Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Paranoia in the Muslim world; Christian minorities "spying for the crusaders"

Christians in Islamic countries often find themselves between a rock and a hard place. They are regarded as accomplices of the West but the West itself tends to ignore them. Western politicians and activists argue about whether there should be another special attention paid to persecuted Christians.
Egyptian woman Maria (surname withheld, since she has already been subjected to threats) fled from Egypt years ago. She says the situation in Egypt is becoming increasingly dangerous for Christians:
"Some people say 'if you're not a Muslim you should go and live in America or Canada or Europe'. But Egypt is the homeland of the Copts. They have no other country, they have been born and raised there since ancient times."

Western crusade
Dutch political scientist Hala Naoum Nehme, who is of Syrian extraction, is not surprised that seven Islamic nations appear in the top ten of countries which persecute Christians. She accuses Dutch politicians and media of systematically looking the other way whenever the topic of Christians in Islamic countries is raised. She believes the situation has deteriorated significantly during the past decade:
"The most recent historic low point was after the 9/11 attacks when US President George W. Bush announced his 'war on terror' on television. A Western crusade against the Muslim world. That's when Christians were once again seen as offspring of the Christian West, as stooges of the West. They were told quite clearly: you are not longer welcome."
In 2001 the Middle East Quarterly predicted that the number of Christians in the Middle East would decrease from 12 million to 5 million by 2025. This was partly to do with low birth rates but mostly the result of emigration. The exodus is likely to be stimulated by the popular uprisings of the Arab Spring which seem to be marginalizing Christians even further.

Double standards

But should we put so much emphasis on the fate of Christian minority? During a debate in Parliament about human rights, Labour Party MP Frans Timmermans had this to say:
"There are other religious minorities too, and I can assure you that concentrating on Christians too much will not improve the situation of those Christians. They will become the target of people who claims that we operate a double standard when it comes to human rights policy. You will have heard Christians themselves saying: be careful you don't put us in the forefront all the time, that just makes us more vulnerable in some situations."

Hala Naoum Nehme says the fear of accusations of double standards is pointless. Christians are already subject to close scrutiny and that's never going to change. And because "the West is the only civilisation in living memory that has stood up for human rights and human rights are a Western invention" it seems to her only reasonable that the West should accept its responsibilities and defend the Christians in the Middle East. "Just as it defends non-Christian minorities like the Kurds and the Palestinians."

Day Opening - June 21

sunset at a small city in Portugal