Foreign Policy Blogs

Why are the non-Muslim minorities leaving the Islamic world in droves?

Due to the intense religious persecution that they face, increasingly minorities are forced to flee the Muslim world.

As time progresses, the Islamic world is becoming more and more homogenous. Fewer and fewer non-Muslims who have lived amongst Muslims since antiquity are choosing to remain in their ancestral homeland. The trend began with the establishment of the State of Israel. After Israel became a country, around one million Jews were compelled to leave the Arab world. Following the Iranian Revolution, many Persian Jews followed in their footsteps. Now, numerous non-Muslim minority groups including Christians, Hindus, Mandeans, and Bahais among others are following in the footsteps of the Mizrahi Jews. The question remains, why?

In Bangladesh, both Christians and Hindus are systematically persecuted. Not too long ago, there was a report that 8 Christian women were assaulted and beaten after a militant group attacked their home. Furthermore, sources within Bangladesh claim that a Hindu temple was vandalized and the Hindu gods were desecrated recently. In another instance, it was reported that a Hindu girl was raped and the girl’s father’s life was threatened. When the mother went to report the incident to the police, she was sexually assaulted, stripped naked and threatened into dropping the case. And according to the World Hindu Struggle Committee, a minority was recently beaten up for refusing to participate in a political rally and the Awami League has proven themselves hostile towards Hindus who seek to run for political office. Given this situation, the World Hindu Struggle Committee claims that an increasing number of Christians and Hindus are fleeing Bangladesh, moving either to India or the Western countries.

For members of the Bahai faith in Yemen, the situation is quite dire. According to the US State Department, the Houthis in Yemen have been persecuting members of the Bahai faith. Amnesty International reported that a member of the Bahai faith was given the death sentence at the beginning of this year for allegedly communicating with Israel. They claimed that six other Bahais were also detained merely for practicing their faith. According to social media reports, there are still Bahais in Houthi prisons merely for being Bahais and no other reason.

Due to experiencing such persecution in Yemen, Iran and other Middle Eastern countries, most members of the Bahai faith today live in India, Kenya and the US. Even though the Bahai faith was founded in Iran, the Bahai faith’s international headquarters is located in the State of Israel, as the Iranians destroyed many of the historic Bahai shrines within the country in a manner that is reminiscent of the destruction of the Buddhist statues by the Taliban in Afghanistan. To this day, Bahais are not recognized as a legitimate faith in Iran and are denied the right to study in university, to work and to enjoy any semblance of basic human rights.

The Bahais are not the only faith persecuted by the Iranian regime. The Mandeans, just like the Bahai, are denied the status of a protected faith in Iran. According to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Mandeans are systematically murdered and raped within the country due to the fact that the Iranian government considers them to be infidels. They claim that the Iranian courts have ruled that raping Mandean women and girls is part of their purification process and therefore, violators receive impunity. Furthermore, the report claimed that Mandeans are also not allowed to touch food in the markets due to the belief that they are unclean. Due to experiencing such persecution, many Mandeans have immigrated to Canada, the US, Australia and the European Union. In fact, Mandeans were among the group of Iranian political refugees that Trump denied entry into the US.

Given such persecution, minority Hindus, Christians, Bahais, Mandeans and members of numerous other minority faiths originating in the Muslim world have found that if they want the freedom to continue practicing their faith and to live dignified lives, they have no other choice but to leave their ancestral homelands and to immigrate to democratic countries. For this reason, it is of pivotal importance that the Trump administration admits not only Christians but all other religious minorities from the Islamic world into the United States because these religious groups have no other way of surviving and thriving as a people since the radical Islamists have deprived them of any other opportunity to live a good and free life in their native lands.

 

Author

Rachel Avraham
Rachel Avraham

Rachel Avraham is the President of the Dona Gracia Mendes Nasi Center for Human Rights in Middle East (under formation) and is a political analyst at the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights. She is also a fellow at the Haym Salomon Center, a news and public policy group. For over 6 years, she has been an Israel-based journalist, specializing in radical Islam, abuses of human rights and minority rights, counter-terrorism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Syria, Iran, Kurdistan and other issues of importance. Avraham is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media," a ground-breaking book endorsed by Former Israel Consul General Yitzchak Ben Gad and Israeli Communications Minister Ayoob Kara that discusses how the media exploits the life stories of Palestinian female terrorists in order to justify wanton acts of violence. Avraham has an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben-Gurion University. She received her BA in Government and Politics with minors in Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park.

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