There are some common characteristics, intriguing trends and phenomena among the countries that have been specified as the top ten worst nations for Christians or religious minorities.
The top ten countries for persecuting Christians over the last year were ranked: North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Maldives, Pakistan, Iran and Yemen, according to Open Doors USA, an organization that monitors and exposes Christian persecution around the globe. Particularly, the “2014 World Watch List”, a rather nuanced report, has highlighted these nations based on deep structures of persecution.
Going through the list, the question that comes to mind is what most of these countries have in common? Nine of the top ten (aside from North Korea), seem to be Islamic states with a majority Muslim population.
While I was living in the Middle East (both in Arab and Persian countries), I would repeatedly hear arguments from officials or others claiming that the country respects the rights of the minorities, particularly Christians, and that Islam is the most tolerant religion towards Christianity and Judaism.
Yet, why are these Muslim states and nations always at the top ranks of lists that chronicle places where Christians and religious minorities are systematically persecuted and killed?
The domination of Islamic states on the list of the worst places to be a Christian or another religious minority is not only limited to the report of the Open Doors USA. Several other human rights groups and governmental reports have come to similar results. However, unfortunately, the liberal media is less likely to report this news, fearing that they will offend the Muslim/Arab/Persian countries. Almost no liberal politician will also issue a simple statement condemning these persecutions, limitations of religious freedom, and egregious human rights violations.
While many Islamic leaders and Muslims would immediately point out that Islam is not the problem, the indispensible question remains: why Islamic countries are the ones with the most persecutions, tortures, and killings of religious minorities and particularly Christians.
The ideology of Islam, without a doubt, has something to do with these findings. In all the aforementioned Islamic countries, the law of the court is based on Islamic jurisprudence, the Sharia, and Islamic laws and constitutions.
Christians and minorities are being systematically targeted by two types of institutions. First of all, it is the Islamic state and the Islamic ruling party that has the power to arrest Christian and minorities, imprison them for years, torturing and even killing them on the basis of their faith and belief in Christ (or belief in any other person and book rather than Muhammad and the Quran). Many Christians and other religious minorities have to hide their religious beliefs, bibles, their religious practices and decision to follow Christ.
The second critical organized institution that targets Christians and other religions is not from the top— the state and government— but from the bottom. These are independent Islamic groups or individuals who view religious minorities including Christians as infidels (Kufar). Across the spectrum, they view Christians and other religions as either incomplete religious ideologies, or as heretic religions.
Based on Islamic rules and Sharia law, these groups found it mandatory to take the objectives of Allah, Muhammad, Islam, and Quran into their own hand. In exchange, these actors are promised a precious afterlife, praised by Allah and Muhammad. They are also promised by Sharia law, Quranic verses, Allah, and Muhammad, to sleep with as many virgins as they desire, and to drink the best wine— basically everything that they are forbidden to do or get in this world.
While the Islamic states dominated Open Doors’ 2014 world watch list— accounting for nine of the ten countries with the worst records regarding persecutions of Christians— Islamic states also dominated the full 50-country list released on Wednesday. According to Open Doors USA, from North Africa to Pakistan, Islamic extremism is “the main engine driving persecution of Christians,”
Not only do Christians have to fear being persecuted for their faith, hiding their decision to follow Christ, they also have to deal with the corrupt and unjust system that excludes religious minorities.
In most of these countries, Christians cannot hold key political positions, they cannot be judges, become president, and are excluded from many opportunities. At the end, there is no plausible argument claiming that the ideology of Islam does not have to anything to do with these persecutions. It is not a coincidence that Muslim states dominate the list of the worst places to be a Christian. It is not an accident that 9 out of the top 10 countries have Islam and Sharia as the religion and law of the land.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-American political scientist and scholar, is president of the International American Council and he serves on the board of Harvard International Review at Harvard University. Rafizadeh is also a senior fellow at Nonviolence International Organization based in Washington DC and a member of the Gulf project at Columbia University. He has been a recipient of several scholarships and fellowship including from Oxford University, Annenberg University, University of California Santa Barbara, and Fulbright Teaching program. He served as ambassador for the National Iranian-American Council based in Washington DC, conducted research at Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and taught at University of California Santa Barbara through Fulbright Teaching Scholarship. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.