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The celebrations we weren't meant to see

By Ben-Peter Terpstra - posted Monday, 22 October 2001

'"Then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them. And seize them, beleaguer them. And lie in wait for them, in every stratagem." - The Koran, Sura 9:5

The attacks on New York and Washington were disaster-plus incidents. Consequently, America is now faced with the prospect of another drawn-out war. Not long after the ugly events unfolded, there were reports of thousands (not just hundreds) of individuals celebrating en masse. According to the Israeli Insider, more than 3,000 rejoicing Palestinians were reportedly captured on film by the Associated Press (AP).

If we were ever looking for confirmation of evil, this was the ultimate spit-in-your-face example. To make matters worse, an AP cameraman has received death threats for trying to show us the celebrations we weren’t meant to see. And in countries like Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia, throngs of self-identified Muslims are already congregating in the streets to continue the dance of the dead.


Revelling in another’s loss is never dignified. Still, the U.S. is accused of being the centre of oppression (read: slavery) and the capital of technological superiority (read: capitalist exploitation). At the end of the day, America is seen as evil and unredeemable. Evil because of its social mores. Unredeemable because of its economic status.

Yet, could it be that the haters are more at fault than the hatred? The accusations poured over the U.S. appear more imagined than real, more conspiracy-based than substantiated. Nevertheless, they thrive in the absence of historical context. Consider the following points:

Yes, America is guilty as charged when it comes to the human flesh trade. Yet, let’s not forget that in 1808 the United State’s Congress had already committed itself to the abolition of slavery. Slaves in Yemen and Saudi Arabia had to wait until 1962 until this barbaric practice was officially outlawed. Today, slavery still exists in the Middle East.

Yes, America does have the monopoly on technology. Yet, let’s not forget that in the last thousand years, more than 90per cent of the world’s scientific discoveries came from the Christian West. As a relatively young country, America benefited from its deeply entrenched Judaic heritage. The Arab states, although equally as intelligent, have been inhibited by a culturally sustained orthodoxy which still hinders their development.

Yes, America is an imperfect country with its fair share of faults as Tocqueville made clear. Yet, even the famous French political writer and statesmen conceded that the United States was the first true democracy – a crown in history’s jewel. With exception to Israel, there are still no vibrant democracies in the Middle East.

Regrettably, strict interpretations of the Koran have resulted in calls to "slay the Pagans". Such verses have been used to justify a laundry list of terrors. And in this climate of prejudice, anti-Americanism and religious persecution can prevail. In one too many Muslim streams, Jihad (or Holy War-Struggle) is even recognised as the sixth pillar of Islam.


The hatred we see in the Middle East and elsewhere has only ever been sustained by a solid base of supporters. It is definitely not restricted to a handful of subversives as three Christian Communities in the Nile Delta found out when about 10,000 Muslim youth burned their villages. Throughout the Muslim World both Christian-phobia and Anti-Semitism are blossoming movements. One Regent University study estimated that close to 156, 000 Christians were martyred in 1998 alone.

To forsake Islam or practice one’s own faith, is extremely risky. In strict Islamic environments, non-Muslims are looked upon as second-class citizens or dhimmis. For centuries, apostates have been forced to pay higher taxes and give away their inheritances. Today, dhimmis even run the risk of having their children taken from them if they haven’t already been forcibly divorced. Legally supported exiles and executions still number in the hundreds. Ironically, Shari’a (Islamic law) is too often used as a tool in which to promote theophobia.

In Egypt, Dr Nasr Abu Zeid was forced to separate from his beloved wife. The Cairo University professor was guilty of apostasy. In Jordan, secondary students learn that the holocaust was a time when: "The Jews in Europe were persecuted and despised because of their corruption, meanness, and treachery." But these are just glimpses of the more progressive institutions in so-called moderate states. In Sudan, Christian children are sold into slavery. More second-class citizens, more stories of persecution.

The celebrations we weren’t meant to see are reminiscent of the atrocities we weren’t meant to hear about. Militant Islam has always been a threat to the freedom of every peaceful nation. For this reason, Arabs and Westerners alike are obliged to speak out against persecution. In a world that can ill afford to sacrifice her religious liberties, silence is never the humane option. As Mark Twain once said: "Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul."

For more specific accounts of martyrdom and persecutions see:

  • David Marshall, Their Blood Cries Out, Word Publishing, Dallas.
  • Nina Shea, In The Lions Den, Broadman & Holmes Publishing, Nashville. Note: This book contains disturbing images of murdered and wounded Christians.
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About the Author

Ben-Peter Terpstra has provided commentary for The Daily Caller (Washington D.C.), NewsReal Blog (Los Angeles), Quadrant (Sydney), and Menzies House (Adelaide).

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