Panelists forecast on radical Islam: no chance of wane

Raymond Ibrahim does not believe the persecution of religious minorities throughout the Muslim world today is an aberration.

The aberration, he says, was the previous 100 years of relative calm.

“What we’re seeing now in [Muslim] nations is more in keeping with history,” said the Middle East historian, lecturer and journalist.

Ibrahim, a U.S.-born Coptic Christian whose parents came from Egypt, will take part in an upcoming panel discussion on persecution of Jews and Christians in Muslim nations.  Sponsored by JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa), it will take place Thursday, May 10 at the JCC of San Francisco.

Raymond Ibrahim

Elliott Benjamin, an activist on behalf of Iran’s threatened Jewish community, also will participate, and Pulitzer Prize–winning former New York Times journalist Joel Brinkley will serve as moderator.

Ibrahim serves as a fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and as an associate fellow at another think tank, the Middle East Forum. As someone who studied Semitic languages and medieval Islamic history, he knows a great deal about the Muslim world of old.

As for the Muslim world of today, one of his theories is that Muslim attitudes toward other religions have traditionally been hostile, and he doesn’t think that attitude has waned. He cites church burnings in Egypt and massacres of Christians in Nigeria as examples.

“I take into account history, doctrine, and what Muslims are actually saying,” Ibrahim said. “The Nigerian [Islamist group] Boko Haram is constantly killing Christians and bombing churches. If you follow this group, what they say is unequivocal jihad.”

As disturbed as he is by jihadists themselves, Ibrahim also finds himself angered by Western appeasement of radical Islam that he said is “based on the liberal premise that any violence on the part of Muslims must be in reaction to something physical, whether occupation or poverty.”

Rather, Ibrahim asserts, it has to do with the essential tenets of Islam, jihad being one of them.

Ibrahim noted with alarm the growing power of Islamists in his ancestral homeland of Egypt, where the first round of the presidential election is set for May 23-24, with an expected run-off in June. He sees the Islamists’ increased power as a threat not only to religious minorities in Egypt, but also to Israel.

“If you want to be popular, you talk about how you will immediately cancel the [1979 peace] deal with Israel,” he said of the current crop of Egyptian politicians. “When you see Copts [native Egyptian Christians] attacked, it’s a bad sign for Israel.”

As the son of Egyptians, Ibrahim grew up bilingual and bicultural. He has traveled extensively in the Middle East, yet found his calling in the wake of 9/11, when he saw how the rants of al Qaida echoed jihadist calls from centuries ago, sometimes word for word.

Since then he has kept a close eye on such organizations in his book, “The Al Qaeda Reader” and his regular contributions to the blog “Jihad Watch.”

He said his relatives in Egypt have seen increased persecution of the Copts, who number some 10 million.

“There are liberal Muslims and secular Muslims,” he said, “and you can still have Christians and Muslims as friends. But it’s progressively getting worse [in Egypt]. Churches are being attacked all over the Muslim world, but you see it more in Egypt because it has a greater Christian population.”

Though he said many individual Muslims despise the radicalization of the faith, Ibrahim doesn’t see any reform on the horizon. The steady march toward radical Islam throughout the Muslim world will continue, he said.

Does that notion depress him?

“It’s not depressing,” he said. “It’s frustrating, but I’ve become jaded. I’ve been around it so long, nothing will surprise me.”

“Religious Persecution in Muslim Countries,” a JIMENA panel discussion, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 10 at the JCC of San Francisco, 3200 California St., S.F. Free. (415) 626-5062 or

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.