If gestures of good will are greeted with streams of invective, a visitor will conclude that “this must be the Middle East.” When President Obama arrives in Israel next week, he will say encouraging things about the plight of the Palestinian people and their quest for a state of their own. The mullahs of Iran, however, plan a rude reception if the president steps over a line they’ve drawn in the sand of the Holy Land.
Tehran’s proxy, Hamas, has warned that if Mr. Obama so much as sets foot on the Temple Mount, the Muslim world would take it as a “declaration of war.” A Hamas spokesman who made the declaration, according to the Israeli press, warned of a “third intifada.”
The Temple Mount is holy ground to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, the place where Abraham was rewarded for his obedience to God with the promise of a nation. For Muslims, it’s also the spot from where Muhammad is said to have ascended into Heaven. By declaring the site off-limits to Mr. Obama, Hamas thinks it can make the leader of the world’s superpower dance to their tune, which is definitely not “Amazing Grace.”
The radical Iranian mullahs are looking for kindling to build a fire of religious hatred, which is not hard to do in their neighborhood. Five Iranian Christians were put on trial Sunday for committing the “sin” of converting to Christianity. Authorities arrested Mohammad Roghangir, Massoud Rezaie, Eskandar Rezaie, Surush Saraie and Shahin Lahoot during an underground home-church prayer meeting in Shiraz in October. According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, the prayer group is charged with disturbing the public order, threatening national security, evangelizing and engaging in subversive Internet activity.
The five Christians can be thankful they were not charged with apostasy, which is punishable by death under strict Islamist law. That was nearly the fate of Yousef Nadarkhani, a Christian pastor in Iran who has languished in prison since 2009. He was convicted of abandoning the Muslim faith of his birth. Initially sentenced to death by hanging, the charge was later reduced in September to three years. However, rumors emerged from Iran that Mr. Nadarkhani was hanged this week, anyway. This has not been confirmed, and may be merely a boast.
In nearby Pakistan, Christians faced Muslim mobs on March 9 and about a hundred buildings were torched in a mostly Christian district of Lahore. The rampage was triggered when a young Christian man was accused of blasphemy, and the mob was calmed only after he was taken into police custody. Whether intended as a prelude to Mr. Obama’s overseas visit or not, the message sent by Islamists was clear to everyone: The Middle East belongs to Muslims and no one else.
Other than in Israel, where the practice of religious faith of various believers is protected, the numbers of “infidels” in the Middle East have steadily diminished over the past 30 years, driven out by relentless religious persecution. No one can imagine that Mr. Obama, or any other American president, would cower before such an attempt to frighten him into changing his travel schedule, thus paying tribute to evil.
The Washington Times
By Jay Sekulow
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