Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Arab Spring Springs into Action -- Against Christians?

Rached Ghannouchi
AFP Photo

On Friday, a friend of mine sent me a link to Hussein Ibish's article "Leave room for the unbelievers" (Now Lebanon, April 11, 2012), in which Ibish laments the turn toward Islamism in the lands of the Arab Spring, especially for the security of unbelievers:
What is most disturbing is that it is almost impossible to imagine an Islamist-influenced system protecting the religious rights of skeptics, agnostics and atheists. Blasphemy, satire, independent scholarly investigation of early Islamic history, or merely a profession of fundamental skepticism about faith in general (and not simply Islam) are all likely to remain criminal offenses. Protection for apostasy and conversion are another key test of real religious freedom.

He's right about the extreme danger for such individuals, but he's perhaps too easy on the Islamists' treatment of the Dhimmis:
[S]ince Islam traditionally regards Judaism and Christianity as legitimate, though imprecise, monotheistic faiths, it is not hard to imagine an Islamist-influenced Arab political order protecting the religious and civic rights of these relatively small minorities, even if the most extreme Islamists won't want to do this.

Some weeks ago, I blogged on Ayaan Hirsi Ali's warning about Islamism's worldwide war on Christians, and just today, I received a new article on this very topic from the Spectator, a piece written by Douglas Davis and titled "Out of the east" (The Spectator, April 7, 2012), an ironic line with a double-entendre signifying both that Christianity came to the West from "out of the east" and that it is now being forced "out of the east"!
A few weeks ago, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Amdullah, Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, responded to a question posed by a visiting Kuwaiti delegation. Would sharia permit churches to exist in their emirate? The sheikh's response was categorical. Kuwait is part of the Arabian Peninsula, he said, and 'therefore it is necessary to destroy all the churches of the region'.

The Sheikh based his ruling on a Hadith which recorded the Prophet's deathbed declaration that, 'There are not to be two religions in the Peninsula', a command that has been interpreted to mean that only Islam may be practised in the region.

Now, the Grand Mufti is not just another swivel-eyed fanatic. He is the most senior Islamic authority in Saudi Arabia, president of the Supreme Council of Ulema [Islamic scholars] and chairman of the Standing Committee for Scientific Research and Issuing of Fatwas. His views do not make him an isolated extremist.

Of course, this is Saudi Arabia, so what does one expect of the region's religious authorities? But the 'Arab Spring' lands offer little better:
Last year, some 200,000 Coptic Christians -- such Christians once made up about 10 per cent of Egypt's 80 million population -- fled their homes after being subjected to killing, beatings and church-burnings in Alexandria, Luxor and Cairo. On New Year's Day last year, 21 Copts were slaughtered in their church in Alexandria; a further 27 died in clashes with police in Cairo.

This week, the Coptic Orthodox Church announced that it was withdrawing from talks on a new Egyptian constitution because Islamist domination of the process has made its participation 'pointless'.

Not a good omen, for Egypt is home to the largest Christian community in Arab lands. Scholars and bloggers may debate whether Islam was traditionally tolerant -- and I have come to have my doubts -- but current-day Islam looks to be so permeated by Islamism that the question is less one of relative tolerance that of relative intolerance, namely, which strain of Islam is the least intolerant?

Yes, things have come to that, and people may find that even the least intolerant versions of sharia are more than many expected, as Joel Brinkley implies . . .

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