The vicious attacks on Christians celebrating Easter at a public park in Lahore, Pakistan, seemed to have confused the U.S. government as well as some politicians and reporters because many of the 70 or so dead were Muslims as well as Christians.
Even though the Pakistani Taliban offshoot, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, quickly said the suicide bombing specifically targeted Christians, President Obama's State Department only condemned the deaths of "innocent civilians," as if this is just another in a long line of random assaults. Because the terrorists also described the attack as an example of government weakness, somehow Christian deaths were treated as subordinate collateral damage.
Further muddying the issue, Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton tossed the bombings into the catch-all bin of terrorism that the world must "confront and defeat." In contrast, Republican presidential candidates in the US's wacky primary election season, including the bombastic Donald Trump, saw fit to mention the deaths of Christians as a significant part of the action.
The New York Times, for its part, seemed to resist the idea that Christians were targeted.
The fact is, attacks on Christians and other religious minorities are not just an incidental part of a terrorist campaign to upend hated governments--in this case, the Pakistani authorities--by showing them to be unable to protect their citizens. They are instead integral to the effort by radicals to purify Sunni Islamic societies by eliminating non-Sunni Muslim influences.
Among the key practitioners are the Taliban in Pakistan, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Nusra Front in Syria, Boko Haram in Nigeria and ultra-conservative Salafi and Wahhabi Sunni Muslim sects in Egypt and elsewhere.
In their view, Christians have no place in the Islamic world and their communities must be destroyed. This is a departure, of course, from old traditions of Islamic tolerance enshrined in doctrines that say Christians, as "People of the Book" (theoretically including Jews), can live among Muslims, although under onerous, restrictive conditions.
But as far back as 2007, the Islamic State in Iraq, forerunner of ISIS, issued a series of ideological guidelines for jihad. Among them was an unprecedented cancellation of traditional tolerance for Christians:
"We believe that the factions of the People of the Book, and those of their ilk such as the Sabeans [a small Gnostic sect] and others are today, in the Islamic State, a people of war not enjoying a status of protection."
And where do dead Muslim picnickers in Lahore fit in? Under contemporary jihad, real Muslims should not be rubbing shoulders with infidel Christians at all. So if they get blown up on Easter, so be it.
Al-Qaeda, the terror group founded by Osama bin Laden, has long regarded Christians as a danger to Muslims. Al-Qaeda writer Ali al-Aliyani only accepted the idea of tolerance so long as it was "clothed in humiliation and submissiveness." Degenerate Christian practices must be kept away from Muslims. He insisted on forbidding Christians from "openly proclaiming their religions and forbidding them from involving themselves with interest (on loans), fornication, or other things. . . ."
Al-Aliyani expressed no ambiguity about the eventual solution: "O Allah, destroy the Jews, the Christians, and the polytheists, and whoever has befriended them or helped them in any way against your servants the believers."
Al-Qaeda's ISIS cousins said Christians, by their very existence, pose a danger to Muslims. In Syria during 2011, chief radical ideologue Mustafa Abdul Qadir Set-Mariam--known as Abu Musab al-Suri--partly justified jihad against the Bashar Assad government in Syria to stop efforts by the Bashar al-Assad government to make relations between Muslims and infidels "normal" while expunging "hatred for Jews and Christians...from Muslim hearts."
Needless to say, Shiite Muslims and other Islamic sects are even more despised, as they lack even the nominal protection as People of the Book. In Pakistan, attacks on Shiites and their places of worship are commonplace, especially during Shia religious festivals.
And after these religions and sects are suppressed, what then? Well, errant Sunnis need to be re-educated. Sufis, a large Sunni branch of Islam, is under threat from the radicals--the Islamic State has destroyed Sufi shrines in both Iraq and Syria. Liberal Muslims--those who believe that Islamic practices ought to be brought up to date--are next in line for suppression. Demands that men wear beards and women cover themselves head to foot are only the first steps in totalitarian control of Muslim lives. In Mosul, under Islamic State occupation since 2014, Sunnis who opposed the jihadists have been summarily executed and women raped in a reign of terror. That was after the expulsion of all the town's Christians.
Recently, the Obama Administration acknowledged that Christians in Iraq, along with the smaller Yazidi minority, face genocide. In the same breath, the administration said it would do nothing about it, and now it is back to denying that religious intolerance has nothing to do with the latest attack in Pakistan.
Oh, well. If you want to see a future of rampant and dangerous bigotry in the Islamic world, ignore the plight of Christians and other religious minorities as they are targeted by extremists. Pretending that their persecution is simply a sideshow is a way to condemn bigger swaths of the population--Muslims included-- to violent repression and even death.