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By Raymond Ibrahim – Exclusive to Coptic Solidarity – 

Egypt’s leading Muslim cleric and head of Al Azhar, Dr. Ahmed al-Tayeb, recently spoke before the religious representatives of some 50 nations during a Cairo-based conference. Once again the sheikh demonstrated that he is a master of showing one face to fellow Muslims—one that supports the death penalty for “apostates,” calls for the totality of Sharia-rule, and refuses to denounce ISIS of being un-Islamic—and another face to non-Muslims, Jews and Christians in particular.

Instead of honestly admitting that there is a special problem between Islam and violence—the way his president al-Sisi did a couple of years ago when he flatly declared before Egypt’s Muslim clergy, with Tayeb sitting in the front row, that Islamic teachings are “antagonizing the whole world”—Tayeb spent his time denouncing “Islamophobia” and bemoaning how “painful” it is to see so many people around the world associate Islam with violence and terrorism.

He even boasted that, from its very beginnings, Islam has always treated non-Muslims—usually labeled as “infidels,” the Arabic kuffar, that is, the most despised forms of humanity whose blood can be shed with impunity in most cases —as equals.

But the farcical claims do not end there. The Al Azhar sheikh insisted that, when it comes to its capacity to “radicalize” its followers, Islam is no different than Christianity or Judaism. Rather, only Jewish and Christian “double standards” make Islam appear more violent and intolerant. In his own words:

There is an obvious double standard in the world’s judgment of Islam on the one hand, and with Christianity and Judaism on the other—despite the fact that all are guilty of one and the same thing, that is, religious violence and terrorism. Christian and Jewish violence is a cool and casual matter for the West, which never besmirches the image of these two religions. Only their third brother [Islam] stands trial alone on the dock, where his image continues to be ruined.

This assertion flies in the face of reality. For it seems not a single day passes by without some Muslim(s) attacking some non-Muslim(s) somewhere around the world—and almost always in the name of Islam and/or jihad.

Moreover, in his speech Tayeb spoke of “Christian” and “Jewish” “terrorism and violence”—as opposed to merely “Christian terrorists” or “Jewish terrorists”—thereby portraying Christianity and Judaism, the religions themselves, as equally liable to prompt their followers to terrorize, subjugate, behead, crucify, mutilate, enslave, and—why not?—extract jizya from non-Christian and non-Jewish “infidels.”

At one point, perhaps to give his otherwise abstract claims of equivalency some substance, Tayeb named as “Christian terrorists” Michael Bray (arrested in 1985 and imprisoned for four years in relation to abortion clinic bombings); Timothy McVeigh (1995 bombing of Oklahoma City federal building); and David Koresh (cult leader, killed during shootout in Waco, Texas, 1993).

Just how analogous these three men are to the question of Islamic terrorism is debatable. For starters, none of the American men he mentioned cited authentic Christian teachings—or quoted Jesus—to justify their violence, the way Muslims regularly cite mainstream Islamic teachings and quote Muhammad verbatim; McVeigh referred to himself as an agnostic and Koresh was a cult leader denounced by practically every American Christian aside from his immediate devotees.

That Tayeb, who seems to have combed through every possible terrorist-style incident that can possibly be associated with Christianity could only come up with three—in 1985, 1993, and 1995—further begs the question: how are these three examples, which span the course of more than 30 years (from 1985 to the present), supposed to be equivalent to the thousands if not tens of thousands of incidents of violence and terrorism committed by highly pious and observant Muslims over the same time frame?

Indeed, since July 2011 alone, I have been compiling monthly reports of Muslim persecution of Christians, for a total of 65 reports. Each of these contains dozens of anecdotes of Muslims around the world—Egypt, Tayeb’s homeland never misses a month—persecuting, raping, enslaving, and slaughtering Christians, and attacking their churches, on the basis that they are undesirable “infidels.” While the majority of anecdotes in these reports are deemed “un-newsworthy” by Western mainstream media, if the persecutor was a Christian and the victim a Muslim, they would likely receive 24/7 blanket coverage.

That’s the real “double standard” we should all be decrying—not Tayeb’s imaginary “Islamophobia.”

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