Yesterday, right after Friday prayers a Muslim mob stormed a Coptic church in Egypt. They trashed the church, assaulted the members of the congregation present, and demanded the destruction of the church. By the way, what is it about Muslim religious services that gets them wound up and ready for riot and mayhem?

The reason for this unremarkable outburst of violence? There was a rumor that the church intended to add a bell to its steeple/bell tower.

The addition of the bell is significant because the church that was sacked is “unofficial” and was applying to be “official.” That is what the bell would have symbolized. In Egypt (as in virtually all other Islamic countries) non-mosque religious structures must be licensed by the government and that permission is difficult to get. In, arguably, the most religiously permissive Islamic state, Turkey, state permission is necessary in order to repair Christian churches. Needless to say, such permission is usually not forthcoming and churches fall into disrepair and are abandoned. This is a feature, not a bug, of the policy.

If you are ever curious as to why Palestinian and other Middle Eastern Christians toe the line on the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic policies of the nations in which they reside, keep this in mind. Christians in the Arab world represent the remnant of the heartland of Christianity and the oldest Christian communities. Today, however, they are a tiny and vulnerable minority in an ocean of Islamic hatred and violence and oppression. They try their best to keep their heads down and live their lives. If their geopolitics don’t suit us, well, they have damned good reasons for doing what they do.