Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Fight Against Islamic Extremism

Acording to the American Religious Right, we are facing a struggle against Islamic extremism. Back in early 2001, an Orthodox Bishop from Lebanon's Balamand Theological Institute was the guest lecturer at the Orthodox Institute of Cambridge (UK) University, where we were studying. During one of the discussion sessions, he spoke about the Church in Muslim countries, as he had served as the bishop in support of the Church in Iraq. At the time, the Church was not allowed to practice any active proselytizing, but was free to conduct services, maintain property, and, as long as the building was not architecturally obvious as a Christian temple, establish new facilities to support existing Christians. In short, the bishop said that while the Iraqi government and people did not support Christianity, they did not actively oppose it. Christianity was holding its own.

In 2001, there were approximately 1.4 million Christians (primarily Orthodox and Catholic) in Iraq. Today, that number is estimated to be between 400,000 and 600,000. Post Operation Iraqi Freedom violence directed specifically toward the Iraqi Christian population and their churches has encouraged hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians to flee the country. Recently escalating violence has lead Christian leaders, in the interest of protecting lives, to recommend foregoing Christmas worship services in Iraq.

On behalf of my fellow Orthodox Christians in Iraq, I'd like to tip my hat to the American Religious Right, who see the invasion of that country as a positive step. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christian refugees (from Christian faiths dating back to the Third Century, not the American Johnny Come Lately sects), along with a few million Iraqi Muslim refugees really appreciate you and your president's stupidity.

Merry Christmas!


  1. Ironic when you think that the Iraqi Christians survived the Arab conquest and the Mongol hordes, but will not possibly be able to survive as a community idiot Bush's "liberation" . . .

    They seem to have faired about as well as the pre-2003 Iraqi Middle Class and pre-Bush era emancipated Iraqi women . . .

  2. Yeah, it's interesting, but it's not just Iraq. Christian populations are declining all over the Islamic World. I think a lot of it has to do with the decline of secular Arab nationalism in favor of political Islamism.

  3. And a lot of that decline has to do with the failure of the secular Arab regimes at the hands of first the Israeli and then the American armed forces.

    So in trying to harness the wind of secular Arab nationalism we have done a great deal to help reap the whirlwind of Islamic fundamentalism.

    Which, BTW, Godfrey de Bouillon could have told us; the best way to strip a religion (or a secular creed, for that matter) of its sophistication, decadence, and "softer" elements is to persecute and/or attack it. Being "under attack" (whether actual or perceived) tends to purge the more moderate and conciliatory elements of a group and push the hard men to the front.

    This - both the defenstration of Christians in Iraq and elsewhere in the ME - was entirely predictable. The State Department Middle East hands predicted something like this in 1948 - that by fostering a Jewish, Western state in the Levant he was dooming the U.S. to a state of permanent conflict with the nativist, Muslim-first elements in the region. And that it would mean that the factions that would become associated with the U.S., like the Maronites in Lebanon and (by default) the Christian populations in places like Egypt and Iraq, would become the object of persecution by the antagonized Muslim majorities.

    What the Middle East needs desperately is an Enlightenment. But you'll note particularly that this only happened after the last of the Ottoman invasions was beaten back in 1683. A European Christianity under attack couldn't tolerate dissent and dissidence. A Christian Church that was no longer central to the European identity - because the world wasn't violently "Christian" versus "Muslim" anymore - could be successfully challenged.

    So - as Al points out - if we had really wanted to "let freedom reign" the best scenario would have involved keeping every single GI boot at home and sending instead lawyers, guns, and money to a secular Iraqi revolution that would have kept the baathist secularist regime and replaced just the Tikriti mafia.

    Oh well. Woulda, coulda, shoulda.