Chaldean Times Exclusive: Israel isn’t only oppressor of Christians in Middle East

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English: Map of Arabic-speaking countries.

English: Map of Arabic-speaking countries. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Israel isn’t only oppressor of Christians in Middle East
By Ray Hanania
Exclusive to the Chaldean Detroit Times June 24, 2013

We often hear about the discrimination that takes place in Israel against Christians, but always in the context of discrimination against Arabs.

But that is clearly not the only place where Christians face discrimination. It occurs throughout the Arab World, and too often little is done about it.

The news has been disturbing in recent years as the incidents of anti-Christian attacks have increased in the Middle East, not by Israelis but by Muslims.

Whenever a Christian Arab raises this issue, they are attacked and accused of being “anti-Muslim.”

That’s not true of course. When Christian Arabs complain about the discrimination they face living in Muslim countries, they are not attacking Islam as a religion. Christians are the most tolerant people when it comes to other religions, especially to Muslims and Jews.

But the truth is that many Muslims do not want to discuss the discrimination and the radicalization that has resulted in violence and persecution against Christian Arabs.

The most vicious form of discrimination occurs when a Muslim converts to Christianity. Although Muslim groups actively urge Christians to convert to Islam, many extremist Muslims get angry when Christians urge Muslims to convert.

In fact over the past few months, we have seen stories where Muslim converts to Christianity have been killed.

Christian extremists exploit this to portray all Muslims as being bad, but that is not the case either.

However, the Muslim community often discourages discussions about Muslim-Christian problems. They want the issues to go away. But they don’t go away. We can’t sweep these kinds of incidents under the rug and pretend they did not occur.

We have to address them openly and honestly. It is disrespectful to Christians to not address the persecution Christians continue to face.

The vast majority of Muslims respect the rights of Christians and do not support the extremism of the Islamic fanatics. But their failure to address this makes them complicit.

As a Christian Arab, I am often attacked by Muslim fanatics who are angry that I am Christian. They are especially angry that I married a woman who is Jewish and I have a child who is Jewish, also.

How can we say that we support a Palestine that is Democrat where “Christians, Muslims and Jews” will be treated as equals, when we don’t treat Christians and Jews as equals today?

Churches have been burned down by religious fanatics. Christian priests have been kidnapped and killed. Converts to Christianity have been murdered or have been threatened with murder.

What have the American Arab organizations said or done about all of this? Nothing. They’re silent. They fear addressing the problem, too. Like the majority of Muslims, they want the problems to just go away. But they won’t go away. We can’t bury our heads in the sand and pretend it is not happening. We must speak out. Christians and Muslims, too.

Christian Arabs will not be silent.

Too often, the racism against Christians comes in the form of political attacks. When I was on ADC, the religious extremists singled me out and demanded that I be removed from the National ADC board. I help found the organization in 1980 and have served in many roles in Chicago, including one year on the national board.

But the fanatics hate me because I will not be quiet on anti-Christian discrimination in the Muslim community by Muslim extremists. They use that to incite moderate Muslims into believing that I am anti-Muslim, when that is just a racist driven lie. I am very pro-Muslim. And when Americans attack Muslims, they often attack people from the Middle East who they believe are Muslim but are in fact Christian.

I am opposed to all extremists. Extremists who are Jewish, extremists who are Muslim, and extremists who are Christian. But I think the Arab community needs to stand up and silence their own fanatics, especially the religious fanatics who use intimidation, bullying and personal threats to silence Christian activists who fight for the rights of Christian Arabs.

My mother is from Bethlehem and my father is from Jerusalem. I’m proud of my Christian heritage. Christians have fought and died defending the rights of Arabs. We deserve respect. We have earned respect.

Muslim groups in America who fail to loudly defend the rights of Christian Arabs are doing a great disservice not only to the Arab cause but also to themselves.

Palestine is not a Muslim issue. It is an issue of justice. It is an issue of the International Rule of Law. It is an issue of morality. It is an issue of civil rights.

It is not an issue of one religion.

Many believe that the “Arab Spring” will bring freedom to the Middle East and the Arab World. But until Christian Arabs are free to speak, act and believe whatever they want in the Arab World, the Arab World will never be a free place.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist. Reach him at or follow him on twitter at @RayHanania.)

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and Columnist who began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He covered Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992 (Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley) and has expanded to writing for newspapers around the world focussed on Middle East and American politics.

Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.

Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites and (Illinois News Network at

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post,, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.

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