dissidents in the Cold War — remain almost entirely silent. They have tacitly decided that the sacrifice of Christian minorities is a price worth paying for smooth relations with Arab leaders. There are no runs to be scored in domestic politics either. When the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, stated in 2012 that Christianity "is the most persecuted religion worldwide", she was assailed by a storm of outrage. There is, in fact, no more to be gained by acknowledging what is happening to Christians now than there was to Jews in the 1930s.
Parallels with the fate of Jewry must be used with caution; but in this case they are historically apt. It was clear what was developing in Central Europe long before the state-sponsored intimidation, expulsions, internments, degradations and finally death camps. Today in the Middle East, too, the forces that plan, in their own good time, but pretty shortly, to achieve Muslim societies unpolluted by unbelievers — the Jews there have already gone, of course — are largely in place. The leaders already know that nominally Christian Western countries and their governments will look the other way when the massacres, land grabs and mass expulsions start in earnest.
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