Three cheers for Newsweek (!) for having the inspiration to invite Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the ex-Muslim turned atheist, to write about the widespread oppression and persecution of Christians throughout the Islamic world – and to make it a cover story. Excerpt from Hirsi Ali’s essay:

We hear so often about Muslims as victims of abuse in the West and combatants in the Arab Spring’s fight against tyranny. But, in fact, a wholly different kind of war is underway—an unrecognized battle costing thousands of lives. Christians are being killed in the Islamic world because of their religion. It is a rising genocide that ought to provoke global alarm.

The portrayal of Muslims as victims or heroes is at best partially accurate. In recent years the violent oppression of Christian minorities has become the norm in Muslim-majority nations stretching from West Africa and the Middle East to South Asia and Oceania. In some countries it is governments and their agents that have burned churches and imprisoned parishioners. In others, rebel groups and vigilantes have taken matters into their own hands, murdering Christians and driving them from regions where their roots go back centuries.

The media’s reticence on the subject no doubt has several sources. One may be fear of provoking additional violence. Another is most likely the influence of lobbying groups such as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation—a kind of United Nations of Islam centered in Saudi Arabia—and the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Over the past decade, these and similar groups have been remarkably successful in persuading leading public figures and journalists in the West to think of each and every example of perceived anti-Muslim discrimination as an expression of a systematic and sinister derangement called “Islamophobia”—a term that is meant to elicit the same moral disapproval as xenophobia or homophobia.

But a fair-minded assessment of recent events and trends leads to the conclusion that the scale and severity of Islamophobia pales in comparison with the bloody Christophobia currently coursing through Muslim-majority nations from one end of the globe to the other. The conspiracy of silence surrounding this violent expression of religious intolerance has to stop. Nothing less than the fate of Christianity—and ultimately of all religious minorities—in the Islamic world is at stake.

As a religious believer, I’m sorry that Hirsi Ali has turned away from God. But I understand it, given what she has suffered at the hands of the pious within her own tradition. I hope that good people — Muslim and Christian alike — can show her that belief in God does not have to result in cruelty and oppression, but can bring about exactly the opposite. Be that as it may, I am massively grateful to her for standing up and speaking out for fellow human beings who are suffering for their religion in the same way she has suffered for having abandoned her own — and from the same violent religious bigots.