Simon Tisdall catalogues the 'recent wave of violent attacks on Christian worshippers and churches in countries across the Muslim world', which has included the murder of churchgoers and the burning of buildings and Bibles. Cue an analysis of the worrying persistence of religious intolerance and its roots in fundamentalist versions of Islam, perhaps? Not a bit of it. Tisdall is, after all, a Guardian columnist and his piece appears under the 'Comment is Free' banner, so his interpretation of these events should come as no surprise:
[A]nalysts and academics suggest common threads do exist, notably the impact of globalisation on conservative communities across the Muslim world and a resulting threatened loss of cultural identity[...]Yet hostility also arises, in a fundamental sense, from Muslim perceptions of western aggression against Islam, be it the war in Afghanistan, domineering western economic and cultural behaviour, attempts to ban veils, offensive cartoon caricatures of the prophet Muhammad, airline and immigration profiling, or systemic, unchecked and arguably worsening discrimination and harassment of Muslim minorities living in western nations.
Hang on a minute: is Tisdall saying that murdering innocent churchgoers is an understandable response to a bunch of drawings? Or that we should blame the torching of churches in Egypt on a change in the uniform rules in French schools?
As for that bit about the impact of globalisation: it looks like Tisdall is casting Muslims as simply passive victims of world events, rather than people who are responsible for their actions. How patronising. Would he have the same response to (say) reports of western racists trashing mosques or burning copies of the Koran? I know historical comparisons can be odious, but it's rather like blaming Nazi war crimes on the Great Depression. Aren't you just glad, though, that globalisation is having an impact on conservative communities in the so-called 'Muslim world'? Who knows, it might eventually weaken the hold of their oppressive conservatism, to the great benefit of women, religious minorities and many others in those countries.
Reading Tisdall's depressing list of attacks on North African and Middle Eastern Christians, you'd have to strain every intellectual sinew not to put the blame squarely on Islamic militants and their intolerant ideology. But this, of course, is the Guardian, and that would never do. In the new pro-faith pseudo-liberal consensus, for which this once-great organ is the leading mouthpiece, you can blame the victim, blame anonymous historical forces, above all blame the west. But whatever you do, you must never ever blame the religion.