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By Thomas Patrick Carroll
Mr. Carroll is a Middle East specialist and former officer in the Clandestine Service of the CIA. He is a Senior Fellow at the Public Policy Institute of William Jessup University
June 6, 2012
The 20th century was a bad time for the freedom and safety of religious minorities in the Middle East, particularly Christians and Jews.
Over the past decade in the Republic of Turkey; however, liberalizing currents have emerged. The have affected all aspects of civil and political life, including religious freedom. Public reglioasity, long discouraged (even suppressed) under the old Kemalist regime is today openly displayed. Wile practicing Sunni Muslims have been the most obvious beneficiaries of this newfound religious tolerance, Christians and other faith minorities are beginning to see improvements, too.
These developements are promising because they spring, not from alien ideology imposed from without, but from indigenous Turkish ideas and traditions with deep roots stretching back into the old Ottoman Empire. Their effects will likely be felt, not just in Turkey, but in the Middle East as a whole.
Religious Freedom in the Middle East Today
No country in the Islamic Middle East affords religious minorities the rights, liberties, and security taken for granted in the West.
The actual conditions vary from place to place. At the worst end of the scale is Saudi Arabia, which makes little pretense of religious freedom or human rights generally, either in theory or practice. While not as bad as Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan often comes close, particularly in its rural areas. At the other end of the spectrum is LEbanon, where Christian political parties play a genuine effective role in government, and Christian civil society, althou beleaguered and dwindling, remains prominent.... (read more)