A Tolerant Middle East?

The fall of dictators anywhere is to be welcomed, but what follows?

Some may think my view of progressives is somewhat less than admiring. It is as nothing compared to the scornful dismissal of actual Christian suffering we experience from progressives.

Already in the Middle East Iraq has been freed from a brutal dictator. Today Christians are being murdered in Iraq, the Christian community there is being driven to extinction. The progressives are in denial.

Following the Baghdad bombing Robert Fisk suggest that we should celebrate the fact that there are Christians in Iraq who are allowed to live and practice their faith. That actually makes sense to a progressive, celebrate the dozens of churches where no-one was murdered and quickly forget about the dozens of Christians who were murdered in case it inflames community relations.

Progressives have buttons which when pushed ensure a welcome. One of those is ‘tolerance.’ They have swallowed whole the historic myth of Islamic tolerance in Andalucía and blithely project it into today’s Middle East.

The Muslims who militarily conquered Spain were ‘tolerant’ but not in a way most would understand. For most of us toleration is basically live and let live. Whatever your racial background, sexual predilections or other distinguishing factor you should be allowed to live your own life without hindrance as long as you don’t harm others and adhere to the law of the land. No-one should be denied opportunity or help because of background or belief.

For Muslim occupied Spain toleration was something very different, it meant Christians were allowed to live, to serve and pay taxes, they were tolerated. Christians were free to become Muslims, Muslims were not, however, free to become Christians. Forced conversion of Christians through violence or economic pressure was not unknown. Christians had to pay a special tax and sometime were forced to wear special clothing. There were building restrictions imposed on non-Muslim communities. Non-Muslim men could not marry Muslim women.

It wasn’t just Christians. In ‘tolerant’ Muslim Spain Jews in 1148 were given the choice of conversion, exile or death. The Inquisition had forerunners.

The general condition of non-Muslims in Spain is eerily similar to the position of Christians in many parts of the Muslim world today. Progressives continually assure us that persecution of Christians is the activity of fringe groups unrepresentative of mainstream Islam. The simple undeniable fact is that almost nowhere in the Islamic world today are Christians free in the same way Muslims are free in Europe. Even in Turkey, a supposedly secular Muslim state and candidate for membership of the EU, Christians are hemmed in by restrictions which do not apply to Muslims.

There is a vast difference between the Muslims’ reaction to perceived Islamophobia and their reaction to discrimination against non-Muslims in their own countries. When a Western politician makes a supposedly Islamophobic remark, or when a Western newspaper publishes what is viewed as offensive cartoons of the Prophet, Muslims scream “Intolerance.” Yet very few of them raise their voices in defence of Christian Arabs, or call for the equal treatment of Christian Iraqis and other non-Muslims minorities in Muslim lands.

We can be glad that ruthless dictators have fallen. To imagine that they will be replaced by democracies based upon Western progressive values is ludicrous.

A survey conducted in Muslim countries during Spring 2010 by the Pew Research Centre and released in December found amongst other things that:

54% support making gender segregation in the workplace the law in their country,

82% endorse the stoning of people who commit adultery,

77% support whippings and cutting off of hands for crimes like theft and robbery,

84% support the death penalty for those who leave the Muslim religion.

Toleration which only extends to things which don’t really matter but which comes to an abrupt halt as soon as Islam is examined hardly merits the name toleration.

The future is changing for the Middle East, but will it change for the Christians of the Middle East?

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About Campbell

Now retired but once upon a time a parish minister in Glasgow, before that the South West and initially the Black Isle. Been a prison chaplain and lecturer. Still am constantly bemused by the weird world around me.
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