by Dil Nawaz
56 killed in a Baghdad church and continuous attacks on Christian neighbourhoods of Iraq, Iraq’s Christian Orthodox Archbishop advising Christians to seek refuge in foreign countries, continued violence against religious minorities in Pakistan, allegations of religious discrimination in flood aid distribution and now Asia Bibi the 45 year old Christian woman sentence to death under blasphemy law in Pakistan for allegedly refusing to convert to Islam under the pressure of a Muslim cleric.
In Europe, rightwing media and fascist parties warning of invasion of “Muslim illegals”, Turkish Ambassador’s comments that the Austrians [Christian] consider Turkish[Muslim] as a “virus”. Muslims complaining of “Islamophobia”, anti-immigrant shooting in Malmo Sweden,France’s “full face veil” debate. Young Muslims feeling alienated from the European values of Freedom, Equality and Fraternity and the incidents of “Honour Killing” of Muslim girls on the street of United Kingdom. Does all this point to an impending Clash of Civilisation, a counter Crusade (Jihad) in the 21st century, if you will? Is Samuel Huntington (who prophesied the Clash of Civilisation) jumping for joy in his grave?
Let’s examine Europe first. European neo-fascist parties like Freedom Party in Austria and Netherland and British National Party term Islam as a backward and tribal religion which treats women as “legalised slaves”. These “prophets of doom” predict a Western civilisation overrun by a “Tsunami” of Muslim immigrants fleeing their repressive and impoverished “Lands of Islam”. It is a black and white world view, which sees fellow citizens as “enemy aliens”(make a note), belongs to the era of Nazi 3rd Reich, would be unacceptable in a modern Europe. Fortunately these parties belong on the fringe of modern democratic European Union and it would be a worrying sign if they were to gain acceptability in future.
The mainstream of the debate belongs to media and political parties who would be classified as mainly liberal and conservative. According to Slavoj Žižek (leftwing philosopher), all the current mainstream political parties in Europe whether Left or Right espouse to a similar neo-liberal economic and “equal opportunities” cultural policies which encourage a certain level of tolerance for the minorities (whether religious, racial or gender) in a multicultural society.
Ironically the Islamists who advocate the ideology of Takfir Wal Hijra -emigration to Land of Islam by rejecting the Kufr (non-believer) of permissive sinfulness of western civilisation, agree with the European fascists on voluntary (paid or unpaid) repatriation of Muslims back to their homelands.
Post-War Western Europe experienced a transformation in terms of religious, cultural and economic rights of minorities living in modern nation states. The fears that confrontation between fringe-elements could lead to a forced exodus or “ethnic cleansing” of Muslims from Europe, can only be described as delusional and dystopian. In the presence of safeguards like Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1951 Refugee Convention and European Court of Human Rights such a scenario would almost be impossible?
Herein lays the biggest challenge not only for the defenders of Human Rights but also the wider Muslim societies, where the constitutions and the common law often have limited or no scope for secular concepts of freedom, equality and fraternity.
Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia, Nigeria, Sudan, Iraq, Lebanon, Bangladesh, Palestine, Malaysia are Muslim majority countries with sizable Christian minorities. These minorities share common cultural and linguistic bonds with their fellow citizens but the freedom to practice religion is not accepted as a universal right in many situations where Islamic law takes precedence over the “secular” law. The emergence of violent extremism in form of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Pakistan, Indonesia and Egypt has meant restrictions on the visibility of religious and cultural practices of these communities.
Al- Qaeda’s stated aim of violent struggle against the “crusader” western powers occupying Iraq and Afghanistan (including imaginary imperial conquest of Arab Oil by great “Satan” America) means that they view the indigenous Christian population as “enemy aliens” residing within the Land of Islam. The declared aim of Islamist groups is to alter the course of American and NATO’s foreign policy and War on Terror through attacks and armed conflict.
Unfortunately in this scenario, Christians are perceived as an extension of foreign powers that are part of a greater Christian brotherhood just as Muslims are part of one Ummah (Muslim Community of Nations). Defenceless Pakistani, Iraqi, Indonesian and Egyptian Christian are often held responsible for the actions of governments and armies thousands of miles away. Needless to say, but unlike the global Jihad brotherhood, the poor Christian lady Asia Bibi sitting in a Pakistani Jail will have no emotional attachment or political influence on Pentagon in USA.
Telegraph UK reported that the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) [no relation to ISI Pakistan], which claimed the responsibility for Church killings in Iraq , stated that “We will open upon them the doors of destruction and rivers of blood, All Christian centres, organisations and institutions, leaders and followers are legitimate targets for the muhajedeen [holy warriors] wherever they can reach them.” It called the Pope, who issued a letter of condolence over the killings, “the hallucinating tyrant of the Vatican” and said Christians would be “extirpated and dispersed” from Iraq.
The aim of such tactics seems to cleanse the “undesirable Christians” from an area which stretches from the shores of Atlantic (Morocco) and Bosphorus (Turkey) to the shores of Pacific (Indonesia), and establish a “pure” Islamic Caliphate of Middle-east and North-Africa, would such a Caliphate include Shia Iran and sinful Lebanon?
The prayer and the hope is that the future generations will be able to live in peace and prosperity whether they are born in Europe, Asia or Africa.
Dil Nawaz is a blogger, a PTH contributor from ‘Bradistan’ Bradford UK.