Dear President Obama,
During your second term as US President the Middle East will continue to occupy center stage in the domain of American foreign policy. Three key issues are certain to present you with particularly difficult challenges: the protection of native religious minority communities in the face of rising Islamist extremism; Syria’s civil war with the potential of spillover; and Iran’s nuclear program.
The Middle East today is going through an unprecedented period of turmoil that to some looks like a spring, but to others appears ominously as a looming winter. Included in the second anxious category are many from the indigenous non-Muslim communities rooted in their ancestral lands across the region. They fear the unleashing of a relentless region-wide slippery slope towards Salafism, Jihadism, and other forms of radical Islamism—violent ideologies that will continue targeting them as has already happened repeatedly in places like Egypt, Iraq, and Syria. Their apprehensions are not products of overactive imaginations or unfounded exaggerations. History in this part of the world has rarely been kind to vulnerable minorities, and this is a particularly delicate juncture for these exposed communities. The litmus-paper test for the success or failure of the Arab Spring to inaugurate an era of true democracy in the region is the treatment of religious minority communities, both Muslim and non-Muslim. Mounting abuses of these communities and attacks on their religious freedom will reflect badly on all those, including the United States, who have cheered on the popular uprisings against various repressive Arab regimes. In your third televised debate before the elections you referred to pressures you were putting on the government in Egypt to respect and protect religious minorities. New Arab governments should be made to feel they are under close scrutiny by your Administration and the international community on the question of minority rights, freedoms, and security. There needs to be an insistence that clear, forceful, and binding language safeguarding minority rights be incorporated in all the new constitutions of these emerging Arab states.