Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

A Common Crime | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Has the last bell rung in the process of eradicating Christians from the Arab World? With the tragic scenes reported by the media, regarding the murder of Christians in the Church of Salvation in Baghdad, it seems that a broad question such as this deserves our attention, and it is very important to give a clear answer. By committing such a terrorist act, al-Qaeda has targeted a ‘soft spot’ in the Arab world, namely how religious and ethnic minorities fit into the system of citizenship in Arab countries, and this is a thorny and complex issue.

A mass Christian exodus from the Levant took place in the nineteenth century, during the days of the Ottoman Empire. However, this was basically an exodus of Maronite Christians from Mount Lebanon, towards the new world, namely North and South America. After World War II, significant shifts occurred in terms of a growing non-Muslim presence in Arab countries. Shortly afterwards, a Jewish exodus began, with strong support from the Jewish Relief Agency. This aimed to increase the Jewish population at the time, in the newly-established state of Israel. The subsequent Arab-Israeli conflict indirectly impacted upon the level of security and stability experienced by Christians in the region. They enjoyed a period of stability, where they assumed the highest political offices, and achieved considerable successes in the economy, culture, literature and other vital areas. The Arabs, on the other hand, doubted whether Christians truly belonged to these Arab states, and claimed that they were elements of Western influence in their region. Israel considered the Arab Christians, especially those in Palestine, to be a significant problem in its confrontation with the Arab world and religious extremism. Israel could not ‘market’ its cause to the world, nor portray itself as a state confronting ‘extremism’, whilst a large number of Christians lived amongst the Palestinians. Therefore, a migration project was initiated, in an attempt to lure [Christian] Palestinians from the region. Most of them moved to Chile in Latin America, where the largest Christian Palestinian community in the world exists today.

However Christian religious discourse tends to ‘ignore’ this significant Israeli role in prompting a mass Christian exodus from the Arab world. This was not only evident in Palestine, but it also occurred during the civil war in Lebanon. Israel directly interfered in the Maronite political agenda, expertly sparking sectarian strife between different parties.

Unfortunately, the recent statements made by Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, following the Vatican’s Middle East Christians’ Synod, have placed blame solely on Arab governments. He denied Israel’s role in the conspiracy to eradicate Christians from the Middle East. The same can also be said of Pope Shenouda, head of the Coptic Church in Egypt.

The Muslim nation has suffered the most from extremist activity, and it still pays the exorbitant price of extremism every day, at the expense of safety, wealth and stability. Muslims are paying the price for radical thoughts that have no place in the book of God, or the life of the prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him). These radical opinions are advocated by charlatans, and popularized by force, yet they soon become common knowledge.

In reality, Muslims are required to protect non-Muslims, and consider them part of their country, in the same manner that one defends his wealth and honor. This is what religion ordered us to do, as can be evidenced by the actual practices of the Prophet (PBUH), as confirmed by his companions.

The plot to displace Christians and drive them out of the Arab world is a despicable matter, and many parties are involved. These parties include al-Qaeda and its offshoots, as well as other hidden and conspiring parties, such as well known intelligence agencies. Both these organisations are committing the same degree of offence. Those calling to displace those from other religious consider it a way to cleanse their heritage, and this is both invalid, and without foundation, in Shariaa law.