But by far the greatest persecutors of other faiths are Muslim hardliners themselves. The great Caribbean writer VS Naipaul once described Islam as “sanctified rage”. The proof of those words has been graphically illustrated by a growing catalogue of barbarities committed by Islamic militants against Christians, none of them more shocking than the mass murder committed in a Catholic Church in Baghdad at the end of October, when 58 people were gunned down during an act of worship. “All of you are infidels,” said one of the killers before opening fire on the congregation.
This kind of lethal oppression against Christians is happening all over the Muslim world. In Nigeria there has been a spate of attacks on Christian churches and clerics. In the Philippines, 11 people were injured this week in the bombing of a Catholic chapel. The totalitarian nature of Islam, which is as much a political ideology as a religious creed, means that freedom of worship is drastically restricted for other believers.
One Pakistani woman, Asia Bibi, is now facing the death penalty for the crime of blasphemy after she allegedly insulted the prophet Mohammed. Asia Bibi says she did no such thing but only tried to defend her faith when Muslim co-workers on a farm accused her of being “unclean” and tried to convert her to Islam.
Yet western political leaders, through a mixture of cowardice and denial, have refused to challenge the Islamic culture of persecution. In any other sphere, they make an absolute fetish of their devotion to the causes of equality and anti-discrimination.
If Muslims were being gunned down and bombed in western mosques by Christian fanatics, there would rightly be a tremendous outcry and Christians themselves would react with horror and fury at what was perpetrated by twisted zealots in the name of their faith. But the entire political establishment remains silent, continuing to pretend that Islamophobia is the real threat to harmony.
Perhaps most disappointing of all has been the enfeebled response of our own church leaders. The Pope made some perfunctory words of condemnation about the Baghdad massacre but has generally preferred to stick to arcane theological debates about the use of condoms.
Even worse has been the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, whose convoluted utterances epitomise the irresolution of the Church of England, whose present core belief is not in God but in a desperation to appease the enemies of Christianity. Woolly in thought and appearance, he is like some undistinguished lecturer in social policy, dressing up the platitudes of conventional Left-wing wisdom in academic jargon and longwinded verbiage.
His Christmas sermon epitomised so much that is wrong with the Anglican Church. Instead of a robust defence of his faith at a unique moment in the Christian calendar, he slid into some neo-Marxist drivel about the need for the rich to shoulder more of the financial burden in this time of austerity.
On a political basis, such language is just absurd, the sort of fashionable socialist dogma beloved of student rioters but utterly devoid of any economic credibility. It is nonsense to claim that the affluent are not paying their share. Anyone earning over £41,000 a year, hardly a huge salary, has to hand over nearly half of their income to the Government.
His sermon did touch on the persecution of Christians abroad, but only in the most mealy-mouthed way. He refused to use the word “Islamist” and when talking of the case of Asia Bibi in Pakistan, he just said that “certain groups” were responsible for “the abuse of the law” that had led to the death sentence against her.
Terrified of any hint of criticism of Islam, he then lavished praise on Muslims in Britain for having “expressed their solidarity” with the beleaguered Christian minority in Iraq. Really? That heroic stance seems to have passed me by.
Dr Wiliams also complained about the breakdown in mutual trust within modern Britain. Well, why does he think that has happened? Could it be the result of the policies of mass immigration and multi-culturalism, which have been so slavishly supported by the Anglican Church but have destroyed our national identity and shared sense of belonging?
In particular, there can be little spirit of unity in a country where much of the growing Muslim population prefers separatism to integration. Our society is now forced to accept practices that are entirely alien to the British way of life, such as the brutal misogyny of sharia law, the burkha and forced marriages.
The Archbishop and his ilk like to see themselves as compassionate but in fact they are highly dangerous.
For in their refusal to challenge Islamism they are colluding in persecution abroad and the destruction of the Christian faith at home. “Christmas is evil” proclaimed posters put up by Muslim radicals in the Islamic enclave of Tower Hamlets in east London. That slogan is a chilling warning of things to come unless the West stands up for the faith that built our civilisation.